For months, and in some cases years, candidates for the Presidency that seek their party’s nomination crisscross Iowa to make their case. They go directly to their potential supporters. They are making a very big, very complex sale to a massive group of stakeholders, none of who agree on anything, regardless of the fact that they share a common party affiliation.
At a predetermined date, the caucus date, a vote is taken. But it isn’t any regular vote. Stakeholders gather and are given an opportunity to make their case for the candidate that they have chosen before a vote is taken. Passionate people make their pitch on behalf of the candidate in hopes of changing minds. Dispassionate people don’t show up at all.
The candidate with the most votes wins. But it is the candidate with the most passionate supporters that normally end up with the win. Their supporters are organized and prepared, and they organize and convince others.
Your dream clients have their own caucuses.
The long sale
Larger and more complex sales can take a long time to move from target to close. Just like a Presidential candidate, you have to use that time to work with the people that will make the decision to choose you. As more and more decisions are made by consensus, and as your client’s expectation that you have already built that consensus grows, you have to do the work that allows you to build your case—and your support—in advance of a vote.
You do this by meeting with stakeholders, listening to their concerns, and making your case. You do this by meeting with individuals where they live. You do this by eating with small groups of people where they eat. You go to them.
Ignoring or neglecting stakeholders does nothing to further your position. As is the case in Iowa, deciding not to invest in the hard work of building your case and building consensus will all but eliminate your chances of winning. Many of the meetings that you need to have in the larger, complex sale won’t appear on your sales process roadmap.
But this is where deals are won.
The sale begins when you are gone
Your dream clients have their own caucuses. After you have made your case, they continue to discuss whether or not you can be trusted with the big, important job that you are asking to be given. They discuss whether or not you have their best interests at heart. They discuss whether or not you are going to do what you said you are going to do should you be given the job. And, yes, they ask if there is a better choice.
Your stakeholders influence each other.
The people that are most passionate about you, if armed with your case, will sell you to their peer groups and make impassioned pleas to choose you—if they know you and if you have given them something to passionately support. The stakeholders that oppose you will make fervent arguments for your competitor, the one that they believe can best move their organization forward. These two groups influence the stakeholders that have never met you and don’t know.
You have to sell in a way that supports your case when you aren’t there to make it. You need passionate supporters.
Before the contest
Much of what we do in business-to-business sales is—and should be—directed towards winning before there is a contest. We work to stack the deck in our favor by creating more value than our competitors and by ensuring what we do meets the needs of as many stakeholders as possible.
Building consensus and building a passionate group of supporters is hard work, and it requires an investment of your limited time and energy. You have to spend time on the ground where your client lives. You have to build the consensus, and you have to build your passionate group of supporters.
Know that they are caucusing and, soon, they will tally votes.
Why is it important to know who influences a buying decision?
Why is it important to spend time with the people that influence those decisions?
What activities ensure that you have built consensus with the stakeholders that will determine whether or not you win an opportunity?
How to equip your power sponsors to sell on your behalf?