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Are You Closing The Wrong Person?

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Anybody that has seen the movie Glengarry Glen Ross will remember Alec Baldwin’s role as a high-powered sales manager addressing a tired group of salespeople. His advice to “always be closing” probably caused many B2B sellers to cringe. B2B salespeople that use high-pressure tactics risk alienating their buyers.

Vendors and salespeople don't seem to realize that people prefer to buy rather than be sold. While most applicable to B2C sales, the "always be closing" mentality has unfortunately become part of the general sales stereotype. But B2B selling is different. It most cases account-based selling isn’t a single “hit and run” order as is the norm in B2C transactions. Buyer expectations of results after implementation, potential future add-on business, and relationships with sellers are often in play. 

Much is said and written about closing. As a point of clarification, my definition of closing is when sellers ask buyers to buy. Two of my major concerns are that sellers try to close non-decision makers and/or close before buyers are ready to buy. I’ll address this first problem now and cover the issue of premature closing in a follow up post.

What Happens When You Close The Wrong Person

Sellers should identify the decision maker by asking another stakeholder who would sign off on this project or whose budget would fund the initiative. However, many non-decision makers overestimate their own importance or are hesitant to introduce salespeople to executives, making it difficult for salespeople to reach the true decision maker.

And if sellers fail to gain access to decision makers, two different scenarios may play out -- neither of them good.

First, the salesperson might issue multiple copies of their proposal and hope that the decision maker will read and understand the potential value of the offering. As you might expect, this is the worst way to close. Few executives will read multiple page proposals. And if they do review your proposal, they're probably just thumbing through to the back to learn the price. The cost will undoubtedly seem high since they have no conception of the product or service's value.

Being unable to get past the gatekeeper also prompts sellers to ask people who aren’t authorized to make buying decisions. In my opinion, this is an awkward situation that can be demeaning for a prospect. There are even cases where sellers make the mistake of negotiating with non-decision makers, only to find when they eventually get to the right person that the true negotiations start at the already discounted price quoted previously.

How to Meet a Decision Maker

If you haven’t met the decision maker I’d suggest two actions:

  1. Ask the person who gave you the decision maker's name if they can accompany you on a call with him or her. This approach allows your champion to summarize progress to date at the start of the call.
  2. Express a compelling reason for wanting to meet the decision maker. If at all possible, suggest some business outcomes and potential value you would like to discuss in a meeting.

In B2B sales, failure to gain access to decision makers dramatically reduces the chances of winning the business. The phrase "time is money" is especially applicable to salespeople. If sellers are willing to spend their time on an opportunity they should maximize their chances of winning the deal by gaining access to decision makers during, and most importantly, at the end of buying cycles.

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