As published in Greenville Business Magazine, June, 2015
The process is more important than the maker. When it comes to decision making, that is. For years sellers have been instructed to get to know the decision maker. Today, more often than not, there is more than one person involved in decision making. One of the biggest errors sales teams make is not recognizing this. Another is not getting to the bottom of how and when the decision will be made. This insight should be gained at the beginning of the conversation and certainly well before any prices are shared. Here are some key things to discover.
Who is involved? Many times companies give their purchasing agents and front line managers permission to make small purchasing decisions. Even if this is the case you should also understand where your contact sits in the internal purchase pecking order. Now that you’ve convinced them, whom do they now have to convince? The larger the price and the more important the problem will dictate who makes the decision. Knowing what happens and who else gets involved in certain decisions will allow you to help them make a case internally to work with you. And that gets you a leg up on the competition, which is always a good thing.
How and why will they decide? Your prospect may love what you are offering. You may have even convinced them that it’s exactly what they need, but that doesn’t guarantee a sale. You’ve got to know where the purchase fits within their broader initiatives. Are they in the early budgeting stage and gathering quotes; or, have they already set monies aside because they’ve identified this purchase as timely and necessary? Are they planning to use the lowest-priced provider? If you know your quote will be among the highest, you’ve got to determine right then and there if that’s a deal breaker.
When will they decide, why then? Answers like ‘we plan to start in June or July’, or ‘we’ll decide in the next few weeks’ are red flags that this purchase isn’t a high priority, someone else is actually deciding, or there are internal roadblocks that must be overcome. Recognize this for what it is. Back up, ask more questions and get clarity. The only way you can accurately project their start date is to understand why they chose their start date in the first place. If you find that pending business in your pipeline is often pushed back it’s likely that this information wasn’t uncovered.
When you fully understand your prospect’s decision making process, you’ll produce more accurate projections because you’ll have a better handle on what business is truly pending.