Seeking to understand the purchase criteria of your prospects and identifying the real decision makers will go a long way toward getting you new business.
Most prospective clients are not so deliberate as to spell out their purchase criteria in concrete terms. Often it can just be price, rapport, reputation of the firm, or how professionally organized the proposal is. If the right combination of these factors is in your favor, you’re in luck.
But a better approach is to work with the client to define the important factors driving the purchase decision. If these are known to you, or better still, suggested by you to the client as you probe the issue, you can work to emphasize these factors into the presentation of your company (Hint: Try to suggest areas where you are strongest). If the decision criteria are known to you and you know that there is no way you will win, because known competition is much stronger than you in a certain key criterion, you can address it with the client and determine if it makes sense to continue.
Most importantly, you create a more rational decision-making environment. Once the drivers of the purchase decision are out in the open, the client will be less likely to favor the blue report cover to the red, or the attractive salesperson to the less attractive one. Rather, the client will look at the proposal from the perspective of what meets his needs. If you are doing a good job of needs analysis, and you also understand these decision-driving criteria, you can better position yourself to win.
Of course, knowing why the customer will buy from you is only part of the equation. The other part is knowing the decision-making dynamics within the company. If you don’t know them, you are working uphill.
To the extent that you can in the early stages of qualification, you need to learn who will be involved in the decision, and you need to make efforts to sell to them yourself. Selling by proxy is not nearly as likely to succeed as the more direct methods.
In order to find out who will be involved in the decision making and to include them in the sales meetings, start by asking in the prospecting phase. After you set up the meeting, ask if there is anyone else who might want to learn more about your product or service directly from you before the decision is made. Confirm the same thing again in your first meeting, during the qualification step.
Beyond the direct approach, asking who will be involved in the decision, there is an indirect approach that can supplement your questions. As you learn about the more detailed elements of your proposal, you should know from your experience what the various roles in the company are that are involved in the decision. Ask about them. Are there any partners who might need more information? Does the board need to be involved in a decision this large, and if so, would it make sense to have you present to them? Put yourself in a position where you can do the selling if you want it to be done right.
David Masover is a sales consultant, blogger, and author of Mastering Your Sales Process from which this article is excerpted.