Do you get nervous when you have to talk to your boss or anyone who has authority over you?
I mean, most of us do right at least a little bit, but can you guess what's even more nerve-wracking than that? Having your boss talk to someone you introduce them to or that you've introduced information to.
In other words, the only thing that's scarier than talking to your boss is having a salesperson talk to your boss.
How to Get Decision Makers Involved --Without ticking people off
we need to eliminate drama --or the fear of creating drama when requesting these meetings
It's no wonder then that so many of the sellers and managers that I talk with on a daily basis are struggling with getting their champions to introduce them to their boss. Or even harder still, going directly to their boss to get the meeting. Because if you do the latter as a seller and you try to go around your contact, then there's that fear of ticking off your champion.
But if you don't get the decision-maker involved, the odds that you're going to get the deal are slim to none, right? In a survey by B2B Decision Labs, they found that 83% of sales leaders agreed that getting executive decision-makers involved is critical to getting the deal done. But 52% of them said their teams just aren't good at working with internal sponsors.
Why is that?
So what's the best way to get through these doors?
...without ticking off your champion or sponsor or alienating that executive buyer that you want to connect with? Or creating drama when requesting these meetings?
What's getting in the way of actually doing what we know we should? Where's the fear really coming from?
I have an idea, you might have an idea as well, but I dug into the research around this.
What is the best messaging to use? How do you get to the meeting with the decision-maker while still remaining Buyer First focused?
So let's start with why this happens. Why is it so hard for us to ask for access to decision-makers?
On a recent coaching call, when a client realized that she didn't actually have access to the decision-maker, she was still resistant to even asking about them. Never mind asking for access to them. When I asked her when the executive decision-maker usually involves themself during the process for something like this in the company, she didn't know.
Then I asked her, “Does her champion believe that this is the solution that's going to solve the problem. And is it compelling?”. She's like, “Well, of course. He desperately wants to implement this. He just can't seem to get his boss sold on the idea. I think it's because he keeps talking about the tools and his boss just doesn't care”.
And she's right. His boss probably doesn't care.
So even though she knew what was happening and she knew what she needed to do, she couldn't seem to make herself even ask the question to do it.
So, why does this happen?
Data from Objective Management Group shows that when sellers are struggling with the need for approval they have difficulty asking good questions and gaining access to decision makers. And 60% of the 2.2 million sellers that have been surveyed and leaders struggle with the need for approval.
It's human to want to be liked. Right? But it impacts our ability not only to get access to decision-makers. It also has a major impact on the ability to qualify, to be consultative, to sell on value, and to negotiate —just to name a few. But here's the kicker, the better you are with being consultative and qualifying and selling on value, the easier it is to actually get access to the decision-makers.
The hardest part of all of this is that overcoming a need for approval can take, well, a long time. Even with coaching, it can take as much as 9 to 12 months for us to be able to fully understand it & develop the strategies in order to manage it.
This is why I often tell sellers, leaders, and business owners that they want to probably work with a licensed therapist on their own self-acceptance. This will accelerate their sales performance improvement.
See, when you fully accept who it is that you are, you're not going to seek validation from others as much.
I know it seems a little fluffy. I used to think so too. But this inner work has to be done to ensure that we do the things that we know that we should do —like my client. And then we are able to do them... Without creating drama.
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But what about the skill set?
What if you're not sure about what to do? What do we need to do in order to earn the right to get to that decision-maker?
Now, what I see missing in a lot of sales conversations and I hear a lot of them, is asking about the buyers' buying process. What I hear happening is that when sellers have their initial calls with champions and sponsors, they think they've got uncovered a problem that they can solve. Then, they get excited and they jump into demos and the next steps without ever actually stopping to ask some simple questions like:
- When do you need to see these results?
- When do you need to see the results, vs. when do I want to have the solution implemented? (Two different things.)
- What's the significance of that particular deadline when you need to see those results?
- Who else gets impacted by this?
- And how much time is it, that you've budgeted for implementing this?
These sequential questions then also can be asked to ask about their process.
- So tell me about the process that you have to go through to implement a solution like this. Like how long does it typically take?
- Who gets involved, and at what point & what do those people need in order to make their decision? What's important to them?
So get clear expectations on THEIR process and when THEY need to get a decision-maker involved. Find out what those decision-makers need along the timeline and why it's important. Then the fear of creating drama when it's time for you to ask for access to the decision-makers is eliminated.
Because it's the next established step that you collaborate with together. You'll know, when it's going to be appropriate to do so and why, and what's going to be important. Which in turn, gives you time to work with your client or with your buyer. Know what to say and collaborate with your champion about what to ask for in that meeting to make it happen. Like I do with my coaching clients.
Now, to look into this, how do we get executives to take the meeting?
I came across some research from B2B Decision Labs on this. The thing that intrigued me is it really did align with what I was actually seeing happening in the field with my clients and with all their buyers.
