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Sales Account Management: Prospect Decision-Making Process
Blog / Entrepreneurs / Jan 4, 2014 / Posted by Nikolaus Kimla / 4410 

Sales Account Management: Prospect Decision-Making Process


Part of fully evaluating an opportunity is gaining a clear understanding of your prospect company’s decision-making process. On a broader scale, it is an integral and vitally important part of sales key account management.

Sometimes the decision-making process is simple; for example, in smaller companies, the purchase approval might be signed off by one person and it’s done. Generally the larger the company, the more complex the approval. Some companies even require approval from a home office thousands of miles from the site you’re dealing with.

As you’ll see (and as perhaps you already know) the decision-making process can go deeper than at first apparent. Time spent on really finding out about it can save untold time and effort trying to push a sale through the sales cycle with partial information.

#1: Find Out Up Front

Right near the beginning of the sales cycle, you should discover what the company’s formal decision-making process is, and keep track of it. Find out which people are involved, with names and job titles wherever possible. As part of this, you should discover the “top dog”—the person who actually has the power to approve or veto the purchase.

#2: Informal Criteria

Once you’ve discovered the formal process, then dig in a bit with your contact and find out about any informal decision criteria. For example, it can happen that the CEO likes to see and pass on any major company purchases, but isn’t actually part of the formal process. Or the CFO, who is the final decision-maker, likes to run it past relevant department heads even though they’re technically not a part of the process.

If not checked, this is a point where sales account management and opportunity evaluation can go awry. You (and of course your sales management) keep wondering what is holding up the process, and start to worry that the sale isn’t happening—when all that’s occurring is some informal behind-the-scenes process that you weren’t aware of.

#3: Motivation

As you’re researching the decision-making process, try and discover what motivates each of the people along that line. One of them might always examine a potential purchase with an eye to saving the company money; another might be motivated by making employees’ jobs easier; yet another might always count on the opinion of another executive in the company.

Knowing these various motivations will allow you to coach your initial contact to push the purchase through the various personnel. Or if you are allowed to contact any of these people directly, you will know what kind of things to drop into the conversation.

#4: Access to Decision Makers

As you gather this information, you should find out which of these decision makers you will be allowed to directly contact. Much of the time a company doesn’t allow an outside salesperson to speak directly with various decision makers, and you will be working and coaching one person in selling each of these people. Other times you might be able to contact one or two of them.

One way around the “no contact” rule is to schedule a live demonstration either physically at the company or through the web. Get the decision makers to attend. Even if you won’t be allowed to speak directly with them, you can still make your pitch in a way that they will receive it.

Free Opportunity Qualifier Tool

As part of our free Opportunity Evaluation Toolkit, you will receive a tool that walks you through each of the steps above, in detail. You will be able to track each piece of information for each deal you are working, and be able to refer back to it as the sales cycle progresses.

This kind of information should be made an integral part of your sales process, and your CRM solution. That way it is sharable by any other salespeople who might be involved, as well as sales management.

Sales account management must always include the details of the prospect company’s decision-making process. Know before you go—and close a higher percentage of sales on time.

Click here to download your free opportunity evaluation tool.

    About Author

    A 30-year veteran of the computer industry, Nikolaus has founded and run several software companies. He and his company uptime iTechnology are the developers of World-Check, a risk intelligence platform eventually sold to Thomson Reuters for $520 million. He is currently the founder and CEO of Pipeliner Sales, Inc., developer and publisher of Pipeliner CRM, the first CRM application aimed squarely at actually empowering salespeople. Also a prolific writer, Nikolaus has authored over 100 ebooks, articles and white papers addressing the subjects of sales management, leadership and sales itself.

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