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ATD Blog



Tue Nov 13 2012


Creating the Landscape of Key Player

Bob Ross is famous for being a painter, art instructor, and television host. People of a certain age, including these authors, remember him for his Joy of Painting broadcast, which ran for 12 years on PBS. Ross joyfully painted scenic landscapes, usually filled with “happy little trees.” Apart from his charm, what made the show interesting television was the way he created the painting. Beginning with the background, he added layer upon layer, moving toward the foreground. And just when you thought he was done, he added another layer, which made the painting richer and more detailed. Building a sales strategy is much like Bob Ross and his paintings. 

Beginning with the background, you add layer upon layer until you have a clear and detailed picture. And key players are part of that background. Who should be included? Obviously, not every player is a key player, because not everyone inside your customer’s organization is involved in every decision. Each situation is different, so each picture will be different. What matters for the picture is who is involved in—and who has influence over—a decision. This could be anyone and depends on many factors which change from sale to sale. But it usually includes people:

  • who have buying influence

  • who will be affected by the decision

  • who are influential over others.

It’s been our experience that not all of these key players will be obvious or explicitly visible, nor will you necessarily know them by name or title. It pays to draw on others’ expertise and experience. Top performers tend to cast a wide net at the beginning because they do not want to be blind-sided by the surprise entrance of someone they neglected.

The “picture” refers to the graphical and narrative depiction of how your customer is going to make their decision. Having it in hand will, like a carefully rendered blueprint, allow you to determine an appropriate strategy for moving forward. 

We Learn From Our Mistakes

We were once asked to submit a proposal for an engagement at the annual sales meeting for a major drug manufacturer. The person who contacted us told us they were eager to move forward because of tight timelines, and they indicated that there were two people involved in deciding which vendors they were going to work with. We knew both individuals and thought of them as an advocate for our solutions. What we didn’t know was that there was a third person—even more influential in this decision—and they were not an advocate. We had already booked plane tickets for our development meeting when we got the phone call that the deal was off. We hadn’t developed a strategy because we didn’t think we needed to. There were only two people involved and they loved us—or so we thought. You have to have a clear understanding of who is involved or you will not develop the right strategy.

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