Building Consensus | WorkBook6

What to do when the answer is yes

By JT Benton

“I want to do this. But my partner isn’t sold. We’re prepared to move forward, but I wanted you to know that.”

A prospective client said this to Anna Lewis and I recently.

If you sell anything with a big price tag or a long-term commitment attached, you’ve probably heard something like this before. You’ve got a sponsor who is willing to put his or her neck on the line for you, but there’s a short leash and there’s already someone pulling on it.

You’ve got two choices

  1. Take the deal. Don’t let perfect get in the way of good enough. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. If you don’t believe in your own product enough to prove the doubters wrong, what good are you anyway, right?
  2. Work to perfect the deal. Win the doubter(s) over. Sell past the yes, and risk losing it all. Do this, and you have to be crazy enough to accept the consequences.

So, what should you do?

We asked this exact question on Twitter, in the form of a poll. The majority of respondents – 67% in fact – said they’d take option 1.

Building Consensus, and Getting to Yes | WorkBook6

Listen, there’s no ‘right’ response here – context is important and every scenario is different. If you sign it, as is, you do so with an immediate adversary on the other side – and a chip on your shoulder to do great work. Maybe that’s just what you need. If you hold off and work to perfect the deal, you’re risking the loss of good revenue. You might also be avoiding a potential problem, later on.

How you think about this might ultimately be colored by your own role in your company. For example, if you’re a salesperson, and you don’t involve yourself with client service after the ink dries, you might not worry about the mess that might follow. But if you’re responsible for both sales and service, you might think twice about it. And if you run customer success for your company, you’d likely want to take a more conservative approach.

Here’s what we did

We’ve seen this a few times, and we’ve navigated things differently each time. Our decision, this time, might surprise you. We paused – and then we ultimately walked away from a big, long-term agreement.

Here’s why.

WorkBook6 serves as an extension of our clients’ business development, marketing and senior management teams. These folks keep the lights on around here, so we go to the mat for them. But when it comes to inking our own engagements, we’re not as hard-charging as you might think.

When I learn that we don’t have near-unanimous support, I typically pause to work on that. Often, even if I have the support I need to move the deal forward, I still want to feel like there’s a consensus ‘yes.’ I know…not very sales badger of me, right?

Here’s my logic: we already have more opportunity in front of us than we need in order to be successful. If I stretch to add a relationship that’s not fully supported on the client side, it has the potential to set off a chain reaction that can impact the entire company.

Here’s how this could play out:

  1. Because the deal could be on life support from day one, we could slip into survival mode (which in my experience is, like, the worst way to run a business).
  2. There’s the potential to overcompensate, or ‘grip the stick too hard’ as Rob often says.
  3. No matter what, you’ll always wonder about if/when the nasty is going to come out.
  4. Finally, it might just make us all feel crummy.

We’re not into all that, so in this case, we thought it better to work from a consensus ‘yes’ – and better to pass when that’s not the case.

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