So here's my top three, takeaways from it. The study first tested four types of messaging on executives.
First. They tested a Unique Product Value Proposition.
We hear these a lot. This is where the seller shares how their solution helps to solve the problem and a new and a different better way than the competitor does. Turns out this didn't actually appear to impact whether or not executives would agree to take the meeting in a direct way. As they were equally as likely to accept or decline the meeting.
This helps because there's another thing that they tested, which is called:
The Known Business Initiative and ROI.
This is where you demonstrate that you've done your homework, you understand what their challenges and priorities are, that they're trying to address. And then you share some kind of a quantified ROI of the results that other companies like yours have offered.
We've been using this for a while, right? With limited impact, though. The other thing that's important about this is that you have to share some kind of an estimated impact that this is going to have on your executive's business in their company.
It's widely used except that it actually resulted in a nine to twelve percent drop in how credible vendors appeared confident they were that that vendor could help. And therefore, their likelihood of taking a meeting. Again, through a direct channel. The reason that these two approaches were not as effective is because of what scientists called, “preference stability”.
We just don't like to change our minds once we've made up our minds. In fact, we tend to filter out and discount information that counters the opinion that we've already made up our minds about. So once a buyer has actually acknowledged a problem, they pretty quickly decide on how they're going to solve it.
In order for us to change this dynamic though, we need to be able to offer something that they don't know. New information or new insight that either is going to change how they think about the problem. Or changes the range of options that they feel is available to them to solve the problem.
We have to add more value than Google can.
To do this, try some approaches that introduce a new need that they haven't considered before based on your experience with other customers who have done things like this. An “unconsidered need” that they may be encountered as a result of going through the process.
This might be a problem where a missed opportunity that your executive doesn't know that they have or doesn't fully appreciate that they might have. But knowing that someone else like them has gone through it and discovered this can add value because it's something they didn't know before.
And finally, the last one is the Competitive Benchmark Offer.
This is where they tested the sellers offering benchmark information compared to the prospective executive's other similar companies —their competitors. Ideally, this includes data about the company that you've developed with existing customers in industries like theirs.
This gives executives a chance to see how they stack up against the competition, against key performance indicators.
We do something like this when we are evaluating sales teams. And if you check out the link below, you can actually compare these mindsets and skillsets of your sales teams to others in your industry or other competitors and see how your competitor’s salespeople are beating yours.
But when you do that, what you're doing is, you're presenting an issue that was sourced from an external trend and factors. And you’re introducing to them, unknown problems or challenges. Or things they might be missing out on, that either again, they didn't appreciate before or didn't even know about.
What it's doing is it helps to get them to see the things that they don't know. It creates a flaw in their perception of what they've already decided on. It's how we challenge their thinking.
But you can't stop there. You also have to make sure that you share some kind of a case study or a story that demonstrates specifically how you can help with whatever problem that you've uncovered.
don't bring up a problem if you don't have a solution for it.
But you also have to quantify the impact that that's going to make. Now, the best way that I find to do this is to actually do a ballpark preliminary calculation with your champion to discover what kind of impact this could have on revenue and cost savings, and operating margins. And that becomes the business case that you can share with executives along with the insights.
So not only are you sharing that, "Here's something that you might not be aware of that could be costing you X.", But also, "Here's how others like you have solved it, and here's what you might be saving or gaining as a result".
This is why it is so important to slow down, to do your research into your buyer's industry, current trends, and whatever else it is that you can do to immerse yourself in their world. You've got to add more value to the conversation than their Google searches do. This is the opportunity to truly help your champion, to give them the confidence to make the introduction to their boss.
Because when you start making them look good to their boss, they're more likely to want to have that conversation with you and their boss. This is how you're going to get executive decision-makers involved... Without ticking off your champion. Without creating drama.
First by establishing where in the process it needs to happen and what is going to be important in that. You're building a business case with them. This is how you can add value to the buying experience.
TRUSTED REFERRALS TRUMP ALL
Now, one of the things that we should note here is that there's the direct way to get the meeting and there's the way to get through the sponsor. In this particular study, the direct way didn't seem to make a difference. The sponsor way doesn't really seem to make too much of a difference as to the messaging, but they're more being relied on their trust that they have
built with their executive decision-maker.
So it's really about the relationship that your sponsor has with them.
Test it out. Let me know how it works.
And if you like this blog, please share it with your team, your colleagues, and subscribe to get the next science-based, sales tips and other science-based sales techniques that I research and test out.
Not to sound dramatic...But, I love hearing from all of you as far as how you're applying this. And what are some of the other things that you're struggling with, that I can dig into some research for?
Do you have more questions about this topic?
Join Carole Mahoney at her next #buyerfirst Ask me anything
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--the 3rd Tuesday of every month at Noon ET.
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