How many times have we gone over the presentation we made with all the great points and are left scratching our head as to what must have gone wrong? We still left the meeting without a decision for OR against.
It can be incredibly frustrating. We spent considerable time getting the people to the meeting, hours working on the deck as well as preparing all the likely questions and answers and as we make our way back to our office we are left wondering why they didn’t say yes or no.
Hours can be lost in this fruitless soul searching. And I am one that has lost many of those hours. I can never get them back. But I have learnt from those losses and I hope you can too.
The main reason for this kind of scenario is that we have neither identified nor been able to get the decision maker or makers to the meeting. So what we get is the “We’ll get back to you” or “we need to think about it” reaction. Now this may be a true reaction, but in my experience this is normally because we haven’t got the right people there. If we did, the responses would be different, such as “Great stuff, but how would we be able to meet the deadlines” or “I can’t make a decision until we have worked more on these areas.”
So how do we know who matters? How do we get a decision?
There have been numerous books written and many good courses carried out that deal with identifying your clients by the role they play in the decision making process.
In the early 1970’s, the industrial marketing professors Frederick E. Webster and Yoram Wind, developed the ‘buying centre’ concept in order to structure large scale sales in complex corporate environments. They came up with Influencer, Decider, Purchaser or Buyer, User and Gatekeeper.
In the early 1980’s, Thomas Bonoma expanded their original list of five roles with the role of initiator. The concept then classified six buying roles for members of the organization in the purchasing process
There have been several variations since then and I myself use a shorthand version of these when I run my workshops and in my Customer Strategy Plan App.
The key to ensuring we have the right people in the meeting is identifying who has the decision making power or the highest influence. It is rarely one person. In a complicated, high cost sale it can be numerous people, but there always one or two people that have that ultimate decision of yes or no. A little like the ancient Romans thumbs up or down signal that decided the fate of a defeated gladiator.
To succeed in getting decisions, we must identify who these people are and what degree of influence they have. I have found that in many cases although we think we have identified the decision maker such as the CEO, Division President or Managing Director, it is in fact someone else they rely upon to make them a recommendation.
So many times I used to turn up to meetings, finish them and then realize that the process had not moved forward as no one at the meeting had sufficient influence to make a decision or indeed recommend one.
When our time is so precious and travel budgets constantly under threat we need to make sure our meetings are efficient and productive and always move the process forward. To do so means more than just preparing the agenda and the deck. It means ensuring we have identified the right people and lobbied they are there.
My challenge to you for your next important meeting is to identify who in the process can make a decision at that meeting which will move things forward.
Question: How much more effective could your meetings be if the decision makers and influencers attended?