I had coffee with a client last week, and he told me this story. It’s true, and the lesson is worth the price of admission.
A Successful Win of a Dream Client?
My client’s salesperson had called on their dream client for a long time. As luck and circumstances would have it, she developed relationships with a number of stakeholders. These stakeholders weren’t any old stakeholders. These stakeholders had the power to give her a deal.
This wasn’t just any deal, either. There was enough value created that this deal was a three year exclusive on all of the client’s business. In an industry where it common to share at least part of the business with your competitors, this salesperson landed a coup de grace, eliminating her competition for at least three years.
She couldn’t have been any happier. Her company was thrilled. But sometimes a win isn’t the win that it might be.
Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory
The contract took effect, but the orders never followed. For weeks there were no orders. Then there were months with no orders. In an effort to turn things around, the salesperson scheduled an appointment with her sponsors to figure out where she went wrong.
Her sponsors looked into the matter and, as it turned, the end-users were never consulted before the decision was made and the contract was signed. Oh, they knew about the decision and the contractual obligation. They just decided to dig their heels in and place orders with the salesperson’s competitors—and they had the power to do so, contract or not.
Because no one ever consulted with these end-users before a decision was made, the end-users weren’t provided with what they needed to be completely confident in making the transition. These end-user stakeholders had stakeholders of their own, namely the business’s customers. These end-users needed to be provided with information to share with their customers as to why the change was being made.
Since the information wasn’t provided, they continued doing business as usual. For three, long, non-revenue generating months.
Fortunately, this story has a mostly happy ending. After meeting with the end users, the salesperson and her team discovered what she needed to provide them in order for them to make the transition to her product. Once they were provided what they needed, the exclusive contract was honored, and she now has 100% wallet share for three years—or, what’s left of her three years.
The unfortunate fact is that she lost three months of revenue, and so did her company. The client lost three months of the benefits of the exclusive contract to which they had agreed.
It’s true that these kinds of things can happen. But they don’t have to, and they can be prevented or minimized.
There isn’t any benefit to be had by ignoring the needs of stakeholders, especially the end-users. They can drag their feet until they get what they want, like the stakeholders did in this case, but they can also do much worse. If they really want to, they can ensure that your change initiative fails. Even though it isn’t easy to build consensus, it must be your preferred first choice when it comes to a complex sale.
Ignoring people proves to them that you don’t believe that they are important. It proves that you don’t care about them or their needs. You shouldn’t expect to win friends and influence people by mistreating them, and doing so comes at too high a cost. Ignoring people costs you their trust, and it can cost you much, much more.
How do ensure that you are not ignoring stakeholders as you pursue an opportunity?
What message does it send when you exclude a group of people that will be affected by the decision to choose you and your solution?
How much easier is to create buy-in around you and your solution before a decision is made?
What are the risks of forcing a deal on stakeholders who have had no input?