As every effective salesperson knows, you must determine early in the sales process whether the customer or prospect you're working with has the authority to make decisions and purchase your product or service. That is, do they have economic power? If they don't, they're merely a gatekeeper (sometimes willing, sometimes reluctant) who is blocking your way to the person with the real purchasing authority.
There are no two ways about it: Without access to the purchasing authority, you face a more significant pathway to the sale. Even if your principal contact/gatekeeper wholeheartedly buys into your value proposition, it doesn't matter; until the person with economic power has the same appreciation of how your proposition will create value for them and their organisation. Until then your work is for naught.
In a perfect world, salespeople will always try to communicate directly with whoever has the purchasing authority. If your initial contact within your target business isn't the authority, you get with whoever has it. But as we know, it's not usually that simple. In fact, it's not unusual for the authority to go out of their way to shield themselves behind gatekeepers.
Whilst selling to a customer who doesn't possess purchasing authority is not ideal, it’s often the norm and there are certainly ways that you can help your prospect/contact sell internally... and thus help you make the sale.
Central to this goal is that you want to make your contact, presumably already a champion for your product or service, a de facto salesperson for you inside their own company. And you can help them become such a salesperson by guiding them through the same process that you undergo every time you work your way through a client relationship to make a sale – that is, you need to help them be able to transfer their belief in your products and services to the organisation by creating and communicating value.
If you want to effectively help your champion create value in the mind of the purchasing authority, it isn't going to happen overnight. However, when you understand it, it's actually quite a tactical process that with enough practice and application is very doable for anyone to achieve.
Through the next four blogs, we will follow up with a series that will expand on the four steps that we recommend salespeople follow to help prospects sell internally:
- Understand the purchasing cycle – Businesses of every size go through a similar process, and if you're to understand the people you're dealing with, you must understand how they purchase, what procedure they follow and where they are at anytime in that cycle.
- Understand the buying team – When you can't gain direct access to the purchasing authority, you're probably dealing with a buying team. Every one of these teams includes three types of people (or roles that they fulfill), and it's essential that you identify each member and determine what role they play.
- Define objectives – All sales calls or presentations must begin in the mind of the salesperson with a clear statement of purpose. And when it comes to more complex sales, especially when you don’t have direct access to the purchasing authority, it's essential to work with your contact to define a concrete series of objectives.
- Form a sales strategy – With your objectives defined, you will need to develop a sales strategy with your principal contact based on three factors: the size and complexity of your value proposition to the target organisation, the organisation's tolerance for change and the nature of existing relationships within the organisation.
Insights into each of these steps will be covered in our next four blogs. If you don't already subscribe to our blog, enter your email address into the field at the upper right corner of this page and you'll receive an email notification each time we post a new blog.