Dealing With Challenging Buyers: The Antagonist and the Power Broker


In this post, we discussed how to identify the different types of buyers in a complex sale, and how to use the questions they ask to pinpoint what their buying concerns are.  Understanding each type of buyer’s decision criteria is key to winning the business.

This can be challenging, even if everyone involved is a relatively easy-going person.  But sometimes, there are personality factors that can make this process a bit more complicated.  That’s what happens when one of your buyers is a power broker or an antagonist.

The Antagonist

The antagonist is against what you offer.  This may be the end user, the technical buyer, or financial buyer.  Their opposition to your offering is not necessarily rooted in objection to you, personally, or your product.  They may object to anything that disrupts the current political power structure in their organization, or they may simply have a fear or hatred of change, period.

Some antagonists like to disrupt because they are also power brokers (more on that below).  An antagonistic power broker likes to display his/her influence for everyone, including you, to see.  For them, keeping people at bay is a power play.  This kind of antagonist typically has a personal motive in trying to block change.

The best strategy to outmaneuver the antagonist is to get the influencer, power broker, or financial buyer on your side (as long as they are not also the antagonist).  Also, seek to identify what the antagonist’s risk factors are and then work to reduce them.  Their antagonism may be from a fear that the change will place more risk or more hardship on their shoulders.  If this is the case, work to allay those fears.

I had an experience with an antagonist when I was selling IT services to a large gas utility. They were rolling out new client server technology to all their branches and did not fully know how to support it with internal staff.

The CIO wanted to keep moving forward with change, using outside service companies to do the implementation, but one of the area directors felt threatened with the change.  It appeared that she felt an outside company might “show up” her and her staff.  She tried to block my company getting involved with troubleshooting problems or strategizing for the new technology.  Her staff would not cooperate with my team, and when something went wrong, they always pointed the finger at my network engineer.

Fortunately, my client was the CIO, and I had great support from the IT Director (the technical buyer).  Whenever the antagonist’s team stalled my staff from getting a project done, I could appeal to the IT Director or directly to the CIO, who was the financial buyer.  Eventually, with much persuasion and leverage from the CIO, the antagonist stopped fighting us and started cooperating.


The Power Broker

This person has great influence with many other people in the organization.  If this person is on your side, that can be a great asset.

Some are power brokers simply by virtue of their position or job title, and may be quite friendly and open to you.  Some may have personal motives behind why they react the way they do to you and your offering; perhaps their own career advancement or other political reasons.

In other cases, the power brokers are not nearly as interested in the buying decision itself as they are in how the decision is made, i.e. with plenty of input from them.  This type of person’s motive is to maintain as much control or influence in the process as possible and to be seen as an important person.

If you have an antagonistic power broker who wants everyone to know how important he is, it usually doesn’t hurt to play along.  The best way to have the power broker on your side is for them to be the hero.  Ask to speak with him one-on-one.  Acknowledge his influence on the decision, and ask him what he needs to know to be comfortable with recommending your solution.  Use questions and share stories to help the him discover the solution for himself.  You want them to get credit for the idea of solving the problem through you.

Are you ready to learn the techniques that make difficult sales easy?  Contact me for a free consultation to discuss challenging buyers, or if there are any specific gaps within your sales organization, or even to converse in general over the obstacles you might be facing in getting deals closed.


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