Friday, 29 January 2016

Social Conservatism (An article in the New York Times)

I seldom take much interest in day to day politics, however I came across this excellent article in The New York Times today by David Brooks entitled 'What Republicans Should Say' which I believe does much to explain the gulf between left and right. But more importantly he refers to a speech by David Cameron in which he proposes solutions to ease poverty and hardship. The article is published in full below and link to the original at the bottom.


For a few decades, American and British conservatism marched in tandem. Thatcher was philosophically akin to Reagan. John Major was akin to George Bush.

But now the two conservatisms have split. The key divide is over what to do about the slow-motion devastation being felt by the less educated, the working class and the poor.

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have appealed to working-class voters mostly by blaming outsiders. If we could kick out all the immigrants there wouldn’t be lawbreakers driving down wages. If we could dismantle the Washington cartel the economy would rise.

In Britain David Cameron is going down another path. This month he gave a speech called “Life Chances.” Not to give away the ending or anything, but I’d give a lung to have a Republican politician give a speech like that in this country.

First, he defined the role of government: basic security. In a world full of risks, government can help furnish a secure base from which people can work, dream and rise.

Cameron argued that both sides in the debate over poverty suffered real limitations because they still used 20th-century thinking. The left has traditionally wanted to use the state to redistribute money downward. The right has traditionally relied on the market to generate the growth that lifts all boats.

The welfare state and the market are important, but, he argues, “talk to a single mum on a poverty-stricken estate, someone who suffers from chronic depression, someone who perhaps drinks all day to numb the pain of the sexual abuse she suffered as a child. Tell her that because her benefits have risen by a couple of pounds a week, she and her children have been magically lifted out of poverty. Or on the other hand, if you told her about the great opportunities created by our market economy, I expect she’ll ask you what planet you’re actually on.”

Cameron called for a more social approach. He believes government can play a role in rebuilding social capital and in healing some of the traumas fueled by scarcity and family breakdown.

He laid out a broad agenda: Strengthen family bonds with shared parental leave and a tax code that rewards marriage. Widen opportunities for free marital counseling. Speed up the adoption process. Create a voucher program for parenting classes. Expand the Troubled Families program by 400,000 slots. This program spends 4,000 pounds (about $5,700) per family over three years and uses family coaches to help heal the most disrupted households.

Cameron would also create “character modules” for schools, so that there are intentional programs that teach resilience, curiosity, honesty and service. He would expand the National Citizen Service so that by 2021 60 percent of the nation’s 16-year-olds are performing national service, and meeting others from across society. He wants to create a program to recruit 25,000 mentors to work with young teenagers.

To address concentrated poverty, he would replace or revamp 100 public housing projects across the country. He would invest big sums in mental health programs and create a social impact fund to unlock millions for new drug and alcohol treatment.

It’s an agenda that covers the entire life cycle, aiming to give people the strength and social resources to stand on their own. In the U.S. we could use exactly this sort of agenda. There is an epidemic of isolation, addiction and trauma. According to an AARP survey, one-third of adults over 45 report being chronically lonely. Drug overdose deaths of people ages 45 to 64 increased 11-fold between 1990 and 2010. More than half the American births to women under 30 are outside of marriage. Poorer parents are too strained and stressed to spend as much quality time raising their kids. According to the sociologist Robert Putnam, college-educated parents spend 50 percent more “Goodnight Moon” time with their kids than less-educated parents.

Meanwhile social support systems are fraying, especially for those without a college degree. Religious affiliation is plummeting. Since 1990 the number of people who declare no religious preference has tripled. Social trust is declining. Only 18 percent of high school seniors say that most people can be trusted.

There are two natural approaches to help those who are falling behind. The first we’ll call the Bernie Sanders approach. Focus on economics. Provide people with money and jobs and their lifestyles will become more stable. Marriage rates will rise. Depression rates will drop.

The second should be the conservative approach. Focus on social norms, community bonds and a nurturing civic fabric. People need relationships and basic security before they can respond to economic incentives.

But Republicans have walked away from their traditional Burkean turf. The two leading Republican presidential candidates offer little more than nativism and demagogy.

David Cameron has offered an agenda for a nation that is coming apart. There desperately needs to be an American version.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Pink Floyd's 'Shine on you Crazy Diamond' live acoustic cover by Mouth O...

