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What to do when they are not the ultimate decision maker
Art Sobczak
Art Sobczak

A training client emailed me with this scenario. Perhaps you’ve run into something similar.

The rep, Kim, had a prospect, Karen, who agreed that her company should use the sales rep’s company for their purchases of computer media supplies. The prospect said that she personally didn’t make the final ordering decision (she was the primary user of the products), but would speak to the person who did the ordering—we’ll call him Bob the Buyer–and have Bob give the rep a call. Karen preferred that Kim not contact Bob directly at this point.

A week had passed with no call, and Kim (the sales rep) didn’t want to let this one wiggle away. She wanted an opinion on the best action to take at this point.

The first suggestion–which really didn’t help much on this call, but will on future ones–is to get commitment that the initial prospect will not just refer the matter to Bob the Buyer, but will strongly recommend to Bob that they buy from Kim’s company, and WHY she felt that way. And also get commitment as to the time frame.

For example,

“First, Karen, you’re saying that you’re personally sold on using us because of the lower total cost of ownership over time, and you’ll recommend to Bob the Buyer that you switch, is that right?”

“What else can I provide you to help justify it to Bob? Do you see any potential roadblocks or objections from him? Does he normally go along with your recommendations?”

“And when do you think I should expect a call?”

This emphasizes the urgency of the matter. Finally, set the stage for what would happen should Bob not call by that date:

“If for some reason he doesn’t call by then, it wouldn’t be a problem if I called him and introduced myself would it?”

Now, for the call at hand, my suggestion was to first call the original prospect and find out if the referral suggestion had been made to Bob the Buyer. If so, then use the question previously mentioned about getting permission to call Bob. The call to Bob then would be positioned in this way:

“Hi Bob, it’s Kim Seller with ______. I was speaking with Karen Michaels in your IT department, and she suggested that we should talk. She felt we could save you quite a bit of money over time on the media you’re now using, and might have passed that information on to you …” (if Bob doesn’t jump in at this point, continue) “If I reached you at a goodtime, I’d like to share with you the savings projections we did see if there are any other items on which we could help you save.”

Notice we are not starting the call out with the worthless, reactive opening,

“I was wondering if you got the information that Karen Michaels had sent over to you?”

That’s as bad as starting a call with “I sent you an email, didja get it?”

In my example, even if Bob didn’t remember Karen’s communication, Kim can smoothly transition into this call.

To summarize, when you’re being referred elsewhere, be sure,

  • you are not being brushed off,
  • that your initial contact is sold on you and will recommend you,
  • that you attach a time frame to the next action, and
  • that there is a course of follow-up action on your end to be sure there is a next step.

What do you do in this situation, or what have you done? Would love to see your comments. Thanks!

Art Sobczak is President of Business By Phone, Inc., specializing in helping people increase sales and profits by using common-sense, non-adversarial telephone strategies and techniques. For over 12 years he has written and published the Telephone Selling Report sales tips newsletter, and authored many audio, and video telesales training programs. E-mail editorial@mhwmag.com to contact Art. 
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