Written by: Milena Gallo
Sales negotiations can be disheartening and frustrating for many salespeople. Especially when you're ready to sign on the dotted line only to find out that the deal won’t be going ahead. This can happen for many reasons, such as your contact not having the final say in the decision-making process.
Sales negotiation training fundamentals warn against negotiating with anyone except the decision maker. If your contact has to "run the details by their manager," then you're likely not talking with the right person. In an ideal world, your best bet is to get to the person who signs the checks, allocates budgets, and can say "yes" without having to confer with anyone else.
Research the Prospect Company
It is common for C-Suite decision makers to leave the initial groundwork to subordinates. The person who first reaches out to you or is assigned to deal with you might simply be tasked with exploring options rather than making any decisions.
To get to the decision maker, research the company's decision-making process. Find out:
Once you're familiar with the process and the individuals involved, you can create a strategy to reach the decision maker while gaining allies among the company's influencers and recommenders.
Identify the Decision Maker by Job Title
Corporate decision makers are often C-level executives or high-ranking managers with authoritative titles. Depending on the industry you’re selling into, you can use job titles to identify roles.
Different markets and industries have different unique decision makers. Some common titles for decision makers involved in the purchase process include:
If your prospect has one of these titles or similar, your contact may well be the decision-maker. However, paying due diligence ensures you're not negotiating with someone who later has to refer you to a higher authority before a deal is signed.
Find Mutual Connections
After identifying your market's unique decision maker, it's time to reach out and make your offer. While researching a prospect and the company, a salesperson may come across familiar names. The familiar contacts may be ex-colleagues, mutual friends, a negotiations trainer, or former students of the university you attended.
Getting introduced by a mutual connection can help you turn a cold call into a warm prospect. Before requesting your mutual connection to introduce you to the prospect, you may need to ask yourself a few questions. For example:
It's frustrating to make a connection who turns out to be a wasted opportunity or a waste of time. If you can't ultimately help the prospect, your referrer will be reluctant to make any future connections. Additionally, if your request lacks transparency, the referrer may not feel it's worth exploring.
Make Gatekeepers Your Allies
Many sales representatives spend as much as 50% of cold calling efforts attempting to persuade gatekeepers or to evade gatekeepers altogether. Gatekeepers are paid to help managers maximize productivity and minimize interruptions from irrelevant calls and guests. To get to the decision maker, the gatekeeper needs to see you as a value creator rather than an irrelevant cold caller.
The gatekeeper might be a personal or executive assistant, a mid-level manager, or even security personnel. Here are a few steps you may use when you reach the gatekeeper:
Reach Out Via Social Media
According to a LinkedIn report titled “ Proven Strategies from the World’s Best Sales Professionals ,” 73% of salespeople who use social media as part of their sales negotiation process outperform their peers. One way to get past gatekeepers is to seek an online introduction through social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.
One advantage of social media is that even if you don't have mutual connections, you can find common interests or start a conversation that turns your cold call into a warm lead. Actions such as sharing the prospect’s content, sending a Tweet/DM/InMail/inbox message with helpful content, or simply liking and commenting on the same content can pave the way for an introduction.
The first main challenge with social media is that some of the top C-Suite executives are not very active on social media. The second challenge is that if you overdo interactions with a prospect, it may come off as stalking behavior rather than a genuine sharing of common interests. Take it slow and let your referrer help you with your approach.
Selling to Decision Makers
Sales workshops attendees learn routes to increase chances of success by dealing directly with the purchase decision maker. To maximize productivity and time, decision makers may isolate themselves using assistants, email filters, and caller ID.
Due to this isolation, expert salespeople try to know more about their sales prospect before conducting outreach. Use mutual connections and gatekeepers as allies to increase your chances of striking a positive chord with your sales prospect.
Bio: The Negotiation Experts are specialists in the B2B market, and deliver bespoke negotiation training to their global clients. For more insightful posts and resources, visit their site: www.negotiations.com .