making a consensus

Making the Consensus Sale

Stu Perlmeter

We’ve all seen the bumper stickers in traffic: No message; just a cryptic number – 13.1, 26.2 or even scarier digits if you are a normal person who doesn’t run ultra-Marathons. Where I live in Colorado, you have to tackle something more impressive, like the Leadville 100 or the Triple Bypass cycling challenge to impress anyone at a neighborhood BBQ.

In corporate sales, the cryptic number you hear a lot these days is 5.4, referring to the average number of influencers weighing in on a major decision in an enterprise purchase. This is an actual, validated mean, stemming from some impressive research conducted by the advisory group, CEB Global. According to their recent book, The Challenger Customer, and the companion articles recently published by Harvard Business Review, including, Making the Consensus Sale, March 2016, Karl Schmidt, Brent Adamson, and Anna Bird, what we learn is that there is a new science of addressing this need for consensus, from both a marketing and sales perspective.

In the past, marketing and sales might have been at odds within a selling organization, often going in different, uncoordinated directions. The organization would just deal with it, and minimize the conflicts and disconnects as much as possible. The CEB work demonstrates how this new reality makes it imperative for marketing and sales to be perfectly aligned in order to succeed.

However, the key alignment is the one within the buying organization. After all, these 5.4 individuals, often coming from different departments or functional areas, need to ultimately agree on a definition to the problem, a preferred approach to solving it, and a best-fit “vendor” to help them.

The CEB work defines a persona-type character, the “Motivator”, who typically emerges as the internal consensus builder. If you’re interested in this intriguing science developed by CEB, I would encourage you to read the book, which is way too deep to summarize in a single post.

As a practitioner of Win-Loss Analysis in Enterprise selling, the part that I find particularly compelling is how sales leaders must deal with this recent trend toward a more “democratized” decision process, requiring consensus between influential people with disparate goals and values. If you accept CEB’s premise, managing an enterprise sales effort just got a whole lot tougher.

The game now includes not only recognizing the new reality, but organizing the effort around it, including training and accountability. The complexity is daunting, but ultimately necessary. And then there’s monitoring how you’re actually performing against this task. That’s where Win-Loss Analysis comes in.

Daunting as it may be, someone in your category is winning this chess game. Hopefully, it’s you – in any event, you have the tools at your disposal to find out who in your category is winning that game, and precisely how. In addition to understanding the full impact of the 5.4 idiom, you might consider how Win-Loss Analysis can deliver these answers.

Stu Perlmeter has been practicing Win-Loss Analysis since 1998, and would appreciate any questions or comments you may have. He can be reached at [email protected]

About the Author

Stu Perlmeter

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Stu brings 30 years of marketing and research experience to 1st Resource, which he founded in 1996. Stu’s primary expertise is in understanding the market insights that tie to success formulas for companies seeking to grow their business in strategic ways.