Do you ever get the feeling that youre talking to the wrong person?
Picture this: youre deep in the sales process. Youve put in a lot of work into this buyer over the last few weeks – youve gotten to know them and formed a good professional relationship, and youve done a lot to show them how your product is the essentially tool they need to succeed. Youve done all the right things – but you cant shake the feeling that the person on the other side of the table is wrong somehow. Not on a personal level, but from a sales standpoint they are saying things that sound right almost. You cant quite be confident in the sale – and two weeks later, after you submit your final offer package, it gets turned down. Oh, my boss doesnt like the sorts of things you were offering youre told – and youre left wondering why no one thought to mention that sooner.
Has this happened to you? Our friends at Pragmatic Marketing gave us the concept of the Whether or Which One: is your sales contact a Whether person (can they make the decision whether or not to buy) or are they only a Which person (a key influencer and information gather, but not the final decision maker). Whether or Which One is a way of assessing if youre talking to the right person, if youre talking to someone who can affect a sale, or is merely a middleman. Its an invaluable tool in win/loss – youd be surprised how often a critical factor in a win/loss boiled down to whether your sales contact had any power in a sale, and if a vendor compensated accordingly.
An Agent With Agency
In any sales process, it is vital to deduce if the person you are negotiating with has the agency to make decisions. If they dont youre at a disadvantage – any promise they make about what their company will or will not do is conditional on the agreement of people not in the room. Negotiating with a middleman isnt impossible, but its vital to determine how much power your contact actually holds – are you dealing with an influencer, or someone with little to no ability to affect change?
Heres what you have to try and learn at the start of the sales process: if your contact is a Which One, do they have access to the real buyer, or are they the agent for another middleman – and theres four or five layers of management between your contact and anyone who can make a real decision? If they do have access, can you determine if their word carries weight? In other words: are you negotiating with someone who can tell their boss buy this product, trust me or are you speaking to someone who really can only provide their boss with a bunch of options?
If you talked to the wrong person, and dont understand the relationship between your contact and the decision maker – if you know nothing about who holds real power and how anything youre saying is transmitted – then your sale was undermined from the start. That doesnt mean its an automatic loss – so long as the ultimate decision maker picks you, its technically a win – but its a win that might as well have been a coin toss. Better to guarantee you know the power dynamics of a given situation whenever possible.
Who Are You Again?
Most people we speak with in win/loss interviews are Which One people – they evaluate the options, make a recommendation, but do not make the final decision. Most sales are conducted by Which Ones – but most vendors act like theyre always negotiating with a Whether person, and this blinds vendors to potential problems. If you want to avoid having to do a loss analysis in the future, you cant be indifferent to the person on the other side of the table – you cant just treat them like an infallible mouthpiece for their company. Theyre an employee with degrees of power in a hierarchy, and if you dont grasp if they have power in a sales scenario, if you dont make adjustments to try and make a good impression on the ultimate decision maker, the sale could fall out from under you. Having a good grasp on Whether or Which One can also improve your sales forecasts. If youre assessing the probability of closing a deal, knowing the power dynamics of your contact gives you an edge when calculating wins from potential opportunities.
Negotiating with a Which One type buyer is hardly an insurmountable problem – like we said, most sales are conducted with Which Ones, and wins still happen every day. But they happen most-often for vendors who understand the Whether or Which One power dynamic, and adjust their sales techniques accordingly. If you want to join their number, youll start doing the same.