Will we win? Will it close on time?

*** The Complex Sale, Inc. has recorded a webinar on this topic: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/794796552


Outside of your own personal expertise, the most valuable piece of information you can offer buyers is your pricing. In the Complex Sale 2.0 world, buyers are gaining more and more control because information is becoming more and more available. Therefore, you should only share pricing when / if you feel you have positioned yourself as best as you can to win the business. If there is information you still need, you will not get it AFTER you send a detailed proposal.

Before you hand over pricing, make sure you can answer yes to these 11 questions.

Will it close on time?
 Do we know when they can no longer go without a solution?
 Do we know the decision-making process?
 Do we know the approval process?

Will we win?
 Have we linked our solution to solving enterprise-level pain?
 Do the decision-makers acknowledge our differentiation?
 Do we have enough votes of the decision-makers to win?

Will it close for the amount forecasted?
 Have we quantified the value based upon their criteria – not our ROI?
 Do we understand the political risk associated with this decision?

Have we prepared for the political nature of the decision making process?
 Are we anticipating counter-attacks of the competition?
 Are we aligned with powerful people to break a deadlock?
 Have we outlined the steps needed to get the deal signed?

The biggest mistake we see sales managers make is to base a forecast on stages in the sales cycle. Just because you are 85% into a sales process doesn’t mean you are going to win 85% of the business – or any of it for that matter. If you are in a competitive deal, your competition should be in the same phase and somebody has to lose. You need to compliment this quantitative step of forecasting based upon where you are in the sales cycle with the qualitative step of the 11 question deal review.Our research shows that 25% of forecasted deals are lost to competition by not taking this factor into account.


Our research also shows that 25% of forecasted deals are lost to no decision. That is why it is imperative to have the business case established before you present pricing. If you don’t understand the quantifiable metric upon which your decision-makers are going to base their decision, then you have a good chance of losing to no-decision.


First, Start with a Point of View


You really never do get a second chance to make a first impression yet I hear so many sellers stumble out of the gate with questions such as: What keeps you up at night? As discussed in an earlier blog about peer 2 peer selling, a peer is seen as an equal with similar acumen and experience. A conversation with a peer is not a series of open ended questions but rather one with purpose and a path.  Successful first calls are executed by following a model that begins with what we call a “point of view” and follows a six step process.


 The point of view statement is an observation about the prospect’s industry or business followed up with a closed-ended question. As an example – I will use our own sales tool kit with a fictional VP of Sale:

“I read that your company is expanding your product offering to include a software as a service platform. We have seen that companies usually have a 6 month lag in revenue with this type of change because it takes marketing and sales that long to get on the same page with sales ready messaging. Is that something you have factored in?”

1. This starts the conversation on a path that will help us gather specific information. The prospect will either answer the question yes or no.

To prepare provocative point of view statements for a first call, I recommend InsideView. This tool can be embedded inside of your CRM on the account level to give everything available about the company, from the blogosphere, LinkedIn, Jigsaw, Facebook, and in Twitter. InsideView is offering a free version right now that is well worth the time invested. 

2. We want to understand the impact that a 6 month lag will have on the individual and their organization. We simply ask the question, “What impact will that have on your company?”

3. We want to confirm that impact in terms of metrics. If we are going down the right path –there will be a tangible repercussion. We will want to ask, “Just so I heard you correctly – a 6 month lag in revenue for this product line will mean $15,000,000 in lost revenue?” We would want to add some clarification as well to address a date by which this problem must be solved. “When is the product due to go-live?”

4. We want to create a mutual vision to address this pain. It is very important to align with their vision. We want to collaborate with them by asking, “What are your plans on getting sales and marketing aligned before product release.” We then follow up by sharing how we have helped similar organizations in similar circumstances.

5. Our next step is to offer a method of proof. Most complex sales will require some deeper discovery with individuals in the company. We want to get sponsorship of this discovery step but not without giving a “high-level” overview of what we are trying to achieve. “Our Sales Tool Kit will provide sales ready messaging at the time of product release to avoid the 6 month revenue lag”

6. We ask then for the prospect’s sponsorship on a deeper discovery and a time to demonstrate our proof of concept. “As a next step, you will introduce me to your VP of Marketing and Sales Operations department to tailor a proof of concept demonstration of the Sales Tool Kit. We can have something prepared for you by month end. Can we schedule a time for our next meeting then? ”

A Sales Tool Kit to Help with your Point of View

Selling like a peer means thoroughly researching all of your potential stakeholders to be well versed in their position and the challenges they face.  Successful companies take this research and put it into a sales tool kit for consistency throughout the entire sales force. It is vitally important to have a central repository available of best practices in messaging, competitive positioning, objection handling, and probing questions to prepare for a first call. Kadient offers a fully integrated content management tool with most CRM’s including Salesforce.com where the tool kit’s content should be housed.

A Sales Culture of Accountability


A recent survey from the Complex Sale found that 93% of Sales Leaders thought that having a Sales Culture of Accountability was the number one cause for success!

Oftentimes, sales organizations use revenue attainment goals as the key metric for success. The revenue attainment objective is owned by one person and divided amongst that individual’s direct reports. This process continues throughout the sales organizations down to individual sales representatives – thus representing their quotas.

Revenue however is a lagging indicator of success. The best practices we see implemented by the world’s greatest sales forces attach leading key performance indicators as goals as well. The goals start at the top and cascade down to the field just as revenue attainment quotas.

Leading Key Performance Indicators are specific to individual sales organizations based upon their clients buying cycles and revenue generation targets. Most successful organizations start with how much revenue they need to attain from the base of accounts and create metrics around account penetration and retention. An example of leading indicators for account management would be net new opportunities, renewal rates, and percentage of growth; as applied to each account. We prescribe other goals for opportunity management around executive access or understood sources of urgency.  These companies track the progress of these KPI’s on a continuous basis such as monthly or quarterly. 

