Selling And The “Peripheral Players…”


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For those of you who haven’t discovered the wisdom and insight of Tom Morris, stop reading now, go to Amazon, order any or all of his books. You will find so much wisdom that help you think about your, your teams, your customers’ success. Follow him on LinkedIn, you will learn so much!

With that as an introduction, Tom wrote a fascinating piece on philosophers of the 21st century. Tom thinks limo/taxi/Uber/Lyft drives are among the best, because of what they see every day. I added to the discussion with a perspective on barbers and housekeepers.

Tom’s observations got me thinking about the “peripheral players” we find at our customers and their importance in our efforts to engage customers.

As sellers, we are viciously focused on finding the “decisionmaker(s),” alternatively the “influencers.” These are the people, we tend to view as most important in our efforts.

But there are a lot of other people having, perhaps, peripheral or minor roles in the “decision,” but who actually have huge influence in our success. And too often, we ignore these people. Or even worse, we treat these people poorly.

Hopefully, we all know the importance of executive assistants. We think of them as gatekeepers and there are endless “experts” telling us how to get around them. But they see what’s really happening in the organization. The things that many people, in fact the people they support, don’t pay attention to, but can be very critical in understanding the customer and their challenges.

I can’t begin to count the number of conversations I’ve had with executive assistants who have shared their observations of the things that are happening in the organization. People who have key insights that bridge the gap of what we are being told, and what’s really happening. These people have been among the most important in helping me understand and create value with my clients and customers.

Another role we overlook (at least when we are face to face), are the receptionists. Some years ago, a sales person had a scheduled meeting with me. He arrived early, told the receptionist about the meeting, and waited a few minutes until I was ready. He used his time making some calls.

When time for the meeting came, it was about a 5 minute walk from the front lobby to my office. While he was walking to the office, the receptionist called saying, “Dave, you should be aware of how this person is talking about you and our company…..” Because this sales person thought this receptionist was unimportant; because he didn’t think he needed to present himself professionally from the moment he entered the lobby. He crippled his ability to gain my trust and confidence in his engagement with us.

Within our customers, there are so many peripheral players, that while not key to the decision, can be very important to our efforts. I can’t begin to count the number of junior engineers, plant floor workers, branch bankers, nurses, junior purchasing agents, junior accountants, and others that have been very helpful in our work. They see what’s really happening, they help give us a deeper understanding of those issues, what they mean, and how we can create greater value with our customers.

Some years ago Tom Peters and Robert Waterman familiarize us with the concept of MBWA. We might think of adapting this to LBWA (Learning By Walking Around.)

No one is unimportant, they may just not be involved in a decision, but each person can help us understand–and help us be understood.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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