One of the most difficult processes to manage in any business engagement is to ascertain the value of the interaction and whether it is relevant towards directing you to the right direction, relation and ultimately investment especially in today’s world where as a sales person in a business-to-business relationship needs to know more about his or hers prospects before conducting outreach and it’s imperative to know someone other than the decision maker pretty well.
While you create and nature a relationship in business it’s important to distinguish the gatekeeper, the influencer or even the person who is the stumbling block.
Here are a few ways to determine which type of prospect you’re speaking with. Will they help you make the sale or unknowingly stop you from talking to the right person?
Identifying sales leads
The gatekeeper: The gatekeeper is usually an executive assistant or subordinate to the decision maker. If the gatekeeper is an executive assistant, you should know immediately by their title. If they don’t hold the title but are working in an assistant’s capacity, it’s important to ask questions which then drive the right information like: “You wear a lot of hats, how do you prioritise your day?”
It may be tempting to call the decision-maker after hours when you know their assistant isn’t there. This is fine for making initial contact, but avoid working around their gatekeeper — they are often a valued partner of the decision-maker.
In some instances, it is beneficial to work with the gatekeeper so you can build trust with them and have them vouch for you with the decision-maker.
Once you’ve identified the gatekeeper, here are a few tactics to help you build trust with them.
Engage with gatekeepers
- Ask meaningful questions: A gatekeeper can be a valuable ally. By talking directly to the individual instead of immediately asking to be passed off to leadership and expressing genuine interest in getting to know their organisation and challenges, you can gain valuable insight that can help you make the sale down the line.
Before speaking to the contact, do your research to learn more about their role at the company. This will give you some background on who they are and how they work with the decision-maker you are trying to reach.
The gatekeeper is likely aware of their boss’ pain points, and your solution might also benefit them. Talk to them as you would the decision-maker, and ask their advice on the best way to approach their manager when it’s time.
- Connect on social media: Social selling techniques shouldn’t only be directed at decision-makers. Gatekeepers can be valuable social media connections as well.
When you see gatekeepers share content that is relevant to their company or line of work, try leaving a thoughtful comment thanking them for sharing or providing your thoughts on the topic.
Creating a sense of familiarity with them goes a long way in building trust and working with them to close a sale.
- Find a common connection in your network: When researching your gatekeepers and decision-makers, check to see if you have a common connection who can make an introduction for you. Being introduced through a third party is a good way to establish credibility, and it helps you not be seen purely as a solicitor.
Work with them as a valued partner, and see the dividends pay-out when you finally approach the decision-maker.
Usually is a junior-level employee who is asked to research options before their superior is informed. They don’t have the budget or authority to make a final decision, but they do have the power to influence the decision maker. The influencer is usually your main point of contact at the company, and they’ll pull in the appropriate stakeholders (such as finance or IT) throughout the sales process.
The decision maker
This is typically the C-suite; the person who signs the cheque, re-allocates budget on their own, and says “yes” without conferring with anyone. And, while it’s not common, a decision maker sometimes conducts research. When that happens, make the most of the situation and keep them close.
Often, the decision maker delegates the sales process to an influencer until it’s further along. In this case, work with the influencer, but keep the CEO in the loop. Show you’re happy to work with their team, but regularly check in with them.
Access to unlimited content has put the buyer in control of the sales process. Your account-based sales strategy needs to adjust to fit the changing behaviour with your prospects, and influencers are now imperative to winning business. If you ignore them, you’re missing an opportunity.
The influencer vs the decision maker
The influencer is usually a junior employee asked to research solutions for their department or company. Influencers don’t have budget or authority to make a final decision, but they can impact the outcome
The decision maker is typically an executive in charge of the final decision. They’re rarely involved in the research or vetting stage of the sales process. Instead, the influencer shares their research and recommendation with the decision maker who makes a choice. Typical decision makers can include the manager, Executive; Director or Managing Director.
The self-proclaimed decision maker
The self-proclaimed decision maker is a toxic prospect. If they’re offering unsolicited information, like “The CEO and I are best friends,” chances are, this person has little influence and might be wasting your time.
Whether it’s intentional or not, they’re gating you from the rest of the internal purchasing process. Pay attention to those volunteering too much information about their authority.
Ask this influencer how often they meet with the CEO because strong influencers meet with executives often. And find out what other products/services they’ve brought into the company and how that process worked. If they haven’t sourced solutions before or don’t work with the executive often, find another contact.
Many times, salespeople have their own definition of a decision maker, but it might not match that of the prospect. By the prospect’s definition, they’re the decision maker because they’re deciding what to recommend to the management. This person is actually the recommender.
In this case, the prospect is not being deceptive. Don’t dismiss the recommender, because they’re extremely valuable to the sale. Ask why they’re researching a solution and who’s asked them to do so. Their answer will tell you who the real decision maker is.
Often, the blocker has all the qualities of an influencer. They’re junior or mid-level, are in charge of researching solutions for their team or company and are your primary contact and communication source for the company.
But, eventually, the blocker will stop answering your phone calls. Your emails will go unopened, and the deal will stall. You’ve been ghosted: the specialty of the blocker.
What’s important here is to discern when it’s time to walk away from the company and when it’s time to simply find a new lead there. If you think you’re talking to a blocker and someone else at the business should hear what you have to say — do your research.
Identifying who you’re speaking with and who you need to speak with is a crucial part of the sales process.
Robert Gonye is a Business Growth Expert and Influencer. He writes in his personal capacity. Comments and views :[email protected]