“All in favour say aye?”
If only achieving what is sometimes called the “consensus sale” were so easy. If it were, organizations like the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) wouldn’t have come up with a name for it.
Even if sales reps manage to get the more than half a dozen people who may need to be part of a buying decision in the same room, nothing is guaranteed. In fact, it can be a minefield for reps, who might be only been dealing with one of the major decision makers on the team up until that meeting. Now, with their boss in the room, along with peers or other senior-ranking co-workers from other departments, things could get ugly quickly.
At the risk of focusing on the negative, here are just a few of the scenarios that can and have happened when reps are tackling the consensus sale:
This is in stark contrast to what some reps might have imagined or hoped for when the meeting was set. Though these can occasionally be moments of consensus, where final questions are answered and a final commitment follows soon after everyone disperses -- reps may find themselves having to start over or lose a deal completely.
There’s no foolproof way to prepare for a buying team meeting like this, because the room will be made up of unique individuals who all have their own challenges, biases, desires and personality quirks. At the very least, though, sales teams should recognize a few universal techniques that could get them closer to a close:
There are bullies in the office, just as there are in the playground, and sometimes they’ll rear their heads in buying team meetings. They nag about longstanding issues in the company that the product or service will never address anyway. They belittle what’s said -- not only by the rep but by their own co-workers. They interrupt when other people are trying to get a word in edgewise.
As tempting as it might seem, the rep can’t crack down on that kind of behaviour, which may stem from all kinds of reasons they’ll never know about anyway. Best to let such people get through whatever they have to say, without making any interruptions of their own. Even if it feels like it’s taking forever, the big talker will come to a pause eventually. That’s when you can try to repeat back their most essential points in as succinct a manner as possible. They’ll realize they’re being heard, which may be the only way to get them to listen.
Never assume any organization communicates well. If a buying team bickers openly, it may be due to a lack of information that should have been shared, or a failure to understand what other departments are going through on a day-to-day basis.
The job of the rep is not to play counsellor in this situation, but working towards a consensus sale can be a means to an end in terms of improved team communication. By making good use of the data in Sales Cloud about the organization, as well as similar organizations in the same industry, for instance, the rep can paint an accurate picture of how buying a product or service will lead to their personal and professional success.
The meeting shouldn’t do this just for one individual, however. The rep can and should do the same thing with every other person involved in the decision. Look for opportunities to show how the various groups might be able to collaborate or support each other towards shared goals. Keep coming back to what’s really important in terms of their business needs, no matter how often one or more buying team members take things off on a tangent.
Although getting the buying team together might seem to be a last step in the sales journey, it might need to become the moment a potential purchase turns into a project.
Remember that C-Suite leader who was trying to look important and undermine the more junior team member? Step around the hurt feelings they may have caused by asking pointed questions that get everyone in the room to weigh in on what the ideal solution to their pain points might look like.
What you’re selling might not cover off every aspect of what they come up with, but that doesn’t matter. This is about turning a group of occasional adversaries into a closer-knit collective who may at least sign off on the deal in order to move forward in a positive way. Remember that selling is about being a trusted advisor. That doesn’t just involve distilling a lot of advice but bringing out the best ideas in your customer, then aligning it to what you’re selling them.
Working towards consensus isn’t easy in any situation, which of course includes those working in a corporate setting. A good rep doesn’t try to play one member of the team (even the most senior one) off against the others. They bring a mix of soft skills, active listening and a resolute focus on the business’s objectives. Ideally, agreeing to a purchase won’t be the only point of consensus. They might also agree that you -- and your company -- is an ideal partner in their future growth.