“Committees” are the mysterious black boxes of the sales universe. Sellers often assume they know what’s inside the box only to find that it was not at all what they suspected.  The word “committee” is often used to cloak a buying process in secrecy.  One individual’s “committee” is another’s team or group.  When executives are questioned about how they are going to render a buying decision you may hear some of the following organizational double-speak.

Are any of these comments helpful in defining a committee’s role involvement in the buying process?  The responses are so vague that it’s difficult to know whether this is an ad hoc group or a formal committee or simply a list of people who must “sign off” on a decision before a purchase is authorized.

Many committees are a formal part of the organizational structure. They may work under such titles as Quality Assurance Team, Buying Committee, New Product Committee, Technology Selection Committee and others.  Committees may be charged with one or several of the following objectives:

Understanding the Seller’s Challenge

Selling to a committee may present several challenges to the sales professional.

Five Harsh Realities of Selling to Committees

Getting Inside the Black Box

Committees are comprised of a number of people within an organization. In some situations, committee members can be included from outside the organization. A Governing Board for a not-for-profit hospital in a local community is a good example. Each member of the committee has a different title, area of focus, business and personal objectives, personality and preferences. People often act much differently in a committee than they do when meeting with sales professional individually. Within a group the leader or one influential person can change the dynamics quickly and unexpectedly. One person with specific expertise i.e. legal can shift positions quickly.

Before engaging a committee, the seller may find it helpful to conduct a discovery process that answers many of the following questions. Sellers may not always get the answers but the discovery process can be invaluable in building a strong sales strategy.

Committee Composition & Size

Committee Meeting Frequency:

Committee Charter:

Committee Process:

Committee Authority & Decision Dynamic:

Parting Thoughts & Key Takeaways

There are several key takeaways for sellers to consider in building an effective sales strategy.