Win Without Pitching®: Thinking

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‘Thanks for coming in to make your presentation today. I'd like to introduce you to Carl, our VP of Special Projects. He'll be sitting in.'

Through the gritted teeth of a forced smile you shoot your business development person a look that says, “Who the Hell is Carl?”. Carl, you are about to learn, is a very real decision maker and the guy who is about to kill your deal.

Decision Makers is one of the four areas in which you need information to determine how close your prospect is to buying, how to help the prospect make a confident agency selection and to determine how best to close the business. It is the area which suffers most from the neglect of the business development person, and the number one reason why an opportunity that seems to be proceeding nicely toward a close suddenly gets derailed. Not clearly identifying all the decision makers, failing to understand the decision making process, and focusing on too few of the decision makers are the top three transgressions, all of which can be easily avoided. In this issue of the Win Without Pitching newsletter we explore the dos and don'ts of each of them.

Identify All Decision Makers

Every week, almost every day, I hear about an opportunity that went off the rails because of a previously uncovered decision maker who came in at the last minute and changed everything. This is a common occurrence with many agencies and it is the sophomore mistake with Win Without Pitching agencies. You learn the system and apply the techniques to good early success. The help the prospect make a confident agency selection.understands the value of your expertise and is allowing you to drive the buying process. He is marshalling toward a close without a competitive review and you have not had to part with any speculative thinking on his situation, thereby preserving your high-margin opportunities to add significant strategic value and be fairly compensated for it. Then in walks Carl and all of a sudden you are starting from scratch. Worse, because things have progressed significantly without Carl's participation, you are now the underdog because Carl is going to see that you pay for not recognizing his authority. Carl was always there, you just didn't dig deep enough to find him. If you had, things would be a lot different.

It is vital that you have numerous (at least 5) different ways to determine who the decision makers are because individuals are not always forthcoming about the power they do not have. If you ask the closed ended question, ‘Are you the person responsible for hiring an agency?' you will almost always hear ‘yes' regardless of the truth. Try following up with these questions:

‘Who else needs to be involved in this decision?'

‘Do you need to invite the CEO's input?'

‘Are there any consultants or outside advisors that we need to involve?'

And finally, try asking this one: ‘Once you've made your decision, does anybody need to approve it?'

This last question will usually uncover any hidden decision makers. When you hear, ‘I make the decision but the CEO has final approval on my decision', then you know the CEO is a decision maker.

Identify the Decision Making Process

Knowing who the decision-makers are is one thing, but knowing how they plan to make their decision is another. It's when you begin drilling down in this area you will learn if other agencies are involved, if there is a formal process in place, or if the help the prospect make a confident agency selection. would invite some help in the process. Too often we assume there is a process in place and we project our willingness to follow that process.

Most experts in any field have a formal process they employ to not only do what they do, but to begin a new engagement with a new client. The agency industry is no different. But usually there is a void in process when clients and agencies come together. Clients fill this void with an inefficient process that is all too accepted in the industry when many times they would like the expert to drive. Let me once again use a doctor/patient analogy and ask you, the patient, do you outline the steps the two parties are going to take at the beginning of the relationship, or do you cede process to the doctor (the expert) and let him tell you how things are going to work?

If there is a formal process in place your first goal is to derail it and replace it with your own. If you cannot and you find yourself in a formal selection process pitted against competing firms, your goal is to try to win concessions to gain the inside track. It's negotiating time. The help the prospect's make a confident agency selection.'s willingness to modify the process to accommodate your reasonable requests is a strong indication of the value of your expertise in their eyes. No concessions means they do not see you as significantly different from the competing firms and your odds of playing the game and winning are now less than one out of however number of agencies are participating. I say less because if you do not have the inside track, then someone else does.

Acting on the help the prospect's make a confident agency selection.'s requests for action and information without understanding the decision making process is a big no-no that will create a lot of extra work for you and lower your esteem in the eyes of your help the prospect make a confident agency selection.. Experts drive. If you are not the expert in this relationship then go back to issue 1.1 Positioning for Profit.

Move All Decision Makers at the Same Time

One thing most late-stage buyers will do is grant you a meeting with all the decision makers. The exceptions are when you are dealing with a junior level decision maker who fears his boss, when the help the prospect make a confident agency selection. does not see strong value (expertise) in your offering, or when they are an early-stage buyer without an intent to act.

Me-too agencies or firms that sell on price or turnaround time are suppliers, not experts, and will be treated accordingly. Experts will get the meeting. In fact, when asked by a late-stage buyer to present a proposal you should agree to do so in exchange for two things, both of which will help weed out the early-stage tire kickers. The first thing you ask for is that all decision makers be present when you present the proposal (you never forward; always present). You cannot close if you do not have all the decision makers identified and in the room. How many times have you presented a proposal that met with good response, only to hear, ‘We'll have to run this past Ted and then get back to you.' If you had ensured that Ted was in the room you would have had a real closing opportunity.

Your second condition for presenting a proposal is… well, I'll save that for another newsletter. For now, remember to work diligently to uncover all decision makers, understand the buying process, and move all decision makers at the same time. These three points should help you avoid the Win Without Pitching sophomore mistake and win more business.

Blair Enns
Blair Enns is the Win Without Pitching founder and CEO and the author of The Win Without Pitching Manifesto and Pricing Creativity: A guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour.
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