My “Client” Wants to Buy But Has To Convince His Boss. What Should I Do?
One of my clients asked me this recently. I told her about the time I got lost in Ireland, bucked the trend and wound down my window to ask a man in his 50s directions to Knocknahaw. The man replied: “You don't want to be starting from here!” And that's the honest answer to the question of selling up the food chain.
If you've made your case to someone who can't decide to buy because they lack the authority or the means and you've already presented your solution, you are in what we call the “Buyer-Seller Dance”. Let me illustrate this with a quiz:
You qualify loosely to get the appointment. The person you're speaking to tells you that they make the decisions in this area and you ask for time in their diary. You arrive and after thanking them for their time and the pleasantries are over, you get down to presenting.
They take notes, ask questions and you give answers. You test their interest with trial closes and they throw the odd objection your way, tell you about the other competitors they're talking to and eventually tell you that they need to talk to their boss or finance director to get the rubber stamp.
With warm words and positive strokes about you, your company, your product or the way you presented, they ask for you to write a proposal. You think this is a good thing and you agree.
They create a sense of urgency and tell you to hurry so they can get it to the right people. You discuss follow up, and they agree to get back to you in the next couple of weeks. You work hard to get a proposal you think fits their needs and take a well educated guess at their budget based on your previous experience of companies of their size.
And then you wait for their call.
And you wait.
And you wait.
Meanwhile, they go into hiding and you wait, you wait, wait some more and then you chase, chase, chase. Slowly at first, careful not to upset anyone. You get voicemail. Once. Twice. On the third occasion you don't leave a message for fear of sounding needy.
You pen an email. No response. You get sneaky. You call before his PA arrives in the morning and he picks up the phone …. by accident (you can tell by his disappointment when you say your name).
And the excuses tumble out.
He was busy.
He had a lot on.
He had trouble getting his boss to make a decision.
His boss was initially positive but he hasn't heard back.
His boss was away but now he's seen your proposal , so your prospect is waiting on a decision.
It's gone to committee.
It's one of several proposals the Board is considering.
Mars isn't in alignment with Uranus and when that happens we have a policy that don't buy anything on days ending in Y.
- At what point do you realise that you are the only one thinking about the proposal you slavishly produced with zero commitment from your suspect?
At what point will you realise that he wanted you for your mind not your product or service?
At what point will you realise that you've fallen into the free consulting trap? That you shelled out time, resources and incurred needless expenses for a non-prospect?
At what point will you learn that the buyer-seller dance starts at the first word in the first conversation you had with the gatekeeper when you made your first call if you went in warm or cold without an outbound call?
In part 2 we'll discover why you start in the wrong place and what you can do to get in at the top. (relevant for those who are frustrated by long sales cycles, slow decisions, indeterminate outcomes, stalls, deal losses are disappointingly high, last minute changes to the buying process causing delays or allowing rivals to get ahead, too often second guessing what is going on)
In part 3 we'll show you how to prevent getting shunted to a place of assignment, somewhere in the middle management wilderness where decision making is frowned upon and sales careers die and get buried. (for anyone who wants to sell to the top and not get dumped on some opo for your idea to die a slow, silent, faceless death)
In part 4 we'll explore whether it's even worth trying to recover a sale that's gone quiet because it's trapped in between your mythic client” who is actually at best a suspect or influencer, whether there's anything there for you that's worth throwing more energy, more time, more resource and more money. (If you've ever had your time wasted by someone who was initially positive then went quiet after you've answered their questions and told them your pricing, you have a really big problem called buyer empathy. You probably have another problem called a “high need for approval” and perhaps even suffer from a fear and avoidance of conflict that inhibits your ability to close)