Should Detractors be on your Buying Committees?


By Dan Baron, Marketing Consultant at Heinz Marketing

Understanding detractors when developing your product or strategy is a practice as old as marketing itself. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t at least want to understand why a customer leaves or never arrives to begin with. But what about bringing those detractors in to your buying committee on an opportunity or project?

In the past we have discussed Best Practices for Implementing a Winning Account-Based Marketing Strategy, so start there if you’ve not done so. But if you’ve begun or been working with an ABM strategy, this is likely a concern you already have. But while it is understandable to fear negative input during your sales cycle, is there some value that can be added by incorporating those negative opinions in to your overall pitch?

What is a Buying Committee?

First, to understand the question, we need to discuss what a Buying Committee is and does. We discuss this topic at-length with our clients, and in blog posts like “Who is Really Buying?”, but a buying committee is a group of people who are responsible for the decision-making and purchasing process in a prospect account. They are usually composed of representatives from different departments in the company such as marketing, finance, and accounting. A buying committee can help your Sales and Marketing teams ensure they’re communicating with the people most likely to move the needle.

Who are Detractors?

Normally, when we think about ‘Buying Committees,’ we want only to think of Champions and Executive Sponsors. But Blockers and Detractors play just as much a role in the process. Detractors might hold a negative outlook on your product, your brand/voice,  or they come with baggage from a previous encounter with your company. More specifically, Detractors are often willing to share these thoughts with your team as well as potential prospects and champions during the sales process.

Many sales management and marketing experts may not identify these kinds of people initially as a member of a Buying Committee and they often try to keep them away from the process as a whole. But Is there a value to ensuring detractors have a say?

How Can Negative Opinions Help You?

    • It’s important to understand that even though you may not put Detractors in to the buying committee on your end, your prospects may be doing so. You have to assume the negative voices will find their way into the discussion, even if you don’t invite them. Being open to criticism and general “nay-saying” can not only help you appear more confident in what you offer, it may actually keep you safe from some common surprises.
    • Additionally, if you make Detractor concerns part of the decision-making process, you are actually setting your teams up for better success in the short and long-term. In the short-term, it helps you ensure you’re positioning yourself as not only a solution for those concerns, but you come with direct steps and guidance for how to overcome them. In the long-term, the more and more concerns your team gets comfortable addressing, the better positioned they are for any Detractors moving forward.

Will Negativity ‘Infect’ our Sales Process?

There are many ways to learn from a negative client opinion without mixing that outlook in to the excitement your Champions and Executive Sponsors exhibit. One way is to have a salesperson ask Detractors directly. This can happen after a demo but should likely not be handled during larger meetings. Small group conversations with Detractors will give you insight on how to improve your product but also how you position it. You can also use this information to create new prospect personas that open more research opportunities, to help make them more likely to buy your product or service in the future.

Another way you can learn from a negative client opinion is by having a service or marketing team member call up all of the prospects that had previously been customers and ask them why they chose another solution or product over yours. This will provide insight into what needs to be changed in order for them to come back as customers again, which likely will help address other prospect’s concerns and keep current clients engaged.


Sales cycles are long and can be filled with potential roadblocks. Having a Detractor on a buying committee can actually help progress the sale forward. Detractors are able to provide critical feedback that can help the sales team learn more about the buyer’s needs. Additionally, detractors can help identify any potential objections the buyer may have. By understanding the buyer’s concerns, the sales team can address them head-on. Ultimately, having a detractor on a buying committee can help shorten the sales cycle and increase revenue.