Selling to the Right Stakeholders to Win Opportunities

Recently, I wrote a blog post about pursuing new sales opportunities with the right strategy. In that post, I discussed how so many deals end up in a “no decision”, even after investing considerable time, effort, and money. Now I want to discuss another key factor that affects winning critical opportunities and avoiding that dreaded “no decision”: selling to the right stakeholders.

Are your salespeople gaining access to and developing preference with the right decision makers and influencers? Do they focus too much on the title and not the real political influence that flows through organizations?

For a long time now, sales professionals have been taught that they need to climb up the client’s organization chart to make sure they are selling to the ultimate decision makers. In a complex sales scenario, however, it’s not always clear who those people may be.

In large opportunities, which can take months to sell, and which typically involve a large number of stakeholders, identifying the decision makers ends up very much like putting together a very complex jigsaw puzzle. The title that a person holds in the client organization may be a lot less important than their ability to influence the decision.

Focusing on the Right Stakeholders

Understanding internal politics is a key factor in identifying the key influencers in a decision. Mapping the informal relationships inside a formal organization chart, and mapping out who influences who gives the sales team a roadmap of who they need to gain access to and also helps them develop effective navigation paths to get there.

Another part of the puzzle is the role that each stakeholder plays in the decision process. A key executive’s ability to influence a decision doesn’t guarantee that he or she will, in fact, be involved in the decision. They may only be an approver or may have delegated the decision and be a non-participant.

Winning the Votes that Matter

Ultimately, there are four keys to demystifying a client’s political decision-making process. What your team has to do is look at the variety of individuals who might be involved in the decision and determine who will actually be involved in the decision. Our Stakeholder Analysis tool helps salespeople do this early and effectively. This tool helps salespeople identify the four keys to the decision, by stakeholder.

  • The first key is: what “Pain” is critical for each stakeholder? What problem are they trying to solve that drives their individual decision criteria?
  • Second is the “Preference” of each stakeholder. Are they actually committed to buying from us and in full disclosure coaching mode to help us? Or are they open to listening but undecided?
  • The third is their “Power” – their ability to influence the decision. This is not their title or what box they occupy on the organizational chart, but how much political influence that they carry in their organization.
  • Last is the “Part” that they will play. Decision Maker?  Coach?  Internal Informant?  Approver? People may have several roles in the evaluation, but only a certain few actually can make or will influence the decision.

Pulling It Together

With the Stakeholder Analysis tool, the sales team can evaluate political influence, access, relationships, and power of the key players in the opportunity – then they can develop a winning plan. This will help the salesperson to determine the actual decision makers and influencers, and how they can win their vote, or succeed without their vote.

For our clients, we bring this to life by embedding Stakeholder Analysis into CRM workflow and making it very visual. It is color-coded to highlight potential issues. Red indicates a negative preference, yellow is undecided, and green is positive. Using this, sellers can see if they have a high or low preference. They can also see where a competitor might have access – and whether they should consider qualifying out of an opportunity. Too often, the size of the account, the size of the deal, and the size of a salesperson’s ego drive sellers to pursue and stay in an opportunity when they really shouldn’t – a visual analysis of stakeholders makes it a more objective decision.

Navigating Politics

To win complex opportunities, a seller must get to the right people, get access to power, and create or re-engineer a vision of the solution and value that competitors can’t match. If they can change their level of access, change the rules, and change the scope by focusing on competitive strengths and getting to those key players, using a Stakeholder Analysis, they can change the game and win more business. Stakeholder Analysis leads to a significant positive impact on competitive win rates and a reduction in losses to “no decision”.

To help your sellers evaluate influencers and decision-makers in sales opportunities, download our Stakeholder Analysis tool.

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