(SALES) Death Of The Decisionmaker

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Most sales trainers will talk about the importance of reaching “the decisionmaker.” Some even talk about the futility of talking with those who only have the power to say no, but need to get approval from someone else to say yes.

I’m going to suggest that seldom, if ever, is there a single “decisionmaker” today.

Perhaps there never was. Any savvy car salesperson will tell you that even the most macho married man who’s hot to buy a car won’t make the decision unilaterally. Just as the rookie salesperson is ready to close the sale, that man will say, “I’ll have to talk to my wife.”

Even the most powerful person in the world, the president of the United States of America, consults his trusted advisers before making important decisions.

Why are there no unilateral decisionmakers in the new media world?

  1. The Internet has put huge downward pressure on profit margins. The old Wanamaker joke about “I know half of my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half” is no longer funny. There is no room for waste. Would-be decisionmakers consult their trusted advisers to minimize the risk in every investment.
  2. The best managers have attended courses or read books about the value of capturing staff buy-in for their strategies and tactics. They have learned that one of the best ways to capture that buy-in is to accept staff input for their decisions.
  3. Media buying is much more complex and fragmented than in the pre-Internet days, making it virtually impossible for busy multi-tasking business owners and managers to keep up with the rapidly changing advertising world. Consulting key influencers who do have some expertise or insights in various media makes for more prudent decisions.
  4. Then, of course, there is always the well-intentioned gatekeeper who is saddled with the responsibility of deciding who among the hordes of new and traditional media salespeople trying to gain access to the elusive decisionmaker actually gets through the gate.

The most successful radio salespeople have learned how to sell every key influencer in this ever-expanding food chain. Some of the influencers you’ll want to connect with include:

Your prospects’ vendors. The suppliers who sell product or services to your prospects have a vested interest in their selling more product. Regional sales managers at these suppliers can help you capture an appointment and give you ideas that have worked in other markets, and they often have extraordinary marketing support funds above and beyond co-op to underwrite your campaign.

Anyone who has a vested interest in your prospect’s success. From sales managers to salespeople, and from agency account supervisors to spouses and heirs, all can play a role in the prospect’s final decision. Getting their input, and selling them on what you can do to make the business more successful, will help you prepare a better presentation and proposal, and perhaps even capture these influencers’ endorsement.

The gatekeeper. Learn what’s in it for the gatekeeper to be on your side. Perhaps they’re tired of answering the same old question on the phones several times a day and you can make the public aware of the answer to minimize those annoying calls. Or perhaps they’re on a profit-sharing plan and have a vested interest in your helping the business be more profitable.

Everyone in the organization. The influencers will often ask staff at every level questions like, “Do you or your friends still listen to radio?” or, “What did you think of our last campaign?” Everyone’s opinion eventually goes into that hopper called “influence,” and the more you can connect and let people know that your purpose is to help them sell more product, the more impact you’ll have with the alleged “decisionmaker.”

The bottom line? The old “A B C’s of Selling” was “Always Be Closing.” Today, that should be “Always Be Connecting.” The more you can connect with the key influencers to understand their interests, their ideas, and what you can do to help them achieve their goals, the more likely you are to connect with, and sell, the alleged decisionmaker.

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Wayne Ens
Wayne Ens in an international marketing consultant, business-to-business sales trainer and author, specializing in helping media companies create stronger partnerships with locally-owned businesses. Wayne has worked with radio stations, TV, newspapers, and billboard companies to help their local-direct advertisers improve their return on investment.

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