In my last post in this series on mistakes in sales leadership, I wrote about Sales Mistake #1: Not Giving Up Soon Enough, where we dissected the opportunity cost inherent in carrying sales conversations forward with prospects that aren’t going to go anywhere.
Mistake #2 is similar: every minute you spend with someone that isn’t the decision maker is a minute you could be spending with the decision maker. You’re a closer. You need to spend as much time as you can closing. Ask yourself, “How much of my day am I talking to a decision maker about details that will move the deal toward a conclusion?” As you spend a greater percentage of time in closing conversations with the right people, you’ll close more deals.
It’s not that spending time with the product users or other deal influencers isn’t a good thing, it’s just not the best thing. They can’t ultimately decide.
The problem is, participants in the buying panel want to spend a lot of time before they make a recommendation. You should be asking yourself, how can I spend less time with them but still get them as much information as they need to recommend that the decision maker get involved.
Two tips here:
Give the influencer only as much information as you have to. You don’t want THEM making the decision when they aren’t the decision maker. The only decision they need to make is if they are going to let you talk to the decision maker about your solution. If you give them too much information, they may make a cursory judgment that may not be in the best interest of the decision maker, even though it is well intended. The influencer may not fully understand the decision maker’s needs or interests.
To avoid having to give away information but give away great value, try using leading discovery and “challenger” questions that position you as the expert in your field and provide the prospect with some leadership value.
At CONSENSUS™, we might ask, “So, on average, how many demos do you have to do for your prospects before you close a deal?” or “What would your sales people be doing if they weren’t spending so much time demoing?” These kinds of questions lead to a great conversation about the needs and challenges, but don’t necessarily go into the solution. Try to save the solution for the decision maker.
If the influencer you’re talking to asks you to give them all of the information, gently but firmly push back with something like, “Other companies like yours that wanted all of the information early found that when they got the decision makers involved, it sped up the decision making process for everyone, saving everyone a lot of time. Would you mind if we waited to dive into the details until we have everyone involved in the decision together?”
Automate the information you do give out as much as possible. Help the influencer get to a point where they can make a decision without having to spend your precious ‘closing’ time. Prepare and use collateral materials that stoke their fire of curiosity without giving away all of the details. White papers that point out the problem, explain the overarching solution but are light on the details are helpful. An automated introductory demo can also be helpful at this point. If possible, use a demo automation platform so you can make sure you have a way of being notified when they watch it and who they share it with.
In summary, spend as little time as you can with the influencers while still getting them as much information as they need to bring the decision makers to the table. It’s too easy to get caught up in diving deep on the product demo, pricing and everything else, only to have to repeat it over and over as you work your way through the buying panel.
If you are careful about this, you’ll leverage your time by increasing the percentage of time you are closing rather than discussing solutions with those that can’t make the decision. You will ultimately close more deals.
What tips do you have for ferreting out the buying panel and getting the right decision makers on the phone?
For more great content, check out:
3 Things we can learn from George Washington about sales leadership
4 ways to sell your product like you’re pitching to a vc
5 ways for a vp of sales to impress the CEO