Another element adding to the complexity of the selling process today is the sale of services and product systems rather than items. You probably don’t sell a line of widgets; you sell “widget-based interior manufacturing process solutions.” You don’t sell a bookkeeping service; you sell “digital financial management decision and accounting information systems.”
The more complicated the product, the more “experts” required to make a decision about buying it. And the greater the number of incremental or interim decisions that have to be made before the final order is placed.
One of the many pitfalls in a complex sale is the “whisper down the lane” problem. You’ve probably played that parlor game where one person whispers a phrase to the next, who repeats it in the ear of another person until “Mary is going down to see Phil” becomes “Mary’s gong rang on Sea Hill.”
This is going to happen to you and your proposal when a flak catcher says to you, “Mr. Big is too busy to see you now, but I’ll explain your proposal to him for you.” This is not a good thing. Not only is the flak catcher unlikely to get your proposal right, it’s a given that he or she won’t deliver it with the same enthusiasm and positive energy as you would. In fact, he’s very likely to start his pitch of your idea with, “I don’t know if you’ll like this, but.…” and go downhill from there. Remember, it’s the flak catcher’s job to say “no” to proposals, so he has to at least imply that answer to Mr. Big.
That’s if he takes your proposal into the inner sanctum at all, of course. Most of the time, he’s giving you that routine for the same reason a prospect says, “I’ll think about it” rather than giving you a simple “no.” It’s a convenient, low-risk way to get rid of you for a while. In fact, when you call back to see how Mr. Big liked the idea, the flak catcher can tell you “no sale” and blame it on Mr. Big. And you have no way of knowing for sure whether Mr. Big actually saw it or not.
This same problem is magnified when you’re forced to deal with a buying agent of some sort. They really have a vested interest in keeping Mr. Big in the dark about your proposals. And they will go to great lengths to make sure you don’t even think about going around them.
Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.