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…
- There’s always a fight. Granted, it’s a family fight, but it’s a fight all the same. I have come to expect it and even to provoke it on occasion. If there isn’t a fight, you have some potential bad mojo. Either people aren’t passionately engaged in the conversation and are just going through the motions, or people don’t think we’re going and are just going through the motions. Or, their mind is on something else and again, they’re just going through the motions. Bottom line: a fight is a good thing.
- Everyone is a mind reader. People pull the tiniest scrap of data about a person who’s on the prospect’s team and make an enormous projection about what they want or will believe. Because of the desire to sell people at an emotional level, the more emotion connected to these scraps, the more they become the focus of the discussion of what we should pitch. This can lead to some very dangerous conclusions. Start with the facts that you know, then evaluate the opinions you have heard and finally take a moment to consider the gossip. Just make sure you don’t do it the other way around.
- Last minute hi-jacking of the pitch. Someone in the eleventh hour is going to stand up and say, “I think we’ve got this all wrong. We have to change this whole thing or we might as well not bother pitching it.” You can almost count on it. And they win a lot more often than you would think. The fatigue of working through the RFP response or the presentation deck just starts to wear people out. The frustration of not being able to get it quite perfect will cause people to just give up on their current path and start over. Sometimes breakthroughs happen when frustration gives way to the creative energy release. My caution is that if you cannot take the changes being offered and integrate them into the current pitch, don’t switch your overall approach.
So, if this is always the same, then what do I always do to manage these circumstances? A couple of things.
- Be ruthless about the preparation. Insist on giving all of the data to all of the members of the team as early as possible. This includes a dossier on the target company, a profile of all participants in the buying process, and a copy of all communications regarding this deal.
- Pick your team early. The team will shape the story, the key pitch points, the elements of pitch theater, the chemistry, the hunt process—all of it. Do not do the majority of the work and then bring them in; you just get more fights and more hi-jacking.
- Set 3 meetings, minimum. There is a deal strategy meeting. Then there is the pitch preparation meeting. Finally, there is dress rehearsal or final review. You need these to be long enough to allow for vigorous discussion, a healthy fight and brainstorming.
- Assign roles. People need to know up front what they will be responsible for: Who is handling communication with the client before and after the presentation or submitted proposal? Who is responsible for creating the documents and pitch decks? Who will be the conductor during the pitch? If you assign early, people will do a better job of handling the job and of planning time to do a good job.
Don’t get me wrong, this won’t completely fix things. I’m on a plane as I write this, leaving one meeting wherein I saw a pitch hi-jacking happen, and I am on my way to another meeting where I know I have a mind-reader. That’s okay and it’s to be expected; the energy is potentially really healthy. My management tips are about containing and focusing the energy on what will help you to win.