Finding, Cultivating and Employing Guides

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Finding, Cultivating and Employing Guides

Portrait of a successful business leader with his team standing behind him

Guides are Not Optional

A Guide is a Buyer who wants your solution and is willing to work to help you win a sale. Few things are more important than having one or more Guides in a sale. Our belief is:

No Guide = No Sale

Guides can:

  • Attend internal meetings that are not open to sales personnel
  • Provide information about Buyers to which you have no access
  • Convince their peers to meet with us
  • Uncover and identify resistance in the Buyer community
  • Help develop strategies to navigate through internal (and sometimes hostile) politics

Characteristics of a Guide:

  1. Believes she/he will win if you win
  2. Has influence and respect among other Buyers
  3. Is willing to go to work to enable you to win

Simply put, a Guide must be able to influence peers. All Guides need to be put to work.

If your proposed solution delivers more value than it costs, the buying organization should be willing to work to obtain it. Guides can facilitate that. They use partnering language like “Us”, “We” and “How do we…” They believe: The Partnering starts now.

Locating Guides and Guide Candidates

Study your proposed solution. What Desired Business Outcomes (DBOs) does it deliver? Who in the buying organization benefits from those DBOs? Who will become more successful, proficient, positively judged, etc. as a result of utilizing your proposed solution? Who owns the problem(s) you solve? Locate and approach them.

Use business questions to uncover the perceived value your DBOs can deliver. Find the Buyer that acknowledges the problem your solution solves and expresses a desire to solve it. This is a Guide Candidate. Once the Guide Candidate is shown that the problem can be solved, and specifically how your proposed solution solves the problem, the excitement should begin.

Anytime you hear: “I shouldn’t be telling you this, but…” you have a genuine Guide Candidate. Double check to be certain this Guide Candidate has influence with peers and executives.

Start with Small Tasks and Increase the Load Over Time

Guides must be put to work. Engage the Guide Candidate by asking for small things like making an introduction or providing suggestions to get more Buyers enthused about your solution. Collaborate with the Guide Candidate asking for input: “How do we get this moving forward?” or “Can you’ve me some guidance on how we can create more momentum here?” or “Can you help me get this message across to others?” or “Will you introduce me to…”

The key is to get this person engaged and collaborating with you to move the sale forward. Get your Guide used to working with you. After all, both of you will win if the sale is closed.

Expect to achieve larger and larger workloads with your Guide(s) as the selling cycle progresses. The progression is as follows:

  1. Endorsement – there is agreement that your proposed solution is of value and is desired
  2. Willingness to Guide You – willingness to collaborate
  3. Provide Information – names, feedback, org chart info, competitive moves, etc.
  4. Commit to Actions – introductions, participation in meetings, recruitment of other Guides
  5. Develop and Execute Joint Strategies – plans to win, ideas to neutralize Snipers (Buyers supporting a competitive solution) break logjams, etc.

Guides must be put to work.

Guide or Informant?

The acid test of a true Guide is a willingness to work for you exclusively. A Guide that is unwilling to share key information should be considered an Informant (an information provider who will not commit to you exclusively). Beware of Buyers who won’t work for your success only (versus doing the same thing for all competitors).

If your proposed solution delivers more value than cost, the buying organization should be willing to work to obtain it.

Avoid Handing Over Your Football

One caveat: Do not allow your Guide to do your work. There will be times when a Guide will volunteer to make a presentation, or state your case, to another Buyer (especially an executive, or higher-ranking Buyer). Agreeing to this is what we call “handing over your football.” While your Guide’s enthusiasm for your solution can be great, he or she is not the subject matter expert on your solution or company. Using a football metaphor, allowing a Guide to make your presentation often results in a fumble before reaching the end zone.

Instead, convince your Guide that the best approach is for both you and the Guide to jointly make the presentation. The logic is “You want this to work, correct? The best way to hit the mark on the first attempt is to jointly make the presentation. There may be a question on our product or our company that only I can answer correctly.” Since the Guide has a stake in the success of this selection, there should be willingness to consider this suggestion.

If your request to attend is shot down, your fallback should be to create the presentation for the Guide and rehearse the delivery of it ahead of time.


In summary, No Guide means No Sale. The higher the Guide is in the org chart, the better. The ability to influence others is critical. It’s great to recruit multiple Guides, which happens often when the first Guide has a lot of influence and charisma. The ultimate trump card: The Funds Keeper is your Guide.

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