What to Do When You Know They’re Not the Sole Decision-Maker

You’ve acquired a contact to act as your champion or sponsor. They are motivated to change, and they are engaged in exploring their options with you as their strategic partner. Things are progressing nicely, but you know that the importance of this initiative is too high for one person to make the decision alone. Other stakeholders are going to need to agree to a decision to move forward. You ask your contact to include other people in the sales conversation, but they refuse, telling you that they are the decision-maker.

Here is how you overcome your contact’s insistence that they are the sole decision-maker.

Promise to Help Them Retain Control (Resolve Their Concern)

A lot of things that show up as something you might believe are an “objection” are real concerns. You can’t overcome a fear; you can only resolve it. The root cause of this concern is more difficult to discern when compared to the objections you receive when you ask for a meeting, that concern almost exclusively being the of wasting their time.

Your contact may be acting alone and exploring before introducing the idea to the other people who might be part of a future decision. They could also be running a shadow process behind the real change initiative, working under cover of darkness to prevent anyone from noticing. Your contact may also want to control the process, maybe because they want credit for the initiative or perhaps due to some other factor that will remain unknown to you.

One of the ways you resolve a concern for your clients is to understand what they need to move forward. In this case, your contact’s insistence that they alone make the decision is an indication they want—or need—control. If you are going to ask them to bring other people, you start by telling them that you will communicate through them and that you will help them retain control.

Share How They Benefit From Consensus

Even though most decisions in complex B2B sales are made by consensus, you will run into contacts who would prefer not to bring in the very people who will be necessary to moving forward and executing any change. The people you meet with who resist bringing in additional parties have good reasons for trying to avoid bringing them into the sales conversation, most of which can describe only as “complicating the process and the decision.”

It is true that inviting people who have different needs and different opinions make for more—and more difficult—conversations. If those conversations are challenging, they are not more difficult than not being able to change when it is necessary. When you avoid building consensus in complex sales, you increase the likelihood of losing—or getting a “no decision.”

At some point, you are going to have to explain to your contact that the longer you go without bringing in the necessary stakeholders, the further behind they will be in the decision. By allowing them to fall behind, when they discover that some change is afoot, they will resist the initiative because they were left out. More still, they’ll occupy the moral high ground.

“Can I share with you what normally happens when we leave out people who are going to need to part of this process and how we might make sure you retain complete control?”

Share Your Concern for Their Team’s Needs

In large enterprise sales, leaving out the stakeholders who will feel the impact of your initiative often means getting the solution wrong. Collaborating and designing a solution that meets the needs of the people who will not only need to agree to the decision but will also be using it day to day means bringing them into the process before your solution is fully baked.

Expressing your concern for their team’s happiness with the ultimate solution and ensuring you collaborate and customize it for the people who will use it is a compelling argument to invite additional people into the process. Much of the challenges of execution stem from people being left out of the process, something you can avoid by broadening your approach to include more people, including the people who have little power over the decision, but who need it to work for them.

Excluding people who are going to eventually get to weigh in on the solution and the decision weakens your chances of winning. It also puts your contact’s initiative at risk.

Ask to Include the Friendlies

It sometimes makes it easier to begin the process of bringing in new stakeholders to ask to bring in the friendlies, the people in your dream client’s company who are going to be excited about the initiative and whose support will be most natural to gain. By limiting the ask to the supportive people, you make it easier for your contact to say yes.

The concern that some people might oppose whatever it is your single contact is trying to achieve prevents them from opening up the conversations to others. They’re worried about dissenting opinions and aggressive opposition from other people in their company. By leaving them out, they believe they are increasing their chances of making change, even when it isn’t true.

By organizing the friendlies, you start the consensus process with supportive people, leaving the resistance for later in the process. A word of caution here: If you leave the opposition out too long, you can end up getting too far out in front of them, giving them more leverage to stop or slow things down.

Be Patient and Keep Trying

You might find that it isn’t easy to get a yes to your request to bring on other stakeholders on the first try. You may have to ask more than once. You may have to adjust your approach until you find a way to compel your single contact to bring in the rest of their team or the real buying committee (even though that buying committee may not be aware that they are the group of people who will have to make the buying decision).

Keep trying until you break through the resistance and start acquiring the contacts you need to move your opportunity forward in your sales process.

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