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Companies Don’t Make Decisions. People Make Decisions.

It’s the most natural thing in the world to use the company’s name when you talk about losing a deal. It’s easy to attribute the loss of the opportunity to a decision that the company made. You might say something like, “Acme went with our competitor.” Or maybe, “Can you believe that XYZ Company chose someone else?” But companies don’t make decisions. People acting as their agents make those decisions. People make decisions.

It makes it feel a lot less personal when you use the company’s name. It takes the human element out of the equation. But it was human beings that made the decision. And it was another human being (or group of them) that beat you. And that idea should be enough to get you thinking about how you sell.

You Aren’t Selling to a Company

Think back over the last couple of deals you lost. Think especially about the deals that you were in a position to win. Who really made the decision to go with your competitor or to stick with the status quo? It wasn’t the company. It was some stakeholder or some group of stakeholders, wasn’t it? Do you know which stakeholders made that decision or led the buying committee in another direction?

It’s easy to forget that you are selling to individuals. It’s easy to forget that you are selling to a group that is made up of individuals. It’s easy to find yourself deep into your sales process with a powerful sponsor that supports you and your solution only to discover later that there were many more people involved in the decision, some of whom you weren’t aware of at all.

Now think about your current pipeline. Do you know all of the people involved in the decision to choose you and your solution over your competitor’s?

What Individuals Want

What the individual stakeholders within your dream client want from you is . . . individual. Sure they are all part of the same company. Many of them are even part of the same team. But this doesn’t mean that they all want the same thing from you, your company, or your solution.

Some of these stakeholders need you to have certain capabilities in order to give you the business. They need you to deliver and execute so that they can deliver and execute for their clients.

Others will be most concerned with your ability to fit their operational needs. They need you to prove that what you do is going fit with how they do business.

If you are selling as a potential strategic partner, some stakeholders are going to be concerned about your cultural fit. Are your values aligned enough to make you part of their competitive advantage?

Some individual is going to be concerned about the financial part of your deal. Regardless of how well you sell and how well you fit, you are going to have someone that asks about the price.

Then there are trickier, stickier, political issues. Some individual may want to bury you because they have an axe to grind with your power sponsor. Some individual may need you to help them succeed so that they can make a difference, gain attention, and move up within their organization.

Sometimes it isn’t this complex. But these are real issues from real opportunities, real lost deals, and real won deals. I wrote them all here so that you could think about whether or not you know the people making the decision on your dream client deal and so you might consider what they really want.

If you lose an opportunity, it won’t be because your dream client company made a decision to choose your competitor; it will be because some of their people made that decision.

Questions

Think about the last deal you lost. Who really made the decision to go with your competitor?

Think about the last deal you won. Who really made the decision to choose you over your competitor?

How do you ensure you know who the people making the decision are before that decision is made?

How do you know what these individuals really want from you before they cast their vote?

If you look at your pipeline now, how will you work some of these differently after considering the people you are really selling to?


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