Several sources attribute the following statement to Gartner Group: “In a typical firm with 100-500 employees, an average of 7 people are involved in most buying decisions. Lesson: cold call multiple people in each account.” It does not take a firm like Gartner to come to the realization that more and more purchase decisions are going to consensus, and often the winner in a bake-off is not the best product, but the one most people in the buying group rally around, or at time settle for. Other sources will tell you that even the traditional uber-decision maker, will often support the product he/she feels his people will support and adopt over the best choice. If it doesn’t get used, it doesn’t matter what marginal advantages there may be.
The best way to respond to this is to execute a full “Frontal Sales Blitz”. A slight twist on the common football blitz, where additional players are sent to “rush the quarterback”—that is, try to tackle the quarterback or disrupt his pass attempt. The Sales Blitz approaches this a bit backwards, where the sales rep attempts to engage all the players on the decision team in order to build and create consensus around their offering. The disruption is perpetrated on the other sales people who like approach the team one at a time, and build consensus that way, I would argue the slow and wrong way.
Some sales people do this really well, especially those with experience in enterprise type sales, and who also see themselves as the central orchestrator in a hub and spoke approach to sales success. But many sales people are still reluctant to do this, especially when they have done business with one of the members of the buying team. Terms like “champion” or insider come to mind. They are reluctant to “go around”, “go over their head” or “risk the relationship”.
Let’s look at the last one, there is no relationship! Not one that counts anyway. You may have had a relationship with Buddy seven or eight years ago, and it was that relationship that got you in, and even kept you in, but times have progressed, and if they assembled a team to buy, you are at best assured to have one vote, and that’s no guarantee. I won’t even deny that when you lose the account it will be Buddy that will take you for a “last” drink while your competitor is installing.
You need to quickly learn from Buddy who is on the team, what their criteria are and then get to work. Tell Buddy you want to continue to serve the account and ask Buddy for help in doing that, if he/she is not wiling, they are telling you to do it on your own, and that’s what you’re going to do.
You need to connect with each of the members of the buying team, with an understanding of the overall mandate, and their individual bias, be that role based or personal. You need to understand how your offering aligns to those elements and the overall objectives of the company and supports their individual “world view”. To successfully do this in as little time as possible, you need to go to you library of Sales Rosetta Stone. Meaning you need to be able to speak the language of each of the members of the team, including Financish, HRish, Marketingish, and all other languages represented at the decision table.
Once you have the start of momentum take it to the uber-decision maker, but instead of talking about your product, and how great it is, and how this and that you and your company are, talk to the uber-decision maker about the consensus on the team, and the buzz around their ability to accomplish their mandate. Chances are he/she are not going to be “end-users”, but more likely beneficiaries of the output, and what is going to produce the output is the consensus your Frontal Sales Blitz created.