Welding & Gases Today | Q3 2021

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“M Jay Spielvogel is CEO of Venator Sales Group (GAWDA member), a sales consulting and training firm specializing in boosting Welding and Gas distribution sales performance. Contact him at: Jay@ venatorsalesgroup.com

y boss asked me to join this meeting, but I am not really sure what the purpose is.” Sound familiar? Your salesperson receives an inbound lead or secures a referral with a high-level decision-maker, and the prospect asks their team members to join the first call. In an environment where top decision-makers are looking to mitigate risk and drive consensus on buying decisions, quite often they will either ask to include or will simply invite one or more of their team members to early-stage meetings. In most cases, if asked, the higher-level stakeholder will say that the reason for including the others is based on efficiency since they will be part of the decision-making process. He or she may say something like, “Your timing is good. In fact, I would like to speak further and include a few of my people to join us.” Most salespeople and their managers see this as an extremely positive move that will shorten the sales cycle. “My prospect invited their entire team to the first meeting; we are in great shape!”

GREAT SHAPE, UNTIL WE GET ONSITE FOR THE MEETING Let’s think about the subconscious, but entirely rational reason the higher-level person is inviting the others: He or she wants to offset their own subjective interest-level and bring objectivity and balance to the situation. I call this type of thinking the “lawyer effect.” For example, consider what happens when you ask a lawyer to review a contract. The lawyer’s responsibility is to redline the contract, simply as a function of his or her role in the transaction. I am not implying that the requested changes 86 • Summer 2021

made by a lawyer in contract situations are not critical, but imagine paying a lawyer thousands of dollars to review a contract and the lawyer has no changes to the document; in fact, he or she says everything looks perfect. This rarely happens, as the lawyer must find challenges or their role in the process becomes irrelevant. Now, imagine a person being invited to a meeting by their boss. Quite often, there is a need to justify his or her presence at the meeting in the same way a lawyer does, by playing the part of the “devil’s advocate” and asking the tough questions. Most salespeople become so overwhelmed with enthusiasm that they fail to notice that the higher-level person becomes the silent one in the room, abdicating most of the due diligence questions to their team members. To illustrate this point, I was recently involved in a second meeting with a CEO and her regional manager. The regional manager contradicted and challenged everything the CEO shared with me in the first meeting regarding revenue-related issues and initiatives. Luckily, the CEO was resolute in her belief that they needed help and was willing to challenge him during the call. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In many circumstances, the deal falls apart due to a lower-level stakeholder who maintains the dominant and outspoken role in the meeting with a salesperson. “Complex selling is less about titles and more about politics, influence and power.” It’s not what happens in these meetings that matters, it is what does not happen. At some point in every complex sale there will be a need to meet lower-level stakeholders who validate the solution. Some refer to these people as the stakeholders that can say no but can’t say yes. The

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