Does sales effectiveness require process – following a particular process in a particular manner? Perhaps. Does sales effectiveness necessitate using the right technology/tools – say like a CRM system? Perhaps. Does sales effectiveness require a deep insight into the customer’s industry / business? Perhaps. Does sales effectiveness require great negotiating skills. Perhaps.
Last week I presented a sales proposal. It was well received and we were awarded the work. Several members of the client team mentioned that the proposal was spot on – exactly what they were looking for. A member of the proposal team stated that we had been successful because I had rapidly built a rapport with the client team – by honing in on their core need and talking to that. Another member of our (sales) team attributed success to the “highly contextualised presentation deck”.
To whom and to what do I attribute the success of this sales proposal? First, let me say that I do not attribute it to killer insight to the client’s industry. I had little understanding or insight into that industry – a highly specialised industry. Second, I neither followed a sales process nor used a CRM system. Third, I did not put the solution together – others much more technical than me did that work. Lastly, the occasion to use negotiating skills never arose. If there is a clue it lies in the comment “highly contextualised presentation deck”.
What I did do was a number of things. I recommended that the first cut presentation (put together by the technical folks) be presented to a key member of the client team. On that call, whilst the technical folks, presented that deck, I listened intently to the client. Where anything was fuzzy (to me, to the client) I asked clarifying questions. Following the presentation I talked extensively with the technical folks to understand the solution, implementation plan, assumptions they had put together. This was not a comfortable discussion – I asked question after question to get from the abstract to the concrete. Finally, I did desk based research. After all this work, I cut down the presentation deck from 20+ slides to less than 10; I did my very best to make sure each slide spoke to the client – relevant to the client’s problem/desired outcome, and written in language that the ordinary business person can easily understand.
Does that mean that I attribute success in ‘closing’ this opportunity to myself? Before I answer that question allow me to share some relevant information with you. I/we (sales team) turned up on time but at what turned out to be the ‘wrong’ building. Sorting this matter out took something like 30 minutes. In the meantime the technical team via conference call had been asked to deliver the sales proposal. Having no choice they commenced delivery using the original presentation deck – ignoring the one that I had put together. By the time I/we (sales team) turned up the client team (about ten people) looked baffled and somewhat annoyed. Then we (sales team) apologised and I delivered the sales proposal.
I attribute our success in being awarded the work to the client. The client gave us (the sales team) a second chance: to wipe the slate clean and represent the sales proposal. The client has a pressing need with a fixed deadline. The client was looking to and in fact had to buy from someone – someone competent. The client considered us to be competent based on prior experience. Put differently, the client was fertile soil for our sales proposal.
Summing up, I say that sales effectiveness comes ultimately comes down to a client that is sold on you (reputation, personal chemistry, word of mouth recommendation), has the necessary authority to influence/make a purchase, and most importantly has an urgent need to get started today to put in place something for the not to distant future. Now ask yourself how much of this is under the influence of the sales guy. Or how a sales process, a CRM system, or negotiating skills are going to make much of an impact on these dimensions.
I thank you for your listening. I wish you the very best and look forward to the next conversation.