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
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.