Often, when we think of sales, we picture one sales representative and one buyer. In that relatively simple process, the two build a rapport, understand needs, explore solutions, negotiate, and reach an agreement. The seller sells, the buyer buys, and everybody is happy.
If only it was always that easy. Today, according to the Harvard Business Review, the average number of decision makers for B2B purchases has jumped from 5.4 to 6.8, and that number is expected to rise. In addition to being a more complicated process, this results in a longer sales cycle, with the potential for more hurdles and unexpected obstacles. Here are a few tips for effectively selling to multiple decision makers:
Understand the Process
Today, it’s not uncommon to have individuals from various departments, including a procurement team, along with a consortium of VP’s, user roles, and C-Level executives, each with their unique needs and pain points, involved in the decision-making process. A good first step is to seek to understand. Ask your main contact questions such as:
- “Who is involved and when?”
- “What are their roles and influence in the process?”
- “What are the stages in the decision-making process?”
Here you can begin mapping the various stakeholders and influencers who will play a part in the process. Find out as much as you can about each contact. Use corporate bios and social media sites such as LinkedIn to determine their buyer personas and develop a profile of each—look at the length of time they have been with the company, their level of investment in the buying process, their alliances within the organization, etc. Put yourself in their shoes and identify how your product or service will benefit each stakeholder and their respective departments. For one department, the main selling point might be ease-of-implementation, for another, ease-of-use, whereas leadership might focus on benefit-cost ratio before coming to a decision. You need to find a message that speaks to and aligns the group while addressing the individual needs of the stakeholders.
Clarifying the Decision-Making Process
Ensure you clearly understand the end-to-end, decision-making process. What are the stages? Which of the key players are involved at each stage? How long will the process be? The more clarity you have here, the better you can map your final approach, take the right action, and provide the right information. Not knowing what happens next and what the expectations are is a serious deficiency to an effective sales approach.
Develop a Strategy
Finally, develop a strategy to help you navigate the various stages of the process and ensure you are the top choice. Part of this strategy should include connecting with each individual contact. Many sales representatives make the mistake of staying with their main contact when the key is to understand and develop a relationship with all the players. The more informed you are about their individual needs, the more likely your strategy is to be on target. For each contact, clearly demonstrate the value you can provide and begin highlighting areas where their interests overlap with the total solution.
Research in the Harvard Business Review showed people are more likely to advocate for a solution when they perceive support for that solution within the organization. Therefore, the more supporters you get on your side the more likely the deal is to land in your favor.
There’s no question selling to multiple decision makers is more difficult and time consuming than a one-to-one sale. However, mastering it starts by recognizing the need for a systematic approach and a well-informed strategy. As buyers face an uncertain economy, sales professionals need the right approach and skills to navigate complex deals with multiple decision makers and influencers or be faced with the dreaded stalled deal or no decision.