Devon asks, “How do you uncover who the real decision maker is?”
Will, I really enjoyed speaking with you. How are decisions made in your company? In your family? Real estate is an important decision, whether we buy or sell a home. In your family what’s the dynamic? You have a wife, I presume or a significant other, if you don’t mind me asking?
Okay. Do you make the decisions? Are you the he-man in the family or do you have to have a family discussion? How does an important decision about buying this $5 million home in London, how do you make a decision like that?
If it’s $5 million it’s probably someone else’s money going into this as well but typically it’s just me.
Okay. My wife had, when I got married she had more money and more credit than me. So there was a lot of decisions she makes. I ask, what is so hard about asking questions of people and getting the information? And being a good listener, which is tough for us guys sometimes. You know, while sometimes we make decisions or maybe we do it this way, no. How do you make decisions? Tell me the straight poop. Are you the authority figure? Are you the authority here or how does it really go? What’s the system? Does it go from you to a Board of Directors to an investigation panel to the CEO or do you just say yes? And by the way, one of my favourite pet phrases to somebody when they say, “I’ll think about it,” what do you say to your prospects when they say, “Will you’re a good guy and I appreciate the lattes and the steak dinner and all the information and everything and I’m gonna really think about it.”
My go to, I just ask what do you need to think about?
Okay. That’s a good one. You asked a question with a question. I like that. I do something, this is where guts, ISIC sales is dangerous and this is where it gets a little scary. Will, you’re not allowed to think about it. And I listen for the crickets. It’s what we call a pattern interrupt. They don’t know how to answer something that abrasive, that rude. And there’s a real reason for that in psychology of sales on that.
You have to ask and then you have to re-ask and then you have to mix that to what you know and use your BS detector and keep asking it until you’re sure. For example, Mike just asked how are decisions made? Notice I didn’t say, “Who makes the decision?” The question I asked are, “If you don’t mind, again this is my curiosity, I’ve got 13 or 14 qualified questions that I’ve honed over the years and they’re all asked in ways that I’m pretty sure no one else is asking them. And what that allows me to do is present a question that they actually have to think about instead of just going, “Oh yeah I make the decision,” right? Which is probably a white lie. You ask a question that they’re not ready for and then they actually have to think about it. Okay, here’s how.
And the question I often use is, “So help me here, how are decisions made internally?” And it’s not who and then they might say, “Well we’re shopping around and we’re going to talk to a few people.” And then of course, be curious. So my challenge is how do I ask two more questions on top of that? So when someone says, “Oh we’re looking around for vendors, we’re going to take them all in house and then pick the best person.” Pause, pause, fantastic. So do you mind sharing a little bit more about that? Do you have a timeline? do you have a deadline? Is there a committee? Are you on it? Hopefully, right? Because now we’re friends.
So you’re building this relationship and you’re digging into it. And again, if you’ve been honest the whole way through, yes your prospect will lie to you. You should plan on them lying to you. But they’re white lies because they’re trying to protect themselves. They’re not doing it because they hate you or they’re trying to be a bad guy, they think you’re trying to do something smarmy and they’re holding you at bay with their lies. And so you just have to gently not call them out on it. I hear some experts say call them out on it. No, don’t do that. But gently massage the right answer from them. And then knowing behind all of it, look, they’re like you. They’re going to get their bonus by how well they do their job, which is not overspending with the wrong person. So just be empathetic to that. And then helping them, they may not even know how this decision’s gonna get made. They may say, “Well I thought I was making the decision but if you give me a number that’s too high I’m gonna have to go to this person and then it impacts that guy so I’ve got to pull him down. And at the end of the day I guess we’re all …” You actually help them codify in their minds this whole process.
So again, some sales are just transactional. You’re on the phone. Do you want it? No? Bye. Do you want it? No? Bye. Others where you have to build consensus and help nurture them through. Another reason why you shouldn’t just buy into someone’s process because they told you it made them a million bucks, you should kind of compare that to what your client process is doing and then build out effective steps that help you get really clear on this and the other bant elements.
I ask who is involved in the buying process. There’s two things, typically, uncovers the buying process, right? It allows the person we’re speaking to to share with us who needs to be involved. Perhaps this person’s the decision maker, they may or may not use that language. This person needs to be on board os that’s the person that could potentially block the whole deal going through even if everyone else is aligned, even if everyone else is on board. So you need to uncover that person as well. You need to uncover an ad for getting the account, you need to find out who the end users are. You need to build all this data together so that you can uncover who the end decision maker is.
And probably you don’t ask the question directly because you don’t want to get people’s backs up, right? You don’t want to say to someone, “Hey, nice to meet you but who do I need to speak to to make this deal happen?” That’s a weird question. It makes it look like you don’t care about the conversation you just had, you don’t care about that individual, you’re just trying to go around them, you’re just trying to go to get rich quick as opposed to build the account, build sustainability. And that is what gives us referrals at the end of the day. So yeah, just ask how things move forward in a deal process like this.
Essentially ask what the buying process is and that will uncover who the decision maker is as well.
With the right questions it could be as simple as who else is a key stakeholder in this outside of yourself? That way you’re not putting them down, you’re inflating or acknowledging their importance and also asking who else needs to be involved in this.
I don’t know that you’re ever gonna uncover who the real decision maker is other than knowing that someone else has to approve it, right? But that doesn’t always mean that they’re the decision maker, right? And I think Sales Force has done a great job of who’s the business user, who’s the executive sponsor? You know, you’ve got these default people that I think matter. The one question, though, that I ask is who else is affected by this decision? Because that’s a very less threatening way than saying, “Hey, I don’t believe that you’re as important as you say you are.” When you say who else is gonna be involved in this decision? I don’t want to know who’s involved, I want to know who’s affected. Because those people who are affected should be involved. And if anything, they’ll at least indicate who can say no. I’m not sure it’s a single question you can ask anymore and you have to be a little more investigative and try not to pry into people or put them on the defensive.