Navigating challenging meetings with the buying team – and getting everyone working together to close a deal – can be a minefield. These three simple steps will help you deal with buying teams and bring everyone onside.
“All in favour say aye.” If only achieving what is sometimes called the ‘consensus sale’ were so easy. If it were, organisations 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 the boss in the room, along with peers or other senior-ranking co-workers from other departments, things can 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 tackle the consensus sale:
The C-suite leader deliberately raises a litany of objections designed to make their more junior member look bad (or to ‘teach them a lesson’ about how to deal with vendors).
A less senior but still influential team member dominates the conversation, making it difficult for the rep to get feedback or support from other members of the team.
A squabble breaks out between one or more members of the buying team – right in front of the rep – about things that may or may not have anything to do with the sale.
This can be far from what some reps might have had in mind – or hoped for – when the meeting was set. Though these can occasionally become moments of consensus, where final questions are answered and a final commitment follows soon after everyone disperses – reps may find themselves having to start from scratch 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 recognise a few universal techniques that could get them closer to a close:
1. Allow the biggest talker to have the ‘final word’
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 your 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, and it 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 interruption. 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 realise they’re being heard, which may be the only way to get them to listen.
2. Facilitate collaboration between teams
Never assume any organisation 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 your data about the organisation and knowledge of similar organisations in the same industry, for instance, 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 business needs, no matter how often one or more buying team members take things off on a tangent.
3. Encourage communication to build camaraderie
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 encourage 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 adviser. That doesn’t just involve passing on a lot of advice but bringing out the best ideas in your customer, then aligning them to what you’re selling.
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 – are ideal partners in their future growth.
If you’re ready to sell faster and smarter, download our e-book 4 Steps to Transform Your Sales Process.