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Selling to Multiple Decision-Makers

Warning: Major Delay Ahead!

By Michael Leimbach, PhD, David Yesford

Nothing derails a sale faster than multiple decision-makers! And, while more than 85 percent of opportunities involve multiple decision-makers, most organizations do a poor job of preparing their salespeople to sell to decision-making teams.

This poor preparation causes a significant number of hits to the seller’s top and bottom line:

  • Decisions take longer and become more expensive.
  • There is an increase in the number of “no decisions.”
  • Profit margins are squeezed in efforts to satisfy everyone.
  • Implementation is delayed.

Maximizing Results with Multiple Decision-Makers

When sales organizations coach their sales teams in the concepts and skills related to managing multiple decision-makers, sales effectiveness improves.

We have found there are three keys to selling effectively to multiple decision-makers, as shown in the following framework.

Taken together, these three skills give the selling organization and the buying organization an improved chance to reach a buying decision that produces the maximum business value to both organizations.

Identifying Influence: The Influence Map

Guiding multiple decision-makers begins by identifying how decision-makers align within the Influence Map.

Many salespeople take the perspective that an individual’s title is all they need to know—but the Influence Map is more complex than that. The Influence Map is determined by two critical elements: Influence and Disposition.

Influence can take many forms—formal, informal, level of expertise, credibility, etc. If salespeople focus exclusively on formal influence (the person with the biggest title wins), they will likely draw a poor Influence Map.

It is also critical to consider a decision-maker’s Disposition—their favorable or unfavorable view of you, your company, and your solution. Two buyers with high levels of influence, one with a favorable disposition, the other with an unfavorable disposition, have to be regarded differently if you are going to win more sales.

To learn how to deal with multiple decision-makers, we ask salespeople to create a simple Influence Map that shows where each decision-maker stands on Influence (Low to High) and Disposition (Negative to Positive).

Salespeople should do this for every sales opportunity. One Influence Map does not encompass an entire buying organization; instead, each decision requires its own Influence Map. Why? A person with high influence for one purchase may be low influence for another.

More than 85 percent of opportunities involve multiple decision-makers . . . When sales organizations coach their sales teams in the concepts and skills related to managing multiple decision-makers, sales effectiveness improves.

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.

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.