Live acoustic cover of Pink Floyd's 'Shine on you Crazy Diamond' by Mouth On A Stick uploaded 8th December 2013 from their gig at The George and Dragon the evening before (link below). This is another live acoustic cover of one of my favourite songs by Pink Floyd 'Shine on you Crazy Diamond' performed by Mouth On A Stick (AKA Keith and Howard). Keith and Howard share the vocals - Howard is left and Keith is on the right.

From Mouth On A Stick's Lemon Rock page at

"Singer/bassist (Howard) and singer/guitarist (Keith) - both formerly of 80s rock band Liaison - renew their musical relationship in this energetic and fun acoustic duo. Performing a variety of hits and album tracks from the last 4 decades, the pair mix dual vocals with acoustic and bass guitar. Both talented singers, they share the lead and backing vocal duties during their diverse set of rock and pop covers.

Mouth On A Stick specialise in the eclectic. They are not your average duo - nor do they wish to be. Their set consists of a carefully chosen mix of songs from the 1950s through to the present day.

We think you will be pleasantly surprised by the song choice - from award winning pop singles like Elbow's One Day Like This and The Fear by Lily Allen to pop/rock anthems such as Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run and Won't Get Fooled Again by The Who.

There are also some obscure gems that you will undoubtedly remember but rarely hear these days. Brian Protheroe's Pinball and Dance With Me by Orleans being two such examples.

And just to keep you on your toes, there are a few classic album tracks like Fleetwood Mac's The Chain, from their million-selling Rumours album, or Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here from the album of the same name.

So please don't be upset if you don't hear 'Brown Eyed Girl' or 'Mustang Sally' - we like to leave that to the others.

Occasional guest appearances on percussion, guitar, vocals - and sometimes even saxophone, harmonica or piano accordion (!) by some of their talented friends, bring an additional flavour and unpredictability to many gigs."

They tend to play in the Herts, Bucks, Middx areas - for their full gig line-up please see their Lemon Rock page at

George and Dragon Website

87 High St, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire HP4 3QL
Tel: 01442 864533

Thursday, 25 October 2012

What's the best source for Famous Quotes?

"I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself." Marlene Dietrich

I love quotes and the reason I do is perfectly summed up by Marlene Dietrich above. 

Searching for Quotes

I spend a lot of time hunting around for quotes to help express something I’m trying to write about so I’m relatively familiar with what the web has to offer in this regard and I like to think I know some of the best resources out there; so I thought I'd write this post for anyone else who likes to use quotes for their blogpost or article.

My favourite website for quotations is probably not one you’d immediately think of - and it didn’t occur to me when I first stumbled upon it. You see a year or so ago I joined the Goodreads website (if you decide to join please do hook-up with me), which is best known as a great resource for book reviews and networking with other book readers. What you may not know is Goodreads is one of the best portals on the web for finding quotes by famous people and it’s compiled by the users of the Goodreads site – anyone can add a quote and there are thousands of them.


Finding the Perfect Quote

What makes it so easy to use is the way all the quotes are tagged by author and subject matter and accessible via a search engine; it’s a handy tool for anyone who writes content that they share with others: bloggers, journalists and authors who need quick access to a repository of suitable quotes for their work. To show you how easy it is to navigate here are a few images:

The Quotations landing page at Goodreads.

Some of the many tags for quotes

You don’t have to be a member to access any of the content of the website but if you subscribe (which is free) you get access to a bunch of nice features such as their Quote of the Day which gets emailed to your inbox.


Some of my Favourite Quotes

I couldn’t write a blog-post about quotations without including some of my own favourite ones now could I?! So here goes:

"Don't wish it was easier, wish you were better." ~ Jim Rohn

"It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious." ~ Oscar Wilde

"I'd rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and right." ~ Albert Einstein

"Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't." ~ Margaret Thatcher

"I see men, sixty, seventy years old breaking their balls to stay fit! What for? When I die, I want to be sick, not healthy." ~ Daryl van Horne (Jack Nicholson) in The Witches of Eastwick

"If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself." ~ Albert Einstein

"When you know what you want, and you want it bad enough, you'll find a way to get it." ~ Jim Rohn

"It never hurts for potential opponents to think you’re more than a little stupid and can hardly count all the money in your hip pocket, much less hold on to it." ~ Amarillo Slim

