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Insights for Finding, Landing and Harvesting Whale-Size Accounts
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Guest Faculty post by Eric Protzman
The Prospect Screen should be your most trusted advisor.
Think of it this way. You date and you date and you date, then you find the right person and you get married. Dating can be random, opportunistic, indulgent and impulsive, all characteristics you simply can’t afford in marriage.
In the past, what you call prospecting may well be impulsive or opportunistic dating. You may not be taking the time to investigate what is in your best interests.
What we are talking about in prospecting large accounts, transformational accounts, is not dating, it is marriage. Look at the long term implications of having the right customer, or having the wrong customer. I think you’ll get a feel for the strength of the metaphor.
I started Aim Direct Marketing in 1995. Tom Searcy was guiding my business development and very late one night after imagining this and designing that I said to Tom,“I don’t like mission statements and I think most business plans are just a list of things that don’t happen, but I do think we should talk about our core competency”. Bleary eyed and exhausted Tom tilted his head and said, “Where you are right now Eric, your core competency is anything anyone will give you a check for”.
That was just a phase. Do you recall this phase in your business too?
It is an exciting, thrilling and frightening time. But that time gives way to more stable and intentional times. As we become more sophisticated in our mission, our operations and our innovation we may not bring along the same sophistication in our sales efforts.
In Daniel Pink’s important book, “Drive,” he convincingly shows that pay-for-performance is inversely related to complexity. Simply put, the longer and more complex a desired outcome is to achieve, the less pay-for-performance matters. A strong example is in the world of large sales. Large account sales require more time. If you want to keep sales people motivated in these longer and larger sales, you need to provide more compensation in salary.
There are also additional people- not just salespeople, but your whole team. To land a big deal, you’ve got to load up your team with people of all skill sets (subject matter experts who can speak the client’s language), because one person (a sales guy) out there on his own is not going to cut it. How do you keep those people engaged as well? If they’re not seeing their efforts translate into money in a meaningful way (commissions, profit-sharing, bonus, etc), they’ll too be distracted by the not-so-shiny-objects of their every day job.
How to Take Action
1. Pay more for big sales — and spread it around
The sales representative is not the only person involved in the hunt. The fact is, after the initial interest is generated, the internal subject matter expert team does a lot of the heavy lifting.
2. Put a trophy-bonus on the wall
Make it specific and personal. At one point in my career, I had a competitor for which I had a personal distaste. I wrote up on the wall that competitor’s top 10 clients and told my team, “I will pay a 20% premium on commissions for every deal we land from this list in the next 6 months.” We got 3 and it tasted sweet.
As you think about what expectations to set to help your sales force succeed in the new era of selling we find ourselves in, consider if you are valuing “motion” or “movement.”
“Motion” is a term that we use to describe all of the sales activities that occur in getting people together, having conversations, and exchanging information within a given sales stage. Whether it takes one call or five calls, one meeting or five meetings, one document or twenty documents, it doesn’t matter. All of that is motion inside a system, but is the motion helping move the sale forward?
“Movement” is a term we use to denote completion of one stage and progression to the next. In a stage-gate process, this means that all the items in one stage have been completed, so the gate opens to the next stage. Movement along a sales process indicates that you are approaching either a close or the elimination of a prospect.
How to Take Action:
When it comes to measuring performance, spend less time worrying about the number of motions being made, and more time focusing on progressing forward through “movement.” To encourage movement over motion, consider giving a value of “one” to every movement from one stage to the next in the sales process. That’s right. Whether your sales reps close a deal, move a deal off of the dashboard because they lost it, or add a deal to the dashboard, it doesn’t matter. Each one of these progressions has a value of one.
Recently, I met with Bill Caskey, a friend and colleague in sales performance development, caskeyone.com. We were talking about what makes for remarkable sales performers. The right balance of mindset and mechanics was our conclusion. One without the other creates an unsustainable performance recipe. I later added one more ingredient:
Here is What it Looks Like:
- Mindset sets the frame for what is possible for yourself and your team. It is not a false bravado or an artificial “rah-rah” speech. This is the lens through which remarkable performers view the world. It is abundance-based and confidence comes from the concrete and accurate view of people, process and the marketplace.
- Mechanics include all of the baseline skills necessary to connect, build trust, diagnose, advise and present solutions to prospects. In the modern sales world this requires successfully expanding the participants in the process on both sides of the buying process.
- Magic is the least tangible, but still necessary component of discerning between several choices what is the best and most productive choice to make in a variety of leadership, management and selling circumstances.
My upcoming program for senior sales leadership is called, “The 3 Ms” based on the ideas of mindset, mechanics and magic. I built it because often the least invested in position is the one of sales leadership, yet it has the highest leverage for performance. If you are interested in learning about it or the upcoming start of our next Academy sessions, click here to provide us your information and we will get right back with you.
The Oddsmaker – What’s Your Chance of Winning?
Vegas has its oddsmakers. These experts evaluate all sorts of data to determine the likely outcome of some event- usually a competitive sporting event. All sorts of information is considered in the calculation- health of the contestants, past win-loss records, positional match ups, even weather. Then they make their predictions.
The good ones have a secret formula that they use that, when combined with their experience and instincts, allows them a higher accuracy than their competitors. They call it their “system”.
For large account sales, I can give you my formula- the rest of the system you have to come to The Academy to learn.
