Cutting the Red Tape Around Committee Selling

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Have you ever pitched to a committee or group, thought it went really well, then found out that you lost the bid due to red tape, confusion about the decision maker, or competing bids gathered to leverage lower pricing?

You aren’t alone!

Recently, I was speaking with a friend and colleague who noted that over the past four or five years he has seen three, specific issues that have had a negative impact on sales and closing business:

        1. Increased management of the decision and proposal processes by a board and/or committee and ultimately managed by Procurement, Purchasing or Sourcing.  

In some cases all of the members of the committee are never identified until the end of the final presentation, and/or specific rules of engagement restrict direct contact except through the “Proposal Manager.”  

This is challenge because there is no economic buyer to focus on or tailor your sales approach to, and new players may be added after all the “heavy lifting” is done.

        2. Delayed contract signature… even after a verbal “yes”

In many of the Fortune 500 companies, they select two finalists and then use the contract negotiation process to extract additional favorable prices, terms and conditions beyond the original proposal.  As a salesperson, this puts you at a disadvantage, trying to undercut another company to make all your effort pay off, potentially losing your commission, profit, and undermining your relationship with the client.

        3. Increased use/dependence on an outside consultant.

The reach and control of the CFO is everywhere.  Procurement or Strategic Sourcing is involved in every decision and in some cases in contracts less than $100,000.  Several consulting firms have beefed up their economic buying process and proposal management, including writing the Proposal.  

Consultation companies such as Alix Partners, AT Kearney, Deloitte, E&Y, and PWC all are heavily involved depending on their customer relationship and McKinsey is still leading many of the Business Transformations processes.  

All these extra people in the process bogs things down, and makes it challenging to determine who is making the buying decision. As a salesperson, identifying a consulting company’s role from the start is increasingly important.

In case you’re experiencing some of these challenges let me share my roadmap for successfully selling to committees. It’s important to understand who the committee members are, how they make decisions, who’s in charge, what their needs are (in priority order), and probably most importantly how they are measured.  

Here is a suggested outline to follow for a face-to-face meeting:

  • Welcome/Introductions
    • Share titles/roles/responsibilities
  • Ask about the committee
    • Why was it formed (Charter or Mission Statement)?
    • How long has it been in place?
    • How were team members chosen?
    • How is it measured?
  • Define the process
    • What does a successful meeting/call looks like?
    • Is there a compelling event taking place?
    • How will they make decisions?
    • What’s the timeframe for a decision?
    • What’s the competitive landscape?
  • Establish next steps…who’s going to do what, when?

This agenda template can be modified to go more in depth as needed, and I recommend gathering as much information on the front end as possible. The more you know about the logistics of the committee, the easier it will be for you to break through the red tape. Good luck!