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SELLING IN TOUGH TIMES – II

The New Decision Making Process

In the first post in this three-part mini-series, ‘How good is your sales forecast?’, we looked at the vital first step of cleaning up your sales forecast.

Now that you know which opportunities merit your fullest attention you need to determine precisely what’s going on in those accounts – what stands in the way of a decision in your favor.

In good times the power to make purchase decisions is spread far and wide within organizations, with many departments and individuals having independent spending authority. When things become as cautious as they have recently the level at which purchase decisions are made moves up a peg or two (or three).

The Decisionmaking Process

Before you can do anything with your best opportunities you need to understand the game you’re now in – who else is now playing, and what new rules apply.

STEP 2: LOOK AT THE NEW PURCHASE PROCESS IN EACH TARGET ACCOUNT

Your first port of call must be your current “champion(s)” or “buyer(s)” – those people who previously had the ability to say “yes!” Not all of your current buyers will be straight enough as to inform you outright they no have the power to accept your proposal.

There’s a simple “litmus test” that will tell you whether things have changed or not. If you suddenly find that you can’t get a direct answer as to when your proposal will be accepted or rejected, or when a final decision will be made, then this unpredictability is likely coming from the fact that your buyer is no longer in control.

And, if the decision is now being made a few steps further up the line, then for you to be successful getting a decision from your former buyer (s)he must sell your proposition up the line to that level at which a decision can now be made.

Continuing to sell solely to your previous buyer is more like Chinese Whispers than professional selling. You cannot be sure that your business case is going to make it up the line intact – you can’t even be sure that your former positioning will even appeal to the new decision makers.

The only realistic way to regain some control over the process is to identify where the decision will be made and by whom – and then by setting about building bridges to that/those person(s).

Your current contact will be your best source of information on who is now involved in the decision making process.

Remember, they too have had their plans disrupted and, if what you had proposed formed part of their plans, then you still share a common interest.

You’ll need a lot of information on any changes to the decisionmaking process before you can decide on how to proceed from this point.

At a minimum you must find out:

  • Who will now have the final say on approval of your deal?
  • Who else will be involved in the decision?
  • What are their particular priorities (cost cutting, revenue improvement, strategic positioning etc)?
  • How is your proposal currently perceived (nice to have, must have, ho-hum…)?
  • What are the perceived risks of proceeding with your proposal in the eyes of these new buyers?
  • What are their alternatives and what are the relative benefits of those?
  • What do your champions think you’ll need to do to keep things on track?

With this information under your belt you now know who you should be targeting – but with what? But before you rush off into selling to any newly identified buyers be sure that what you have to offer is going to appeal.

In the final post in this mini-series we’ll look at how your reposition your value proposition so that it appeals to your new decision-makers (Monday April 11th).

Question: How do you go about working out the new decision making process in your accounts?

Use the ‘Comments’ feature below to share your ideas

 

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  • Peter Hosie

    Certainly an interesting Topic, my view on tough times is that it is often a matter of mind over matter if we have a positive can do attitude and then focus on our customer needs then the question surely must be asked, “what are Tough Times”

    I hacve found that they are the times when opportunities abound for the sales person with a customer service focus, the old saying that customers can smell when you are despirate is true.

    This is a fantastic topic being addressed by one of the masters in selling

    • Absolutely Peter. A friend often says: ‘never let them see your bones through your shirt’ – a lot of selling is attitude, regardless of the economy. There are always opportuntieis – in tight times you just have to ‘kiss a few more frogs’!

      Thanks for the input.

  • Peter Hosie

    Certainly an interesting Topic, my view on tough times is that it is often a matter of mind over matter if we have a positive can do attitude and then focus on our customer needs then the question surely must be asked, “what are Tough Times”

    I hacve found that they are the times when opportunities abound for the sales person with a customer service focus, the old saying that customers can smell when you are despirate is true.

    This is a fantastic topic being addressed by one of the masters in selling

    • Absolutely Peter. A friend often says: ‘never let them see your bones through your shirt’ – a lot of selling is attitude, regardless of the economy. There are always opportuntieis – in tight times you just have to ‘kiss a few more frogs’!

      Thanks for the input.

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