"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right." ~ Henry Ford

"Belief is the death of intelligence." ~ Robert Anton Wilson

"Being second is to be the first of the ones who lose." ~ Ayrton Senna

"Change your thoughts and you change your world." ~ Norman Vincent Peale

"I spent all my money on women, drink and fast cars and wasted the rest." ~ George Best

"Not a shred of evidence exists in favour of the idea life is serious." ~ Brendan Gill

"Success without honour is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won't taste good." ~ Joe Paterno

I hope you liked some of those. What are your favourite quotations? Do you have any favourite websites for finding new quotes? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

My 60 Second Interview

I was recently impressed with a new development on one of my favourite professional networking sites. They'd added a section entitled 60 Second Interview, with set questions which you've to answer as instictively and quickly as possible; (I'm a slow typer so it took me a bit longer than 60 seconds but my answers were the ones that came to mind straight away).

Before I get into why I think this is an interesting thing, here are my answers:

What was your first job? 

I worked as a Sales Assistant in a chemist called Belsize Pharmacy in Belsize Park, North West London, it's gone now and the last time I looked it was a branch of Boots.

Who's influenced your career most (and why)? 

I won't name names but anyone who knows me relatively well won't have a hard time figuring out who the individual is. The answer is one particular CEO who's grown a small firm into a medium sized global business through his single-mindedness, raw energy and focus. He might not be the easiest person to work for at times but he gets great performances out of people purely because he demands them and they in turn rise to the challenge. He's solely responsible for creating a culture of hard-work and uncompromising results which everyone subscribes to in his company.

What's the best piece of advice you could give someone? 

Be accountable. Try and foster the attitude that 'the buck stops here' regardless of whether you like 'the buck' or not. There's no point blaming other people or thinking you can't do something; really embrace that in your life, even when it seems like a tough thing to do and you'll give yourself the best chance at getting what you want out of life.

And surround yourself with positive people, work hard, have fun, finish what you start, take care of your health.

What's the skill you'd most like to have? 

I'd love to be a great, natural orator like Bill Clinton who can ad-lib his way through his speeches with apparent ease!

What's on your desk? 

My laptop, a phone... and I think that's it, not very interesting I'm afraid.

What's your favourite holiday destination? 

I love England for our history, but for beaches and turquoise sea, the Bahamas any day!

What car do you drive? 

Right now I have a Mini Cooper SD, in Alpine White (which is more ivory than white), with black roof, door mirrors and the classic stripes on the bonnet. She's (I call all my cars 'she') got great acceleration and the fuel consumption isn't too bad (but I still pine for a Lotus Esprit Sport 350 in white).

What are you passionate about? 

This could be a long list but it's probably summed up best as: live the best life that you can, make the most of yourself and your opportunities, work hard, have fun, value other people, spend your money, buy nice things, earn more money, be in control of your life.

Who's your business or personal hero/heroine? 

In terms of business, probably Jim Rohn though there are others; I believe Covey had a lot of good things to say, Will Smith for his positive outlook and work ethic.

What would be your perfect day away form work? 

Well I'd have my Lotus Esprit Sport 350 parked outside, it'd be a sunny day, perfect driving weather! Off to the countryside with a close friend, the speed cameras have taken the day off, long walk, pub lunch, scintillating conversation, a few drinks and in the evening a meal in a nice restaurant with friends to round it all off.

What's your greatest business achievement? 

Together with three others I founded a City sales team in one of my old companies where we were entering a difficult market with no track-record, no clients and strong competition. Within a year, through lots of hard work, judicious networking and leveraging everything humanly possible we'd built a £20m business, displaced numerous incumbents and won some of the most prestigious clients in the City.

What's your greatest personal achievement? 

Fun wise I reckon it has to be winning fastest lap time at a track day at Brands Hatch up against an all male contingent, haha :-) A more serious answer would be I think I've done pretty well despite having not had much of an education - but for all that, it's only really about what comes next, I'm more interested in what I'm going to do tomorrow and the day after that.

What's your favourite gadget? 

I'm not a gadget person and have never owned an 'I' anything... I may break this trend with the new IPhone V however. :-)

What's your favourite quote or motto? 

"Don't wish it was easier. Wish you were better." Jim Rohn

What's the best/worst quality in a leader? 

Well for me personally I need to work for someone who's competent, has a work ethic that I admire and good man-managment skills that inspire me to do my best work.

What would you choose as your last meal? 

I know this is a favourite question but food wouldn't really be on my mind at that moment!

What was the worst piece of advice you've been given? 

