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Selling in a Non-objective Environment (Part 2): The Territorial Terrorist

Posted on Saturday, May 16th 2009

By Guest Author James T. Healy

[In his first article Jim set forth strategies for selling in what he calls non-objective environments, where there are unhealthy levels of internal competition and political power plays, and outlined four types of people who thrive in these environments. Today he describes in more detail how the first type, the “territorial terrorist”, works, using the example of a well-known US Congressman.]

The Territorial Terrorist

In a non-objective environment a territorial terrorist considers the buying decision his “territory”. This person usually has power or influence within his company. His objective is to totally control the buying decision and “terrorize” anyone who disagrees. Often he is positioned such that no one will challenge his decision as he is considered the “expert” on the matter. In fact the territorial terrorist may exhibit a neurotic obsession with a particular idea, technology, product or vendor to the exclusion of all logic. Barney Frank, one of the most powerful members of Congress and a key deal-maker, is an example of a territorial terrorist.

Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, helped facilitate the 2008 economic disaster by his neurotic obsession that every American should own their own home even if they did not have a job or did not have the money to make a monthly loan payment.

The territorial terrorist will not take inputs from his peers or managers, even to the detriment of his own career. A territorial terrorist is not a team player nor does he attempt to make the best objective decision for the company. Frank was asked by both his peers and constituents to take leadership in reforming the financial institutions prior to the crisis but refused and manipulated events to control his territory. Frank opposed transferring oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from Congress. He stated, “These two entities … are not facing any kind of financial crisis…. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing. ”

As long as the territorial terrorist has the power, he will thrive in the non-objective environment. I think it is accurate to say that these days, the United States Congress is certainly nonobjective. Frank is one of the heavyweights; some say his influence exceeds even that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In this non-objective environment he is thriving.

The territorial terrorist will wait for his opportunity and then strike like a snake by amassing others in the organization to get his own way. He will cloak himself in technical expertise, which is generally real, and then use it as a club. He will discourage others from developing his level of expertise. He will not allow others to educate people internal to the system as this will compromise his “guru” status. Even after harmful events like what happened to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Frank is still in Congress, holding the same position. Nobody has held him accountable for anything.

In problem-solving situations, the territorial terrorist will force his expertise in such a way that he can’t or won’t be challenged. He will try to control all decisions since decisions made without him will threaten his territory. Frank is an expert politician. His recent actions and statements make it clear he will use his power and influence to control how decisions are made to implement his agenda.

If circumvented, the territorial terrorist will usually engage in a high level of activity to regain the lost territory. He will fight the choice regardless of the validity of the decision. The territorial terrorist is normally articulate and tireless, and will work long hours to achieve his objective. He is an expert when it comes to diversionary tactics. Frank is said to be one of the brightest and most energetic members of Congress. He has staked his territory and woe to those who oppose him. He will terrorize his opponents attacking using diversionary tactics. When his colleague Texas Republican John Culberson brought up the AIG bonuses, instead of addressing them, Frank accused Culberson of having a “psychological disorder”.

The territorial terrorist becomes the “mystical person” for his company a reality that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence. Frank’s mystical persona was obvious when he chastised AIG for how they used the bail-out money and the NBC reporter, Meredith Vieira, allowed him to rant. Vieira never once mentioned Frank’s own extravagant earmarks for his home district.

Often a territorial terrorist’s method of “control by restricting” limits his company’s growth by keeping the company from access to new technology. Frank drove the lifting of restrictions on high-risk home mortgages while blocking stronger banking regulations thus exacerbating the developing financial crisis.

The territorial terrorist will act as your “friend,” but once he has information he can use against you, he will. He will then blame you for the problem. Once his point is made, he will repeat the cycle by becoming your “friend” again. Frank is the main proponent of a bill to regulate Internet gambling but will introduce his legislation as a standalone bill rather than seeking to add it to must pass legislation thus making it more difficult to pass. Friend of whom?

The territorial terrorist always feigns his innocence with wide-eyed honesty. He will play the victim when caught. When the House voted 408-18 to censor Frank for certain alleged criminal activities, he claimed he’d been “victimized”, that he was just a “good liberal” who was trying to help but got screwed

The territorial terrorist claims to want to do what is best for the company but only from his perspective to meet the needs of his agenda. If challenged, he will fight for his point like a cornered rat. This was evident by his “violent” reaction to that Harvard law student who “gently” challenged him, as the House Chairman of the Financial Services Committee, about his accountability concerning the crisis.

This control becomes a barrier to closing a sale when the territorial terrorist protects his territory at the expense of the buy decision where both parties lose. To deal effectively with the territorial terrorist it is necessary to expose his method of operating to someone who is more powerful in the organization. It is necessary to assess the impact of the territorial terrorist’s behavior on meeting both the short and the long-term goals of the company or project. It is important to let him have small victories in order to solidify your long-term position. Having said that you also need to work hard to define what this person is giving to the “project”, and recognize that contribution. The territorial terrorist is usually not all bad, just detrimental to you getting the sale.

When characterizing the organization and developing your sales strategy, you need to define the factors within the organization that allow this person to set up a non-objective selling situation. Keep in mind that the territorial terrorist will stretch the truth, lie, suppress information and rationalize decisions. Even though we all now know what happened and the lack of government oversight is evident Frank casually asserts, “The private sector got us into this mess.” He says this even though he knows that he was in Washington, in Congress and was one of the people most responsible for a large portion of the banking crisis.

The territorial terrorist must be carefully watched and carefully countered or exposed to his peers. Care must be taken when exposing him to management since management may see the territorial terrorist as a beneficial resource. Remember that when the House voted with an overwhelming majority to reprimand Frank, he later won re-election by a large percentage, and has won by significant margins ever since. His management, the people in his district, supports him.

The territorial terrorist can move quickly and without warning. While you are trying to respond, he will buy from your competitor. The best approach is to try to collapse the timeframe and get the order before the territorial terrorist can strike. When all else fails, stroke his ego. The person who strokes the most can win the sale. This also works well if he is terrorizing the organization to buy your product.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Selling in a Non-objective Environment
1 2 3 4

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