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4 Types of Stakeholders Who Will Sabotage Your Deal (& How to Counter Them)

The more people involved in a buying decision, the less likely you are to close. Getting multiple stakeholders to arrive at a consensus is hard enough on its own, and bringing an additional decision-maker into the fold means adding a potential detractor to the mix.

As you’ve probably seen first-hand, there’s normally at least one blocker in every company — and they can do a lot to sabotage your sales efforts.

If you let these opponents run roughshod over the deal, you’re nearly guaranteed to lose. To help you avoid that, we’ve outlined the four major types of blockers you’ll face, along with the strategies you’ll need to beat them.

4 Types of Decision-Makers Who Can Sabotage a Deal

1. The Competitor’s Ally

It might go without saying, but any business making a purchasing decision is likely deciding between multiple options — and in many cases, the stakeholders you’re dealing with may be split on them. Your competition might have some very enthusiastic advocates within the company.

This blocker will usually try to undermine you at every opportunity — sharing exclusive insights with the competition, making it hard for you to get meetings with key people, or even going so far as to give other decision-makers false information.

The first step to neutralizing this threat? Figure out why they’re backing the other company or salesperson. Here are three common reasons:

  • They have a personal relationship with someone at that company.
  • They’ve used that company’s solution in the past.
  • A feature or aspect of the competitor’s product will benefit them specifically.

To figure out the cause, lean on your champion. Ask, “Why is [blocker] invested in buying [competitor]?”

Do some digging online as well. Research whether the blocker’s former company used the competitor’s product and investigate any LinkedIn connections between them and your rival company.

Once you know what’s going on, you can develop a strategy. Maybe you meet with them one on one to discuss the ways your product can help them individually or put their fears to rest. However, if they’re trying to help a friend out, your best bet may be to focus on the other stakeholders. There’s probably not much you can do to change the blocker’s mind.

2. The Penny-Pincher

A budget-conscious stakeholder might object to your product simply because it’s a more expensive option. They think they’re looking out for their company’s best interest by being frugal — but the cheapest option isn’t necessarily the most financially sound one.

If you want to deal with this decision-maker, you need to convey that your solution suits their company’s financial interests long term — get on their side by showing them that your solution will offer the best economic return.

Don’t beat around the bush — a direct approach typically works best. Send the blocker an email or schedule a call to “discuss your pricing concerns.” Open with something along the lines of, “On a scale from 1 to 10, how important is price to you?” You can probably expect they’re hovering in the “seven to nine” range.

Once you have a pulse on their concerns, you can acknowledge that your solution costs more, but that the extra cost is more than compensated for by long-term ROI. If you have specific literature, customer references, case studies, or other sales collateral that can affirm that, be sure to share them.

Point to the results and returns you’ve delivered for other businesses — especially if you have references for their industry peers or companies of similar size — and put to rest any concerns they have about the financial viability of your solution, beyond its price.

For instance, if you were selling a curriculum scheduling software solution to a midsize community college and one of the stakeholders you connected with had reservations about your price, you might say something like:

“We’ve worked extensively with institutions of your size. On average, our software reduces classroom scheduling conflicts at schools like this by roughly 60%. That shift in efficiency amounts to savings of $25,000 per year — which is more than our annual subscription fee and will cover our implementation costs in just a year. And that’s just one of several ways our solution will save you money.”

The beauty of this strategy: As soon as the blocker realizes your solution’s financial benefits, they might just turn into your most enthusiastic supporter.

3. The Non-Believer

Some stakeholders simply don’t believe your product — or anyone else’s — will work. They’ll repeatedly tell their peers it’s a waste of time to meet with you, let alone make a purchase.

Trying to convince them they’re wrong will backfire: They’ll end up more convinced than ever that your solution is a sham.

An indirect approach will be far more effective here. First, figure out why they doubt your claims. Have they tried a similar product and been unsuccessful? Are they used to a different strategy for solving the problem? Is the product too technical or complicated for them to understand?

Now, you can come up with an appropriate response. If they’ve been burned in the past, show them positive reviews and customer stories to prove your company is trustworthy.

If they don’t think the “new” way of doing things will work, use a customer testimonial to change their mind. If they can’t grasp the mechanics of the product, introduce them to an internal product expert or engineer who can explain it to them.

4. The Risk-Averse Stakeholder

Some stakeholders will block the purchase because it’s risky. They’re worried if they back your product and it doesn’t work out, they’ll lose influence or credibility.

Typically, this type of blocker won’t speak up until other stakeholders start voicing their concerns. That tendency makes it harder to spot them while you’ve still got time to win them over. Worse, they can be the tipping point for a buying committee to turn against you.

To protect your deal, look for potential risk-averse opponents early on. These are usually recent hires or newly promoted employees who haven’t had the chance to build their reputation in their role.

Meet with these stakeholders separately if possible to learn about their personal goals. With this knowledge, you can tie your product’s impact to their objectives. If they think your solution will boost their internal standing, they’re far likelier to have your back.

With these techniques up your sleeve, you can neutralize internal threats to your deal — and in some cases, even turn blockers into allies.

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