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Why Being Connected to the Right Power Base Wins Every Deal

“A Power Base is a powerful force within any organization, capable of reaching across departmental and geographical lines where each Power Base member possesses the strength or influence of the entire Power Base”

Jim Holden, Ryan Kubacki in The New Power Base Selling

Out of the nine Buying Decision Influences, Power Base rules them all.

The one at the top (the Enterprise Power Base) has the power to work outside the standard processes and can thus bend the other eight decision influences to a degree: They can define which Formal Buying Process is applied, put pressure on Formal Approvers or even overrule them, increase and decrease the weight of requirements defined by Technical Buyers, and even force an Economical Buyer outside their Power Base to align with their direction.

To make things more complicated, in larger customer organizations there are multiple Divisional Power Bases at play and one or more Situational Power Bases emerge with every buying decision impacting the organization’s target achievements. While the Enterprise and Divisional Power Bases are stable, the Situational ones are fluid with members coming and going as the business case of the decision evolves.

So as sellers we must deal not only with Economical and Technical Buyers, but also with Situational Power Base members officially not even part of the buying decision. Plus of course the competition also talking to these influencers.

(Next time you’re asked why the best salespeople are paid a fortune: Here is your answer.)

So how and when do we connect to the Power Bases involved in a buying decision?

Power Bases are built around a common agenda by which its members promote their individual agendas. The Enterprise Power Base is connected to the owners of the company and hence focused on shareholder value driven by top and bottom line improvements. Divisional Power Bases are focused on the success metrics of their business unit, e.g., a division, brand, geography, or function.

As a result, these Power Bases will always involve themselves in buying decisions with significant impact on the relevant success metrics, e.g., a decision on a corporate CRM system will attract the attention of the Enterprise Power Base while the decision on a regional CRM system will attract the attention of the respective Divisional one, in this case a geographic unit.

These more stable Power Bases will delegate one or more of their members into the emerging fluid Situational Power Bases to maximize their influence on the decision. These will exert this influence on Technical Buyers in defining technical requirements and on Economical Buyers in defining the business case.

As a seller we must connect to a Situational Power Base to gain influence on the buying decision. But how?

The ugly truth is: The later in the buying decision process we try to connect the harder it will be. Ideally we want to be present from day one, long before the process is officially kicked off. This is why the best sellers don’t respond to demand (opportunity-driven), but generate demand (opportunity-driving).

Initiating demand means we must front-load the sales cycle, educate the customer on our value proposition, link it to one of our Unique Selling Propositions (USPs), and connect to the respective Power Base long before the buying decision process is initiated.

Front-loading the sales cycle has a number of advantages.

We don’t have to make a decision on which Power Base to align with on day one. Instead, we can talk to all Power Bases and explore them in detail, who their members are, what the common agenda looks like, with which of them the competition is already connected and how.

Also we can influence the emergence of the Situational Power Base from the beginning, making sure our allies are involved, our value proposition and thus our USP is part of the business case, and the best Formal Buying Process for us is chosen (e.g., we will promote an RfP if we can strongly influence, ideally even write it, while we will promote just a Proof-of-Concept if we want to avoid visibility of the opportunity).

Being late in the sales cycle has only disadvantages.

The Situational Power Base has already emerged and we don't even know its composure. The competition has most likely already occupied relationships with their most influential members and we will have to undertake an enormous effort just to catch up with them. Our USP is not yet part of the business case and we will have to squeeze it in, worst case by throwing out discounts. We might have to fight technical requirements we can’t fulfill and try to change the scope of the business case against the Economical Buyer to leverage our USP.

So here is the winning recipe:

Make exploring Power Bases part of EVERY conversation you have with the customer and your ecosystem. Build hypotheses on the composure of Power Bases and check them against past changes in the organization. Build value propositions based on your USP and probe for their reception by Power Base members. Develop a business case together with an Economical Buyer and link it to the Power Bases’ common agendas. And only then pick the Power Base you want to be associated with. And stick to it.

If your analysis was correct your value proposition will directly link to the common agenda of the Power Base going to have the biggest influence on the Situational Power Base that has yet to emerge. Through this you will have a direct influence on technical requirements, the scope of the business case, understand the agendas of all engaged Power Bases and the dynamics between them.

Done right you’ll have competitive immunity and competitive immunity will secure your win.


For additional detail please refer to this Narrative.

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