In the complex sale, there are typically about five stakeholders on average and sometimes many more. Every stakeholder comes complete with their own experiences, biases, and aspirations; each of which will have an impact on your deal. It’s pretty easy to spot your biggest supporters, but can sometimes be very difficult to spot your biggest opponents, especially if they’re intentionally laying low. Let’s walk through the five types of opponents or blockers:
Opponent Category: The Competitor’s Mouthpiece
Deal Risk Level: 3-10
Risk Level 3: If this person is an employee of the company who’s simply friends with your competitor’s sales rep, and they have no direct influence or authority in the deal then they’re a coach, at best. They’ll tell your competitor things about reporting relationships, internal challenges/rumors, etc. There’s nothing you can do to overcome this, it will have very little impact on your deal, and there’s no sense in losing any sleep over it.
Risk Level 5-6: Former customer of a competitive product that supports them purely because they’re a fan of the product and have seen success with it in the past or are simply comfortable with the tool. This person has real life experience with that product and their feedback will carry credibility internally, as it should. However, this desire for their tool is typically inwardly focused (for their own convenience) and is usually based on operational pain instead of strategic pain.
This person can be converted, but you must hone in on the things they like most about the other offering and give them confidence that you can also solve those operational pains in addition to….insert other things that solve their inwardly-focused challenges. Because if all else were equal and you can only match what the competitor does, they’ll still choose what they’re already comfortable with over your offering. If you can’t convert this person, then you must neutralize them, ensuring their feedback is deemed low value or is dismissed completely.
Risk Level 10: If your competitor has a true champion on their side (influence, authority, vocal) and this person is also a former customer who has seen success solving for strategic pains, you’re in for a fight. The chance of converting this person is almost nonexistent. You’ve got to get them outvoted in some fashion, whether that be through an individual with more influence and authority or through a group of stakeholders who, in aggregate, can overcome this person’s own influence/authority.
Opponent Category: Price Pest vs. Price Pain
Risk Level: 5-10
Risk Level 5: The price pest is someone who is almost purely shopping on price. These buying committee stakeholders self-identify quickly as they don’t typically ask meaningful questions and tend to focus on shallow pricing conversations. These stakeholders can be overcome pretty easily through data-backed ROI conversations. As long as you have a good value story, you can ask the question, “Are you more concerned about price or cost?”. They’ll typically give you a blank stare because they don’t know the difference. You then walk them through your value story and circle back to why they’re focused on price. If they still balk at pricing, they can be neutralized through other stakeholders.
Price: They literally don’t have the money in the bank and they cannot afford your product.
Cost: Always viewed through the lens of value.
Risk Level 10: If price is truly an issue and you stick to your guns with your pricing, you have a high chance of losing a winnable deal, which is really painful, especially if you’re the product they prefer. If there are true budgetary constraints, sellers cannot ignore those. They will kill your deal.
Opponent Category: The Pessimist
Risk Level: 3
This stakeholder simply doesn’t believe what you say your product or service will accomplish. They may not even believe your competitors and are simply “bah humbug” about the evaluation in its entirety. Do not spend too much time on these stakeholders. This person has probably been burned in the past in some fashion and is simply closed off for discussions. Try to hone in on those past experiences and show them how it’ll be different this time, but don’t waste too much time.
If they’re not being receptive at all, then simply neutralize them. A statement or question to another influential buying group stakeholder like, “Hey Jim, Paul over there seems like he was really burned in the past in this regard and doesn’t seem receptive to any solution, let alone objectively evaluating what’s out there. How do you recommend I overcome that with him or maybe you guys are already addressing that internally since he’s clearly against the initiative?” Every situation will be different, and that statement won’t work for them all, but this is a nice & tactful way to plant the seed in others’ heads that this stakeholder should be dismissed.
Opportunity Category: The Opossum
Risk Level: 2
This is a stakeholder who is risk-averse and if put into a situation where they’ve got to provide an opinion, they’ll just simply agree with the majority. Even if their opinion is valid and drastically different from others, when asked they may simply play dead, like an Opossum. These personalities don’t typically make it into influential leadership roles, so their threat is minimal. Simply gain preference with the people around them and this person will match their colleague’s opinions.
Opportunity Category: The Politician
Risk Level 3-7
This stakeholder can consume a lot of your time and must be watched carefully as their loyalty will change with the wind. They value being viewed as important and typically have great “title” or “responsibility” aspirations, as opposed to true career aspirations. They tend to overuse their title, or are overly proud of it, or they tend to brag a lot about how much they’re responsible for. You might even be able to identify these personalities before meeting them because their LinkedIn profile is probably filled with every little accomplishment across every role.
Their ego is greater than their influence and, just like in martial arts, where you’re taught to use someone else’s momentum against them, the same can be done here. Figure out what makes them tick and stroke their ego. “That’s really impressive how you did A, B, and C, while juggling the responsibilities of X, Y, and Z. I can’t imagine how hard that must’ve been. How did you do it?” Then get ready for 15 minutes of them talking about themselves. Just sit back, listen, and show your shock/awe at the sight of their greatness. Throughout the cycle, you want to showcase how your offering will contribute to their greatness and their own self-centered aspirations.
This person doesn’t typically have meaningful authority but oftentimes has influence because they’re probably well-networked throughout the organization (visibility), so they’re still worth paying attention to.
The risk level range identified here is purely dependent on their level of influence and authority within the account. If this person also has influence and authority, they’re harder to convert or neutralize.