One of most common questions I receive from my clients and those I coach is, "how do I get past buyer to real decision maker". This is clearly one of most important questions for any sales professional to answer because so much rests on reaching real economic buyer. Only true decision maker can understand total value that your offering brings to their company. Only true decision maker can appreciate that a partnering relationship with your company may be best way to reach their goals. Only true decision maker can redefine their own needs based on your input and, as a result, end up buying something completely different from initial specification. Buyers live to satisfy written definitions of others. True decision makers live to solve problems for themselves and their companies.
This age old problem had been made easier to solve as complexity of sale has increased. Here are two techniques that take advantage of complexity in a sale to help you get to real decision makers.
1. It would be irresponsible
Too often buyer presents us with an RFP (request for proposal) or specification that someone else wrote. In mistaken belief that they are doing their job, they attempt to block access to those who actually wrote these documents. You know you must get through!
Step one is to review requirement:
Determine what original decision maker might have been trying to accomplish when they wrote specification. Imagine, for instance, that specification is for new accounting software. While specification calls out requirements, it does not detail problems that company is attempting to solve. I may not mention new SEC requirements or changes in their Board's policies. Furthermore, buyer could not possibly answer detailed questions about these issues.
Step two is to define rules of business:
Rather than being a vendor of a simple product, define yourself as a provider of comprehensive solutions to complex problems. As such, you and your team are obligated to make following request: "Since this software covers areas of legal and corporate compliance, it would be irresponsible of me to sell you something that might not comply. For that reason, we are required to conduct a brief needs analysis with ultimate decision makers."
This technique can work in a wide variety of situations. The power rests in your honest ability to position yourself as more than a vendor. By creating a situation in which buyer feels obligated to connect you with real decision maker, you gain an advantage over all others. Warning: Be sure to make buyer a hero in process. Let it be known to higher-ups that buyer's astute awareness to ramifications of this purchase made it possible for you to do a better job for client.