Anyone who worked in sales has dealt with a blocker.
The blockers circle the real decision-makers, like bodyguards around celebrities, pretending to be the movers, shakers, and decision makers.
There are many types of blockers, for example:
• Purchasing department representatives
• Personal assistants
• Boisterous team members who fake authority
Most of you have run into blockers like these, and they’ve probably stumped some of you.
These blockers have real value to the decision maker. The circle of protection they provide creates a filter that keeps out bad pitches and timewasters. Thus, the blocking behavior gets at least tacit encouragement in many organizations.
Now, part of your job as a negotiator is to identify and avoid any attempts at blocking. You always want to speak directly to the decision maker.
To reach the decision maker, you need first to understand what motivates the behavior of a blocker. As our Camp System is rooted in the fundamentals of natural human behavior, understanding the needs of blockers is the key to skillfully circumventing them.
Surprisingly, blocking is a normal behavior of humans. Let me explain why.
A Minimum Degree of Control
There are a handful of things that a human needs, such as:
• Social interaction
• To feel in control of one’s life
The first four items are self-explanatory. The need to feel in control is harder to explain, at least to anyone who never experienced a total loss of control. When we feel incapable of influencing the direction of our lives, we begin to feel anxious, depressed and fearful. We feel like we’re at the mercy of chaotic forces.
We take certain steps throughout our lives to avoid putting ourselves at the mercy of chaos. For example, we go to school, so we can become valuable members of society and ensure some level of financial stability in our lives.
Where we lack control, we often compensate. For example, a secretary gives callers the runaround. Or a purchasing department representative tries to block any potential deals. They are trying to prove to his or her importance.
Thinking that we are important helps us feel okay and in control. That’s how people work.
How to Deal with Blockers
You must understand that blockers are merely responding to basic human needs. Many of them are unaware of how other people see or view their blocking behaviors.
Understanding this will help you deal with the blockers the only way you can: With respect.
Keeping this in mind, you must also give blockers the opportunity to be effective. For this reason, think very critically about the decisions that you ask the blocker to reject or embrace. If we’re looking to secure a meeting with those they are blocking, what Camp System agenda will allow them to move us to the next step?
If a blocker rejects what we’re asking, one of two conditions exist. First, they can’t validate the decision we seek. We have failed to create a vision of the benefits that the blocker and their company stand to gain. Or, they have a hidden agenda and are putting the decision makers and the organization at risk.
In the latter condition, you can’t take responsibility for their decisions. If they are acting in their interests, be sure to let them know very respectfully what they can expect from you in your next step. If you set the agenda up front in a very nurturing manner, you will then be safe to move past the blocker and continue.
In some cases, you’ll have no choice but to steer as widely as necessary around the territory they guard, but always be respectful and nurturing. With this in mind, don’t be afraid to plant your own blocker (i.e., the people you report to who are counting on you to deliver). In any communications, show humanity to the blocker and expect it from them. Allow the blocker to feel as “okay” as possible, but act with mutual respect and avoid subservience on either side.