Selling to More Decision Makers
Categories: Sales Conversation
Making the shift from selling smaller deals to enterprise solutions that require multiple decision-makers is a common career progression path. If you’re at this crossroads, congratulations, you’ve done the hard work to progress your sales career to this point. Now, make sure you’re prepared to adjust your sales process in a way that accounts for more complicated deals.
Dealing with multiple stakeholders demands an ability to articulate value and differentiation in a way that has meaning to each specific decision maker and economic buyer (the individual(s) who controls the funds and the final signature). Even just to get in front of high-level decision makers, salespeople have to be relevant to influencers lower and deeper in an organization.
As you make the shift, leverage these best practices for commanding your message when there are several people involved in the opportunity.
1. Understand the importance of capturing a “Collective Yes”
When determining a strategic approach to bigger accounts, you need a plan to capture collective agreement on the need for a solution and ensure that solution is yours. We call this agreement from multiple decision makers a “Collective Yes”.
If you’re not in control of navigating the buyer’s decision process to achieve a collective yes, your competitors can quickly move into your opportunity. What does it mean to be in control of navigating your buyer’s decision process? It means you’re not just working with one or two decision makers. Instead you’re leveraging each individual to gain more information on a company’s business challenge, internal culture, key KPIs and measurements of success, and access to other decision makers
To capture this information from each individual (and eventually their vote for your solution) you have to expand your reach in “the house of the customer”.
The House of the Customer:
Think of the sales process as a house, with many rooms and multiple floors. You may be doing a great job in one room, speaking to the positive business outcomes (PBOs), solution requirements and metrics that resonate with a single decision maker or technical buyer. But, that person is only in one room on their own. When you’re not going higher and wider into the sales organization you’re going to get stuck in that one room and your deal will stall. Improve your ability to connect to the other decision makers in sales organization by becoming proficient at articulating business value at all levels in your buyer’s business; low, high and wide.
The more you can be relevant to each decision maker in an account, by having the right conversations based on their desired value and requirements, the more you’ll be able to capture a collective yes and beat out competition (including a “do-nothing” or “do-it-internally” decision).
In a podcast on selling to more decision makers, John Kaplan has a great tactic he uses to effectively move in a “W” while navigating an opportunity:
2. Focus on being relevant to economic buyers:
An economic buyer is someone who has influence as it relates to the business issue as well as power and authority in the organization. This person is most likely going to have the most significant impact on the deal for you, because they own the problem that you're trying to solve and they own the resources to solve it. They own the discretionary use of funds and have direct access to those funds. Top performing salespeople work early on in their opportunities to identify and align with the economic buyer.
Economic buyers are concerned with the top- and bottom-line impact of the organization. Work to understand these concerns. Leverage other decision makers to build a business case that’s relevant to these concerns of an economic buyer. Fulling understanding how a complex business problem relates to these concerns will enable you to close more enterprise opportunities and preserve margins:
1. Much-ness (money)
How much money does your prospect’s organization stand to lose if the economic buyer doesn't take action? Price is always going to be part of the conversation. The key is balancing the price with the business benefits of your solution. Minimize the buyer’s perceived cost, by maximizing their perceived value.
2. Soon-ness (time)
What is the timeline of implementation? If your buyers are now aware of a critical business issue, they’ll want to know how fast you can implement the plan you are proposing. The key here is to tie the timeline back to the business impact of your solution. Ensure they understand the timeline it will take to earn them the promised positive business outcomes.
3. Sure-ness (risk)
Can you validate what you’re saying your solution can achieve? Minimize the perceived risk of implementing your solution by sharing the tangible results you have achieved with similar companies. Maximize the effectiveness of your proof points during the “sure-ness” component of the conversation.
When you're communicating to an economic buyer, make sure that “much-ness”, “soon-ness” and “sure-ness” is in your language. Leverage this type of language as you build a business case for your solution. To build a business case that’s impactful enough for an economic buyer to set aside discretionary funds for an enterprise solution, your account team needs to influence your buyer’s decision criteria with your solution’s differentiation. Use other decision makers to craft a story and business case that hits on the “much-ness”, “soon-ness” and “sure-ness” of a solution being implemented in a way that favors your solution. Building this story demands your account team work with decision makers across your buyers organization and execute great discovery, often, to ensure you’re attaching to a big business problem that demands urgency.
3. Have patience when executing great discovery
The rhythm you use to navigate enterprise solutions will likely call for more patience on your end, meaning your deals may (and should) take longer. A patient approach to discovery is critical when working to capture a yes from each department head, advisor, procurement official and eventually economic buyer. If you rush through the discovery process with any individual, you will miss out on key information. Moving forward with this incorrect or misleading information will hinder your ability to build an enterprise-level business case to present to an economic buyer.
When you have multiple buyers or multiple influencers, you have to hold and avoid simply running with the first topics and frustrations they share. Prepare to actively listen (aka give your full attention) to what they share, so you know how to pivot, dig deeper and make each critical sales conversation an effective use of your time, and the buyer’s.
Being patient, actively listening and being audible-ready to respond based on what you’re hearing, will enable you to build a great story and find the business pain that attributes to a real opportunity for the enterprise, not just a part of the enterprise.
Improve Your Ability to Capture a Collective Yes:
Different decision makers and influencers in a buyers organization may provide you with different viewpoints on positive business outcomes, metrics of success and technical solution requirements. To capture a collective yes, and get an economic buyer to see an immediate need for your solution, all of the information from multiple decision makers needs to favor your solution.
Influencing buying criteria, across multiple conversations and scenarios within your buyers business is challenging. We have an entire guide with resources on influencing buying criteria by improving your ability to focus on the buyer. Use the guide as you progress your current pipeline opportunities.