Thomas, the CEO of a large conglomerate, was a tough sell, but a lifelong client and now a dear friend. Agreements took months to close, terms were altered, and Thomas insisted on running each revision by “the board.” Come to find, years later Thomas not only had approval authority but “the board” consisted of himself and Rocky, his Great Dane.
Referring to a higher authority has long been considered a clever avoidance technique. It may have happened to you. You’re lucky enough to land a qualified prospect, you create strong rapport, your customer loves your product, the price is right. There’s just one problem. They need to speak with their brother (or mother, or doctor, or lawyer, CTO or board members) about it. This brother, of course, is vacationing in Italy and can’t be reached. I call this third party “The Ghost in the Room.”
When your customer claims they need to speak with someone else, consider one of two possibilities: (Scenario 1 is more likely with a B2B client where multiple stakeholders are at play, whereas scenario 2 is common in B2B and B2C transactions alike).
1. It’s legitimate. According to Gartner, the research giant, the average B2B sale involves 7 decision makers. Unfortunately, earning the attention of all 7 may be a daunting task. If that’s the case, you must adequately prepare your advocate inside the company to champion your cause. Role play with your client (advocate). Have them describe how they’ll present your case. Ask:
- Where would the company realize the value of what you offer most? For example, I might ask a potential training client, “Do you see our customized virtual training solution decreasing ramp time, saving you resources or enhancing your culture? Which would be most important to your colleagues?”
- Why might they act on it now as opposed to prioritizing other projects?
In short, the more you practice with your advocate, the better you’ll prepare them to gain consensus and win the deal.
You may also follow up with a video message confirming your customer’s challenges. Utilize companies like One Mob and offer a video feature. Video not only differentiates you from your competitors, but it helps your personality shine through an otherwise stagnant email.
2. It’s an excuse, not a real objection, which is commonly referred to in sales as a stall. Too many salespeople challenge the customer’s excuse by blurting out “Let’s get the ‘ghost’ on the phone,” or “I’m sure he’ll love it—let’s draw up the paperwork.” The problem? This approach often addresses the customer’s excuse— not their real concern. Next time your customer says, “I need to run this by my brother, mother, dentist, or board members,” consider the technique in the following video.
Whether additional stakeholders are actual stakeholders or simply dogs that cherish a good steak, you must isolate customer concerns to get to the meat!