- Start with zero
- Executive Sponsor: If you have a Executive Sponsor, add 30 points
- Buyer’s table: If you have established contact with three or more of the members of the prospect team’s buying group and have met with them face to face, add 10 points. If not, then subtract 15 points.
- The Eel: If you have identified the Eel and are engaged with them in the sales process, add 5 points. If you have not identified the eel, or if you cannot get their engagement, subtract 15 points.
- Hunt team connections: If you have introduced three or more people in a meeting or on-site visit for a period greater than 45 minutes to members of the prospect team’s buying group, add 10 points. If not, then subtract 15 points.
- Needs assessment: Add 15 points if you are able to perform an in-depth needs assessment as a part of the preparation of your proposal.
The reason that a customer made his or her original purchase is very different from why they continued to buy. The customer experience that you and your company provide is never fully understood until AFTER the prospect becomes a customer. When you survey customers why they buy from you, they are actually answering the question of why they stay and grow their business with you.
If you want to do a better job of reaching prospects and crafting your message to turn them into customers, ask customers different questions:
- What was the problem you were having when you decided to hire us?
- What about what we were offering moved you from “interested” to “purchasing?”
- What was your biggest concern about giving your business to us when we first got started?
- Was there anything in your past history with another company that you were watching us for when we first started?
These questions will give you a better sense of the reasons that prospects buy from you and what they are most concerned about when they make that first purchase.
Your company just lost out on a big deal. Now what? Don’t waste your time complaining. Here are five questions to ask to help you come out on top next time.
I recently spoke with a CEO who participated in a very big sales presentation, only to come in second to a competitor. As a courtesy, she was offered the opportunity to discuss the process and ask questions with a representative from the group to whom she and her team presented. Very often these calls can be frustrating because most buyers are reluctant to give any direct information. After all, they have made their decision and in their mind, this is just a formality. With that in mind, sometimes it pays to take a roundabout approach to getting more information as to why your company came in second. Here were some of the questions I recommended that she ask:
1) What caused other firms to be eliminated prior to the final round? Asking this question gives you insight on the disqualifying characteristics as well as some insight as to why you might have lost. Sometimes you are good enough in an area to be a finalist, but not good enough to win. Knowing what got someone else DQ’ed may give you that information.
2) What qualities put you in the finalist round? Sometimes knowing why you were preferred over other companies can also give you an insight into why another company was ultimately chosen over your’s.
3) What qualities were “a draw” between you and the winning company?
I was in a great business meeting the other day with a potential business partner and at one point he said, “I think there is an elephant in the room. Tom, why are you in this conversation, I don’t see the fit. Tell me what you are thinking.” Great approach – straight honesty.
Sometimes it feels like we are all playing pretend. We pretend:
- Competitor is not trying to steal our business when we meet with our customers
- Price increase won’t affect the business relationship
- Last month’s short-shipment isn’t making them mad
I like to get the elephant out on the table and open him up. Everyone knows he’s there, so let’s deal with it. I know, it can be risky. However, if I don’t know what the customer is thinking, it’s like flying blind at night without instruments – VERY RISKY.
A couple simple rules:
1) Open like my friend did and declare the elephant
2) Acknowledge what can and cannot be done about it
3) Ask, “What is the best way for us to proceed in this conversation and what do you want us to know so we can better serve you?”
It’s not easy, but it’s better than playing pretend.
I have heard that “culture trumps strategy every day.” I would tell you that momentum trumps all- including in landing large accounts. Athletes can feel the almost supernatural shift of momentum in a game. It is not just for athletic competitions. You can feel it in your interactions with prospects and customers. Have you lost momentum in an account? A few telltale signs:
- Response time – If their response to calls and emails is lengthening
- Talk time – If the calls are shortening and the interchange is transactional
- Depth of discussion – If all you are discussing is surface level with no real depth
Momentum is a relative value, so you need to compare how things are now to how they were. If you are not happy with the results, here are some fast fixes:
- Meet – If email and calls are not getting the speed or quality of connection, it may be time for a face to face meeting to tighten things up.
- Give a Reason to Engage – Maybe you are not creating a reason for a higher level of involvement or faster response time. Create a trigger based upon value, information or urgency for them to change their behavior.
- Ask – Sounds simple because it is. Ask, “It seems that we are losing some momentum and urgency on this project/deal, has something changed that I don’t know about?”
More often than not, time is not on our side. If it is not, you have to take it back by getting the momentum on your side.
You’ll have a much easier time selling to high-level decision makers if you establish a connection with them first. Here are six ways to do just that.
High-level decision-makers are harder than ever to reach. If you are looking to develop strong connections to the most senior people in big companies, then consider NOT SELLING to them. Connect with them first. Bring them value on neutral ground and see if that opens the door for a business opportunity.
So, how do you do that? Well, every industry is looking for insight and best practices. Why not reach out to the marketplace leaders in your target-customer industry and ask for their opinions? It’s a good way to honor them and it lets you start off your relationship with greater parity.
Here are six techniques for reaching decision-makers. If they seem familiar, that’s because they are similar to the techniques used by top network producers, publicists, and event planners.
1. Interview–If your company or industry trade association has a newsletter, you have a great opportunity to be a guest journalist and interview someone for that publication. Perhaps you have a company blog, personal blog, podcast, or other outlet. The point is, ask them for an interview. Contact their marketing department or ask them directly. Ask for 15 minutes of their time to answer five questions. Getting their answers in person is a good way to establish a direct connection.
2. Advice–Call the decision-maker directly and ask his or her advice on a key industry matter.