Dealing with Influencers and PA’s

Dear Tony,

 I get many web inquiries from influencers or PA’s who have to report back to the ultimate decision-maker. How do I handle that without being rude and asking to speak to their boss?

This is a question I get very often in my sales training courses and it is challenging. You are right that you don’t want to offend them by either asking to speak to their boss or by going above their head anyway and contacting the boss. This is what I always recommend:

Once you have truly qualified the inquiry and found as much information as you possibly can, ask them the following question: “aside from yourself John, who else needs to get involved in making the decision?” Now more often or not they’ll simply respond by saying “my boss or the Managing Director.” Reply by saying “for my records what’s the name of your boss?”

Now that you have the decision maker’s name I would ask them “what will Bob base his decision on?” or “what are Bob’s three key priorities when choosing a XXX supplier?” Write down their words very carefully taking special note of the exact language they use to describe things. The reason for this is you can use those exact words back to them in your proposal or any future correspondence with them, which will give them the impression that you think the same as them. Remember: if we see the world through John Smith’s eyes, we are more likely to get John Smith to buy from us.

Depending on what product/ service you sell and the value of your offering, I always recommend arranging a meeting with the prospective customer. I would position it by saying “I really would like to meet you John as I value your thoughts and opinions; do you want to invite Bob along or should I speak to him?” This very assumptive question keeps the influencer or PA in the loop and embeds the seed that Bob the MD needs to be involved. Very often John will reply “I don’t need to be involved, however, I‘ll get dates that Bob is available and get back to you”. This is the answer you wanted in the first place. 

If John responds “I just want your literature at this point, as I am speaking to a few suppliers and Bob just wants to look at this before agreeing to meet anybody.” I would suggest saying the following “I understand that, however, my literature will not be able to answer both your and Bob’s questions as it is generic. Equally, John, you are an expert at what you do and I am an expert at what I do; the last thing I want to happen is Bob asks you some questions about my offering and you are unable to answer them. Alternatively, you may provide him with the wrong information which would affect the decision he makes. I would strongly recommend I come in and meet Bob to answer any questions he may have as a result of reading my generic literature and therefore providing him with everything he needs to make an informed decision. I am available to meet Bob next Tuesday or Thursday, what date is best for him?

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