By Jay Spielvogel
“Have you ever had the following experience?”
You meet with a middle level manager who is extremely interested in engaging your company to fix an issue. This person willingly shares information with you regarding their perception of the challenges their company faces and how personally committed they are to fixing it. The meeting ends with an agreement that they will run your proposal by their boss and an expectation that it will be a “rubber stamp”. The action item is for you to follow up “next Monday” at which point they will have the “OK” to move forward. Unfortunately, when Monday comes they tell you they have not had a chance to speak with their boss, but they expect to have the opportunity to sit down and have the discussion within the next few days. Days turn into months, which inevitably turn into an endless sales cycle of following up.
The issue here is that the well intentioned prospect, who wanted to believe they would get the OK from their boss, lacks the ability to get the final buy-in. There are many reasons for this, the least of which could be that the boss does not perceive there to be any issues or does not believe the issues can be fixed. Either way, your contact lacks the influence over their boss. Again, because nobody wants to believe they lack power and influence, the prospect assumes they will get a “rubber stamp“.
So, how do you know you are dealing with a non-influential person?
First, have you ever experienced the opposite? A prospect that was capable of driving decisions up the corporate ladder, methodically getting what they want!!! If you have, then you can begin to see the difference between these powerful prospects and their counterparts who lack the power. Here are some apparent differences between the two:
Non-influential prospects, with very little (if any) power:
- Will tend to complain about their manager.
- Will not have shared the fact that they are meeting you, with their manager.
- Will have had very little, if any, experience influencing their manager in the past.
- Will be unable to define their manager’s vision, goals and potential objections.
- Will plan to present the features and benefits that you offer, as justification for the cost.
Influential prospects, which are empowered to make decisions:
- Will speak positively about their manager.
- Will have shared the fact that they are meeting with you, with their manager.
- Will have an experiential understanding of how their manager makes decisions.
- Will be able to clearly define their manager’s visions, goals and possible objections.
- Will work with you to co-develop a solution that will address their manager’s issues, concerns and desired results.
They say the first step to fixing an issue is to admit you have one. In this case, the first step for a sales person is to become extremely perceptive of the type of prospect they are dealing with. It is just as critical for a Sales Manager to implement a sales process and coaching system, which sniffs out these situations rather than allowing the sales people to clog up the pipeline with non close-able business.
So how many GREAT meetings are your sales people having with prospects that want your solution but won’t be able to influence the other decision makers to spend the money?