Ask the Expert: Craig Hess, on How to Sell to Multiple Decision Makers

To help sales teams build relationships with buying committees, we asked SAIT Corporate Training’s Craig Hess for advice on selling to multiple decision makers.

February 1, 2017

  • multiple-doors

It used to be that most sales transactions involved the sales rep and a single decision maker. The two communicated extensively until the sale was final. In the sales landscape we find ourselves in today, however, relying on one relationship isn’t enough, especially when you consider that the average B2B purchase now involves 6.8 decision makers.

To help sales teams break free from the one relationship habit that hampers results, we spoke with SAIT Corporate Training Associate Director Craig Hess about best practices for selling to multiple decision makers. Here’s what he had to say:

LI: In your experience developing managers, how can sales leaders help their teams break free from the “one-relationship habit” when they themselves are looking to change this ingrained behavior?

CH: I’m a big believer that data and visuals go a long way to help deliver messages and ingrain new behaviors in a process. For sales people or sales teams that have relied on 1:1 relationships, a sales leader needs to find ways to develop the case for change, and the engagement of multiple stakeholders.

As such, a couple of great resources I have shared with my team are Mike Derezin’s Hanging on by a thread presentation from this year’s SalesConnect conference. Conceptually, I believe, strong sales people understand the importance of building multiple relationships. In practice, it becomes easy to take a key relationship for granted, only to wake up one day and find that a 1:1 relationship has changed due to a key contact changing jobs, organizational restructures, etc. Mike’s presentation provides a great visual – and stories – to reinforce the additive value of multiple relationships.

Additionally, I am a big fan of the Challenger Sale, and Challenger Customer work from the CEB folks. They should be required reading for anyone involved in anything more than a “simple” B2B sales process.

LI: What tools and processes do you recommend for sales leaders looking to connect with multiple decision makers at both prospective and client accounts?

CH: Leverage. Your. Network.

Sales leaders, sales teams, and sales people today have an abundance of connectivity tools at their disposal. As a result, personal and business networks are larger and more interconnected than ever before. Our “6 degrees of separation” are shrinking, and there is no excuse for a professional, proactive sales team to not leverage the power of social – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – to gain introductions and build connections. For us, as our organization has over 2,000 employees with industry connections, the TeamLink feature is a tremendously powerful tool.

LI: What advice do you have for sales leaders who have traditionally operated regionally, but now must initiate and strengthen global relationships to ensure their organizations’ success?

CH: This is an interesting question. For me, there really isn’t a difference with the exception of being able – perhaps – to build rapport within a region by referencing common shared experiences. I.e. it is likely easier for sales leaders to keep up to date on the immediate issues facing their regional clients. However, the principle applies globally. The business issues or challenges that clients are looking to solve are likely quite similar. The circumstances that have led to those challenges may be different, and impacted by cultural / social issues that differ from those regionally. My advice would be to be patient, and build your knowledge of the local issues impacting your global clients. Again, leverage your network to gain insights, and leverage the seemingly endless amount of data we now have at the drop of a Google search. Sales people are generally inclined to want to move quickly, and as such, may assume client’s sharing the same issues will all respond to the same messages. Don’t make that mistake. Do your homework, reach out to those that can help you understand, and then engage.  

LI: Are there any team building exercises you can recommend for sales leaders who want to champion change within their organizations?

CH: I’ve never been a fan of the “traditional” team building “trust fall” type exercises. I tend to believe that teams that can build together, grow together. To do this, leaders need to be willing to share their challenges openly and honestly with their teams. Help them understand the issues the team needs to address – or the opportunities that need to be pursued. Get your team’s suggestions, and make them part of the process to build solutions together. Transparency and involvement go a long way to gaining support, and ultimately developing a team that rises up together to accomplish big goals.  

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Looking for more ways to bond with buying committees at your accounts? Check out LinkedIn’s Definitive Guide to Selling to Multiple Decision Makers.