"Be sensible, you can do that another time."

The circumstances were that it was a risky but potentially very profitable thing I was contemplating doing. I didn't take the advice and it did pay off but even if it hadn't I wouldn't regret the decision I made.

What was your best meeting ever (and why)? 

Prior to an important meeting regarding a key piece of business with a key influencer, I'd predicted that despite my company being able to deliver real business value to the end-client, this person would actively try to make my company lose as relations were strained between our organisations at that time. Plus he had the authority and power to do just that. However my hunch was that he wouldn't want to be seen as overt about this so this meeting was all about neutralising that threat, which my CEO and I did. The 'how' part doesn't matter but a while later, after relations had been restored and the end customer was happy, the person in question volunteered to me that he had considered blocking our bid.

What's your favourite pastime/relaxation activity? 

Being with close friends, the activity is secondary.

What's your favourite music/musician?

Michael Jackson :-)

What's your all time favourite book (and why)? 

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, one of the few books I'm happy to read again and again. It's beautifully written, well drawn characters, evocative images, trials and tribulations, history - it's got it all.

What's the thing you hate the most? 

That's easy; losing.

What did you want to be as a child? 

A make-up artist or a vet!

What can't you live without? 

My lap-top!

Name one person you'd like to have dinner with (and why)? 

Bill Clinton - to see what's behind all that natural charisma and eloquence!

Tell us about a turning point in your career 

I suppose the moment I realised I wanted to be a sales-person for a living; for me that happened when I was young and in my first job - not exactly a turning point in my career as you can hardly call working in a chemist a career, but it was a pivotal moment nonetheless.

What was your worst job? 

I stacked shelves in a supermarket as a part time job when I was at school; and the worst part of that job was putting the milk on the shelves as some of the cartons always leaked a bit. It was always a very smelly, messy job that everyone disliked doing.

What's in your briefcase/handbag? 

I'm a girl and I like to be prepared, so suffice to say that my handbag is a mysterious place that no man and only another female would understand. :-)

What's the best thing about your job? 

Being able to believe in what I sell. I like working for a company that delivers on its' promises and has something a little bit different than everyone else out there. I work in a competitive market, over saturated with not much to tell between all the different firms so it's good to know you can differentiate yourselves from your competitors.

If you weren't in your current role, what would you be doing? 

It wouldn't be much different to what I'm doing; I'm a career B2B sales professional now and that's all I want to do; who I do it for is the only thing that would change.

What was your worst mistake (and what did you learn)? 

Not studying hard enough at school. I have plenty of reasons why I didn't, attending seven secondary schools was one but I would've loved to go to University.

What's the question you'd most like to have been asked (and why)? 

What are you most afraid of? The 'why' part is that I think it's potentially quite revealing and I'd like to know other people's answers.

My answer would be 'fear itself', only because I've learned time and time again that your mind has an unlimited capacity for negative imaginings which when put to the test are seldom borne out in reality.

My Thoughts

That was the interview and it was courtesy of the website which pitches itself as the "portal to bring your entire professional internet presence together in one place" (you can check mine out here). What I think professional networking sites and the like sometimes lack is a personal touch, and this interview invites a response which seeks opinion, fears, potential prejudices, pride - you name it; in short the emotional content, character and personality so often lacking in other professional portals. I think they've done a great job and hope you check it out and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

A Fish Rots from the Head Down

This is another excellent post courtesy of S. Anthony Iannarino which you can read on Anthony's blog - which is well worth a visit.

A Fish Rots from the Head Down

I was fortunate enough to attend Harvard Business School for my executive education. The class that I was part of was made up of entrepreneurs from around the world. An Indian gentleman repeatedly made this statement “A fish rots from the head down.” I had never heard the saying, and I honestly had no idea what he meant. He said it so often that I cringed when I heard the words come out of his mouth. It was his answer for literally everything.

Now I know exactly what he meant and why he used the statement as frequently as he did. The statement “a fish rots from the head down” means that leadership is the root cause of an organizations failure and demise. This is true whether that organization is a country, a company, or a sales force. How could it be otherwise?

You Are Responsible for What’s Broken

If the culture is broken, only leadership can fix it. If leadership doesn’t establish and protect a healthy culture, some unhealthy culture will fill that vacuum. If the leadership culture itself is unhealthy, there begins the rot, and soon the fish is lost. If a pocket of negativity and cynicism exists, it’s because leadership hasn’t cut it out of the organization—especially when the pocket of negativity comes from the leadership ranks.

