Finding the Right Mole

Erstwhile strategy consultant Richard Harte, Ph.D. was a strong proponent of finding and nurturing a "mole" within a prospective client organization. It was Dick's contention that a mole could perform two critical functions in a new business pitch: provide inside intelligence and advocate on our behalf.

Dick's advice was spot on and we often succeeded in identifying a mole and working with her/him in a win-win way to swing the deciding votes in our favor. Other times, though, the mole strategy has completely backfired on us.

Long ago and far away, we were invited to pitch a major consumer products company. The budget was huge and the competitive agency field comparatively small. The "mole" within the company had fallen in love with Peppercom from afar and promised to guide us through the multiple stage selection process. Talk about manna from heaven.

The mole reviewed our RFP, suggested edits and even came into our office to meet the pitch team in advance. She also gave us a download on the personalities we'd be meeting in the final presentation. What more could an agency ask for?

Presentation day came. The meeting went well, but there were some hiccups. The mole thought otherwise, pulled us into her office and exclaimed, "Hiring you is a no-brainer!" Awesome!

The next day, though, the mole called to say the firm that had pitched just before us had won the business. Say what? Wait, you told us we'd hit a home run and that hiring us was a no-brainer. How could you have said that if you'd sat through the competitor's pitch the day before? What changed?

Sadly, the mole couldn't or wouldn't shed additional light on the subject. And, we were left with the realization that our mole was either clueless, conniving, or some variation thereof. The lesson? Choose your moles wisely and filter their "inside information" through your own reality lens before proceeding.

5 thoughts on “Finding the Right Mole

  1. Amen, Stan. Our mole was a powerless sponsor. She advocated but, in the final analysis, the decision-makers didn’t listen. Next time, we’ll look for a champion.

  2. Three types of moles: Fans, Sponsors and Champions.
    Fans are good but you shouldn’t rely on them 100%. They aren’t vested in you and rarely have the inside line.
    Sponsors are better as they will be your voice when you aren’t there and your eyes + ears during the process.
    Champions are sponsors with decision making power and budget influence.
    Bottom line: Find a Champion.