Saturday, September 12, 2009

Own the High Ground in Your Prospect's Organization

Every army wants to own the high ground on the battlefield. On the competitive battlefield, you want to own the high ground as well, don't you? How many times in your career have you lost an order because:
  • There was a surprise decision-maker lurking in the background?
  • Your competition got to a higher rung on the prospect's organizational ladder than you did?
  • Your champion in the prospect company got fired, and you were out in the cold?
  • Your champion in the prospect company got promoted or moved, and you were out in the cold?

In his presentation at a Chief Executive Boards International Summit, member Scott McMillian of Advanced Applications, advised, "Go Wide". You want to know and engage with as many people as possible at a prospect (or customer) company. And at as many levels as possible, right? So maybe it's "Go Deep", as well.

Yet working your way up the prospect's organization can be tough, especially if you have a longstanding relationship with a given contact. It's very awkward to make contacts above him without offending him -- he's likely to question your motives, and even perhaps undermine your efforts to do so. If he happens to have his own self-esteem issues, he may even see you as a threat.

So, what to do? The IBM selling playbook has a strategy for this -- "Meet the Boss". Here's how it works:

You plant this idea in your contact's head, saying, "Jack, we've been working together for awhile, and I think it would be good to make sure our companies are as well aligned as we are. How about if we have lunch and you bring your boss and I bring mine, so they can meet each other? And while we're at it, we'll have an opportunity to remind both of them what a great job we're doing for our respective companies." Who could resist?

Of course, you can play your way through variations on this theme. Say you're working with Plant Maintenance and you really need a contact in Manufacturing Engineering -- same thing -- "Jack, you bring your Manufacturing Engineer and I'll bring one of our Engineers. That way, we won't have either of those guys throwing rocks at our idea when it comes up for funding." etc. etc.

Meet the Boss can be played as many layers up as makes sense. Once the "bosses" get acquainted, then you can leverage it up one more notch.

And, of course, besides "Go Wide", be sure and "Go Deep". The more weblike the contact map between your company and the customer's or prospect's company is, the better. If any one of your champions on the other side bites the dust, you have multiple points of traction by which to rebuild a relationship with the successor. Time is of the essence, as well. The moment you sense a turnover situation with any of your contacts, swoop down to protect your turf on all fronts.

Here are some additional ideas on how to "Go Wide". If you have some of your own, please click "Comments" below and share them with others.

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Terry Weaver

Chief Executive Boards International

Chief Executive Boards International: Freedom for business owners & CEOs -- Less Work, More Money, More Freedom to enjoy it

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