One of our clients recently won a contract worth over $1 billion in a highly competitive deal where they ousted a long-time incumbent. When looking back at their strategy and approach, the account team agreed it was their ability to LEAD the client through a series of touchpoints early in the sales process that helped them win. Long before the formal tender process began, the account team successfully leveraged thought leadership and a demand creation selling approach to create the right narrative, develop trust, and build relationships to reach the “pole position” early.
Their success underscores a truth that many enterprise sales professionals fail to understand or fully leverage:
Most strategic sales are won in the first half of the sales cycle.
Rarely does a client begin a formal buying process without having a favorite in mind. If that is not you, there are certainly strategies and tactics you can employ to become the favorite. Keep in mind though, the later you are in the deal cycle and the farther behind you are, the more political risk you will have to take to win.
You can learn more about some of these approaches in one of Revenue Storm’s webinars here: Coach’s Secrets to Surprising the Competition
There are three key objectives that need to be achieved in the first half of the sales cycle in order to build a strong early competitive advantage:
- Differentiate yourself and your company through your approach – not your solution.
This means leading with thought leadership and evolving and refining it as you expand your relationships and progress through the sales cycle. It starts with your insights on the industry, and the opportunities and risks those create – especially in this pandemic era. Then it evolves to positioning the business outcomes and value you can help deliver to your client.
You should also adopt a collaborative approach where you partner with your client as early in the sales process as possible to jointly quantify the business outcomes. Then you can move to a well-executed solutioning process that has to be “sold” to the client, so they are willing to dedicate resources, time, and share confidential information to actively participate in the solutioning process.
- Create an unmatchable solution of bundled products and services that the client agrees will deliver the desired business outcomes and results.
You do this by casting a wide net as you collaborate during the solutioning process that helps connect you with different organizations and people. Your goal is to find ways to create value and tie as many business functions / organizations and people into the overall vision and solution as possible.
A collaborative approach can be executed through a functional workshop approach, e.g., Marketing, Sales, Finance, etc., or through workshops focused on key areas like process, people, metrics, governance, and the solution itself. These workshops are an opportunity to brainstorm ideas and pose the question, “What if?” What if we could do this? What would it look like in your environment? How would you use it? What benefit would that create for you and your clients? How much would that be worth to your company?
- Create the relationships you will need to help you compete and win in the second half of the sales cycle.
This really is the key focus during the first half of the sales cycle because without the right relationships, you are just “hoping to win” in the second half. You should consider every client touchpoint as a relationship building opportunity FIRST and use the collaboration and solutioning process to create as many of those opportunities as possible.
Be on the constant lookout for potential Partner Allies because they have something to gain from the value you can deliver, or you can link to their Personal Agenda, or they can help you navigate to the Base of Power.
The ultimate goal is to create a Partner Ally in the Base of Power as soon as possible, and more importantly, before the competition!
The sooner you can do that, the more likely you are to “control” the sales process and win.
Choose a deal where you are early in the sales process and gain agreement to conduct a solutioning approach that includes multiple people and sessions. Use the three objectives in the article to gain the lead and create a Partner Ally in the Base of Power.