Mythbuster: To close a deal, you start with the decision-maker


How many times did your manager ask you if you talked to the decision-maker at your last pipeline review? Your answer may vary from: ” All the time to Sometimes.”

I challenge you today to reflect on the relevancy of this question in helping Sales Executives with closing deals. To close a deal, do you start with finding and speaking to the decision-maker or not? Is this advice still good advice or a myth?

For decades you have been told to find your way as quickly as possible to the decision-maker. The idea was to speak to a person with authority and get their support for what you sell. They would then push you down into their organization to talk to several managers. You would be able to use the Executive’s support to get most of them on board and win the opportunity. This used to be good advice. But times have changed.

Flatter organizations and consensus-minded buying groups have changed the way companies are making decisions. No longer are decisions made by the authority of one person. Although you still need Executive support, it is not enough to close a deal. Decisions are being made by consensus, and hence your approach needs to adapt. In fact, speaking to the decision-maker without having consulted relevant stakeholders may hurt your credibility. You may come across as pushy, naive, and non-consultative. In this day and age, Senior Executives have no interest in what you sell unless you have spoken to various people in their organization. If they show a strong interest in a change, then the door to the Executive’s office may swing wide open.

Your entry point into a prospect’s organization has changed. With on average 6 or more stakeholders involved in making decisions, your best bet is to build through them your situational knowledge. The operational staff knows what goes well and what does not go well for operational efficiency and satisfaction of doing their jobs. Salespeople often overlook this part of the organization. I remember one of my biggest wins started at the prospect’s reception desk. I approached the receptionist by introducing myself and who I worked for. I shared with her that I aimed to -one day – convince her senior managers to make a change but that I was not ready at all to talk to them. I asked if she could provide me with a company brochure, an annual report, or the latest newsletter to get me up-to-speed. I walked out with all three types of information and an appointment with their OPS manager for a site tour the following week.

Go horizontal, then vertical. Often salespeople talk to managers who are responsible directly related to what they sell. If you are selling IT hardware or software, you talk to the IT manager. Web-design salespeople talk to marketing managers and so on. There is nothing wrong with that. However, the mistake is made to approach the Senior Executive without building more situational knowledge from other functions. You need to go horizontal, then vertical. Figure out what is trending, what are they busy with, and how you possibly can help before knocking on the Senior Executive’s door. Then you come across as a Trusted Advisor who has done the homework and has an informed opinion on how you can help the company with a strategic advantage.

To close a deal, start with the decision-maker? Another myth busted!

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