Large account sales success is 90% process and 10% MAGIC…
I spend so much time preaching and teaching “process” that I don’t spend much time in my blogs on the MAGIC that closing big sales takes. I am going to take the next few blogs to teach some of my magic tricks- those things that are not process, but still follow some understandable guidelines so that almost anyone can use these ideas to give leverage to your process and win more deals.
This one is known as “The 5 Myths”. This approach is used when you are in a highly commoditized marketplace and want to differentiate yourself with an experienced buyer. It is also effective when you are a small player and a large competitor has misrepresented things in the marketplace, but has used so much marketing firepower that the message has become the accepted norm.
Step 1: Establish the 5 Myths for your marketplace.
A myth is something that is generally held as truth in your marketplace but is in fact not true. Myths are often times created by big competitors who are trying to own the decision making reference frames of the marketplace and so they push these out into the market through advertising, brochures and other sales materials. The problem is that they work. Let me give a few examples:
- Myth 1: Price = Cost. Now, this is often times not true. When we look at the actual costs of a solution or product there are all sorts of factors to consider including, on-boarding costs, shipping fees, early mistakes and errors, training, hidden charges and so on. Price rarely equals cost. However, for the procurement driven buyer and the savvy competitor this provides great air-cover for making a price choice when the actual cost would be a better comparison.
- Myth 2: Big = Safe. One of the key decision drivers for companies in making buying decisions is safety. Safety is defined first by “Am I personally at risk for making this decision” and progresses from there. Big companies tell their marketplaces about the F.U.D. (fear, uncertainty and doubt) that buyers should consider from working with smaller providers. We know that there is no greater safety with a big company and probably greater risk from a lack of attention.
- Myth 3: RFP Process creates a level playing field. Right….if you were the author of the RFP maybe. RFP processes to do not create level playing fields, quite the opposite, they create unfair competitions that favor the incumbents or those who authored the RFP. We already know this. However, it is a myth that is widely held in large company cultures because it appeases the governance requirements.
- Myth 4: Procurement compliance means cost control. Everyone is concerned with controlling costs. Procurement or purchasing often carries the compliance requirements while the end-users carry the final budget numbers. It is a myth to believe that the accountants can monitor the true costs of implementation of solutions and in that way control costs.
- Myth 5: Certification provides protection. My favorite example of this is ISO, (where English majors find employment after graduation writing fiction). However, ISO is not the only one of these certifications that provides a smokescreen of value in the process. Certification is a starting place for true quality in a system, not an end outcome.
These are all examples, but you can come up with your own. The important thing is that you are showing your prospect behind the false marketing of your marketplace to help them make better decisions, regardless of whether they buy from you or not. All industries have generally accepted falsehoods that cause companies to make bad decisions- what are your industry’s falsehood.
Step 2: Explain why these are myths and what the truth is. For each myth, there is a truth that is hidden from the prospect. What is that truth? One of my clients is an HVAC distributor who finds themselves competing with their own suppliers on big deals! They use this truth in their 5 Myths presentations: The cost of a part is inconsequential to the cost of labor for installation. When the wrong part is in the wrong place, the cost of getting someone out to get that part is many times the price of the part itself. This is especially true on a multi-story building. My client can put the right palette of materials on the right floor and stacked in order of use. The supplier can only put boxes on palettes out at the materials lot on the jobsite. This is a representation of where the myth that price=cost could be dispelled and that the value of the truth overcomes all price differentials.
Step 3: Create a way to tell your story. In the previous example, I talked about the truth of parts and labor. The story sounds like this: “Imagine a $25/hour union contractor on the 4th floor of a new building working on the HVAC. He needs a bag of screws. He gets in the elevator, rides downstairs. He gets off the elevator and lights a cigarette while he’s walking to the materials lot. He gets a phone call and starts talking. Grabs the bag of screws and heads back but decides to get a soft-drink from his truck. Grabs that, lights a second cigarette and heads to the elevator. Gets upstairs and is about to work when he realizes that he is missing a set of vents and starts the process over. How much did that bag of $0.39 screws cost you? Of course you saved $0.02 on it, but it doesn’t offset the labor cost of at least $10. That’s why we put the palette with all the materials in order of use on the floor near the worksites.” By telling your story, you are taking your truth and making it their truth in their working reference frame.
Step 4: Put the key in their hands. I like to give a guide to my prospects at the end of my discussion of 5 Myths for them to use with my competitors in all future conversations. It’s simple- Give them a list of 5-7 questions that they should ask all companies with whom they are discussing this opportunity. The questions should represent an examination you are willing to undergo and should make them better buyers. By asking these questions, they will be able assess truth from myth in their future meetings.
- Keep it about them, not you. As you give your 5 Myths, take the position that you want them to make good decisions and this will help, regardless if they purchase from you or not.
- Ask them about their experience. As you discuss each myth, verify how this relates to their industry background and experience. If they say that they already are aware of the myth, ask how they verify each of the participants in the process.
- Commiserate. Wherever possible, show understanding as to why they have believed these myths in the past and then explain that it is an industry wide problem, most everyone has been snowed.
I call it a Magic Trick because of the magic it creates. When you show the prospect behind the curtain to the truth, their heads nod, their suspicions are confirmed and they have self-discovered what they believe will help them make better decisions. This translates into trust in you as a trusted adviser who showed them the truth. Like magic.