The Tangled Mess of Small Business Decision Makers!

The life of a consultant is fraught with people land mines. Example. I recently began the sales process with an $8M company. The sales call on the owner went well. We bonded and established trust immediately. My experience fit the needs of the organization and the goals of the owner. One would think that, given any skill at sales, I would close this gig. Wrong oh mighty closer!

Lurking in the back office was the “real person who ran the company.” In every company where I have consulted in the last 8 years there has been at least one other major decision maker beside the owner, president, CEO. These “behind the scenes decision makers” wear a variety of hats: HR manager, spouse, family member other than the spouse, partner, office manager etc. In this example the co-pilot was the person who ran the operation day-to-day. Do not pass go do not close until the mighty “real decision maker” is closed.

Here’s where the tangled mess comes in. Multiple decision makers mean multiple agendas hidden or open, needs, goals, turf to protect. The owner may have one goal in mind and is looking for the best person who can help achieve that goal; the other decision maker could have the following agendas to consider:

  1. How will the consultant affect my job? Am I going to be replaced? (Fear!)
  2. Will the owner still consult with me about the direction of the company? (Fear!)
  3. Will the consultant deliver what the owner needs? (Ah, the ugly mistrust element raises its head.)
  4. Will my power be diluted? (Turf protection!)

If you are selling into this situation you have to be completely transparent. If you, as a consultant, salesperson, marketing guru have a hidden agenda the back office decision maker will see through that and your tenure will be short-lived. If you are working in this environment as any of the above you’ll need to pick the brain of the decision maker honestly and with interest. Make an ally of them because in all likelihood they hold your fate in their hands.


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