Back in the days when we were selling from the seller’s perspective, we had an arsenal of skills, or should I say “tricks”, on our sleeve to influence key decision-makers. Branded as Closing Techniques, salespeople were trained on The Assumptive Close, The Alternative Close, The Now or Never Close, and yes, even the Puppy Dog Close! Ok, the latter was not taught but certainly used as a last resource. Fast forward to 2022, buyers have moved on and do not respond well to these techniques. So what new skills will give you the edge nowadays and get those deals closed, you might ask? It is called Intelligent Influencing.
You probably have already guessed that there are no “Tricks” or “Techniques” in selling with the Buyer’s Perspective. Instead, helping stakeholders with their part of the Buying Process is the key ingredient to your new success.
In the evolution of buying, one decision-maker became multiple stakeholders. Flatter organizational structures encourage greater involvement of middle managers to contribute to the strategy and success of a company. Ideas, options and alternatives are sourced, analyzed and prioritized to determine the company’s next growth initiative (with the needed investments).
To influence these stakeholders, it is worthwhile to know more about them and their dependency on each other.
1. Go vertical and horizontal. Traditionally, after you have met a stakeholder in the warehouse, mailroom, reception etc., your next logical meeting would be with their manager or with a manager that you think would have the most influence on their senior management. And there is nothing wrong with that. However, what often is overseen, is that you also need to meet stakeholders in different functions. You need to go horizontally in the company’s org chart. People in Marketing, Customer Service, Research & Development, Finance, Operations and Sales. Meeting with them provides you different insights on what is brewing as possible next plans and strategic steps.
2. Their Buying Process is non-linear. This means that an Export Manager appreciates your insights and ideas, but their manager likes the way things are and sees no reason to meet with you. Stakeholders are most likely in different stages of the Buying Process until you influence them. For example, Finance Managers have a different perspective on the business than Sales & Marketing managers. Deciding to move forward with your ideas is not easy, and the moment you leave the building or hang up the phone, stakeholders will start influencing each other.
3. They all have a different agenda, which means that you have to adjust your ideas, insights, and impact on their business to the tactical or strategic intent of the stakeholders. Warehouse managers will like your views on making their work more efficient. But they will be less interested in white papers demonstrating how the latest market trends predict a new income vertical. CEOs or business owners, on the contrary, do not always want to know the nuts and bolts of your solution but are interested in how your ideas will impact their bottom line and advance their company strategically.
4. Gaining consensus is the new closing. Although some stakeholders are more motivated than others to move forward with your ideas, the reality is that consensus of the Buying group is much stronger. This is probably the number one reason why opportunities stall. As a Trusted Advisor, you need to help and enable your Change Champion to gain consensus to push your ideas forward. Then, one by one, get each key stakeholder’s commitment to prioritize your ideas as the next and best growth opportunity for their company.
Influencing requires patience. There is no use in speeding through your sales process only to be stopped by objections on all fronts. Hence a more thought-through approach including these learnings about stakeholders will be more successful. Put your energy into intelligent influencing.
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