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In a sale, even when you know who the stakeholders in the buying group are and what each brings to the table in the form of needs, biases, and personalities, your work is not quite done.

The task of communicating the right information to each stakeholder still lies ahead.

Changes to the buying group have fundamentally altered the way salespeople need to communicate with them. The work required to communicate with prospects in a meaningful way has blown up. This is a daunting challenge for any salesperson who already feels stretched for time.

Add to this the reluctance buyers have of making a costly and time-consuming buying decision, and it’s the recipe for a tough sales year. As Trish Bertuzzi of The Bridge Group said, “You don’t want to be solely responsible for buying something that hasn’t even been implemented two years later. Complexity and responsibility are the main factors in both scenarios.”

Luckily, there are rules in this brave new world. Salespeople who know these rules can deliver the right communications to the right stakeholders at the right time to drive consensus:

Rule #1: Connect stakeholders to each other

No, you can’t effectively connect with every member of the buying group. The good news: you aren’t expected to. Note this quote from a Harvard Business Review article, “Making the Consensus Sale”:

“The best way to build customer consensus isn’t to do a better job of connecting individual customer stakeholders to the supplier but to more effectively connect customer stakeholders to one another.”

Your team can avoid this mistake by providing tools and content that facilitates dialogue and consensus between the members of the buying group. How?

One way is to provide the information each stakeholder needs in one location. Even better is to link them to a source of that information but allow them the option of choosing which benefits and features are most important for them to learn about and then serving that to them, addressing their unique needs.

Rule #2: Begin early

You’re late to the party, and you don’t even realize it. A recent survey by CEB found that prospects don’t engage sales until they’re 57% through the deliberation process. In other words, consensus-building has moved to the top of the funnel.

This change certainly makes the case that consensus is not the domain of Sales alone, but will require a coordinated effort between marketing and sales.

Rule #3: Beware of over-personalization

On the topic of personalizing messages to stakeholders, the above HBR article offered this caveat:

“When individuals in a buying group receive different messages, each one stressing that an offering meets his or her narrow needs, it can highlight the diverging goals and priorities in the group, driving a wedge between members and hindering consensus.”

To avoid inadvertently driving stakeholders apart, use tools and/or content that unites stakeholders around common interests, but that can still prove value around the unique needs of each stakeholder.

A series of short videos that allows each stakeholder to watch content around what is important to them in order of their level of interest is a great way to be personal without over personalizing.

Rule #4: It’s not one and done

Gaining consensus is not a one-time event. Consensus must be gained and regained throughout the buying process. Your primary stakeholder (aka Champion, Mobilizer) must first make up their own minds and then work with you to help convince others. Therefore, the demos, presentations, PDFs, and other content you provide must take these needs into account.

This seems to resist the idea of just handing each stakeholder a zip file of collateral. On the contrary, it demands tools that will let you dole out the right messages to each stakeholder at the right time—a feat best managed via automation.

One survey finds that 53% of customers’ reasons for being loyal to one supplier/vendor is based on their sales experience. And this might be where technology can have the greatest impact on the consensus sale.

When sales teams can use sales technology to automate the distribution of personal, unique content to stakeholders, it allows you to close deals faster and helps the buying group align. When it’s a consensus sale, no one needs to take the fall for buying something ineffective.

With this kind of collaboration happening, you will not only secure that coveted sale, but also a loyal, happy customer in the long term.

Today’s article is a co-written guest post by Consensus.

matt-sst-headshotMatt Behrend, Co-Founder and CRO



brett-smart-selling-headshotBrett Merritt, Director of Content Marketing