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Imagine the Press Conference (to focus your sales efforts) August 13, 2010

Posted by Bernard Lunn in Enterprise Sales.
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Early in a big complex sale, take time for a bit of daydreaming. Imagine the Press Conference where the CXO of the company you are selling to announces the project to the press.

Maybe you think that daydreaming sounds rather self-indulgent. Perhaps this is some new variant of the old “think positive” stuff?

Actually this is a very practical strategic selling tool.

Complex sales are, well, complex. Like the middle part of a chess game, it can make the brain hurt and it is really hard to see the wood for the trees. You are probably juggling internal politics, resource constraints, pressure from partners, competitive moves and customer politics – and that’s all before lunch!

You need something to keep you focused on what really matters. You need to know what is the one overriding motivation for your decision-maker. This is the story that your decision-maker will be announcing when the deal is done. She will present why her great initiative will have a big effect on one of the company’s key strategic objectives and why she was smart enough to select the one vendor that was ideal for the project.

Unless you know what this story is, you are shooting in the dark.

Even big, complex enterprise sales come down to the personal motivation of the ultimate decision-maker on your project. Customer politics can get in the way when the personal motivations of different managers are pulling in different directions. However if you know the personal motivation of the big boss (and if you are reasonably confident the big boss will stay in power long enough to get the deal signed) you cannot go far wrong. You can then focus on helping the boss align the pesky, politics-playing managers to the big objective.

To cut your way through the complexity of enterprise sales, you need to simplify. Select one person who is the key decision-maker. Understand what is important to that decision-maker. Select the one big reason why he/she wants to do this project. Select the one reason why he/she will announce your company as the right vendor.

There is tremendous power in keeping the focus to one. Find one decision-maker, one business driver and one vendor selection driver.  When you see multiple answers, keep drilling and imagine that press conference. The CEO will only have one minute to describe the vendor and why he/she chose you, so there cannot be lots of reasons.

Imagine yourself in his/her shoes. Remember when you have had to make an important decision and how you finally made up your mind. What you will usually find is that it was one simple reason and everything else was incidental.

Even more powerful is the realization that there is often one precise moment when you win or lose a deal, even if the whole sales cycle is 12 months or more. Everything before that is preparation to sell and everything after that is managing the process to closure. Think about decisions you have made and how you made them. There might have been lots of research to get you to a certain point and then a key point when in your mind you think “this is it”. Then you may still spend lots of checking to make sure you are doing the right thing, but you want the answer to be positive. You are looking for verification not problems.

In some sales, you may not be there when that key moment happens. This is not ideal, but it is the reality in many enterprise sales. At the crucial moment of decision, your decision-maker is probably sitting with the one manager he/she holds accountable for this decision.  Again, there is one key manager, although lots of other managers may be involved in the research and diligence stages.

Although you may not be there at that critical moment, you must have a very close relationship with the manager who is doing the briefing and you and he/she must have total alignment on the key objectives.

In long sales cycles, take time to imagine the press conference. Use this to get clarity on the “key ones” – one decision-maker, one business driver and one vendor selection driver.

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