Fable Friday: He got sick of the politics

A few years ago I had a conversation with a good friend who used to be the head of marketing for a nationally-known firm.  He had left the company some time ago and was doing consulting on his own. I asked him why he left such a prestigious job.  He said, “Oh, I got tired of all the politics.”

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedThis week on a social media forum I asked friends for their reaction to the word “politics.” Did it have a positive or negative connotation for them?  They responded overwhelmingly “Negative!”  We tend to associate the word politics with politicians, who are not held in high esteem these days.

Also, the word politics is often used to describe activities that are manipulative, misleading or just plain dishonest. You’ve heard, “that’s office politics,” or “let’s skip the politics and get down to it.”

But we should also consider politics as simply the art of getting along with one another in an amicable way, or the best methods for advancing our cause or point of view. The phrase “political correctness” describes the reasonable effort to speak in a way that does not harm or offend others.

If you are reading this post, it’s probably because you are involved in selling. Either you sell to customers now, or you manage, train or coach others to sell. And if you want to succeed in sales, you had better be politically astute and skilled.  You are trying to convince others within your prospect organization to align with your point of view, the superiority of your products or services, or your ideas on how they can achieve their goals, save money or some such other benefit.

Let’s look at the organizations you are trying to sell into.  They have a formal organizational structure, and perhaps you are familiar with their org chart, which tells you the people who have authority. But woven into that org chart where you can’t see it, is the informal political structure, and if you could see it you would understand that some people have a great deal of influence over decision-making.

Astute salespeople understand how to identify this political structure, and they create sales tactics that address it. This is not sneaky or manipulative practice.  It’s reality.

Consider the last time you sold your product to a big company.  Chances are you identified a number of different constituencies.  You had a lot of interaction with someone who did the buying, or met with vendors, and I bet you created a strong personal bond and built rapport quite well.

But it may be that your contact was not the decision-maker.  Often in workshops I get asked, “How do I extricate myself from my contact when he is not the decision-maker?” Or, “How do I get my non-decision-making contact to get me to the decision-maker?” (I won’t go into this here, but if it’s a problem for you, write me and I’ll show you how.)

So you have your contact, one or more people who will actually use your product (the end users), those who actually buy, someone in the organization who is acting as your coach or mentor to guide you through the process from behind the scenes, another person you may not have met who is a key influencer, and finally, someone in the company who hates your company because he has a strong relationship with the existing provider. Does all that sound familiar?

Good, then let me ask, in your current list of active prospects, have you identified all these players?  And if you have, what is your plan for gaining access to them, understanding their goals and position, and influencing their thinking?

This is a political problem, and one that great salespeople understand and enjoy solving. You can do it too. Just…

Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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