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By Stephen Abrahms June 22, 2018

The Power of Influencers in B2B Sales

Everyone makes mistakes. And sometimes that’s the best way to learn. Reflecting on my own experience, I’ve made a huge oversight once with one of our clients. I’d like to take today’s blog to tell you that story, and hopefully, help you avoid making the same slip I made.

My Biggest Sales Lesson

I was on a sales call with a huge, Fortune 500 potential opportunity. On the call was the client’s Sales Director, Jerry, and their Marketing Manager, Nina. The call goes great. We talked about our recent golf trips, moved on to their goals for their sales initiative, and end up agreeing on the value of our offering. Nina took notes and said she would schedule a follow up meeting, and I was ecstatic to move the sale forward.

Unfortunately, our next meeting did not go as I expected. Jerry’s tone has changed, conversations fell short, and he let me know that they will be evaluating options and that he’ll let me know if he’d like to move forward. I was baffled. What did I do wrong?

The answer: Jerry did something I neglected to do—he asked Nina what she thought about us.

The Neglected Power of the Influencer

Most B2B sales are complex and involve a number of different players, who all have some influence on the decision. Even if you’re talking directly with the decision maker, such as in my case, the likelihood of them making an executive decision without consulting their team is unlikely. Executives surround themselves with capable people for a reason; they respect their opinion.

In fact, what you’re selling will probably have a bigger impact on the day-to-day of the influencer than the decision maker. And this is often overlooked by sales people. In my example, I overlooked that Nina was the chosen to lead the initiative after Jerry has chosen partner.

Because of her direct involvement in their chosen solution, it’s to the sales person’s advantage to sell to these influencers. If you win them over on the value of your offering, they can communicate your solution and value, over other competitors, to the decision maker.

Gaining the Influencers Buy-in

Sales people should be interested in getting the influencer on their side. What’s not always as clear is how to go about doing that.

The most straightforward answer is to pay attention to them during sales conversations. Even if they aren’t chiming in on their own, regularly bring them in by asking probing questions:

  • What are your thoughts on that?
  • How might that impact your role?
  • Do you see value in what I just showed?

A more targeted approach is to ask for a one-on-one conversation with the influencer. Explain that you’d like to talk to them about your offering’s impact on their role and what they are personally looking for in a solution. Taking time to have a separate conversation focused on their needs will build a relationship—and will provide you with valuable information you can use to better personalize your value.

How to Utilize the Influencer

The influencer can also lead you to a better understanding of what the decision maker is looking for. This inquiry shouldn’t be bluntly asked, but might include questions like:

  • Do you think what you’re looking for aligns with [Decision Maker]’s vision?
  • Did [Decision Maker] see the same value that you did?

To conclude, not only should the influencer be seen as an asset for guiding the decision maker, but also as a source of valuable information for the sale. It’s important that you know the business pains and motivators the influencer might have and provide personalized, relevant value, so you can turn them into your champion.

Mapping the decision-making process, understanding different business pains and purchase motivators, and positioning your offering in a way that provides personalized, relevant value are all important to know to win influencers over. A well-defined sales process and sales playbook is a good way to arm your sales team with the appropriate sales tools, messaging, and steps to win the sale. If you need a fresh perspective on your sales process and playbooks, request a complimentary 30-minute consultation with one of our expert sales consultants!

Topics: Sales Success, Sales Tools

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