Political sale 101
Most people who have been selling for a short time understand that there is a degree of corporate policy in every organization they sell to. As sales professionals gain experience and political skill, what they see in their accounts also increases. If you are not aware of the political activity in your accounts, it does not mean that it is not there. It just means that you cannot see it and certainly cannot use it. If your competitor is politically savvy, you are clearly at a disadvantage.
The winners have developed a range of skills that enable them to be consistently successful because of or despite political policy. They have learned to choose the right competing interest groups and then lead the wave of power and leadership to success by developing and implementing policy strategies for every major influencer and decision maker.
Being politically savvy will rarely lead to victory alone. There are many other components to be won. But not understanding and using the interpersonal forces within an account means leaving assets at fault.
Here are some of the key skills required to rise in the political sales arena:
Skill: A basic understanding of how corporate policy works.
For our purposes, politics and influence are synonymous. People need other people’s help to achieve certain business goals (i.e. my department’s project is funded) as well as business-oriented personal goals (i.e. if it is successful I will get an increase – I can afford this new house).
Inside a company it works like this: “If you tell me, I can just tell you to do something and you will do it.” That is SAY-SO influence. You will do it because I say that. But if you don’t work for me – let’s say you work in another department – it gets more difficult. Then I have to influence you to help me. I use the political influence. This requires a combination of skills and craftsmanship and takes time and strategy.
Here’s an example: Let’s say we both work for the same company, but for different departments. If I need your help to get my department to meet its quarterly goals, I could look for ways I can help you achieve your goals (ideally business and personal goals) and subtly promote them to help me. In this way we are aligned for a number of common, interdependent purposes. Win win.
Politics of the company
When you sell to a company, you have absolutely no SAY-SO about the buyer. You cannot tell anyone in your customer’s company what to do. You can only influence them to give you information, insights, coaching and preferences so that they influence others to view you and your offer positively. The best way to influence someone is to communicate clearly how and by how much you will contribute to the further development of your business and (business-related) personal goals.
In the diagram below you can see that if you can help a buyer or influencer achieve his or her personal and business goals (Quadrant 1), you are much more likely to gain engagement from them to help you win.