Latest "The Whale’s Mind" Posts
For years, I have used a technique of securing an “Executive Sponsor” early in a sales process as a way to gauge true interest as well as to set expectations for a buyer in a large and complex sale. There have been occasions in which I have asked more than one person in a prospect company to serve this role.
Even though I asked for Executive Sponsorship in these sales processes, it wasn’t until the past few years that I have had clients write down what it means in a 1-page document and give it the candidate in a meeting. The previous approach had been effective but the use of the 1-page has been amazing.
Here is what it looks like, on your letterhead with the title at the top “Executive Sponsorship”.
“We know that moving forward with a partner requires the work of a number of people. We also know that without senior executive sponsorship, the work of the day and competing priorities keep organizations from moving initiatives like this along.
We are not asking you to agree to doing business with us at this point. It’s too early. We are asking for you to be our executive sponsor through the process.
For us this simply means:
- Access. Your assistance on connecting to the right people is very important.
- Priority. Setting the appropriate level of attention for your organization so that the process is supported.
- Interest. We will be communicating with you throughout the process what is happening. Let’s stay connected back and forth on the progress.
By Tim Searcy
I have referenced before that the CIO for Nortel made a keen observation that “companies no longer buy from companies, they buy from supply chains.” Supply chain management is a buzz word concept that has actually had some staying power. More of our clients are finding themselves in presentations in which they have brought in “partners” to assist in selling to a whale. Multiple- team selling can be a way in which your company can combat the “whale’s” natural fear that your organization is too small. As in all things, the devil is in the details.
There are some good reasons to sell with partners. There may be a set of capabilities that required by the buyer that you are not able to deliver. Additionally, sometimes a key relationship may exist between a potential partner of yours and the polar bear (economic buyer) inside the whale. It could be that the partner you are working with brings the necessary local office and physical proximity that the whale demands. Finally, whales will occasionally tell you that a specific partner would make your offering more appealing to the firm. Regardless of the reason, if you have decided that you will take on partners to sell the whale-sized deal, you need to keep some things in mind:
1. Who owns the chain? A supply chain or a multiple partner solutions needs to have someone in charge. If it is you, the strength of the chain link and your ability to manage the chain are paramount.
What is a sales team’s likely response when their buyer involves a bunch of people in a sale who don’t know much about what they’re buying?
“These people are IDIOTS!”
[Paraphrased from frustrated sales people the world over, dealing with “new” buyers at their big targets…]
When big companies lay people off, the functions of those people get stacked on top of the already-full desks of other people. These new responsibilities most often don’t come with training, a manual, or any relevant experience on the part of the recipient. And these new job requirements just show up. Often times, one of these responsibilities is to be the buyer of products and services with which the “new” buyer is very unfamiliar.
So, what do these people do with their new responsibility? Most of the time they choose one of the following:
1. Do nothing. They don’t buy anything- they just put it off
2. Stick with the incumbent.
3. Buy from the lowest-priced vendor.
In the rapidly-shifting organizational charts of companies dealing with downsizing, ignorant buyers can be dangerous to your sales process for new accounts. Face it—there are a lot of options that are easier and safer than going with a new provider like you.
Getting these new buyers to sway away from the three easy options listed above will require you to adjust your approach. Here are some recommendations…
I’m working on some big sales right now with my clients. I act as either a member of their team or as a key advisor. We’re aiming at accounts ranging from $500,000 to $100,000,000. This is a great part of my professional life. People hire me typically for one or more of three reasons:
- They’re looking to “double their double.” They want to double the speed with which they can double the size of their company and they believe that landing large accounts is the way to do it.
- They want a manageable and scalable approach to running their sales process, measuring it and improving their success rates.
- They have a mega-sale that they want to land and they want me to be their adviser and coach. I play the role of “deal-doctor” for lack of a better description.
I’m doing all of this work right now for a variety of clients, but it just so happens that in the area of mega-hunts, we’re in a very busy hunting season.
Every one of these deals is different – different size, industry, competitive landscape, personality mix… You get the idea.
But there are a few things that each of these mega-hunts has in common…
It occurred to me recently that we have a TON of free sales resources scattered throughout our site. From e-books to podcasts, and webinars to essays, we’ve definitely taken this thought leadership stuff to heart. And now we’ve gone one step further and wrapped it all up nicely into one lovely package we’ve aptly named our “Resource Center.”
So now, instead of registering for every e-book or download, you will simply register once for the Resource Center (it’s still free, of course), and you’ll never have to fill out another form again. (Registration is only required for e-books, webinars and podcasts.) Your email address will become your login, although our center should recognize you if you enter from a computer that you’ve previously used to login. I’m not one to brag (which is a trait that my marketing agency cites as a fatal weakness), but it is pretty snazzy…
In all seriousness, though, I invite you to check it out and take advantage of all of our free tools, including a brand NEW e-book that we just introduced today. (I’ll write about that separately later.) “How to Get into Big Companies for Big Sales… and What to Do Once You Get There” details a variety of new challenges that big sale hunters face and then provides extensive pointers, tips and insight that will allow them to greet those challenges head on.
