How do you manage the complex sale? Selling into the Family

Have you ever had a situation where you met with your customer, you built rapport, you determined their needs and they seemed to be excited in your solution, but you still didn’t get the sale?

If so, you are not alone.

Many sales professionals have come across the same situation, only to walk away scratching their heads.

Selling big-ticket items or services into large organizations can be extremely tricky.

According to Warren Evans, Futurist and Service Excellence guru, “The Buyer is Dead”. He says this because in today’s complex world of selling it is rare that you only have one buyer. In fact, there are usually many buyers that can influence the sale.

The different types of buyers are commonly know as the Economic Buyer, the User Buyer, the Technical Buyer, the Gatekeeper and the Coach.

Think of it as as guy trying to not only win the hand of marriage of his sweetheart, but also winning the right to be part of her family.

Here is who the players are in making this complex sale:

The User Buyer: In business, this is the person who is actually going to use the products or services you are offering. (In smaller sales the user buyer is usually the economic buyer as well.) In dating this person would be your sweetheart. She has the power to say, “Yes”, pending Mom’s approval. She also has the power to kill the deal and say “No” as any time.

The Technical Buyer: In business, the Technical Buyer is the resident expert, who may get his/her nose bent out of shape and feel threatened. In dating this person would be the Dad. He has some technical knowledge of the services you may be providing and he would be looking to make sure that you have a legitimate, viable solution. Dad has the power to say, “No”, and may be able to influence the Economic Buyer’s decision, but the Technical Buyer doesn’t usually have the authority to say “Yes”.

The Economic Buyer: In business, this is the person who signs the cheques. The person who needs to sign off on the deal and the person who ultimately makes the decision. In dating this would be the Mom. She hold the purse strings in the family. She has the power to say “Yes” and influence her daughters decision. But she also has the power to say, “No”. (note to all of the men who believe that Dad should be the Economic Buyer, just remember that according to Eve Popcorn in her book “Evolution”, over 80% of all buying decisions are made by women. And I am reminded of a t-shirt I once say that read in big letters, “I am the head of the household” and in small print it said, “And I have my wife’s permission to say so”)

Gatekeepers: In business this is usually the receptionist or Executive Assistant. Their job is maximize the the other buyers time.  To learn more about working with gatekeepers visit to view my video. In dating, this could be the big brother or sister of your sweetheart. They can’t say, “Yes”, but they have the power to say, “No” by keeping you away from meeting the other buyers who have the power to say, “Yes.”

The Coach: In business, this could be anyone who has inside knowledge of that organization and its players. In dating this could be a friend of the family or even a family member that is on your side. This person is extreemly valuable because they can help you navigate the tricky waters and help you avoid any mines that lie beneath the surface that if tripped, will blow the deal right out of the water. The coach is the person who can tell you that big brother is a Van Halen fan and if you talk to him about that band, you will get on his good side. They can also tell you that Dad is a big baseball fan and if you talk about his favourite team, you can get on his good side. Or that Mom grows prize winning roses and if you make a fuss over how beautiful they are, she will like you more.

Each one of these buyers are important and you need to sell to all of them. Neglect one and they can kill the deal. Recognizing and selling to all of them will help you get the complex deal done, whether you are putting together a multi-million dollar deal, or winning a hand in marriage.


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