How to navigate the dynamics of multiple decision makers

Accounts where there are multiple decision makers can be difficult to manage. You might have one decision maker, even a budget holder, who wants to go ahead; while at the same time, others are blocking the decision.

If you’ve encountered situations where potential buyers have described failing to gain the support they needed, you are dealing with multiple decisions makers. Or if you’ve walked away from a situation thinking you’ve been talking to a decision maker when really they never were, then others in the organisation have probably prevented a purchase.

Navigating multiple decision makers isn’t easy, but it can be done.

There is a four step process for moving through this potential minefield.

Often, this is something to be considered when selling high-value goods or services. Usually, this tactics are reserved for sales that are big ticket enough to require several sign-offs with deal lifecycles that take many months or years.

However, depending on what you are selling and the size of the client, this is something business development managers are used to dealing with in smaller companies too. We hope these tactics prove useful.

Four steps for navigating multiple decision makers

  1. Map the account: Get a clear picture of who makes an impact on this purchase
  2. Rank decision makers, influencers in the company
  3. Determine power dynamics, structure and motivations
  4. Make the case to each of them in the most effective way possible

Now let’s break these down in more detail so that you can put these tactics into practice.

#1: Map the account

When it comes to understanding the dynamics at play when there are multiple decision makers, never assume. Always check. Ask the right questions. And keep digging.

Questions such as, “Who do you need to sign-off on this?”, and then, “And who do they need to get permission from?” are useful. Use company org charts, team bio pages, press releases, and LinkedIn to verify the information a potential buyer or influencer is telling you. Use the trust but verify approach.

Once you’ve got as much information as you can, make a map of those in the decision making chain.

#2: Rank decision makers

With this information, either using what you have been told or educated guesses to rank the decision makers. Make it a priority ranking so that you know who needs to be influenced and encouraged to make this sale possible. Try to have a clear understanding of the role of influencers in the company and how important their endorsement is.

#3: Structure and motivations

Now you need to work out the dynamics between those in this decision making group.

  • Who has more power and influence?
  • What are the individual motivations?
  • What is important to this group as a whole and as individuals?

Knowing why someone wants to buy something and why others may have different motivations will help you make a case that will be accepted collectively and separately.

For example, saving costs might not be a big deal to one of these decision makers. They might care more about other ROIs. Technical features might matter a great deal to influencers, whereas cost might a lot more to someone else.

#4: Make the case

Now you’ve collected and collated this information, bring together multiple layers of pitches. If you are presenting to a group, make the case on an individual level: appeal to each of them collectively and separately.

If, however, you are only presenting to one or two members of this official or unofficial group, make sure you’ve got a case for each of the others included in the pitch. Put these layers of arguments in every presentation and proposal. Whenever possible, email the other decision makers with proposals that highlight what they care about the most, to ensure each of them knows you are trying to solve their particular challenge.

After this, you can be confident that every effort has been made to influence the various decision makers within the group. You’ve made arguments that appeal to each of them. Now follow-up accordingly and hopefully this will land you the sale you need.