Armed with new tools, techniques, and thinking after completing sales training, sales professionals often ask, “How should I begin?”
A fair question after having been somewhat “fire-hosed” with fresh ideas for several hours during training.
Of course, as with most things, it depends… but having applied these tools, techniques, and thinking over many years as a salesperson and as a coach, I find myself most often answering the question with the client decision-making process.
Process: a series of things that are done in order to achieve a particular result (Oxford English Dictionary).
So, why do we recommend starting here?
From the many win / loss reviews undertaken by Revenue Storm, experience shows most deals are lost because sellers have not fully understood the client’s decision-making process, thereby missing key people.
As we commence a sales pursuit, it is never too early to start to document the client decision-making process. At first, even if we have limited information, it is good practice to have our team focused on how our client intends to conduct this specific procurement and start to identify all the people that will play a part in selecting a preferred partner.
The more complex the sales pursuit, the more important it is for us to document and understand as much detail about the process as we can and update our understanding of the process at every opportunity.
In doing so, we see three key competitive advantages:
- Executive Engagement Plan
Identifying all the key players will help to map our Relationship Barometer™ Tool, determine the strength of our relationships with each client contact, and gain clarity of the power they will have in selecting a preferred partner for this project.
In addition to the formal decision-making process, there will often be an informal process taking place with people from outside that can have political influence, even though they are not in the chain of command.
Of particular importance, we also need to identify those players who may have veto rights. You know… the person that apparently “appears out of nowhere” late in the process and overrides the recommendation we thought had been heading in our favor. What a disaster!
We now have the basis for our Executive Engagement Plan. We know how to focus our efforts and build relationships to secure Supporters and Partner Allies for our proposals.
No one missed and no surprises.
- Resource Planning
Especially important when pursuing lengthy / complex sales opportunities is the timing of our resources.
For example, knowing when to best plan and execute client reference visits, initiate specific pursuit marketing to influence our client, or when to introduce our executive sponsors to senior client executives and decision makers are all important activities.
If timed well, we maximize the effectiveness of these key resources. If timed poorly, we can fail to hit the target.
- Business Forecasting
As sales professionals / pursuit leaders, our responsibility is not only to “deliver our numbers” but also to accurately forecast our pipeline of opportunities.
Now… I am sure no one reading this has ever experienced the situation where on your monthly / weekly cadence calls, your management insists you close deal “ABC” this quarter, even though you have it forecasted much later…
But just in case… and all joking apart… we have to try and pull deals forward sometimes by getting into the habit of really understanding in detail our client decision-making process. This includes each step our client will have to go through to be in a position to make a downselect or award and sign a contract. Our reputation with management for accurate, evidence-based business forecasting will grow.
And, if adopted as a key discipline across our sales organization, the real value of business forecasting will increase massively with far fewer deals inevitably “slipping to the right.”
It is a win – win!
For each of your live sales opportunities (using your Pursuit Profiler™ Tool if you have it), spend time with your team and examine: 1) How much do you really know about your client’s decision-making process? Have you identified all of the key players, activities, and events? 2) Have you uncovered the informal process? (3) Who could appear late in the process and rain on your parade?