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

Aja Frost
Aja Frost


The more people involved in a buying decision, the less likely you are to close. According to the "Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results," adding just one decision maker makes the probability of purchase drops from 81% to 55%.

With 5.4 stakeholders -- the average size of a buyer group -- the likelihood of a decision is just 30%. That doesn’t mean the prospect chooses your product: It just means they choose a product.

Why do stakeholders struggle to come to a consensus? As you’ve probably seen first-hand, there’s normally at least one blocker in every company (if not more). They’ll do everything they can to sabotage your sales efforts.

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

1) The Competitor’s Ally

A stakeholder who’s advocating for the competition can seriously threaten your chances of success. This blocker will usually try to undermine you at every opportunity: Giving the other decision makers false information, sharing exclusive insights with the competition, making it hard for you to get meetings with key people, and so on.

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 (either the rep or an employee)
  • 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 to rest their fears it’ll be hard to learn how to use your product.

However, if they’re trying to help a friend out, your best bet may be focusing 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. To get her on your side, show her the economic return of your solution.

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?”

She’ll likely give you a number in the 7-9 range.

Respond, “That’s common among my customers. I know [product] has a higher dollar value than some of the other offerings -- but that’s more than made up by its ROI.”

Then lay out the long-term value of your product, using case studies and typical results to drive home your point.

For instance, you might say, “Our buyers make approximately $5,000 more in net revenue every week after adding our white-label T-shirts to their e-commerce websites.”

The beauty of this strategy: As soon as the blocker realizes your product will generate the most profit, she’ll 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 your solution is a sham.

An indirect approach will be far more effective. First, figure out why they doubt your claims. Have they had 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.

Topics: Sales Strategy

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