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How to bring decision makers into your sales process
Make them feel heard
Most B2B purchases of more than a few thousand dollars require multiple buying stakeholders in order to reach a decision. To recap, the common buying roles are:
The champion, who benefits directly from the purchase, often through productivity gains.
The economic buyer, who funds the purchase from their budget and cares about the business outcome.
The finance approver, who needs to ensure the cost is within the economic buyer’s budget.
The legal approver, who needs to ensure the contract provides adequate protection for the buyer.
The procurement approver, who needs to be sure the contract provides favorable pricing and payment terms.
The influencer or power user, who needs to be sure their day-to-day is positively impacted by the change.
While the champion is usually accessible, getting the remaining stakeholders engaged in the buying process is often a challenge. There are two reasons for this:
Champions are reluctant to bring in their colleagues, out of fear of wasting time and looking bad.
Champions don’t understand how the buying process works in their company. This is very common in SaaS sales.
As a salesperson it’s easy to gloss over this when a champion is super engaged through discovery and demo. But that over-reliance on a single point contact comes to haunt you once you’ve shared a proposal. The next thing you know you’re either hearing your buyer is going in another direction, or you’re just getting ghosted.
The key to overcoming this is to bring all the stakeholders into the buying process before sharing a proposal.
The steps to doing this are:
Identify each of the stakeholders.
Understand each stakeholder’s needs.
Bring each stakeholder’s needs into the buying process.
Identify each of the stakeholders
There are a number of techniques for identifying stakeholders:
Research the company to identify the people that match the personas in your ideal customer profile.
Listen for cues when a buyer mentions someone else, such as their boss, their team or their leadership and probe. “You mentioned your boss, what do they do? What impact would they be looking to see from making this change? That’s Joaquin, right?”
Frame the buying process as involving multiple people. “We typically find our customers need to consult with their head of sales before buying our product. How likely is that going to be on your end? Is that Jenny?”
Understand each stakeholder’s needs
Many salespeople think they need to get all the stakeholders onto a call in order to understand their needs, however this isn’t the only way to figure out what everyone cares about.
If you are selling to a well-defined ideal customer profile, you can make some accurate assumptions about the impact each stakeholder is looking for; champions usually care about features, time-savings, productivity gains. Economic buyers usually care about business outcomes. Finance cares about budgets. Legal cares about risk. Procurement cares about cost.
You can use these assumptions to ask clarifying questions that uncover each stakeholder’s needs. For example, “If you are like our other customers, your head of sales ops will need this to integrate with Salesforce and your head of sales will need to see a lift in meetings booked per month. Is that right? What other impact do they need?”
Sometimes you’ll find your champion doesn’t know what each buying stakeholder needs, especially with legal, finance and procurement approvers, as many champions don’t actually understand their company’s buying process. The simple solution to this is to ask, “How can we figure that out together?”. If your champion responds with, “Just send me a proposal and I’ll talk it over internally”, simply respond with “I’d love to do that but we need to make sure the proposal reflects the full impact you are looking for. What’s the best way to figure that out?”
Bring each stakeholder’s needs into the buying process
Once you have established each stakeholder’s needs, the final step is to incorporate them into your proposal, so that when they see it they feel heard. There are three tactics to making this effective:
Prospect them in parallel to your champion, with insights that speak to the impact they are looking for. While they won’t necessarily respond to your outreach, you will be framing the problem for them in a way that will look familiar when they eventually see your proposal.
Summarize the pain and impact for each stakeholder in your proposal, so that when they read it, it feels relevant to them and is not just a load of slides about how awesome you think your product is.
Schedule a review of the proposal with your champion. Once they see that their colleagues’ needs are accurately reflected, they are going to be more willing to bring them into the buying process.
How else are you bringing decision makers into your sales process?
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