|Who do you talk with?|
And it's a phrase I 've heard repeatedly over time, especially from those sales representatives who, in a rush of arrogance, want to sell themselves as being excessively effective or to make us think, to us who have to make the decision to hire them or not, that without them we have very little chance to reach that important point within the company, the point where everything happens: the "decision maker", the key and determining factor... as some people say, "the big Kahuna".
However, for those who are familiar with these selling things, it’s a phrase that implies a profound misunderstanding of the process leading to a purchasing decision within a company.
The first person to enter the stage is “The Gatekeeper".
I love “Gatekeepers”! It's funny because it’s usually the person you would least think can influence, either positively or negatively, the decision making process. And probably it doesn’t. However, it plays a decisive role in it: it gives you access (or not) to the "Decision Maker".
Some people may determine whether you have access (or not) to the decision maker.
It’s usually the secretary or assistant, or even the receptionist. Definitely it’s not the owner of the circus, but I wouldn’t ever refer to it under any circumstances as one of the "clowns".
Earn for yourself the ill will of the "Gate Keeper", treating it with contempt or disdain, and you’ll have a great obstacle for your messages to reach the “Decision Maker”, especially when you're just starting to build the relationship or making the initial contacts.
Let’s then welcome the "Influencer" on the purchasing process.
I would like to say I make all decisions in my house, but I don’t. Many of them are made in conjunction with my wife, sometimes I make them by myself. In many of them, I play a different role although not making the decision but exercising a significant weight on the option we choose. It all depends on the matter we are deciding upon.
To give you an example: if we are to buy a new kitchen, probably between the two of us we come to a consensus on what we need and review different options but, in the end, we are going to buy the option my wife likes the best, even if I’m the one who is going to be writing the check.
Or, the other way around, it might be a decision I’ve made, but the actual purchase is done by my wife. See the process?
The purchasing decision within a company isn’t the sole responsibility of one person. You know who can weigh in to it?
And the same thing happens when it comes to business.
Yes, there is a "decision maker" who signs off the purchase, but in most cases this person has to consider the opinion of other people around, and usually those other people would be those whose work will be affected by the decision they’re about to make.
Yes, there is one person making the decision but it’s definitely not being taken on solitary.
The "Influencer" in the decision making process is an individual whom you better get to consider of vital importance for your business progress and you should clearly identify who that person is, treat it properly and never (but never) send the message out that you’re more interested in talking with the "Owner of the circus" because you will not be doing business with that company anymore.
Why is it important to clearly identify who decides and who influences?
Because you could end up investing too much time talking to the "Decision maker" and not to the "Influencer".
Explaining myself better, you could be confident the business will be yours simply because you convinced the "Decision maker" but when that guy turns to his team to get the influencer’s endorsement, he doesn’t receive it simply because the influencer is not as sold into the product as the decision maker is.
When designing your sales approach to customers, always take into consideration these three characters.
While doing the analysis of how your customers make the decision to purchase your product or service, always keep in mind the existence of these three elements in the process: the gatekeeper, the influencer and the decision maker.
It might not look as important on paper, but take it to a real life situation and you will get to understand what I say. It has occurred to me, especially in my early years as a sales guy - when I thought I could sell ice to Eskimos - that treating people with contempt just because I thought they were the “clowns”, made me end up losing the business.
Don’t let this happen to you. Each individual who participates in the purchasing process within a company should be of great importance to you and you must treat them all with the same respect and professionalism.
Or would you like to be treated like a “clown”, just because you're not the one who makes the decision?
Related articles in this blog :
Cold Calling Sales (Part I): Where Can I Start From?