If the strategy or direction is broken, only leadership has the power to decide and to change it. The decision as to who the company is and how it will compete and win belongs to leadership. If the vision is wrong, it is leadership’s vision. Leadership chooses where and how to compete. If that’s wrong, leadership has to do something to change it.

If the organization doesn’t execute, leadership that is responsible for that failure. Only leadership can demand and ensure that the organization does the work, that it keeps its promises. Leadership sets and keeps the standards.

If a company is failing because they have the wrong people in place, it’s leadership that allows the wrong people stay. It’s leadership that can demand that the right people be hired and retained, and that those who damage the company’s results quickly find their way out of the organization.

This list is endless. It is why leadership is critical at all levels of an organization.

To keep the fish from rotting, the head has to be smart enough to look at what is doing—or not doing—and make the necessary changes there first. Regardless of what the changes may be, and regardless of the pain that accompanies those changes. Only leadership has the power to make those changes, even if they need the support of their entire team to execute them.

It’s the only way to keep the fish from rotting.


I hope you enjoyed this article and I'd be delighted if you'd leave a comment. If you're a business networker and would like to connect on one business networking sites outside of LinkedIn, I'm interested in invitations to connect on


Monday, 16 January 2012

Martin Luther King via Seth's Blog: Straight up

It's Martin Luther King day today and this morning I read some inspiring quotes on Seth Godin's Blog: Straight up.

"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent."

Martin Luther King, Jr.

And a few more thoughts, from one of the greatest men of my lifetime:

“On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, "Is it safe?" Expediency asks the question, "Is it politic?" And Vanity comes along and asks the question, "Is it popular?" But Conscience asks the question "Is it right?" And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.”

. . .

“We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

. . .

“The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.”

Courtesy of Seth Godin.

Here are some other Martin Luther King Quotes:

1. “No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

2. “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”

3. “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

4. “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

5. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

6. “The time is always right to do the right thing.”

7. “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”

8. “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

9. “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

10. “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”

11. “No person has the right to rain on your dreams.”

12. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”


Thank you for visiting this blog. If you'd like to subscribe after viewing this article, there are links on the right hand side of the page - and if you liked a post please leave a comment! If you'd like to connect on one of the social networking sites you can write to me at Facebook and you can also inbox me via my Google+ profile.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

A Longer Course in Stakeholder Analysis (Sales)

This is another excellent post courtesy of S. Anthony Iannarino of For excellent debate on all things sales, business to business related (including public speaking) have a look at this website, Focus, which you can access by clicking here and connect up with me (and Anthony too, who I follow).

This article is about stakeholder analysis which is actually part of a series which you can read on Anthony's blog - which is well worth a visit.

A Longer Course in Stakeholder Analysis (Sales)

 This is the seventh and final post in this series (I think it might make a pretty good eBook). The series started with The Gatekeeper, moved on to The End-User Stakeholders, weaved into The Ancillary Stakeholders, delved deeper into Understanding and Creating Value for Management Stakeholders, avoided avoiding the Professional Buyers, and rested with The Decider: Understanding and Creating Value for Executive Management.

Over the past six posts, we have covered a lot of distance when it comes to knowing who the key stakeholders are within your dream client company. We have also covered some ideas about how you create value for these stakeholders, and what your risks are from the view of value creation.

There is still a lot more ground to cover. An opportunity that is complex enough to require a stakeholder analysis is complex enough to require a deeper dive into the ideas and issues that exist on a different plane altogether. There are some foundational ideas that you need to consider, and then there are some ideas that go beyond the foundation to the complex and to the political.

The Foundation

To create and move an opportunity from target to close, you need to identify three things within your dream client.

You need to find receptivity, someone that is willing to give you an audience. You need to find dissatisfaction, the people who have the problems that you can help to improve. And you need to find authority, someone with the power to bind your dream client to a deal.

I’d love to tell you that these three foundational ideas are from my personal observation, but they’re not. This observation belongs to Neil Rackham and you can find it in Major Account Sales Strategy, a book I believe to be more important in many ways than SPIN Selling.

