Small businesses may have the luxury of making unilateral buying decisions, but in mid- to large-size organizations, decisions are often reached by consensus. In the sales-verse, that usually results in a long sales cycle. For you, conscientious sales rep, that means taking a “more is more” approach to making and building connections within your prospective company. Because before the person with the mighty pen actually signs off on the agreement, you and your solution will be vetted up and down the chain of command. In other words, by a team. And if you can’t get the group to agree to the awesomeness of your offering, they’ll look elsewhere, for another problem-solver. So move the process forward by cat-herding your point people toward consensus.
Know Who You’re Dealing With
As a first step, look at the stakeholders and decision-makers you’re interacting with. Know what’s influencing them now and what might resonate with them down the line. These folks will be key in making the choice to go with you.
Take the time and effort to get each one of them jazzed about your solution. We’re not talking about having them sign away their first born (or even their problem child); nothing needs to be in writing yet, but get them to commit to attending a sales presentation, or send them an email asking for feedback. As the process advances, keep them abreast of what’s happening, and proactively encourage them to stay involved through the course of the sales cycle.
Don’t focus on the final decision just yet. First, get commitments, then publicly share them with others in the organization in general and with the buying committee in particular. This helps push toward consensus by creating buzz about your solution; and buzz begets momentum. It also creates name recognition for you. The cats in the C-Suite will want to know if their direct reports and others have bought into your solution, in large part because they’ll want their trusted staff to be comfortable having you as their “solutioner-in-chief.”
Take a Strategic Approach
- Determine what the goals and initiatives are of the organization as a whole and of individual contributors within the company. Make sure—and be able to effectively demonstrate how—your solution will meet those needs and help reach goals determined by initiatives.
- You don’t need to stoop to brown-nosing, gift-giving, and picking up the happy hour tab, but you will need to get acquainted with all members of the buying committee. Try to get alone time with each one. This will help you know exactly how to present a value proposition that meets all stakeholders’ particular needs. For example, a team member lower down the food chain might be more focused on tactical needs, while someone in a leadership position would likely be coming from the perspective of wanting to meet strategic and long-term objectives.
- Don’t be shy: Make contact with the C-Suite. Even if they’ve not yet reached a decision—and sometimes will defer to their staff—they still wield the greatest influence and generally have a bigger sense of ownership than others in the company. Not only that, but they can get you access to other company bigwigs.
- Lastly, remember that consensus doesn’t necessarily mean everyone instantly agrees on everything. Like the sales cycle, it’s a process. If most stakeholders have bought into your solution, they’ll be the best ones to help you face and successfully overturn the objections of others. You’re not actually herding cats here, but you will need to be on your toes if you want to bring in the strays.