I was talking to the founder of a company that was concerned about sales. Although his company was generating plenty of leads and meetings were being set, the close ratio was extremely low. He felt that his salespeople had adequate training in the product and were able to clearly articulate the value proposition so he couldn’t understand the low close ratio. He wanted to know if the product was priced fairly. After asking a few questions, to him and his team, I quickly realized that price was not an issue. In fact, his salespeople couldn’t pinpoint any specific reason as to why the deals weren’t closing. Many of them were perplexed at why they weren’t getting a response after sending the requested proposals. They felt the conversations had gone well, and when they sent the proposals, they thought the deals would close. What was he missing?
Two words. Buyer Consensus.
Gaining buyer consensus today is critical to closing deals. I saw quickly that his salespeople had missed this important piece. They thought they had a decision maker’s attention and failed to determine who else was involved in the buying decision. They proceeded through the sales process with the lone buyer, who didn’t have the authority to close the deal.
Matt Behrend and I had an intense conversation about gaining buyer consensus this week. I’ve recapped the points I feel are critical. Buying consensus is complex and there is more to it, but here are the three critical elements to successfully gaining buyer consensus.
Having one point of contact that is interested may seem great, but CEB found that on average 5.4 people now have to formally sign off on each B2B purchase. It’s your job to identify who is involved in making the decision. Not all of our involved group members will have the same amount of influence, there are usually one or two individuals who have more power. They are the key decision-makers who can make or break the sale.
There will also be people who will be affected by the buying decision. They may have little input in the decision, but they can be disgruntled about the decision and make implementation and adoption difficult. Identifying all of the people involved in the buying decision will make it easier for you to collaborate with the buying team for a successful sale.
Once you know who will be involved in making the decision, you need to figure out the best way to include them. There are a variety of ways to do this individually and in group meetings. With the help of your primary contact, you need to determine what will work best. If your primary contact is blocking you, it can be difficult. You explain why you need to meet with the team, but try as you might, you won’t be allowed to meet with or develop relationships with the rest of the decision-makers. You may choose not to proceed.
It’s less than ideal to proceed with the sale when you don’t have access to all of the decision-makers, but if you choose to proceed be prepared to provide a way for your contact to bring the information to everyone involved. Marketo came up with a great way to do this. Click here to see an example of material they prepared to help others communicate the information that would lead to consensus for purchasing marketing automation software.
Another example is DemoChimp (now Consensus). Their tool intelligently personalizes product demonstrations through videos, while simultaneously collecting insights on your prospects. Watch the one-minute video below to fully understand its capabilities.
Their videos make it possible for your contact to provide the information that is specific to each decision maker’s needs, while it gathers more information from those you aren’t able to contact directly.
By equipping your contact with what they need, you may win them over. After they share your information with the others, the situation may turn, and they may all agree to meet with you. Then, you will have a better chance of bringing them to a consensus so you can close the deal.
In order to close a deal with multiple decision-makers, you have to collaborate to build consensus. That’s why it’s crucial to communicate with as many of the decision-makers as possible and meet with them together whenever the situation permits. This doesn’t have to be face to face, it can be done by web meeting. You want to work through solutions with them, bring fresh ideas that add value, and work with them to understand who their decision affects. By working through the best ways to get buy-in and helping them build an implementation and adoption plan, you’ll have a greater probability of success. As Matt mentioned in our discussion, 80% of buyers want more from the selling organization. The key to successful collaboration is to add extra value, help them understand the buying process, and work with them on ideas for implementation and the adoption of your product.
Identifying who is involved in the buying decision, involving all of those decision-makers, and collaborating with them are the critical elements for gaining buyer consensus. It’s not possible to do what I’ve described if you don’t develop relationships.
Relationships take time, and you need to be genuinely interested in the success of your customer. With the pressure put on salespeople to close deals, and the lack of training in consensus selling, it’s easy to understand why they don’t develop the necessary relationships. As sales leaders, we need to start to question our motives by asking ourselves these key questions.
- What do we really want our salespeople to do?
- What skillset, toolset, and mindset do our salespeople need to sell today?
Please leave your comments on buyer consensus below. And if you want to discuss this with me, please use this link to schedule a 30-minute strategy session. I’ll look forward to it!
Alice is nationally known for her expertise in elevating sales to increase valuation for companies with a B2B complex sale that have exceptional growth potential. She’s originally, from the widely known Miller Heiman Group. Spending her time strategizing with CEOs and their leadership teams to build the strategies that find new business and grow existing accounts is her passion. Her clients love her spirit and the way she energizes their sales organization.