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Sales process: Selling to large organizations in complex sales cycles | Part 5

In this five-part series, we explore the necessary elements of selling into large organizations. In Part 5, we examine overpopulation in B2B purchasing decisions.

Missed Parts 1, 2, 3 or 4? Go back and check them out!


Overpopulation: Selling successfully when you have an increased number of decision makers

When we refer to overpopulation, we don’t mean the kind that relates to too many people in a geographic area. We mean the increased number of decision makers that are now involved in today’s B2B purchases.

Let’s start with a statistic from the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), as reported by Harvard Business Review. Although the stat dates back to 2013, the number has only gone up from there:

“…CEB recently conducted four surveys of more than 5,000 stakeholders involved in B2B purchases. We found that, on average, 5.4 people now have to formally sign off on each purchase. Complicating matters, the variety of jobs, functions, and geographies that these individuals represent is much wider than it used to be.”

Selling to multiple decision-makers: Think globally, act locally

How can you succeed when selling to an increased number of decision makers? Apply the principle of “think globally, act locally.”

Think globally

Even under the best of circumstances, there will be competing agendas among leaders in an organization. Each leader will want to make sure their interest is represented in the potential solution—and sometimes these objectives can vary.

The solution is to make sure your messaging articulates the benefits for each of their agendas. How can you identify what each of these goals might be? Understand the organization’s corporate strategy. Listening to earnings calls and reading annual reports are a great way to understand what the company is trying to achieve across all areas. Then in your own messaging and communications, draw parallels as to how your solution can support most or all of those objectives. This can help build consensus.

Act locally

What do your constituents value that would drive their KPIs and create not only a willingness to buy, but also a willingness to advocate for your product? Note that a willingness to buy and advocacy are not the same thing.

A willingness to buy can be defined as support for your solution from one of the decision makers. This is certainly an important first step, but more influence is required to drive consensus.

This is where advocacy comes into play. In order to gain consensus and arrive at a successful sale, the prospective buyer has to be willing to publicly advocate for your solution. This person needs to believe in the solution enough to overcome the inherent risk in case something were to go wrong post-purchase.

So the salesperson needs to work with the prospective buyer to support them in the advocacy role. This includes:

  • Building trust
  • Asking them what else they’d need to feel comfortable publicly advocating for the solution
  • Presenting them with communications and messaging based on the above

Consensus: A key element in the sales process

Understanding the global environment of corporate objectives and helping your prospective buyer to champion your product opens up a solid path to reach consensus. And creating consensus is a key element in a smooth sales process.


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by Jeff Bilyea