Have you ever received this feedback after months of hard work leading what you thought was a strong sales cycle only to be shut down with the finish line in sight?
What happened? You knew in advance that your prospective client was going to hold a final internal vendor selection meeting. You knew that vendors were not allowed at this meeting and you thought you had prepared your champion to close this on your behalf, right? So what went wrong? There are two main reasons this happens; your internal champion(s) did not represent your company as well as you would have had you been in the meeting and/or there was a key decision maker that we weren’t aware of didn’t connect them to the sales cycle. By the way, statistically these two issues make up over 90% of the reasons why we don’t win business that we thought for sure was ours…
Here are some suggestions on how to insure neither of these issues happens to you again, ever.
Written validation through all phases of the sales cycle – who is the subject matter expert on why your company is the best solution for your prospective client, yourself or the client? Correct answer is we are (of course). Knowing this, who do you want to trust to take the most accurate notes on how your solution set will be valuable to the client and validation of how the sales cycle is progressing, yourself or the client? Same answer, it should be us.
How much better would this sales cycle have gone had everyone who gets to decide, or influences someone who gets to decide, been on the same page about the business case of why your company over a competitor? Confusion or lack of clarity amongst the decision makers at this final meeting will insure that we do not win the deal. Here’s a good way to prevent this from happening. You send meeting follow-up notes today, let’s make sure they contain the right content, these are listed in the order that they get written:
- Business Issue – senior decision maker’s top challenge that is preventing them from achieving their business goals (this is 100% from their perspective, nothing to do with you and your company)
- Problems – break that top challenge down into the individual problems that are standing in their way, and do this in the context of how your company can best solve them
- Solution – connect your company’s unique capabilities (how you solve those problems better than anyone else) to solving their problems
- Value – use specific client examples of how solving the problems financially impacted those client’s P&L
- Keep it simple, for example; XYZ company told us solving problem X saved them $30K per quarter, or $120K per year, because it eliminated 500 manual hours of work per quarter for which they were paying $60 per hour (500 X $60 = $30K).
- Power – list by name and title who all the known decision makers/influencers are
Make this bullet format using as few words as possible, keep it to a page, maybe two at the most, and send an updated version out after every significant meeting. It gets sent to everyone you have met with so far. The first 1-2 pages now becomes the live business case of why you versus the other competition, the following pages contain the actual steps that you and the prospect need to follow, with expected completion dates, for them to become your client.
The best practice is to make this part of your normal behavior and use this business case plan document to open each subsequent meeting. Can you think of a better way to remind the person you’re meeting with today where you left off with them since your last meeting several weeks ago? It only takes 2-3 minutes to do this…Can you think of a better way to get new players up to speed on what you’ve learned about what they are trying to solve so far?
Another major impact of doing this is you get many opportunities to validate who the decision makers are as you move through the sales cycle. “These are the people we’ve identified so far that get a vote, are there any others who should be on our list?”. The best practice on identifying decision makers/influencers is to triangulate, meaning every time you meet a new person simply ask them “besides yourself who are the others that will have input into the final decision?”. Making both of these steps (written plan review and triangulating with new people you meet) habits in your world should eliminate losing the deal with the finish line in sight…
To prove this out here are two ways these final meetings (that we can’t be at) go down. Let’s make it more interesting, the situation is the big boss contacts your champion and tells him/her “we’ve got a chance to accelerate this decision (new budget dollars found that need to be spent, etc.) I want to meet with you this afternoon to get your inputs (this meeting was going to be in two weeks or so):
- Unprepared champion – you have not been following the business case plan validation process and your champion is scrambling and calls in a panic “the meeting is today, what do I say?” – you do your best to fire hose them with the information they should discuss but you have a nagging feeling that this isn’t going to go well (and sadly you are right). They tell you they are ready and they’ll call you after the meeting. They don’t call back today, they don’t call back in the morning and now you’re stalking them for an update. You finally get them a few days later and they tell you “it just didn’t go our way”, this translates to they did a poor job (because we didn’t prepare them to do a great job…)
- Prepared champion – you’ve conditioned your champion to understand the expected value you and your solutions are going to provide them by following the plan follow-up process so they clearly understand the business case for why you versus the competition. They have it in their hands because you have always been sending it and frequently reviewing it with them. This call is “good news, the meeting got moved up to this afternoon, I want to review some of the plan highlights with you just to make sure I get it right…”. The call you get after this meeting starts with congratulations…
Which type of champion do you want representing you at the final closing meeting that you are not allowed to attend?
Doug Von Koenig
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