Were you to walk into a lesson on 'An Idiots Guide to Making a Sale', lesson one might start off something like this:
'Clearly define who the main decision maker in the client environment is. If you are pitching to a company this is more often than not the Managing Director or CEO of the company. Convincing the main decision maker to purchase your product is tantamount to making the sale therefore all efforts should be aimed at this eventuality '
The teacher might go on to say something on this line:
'In every sales situation, there are influences on the main decision maker other than yourself. Influencers are any thing or person that may impede, contradict or conversely promote and endorse that sale. Therefore, in a company environment, the board of directors might be considered an influencer on the CEO. It is advisable but not always necessary to gain support from influencers if the decision maker is convinced of your product '
You may have heard the term 'Organ grinders and Monkeys or Mechanics and Oily Rags' with reference to this method of selling. The idea being, if you aren't pitching an idea or product to the person that has authority in making the sale but are instead pitching to a subsidiary lesser authority, then the chances of a sale are greatly reduced. In making a sale it is quite possible that in order to achieve a direct pitch to the main decision maker, some contact with someone lower down the order needs to be made. However, the procedural link between first contact and sale is increased meaning more decisions and more variables which makes the probability of success that more remote on outset. The upside of going through another channel to gain access to the decision maker is that in all likelihood that first contact will be a positive influencer in the sales process.
The lesson ends and you go to work to apply this new found wisdom focused on selling to the decision makers of your client list, but you don't do as well as you expect. Why?
In complex sales, the definition of decision makers and influencers is not at all clear cut. Supposing you are selling software and you have a positive meeting with the Managing Director of a company who is really excited about your product, in the meeting the sales and marketing departments have been invited in and they are equally excited about all the possibilities that your product offer their company. You leave the meeting and the MD calls the IT director to announce the decision but the IT Director replies "this software is windows compliant only. We are Linux based". The sale is scuttled at this late stage.
In this case the MD is not the decision maker, yes, he is the ultimate power base of the sale but when the sale veers into the realm of IT, the IT Director is then the most important element of the decision making process. The MD can be influenced since in all likelihood he is not an IT expert and defers to the IT Directors specialist knowledge.
What about the PA to the MD? He or she is often referred to as the 'gate keeper'. Well, the gate can be opened as well as closed. It is a very dangerous game to play to think that as the person that answers the phone for the MD, they have no say in the sales process. How many conversations occur in a day between the PA and the MD? How many times are opinions about personnel given even if not requested? 'John seemed to know what he was talking about. As soon as he came in he noticed that we were using …. 'ie. Caring and understanding. Or 'Peter seemed to be very pushy and only wanted to talk to you because he said that what he had to say was very important and would be of great benefit to you and he could not talk to anybody else'. Presumptuous or what!
Remember the 'mechanic and the oily rag', well they both have a part to play. If the mechanic spills the oil the oily rag is used to clean it up, even if it is being used by the mechanic. The other term is 'organ grinder and monkey'. The organ grinder can play the music but the monkey collects the money. The moral of the story is do not take anybody for granted. Establish who are the players and what their roles are, and treat them as individuals addressing their needs.