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Get Them All to Fill the Pool of Meaning

Every sales person dealing with complex sales has had the following happen. Your contact at a prospective client company agrees to sit down with you and discuss doing business.  You have a great conversation during which you uncover the company issues for which you can provide solutions.  Because you are a good sales person, you also uncover why solving these issues is important and the immediate and long-term financial impact that your solutions will have on your perspective client's business.

When your final proposal has been put together, you are thinking, "This is a no brainer decision for these guys."  Following the delivery of your written proposal or sales presentation, the much anticipated new business turns out to be a rejection.

After speaking with your contact, you find out that not all of the decision makers had the same opinions regarding what the most important issues are and/or the financial impact of solving them.

What likely occurred is that your proposal was not based upon information that resulted from lots of OPEN diologue amongst ALL the stakeholders. Rather, it became the catalyst for some diologue which may or may not have been open.

The poolImage via Wikipedia

The authors of Crucial Conversations would say that the stakeholders were not swimming in the same "pool of meaning."  There might be several casues for this inside your prospective client's organization. 

As a professional sales person or consultant, you must take responsibility for helping your prospects and clients "fill the pool of meaning" in order to make the best decisions possible.  You must also not allow people to waste your time.

First, develop the skill necessary to uncover the prospective client's decision making process.  What steps will they take?  What decisions will be make?  How?  By whom?  And when?

Second, boldly insist on access to ALL of the stakeholders before making a proposal in order to confirm their individual agreement regarding the important issues and the financial impacts of the solutions.  Ideally, this would be a conversation in person or perhaps on the phone.  Skype it.  Or even summarize your understanding in a memo and request specific feedback based upon the memo from each of the stakeholders.

When having the "access to ALL stakeholders" discussion, be prepared to coach your contact (who may have less authority than the other stakeholders) as to how to share the benefits of your request. 

Third, should their be any incongruencies among the stakeholder opinions or ideas that will impact how your solution is viewed, tactfully share your concerns so that they can be resolved.  If you ignore this step, you may as well not start down this path in the first place.

Finally, prepare your final proposal or sales presentation based upon the information you now have.

Now it should be a "no brainer" for your prospective client.

In a nutshell, getting everybody swimming in the same pool of meaning in the beginning will save time and result in better decisions for your prospective cleints.  To you, "better decisions" means closing more sales!

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