Recently, we visited granddaughters and family in nearby Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After enjoying pastries and coffee in a park, five-year-old Freya approached me and asked me to close my eyes while she hid her toy monkey. I accepted the challenge. With my eyes closed I knew the stakes were high when I heard Freya’s Mom, in a tone exclusive to Mom’s, “Freya, get out of the tree!”
The game went two rounds with Freya and me hiding then finding the monkey two times each. As they always do, the adults intervened announcing we needed to return to our respective homes. Amidst hugs and kisses, Freya pulled me aside and declared, “The score is six to one.”
My first reaction was that I didn’t know we were keeping score. My second was why weren’t there a total of four points corresponding to each time the monkey was found? Diplomatically, I thought, I posed the question, “Why is the score six to one?” Freya’s quick response was, “OK, now it is eight to one.”
The business lesson here is that we should always know how the game is being scored. If we accept the premise that winning business is a game, we should start by knowing who the players are on the other team and the coverage plan by our team. Who is covering whom?
The Miller-Heiman (1985) model of four buyer influences works well here: The Financial Influence can say “yes” or “no”; she will consult with Technical Influence who can’t say “yes” but can say “no”; the User Influences are the people who will actually be using the solution; and finally your Advocate can explain who plays those four roles. From our experience we know that if your competition has a coverage plan for all four influences and you don’t, they will win the game each and every time.
We also want to know how the game is being scored. We don’t want surprises like the one I got from Freya in the hide the monkey game. Since Rackham’s (1988) ground breaking research we have known that the question is the most persuasive verbal behavior. Viewing business development as a game suggest some good questions.
How will this game be scored? Or, how will this decision get made?
Who will be influencing the decision?
What are the criteria for making the decision?
What is the time frame for the decision?
In summary, viewing business development as a game can be a helpful metaphor and suggests a good line of questions. By the way, when I last talked to Freya by phone I asked what the score was. She said it was eight to five. I’m making progress.