Dealing with the Invisible Decision Maker

This is about the Decision Maker or Buyer who is invisible to us, or out of reach, the one you can’t contact directly because he or she is too distant.

Now, sometimes this distance is due to geography — the key decision maker is located in some other city or country. But other times it’s a result of the buyer not wanting to have direct contact with the salesperson. It’s this challenge we’re discussing here.

It’s Frustrating

It’s extremely frustrating for a salesperson to not have access to the key decision maker, the person who has the final authority to say yes. Trying to make a sale under these conditions is a bit like trying to push a string and getting it to go where you want it to go. It’s difficult but not impossible.

There are many reasons why the final decision maker (FDM) doesn’t want to have direct contact with the salesperson — he’s too busy, it’s too small a purchase for him to spend time on, he’s afraid of being “sold”, he feels he has better things to do, he just wants to rubber stamp the final decision made by the person who is collecting the information, etc. It might be that a buying committee will be making the final decision. Whatever the reason, you’re left dealing with a go-between or information collector who will take your information and present it to the FDM for his or her blessing.

Beyond a doubt, it is much better for you to be in direct contact with the FDM than to have to deal with a go-between.  But that’s not often possible. So, let’s go back to the situation where you have to rely on a go-between to carry your message upwards to the senior executive or buying committee.

The person you’re left dealing with, the one who tells you, “Just send me your information and I’ll see it gets to the right person” may sound nice and helpful but it could be a roadblock unless you handle it properly.

Help the Go-Between Sell Your Stuff

Remember, no one can sell your stuff better than you can, so don’t count on this individual making a dynamic presentation to his or her boss… unless you help them do so. Here are some helpful tips:

1. Make sure you take the time to build a good rapport with the person who will be carrying your information upwards. It’s important that he or she feels comfortable with you and what you’re offering. You should be more of a counsellor or consultant than a salesperson. You need to turn this person into an advocate for you and your offering.

2. Everybody listens to radio station WIFM-FM (What’s In It For Me — For Me!) so find out why it’s important to the go-between to have your proposal accepted. The more important it is for her to see your proposal accepted, the stronger she’ll “sell” it on your behalf.

3. Take the time to find out what the FDM considers important. Ask detailed questions.

4. Put everything in writing. Be complete. Remember the FDM may be seeing this information for the first time. Your proposal is your last chance to make a sales presentation, such as it is.

5. If you’re including literature, use a highlighter to make the key points stand out. Use post-it notes to add supplementary information that you would tell the FDM if you were standing in front of him.

6. Find out when your information will be presented and follow up just before to make sure the “presenter” has all the information she needs and follow up afterwards to find out what additional information is needed for a decision to be made.

Improving the Odds

If you’ll take this approach to dealing with the invisible buyer, you’ll improve your odds of making a sale. If you lose, nine times out of ten, it’s because the competitive salesperson was in direct contact with the FDM.

If you simply can’t be in front of the FDM yourself, make sure that your material is the best it can be and the person presenting it is as prepared as possible. Your care and attention to detail will give you a good shot at getting the business.

Authored by Brian Jeffrey, co-founder of SalesForce Training, and originally published in the Targets newsletter.

SalesForce Training & Consulting is a professional services firm and Salesforce.com training firm based in Toronto, with training centers in Boston and Chicago, helping sales people deal with invisible, or out of reach decision makers…and other fundamental elements of successful selling.

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