It’s an occupational hazard in sales. Stuck with a gatekeeper who, whatever approach you take, is determined not to let you in until they know more. Or you get to talk to the ‘decision-maker’ – only to find out they are really an influencer. Part of the decision-making unit, yes, and have influence, but there are others who need convincing of the merit of your offer.
Sometimes you just can’t get to have that direct conversation with the person who holds the ultimate power to say yes or no. Indeed, with email filtering and call screening, it’s becoming rarer to get straight through to them. But it’s not the end of the world. You can influence the person you ARE talking to and give them the tools to convince the people that have the final say.
Here’s our top tips on influencing a decision when it’s not the decision-maker you’re talking to:
1. Identify who you are talking to and determine their role
You need to understand precisely with whom you are engaging, and importantly, how influential they are in the decision you want made. Are they a gatekeeper, whose role is to screen calls and deliver on information that is relevant? Don’t underestimate the importance of these people; they hold the power over what information gets passed to the decision-maker. Or are they part of a decision-making unit? They can certainly influence the decision but need someone else to give the final approval. Structure your conversations with meaningful questions to identify how much influence they hold, how long they’ve been with the organisation, and what relationships they hold.
2. Become an influencer marketer
We’re not suggesting you should try selling fad exercise plans, weird supplements or the latest gadget. But the methods used by influencer marketing work – you know what we’re talking about: Mr ‘I bought a Tesla because Elon Musk said I should’ – and can be used to great effect in a B2B sales development environment. If it’s good enough for the most successful networking and sales platform in the world, LinkedIn, then it’s good enough for us. Here’s some ideas:
- Align yourself with the influencer you are talking to – ask questions about their ideas and why they think your proposition will work for their organisation. The key is to really listen and be genuinely interested in what they think and why they think it. The more you can align yourself with them, the more likely it is that they will prove to be your ally.
- Hype things up a bit. In the world of Instagram, influencer campaigns are successful when they leverage our links to culturally relevant people with whom we empathise. On a B2B level, you can use relevant brands you’ve worked with to excite the person you are talking to. Referrals and word of mouth recommendations carry enormous weight. You need to understand which brands that you’ve worked with are important in your prospect’s marketplace – not necessarily big world-wide names, but key market players. Even better if you can get a testimonial to add credibility.
- Develop a culture of sharing. Successful B2B interactions depend on the strength of the relationship as much as the level of influence. Ensure you create and develop a positive relationship with your influencer. Right now, they are the face of your brand within their organisation. With the right nurturing you can turn them into an advocate for you, making it easier for you get your proposition to the final decision maker and receive a positive response from them.
3. Critique your marketing
Is your marketing material up to the job? We’ve talked above about how to build a relationship with your influencer. Now you need to arm them with the right tools. Your message is being passed on through a third party, and we all know what happens when you play Chinese Whispers. By giving the person high-quality marketing collateral that articulates your message perfectly, you will help to ensure nothing gets lost in translation.
When you find yourself in this position, it’s certainly a challenge. But with the right approach, it needn’t be an insurmountable one.
Published: 26th November 2019
If you work in sales management, you’ll live and breathe your team sales targets. Agreed at the start of the year, it seemed stretching but achievable. Six months on, yes, you’re on track and feeling positive. The team is motivated. You’ve got your strategic plans in place for the second half of the year, and you’re all focused on the goal for final delivery of targets.
And then it happens…
Re-forecasting. Changed targets. You’re suddenly asked to deliver more than you expected. It’s enough to knock the most motivated of us back a bit. But it’s a fact of life, and you need to deal with it.
The status quo has changed
Our advice? Accept it. Changing targets can be a fact of sales, accepting it is absolutely the first step needed in re-planning the next six months. Change is inevitable in today’s volatile workplace, and, as cited in the often-used change model by Kurt Lewin, acceptance is the first stage in understanding. Challenge the need for change, and you’re making it more difficult for yourself to implement the positive actions that you must to move forward.
Your team may be up in arms. It’s your job to help them accept the need for change too. Only by understanding why it must happen can you refocus people on the revised objectives.
Delve into the metrics
As part of the process of change, you need to understand whether it’s possible to deliver what is asked, with the resources you have. One way to help you with this is to examine how your metrics need to change to enable delivery of a higher target.
To make short-term changes, there are two things to examine – the quantity and quality of the work. For example, if you measure conversions, how much higher does the rate need to be? If salespeople are making four appointments a day, how many more do they need to achieve to increase sales? Depending on where you are now, both of these may have a positive impact – or neither of them may work. If your team is already filling every minute of every day, asking them to make more appointments is futile.
Examining your resources
When looking at your team, you not only need to consider whether you have the capacity you need but also whether you have the right skillsets in place.
If you feel there is additional capacity in your existing team, you can tap into that and extract the higher work rate you need. Implementing incentives is one way to go, rewarding the salespeople for delivering more. If you don’t have capacity or are missing key skills, this is a longer-term issue for the organisation. But that doesn’t help you right now, with six months to make an impact. Here’s where outsourcing may help.
The beauty of outsourcing is that it lets you implement more resources, at short notice, for a set period. The outsourced team will have one focus alone – to help you achieve your goals. And you can focus then wherever the gaps in your own team may be. For example, they can work on generating genuine opportunities, with the qualification completed, so that your team can improve conversion rates.
Many agencies will say they can supply such outsourced professionals – but a note of caution. The types and quality of these companies and the staff they can provide do vary, so research carefully. And be clear about the type of role you need to add to your team. We have compared two types of outsourcing options here in our blog – telemarketing vs business development – which may help.
The bottom line is that a change targets halfway through the year is never fun; however, with careful management, it needn’t be as problematic as it initially seems.
Published: 13th November 2019
Here in the UK, we are a service-based economy. According to the Office of National Statistics, it’s where over 70% of our GDP comes from, with over 80% of our workers being employed within the various service sectors.