There are many roads that can lead to a sale, but pitching to the right executive at the very beginning of an engagement is still the preferred path.
Think of the biggest, fastest B2B sale you’ve ever made. Did you get it by talking to a supervisor, or did you get it by talking to someone at the executive level—someone who is able to make decisions on the spot?
Chances are you were talking to someone at the executive level versus someone in a supervisory role. Why? For one thing, supervisors tend to make safer decisions. Making a truly big B2B sale directly through a supervisor is rare. For another, supervisors tend to do more cost and service comparisons. They focus more on minutia and less on the big picture. Making a truly fast sale through a supervisor is equally rare.
Another reason pitching to supervisors and mid-level managers doesn’t often result in big, fast B2B sales has to do with supervisors’ main interests. In general, supervisors are concerned with working within budgets and aren’t directly responsible for a company’s profits and losses. They are able to take fewer risks and less apt to pull the trigger when an opportunity is presented to them. Executives, on the other hand, can and often do pull the trigger quickly when they see an opportunity as the right opportunity. If they can easily calculate the value of a service or solution, and the value is high, solves a problem, and creates a profit center, they will buy. They don’t have a lot of time, and therefore don’t like to waste it.
The Consensus Trend
You may have noticed a trend in consensus decision-making in recent years. Instead of the traditional decision-making model, which gives a small number of people the authority to make high-level decisions for an organization on their own (or through their organization’s ladder-like channels), consensus decision-making relies on a team to come to an agreement and move forward together.
In his book, Develop Your Decision Making Skills, Paul Parcon explains, “With consensus people can and should work through differences and reach a mutually satisfactory position. It is possible for one person’s insights or strongly held beliefs to sway the whole group. No ideas are lost, each member’s input is valued as part of the solution.”
Whenever you’re selling to consensus decision-makers, there’s always the potential for your B2B sales cycle to move more slowly than it would if you were dealing directly with an executive with absolute purchasing power, but there is also the potential to achieve a very positive outcome. Consensus decision-making isn’t the enemy of the B2B sales rep. In fact, when you have a high influencer influencing an organization’s team on your behalf, you stand to gain the approval and understanding of an entire team of decision makers, and to actually speed up certain sales processes and move through red tape at an accelerated pace.
The really good news about consensus decision-making is that it usually doesn’t require that you change the manner in which you sell. You still strive to get a sales appointment with the right executive. You still try to give him or her your best pitch. There aren’t a lot of new tricks to learn or new corners to navigate. You just have to get used to a different sort of rhythm and flow.