Doing nothing seems to be the most frequent reason for losing a complex sale these days. Deals stall, and the buyers go silent.
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 his team, I quickly realized that the price was not an issue. In fact, his salespeople couldn’t pinpoint any specific reason as to why the deals weren’t closing. They 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 were they missing?
Two words. Buyer Consensus.
Consensus is Key
Gaining buyer consensus today is critical to closing deals. It took some more digging, but I soon discovered 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 or a few buyers who didn’t have the authority to close the deal but had given signals that they did. It was a pattern for all the deals that went cold.
Gaining buyer consensus is complex and there is more to it, but here are three critical elements to successfully gaining buyer consensus.
3 Elements to Gain Buyer Consensus
Having one point of contact that is interested may seem great, but we all know there are many people influencing a decision in the complex sale. According to Gartner, The number of people involved in B2B purchase decisions rose from an average of 5.4 in 2015 to 6.8 in 2017. I’m not alone in believing it is continuing to increase.
The salesperson, or selling team, must identify who is involved in making the decision. Not all of the involved buyers 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. For in–depth information on how to identify decision makers and navigate a complex sale, I highly recommend Strategic Selling by Stephen Heiman and Robert Miller.
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.
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 and impacted by the buying decision will make it easier for you to determine the best way to involve them.
It’s less than ideal to proceed with the sale when you don’t have access to all of the decision makers unless you choose to proceed to be prepared to provide a way for your contact to involve others by providing information and material they can pass along or present.
Some of my clients use video to help gain consensus from buyers. They use tools like BombBomb and OneMob to record information that can be sent directly or passed on to those involved in making the decision.
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 in online meetings with video by using Zoom or GoToMeeting.
Your team must 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 a timeline for buying and an implementation and adoption plan, you’ll have a greater probability of success.
It’s your job, in sales, to help bring them to consensus. We know that buyers want more from the selling organization. Buyers are fatigued by the process according to Gartner. The key is to make it easier for them to buy.
There are great tools out there to help you better understand and map the buyers and their roles. Two of my favorites are Lucid Chart and Revegy. You can also do this on an excel spreadsheet. Either way, you need to do it.
Once you’ve got the right people, it’s much easier for the buyers when they know exactly what needs to happen and in what timeline in order to get what they need. You can use Mutual Action Plans, a new software platform. I also love DealPoint.io, which keeps sales teams buyer focused. It allows collaboration throughout the buying process.
By equipping your contact with what they need, you will win them over. If they haven’t brought the others to the table, after they share the information you provide, the situation may turn, and they may be more willing to bring others in to meet you. Of course, that gives you a much better chance of bringing them to consensus, so you can close the deal.
Remember the Buyer Journey is messy these days. In many cases, the buyers don’t know the path themselves, and they suffer from fatigue because they are trying to do their job and manage the buying process at the same time.
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. Your contacts have to trust you and value your insights. If they know you’ll make them the hero, you have a much greater opportunity for success.
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 the necessary relationships aren’t built. 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 in order to sell today?
Let’s talk about buyer consensus for your next 6 or 7 figure deal. Use this link to schedule a 30-minute strategy session. I can’t wait!
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.