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What Do You Do When Your Sales Meeting is Going Off Track?

According to research by the CEB, the average enterprise purchasing decision requires consensus from 5.4 decision makers. This is a huge number and it isn’t even counting the various minor stakeholders who often influence the decision maker’s final verdict. Furthermore, it’s fairly common to participate in sales meetings involving ten or more participants on the purchasing side. The result? It’s easier than ever for sales representatives to lose deals in the structural chaos of large enterprise decision making.

As a sales rep, does this situation seem familiar? You are meeting with a group of people to establish a business case and seven people join the meeting. Only two of them actually have purchasing power, and it seems like the rest only have the ability to say “no”. They complain about every minor point you make and fight every value proposition you offer. For a salesperson, often feels like a no-win scenario.

In many cases, this buying dynamic is completely appropriate. Having more ideas and insights from more participants should theoretically improve everyone’s buying experience. The challenges arise when non-decision maker’s lose sight of the meeting’s goals and begin to take the conversation in nonproductive directions. Along with not being constructive, it also causes decision makers to second guess their decisions.

So how do you stop sales meetings from going off track? The name of the game is preemptive preparation. Here are a few methods that will help you address this situation:

Four Ways to Keep Your Sales Meetings On Track:

1) When the meeting starts, have your champion introduce everyone and explain the meeting’s purpose.

2) With the champion, outline the key points of the meeting and make sure there is a consensus from all participants before moving into the demo portion of the presentation.

3) Deflect nonessential questions to your champion. Have him or her answer the non-decision maker’s questions. Often, the non-decision maker will be more willing to listen to a champion than a salesperson.

4) Deflect the question until after you have built a strong business case. For example, when facing a nonessential question or concern, try stating something like “Great question! Let’s come back to that after we parcel out a use case.”

Finally, a strong salesperson should distribute a conversation guide to all participants at least 24 hours before the call begins. Along with preemptively answering basic questions, the guide should outline the value your champion sees in your solution. Along with getting everyone on the same page, it will also make everyone more confident in your organization and preparedness, which will result in less miscellaneous questions during your sales presentation.

Understanding the Motives of Non-Decision Makers

If all else fails, take a minute to consider the real purpose of the questions being asked. Remember, non-decision makers often have motives that aren’t aligned with the sales process, instead stemming from an honest mixture of:

1) Wanting to look good in front of the decision maker, “It’s important that I look engaged in this meeting.”

2) Wanting to feel important or look prepared, “By asking questions, I will appear prepared and invested in front of my boss.”

3) Combat nervousness, “I’m feeling confused and left out, and I need to find something to grab onto in the conversation.”

Remember, they might not actually want an answer to their question, but instead simply feel like they are being heard. Taking a second to acknowledge them can make a huge difference. Again, try to parcel out the question’s root cause, A simple, “why do you ask?” is often enough, though be sure to have a strategy behind this question.Remember, an unguarded open-ended question can lead everyone down a rabbit hole that doesn’t resolve or promote your business case.

Good luck!

Further Readings:

1) The Power of Transference in Sales and Customer Service Conversations

2) How to Construct Your Call Opener

3) Using Psychological Principals To Become a Better Cold Caller


“The Consensus Sale.” The Consensus Sale, CEB,