You think you need your power sponsor to agree that you are the best person to add to their management team, that your solution is best, and that they should move forward with you.
Not so fast! What about the rest of the organization that is going to be impacted by a decision to choose you?
Decisions are more and more made by consensus. You need to build consensus among all of the stakeholders who are going to decide (formally or informally) whether or not to buy from you. For our purposes here, let’s pretend that, including your power sponsor, there are five stakeholders. You might believe that you need three agreements. Three out of five is a majority, right? Maybe. Well, technically, yes, it is. But you may need more than three agreements.
Internal Agreements (and Disagreements)
Your power sponsor may need to get an agreement with one of the other stakeholders, let’s call him Stakeholder number 2. They may need to agree about how they’re going to deal with a challenge your solution causes one of them so that the other can get the major benefit they really need. That means you need your three agreements (or votes), plus this agreement between the two stakeholders. Now you need four agreements.
But wait! There’s more!
In the not too distant past, Stakeholder 2 torpedoed one of Stakeholder 3’s internal initiatives. Now Stakeholder 3 is withholding their agreement to buy your solution until Stakeholder 2 trades them something they need.
Stakeholder 3 did Stakeholder 4 a solid in the past. Now Stakeholder 4 decides to not only withhold their support for your agreement, but also to work on moving Stakeholder 5 into their camp. If there is no agreement from Stakeholder 3, then there is no agreement from Stakeholders 4 and 5. Now you need at least five agreements.
I don’t need to walk you through all the different scenarios that are possible with just a few stakeholders.
Building consensus is difficult, and there are all kinds of invisible forces at work behind the scenes. With five stakeholders, you may need three votes to make a majority and win the business. But you may need many more agreements. Unless and until you meet with the stakeholders and uncover whether or not you have their commitment, you’ll never know whether or not you have it. You also won’t know what you might be able do to help move their votes in your direction.
Look at your most complicated deal. How many agreements do you really need? (If it’s complicated, the answer isn’t the number one).
How do you discover the agreements that you need that our outside of a simple “yes” or “no” to your solution?
What are some of the obstacles to building consensus around a deal?
How many stakeholders do you normally need to win a deal? How many do you normally meet with?