Third Party Influence on Buying Decisions

Perhaps one of the least anticipated issues you face when marketing is third-party influence on buying decisions.  I have been in this situation several times.  My prospect arrives at the point of sale and then announces they need their spouse, employer or committee chair to agree to the deal.

The problem is you are sending your prospect into a situation where they have to sell your offer to a third-party who has never met you.  Almost invariably, the answer is “no”.

Third Parties

The first question is: who are third parties?  These are people who have a veto over your prospect’s decision.  So, this would not include business owners, who recommend you or hold a grudge.  They exist and prospects may listen to them but they do not have a veto in the sense they can forbid a contract with you.

Broadly, there are two types of veto from third parties: domestic and business.

Domestic vetoes usually come from a spouse or partner.  These are perhaps the hardest people to persuade. If they are not involved in your prospect’s business, they base their decision on unrelated circumstances.   There may also be prejudice.  They may have no concept of commercial rates or not approve of coaching or consultancy for various reasons.  Actually it matters little whether their prejudices are well founded; the problem is you cannot reach them directly.

Remember too, if the prospect has doubts, they may consciously or unconsciously seek a veto from their spouse or partner.

Business vetoes come mainly through line managers.  These may be business owners, middle managers, committee chairs or even whole committees.  Chances of success are better here because it is possible they will see the value of your offer to their business and may have a budget for staff development.  With a culture of staff development, they may understand your offer’s relevance.

Prospects may play this card because they need a reason to delay their decision. So, be alert to the reason the prospect is seeks to postpone their decision.

What’s to be Done?

Try to get a decision at the meeting.  If the veto is really an issue, they may back out later but with a handshake and quick follow-up, with any luck the problem will come to nothing.  I have tried incentives for a quick decision coupled with a clear decision date.  I have not found this approach works particularly well.  Nothing beats a decision on the spot.

So, if the prospect volunteers information about a third-party veto, discuss how they intend to deal with it.

Sometimes it may be possible to meet the third-party.  This depends on what you sell.  If the third-party is in effect party to the deal, include them in the meeting and conversation.  So, if you are network marketing utilities, speak to both partners.  If you are selling something of benefit to a business, ask to meet with all the relevant people.

If you can’t meet the third-party, you will depend on the prospect to market your offer to them.  How can you help?  Can you speak to the third-party on the phone?  Are there documents, a story and/or a website that might help?  Agree a date to get back together and wait for the prospect to cancel!  Provide all the support you can manage and then write it off.  If by some miracle the deal comes through, the chances are the prospect really wants it and so makes sure they get the result.  So, make sure they do really want it.

Who Pays?

One final point for business third parties.  It is always possible the prospect could pay from their own money.  Many people say they don’t have the money. You are on far more certain ground discussing how they can pay than gambling on the whim of an unknown third-party.

At all times be professional and resourceful.  A prospect impressed by the way you handle this, is more likely to buy!

Please let me know if this is helpful and if there are any points I could expand upon.

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About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

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