Selling to a team of buyers is nuanced and often requires the seller to facilitate a number of small decisions and agreements that advance the process and align buyers.
Imagine you are at a big family dinner with your siblings, cousins, parents and grandparents. You ask the group, “What would you like for dinner?" You're likely to get as many different answers as there are family members.
Selling to a buying team is similar, except the stakes are much higher.
Selling, particularly insurance and risk management services, is not simply about identifying needs and aligning those needs to products or services. It is about facilitating a change in behavior and providing the leadership necessary to help your prospects accomplish three important goals:
1) Identify and agree on the problem to be solved.
2) Agree upon the process to solve the problem.
3) Agree upon the solution provider best suited to help achieve the goals.
While this may sound like a process with clear beginning and ending points, it is not that simple. Moving from needs identification to the selection of a solution provider is a complex journey. That journey often requires the seller to meet their buyers at various stages of their personal decision-making process, ultimately bringing them together as a team focused on a common set of goals and aligned on the strategy to achieve them. That is consensus building.
Sellers often tangle the situation by failing to recognize the complexity of the sales process, erroneously believing team buying decisions can be accomplished by following a step-by-step approach.
However, in fact, the process is nuanced and often requires the seller to facilitate a number of small decisions and agreements that advance the process and align buyers.
Individual buyers in the sales process will also have their own timeline. In a buying team, there will be those eager to explore a business relationship and others who are satisfied with the status quo. There might also be those who remain fiercely loyal to the incumbent provider.
In addition to timing and buyer preferences, sellers must also acknowledge that buyers come to the process with varying degrees of knowledge, experience and desire to participate. While these may feel like roadblocks and your desire may be to go around them and work with only those buyers expressing an interest in change, doing so could prevent you from closing the deal.
Sales leadership requires sellers to navigate these complexities. First by acknowledging complexities within the organization to which they are selling. And second by recognizing their role to help the buying team address them.
Here are six effective strategies to build consensus with a buying team:
1) Create a safe environment for discussion. Often, less experienced or senior members of a team will stay mute out of fear. Their concern may be that their opinion isn't valued or might expose a perceived weakness in themselves.
As facilitators, sellers must set the table by helping the buying group to recognize that individual members of the team will often come to the table with varying insight based on their role in the organization, experience and knowledge.
2) Align on the decision-making process. The process should focus on how decisions will be made and who will be part of the decision-making process. It should also consider how conflicts will be addressed.
This can be a challenging discussion, but unless it is tackled, sellers may find themselves following a process that is ineffective and favors the incumbent.
3) Build awareness through insight. Teams can often think they are the only ones experiencing issues, which is rarely the case.
Using phrases like, “You're not alone in thinking about this," “Others in similar roles have also shared this difficulty," or “Other organizations have also been challenged with this" can alleviate fear and resistance to exploring change.
4) Shed light on obstacles. Acknowledging obstacles and sharing your experience with helping others in similar situations can help resolve challenges. This helps build credibility with your prospects. It also eliminates surprises that often lead to buyer regret.
5) Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Help your prospects prioritize what is most important to them and their goals. Help them consider what will provide the biggest return on their investment or eliminate a business risk.
This accomplishes two things. First, it helps your prospect remain focused on the issues of greatest importance. Second, it positions you as an ongoing source of business value.
6) Gain agreements. Once you've helped your prospect identify and prioritize their challenges, you'll want to gain agreement to do business. This must occur prior to you sharing your recommendations and solutions.
Conditional closing questions can help ensure your buyers are prepared to move forward with you, assuming your plan addresses the issues you've helped them discover.
Susan Toussaint is vice president, Growth Solutions, U.S. with ReSource Pro. For over a decade, Susan has been training, coaching and developing programs to help insurance professionals overcome barriers to organic growth. In 2006, she started Injury Management Partners, and in 2009, she co-founded Oceanus Partners with her partner, Frank Pennachio. Today, she is a full-time trainer and consultant focused on developing products and training that help clients attract, acquire and retain profitable, right-fit business.