Focusing on the Decision Maker vs. the Decision Making Process
A single decision maker for b2b purchases is increasingly a myth. Focusing on trying to convince a decision maker vs. focusing on understanding the decision making process is a mistake even experienced sales professionals make. In today’s b2b world, most businesses have some process of prioritizing projects and internal resources in addition to budgets. Rare is the case that someone wants to 100% own the responsibility of signing an agreement, spending budget money and owning a project when it’s likely other projects were seeking those same funds and resources.
A caveat here, if the firm you are selling to is very small or your product is transactional (e.g. non-subscription) and relatively inexpensive (e.g. less than $5,000) the below may only loosely apply – but even President / Owner / CEO’s seek other’s opinions before signing on the line that is dotted.
Asking whether or not someone has the authority to make a decision is a pretty standard 101 question that will rarely give you enough information or insights to either accurately forecast the sale or even move the sale towards closing. This self-identified “decision maker” likely can make a decision, but that decision is usually whether or not they want to pursue the deal internally vs. actually making the final decision on the go/ no-go.
No matter what you are selling, every business has a list of projects in a queue waiting priority and you are competing with the attention bandwidth applied to those items; whether they are related to your offering or not. A better course of action is to seek clarity how decisions are made within the organization; including the financial decision as well as the project priority process.
How do you do that?
Ask better questions related to the process itself once you’ve earned the right to do so. Below are some very simple examples that you can adjust to your specific situation:
- Mr. Prospect, based on my experience working with other clients, there are often other individuals at the business that like to be aware of what my company will be providing to your business; if only to avoid any confusion once you’ve made a decision. When your business has made similar purchase decisions – how did that process work? Do you typically involve others in the evaluation process as well? How do you recommend we work them into this process to make this as smooth as possible?
- Mr. Prospect, I have to imagine there are other projects looking for budget or resources that might be unrelated to this; where do you think this project would fit into those priorities at the executive level and how do we best work together to help you navigate that?
TIP: Don’t fall easy victim to the false positive of your proposal going to executive committee / management meeting or board meeting for review. Always clarify that your proposal is on the agenda and a priority. All too often I’ve heard a deal forecasted because it was going to committee for final signoff only to learn that the board never got around to discussing the proposal and it’s pushed off to the next meeting. Make sure your sales executives ask the question “are we formally on the agenda for the meeting as a priority?” It might feel uncomfortable to a sales rep to ask that (which I don’t get) but without confirmation, you are flying blind.