alt text image of the Capital building at night

Legitimacy and Lack of Consensus

Note: This is not a political post. If your comments reveal your politics, I’ll most likely delete them. This post is about learning from what you see around you. The following statements are indisputable facts, not my political opinion.

The Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) was passed without a single Republican vote. The Democratic Party had enough votes to pass it and decided to take advantage of the opportunity to pass legislation they had long desired. There was nothing illegal about the way in which the law was passed, there is nothing in the Constitution that demands bi-partisanship, and the Supreme Court determined the law does not violate the Constitution. The President signed the legislation making it the law of the land.

Now, the Republican Party is using their majority in the House of Representatives to dig their heels in and resist the law’s implementation by trying to defund it.

These are facts. And they set us up nicely to look at consensus in our world, namely sales and change management.

Might Doesn’t Make Right

Even though you have the right to do something, and even though you have the authority to make a decision without consensus, in big decisions it isn’t often the best path. This is true for you and the contacts you sell to inside your client accounts. You might be selling to someone with authority, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need consensus.

If you haven’t had and experience similar to the political scenario above, you will. The problem with selling something without gaining consensus is that the stakeholders that oppose your initiative often dig their heels in, resist your initiative, and work to ensure it fails–and you with it.

You are better often taking the time to build consensus, to understand the needs of the stakeholders that oppose your initiative, to find some common ground, to make trade offs, and to mitigate the damage–including the damage to relationships with the individuals you will later be working with. The more complex the outcome you need, the more stakeholders affected, the more this is true.

Politics is politics. It exists in the United States House of Representatives and it exists within your client’s company. Politics is an ugly business in government, and it’s ugly business in business. Consensus and effective negotiations makes politics more bearable.

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  • Dan Waldschmidt

    BRILLIANT. I have been trying to figure out how to write about this political nonsense without coming off partial to one side of idiots (or the other).

    You nailed it: “Might does not equal right…” GREAT LESSON.

    Love how you think, brother…

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thank you, my brother. Difficult to be partial to one side or the other, plenty of blame to go around.

  • Guest

    I have just read the words our ex Prime Minister in Australia quoted the other day, wondering how to incorporate it into a sales message as eloquently as you have shared your political message. “It is a big step to take from criticising what you think is wrong, to working out and implementing what you think is right.” and within our customers organisation that, too, takes consensus and effective negotiations. Thanks Anthony

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      The criticizing is the easy part, isn’t it? The working it out part is where we are tested.

  • Amy McCloskey Tobin

    Interesting comparison. I’ve had another angle occur: you are selling, and specific stake holders dig in their heels because they don’t like change. Would that stop you from making the sale? Not me. What I have done in that situation is make the sale, and then work on bringing the adversaries around.

    Sometimes, the change the sale triggers is something they just won’t be happy with, no matter what. Then, we have to see where the cards fall. If what I’ve sold is indeed good for the company, the intransigents are the odd man looking out.

    Of course, during the implementation process I must deal with someone on the inside trying to sabotage the process.

    If, what I’ve sold is NOT the answer, well then, I probably lose a client and the adversary is gleeful. Sometimes, you just can’t get them all on board.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      In all things, I have found that persuasion is far more powerful than force.

      The investment in persuasion in front of big decisions tends to produce better results than force, eliminating (some) resistance, and producing greater alignment. Force creates resistance, oftentimes unnecessarily.

      The most effective people in any endeavor seem to find the third way. Especially in enormous decisions with equally enormous consequences.

  • Marty Wolff

    As a business coach/consultant I have seen this behavior in organizations for a long time. I feel however that we are all in such a hurry to respond to our Twitter message or some off the cuff criticism that the art and science of deeper thinking about an issue is in short supply. A lot of us are not thinking through our decisions and how they will impact those around us for more than a day. Slow down and take the long view. In my business and with my clients I am working on “going deep”.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Long view. Going deep. I’m in, Marty.

  • James

    Not sure I fully agree. Consensus is a nice to have . . . a bonus that makes things more effective, but it’s not always strictly necessary.

    Sometimes the best decisions are the unpopular ones. Sometimes the best results require strong leadership. Someone who thanks that, yes, this may ruffle some feathers, and some people may even quit in protest, but this is the right direction long-term for my business, so I’m going to do it and let the chips fall where they may.

    That’s the type of decision maker you want to work with. If you wait to get 100% consensus before doing something, you risk being left with watered down strategies as a leader, and likely no deal as a rep.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I mostly agree with you, James. Leadership requires tough decisions.

      But I don’t believe consensus is a bonus. Consensus doesn’t mean you get 100% support before taking the necessary action. It doesn’t require unanimity.

      In my experience, it’s taking the time to listen, to understand, to mitigate what’s possible to mitigate, and to work with people. That said, once the decision is made, you have to move forward.