Recently, while taking a new prospect through the selling process, one of our clients found themselves in a somewhat difficult situation. They had done a good job of penetrating the account and were dealing with top management, but had met some unexpected resistance. Although the top managers were aware of the problem our client could solve, and could recognize the value of the solution, they weren't totally convinced that all of the problems revealed had as much impact on their organization as originally thought. Try as they might, our client could not seem to "carry the day" and ended up getting stuck or "stalled".
When asked what should be done to resolve the issue I started with some questions:
Did they really have a problem that needed to be solved? Yes
Did they understand the impact of not solving the problem? Yes
Did they have money in their budget to solve the problem? Yes
Did we understand the decision making process? Yes
Were we talking to the people who had the most to lose if the problem wasn't solved? Hmmm...
There was a question that they weren't entirely sure of. Management was impacted by the problem and understood the financial ramifications of not getting the problem solved. However, the people that really suffered by "not changing" were actually the operations people responsible for getting the work done that was creating the problem. Although the managers understood the "financial" drivers I wondered if they were the ones that suffered "emotionally", and if some of the emotional drivers might have some financial impcat as well? Also, were there other problems that may be difficult to attach a value to that were not fully understood by management?
I praised them for their efforts in penetrating the account but suggested that maybe in this situation it might help to work "down the food chain" instead of up. Go back to the client and suggest that maybe the solution was not as valuable as originally thought (taking this "non-selling posture relieves pressure and builds trust). Then, ask if there might be a chance to have a group meeting with the operations people and management together. That way, with additional input, we could determine that it might not be a good decision to move forward, or that there may be some additional problems that were over looked.
The problem we often see is although management has a financial stake in the decision they might not be impacted by all of the "emotional drivers" that are affecting other people in the organization. The intent of getting everyone together would be to create a situation that allows the group to identify problems together rather than putting people on the spot individually. Like "mob mentality" we often find people in a group get courage and are more willing to talk about problems once someone has started. Then, it often turns into a "feeding frenzy" bringing to the surface a much clearer understanding of some unmet needs and the emotional impact of the problems on the organization.
Following this strategy, our client was able to have a meeting and determined the operations team was dealing with problems management was unaware of. The problems were creating a difficult work environment and excessive turnover. Recruiting and training costs were huge and this became the information they needed to close the deal. Understanding both the financial and emotional costs is critical in complex sales with broad organizational impact.
Sometimes, all it take is a little "feeding frenzy" to make the sale!