Influence Strategies That Win

Steer the Buying Process and Players to Outmaneuver the Competition

By David Yesford, Michael Leimbach, PhD

Salespeople are told they should “call high, wide, and deep”—and really focus on the C-suite. But is that always the best approach?

As with so many questions about what it takes to win a deal, it depends.

A study by Google/Millward Brown Media and Digital found that while the C-suite has final sign-off in 64% of buying decisions, a full 81% of influencers are not in the C-suite.1 So while calling high, wide, and deep has its advantages, salespeople need to do so strategically with a focus on what—and who—can help them win.

Wilson Learning has studied thousands of win-loss reviews and talked to hundreds of salespeople and their managers. We found that, in many cases, the salesperson didn’t fully understand:

  • How the decision was being made
  • Who had influence over the decision
  • Customer stakeholders’ perspectives about the salesperson and his or her company

It’s not just salespeople who find the buying process complex. Gartner Group research revealed that a full 77% of B2B buyers said that their latest buying decision was “very complex or difficult.”2

Multiple departments and people are involved, and while one person can say “yes,” lots of people can say “no.” Big investments have especially long decision processes with multiple stakeholders and hurdles.

And just when the salesperson thinks a sale has been made, procurement hurdles.

What’s a sales leader to do?

Make sure your salespeople can shape buying decisions by:

  • Understanding the decision process and anticipating shifts
  • Building a keen understanding of stakeholders and their perspectives
  • Executing influence strategies to win
The more I know about you and the more I know about me, the more I can take responsibility for managing the difference between us.

The Decision Process

DemandGen’s 2020 B2B Buyers Survey revealed that 68% of customers found that the length of their buying process had increased “significantly” or “somewhat” over the previous year, and 44% have formal buying committees.3

Decision processes vary from one company to the next. That means salespeople must form a complete picture to stay competitive, discovering the what, why, and who of the decision process and bringing value to the process itself. Given the increasing influence of internet content and social media in the buying process, salespeople must show value by understanding the decision process and helping customers navigate it—especially for complex solutions and big investments.

Salespeople need to determine who is currently involved in the decision process and, based on their experience, recommend who should be involved. Stakeholders typically include those funding the purchase and an executive or director who makes the final buying decision. They include those with an interest in the purchase—like those who will bring the solution on board and support its ongoing use. And—of course!—end users in various lines of business usually have opinions.

Questions that help determine the buying process and stakeholders include:

  • Whose budget is funding this purchase?
  • Who will sign off on financial decisions?
  • Who has specialized expertise and will help make the decision?
  • Whose job will this affect?
  • Who else cares about this decision?
Salespeople need to determine who is currently involved in the decision process and, based on their experience, recommend who should be involved.

David Yesford

David Yesford, Senior Vice President of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. and Managing Director of Wilson Learning APAC, has more than 30 years of experience developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions around the world. He brings valuable experience, strategic direction, and global perspective to his work with clients. Mr. Yesford is an active member of the Wilson Learning Global Executive Board, with current responsibility at a global level. Over the years, he has held strategic roles in our core content areas of sales and leadership, as well as e-learning and strategic consulting. He has also held managing director positions in both China and India.

Mr. Yesford is the contributing author of several books, including Win-Win Selling, Versatile Selling, The Social Styles Handbook, and The Sales Training Book 2. He has also been published in numerous business publications throughout the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific. Mr. Yesford frequently speaks at international conferences and summits, focusing on issues such as sales and sales strategy, leadership, employee and customer engagement, brand, and strategy implementation.

Michael Leimbach, PhD

Michael Leimbach, PhD, is a globally recognized expert in instructional design and leadership development. As Vice President of Global Research and Development for Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc., he has worked with numerous Global 1000 organizations in Australia, England, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and throughout the United States. Over more than 30 years, Dr. Leimbach had developed Wilson Learning’s diagnostic, learning, and performance improvement capabilities, published over 100 professional articles, coauthored four books, been Editor-in-Chief for the highly acclaimed ADHR research journal, and is a frequent speaker at national and global conferences. He also serves on the ISO Technical Committee (TC232) on Quality Standards for Learning Service Providers and on the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development Dean’s Advisory Board.