“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss . . .”
– The Who, Won’t Get Fooled Again
As we learned in my previous blog, Right Metric, Wrong People: The Sad Case of SuperSoftware Inc., any company that sells high-value products to large companies needs to confront an essential fact: not everyone at their target companies has the same degree of influence over purchasing-decisions. There are “influencers” (with seemingly endless ranges of influence), “decision makers” (who we think pull the trigger) and an assortment of other shady characters, perhaps best described as “red herrings” for their ability to soak up time and energy with no positive influence on sales. The most extreme version of the latter group can be thought of as “black holes.” By some measures, they account for 50 percent or more of sales costs.
If this weren’t difficult enough, in many instances individuals misclassify themselves, or perhaps more accurately, they fail to understand the degree to which their own organizational dynamics puts them in one camp or another. Very few people would describe themselves as “red herrings,” (if they do, well, that’s another reason to keep your distance) although executives are often very candid about their own ability to influence outcomes, if asked—a tactic that too few sales people employ.