Selling to Multiple Decision Makers

Businessman talking in meeting
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Selling to one person is tough enough. When two or more people have to sign off on the deal, selling becomes a lot more complicated. In most sales situations, there will be several different decision makers and advisers involved at some point.

B2B and B2C

Both B2B and B2C salespeople are likely to encounter multiple decision makers. With B2C, perhaps the most common selling configuration is the husband and wife with roughly equal decision making.

In B2B, the rule of thumb is that the more expensive the item you're selling, the more complex the buying team gets.

With B2C sales, you're most likely to see multiple decision makers with roughly equal buying authority. In other words, if you don't convince both decision makers, the sale will fall through. This can get particularly tricky when one of the decision makers is more familiar with the product than the other. For example, let's say you're selling cell phones and a husband and wife arrive looking for a new phone. The wife is familiar with and enjoys using advanced features while the husband just wants to make phone calls. In this case, you'll need to present enough technological information to intrigue the wife, while also stressing benefits such as a wide network and solid connectivity for the husband.

Build Rapport

Building rapport is even more important when dealing with multiple decision makers than it is with single decision makers.

You'll need to earn enough trust so that all decision makers are comfortable telling you what they're most interested in so that you don't waste time presenting the wrong benefits to the wrong decision makers.

In B2B situations, the buying team can range from one person with full buying authority to a large committee with members in multiple locations across the country (or even the world).

If you find yourself in the latter situation, you'll need to quickly identify which person or people have the most buying authority and which are included as advisers to the chief decision maker(s). Frequently different decision makers will be looking at entirely different aspects of the purchase. For example, if you're selling commercial real estate to a major corporation, one decision maker, and his advisers may be in charge of the budget while another decision maker is responsible for facilities.

Break Things Down

For truly complex selling situations such as the above example, your best bet is to treat each decision maker as a separate sale. Once you've determined which decision maker is responsible for which facet of the sale, you can stress the appropriate benefits with each decision maker in turn. When speaking with the budgeting decision maker, you'd talk about the increasing property value and excellent loan terms. You'd present the facilities decision maker with information about the convenient location and solid infrastructure.

If you're having trouble figuring out who is in charge of what part of the process, your best bet is to throw yourself on the mercy of a friendly assistant.

Quite often the first person you'll speak within a given company will be a gatekeeper – often a decision maker's executive assistant. If you treat the gatekeeper with respect and remain on friendly terms with him, he can often furnish you with valuable information about the buying team and their roles.