Every sale has its own unique challenges, but the one thing that reigns true regardless of factors like industry or product type is that you will need to get buy-in from key stakeholders during the sales process. But when should you loop in those important decision-makers? How do you bring it up on a sales call? How do you even know who those important decision-makers are?
Involving the right key stakeholders in your sales process at the right time will lead to a more efficient, timely and positive sales experience for everyone involved.
The Process of Involving Key Stakeholders
During your very first call with a company as a sales rep, you typically only meet with one individual. More often than not, that person is your champion, which means they are the one who is bringing your solution or product back to their own team to evaluate. This person is typically the easiest stakeholder to work with because they already see value in your product or solution, which is why they are on the call in the first place.
“On that initial call, you need to make sure you are finding out who the rest of that decision-making team is and present the idea to that champion on the call that those other decision-makers should be included in conversations from here on out,” says Lead Growth Advisor Karly Wescott.
While your champion may be bought in on the idea of giving your company their business, that doesn't mean they are best equipped to go explain your product or service to the rest of their team at a level that will truly resonate or represent your product as well as you will. So including other stakeholders from the start will lead to a much more efficient, timely and pleasant sales process all around.
“As a sales rep your job is to provide deeper value than just the high-level value prop that your website shows off, and the best way to be able to do that is to have all of the key stakeholders present while you work through that partnership or solution,” says Karly.
Key stakeholders will vary depending on the industry you are selling into, the company size, the type of product you are selling and the organizational structure of that company. However, typically anyone that has the ability to block that sales process from progressing may be thought of a stakeholder.
“If your product or solution is a large purchase for your prospect, you may want to include individuals who will need to approve budget requirements initially,” says Karly. “This will prevent hold-ups when it comes to getting budget approval and contract negotiations.”
When trying to identify who the people are that need to be brought in, think about what individuals or what teams at the prospect’s company your product or service will have the largest impact on.
If purchasing from your company will be instituting a large change at your prospect’s organization, you may want to involve the individuals who are in charge of change management. You may be providing a new piece of technology that will impact current processes and that will have a major impact on the company as a whole.
“Those individuals will be spearheading the rollout of whatever it is that you are selling, and you need their positive buy-in from the very beginning,” says Karly.
The earlier you get everyone involved, the more time you will save everyone involved as well.
Some of the most intense parts of the sales process take place during contract negotiations, and the last thing you want is to have brand new people stepping into the process during this phase. If this happens, you will end up backtracking to explain the value of your product, and it can draw the sales process out.
How Do You Find Out Who the Key Stakeholders Are?
You can of course ask directly “who else from your team will be involved in this decision?” but sometimes your champion won’t always consider looping in the right individuals or they won’t be ready to do so.
Another way to find out who the stakeholders at a company are is to use tools like LinkedIn to do research on the company prior to getting on a call. LinkedIn makes it simple to find out some information about a company structure like who works there and get an idea of the roles of individuals you may encounter. While it isn’t a guarantee, doing that type of research first can help you make more informed suggestions with your prospect when the topic comes up.
Not all champions have evaluated a solution or product like yours before, so they may not know who to involve in the process to begin with. Making sure to ask the right questions around stakeholders in your initial call is essential.
“When you’re setting next steps with your prospect, make sure to ask who should be involved as well as providing examples of who you typically prefer to be involved in the next meeting,” says Karly.
Ensure that your prospect understands how the rest of your sales process will look, how long it may take and the hurdles that you may encounter along the way. These types of conversations will help them understand who they should be speaking to or bringing into the conversation from their company, even if they wouldn’t have considered those stakeholders on their own.
You may also run into the situation where your champion doesn't want to get certain stakeholders involved in the process because they are nervous that they won’t have buy-in or they already know they don’t.
“It’s important that you get a good sense of why that is,” says Karly. “In some cases, it’s totally fine to move forward and equip them with the information they need so that they can take that internally and really champion something new for the company.”
But understanding their objections at a deep level will allow you to evaluate if letting your champion take the matter internally really is the best course of action or if something deeper is actually going on.
“Oftentimes, being afraid to bring stakeholders in can be an indicator that there is a roadblock to the sale even though your champion is on board with the solution you provide,” says Karly.
If your champion doesn’t have the authority to make a decision by themselves and can’t get buy-in from other stakeholders, then you probably shouldn’t move forward with the sale.
When it comes to the question of when should you get the key stakeholders of a company involved in the sales process, the answer is simple: as soon as possible. But, it’s not actually that easy. Sure, it would be great if we always had the right people who truly make decisions included from the get-go but that is often not the reality.
As with all sales techniques, remain as honest and transparent with your prospect as possible. Explain to them why you need to know who should be brought into the sales process and let them know that you just want everyone to have as great of an experience as possible.
“Your job as a sales rep is to educate the prospect on your product or service, of course,” says Karly. “But to be human and helpful within sales, your role is also to guide them through the most efficient and valuable sales process that you can.”
Weslee Clyde is an inbound marketing strategist at New Breed. She is focused on generating results using inbound methods and is driven by the customer experience. When not at the office, you can find her binging a docu-series on true crime or perfecting her gluten-free baking skills.