Sales roadblock: When the ‘final’ decision maker doesn’t really have the last say
  • sales
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Sales roadblock: When the ‘final’ decision maker doesn’t really have the last say

How often have you poured your blood, sweat and tears into a deal, answered all objections, asked for the sale – and then heard words like these:

“This looks really great. Let me talk it over with the rest of the team and get back to you.”

Rest of the team? Your buyer had assured you that he was the only decision maker. You were counting on getting a signature. Now you feel that you’ve been set up. Why didn’t he tell you he wasn’t the final decision maker? Why did he lead you on? And what can you do to keep this from happening next time?

Here are seven ways to avoid last-minute surprises like these, from sales guru Ari Galper. Some or all of these steps may apply to your situation. Use them where they fit:

1. Assume there will be multiple decision makers
No one wants to make a wrong decision, to be left holding the bag and looking bad. In many cases even CEOs can’t make final decisions without getting buy-in from other executives on their team.

Even if contacts tell you they’re the only one making the decision, that’s highly unlikely, especially in larger organizations. They may say so for all kinds of reasons. They may even believe it themselves. But that doesn’t mean you should buy it.

2. Ask in different ways
Your contact says, “I’m the decision maker, and I decide if we’ll purchase your solution or not” with total confidence. Reply in an easygoing manner, “Oh, okay. So, you’re the only person who signs the agreement, and you won’t be discussing this with anyone else?”

There’s likely to be a short silence, after which you learn other decision makers are involved. Then you’ll know who you have to win over.

3. Better late than never
Even if you’ve gotten deep into the sales process and suddenly learn that other decision makers need to be involved, don’t let it throw you. Simply suggest to your contact that the two of you should get them involved now, so they won’t be caught off guard later.

4. Keep it moving
The critical task: keep the sale moving no matter what. Don’t allow it to get stalled.

Your contact says, “I need to get hold of Mike and Julie, but they’re traveling. I’ll get back to you after they get back.” Don’t accept that delay unless you must. Simply say, “It sounds as if Mike and Julie are an important part of the process. What if we pull together a brief conference call so they can get an overview of what’s happening? That way you can avoid chasing them down and everyone can get up to speed at the same time. Does that make sense?”

The answer you get will tell you a lot about where you really stand. If you hear, “Nah, I’ll just try and get hold of them when I can and then get back to you,” she could be saying, “We aren’t really that interested.”

5. Ask your contact to arrange the conference call
If you call the other decision makers yourself, it’s a sales call. If your contact arranges the call, it’s not. Ask if he or she would be open to coordinating the call.

Asking your contact to set up the call also demonstrates that you’re not overstepping your bounds.

6. Make it an advisory call, not a sales call
If your contact agrees to the conference call, work together on an agenda. Emphasize that your purpose is to inform the others about what has happened so far, not to apply any type of sales pressure. This is important because contacts are reluctant to arrange a call if they’re afraid the salesperson will put participants on the spot and make things awkward for everyone.

Keep your promise. When you open the call, say: “The purpose of our call is to bring you up to speed on what has happened so far so you all have the information you need to think this solution through.”

7. Follow up
After the call, you need to find out the truth about where the deal stands, without putting too much pressure on your contact for a final answer.

Put it this way: “I’m just calling to see what questions the others on the call might have, since those types of calls don’t always address everyone’s issues or concerns.” This approach allows your contact to talk about where he or she stands, and you can then ask, “Where do you think we should go from here?”

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