Red Flags, Show-Stoppers & a Train Smash

Here’s a concept that’s reared its ugly head for me recently.  What do you do when you encounter a requirement, stipulation or policy buyer-side that you know with which you do not comply?

When identifying initial needs, it’s quite common for the prospect to mention something that makes you aware that if the decision was on that one criteria alone, you’d not win. (No matter how trivial or irrelevant you may feel the issue to be).

The kind of thing is like when they say ‘it must be blue’, when you only have red.  It’s nearly always more fundamental than this though.  An example I was party to in S Africa involved (hold on to your chair…) religious conviction.  My self-employed pal Christian (ironic name given this scenario) was looking to do a deal.  The buyer suggested they sit down and consult his bible.  In a quest for spiritual fulfillment, Chris had once joined an evangelical sect.  This experience helped prompt him to flee the building immediately and run away from this particular red flag.

My first big boss instilled in me the need to get out every potential show-stopper early.  All part of qualification he thought, and if the prospect understands you’re trying to uncover all the worst-case-scenarios a strong bond of trust will build.  Subsequent colleagues have shied away from abruptness.  In analysis, I now spot the trend.  People with small pipelines ignore smelly issues.  Yet this is a vicious downward spiral, as surely you’re more likely to come second in such instances.  We’ve all won deals I’m certain where at the first meeting we thought it’d never fly, yet we managed to alter a key criteria away from doom.  But really, avoiding a future ‘train smash’ (as looming disaster in S Africa is often referred) may just avert a whole load of heartache (and lost commission).

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