Are you selling by fluke?
14 March 2020
By Thilak Iyer
One of my former bosses used to say that whenever he went through the CRM report, all wins are due to the relationship the sales person had with the customer and all losses are due to the prices being dropped by the competition. This was over 10 years ago. At that time, I didn't agree. Now, after many years of being battle hardened, I wonder how true he was.
It is true, particularly in institutional sales, that people buy from people. Product and company are incidental, if I may be somewhat immodest. If the customer doesn't trust you, the sale wouldn't happen, however good the product is. However, making relationship the only winning point is a little too far-fetched. Ditto for price. Price is extremely important - though very often the customer will put the price at the bottom of the list preceded by value, requirement-fit etc.. The customer knows and we know that price is important (unless you are selling to germans - different topic for a different day!). Still price cannot be the only factor to lose the deal.
Selling is all about strategy. If you don't have a strategy to make THE sale, the sale is going to be matter of luck (you can give a suitable reason after the fact!). There are essentially four key elements of strategy for making the sale:
Is this the right sale? Many organizations we have worked with, have a clearly documented Go-NoGo principles and criteria outlined. The failure is in the execution. Most often, it remains on paper and in best cases, it is followed in pockets by certain managers. Even when it is followed, the sales persons are able to take the waiver. YOU need to follow clearly defined Go-NoGO algorithm and take decisions firmly. Else, you are wasting your time.
Do you know the customer requirements? Even when we are responding to an RFP or a tender, wherein the requirements are supposedly spelt out, they are very often are not very clear. The key is then to ask pertinent questions in the most effective way. The key words here are "Pertinent" and "Effective". Business development team regularly fail in both of these criteria in both written as well oral questioning.
Have you mapped all the customer people? Whenever I have asked this question pat comes out the organization structure which the sale person knows by-heart. No no no. The important piece is to map the people who could play a role in THIS SALE. And then rank them according to the type of influence they may have. Some could be decision makers and others could be key influencers. The next step is to cover them all. And don't take it upon yourself to meet/talk to all of them as you may not be the right person to meet some of them. Here the mapping comes into picture. Map the customer people with your people in terms of coverage and then create a coverage strategy.
Keep thinking about what could go wrong? I now and then recall a deal that I lost on a negotiating table. In this deal, I had a feeling that we had closed on all open issues and had come to a conclusion. Once I left the customer's office, I didn't hear back from them for the next 2 days. It did not alarm me. The 2 days were utilized by the competitor to close the deal. You have to constantly think, document and mitigate all hurdles that you see in sale. They could be a period of prolonged silence, reorganization, a new person taking over - anything. The key is not fret over them but to address them calmly.
Now the key step is to break down the strategy into tactical plans by developing organization specific tools and techniques to capture and enable the key elements of strategy. We help customers in forming sales strategies at the organization level percolating down to specific sales.