There are many ways to lose a deal; we all remember the spectacular flameouts. The one where the salesman was late, rude, unprepared, or some combination of those. The one where they forgot the names of the people around the table they were selling to, or misdiagnosed the pain point they should address. But what about the fatal mistakes that are much smaller, more insidious, and easier to fall into.
One of the easiest to trap yourself with is to Forget the Front Lines.
It is normal for you to have a meeting with “The Boss”, a C-suite or VP or Department head who is the decision maker you have to get to sign off on your proposal. What you forget though is they are the person who will be least directly affected by what you are selling (unless it is a new set of golf clubs or luxury vehicle). The Boss is looking to gain efficiency, productivity, ROI and bottom line. Your job is to show him how what you are selling provides those things.
However, along the way you’re going to interact with the receptionist or assistant, plus one or two of the folks who report directly to The Boss. What you can easily forget once you’re used to hobnobbing with the Executive Washroom crowd is that these folks on the front line are the ones who will really be the decision maker.
No executive will make a big decision without consulting with the people who will be directly affected–odds are you were in a meeting with some of them, or talked to them while waiting for the Boss to show up. If you weren’t on your best behavior with them, they certainly won’t be kind in their review of your product. Treat them just as you do the guy who has a watch more expensive than your car, and they’ll use their influence to pull for you. I’ve seen many a deal won or lost based on the way someone talked to a receptionist before the big meeting.
Don’t kill your deal before you get the chance to pitch it. Be as humble and respectful to the people who answer your calls and greet you at the door as you can, because they are the ones who really make things work around a busy office.