Are you one of those super capable business women who writes a lot of proposals and then, crickets? It’s easy to hide behind email, isn’t it? And that’s what your prospective clients are doing.
Because your contact isn’t really the decision maker.
Sure, you’ve read all the buying signals correctly, and chances are, the person you’ve been speaking with is indeed interested in your product or service. But now they need sell you to the real decision maker and chances are even greater that they a) aren’t capable of doing so successfully and b) aren’t willing to do so.
And they’re probably embarrassed to tell you.
Especially in situations where the person you’ve been meeting with is really interested in your product, it can be difficult for them to take it up the chain. Because they have only their enthusiasm and none of your objection handling facts and skills. And in the cold light of day, faced with this reality, their enthusiasm will probably wane.
Not to mention that the decision maker’s priorities are likely to be different too. Another difficulty to overcome for your inside champion. Your prospect may not even be aware of the organization’s priorities even if what you are offering is a solution to a problem that he faces himself.
But you need to convert those proposals into real business. Because writing proposals is time consuming. And if they aren’t converting, they aren’t making you any money. The solution is to establish who the real decision maker is earlier in your sales conversation. And then, hey presto! You’ll write fewer proposals, but you’ll win more business.
But let’s face it. You can’t just come out and ask ‘are you the real decision maker’? That would go down like a ton of lead balloons with most people. But there are some skillful ways to do this that will get you the information you need, without damaging the rapport and relationship you’ve already built with the prospect in front of you.
Determining the Decision Maker
Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Little Red Book of Selling and a renowned expert in sales, has some great suggestions for handling this situation:
- Qualify at the beginning - "Is there anyone else you work with (confer with, bounce things off of) on decisions like this?
- "If you're interested in working with me, when we're finished would it be possible to meet the CEO and chat about it?"
- "How will this decision be made?" Then follow up with "Then what?" and keep going until you get the name of the real decision maker.
A few other ways to ask:
- In order to get this problem solved for you, what needs to happen?
- I can see that you are very keen to move forward. What do we need to do to make that happen?
- Is there anyone who can help you get what you need more quickly?
You can see that these are all variations on the same theme: you need to establish how decisions are made and by whom. You cannot assume that the person you are talking to has the power to make the purchase – even when you are talking to the CEO! Sometimes boards need to be involved.
The important thing to remember is to establish these details in your first serious sales conversation. You do not want to be spending too much time talking to someone who is not authorized to buy, nor do want to spend a great deal of time crafting proposals that won’t go anywhere.
If you can add this step into your early sales conversations, you’re guaranteed to increase your conversion rate. You know what yours is currently, right? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.