Critical Factors in Selling

In using that checkpoint we urge you not to guess about a given individual’s degree of influence, but to consider the impact of organizational and personal factors that can serve to heighten or diminish influence. Here are some of the factors that we have found to be important;

Organizational impact:

Where in the buying organization is your proposal likely to have the most immediate and /or lasting impact? The answer to that question should point you to those levels in the organization where the degree of influence will probably be strongest. Those levels, moreover, will relate roughly to the focus areas of the buying influences. If your proposal promises to create an instant spike in profitability for example, the economic buyer’s degree of influence will probably be high.

Level of expertise:

Which of your buying influences are most knowledgeable in your company’s area of expertise? Which ones are our buying organization likely to turn to for inside advice? A head of shipping may have low overall influence in his or her company’s decision making but if you’re trying to sell a new line of forklifts it’s reasonable to suspect that his or her degree of influence may rise.

The three most important things in real estate according to the old saying are location, location and location. We won’t go quite that far with regard to degree of influence but the geographical location of buying influences is definitely a factor to consider. This is common sense. Say you’re selling to a company that is based in London and there are three executives who have to approve the sale. If one of them is currently stationed in New York, it’s likely that his or her influence will be less than of the others. Of course likely does not equal certain and you may discover through coaching that his or her influence is high. In that case your strategy might call for a flight to the US.

The higher  priority your single sales objective has for a buying influence personally, the greater likelihood that he or she will exert or at least attempt to exert –a significant degree of influence on the outcome. Perhaps  this is most obviously true for user buyers, because their jobs are most directly affected by the sales  proposal. But any buying influence can take a personal interest in a sale – especially if he or she sees it as an opportunity to defend or grow turf.


Protection of turf is an example of internal politics and those politics are probably the single most common and often the single most irritating factor involved in the ebb and flow of degree of influence. We’ll see how the identification of buying influences can be complicated by such organizational changes as hiring, firings,   and shifts in reporting structures. We’ll anticipate that discussion here by mentioning just one  essential   caution : whenever you’re looking at a customer’s decision making and the situation appears politically charged , it’s safe  to assume that you had better re-examine the buying  influences, and take a closer look at each one’s potential impact on the sale.

Before you take that closer look, however, you need to locate your buying influences in the first place.  You’ll do that now, in the second of our personal workshops.

In a strategic selling programme, the participants were in the midst of identifying their various buying influences when one of them, an energetic young man who had twice been the top sales representative in his division for the year, threw his pencil on the table and looked up with an expression of odd elation. We could see that his worksheet was covered with tiny Red Flags. You know he said. I just discovered something. I thought this was one of my best accounts.  Now I realize I don’t even have a prospect. I guess I’m going to have to do some rethinking.

We are delighted with his discovery and even more delighted at the conclusion he’d drawn from it.  It wasn’t hard to see why he’d been consistently successful. He was using the red flag element of strategy in exactly the way it was meant to be used: as a way of calling his attention to problems with the sale while he still had time to fix them. Consistently in our program the top sales commission earners, the people who regularly achieve 200 or 300 per cent of their quotas, are those who find the most red flags in their accounts when they begin their strategic analysis. It’s these   people who fully appreciate the value of the red flag highlighting system, and who consistently react to the discovery of red flags as this top salesman did, by committing themselves to reassessing the situation.

We use the term red flag because in everyday language it’s a signal for warning. That’s exactly how you should view those incomplete or uncertain areas in your sales strategy. You should consider them not merely fuzzy areas but areas of immediate anger, threatening to block your single sale objective. We use red flag symbol for the same reason the road menders or the coastguard use an actual red flag: to call your attention to a hazard before it can hurt you.

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