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June 28, 2023

Half of stakeholders are hidden

An in-depth look at multi-threading in sales

One of the biggest obstacles we face in sales is the hidden stakeholders and multi-threading. 


Because they’re buyers who are operating behind the scenes and influencing decisions. All without sellers knowing about it, being able to support their different needs, or helping champions do it. 

Being in the industry we are, we talk to a lot of sellers (obviously), and the feedback we keep getting is that they are surprised to “find” twice as many stakeholders in each deal than they were expecting.

So we analyzed 1,132 Aligned Digital Sales Rooms (!!) and surveyed 53 sellers, and the results wowed us: the number of stakeholders involved in deals is actually 68% higher than what sellers typically expect.

The gap between their expectations and reality was huge. In small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), sellers anticipate an average of 3.2 stakeholders, but in reality, there are actually 6.3 stakeholders actively shaping decisions. When it comes to enterprises, sellers expect around 5.4 stakeholders to be involved, but the actual number averages at 8.2.

Clearly, there’s a big disparity between what sellers think and what actually happens in the sales process. And we need to fix it. The fact that the gap is 68% only makes it more urgent. It’s time to adapt our strategies to accommodate these hidden influencers and decision-makers.

As our team analyzed the data, several key insights emerged:

  1. Champions don’t always have full visibility of all stakeholders.
  2. Buying journeys are fluid; new people join throughout the process.
  3. Sellers can sharpen their discovery skills.
  4. Many buyers prefer to remain behind the veil of forwarded emails/materials, making a Digital Sales Room an invaluable asset for visibility.

Winning More Complex Deals: A Multi-Threading Guide

To uncover these hidden stakeholders and multi-thread effectively, consider these strategies:

1. The Power of Ongoing Validation:

Discovery is more than a single call. Validate on every interaction: Keep a tab on changes since your last discussion, monitor them in planned next steps, and track new stakeholders.

2. Embrace a Buyer-Centric Perspective:

It’s no longer why YOU want access to people, but rather, how THEY will benefit. Arrange key meetings to provide an overview of the potential partnership and address any concerns with them directly.

3. Realize the Broad Impact:

Recommend who to involve by asking who else is impacted by this challenge.

4. Leverage Your Team’s Strength:

The smoothest and easiest way to gain access to power is by using others. VP to VP, CxO to CxO. See it as champion support, not as going above them. Send a simple message from your exec to theirs early that conveys excitement about potentially partnering, their commitment to support the process, and opens the door.

5. Create Separate Paths for Stakeholders:

After a champion introduction over a call, open separate paths with key stakeholders. Just having them on a multi-participant call does not mean you have addressed their unique needs. Make sure to keep your champion in the loop and others. A Mutual Action Plan is a great way to do that.

Enhancing Stakeholder Engagement: Pro Tips

Tip 1: Tap into Group Dynamics:

Recognizing the difference between group dynamics and one-on-one interactions can revolutionize your multithreading strategy. People often put up a front in a group setting, but individual interactions can provide the real story. After each group conversation, send a recap to everyone, then forward it individually to each member with a personalized question. Follow this up with a call or text for a more human discussion. For example, if someone seemed hesitant during the meeting, check on them separately to see if there’s something you may have missed before. This will turn one large multithreaded conversation into smaller insightful single threads. Now you can get much more valuable, honest feedback on the hard topics, that would only have been revealed during “the meeting after the meeting” or “the call after the call”

Tip 2: Leverage Social Proof:

Effectively communicating the advantages of multi-threading to our buyers often involves presenting them with social proof, so you can help encourage their own participation in the process. Do this by referencing past successful collaborations, like saying “Last year when we were working with [company] their VP of Ops [name] knew he’d have a much stronger business case if he included the VPs of Sales and Marketing in the evaluation. On your team, would it make the most sense to bring in your VP of Sales/[name] and your VP of Marketing/[name]? Or would a different VP be better in this case?”

Put these social proof stories into a slide, with the previous buyers’ information, the problem they faced, and the solution achieved through your collaborative efforts. When buyers understand ‘what’s in it for them’ (WIIFM), you’ll completely reduce their resistance to multi-threading.

Tip 3: Advocate for Early Executive Alignment:

If a big challenge is being addressed, there’s a good chance an executive is driving it. Figuring out who the important players are on the client’s end and connecting them with someone from your team can actually make a big difference. So, it’s really important to do this quickly and get them engaged in the process. Getting this meeting set up early on, approaching it as a chance to explore a potential partnership and achieve two goals—getting the executives on the same page and equipping the client with all the necessary information to make the best decision—is a total game-changer. When you identify the key decision-makers and establish alignment right at the beginning of your sales process, you’ll greatly improve your chances of winning the deal.

Our analysis was drawn from 1,132 Aligned Digital Sales Rooms and surveys of 53 sellers, ranging from SMBs with 30-99 employees to enterprise-level organizations with 1,000+ employees.

Aligned Collaboration: The Future of B2B Sales

The B2B sales process needs a change – a big one. By identifying hidden stakeholders, refining sales strategies, and using platforms like Aligned, we can make this change. Watch this space for more insights as we go deeper down the ever-evolving B2B hole. 

And always remember, in this dynamic market, each interaction is an opportunity to learn, evolve, and succeed. Here’s to a future of B2B sales that embraces change, adapts, and thrives.

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