How to overcome the third party veto in a complex sale
Following a strategy workshop that I ran with Watertight Marketing Accredited Consultant, Joshua Morse, there was some disagreement. Going through the Touchpoint Leak™ Assessment, Joshua rated – Leak 5: No Critical Approval – as Red, whilst the client rated it as Green. I’ve asked Josh to write-up the story of what happened next. ~ Bryony Thomas
Have you ever felt the pain of having a sale you thought was a done deal snatched away at the last minute?
Often this happens when someone other than the primary customer gets involved and throws up some unexpected hurdles. Anyone who can stop a purchase like that is said to hold a power of veto.
At work that usually means your boss, the finance director, or the MD. At home more often than not it’s your partner. Finding the person who might scupper a sale and winning them round is a clear way to increase sales. (In the Watertight Marketing book, this is addressed in detail in Chapter 7.)
Working out who can say no, and what to do about it
How do you know who holds the power of veto? And once you’ve found them how do you set about getting them on side?
I recently worked with a Watertight Marketing client who sells software. In the world of IT the software was very low cost and it was cloud based, so users didn’t necessarily have to involve IT. This meant buyers could pay the monthly fee on a credit card, and access the software online, without any alarm bells ringing in corporate IT or Finance. Or, so they thought…
The business thought that customers were working around the risk of veto. So, the idea that we lay out a trail of information for managing directors, finance directors, and heaven forbid the bods in IT. This was seen ask as a risk. they thought that if we highlighted the product to these people, the chance of veto would increase. I’m a fan of customer research, and this was exactly the right time to do some?
Don’t know who could say no? You could ask…
With a simple bit of research, we asked a decent sized group of existing customers who, if anyone, had to approve their decision to buy. The research revealed that in the vast majority of cases the purchase was approved by a business leader. So the myth that this brand operated under the radar was debunked, and we set about finding ways to engage with, rather than hide from, these powerful decision makers.
When we reworked the website and other materials we made sure they were peppered with messages aimed at those senior decision makers. Unlike the primary buyer who was seeking a simple tool to make their day job easier, these third parties were more concerned with data security and value for money. So, we addressed those issues too.
How to get a critical third party on-side
So, what else can you do to turn the person holding the veto into someone who actively supports the sale? The three key ways to do this are:
- You can produce specific guides for those people, for example a ‘Finance Directors guide to Marketing’ dispelling the myths that marketing is hard to measure and demonstrating the value it can bring.
- You can cut this guide up into blogs, case studies and other content, all of which can be sign-posted for the decision maker and using relevant social media platforms, groups and hashtags.
- Or, even better you can equip your primary customer with these tools to use when they sell your idea internally for approval.
The third of these is almost always the most powerful. In a high value sale you can even go so far as to help your customer with their business case or presentation to the board. Making them look good in the process won’t do your chances any harm at all. They take the credit… you take the deal!
Why not also look to place stories with relevant media so that the senior decision maker is seeing your solution and actively recommending it back to the practitioners in their business? For example, Finance Director, or The Marketer (there’s a title for practically every discipline).
Don’t hide from them, make them your friends!
So, why not take a little time to think about who might hold the power of veto over the sales you’re chasing. Find smart marketing techniques that reach them, and show you understand their concerns, and demonstrate you have the answers. This will enable you to keep the sale on track. And, if you do it right you can actually build a powerful advocate in favour of the sale, and open up another route for recommendation whilst you’re at it.
© Watertight Marketing Ltd
By Joshua Morse, Watertight Marketing Accredited Consultant. Josh is a strategic marketing consultant based in Gloucester. He has a particular strength in insight-driven product marketing and maximisation.