Sales professionals searching for insight into prospective clients would be wise to think of themselves as detectives. The more research you do on a client the faster you speed up the sales cycle and the more likely you are to increase transaction size.
As you do your detective work, it eventually becomes clear who the real decision maker is and who the primary and secondary influences are.
More than anything, it is important to find the true decision maker, the person who has veto power and whose signature seals the deal. But almost important is determining who the key influencers are.
No matter how independent and self-confident a decision-maker could be, that person usually has valued and trusted advisers whispering in his or her ear. We need to know who those influencers are and get to them as early in the process as possible.
Some sales detectives prefer the direct approach and ask questions such as:
“Who is the most influential person helping you make this decision?”
“Whose advice and counsel will be most valuable to you as you make your decision?”
Other sales pros are more subtle, but once you find the key influencers, you need to build a trusting relationship with them too.
Sometimes a prospect will be vague and non-committal when asked to name influencers. A mid-level person might not want to give up control or admit that he or she lacks decision-making power. Such a person could also be protecting c-suite executives from interruptions.
Some prospects worry that disclosing influencer names will cause the sales process to grow deeper before they are ready. When you’re having trouble drawing information out of a prospect, be patiently persistent. Keep asking, digging and researching. You can also look at precedent…What kind of influences did similar prospects in the past have?
A word of warning: be careful of false influencers. There are those people who get some sort of psychological payoff pretending to have influence over the buying process. Do your homework. Don’t jump to conclusions until you have performed thorough due diligence on the prospective client. A little extra work will increase your closing ratio!
Written by: Jeff Beals (Speaker, Author & Sales Strategist)