Receptivity: In a stakeholder analysis, it’s helpful to identify who is receptive to you and your message. This is often the easiest point to get in, and this is why I cringe when I hear salespeople suggest that they absolutely have to get in at the C-level, or not at all. If the C-level executive isn’t receptive (and they are already overwhelmed and time-starved), then the salesperson believes, incorrectly, that there is no way in and no path to a deal. This isn’t true.

Receptivity can exist at any level of the organization. You can find it in the end-users who struggle to produce results with the product, service or solution that they are presently using. You can also find it in the management stakeholders, who struggle to help their end-users produce results while meeting the goals and objectives of the company. You can even find it in ancillary stakeholders.

Receptivity is the path in. It doesn’t mean that you have what you need to create or to win an opportunity, only that you may have found a way to gain access to the rest of the organization. It means you found a source of access and information, and you need that access and information.

Dissatisfaction: Opportunities aren’t created when everything is going swimmingly well. Opportunities are created when there are problems or challenges.

Some of you will challenge the idea that dissatisfaction is necessary. You may argue that opportunities are created when your dream client has a potential opportunity of their own, and that it doesn’t require dissatisfaction. If it requires your help, then the problem is not having what they need to capitalize on the opportunity. It’s all dissatisfaction; it’s a gap between current state and a desired future state.

Dissatisfaction can (and does) exist at all levels of an organization. The executive management has challenges in competing and growing in their space, and they have crushing pressures to produce results that are measured each quarter. The management stakeholders have dissatisfaction in the challenges they have in executing, in serving their own clients, and in producing the results that roll up to executive management’s financial results. Lower in the organization, you find end-users who are dissatisfied with the things that prevent them from producing the results that they are required to produce. It’s everywhere, top to bottom.

Whatever you sell, whether it is a product, a service, or some form of solution, you won the clients you have because you solved some form of dissatisfaction. It preceded your opportunity, and you found it and used it to create an opportunity. Or you created dissatisfaction by helping your client to see that there was in fact a gap.

Authority: To win an opportunity, someone has to have the authority to sign off on a deal. I have heard some salespeople wrongly discuss needing a C-level executive for a deal that could be easily be made without needing a C-level executive at all. I have also watched salespeople fail miserably because they didn’t locate the source of authority necessary to make a deal. These salespeople believed that receptivity and dissatisfaction were enough to win; they’re not.

Authority is not a simple idea, and it’s not always easy to find. But it does exist on a continuum, with the authority to make smaller, less complex, less strategic decision existing at lower levels within the organization. Larger, more complex, and more strategic decisions tend to require a greater level of formal authority. Wherever it is, you have to find it.

More Than Foundational, Political

To gain a real understanding and complete a real stakeholder analysis, you need to move beyond the foundational. There are other, more complicated and complex factors that need to be considered.

These ideas aren’t for the feint of heart, and I apologize in advance if some of this sounds a little Machiavellian. Some of it is in fact a little Machiavellian. Politics is a blood sport, despite any appearances to the contrary. The fact that you don’t like politics doesn’t mean that they don’t exist, and it doesn’t mean that you benefit in any way from ignoring the politics, the silos, and the turf wars.

Influence, Authority, and Power: In sales, we tend to focus far too little of our attention on influence and power, and instead focus our attention on formal authority. Because we need someone with formal authority to sign an agreement, we focus our attention, our energy, and sales efforts on that individual—often to our detriment. The real power can and does exist in other individuals and in other groups of individuals, even if these groups need someone with formal authority to sign an agreement.

In every organization, there are people who influence other people within the organization. They possess a moral authority and leadership role that isn’t found on an organizational chart. They may show up as an end-user when you look at an organizational chart, but they may have enough influence to be the real source of power.

An easy example would be a Vice President of Manufacturing who is weak and challenged by his peer group and a strong Plant Manager. It’s easy to believe that you need the Vice President’s signature, when in reality he may himself be on an island, ostracized by his peers. The decision may be made by the Plant Manager who is has deep relationships with the Chief Executive Officer and her Chief Operations Officer. You can’t see this power or influence on an organizational chart, but it exists nonetheless, and it is formidable.

Your stakeholder analysis has to take influence, authority, and power into consideration.

What is the person’s title? What are their roles and responsibilities? (This information gives you some idea as to what their basic concerns are—or what they should be.)

With whom do they have formal relationships? Who reports to them? To whom do they report? (This information allows you to see the organization as it exists on paper, the formal organization. It also allows you to begin to outline a path and determine who is necessary to a deal. It allows you to start to visualize the path and how power really travels through the organization.)

