It’s happened to all of us. You discover the “real” decision maker is in another location 3,000 miles from you and every attempt to talk to the decision maker is blocked by a stronghold gatekeeper. OR you’re redirected to one of the imposter decision makers.
If you didn’t read my last article about “Are you absolutely sure you’re talking to the decision maker” read it here or watch the video here. The article and video outline 3 common problems identifying the decision maker and what to do.
In this article, you’ll learn what to do if you’re blocked from the decision maker.
Here are 3 ways to handle being blocked
As I’ve said many times before, the obvious is often overlooked. The obvious in this case is understanding “why” you’re being blocked. When I ask this question to my clients, the question surprises them. Most never considered “why” they’re being blocked only that they are being blocked.
My next question is “how” are you being blocked.
“The sales manager wants to handle everything personally.”
“They have a longterm relationship with their current vendor.”
“I was told the person I’m talking too can make the decision, but I don’t understand how. She’s not a middle manager.”
“We’re not his favorite vendor”
Let’s connect the dots with these responses. They all have a common thread. Can you see it? The common thread is each person thinks your proposal is a personal “lose”. And now your job is to find out why!
People will not advance your proposal if they can’t have a personal win. Yeah…politics is in play here.
For 6 months my efforts in getting in front of the decision maker for a large commercial airline was being derailed at every angle. I was selling group benefits at the time. Over 6 months, I worked on establishing a relationship with the VP of HR who handled overseeing the group benefits. Their main focus was keeping the pilots and the pilot’s union happy.
Although I was making progress with the airlines, the insurance broker located 2,000 miles from me began stonewalling. Months of calls, trying different ways to penetrate the broker relationship, I discovered two key blocks.
- The broker had a longterm relationship with the current carrier.
- At one time, my company handled a section of the group benefits out of another region and a claim had been mishandled for a pilot.
Instead of trying to work through the broker, I turned my sights on developing a working relationship with the VP. After being direct about the mishandled claim and acknowledging how our office would have handled it, the door started to crack open. As a result, I was invited in for a final presentation by the VP. Even though I didn’t win the sale the first time around, I did establish a working relationship with the VP and was invited back 2 years later when their group benefits were up for review again. I had established myself and didn’t have to jump through the hoops again.
The broker was never going to advance me and my company because it would have caused a rift between her and the current carrier. She didn’t want to lose. Had I not discovered this key piece of information, I’d still be scratching my head wondering what happened!
I burned my bridge with the broker because I went around her. I weighed the consequences. This one broker handled only this one account I was working on. It was very unlikely I’d work with her other deals. My relationship strength with the VP guaranteed I’d get another shot in 2 years. It was worth the risk.
When you determine why the blocker feels she is losing, you can handle it in 3 ways.
#1 Show the Blocker How to Win.
This is by far the best strategy. Start with this one first. When the blocker feels he/she may lose, change the perception to a win.
Change the blockers perception by showing her how she can personally win because she is a valuable part of the sales process but also by being the one to personally introduce you to the decision maker.
If you can show the blocker that you have something the decision maker needs, then show her how she will get the credit and recognition for making it all happen. When you bring value to the blocker, you’ll convert the “lose” perception to a win perception.
Your goal is to help the blocker see her value as the person that had the foresight to introduce you to the decision maker.
#2 Getting Around the Blocker
This is what I ultimately did in my personal story above. I tried everything to turn the “lose” perception around but the blocker was never going to severe her longstanding relationship with the current vendor regardless of the fact it was the best decision for the client. Sad but true.
The warning when you go around the blocker is you’re perceived as a Win-Lose. You can kiss goodbye any chance of establishing a relationship with the blocker.
So weigh the pros and cons carefully.
#3 Lose the Business by Accepting the Block
I know, you may be thinking…NO WAY! However, you may sacrifice the sale this time around to ultimately win it down the road.
Here’s another personal story to illustrate this point.
It was the end of the year, and my prospect was not only trying to meet year-end goals but going through a tough system upgrade that was taking up his precious time. He told me that although he preferred our benefits package, it was just too much to change vendors at this time.
My relationship with him was solid. I weighed the option of going to his boss direct by going around him. My final decision was to wait and take the hit losing the sale. Ultimately, the next year he didn’t hesitate to put the business with me. I waited a year but it was worth it in the long run for the sake of the business relationship.
Always weigh the immediate sale against the long-term success of the business relationship.
Do you have suggestions you’d like to share? I’d love to read them. Just put them in the comments below.