So many closing situations now come down to pitching to and trying to influence an influencer, that it’s time to teach the proper way of doing it. A couple of things first. An influencer is defined as someone who is involved in some way in the decision process – they either help make the decision, or they have to approve your product or service first before they pass it on to other decision makers, etc. The bottom line is that there is someone above them who weighs in heavily or who has the final say on whether or not to move forward with you.
So the first thing you need to do is determine how your influencer fits into the decision process (if at all), and how much influence they have. Use the following questions during the qualification stage to determine this:
“And ________, besides yourself, who else would weigh in on this?”
“And how does that process work?”
“What is your role in that process?”
“And how much influence do you have in that process?”
“What generally happens when you recommend something like this?” (“Do they generally go with your recommendation?”)
Sometimes you’ll be able to get through all these questions during the qualification stage, but if you get rushed, ask as many as you can. It’s important that you have a clear idea of what your influencer’s role is, and how much influence he or she actually has before you go through your demo or presentation later.
By the way, once you begin your demo, it’s always a good idea to go back through these questions before you launch into your pitch. Doing so will give you a head’s up as to how it’s likely to end. Wouldn’t it be nice to know the stall before it even comes up? And once it does, here is how you handle it:
You: “So from what we’ve gone over, it sounds like this would be a great fit for you – let’s go ahead and get you started today.”
Influencer: “Well, I’m going to have to show this to the committee.”
You: “I understand, and just out of curiosity, based on what you’ve seen here today, do you personally think this would work for you (your company, department, etc.)?”
Influencer: “Yes, it looks good.”
You: “Great, then I take it you’re going to recommend it to the committee?”
Influencer: “Yes I will.”
You: “Good. Just out of curiosity, what generally happens when you take something to the committee that you personally recommend?”
You: “Good. Just out of curiosity, when you take something to the committee that you personally recommend, what do they tend to do?”
You: “Great! And how much influence do you have with what they’ll end up doing?”
You: “Great! And how often do they go with your recommendation?”
Note: If you get buy in that they generally go with what they recommend, then:
You: “Wonderful! Since they usually take your recommendation, and since you’re on board with this, here’s what I recommend we do: I’ll go ahead and get the contract out to you and schedule an install date. Once you get the approval, we’ll already have much of the work done to get you going. Now, what is a good time for the installation of this?”
Let’s break this down. The first thing you did (during the qualification stage) was to get clarity over how much influence your influencer actually had over the final decision. This is an important step that most sales people actually miss.
Next, at the end of your close, you make sure that the influencer was sold on your product or service first, before you went down the “committee” path. It’s crucial you get their buy in at this stage.
After you do get their buy in, that’s when you can ask if they’re going to recommend it and how much weight their recommendation carries. After that, you do a trial close on paperwork, etc. You can make this as soft a trial close as you want, the point here is that you want to take your influencer as far as he/she will let you. The further they let you go, the more likely they’ll be a deal later.
Start implementing these techniques in your sales calls starting with the qualification stage. The more you learn about the influencer, and their role, the better equipped you’ll be to take the close further at the end.