Often when you are working with a large group or organization there are many competing agendas as well as internal politics that, as an outsider, you are either not privy to or not savvy enough to fully comprehend. As a thought leader we tend to be somewhat idealistic. Here’s my stuff, here’s a group that I know I can help. In a perfect world we go off into the sunset together and make the world a better place. It’s pretty straight forward. Rarely do we live in such an idealized version of corporate life. It’s a simple observation, but one I feel we constantly overlook, especially when it comes to strategic selling: the client’s need is only a small factor in the process.
I’ve recently integrated a question into our enterprise sales process that has helped us better read the existing politics and more importantly win the business. I take a step back and ask who should have been solving this organization’s problem in the first place? Sometimes that’s an easy question to answer. A marketing problem belongs to marketing; a supply chain problem belongs to the supply chain group. However, many problems are not as obvious when it comes to determining who should have owned it and solved it.
A cockroach clearly knows that there is an infestation, but, the cockroach never calls the exterminator.
After I identify the cockroach in the process I make it a point to figure out how to make that individual an ally. Why do they feel threatened by the enterprise solution we are discussing? Why would they feel that they are to blame or are at risk if we are to move forward? If that doesn’t work it’s time to figure out who else in the group would hire the exterminator. This is often a senior leader that may not even be aware their team member feels threatened, feels responsible for the problem, and this actually blocks progress.
Once you’ve identified the issue and had the conversation it’s amazing how quickly the tides will turn. Often the leader needs to reassure the cockroach that they have full confidence in him or her and in their abilities. That it’s OK to go outside for assistance and that they are entertaining a solution because no one in the organization presents the same expertise and experience that you do as an outsider. In fact, the leader typically would prefer that because as an outsider you are free to speak the truth relative to your observations and what is needed to rectify the current situation.
Always be able to identify the cockroach early in the enterprise sales process. You’re an exterminator; if you’re selling to the cockroach you are wasting your time and energy.