If you want a big customer to write a big check, you'll need to get consensus from several decision-makers. Here's how to make it happen.
Sales to big companies involving large amounts of money are never simple. In almost every case, they require you to get consensus from a group of decision-makers.
Unless you can get that group to reach consensus that they're going to buy, and buy from you, there's no way the deal is going to close.
The key to getting consensus is first to identify the decision-makers, influencers and stakeholders–and then get each of them to make some kind of a public commitment to approving the purchase.
This doesn't mean "signing on the dotted line"–far from it. Public commitment can be something seemingly trivial, like an email where the decision-maker agrees to attend a meeting where your project will be discussed.
Get Them to Go Public
What's important is not the size of the commitment, but that it be as public as possible. This is important because a series of these small commitments creates momentum, so that more and more people become gradually convinced that the company is going to buy from you.
How do you get these commitments? Easy. You have conversations with the decision-makers, influencers and stakeholders that reassure them that you've got a solution that addresses their problem. And you craft each conversation to match the issues, interests and vocabulary of the individual with whom you're speaking.
For example: Let's suppose you're selling a gravel crusher to mining company. (I though it would be fun to use a low-tech example for a change.) Here are the kinds of conversation that you'd have with four different decision-makers, each with a different view of the problem that you're trying to solve.
1. With the Director of Auxiliary Products
Where's the commitment? It's the email, once it's sent.
2. With the VP of Mining Operations
Where's the commitment? His actual appearance at the meeting.
3. With the Chief Financial Officer
Where's the commitment? When he puts it on the agenda.
4. With the Chief Mining Engineer
Where's the commitment? When he schedules the meeting.
Do see what's happening here? Each of these conversations moves the sale slightly forward while building up a sense of the inevitability of the purchase. The more time and mental energy that everyone spends on the deal, the more likely it is that a positive decision will result.
The above is based upon a conversation with G. Richard Shell (professor of legal studies, business ethics and management at the Wharton School) and Mario Moussa (a faculty member at Wharton and a principal of CFAR Inc., a management consulting firm.) Very smart guys, both of them.
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