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Selling to committees, oh my!

Have you ever sold to or tried to persuade a committee?  Do you “dance with the stars”?  Will you share one of your favorite dances with us?  Perhaps even educate us on how to dance this most difficult dance of selling to a committee? 

John F. Kennedy once described a committee this way: 

                        A committee is twelve men doing the work of one. 

Selling to the twelve to get a decision from the one; committee-based projects can be quite the challenge, yes?  It’s a business dance that at the end of the night can bring a disappointing ending for all save one, lucky sales rep.  But as sales professionals, we must face this dance because we dance for a living – while committees, well they don’t seem to get out much.  

In Corporate America today collaborative, decision-making processes are often preferred by business executives.  You know – get the team involved; gain buy-in; empowerment; leverage group-think; use all of these factors to obtain a better decision for their company.  Yep – form a committee! 

On the sales side?  We’re not as thrilled.  It isn’t the added effort needed to sell to a committee.  Rather, it’s the difficulty in working through a maze like a mouse when the members of the committee have different (sometimes conflicting) needs.  Makes it hard to find the cheese.  And the outcome to the company when committee members disagree on their needs?  Norman Augustine said: 

            A camel is a horse designed by a committee. 

The tempo of the dance can be different, too.  Sales people are sometimes surprised to learn how quickly the “psychological” buying decision of a committee is made; often very early in the sales process vs. at the end, after the committee has considered all of the competing vendors’ proposals.  Of course, the sales reps don’t learn of the decision early – we’ve just started to dance. 

Besides, winning a psychological decision is not the same as placing the order.  Many bad things can and do happen to the sales rep after “winning” the hearts and minds of the committee early.  Seems backwards so far?  Well committees have their reasons.  

First, committees like to use the ensuing evaluation activities to validate their initial decision; make sure they haven’t overlooked anything; CYA.  Second, the committee needs to find out if their executives were just being courteous about this project or truly sincere about actually spending the money and making changes.  Remember: 

            Not to decide is to decide.

                                                                            Harvey Cox 

Additionally, it’s at this stage of the evaluation process where “Sales Rep Stupidity” may enter the dance floor.  Sales reps in the lead might lose their position; become too aggressive; over confident; complacent; even lazy.  Or, the leading sales rep can panic and start to discount their deal prematurely; throw in added items; make additional offers; lose their tempo.  If they do something stupid, either the committee gains benefit or the competitor does, all at the expense of the leading rep. 

The trailing sales reps?  Well, there seems to be no end to the imaginative ways they try to change the mind of the committee – usually quite entertaining. 

At the end of the dance, only one lucky sales rep wins and the rest of us all tie for last.  We all get voted off – this dance is over.   Then it’s on to the next committee; on to the next dance.  

                                                                            GAP 

How’s your day?  When life gets tough you could get a helmet – or, you could buy my book The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective©  Please visit www.TheQuoteGuys.com.

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4 Comments


  1. Twiggy
    Sep 13, 2011

    At last! Someone who understands! Thanks for posintg!


  2. Audel
    Sep 14, 2011

    No complaints on this end, smiply a good piece.


  3. Erminia Reis
    Sep 22, 2011

    Hey there, You’ve done an incredible job. I’ll certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I’m confident they’ll be benefited from this website.


    • Gary
      Sep 24, 2011

      Thanks Erminia! And I appreciate the Digg, too. Thx, GAP

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