Do you know the real decision makers – and what they really need?
  • sales
  • Blog post

Do you know the real decision makers – and what they really need?

How often do you hear something like “Ajax chose to go with our competitor,” or “Monolith chose someone else for that job, can you believe it?”

It’s natural to mention the company’s name in cases like this, but that really glosses over (and maybe sugarcoats) the fact that the decision was made not by a company, but by human beings.

And that another human being, or even a group of them, won the deal, instead of you.

People, not companies, make decisions. It is easy to get caught up in the sales process, and forget that you are selling to individuals – or a group of them.

Look at your lost deals
Take a moment to review the last few deals that went sideways, especially those you felt confident of winning. Did you get deep into the process, only to learn that there were many more people involved – some you didn’t even know?

Now look at the active deals in your pipeline. Do you know all the stakeholders who are going to be involved in the buying decision?

Here are some questions to ask yourself as part of this analysis:

  • In the last deal you lost, who really decided to go with a competitor?
  • The last time you won, who really chose you over the other guys?
  • How can you make sure you know all the people involved in making the decision before the decision is made?
  • How can you suss out what these individuals really want?
  • Will you work some of these your pipeline deals differently after considering the people you are really selling to?

Figure out who’s who
Sure, all the stakeholders at your top prospect work for the same company. Chances are that some (but not all) are on the team charged with finding a solution to the problem you’re trying to help them with.

But don’t assume that means they all are looking for the same thing from you and your company.

Some of these individuals are looking to see that you have specific capabilities they require to give you the business. For example, they may need you to execute and deliver in a certain way, so that they will look good to their internal customers.

Others will need assurance about how well you fit their operational needs. They may need you to show that the solution you are offering will fit seamlessly with the way they conduct business.

Some stakeholders are bound to be worried about how you fit with their company culture, especially if this is to be a strategic partnership. They’ll need to be convinced your values align in a way that provides a competitive advantage.

Rest assured that someone is likely to be deeply interested in the financial side of things. Someone like this will surely address price concerns, no matter how well your solution fits their need.

Hidden agendas
So far we have discussed some of the more obvious individual agendas that you are likely to have to address in order to make real progress.

There are trickier political issues as well. Someone may want to sandbag your deal because he or she has a score to settle with your internal champion. Others may need your project to succeed so that they can be a hero, make a splash, gain attention or move up in the organization.

Things are not always as convoluted as this, especially if you have a fairly straightforward offering that doesn’t involve too many zeros after the comma.

But these days, with corporate governance getting tougher, and executives becoming more risk averse, high-dollar B2B sales are likely to be at least somewhat complex. And these are genuine issues based on real experiences.

Action steps to take
Start by taking a closer look at the deals in your pipeline. If you’re like most top sales pros, you’ve been cultivating an internal sponsor or champion.

Most likely this person is the highest level manager with a real and direct reason to care about what you sell. What you need from them is:

  • Insight and guidance about all the players involved in the decision to adopt your solution. Find out as much as you can about each individual, the role they play and influence they might have.
  • A copy of the company organization chart, so you can map the formal (and even more important) informal relationships.

Keep in mind, too, that you will probably need different champions for different tasks. The person who opens doors for you and tells you the lay of the land may not be the one who can get the deal done. As the deal evolves, different people will exert greater or lesser influence.

Source: Based on a posting by Anthony Iannarino. For more, visit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get a demo of all our training features

Connect with an expert for a one-on-one demonstration of how Rapid Learning can help develop your team.