Who do they influence? Who influences them? Who do they trust? (This information allows you to determine where the real power resides. It helps you find the real buying committee and to design a sales strategy that builds consensus around your solution and stacks the deck in your favor. If you feel bad about this idea, it is helpful to remember that this is how work gets done within your client’s organization—and your own. Some people with power build consensus with their peers. One other critical fact here to remember is that much of the real selling occurs between these groups after you have left the building; they keep selling.)

Who has the real power? (There is often a person or a group of people without whom you cannot create or win an opportunity. Don’t look only to the C-Level executives on your organizational chart. Instead look to who has the greatest influence and who has the real power. Most C-Level executives trust their people. Most of them listen to the consensus of the individuals that are closest to the problems, closest to the decision, and who will ultimately own the outcome. You may spend an hour with a C-level executive, but their people have her time and attention when you are gone—their access and their responsibilities give them a greater influence than you may possess now–or ever.)

Who has the formal authority? (None of this is to suggest that you can ignore the formal organization or power. Sometimes, you need a signature. You may need the person or people with the real power to get you to the point where you can get that signature, but you need to know and understand what is going to be required of you to obtain it.)

Motivating Factors: Dissatisfaction is the motivator. But there are other, more complicated reasons that people buy. Take a deep breath, some of this is a bit unpleasant.

Within companies, there is a struggle for power. Your product, your services, and your solutions can end up smack in the middle of a struggle for power between departments who are vying for resources, and between individuals who are vying for position, authority, and power.

Maybe your product, service, or solution is the sexiest thing that marketing has ever seen; they absolutely have to have it. Your very same offering may look like something that gives the engineering or manufacturing department nightmares. At the same time, there may exist a personal struggle to define the future of your dream client’s company, with turf wars between departments and between individuals to define that future. This is occurring whether you are aware of it or not.

Then, there are the defenders of the status quo. Your solution may bring dramatic changes and kill the status quo. The defenders of the status quo can organize against you and any consensus you have built. Sometimes the most powerful motivating factor against you and your solution is that “it isn’t the way we do things around here.”

What is motivating the individuals I am working with? (How you sell may depend on these motivating factors. Who you need on your team may depend on these motivating factors. Even though you may not be interested in playing politics, politics may be interested in playing you.)

Constraining Factors

There are constraining factors that can kill your opportunity. Some of these exist because what you do to produce a result for your clients may be in conflict with some other results that the client must also be able to produce. These constraints can be the root cause of the conflict between individuals and departments, and they can put you in the center of a political conflict.

Where does my product, service, or solution cause a problem for some stakeholders? How can that problem be overcome or mitigated? (Asking and answering these questions can help you to surface the motivations to kill your solution. Once you surface these ideas, you can work to overcome the politics, and, if you are really savvy, you can find a way to mitigate the problems that your solution causes some of the obstacles between you and a deal.)

There are also human constraints. There are some people who will do whatever is necessary to kill your opportunity, sometimes with good and pure intentions, and sometimes because they have political motives.

Who is likely to kill this opportunity and why? What are their personal motivations? (Some of the people within your dream client company have vendors with whom they have long and successful relationships. Some of them have a political axe to grind with another department and they are going to grind that axe on your opportunity—and maybe on you! You and the team of stakeholders you assemble are going to have to deal with this reality, even if it is an unspoken reality).

This is a longer, and still incomplete, course in stakeholder analysis. But these ideas and these questions are enough to start you down the right path in figuring out what you need to know and what actions you need to take to effectively move your complex opportunity from target to close.


When as an opportunity complex enough to require a stakeholder analysis?

How do you determine who really has power and influence? Is it always the person with organizational chart authority?

What questions do you need to answer to find a successful path through your dream client company?

Is it possible to avoid your dream client’s politics and still win? Is it better ignore them and hope for the best?


I hope you enjoyed this article and I'd be delighted if you'd leave a comment. If you're a business networker and would like to connect on one of the lesser known business networking sites (and perhaps discover a few new ones) you can contact me via my own page; via my profile at the excellent website and via my professional profile page on the site, aptly named!

Other posts on a similar theme:

Presales Qualification
The Three Biggest Killers of Sales Productivity
Sales Tips Article via The New York Times
9 of the Best Sales Tips for Hight Performing Sales People
How to be Interesting and Useful to C Level Executives
What I Love about Sales and Selling