I was shocked to realise that I hadn’t blogged for five years! Has nothing of note been happening during this time? Nothing useful to share with you? Yes, plenty but I’ve just been remiss and got out of the habit of blogging.
The chief executive of a client company had started off his regular blog enthusiastically but had let it lapse. I recommended that either he continue them religiously or drop the reference – “Read the Chief Executive’s Blog” – from the company web site. I should have taken my own medicine.
No apologies for repeating the issue I raised in May 2010 because sales people still don’t seem to be addressing the issue effectively. If I hear yet another sales manager talk about the “decision maker” (as in “have we spoken to the decision maker?”) I think I’ll go mad. Because the term doesn’t help us; it’s quite simply not useful in high value, complex selling. To think in these terms – because increasingly there isn’t just one decision maker in today’s world and the number of stakeholders involved in any one purchase decision are many more than was the case a few years ago – suggests a naiveté and amateurism on the part of the sales executive and the sales manager that is frightening. However, a lot sell salespeople don’t seem to realise that the game has moved on.
There is never, never, never, just one decision-maker – unless what you’re selling is a simple commodity and even then I doubt it.
Buying decisions have become much more complicated with more and more stakeholders needing to be involved in the process of deciding what to buy. For years we have been using ( or should have been using) as a guide the excellent Miller Heiman buying influences – users, technical screens economic buyers, coaches to help navigate a sale. This has served us well and will no doubt continue to do so.
Firms have become more and more risk –averse; no one person or group of people wants to take the full responsibility for a big purchase decision. The trend is, and has been for a few years now, for firms to involve many more people in the process than previously. Organisations want to widen the consensus of stakeholders beyond the original buying group. Salespeople must be able to identify the people in the wider group and access them. Otherwise, we are reducing our chances of success significantly and are likely to end up in what one sales guru calls “the place where deals go to die”.
The difficulty for salespeople is compounded by the likelihood that prospects themselves don’t always realise the extent of the consensus they need to reach internally.
But how do we deal with this? That’s for another blog. Hopefully, not in five years’ time. Meanwhile, let’s just stop talking about the mythical “decision maker”, can we?