Corporate politics can fluster a good sale, especially in the case where an end user is resistant to your products and services even though the person who contacted you says they really need the help. In my last article, I listed the top 7 most common resistance scenarios when selling into a corporate environment in which there are strong political forces, and I addressed specifically #1 below, the Resistant Purchaser. Click here to read that article. Today, let's look at the case where the end-user herself or himself is where the resistance is coming from. The very person that's going to use the product or service doesn't want it. Now what?!
Here is the list again:
Top Seven Most Common Resistance Scenarios in Sale
- The Resistant Purchaser
- The Resistant End-User
- The Resistant Problem Owner
- The Resistant Decision Maker
- The Resistant Outsider
- The Resistant Insider
- The Resistant Faction
The scenario goes something like this. Your good-intentioned contact tells you, "Gosh, we really need your service. It's been tough to get the stuff we need when we need it, before the whole things becomes a you know what." And you say, after much conversation, lots of listening, and asking good questions, "And given all that, do you want my help to make all those problems go away the first time, the right way, right now?" And they say, "I'd get started today, but there's one problem. The department boss, who you would be directly helping, hates getting help. Frankly, I think he believes that it's all on him to fix it, and any help from the outside might look bad for him."
Typically, this scenario manifests in the following way. Your contact mentions it to the department boss who either says 'no' right away, or worse, pretends to think it's a good idea so he appears open-minded, only to find holes in it later after you've spent a lot of time working on it for him. So how do you deal with it?
A common approach is to try to work with the resistant end-user to change their mind. However, one must understand the strength of their fear if you are to move them to change. If it's too strong, you won't get anywhere, particularly if they won't have a genuine open dialogue and are not open to change.
Another approach is to start with your contact saying something like this, "Mr. Primary Contact, given how passionate you are about this issue and given how much you think the company must solve this problem, I'm curious how many others in the organization care about this issue as much as you do." This will start to give you an idea of where the strength in the organization is to get something done. You might then ask, "Have you ever done something like this before, where you see the solution and others don't?" And then follow up with, "How did you get it done that time? Should we cut through roadblocks the same way this time."
When the product is "sold" to one person at the firm, who isn't the end user, and where the end user has said something that sounds a lot like 'no,' then find out where the political leverage is within the company and put it to work. There could be someone or some group that can move Mr. Obstinate where you couldn't. I know I'm going to get emails about how this is stepping on toes, and no one will ever do business with you again and so on. If this is an ongoing account that needs to be managed for the long-term, then yes, tread lightly and focus more on changing the mind of the end-user (or, if appropriate, stop wasting valuable selling time and move on, or get a referral, etc.).
If this is not an ongoing account, then to worry about stepping on toes is to lose the sale. There are important selling competencies at work in this example including the Hunter Competency and Sales DNA such as Need for Approval. Read about the 21 sales core competencies here. If you piss someone off because you did that, and you do end up losing the sale, you're in the same place you started. If, on the other hand, by taking a risk and telling it like it is at the right time to the right people, in the genuine desire to help your prospect's firm, you will have built trust and credibility because you demonstrated the bravery to risk jeopardizing the sale to do the right thing and you didn't let your own need for approval get in the way.
In short, when the end-user is resistant, if you can find a way to go around them, then go around them. If you can't get permission for that, you have mine.
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Photo Credit : Andrew Grossman