Working Within the Decision Group

If you are working with multiple buyers, it's best if you can meet with them both collectively and individually. You may be making a sales presentation to the group. Before, during, or even after the presentation, you can identify the deciders and influencers. If you haven't previously identified them, assume that they all are buyers, and sell.

As you develop relationships with the individuals in decision groups, you'll be in a better position to determine their needs — data, information, knowledge — and help them acquire it. The best position to do that from is within the decision group. That is, make yourself a nonvoting member of the decision team.

In a retail selling environment, you can be a nonvoting member of the team by simply assisting and advising the decision makers. They are shopping for a new refrigerator — she for size and features and he for price. By being helpful, you can guide them in their decision, offering the data and information, the features and benefits, as they are identified by your questions to the buyers.

Becoming a team member can be difficult — especially when you are perceived as a “salesperson,” someone who may not be honest and fair. That's why building trust (see Chapter 2) is so vital to Golden Rule Selling. The trust factor is especially important with multiple buyers because you might alienate one of them without even knowing it. You must identify each person's needs and decision process individually, then help them come to a collective decision.

In business and industrial sales, there typically are fewer emotional issues to the buying process, but group dynamics are still a concern. By becoming a nonvoting member of the decision group you can better analyze the individuals, the dynamics, and how they work to make buying decisions. You can be considered and treated as “one of us.”

How can you become an integral component of the decision group? Through empathy. Empathy is seeing a person or event as if it were your own experience. In sales, there are different names and descriptions for empathy, such as assistive selling or consultive selling. One way of applying empathy is to see someone else's problem as your own. Analyze and solve the buyers' problem as if it were yours, then work within the group toward a solution. You are a nonvoting member, but your influence still can be significant. In fact, because of your knowledge and skills, you should be a primary influence in the decision. Again, that requires that you first build trust within the group.

The word empathy comes from the Greek word for passion. It involves feelings and emotions as well as understanding. It can be a changing force in daily life, but it also can be applied to the business world. Imagine employees who have empathy for customers and passion for their problems. Being empathetic toward your customers and their problems can help you to relate to and help them. They, in turn, may better help you in your efforts to sell.

Empathy first requires understanding. The buying group's need to find a long-term investment for pension funds should be your need. You should consider it as if you were trying to solve your own pension funding decision. The facts will be different, but the process will be similar. By empathizing, you are more invested in discovering an appropriate solution.

Empathy also requires communication — two-way communication. You must both listen and respond knowledgeably. As a member of the solution team, you must hear all sides and listen to each individual's input. You cannot simply make a statement and expect the group to accept it. Instead, empathize and help from within the group.

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