Effective Consensus Building: How to get ‘buy’​ with a little help from your friends

Getting in the door

Any sales team is tasked with defining and outlining the features and benefits of your product/service and tailoring their presentation to uncover and fulfill the specific needs of the prospect they’re addressing.

A good sales person will use every avenue available to them to gain entrance into the company – cold calls, video conferencing, in-person visits, (if appropriate,) e-mails and LinkedIn invitations. Once they’ve received a response, they can coordinate schedules and setup their discovery meeting.

People in the room

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At first touch, it’s not a given that all of the key decision makers will be present in the room. Because companies have different hierarchal structures, it’s likely you’ll have to speak to multiple people before you get to the right ones. But everyone you encounter on that road should be considered a connector.

A connector is someone who, as the name suggests, can connect you (and facilitate an introduction) to a person/department that can benefit from your product/service. Once you have names and departments within an organization, you can reach out and begin communication with them. From those conversations, you can discover what the company needs and begin the process of customizing your strategy.

Where is the need? Where is the hold up?

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It is paramount that you know and understand the purchase process. There are three phases:

  • Problem Definition: Is there a clear understanding of the problem that your product/service is being considered to solve?
  • Solutions Identification: Is the company clear on a solution? Are they in alignment on their best course of action?
  • Supplier Selection: Is it you? Are you one of many?

The phase the company is in dictates how you should proceed. If you know for sure that the company is clear on everything and are just looking for a supplier, then proceed to assure them why you’re the best. More often, however, companies are stymied in the solutions identification stage – they are clear there’s a problem, but not in complete alignment on how to solve it. In this scenario, (and in most, actually,) your concern should be helping the company create a solution – and ideally, providing it.

5:1 Decision Making Ratio

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According to the Harvard Business Review, it takes an average of 5.4 people to formally sign off on each purchase, and they cross functions and departments. That’s 5 different people, 5 different perspectives, 5 different needs/priorities, and 5 different personalities you have to convince to close the sale.

Because you’re speaking to people representing the same company, some needs are going to overlap, and you are going to need to discover and recognize where similar needs and topics converge in order to build the consensus necessary to finalize the deal.

Good is not the enemy of perfect

Know going in that is not probable (and likely impossible) to have everyone agree on all aspects of your proposal. Human Resources might think the time commitment is too long. Finance thinks the price is too high and they can secure the product for less. The IT Department is of the opinion that the product installation will have a negative impact on server speed. 

Consensus refers to ‘general agreement’ or ‘majority opinion.’ Your task is to ensure as many people from as many different areas as possible see the value in your product/service. Tweak the things you can – work with HR to see if a proposed day-long training can be split into two or four sessions, minimizing employees’ need to be away from their work day. Talk with Finance about incentivizing the deal, or structuring payments to reduce money concerns. Work with IT to begin implementation in non-peak or off-hours to ensure data integrity is maintained. Remove any obstacles you can to get these influencers bought-in to your service. 

Universal language

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WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) is real. People respond to the things that resonate to them, so once your influencers are convinced your product/service is best for them, you want them to WANT to speak to the decision makers on behalf of your product/service. You want these people to become mobilizers – people who have the organizational heft to get decision makers into a room.

One of the ways we turn advocates into mobilizers is through language mapping. Again, since your advocates and their departments are part of the same company, there will be convergence points for all interests. Ask them to conduct and participate in surveys and analysis meetings. Use white papers, blogs, webinars, and video and podcasts to create a common language, and look for and pay close attention to any and all commonalities in learning and process to find those convergence points so these people can become your mobilizers. 

Will they mobilize for me?

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So, most of the people in the room are completely on board with your proposal. There’s only one more level to conquer, and that’s the decision- maker level. Will your mobilizers, who speak to these people often, speak up for you?

A person’s clout at an organization is important to them. When you have the ear of the highest-ranking people in a company, and they value what you say, there’s a tendency to be leery of speaking on someone else’s behalf. ‘If I suggest this product, and it fails, I’ll lose credibility.” It’s a real concern. It takes a long time to build a reputation; it only takes a minute to destroy it.

Your mobilizers have to believe in you and your product enough to advocate for it, so you need to minimize the risk they take in doing so. Mobilizers aren’t traditionally salespeople, so make sure they feel supported. Supply them with all of the information they need to make a cogent, convincing argument for your services.  

Win friends, influence people, and close deals!

The sales process can be a long one, and there are a lot of paths you can take to get to the finish line. Recognize that every person has the potential to offer an opinion about your product/service, (positive or negative) so do the research to ensure that the people you reach have a clear understanding of why you offer the solutions they need. When people see the value, they’ll be championing you even when you’re not in the room!