Mark Shonka

Sales Tip: Influence

As sales and relationship management professionals, there are few tools more important to our success than our network. We look to develop coach relationships, uncover and gain access to decision makers, and deal effectively with gatekeepers. 

Another thing we attempt to do is align ourselves with key players who have influence on decisions and decision makers.

These influencers gain their influence in a number of ways: developing specific expertise that is valuable to the company, aligning or associating with decision makers and other people who have influence, acquiring authority based on title or position, and making visible and valuable contributions to the business. These are the people that are asked to lead key projects and task forces, who always get the budget they need, and who are looked at as change agents.

How can we uncover which players in an organization and/or in a specific decision-making process have influence? The best way is to ask our coach(es) who they feel are the key influencers. 

We can also ask questions like these in our research meetings:

  • What are the steps of the decision process?
  • Who are the people involved in each step?
  • Who will make the final recommendation?
  • Who does the decision maker look to for guidance?

When it comes to uncovering who in an organization has influence, your research is key. Work to understand the formal and informal organization structure, as well as the political environment in the company. Try to learn about key relationships and rivalries. Lastly, don't be fooled by titles. There are many examples of low title people who have higher than expected influence on a decision.

This topic is so key for us. Once we know who has influence, we can use that information to align with the right people, avoid the wrong people, and develop a better strategy for winning. 

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