Finding the Real Decision Makers

We all know that clients buy perceived value when they hire an outside service provider.

Your efforts during the sales process contribute to your client’s perception of value, of course, but other sources of influence can be equally critical to your client’s buying decision. Before most people make a big purchase, they seek advice from those they trust–colleagues, mentors, a boss, or even a family member.

I’m not talking about people who have an “official” role in approving the sale, but those in your client’s network who are likely to get your client’s ear. It’s possible that you’re not aware of these people and how they could shape the sales process.

Not long ago, for instance, I worked with a prospective client on a project that never got off the ground. Why? I found out later that one of the client’s influential colleagues questioned the project’s value and that was the end of it.

It’s not always possible to know which individuals could sway a client, but you can ask questions to help identify them and their potential concerns.

For example, to understand the perspective of your client’s colleagues, ask how your proposed project fits with other ongoing or planned initiatives. Is your project complementary to others or competing? You can also ask directly how your client’s colleagues view the value of your proposed project.

To get a better understanding of how the client’s staff might influence the buying decision, you can ask what the most influential staff people think of the project–and the potential organizational change it would bring. Will they view the project as essential, somewhat important, or just another initiative?

You can come up with similar questions to figure out how your project may be viewed by others in your client’s network.

Use the answers to these questions to shape a value proposition that includes the impact of the project on the people who aren’t directly involved in the decision process but who are important to the sale.

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