I would love your feedback on the new resource center and e-book, so please feel free to email me or leave a comment if you have a chance.
(Sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to your prospect on the phone. Yes, really.)
In most horror films, at some point two people are in a scary place and they get separated. And at that moment, the tension begins because where there was conversation, now there is just the sound of the person’s breathing…the silence begins to play tricks with the imagination…and the suspense builds on itself until the character is at a level of irrational panic. Usually the person is calling out into the darkness repeatedly the name of the other character…and getting nothing back.
Silence is the worst when you’re on a hunt. One day there is a great dialogue and lots of discussions and the next you’ve entered some twilight zone of communication—emails aren’t returned, phone calls deadend at voicemail, and even your ace-in-the-hole contact (the one you’ve cultivated to give you the inside scoop) has dropped into some witness protection program, never to be heard from again.
Prospects smell fear and desperation; it’s pungent and unpleasant, so screaming into the night or begging for a returned phone call will not create a sense of strength and often doesn’t result in a returned call or email anyway.
However, humor can really work, so I want to share a few of the ways I have broken sustained silences in a big hunt and I want to hear some of your ideas in return. So, here are some cheap tricks and favorite techniques for reactivating the dialogue during a hunt that has gone silent…
My son keeps telling me about a new show called “Lie to Me.” Evidently the main character has the ability to tell when someone is lying and, often times, why he/she is lying. Facial clues, tone of voice, body language are all indicators for him. He’s a scientist with years of study behind his abilities, but he has a few “naturals” on his team. These are people who can come to similar conclusions with accuracy, but have no formal training. [An ex-girlfriend of mine used to say that she had the same ability—she could tell when men were lying because their lips were moving. (Sigh.)]
Anyway, it got me thinking about our abilities in the sales process to identify liars, half-truth-tellers, concealers and the most dangerous buyers of all (I think): the delusionally hopeful, whose greatest sin is that they lie to themselves first and then repeat it to us.
I don’t have science behind me and I’m wary of the pop-psychology world of body language interpretation, (“If he crosses his arms that means he is defensive”). I do, however, tend to think that there are some indicators when the conversation is not completely truthful and those hints are worth watching for…
It has all of the excitement of the big game, the high school play and your first illicit smoke rapped up in one. It’s “all you can eat night” at the adrenaline junkie café.
I’m talking about the night before the pitch for the big piece of business—it could be the final interview in an RFP process, a proposal meeting with the big prospect or the next step with your biggest client. Regardless, it’s show time and you and your team, (which could be no more than your pet, yourself and your coffee pot), are up late getting ready with all of the final details.
I’ve been through it a million times and I’ve watched dozens of clients go through it. This experience has taught me some key things that you should do to get it right in getting ready. But before I do that, let me share my worst mistakes ever…
• Opening the shrink-wrap on a software package that we had decided to use to create some of the elements of the next day’s pitch for the first time at 2am the morning of the meeting.
• Taking the red-eye from one pitch to get to the next pitch – that day I got the names, business issues and even the terms of the deal mixed up so badly that the prospect asked us to come back in the afternoon when we were a little clearer on the details (this one is so painful, almost 20 years later I can hardly write about it)
• Taking a team of the CEO, CFO and COO to a meeting on which they had not adequately been briefed, assigned roles and gone through a Murder Board exercise (see below).
Yesterday we introduced our first free eBook, Landing Big Sales with an RFP, and I can’t say that we could have picked a better time to do so.
I was just talking to a friend yesterday about how RFPs fit into the current business landscape. Our conclusion? And this isn’t rocket science, here: As budgets become tighter, and companies–big and small alike–become more anxious to show increased ROI, RFPs will simply become a necessary evil. Companies are going to want to make sure that they’ve explored all possible avenues before they make any decisions. And what’s the best way to do that? You guessed it…
So while RFPs may have been a mere yes or no decision for you in the past, you’re going to start seeing more and more of them in days to come. There’s no escaping, so my suggestion is this: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. In other words, take some time to learn how to master RFPs. We’ve spent years dissecting these things and are now so familiar with them, that we’ve even figured out how to make the topic interesting and funny. Really…
And hey, I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to fill out an RFP: they’re time-consuming, vague, and often don’t result in new business. Sometimes you even feel like you’re offering free consulting–and, well, sometimes you are. This eBook will help you determine whether or not you’ve got a shot; whether the RFP makes sense for your company; and if so, how to make sure you stand way above the competition.
*A small town in southern Indiana. What did you think I meant?
The power of words…
Grab attention, communicate an idea, provoke, engage, energize… If you hunt large sales, you know that the turn of a phrase or the capturing of a concept hinge on powerful words. I just read Frank Luntz’ article “Words That Pack Power” in the November 3rd issue of BusinessWeek. He picks out five words from the executive lexicon that should be used regularly in the current business world…