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Reaching Consensus: A Problem Rather Than a SolutionOften, when a customer has to change supplier or must make an additional investment, his first impulse is to talk about it to his entire team. This is a frequent situation that puts representatives in a bad position.

In fact, the search for consensus makes the sales process more cumbersome and can even be detrimental to the project.

Here are some ways to avoid finding yourself in such a position.

Get the client to reflect

When a prospect wishes to obtain a consensus from his entire team, you should start off by getting him to think about a few things. Here are some questions I suggest you ask:

  • What will happen if others do not agree with the project?
  • Why do you seek consensus?
  • Have decisions always been made this way?
  • If so, did the project in question proceeded or failed?

These questions will help the decision-maker understand that just because a decision is made by consensus does not mean that it necessarily is the best decision. Moreover, if the project expands unnecessarily, there is a good chance that no decision will be taken at all.

Avoid intermediaries

When you adopt a consultative approach with a client, you make him realize the value of a solution to a specific problem. This value is perceived by only one person: your customer.

Since he is already aware of the value of that solution, you must trigger a decision as quickly as possible.

You should not assume that once you have convinced one person, he or she will be able to convince others. It is a very dangerous risk you should avoid at all cost.

If your client wants to involve intermediaries, ask them the following questions:

  • Who will make the final decision?
  • If you need to consult other people, what are you going to tell them?
  • How have they reacted in the past?
  • If they do not agree, what will you do?
  • If you maintain the status quo, what will happen?

When consensus is sought, the sales cycle stretches and the risk of failure increases tenfold. Thus, your client must understand that working with intermediaries is not in his best interest.

Limit the number of people involved

To avoid this problem, some representatives are tempted to meet all stakeholders at the same time. It is best to avoid this strategy.

Limit the number of people in attendance when you have a first base meeting. Otherwise, you will have to question each person to understand their motivations and perceptions. The more people there are, the more colossal, if not impossible, the task is.

It is always preferable to talk only to decision-makers. On the other hand, if you have to meet a large number of people, allow plenty of time. The degrees of influence vary, so be sure to question each person individually.

A group meeting necessarily involves the presence of purchasing people. You will quickly find yourself talking about supply or prices when truly the timing is not adequate at this stage of the sales process.

It is only when you present your solution and define its technical characteristics that it is justified to meet a larger number of people. This means you should only meet with a larger attendance after the business discussion that allowed you to obtain essential information from the customer, such as his real problem and the reason for buying.

Keep in mind

By delegating and democratizing decision-making, business leaders are falling into major traps. Rather than minimizing risk, decision-makers complicate the situation.

Reaching at any cost a consensus for a purchase decision results in losing control of the sales process. The outcome: no decision will be taken. The client must have the courage to make decisions, especially if it is a strategic decision for his organization. Nonetheless, it is up to the representative to make him see the situation from a win-win perspective.