Three buyers … with three agendas
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Three buyers … with three agendas

Editor’s note: Greatest Sales are true accounts of how successful salespeople closed the deal despite sales objections, buyer inertia, cutthroat competition and other obstacles. Paul Siegel, of Fast Memory, Inc., in Irvine, California, tells how he juggled competing agendas among his key buying influences.

There was no question that the target company needed my product. My problem was that I had to sell it to three different decision makers, each operating on his own agenda.

The operations manager insisted that my sales proposal was much too complex. “Keep the technical jargon to a minimum,” he said. “I can’t understand what you’re saying.”

But the IT manager was telling me just the opposite. “Be sure to include all the details to justify your recommendation. Otherwise we won’t be able to make an informed decision.”

Meanwhile, the company president had an entirely different agenda. He was looking a the big picture. He was interested in the best product he could get at a reasonable cost.

An ungainly hybrid
I spent four months meeting with each of the key players separately. Then I tried to blend their ideas into one proposal. As you can imagine, it didn’t fly with any of the three.

Finally, I realized that unless I took a drastic step, I wasn’t going to get anywhere. So I decided to focus on the ultimate decision maker: The company president.

When I got him on the phone, I told him first thing that he and two of his key people had spent more than 20 hours going over my proposals. “It’s in everyone’s interest to make a decision one way or the other,” I said.

There was a long pause. I could sense him running the numbers through his head – 20 hours at several hundred bucks an hour is a lot of money.

“Okay,” he said. “Be here Wednesday at 10 a.m.”

Once we all sat down together, it immediately became clear what the problem was. It had nothing to do with my proposals. The operations manager admitted that he feared his staff couldn’t absorb the training the new program would require. He had a great bunch of mechanics, he said, but none were computer proficient. He was concerned my proposed solution would create chaos in his operations.

Kept my mouth shut
I could have addressed the objection, but I stayed quiet. I wanted these three guys to figure out a solution on their own if they could – because then they’d own it. Sure enough, the IT manager jumped in to reassure him that this wasn’t going to be any problem at all. Some of his best people had come in without computer experience and picked it up quickly.

With that roadblock out of the way, I could feel the enthusiasm building as we all talked about the improvements the program would make possible.

It was a short meeting – less than an hour – but a great one.

I left with a clear picture of exactly what everyone wanted and needed, and two days later I was back with a finalized proposal. Then and there we closed a $250,000 deal.

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