alt text image of a fancy dinner setting

Building Consensus. It’s What’s for Dinner.

A few days ago, Gerhard and I were talking about the differences between B2B and B2C sales. I noted that one of the major differences is managing the complexity of different stakeholders with different needs. One reader sent me an email suggesting that building consensus isn’t that complex or complicated. I would that this were true.

Building consensus is difficult. Here’s a real life example as to just how difficult it can be to build consensus.

I’m married, and I have three children. One of the most dangerous questions I can ask in my house is “Where do you want to go for dinner?” The boy predominantly eats hamburgers, French fries, and pizza. At 14 years old, he’s 6’1″ and always hungry. Unless a restaurant serves the very few items that he eats, it won’t even make it onto his radar.

My youngest twin daughter will likely choose Canes, some sort of awful, fast food chicken place. The oldest twin daughter, thankfully, will be grateful to be taken to any restaurant. But if she has her choice it’s going to be the Japanese steak house (or someplace even more expensive). My wife won’t want to be forced to decide. She won’t really even want to participate in a conversation about dinner plans. She’s happiest when I have already decided where were eating and have made the arrangements.

And, I’m the economic buyer, so even though I want everyone to be happy, ultimately I get to cast the deciding vote. It’s also likely that I’m driving, and that counts for a lot, too.

So how do you gain consensus? Even though everyone agrees that they want to eat, no one agrees on where or what we’re going to eat. If our house looks anything like yours, you spend as much trying to decide where to eat as you do actually dining.

Your clients go through a similar exercise.

Some group of stakeholders sees things one way, and another group sees things differently. What makes one group happy sometimes makes another group miserable. Sometimes you can find a middle ground, but even though both groups are content, neither group is really happy. Sometimes the economic buyer steps in and makes the decision because they’re the one with the checkbook.

It’s easy to talk about consensus as if you’re always going to be to make everyone happy. In reality that isn’t likely. Nor is it easy to achieve. The more complex and complicated the deal, the more difficult it can be to build consensus. Sometimes even simple decisions can be made more complex by a small group of people who want something reasonably close to the same thing.

Questions

How do you handle the differing needs of different groups of stakeholders?

What do you do when those conflicting needs are in conflict?

How much influence does an economic buyer have even when someone else has a greater stake in the outcome?

How you help your clients manage this process?


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