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When pursuing opportunities with your dream clients, you spend time learning. You learn about their business. You discover and explore their needs. You meet many of the stakeholders that you need to know to understand their needs, to capture and create a vision, and to win the opportunity. After doing this work, you learn a lot.

You can use all of what you know to build a strategy to compete. But while you are using what you know to compete, you should also be working to discover what you don’t know.

Who Is Missing?

It’s nice to know everyone that you need to know to win and succeed for your client. More of often than not, there are people that might help you during some stage of your sales process—if you knew they existed.

There are end-users whose feedback might help you design a better solution, one that takes their needs into account. There are stakeholders that own a business outcome whose needs might conflict with your solutions or who might help build consensus around your solution—if they knew what you were trying to do. And there are buying committee members who are often unknown until very late in the sales process, sometimes only showing up to a boardroom table during your presentation.

You can surely win an opportunity without knowing everyone that you should probably know. In fact, most of us do. But planning to win an opportunity means stacking the deck in your favor. The more people that you can help, and the more people that know you are trying to help create a better outcome, the more people you will have helping you.

And, if there is an obstacle who wants to prevent you winning an opportunity, it is better that you know them and how best to mitigate their concerns as early in the opportunity as possible.

What Is Missing?

Once you discover “who” is missing, you can often find out “what” is missing. With all of the information you gathered, there is likely more that is unknown.

There is almost always more that you can learn about your dream client’s business. Because you are responsible for owning the outcomes that you sell, the more that you understand their business, the more you can ensure that what you propose and deliver is going to work for your client.

I have found that companies fall into two camps. The first camp is keenly aware of the constraints that prevent them from obtaining the outcomes they need, and they make no bones about sharing those constraints with the salespeople they are counting on to help them. The second camp doesn’t accept that the constraints are theirs, and insists that the problem they have achieving results is that they haven’t found the right partner. When pursuing an opportunity, it is better to know and understand their constraints than it is to join the second camp and pretend that the constraints don’t exist.

There are some unknowns that some salespeople don’t even bother to uncover. They believe that they intuitively understand how their dream client is going to evaluate the companies competing for their business. They don’t ask how they are going to be evaluated, what factors are most important to a decision, and they don’t ask how the client is going to weigh all of those different factors.

It’s unhealthy to avoid unpleasant truths.

If you are going to win your opportunities, knowing “who” you need to know to win and succeed for your client is important, even when some of the people are obstacles. It’s also better to know “what” you need to know, especially when it reveals a competitive or strategic weakness. By knowing these things, you can plan, you can make adjustments, and you can change your strategy. By leaving them as unknowns, you can’t make the changes that will help you tilt the playing field in your direction.


Who is missing from our stakeholder analysis? In other similar deals, who else was involved?

Who would be helpful to know in order to gain a better understanding of your dream client’s needs?

What information are you missing? What, if known, would help you and give you a competitive advantage in pursuing and winning your opportunity?

Sales 2011
Post by Anthony Iannarino on October 27, 2011
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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