We see that the most successful companies use this process to hold sellers accountable for the correct activity and management accountable to the sellers. If an account manager is hitting their metrics and still not making their revenue target, then the manager is held accountable for coaching or resetting the goals. This practice leaves out any uncertainty in expectations throughout the sales organization.

Peer 2 Peer Selling (P2P)

 Say the right thing

A new study by Forbes finds that 53% of C-level executives do their own research online – well before they delegate a project or contact vendors. Therefore, sales people need to add much more value than the standard discover, present, pricing method that permeates our business. Our buyer wants to buy from a peer – or someone who can add value well beyond our product offering.

How does one become a peer of an executive? We must speak to them in their language.

Successful sales forces are able to take their operational features and functionality and translate their benefits into a compelling value proposition for non-technical buyers. As we begin to sell more complex solutions, more stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process. These stakeholders often do not have the technical expertise to distinguish our solution from the competition or other in-house alternatives.  

Inherent in a value proposition is a keen understanding of the pains of the non-technical buyers and a linkage of our solution to solving those pains. Many organizations make the mistake of having one generic value proposition – when in fact it must be tailored to the individual to whom we are selling.

This is most apparent when we generate a sales process through our own demand creation efforts. Oftentimes, executives who need our solution the most, have no understanding of what we do and need it translated for them to sponsor an evaluation.

As a go-to-market strategy, successful sales organization take a census of every potential stakeholder in their sales process. They uncover every potential pain this individual could have and link their solution to solving that pain. They also take inventory of every potential competitor and create competitive position statements and ways to handle objections. They lean upon the expertise of their best parishioners and marketing departments to create an easy to access tool kit for the sales force.

We have seen messaging tool kits used to shorten sales cycles, ramp up new hires faster, and move lesser skilled reps up to the level of more skilled sellers. With this knowledge and confidence – they are more effective listeners and can sell Peer 2 Peer.

Survey Says…Getting-Buy In is the Highest Hurdle


Survey Results

Getting Buy-In is the only a hurdle because so many sales folks are forcing a process for sake of activity or to see what sticks. I would much more prefer we validate there is a need / pressing business issue that we can help as well as gain agreement on the front end that they are willing to change.” – Respondent

 The results are compiled from over 175 responses from varying industries and sales cycles. The below are the results from a typical sales process.

  • Creating a first call with a prospect…………………………19%
  • Translating a first call into an evaluation……………….. 13% 
  • Building Preference in a Discovery Meeting…………….11%
  • Compelling Demonstrations of Capability ……..………. 9%
  • Getting Buy-in on the Business Case…….………22%
  • Negotiating Price and Terms…………………………………. 6%
  • Successful hand-off to Implementation …………………..6%
  • Documenting the Value of the Purchase ……..………….13%
  • Retaining the Customer …………………………………………2%

Our research reveals that getting buy-in on the business case is the hardest hurdle to overcome in the sales process. The main reason for this phenomenon is that many sellers use a generic ROI tool as their main justification for action. ROI alone is not enough to push an economic buyer to purchase. (What solution doesn’t come with an ROI?)

To gain buy-in on the business case we need to work with the decision-makers early in the process to get THEIR justification for action, not ours. Our buyers have their own metrics for success and we need to work with them to link our competitive advantages to meeting those metrics. Without that collaborative process – we let the buyer create their own cost justification – which often includes doing nothing at all. We can also fall victim to commoditization if the buyers sees no discernable difference between vendors to meet their justification.

As a tactical step – insist on getting the cost justification from each decision-maker before you present a proposal; because they won’t give it to you after they receive pricing.

Know your market…….

This was sent to me by a good friend, Adam Fayne:  Thanks Adam

A disappointed Coca Cola salesman returns from his assignment to Israel. A friend asked, “Why weren’t you successful with the Israelis?”

The salesman explained, “When I got posted, I was very confident that I would make it.  But, I had a problem. I didn’t know Hebrew.
So, I planned to convey the message via 3 posters.
First poster : A man lying in the hot desert sand, totally exhausted.

Second poster : The man drinks Coca Cola.
Third poster : The man is now totally refreshed.

“These posters were pasted all over the place.”

“That should have worked!!” said the friend.

“The heck it should have!!, said the salesman. “I didn’t realize that Israelis read from right to left!!!”

Take it away or Fade away

In this economic climate, organic opportunities are becoming harder to come by! I was speaking with a client this morning who told me that “no decision” wasn’t a factor in his sales process a year ago – it’s the only thing he loses to today. To accentuate that point, a recent survey in the Nashville Business Journal stated that 90% of companies were cutting costs. http://nashville.bizjournals.com/nashville/stories/2009/01/26/daily12.html?ana=e_du_pub


What does that mean to sales leaders?  We have to go where the money is still budgeted and that is usually with a product that is already in place. In other words – we have to take it away from an incumbent competitor or we might just fade away by not reacting properly to market conditions.


We speak often of segmenting our prospects – I recommend that we segment between prospects that are using our competitors and one’s where we are introducing the service. When unseating an incumbent, we need to look for two things – who made the decision and if any value whatsoever has been documented.


Many times, our competitors do a poor job of verifying their “ROI.” We want to raise doubt with the prospects that are using our competitor by asking for the ROI documentation. If the Decision Makers can’t produce this documentation, they will become uneasy and even dubious about their selection. As a disclaimer – we must tread carefully around this subject because there is political risk in exposing this lack of follow up.  


Taking away an incumbent competitor is hard because the pain of change is often political. However – if you can break that bond the decision-maker has with their selection by raising questions around the ROI that was promised – you might not fade away in this economic climate.

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