Are you dealing with clients without the authority to say ‘yes’?

How many times in the past have I had a meeting with a client and afterwards thought to myself that I’d got the deal? I then subsequently discover that the individual I was talking to doesn’t actually have the authority to make the buying decision. Instead it is their boss or worse, their boss’s boss, who makes the buying decision.

How many hours and days can we waste chasing “messengers” who have no authority to say ‘yes’? They can only say ‘no’. Messengers are generally enthusiastic and well-meaning but they can’t place the order. Sometimes they may feel embarrassed and pretend to have authority. Since the recession authority and approval levels to spend money have risen in many companies, sometimes to the Board.

I know I’m not alone. Many of my clients during my Negotiation or Sales workshops tell me that messengers are a huge problem for them too.

So is it really a problem dealing with a messenger? Surely they take your proposal to their boss with their recommendation to use you? Sometimes that may happen but I reckon it’s rarely that simple. Often their boss wants them to get several quotes from several different suppliers. Because the boss doesn’t know you the conversation become totally focused on price. Because you haven’t had a chance to explain the specific advantages of your service or product, quotes from the different suppliers are often commoditised.

I appreciate price is an important factor but it shouldn’t be the only factor. When we win business predominantly based on our price, that’s how we will lose the business – there’s always a cheaper competitor. I recommend to my clients not to be the cheapest. I recommend they become the best so that their clients receive huge value from their work. Price then becomes a reflection of that value.

Be more selective who you meet with. Establish early on that they are senior and are the decision maker for the area under discussion. You don’t have time to waste on a wild goose chase! I urge my clients to qualify opportunities.

If you push to deal with Decision Makers there will be five important benefits to you.

  • Decision Makers have a clearer understanding of value, not just price and cost. (But only if they know why your premium is worthwhile.)
  • Decision Makers have a big picture view of their organisation and its requirements making it easier for you to deepen your business relationship and add real impact to their business.
  • Senior Decision Makers often have more than one budget and can move money between those budgets if necessary.
  • Because you are more focused on value and less on price your profitability and productivity increase as conversion rates improve.
  • Your confidence will grow as you become more successful – attracting yet more business.

So how do we ensure we deal with senior Decision Makers?

  • Make sure that what you sell is mission critical to your client’s business.
  • Know how to articulate the business case, the ROI and payback.
  • Raise your game so you can talk with expertise and confidence with senior business people. I help my clients plan and construct their conversations with a client CEO or MD.
  • Have real clarity on your differentiation and value proposition. Be clear how you would answer ‘why should I do business with you?’

So how much more careful will you be to avoid talking to a messenger?