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Who’s the half-wit?

If you’ve ever worked in B2B, selling into larger companies (middle market), you know the importance of getting as much of a view into your customer’s team and processes as early and as often as possible. They are very complex.

Obviously, this can be a bit of a challenge.

Recently, I was in a meeting with a large prospect, and we had successfully walked through their company and identified several of their stakeholders. The core of our offering is to help them better understand their customer’s journey through their entire enterprise from marketing to customer support.

A tall order…

We love mapping journeys so getting through our customer’s enterprise should be no problem, right?

Keep in mind around the conference table there were several of them and only one of me. During our developing relationship and time together we had come to a clear understanding of their current pain and laid out a solution to address it. I could see the light bulb moment around the table (a good feeling).

So, I asked, “Okay, data suggests there is an average of 5.4 people involved to get consensus. If we are going to do this for you [close the sale], let’s work through these individuals internally and map them using this process and see what happens.

To which the most senior executive in the room said smiling, “Well James, let’s work through the exercise, but then you’ll have to report back to let us know who on the team is the ‘.4’, and we’ll assume they’re the half-wit“. There was a good laugh from the group, and they began, confident it was “the other guy.”

When we were done with the short exercise, we had a lot of clarity on how they work and what we needed to do to successfully move forward without leaving anyone behind.

The lesson: never underestimate the power of asking. Always listen and work to understand your customer’s pain with a real goal of helping them succeed. They will help you as you help them.

To win, always take care of the customer.

Never use people to get a business win, but instead use business to help people win. It is always about people. Good business is merely the healthy intersection between the corporate mission and the people they serve. This starts with the team around the conference table. Everytime.

(Oh, and it turns out there wasn’t a half-wit. So we just rounded down – and they signed the contract.)


James Martin

I’m an innovative business strategist and leader who combines over two decades of experience providing technical consultation, human resource management, contract negotiations, new business development, and system integration management to lead start-up, turnaround and high-growth organizations through explosive market growth and unprecedented profitability.

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