For those in a pre-sales you’re familiar with the good deals and bad deals. Good deals are those that everyone rallies to be a part of. The bad deals are those that people get dragged into kicking and screaming because they know their going to lose.
Generally when you’re working on a new deal, you would ask sales “Is this a good deal? Can we win?” In some cases Sales will get out the Sunshine-pump and say “Oh yes, this is a strategic deal!” If you’re lucky, sales will display significant professionalism and acumen – providing a well rounded view of the client, the deal and a plan for closing the business.
Quick assessment
So how do you avoid the Business Development black hole? With a quick assessment you can determine opportunity win probability. The questions are as follows:
  • What is the compelling event?
  • What is the budget?
  • Who is our coach?
These three questions will provide you with significant insight regarding; a) the amount of effort the sales team has invested in pursuing the deal and b) their acumen specific to the client. Obviously, to answer the questions with any merit there must be a solid relationship in place between sales and the client which signifies an investment. Be warned, if you only get an answer to the question “What is the compelling event…” then sales has most likely not done their homework.
Further assessment
If I had to ask more questions to further determine a win probability, I would ask the follow of sales:
  • Describe the relationship with the client (Decision makers, their influencers and advisors).
  • Stakeholder include CIO, Directors, Managers, Business contacts, Purchasing, legal, Project manager, Architects to name a few.
  • What history does the client have with us?
  • Who is the incumbent? How are they performing?
If you would like more information regarding this approach to sales, read the Holden Sales method – Power Based Selling, Jim Holden. Another great book is Consultative Selling – Mac Hannon.
Fly on the wall or active participant?
When assessing a deal it’s easy to ask the aforementioned questions but real value comes in the form of team players that are willing to step up and act in a concerted effort to get the answers. Here is where work ethic comes into play, your either a “Fly on the wall” or an active participant. So how do you get involved? Ask if you can join sales planning meetings or suggest a plan for gathering data and answering the questions. This proactive approach will eventually land you a win and help you gain credibility amongst the sales staff and your peers.
Who should I be working with?
The team pursuing the deal must consist of people that fill certain roles and skill sets. Typically, the roles consist of sales, consultants (solution and or vertical), regional management and business partners. Skill based roles would map to the specific functionality and the deployment requirements for the solution (or RFP).
So where do you start? Your manager, this person is the key to your success very early in your career with the company. This person will direct you to key resources within the company to get you started. What sort of questions should you ask this person?
  • What is our opportunity governance (gating) process?
  • What documents and process am I responsibility?
  • Who are the regional sales representatives?
  • Who are the regional practice managers?
  • Who are the thought leaders in the various solution areas?
Other tools you could use to network are Community of Practice Portals which usually contain organization charts with names, roles and contact information. Don’t hesitate to send an introductory email explaining your role and interest in helping win and deliver business – they will appreciate the effort. Also, any opportunity to have face time with contacts or talk over a coffee is critical to developing rapport – take advantage of these opportunities. Use company meetings, trade shows or other company or industry events. For information, read “Building Effective Teams – Duke Education Services.
The sales call
Generally when I’m asked to attend a sales meeting, I’m focused on a few important tasks:
  • Understanding what is compelling the client
  • What lets them know it is a problem?
  • What is this costing the organization? Pain level?
  • Measures of success, increase or decrease of what
  • Expected outcomes and or results
  • Work they done to date and venders they’ve engaged
  • Their decision process (Decision maker, advisors, influencers)
  • Budget and Timing
Before engaging on a deal, I’ve obtained a good understanding of the industry vertical by becoming knowledgeable of it’s’ history or past events, current issues, challenges, concerns or fears, and future trends.  I’ve Research the dominant or leading players within the industry using industry studies by IDC, Gartner and Forrester. I also have a clear understanding of the client mission or vision, and their strategy to achieve their goals and objectives – sales, the coach and postings help.
From a solution knowledge perspective, I’ve obtained a good understanding of industry best practices and understand how the services or solutions I’m selling helps customers achieve their goals and objectives, enable their vision or mission, resolve their business issues or problems, increases revenues and/or reduce cost. Attached is a worksheet you can use to assess deals and create a plan.
Another key aspect of the meeting is to build credibility. Typically the sales person introduces me as an international consultant with 18 plus years of experience. This helps get me in the door but in order to break down barriers related to credibility, I must display acumen in a few areas:
  • Understanding their business and current situation – sales, the coach and postings help.
  • Depth of knowledge in key solution areas – experience!
  • Creating a high level execution plan – how the client can move forward using best practices and proven approaches to success.
What resources do I require to execute?
Once you have an idea of the client’s requirements, you must formulate a plan for responding to the clients requirements – developing a solution. A tool I really find effective is – helps to model the solution intuitively. See my Blog “Using Mind Manager to orchestrate the Architects RFP process” for more information and images of Mind Maps.
Generally, the team will consist of the following persons:
  • Primary Sales owner – the sales person that is accountable for the deal.
  • Practice manager – the manager(s) that own the solution are(s).
  • Bid Manager – the person responsible for managing the bid/proposal process.
  • Project manager – the person that will manage the solution process beginning to end.
  • Contracts – legal counsel for contractual terms and conditions.
  • Lead Architect – the architect assigned to the deal that has vertical and solution acumen.
  • Business partners – sales and technical representatives who are involved in the solution offering.
  • Consultants – persons assigned to the team for their technical insight and experience.
Like any network, it requires upkeep in order to keep it in working condition. Specifically, you must keep in contact with people and when people leave the company or get packaged, you must fill the empty spot with the appropriate replacement. For more information, read “Influencing and Collaborating for Results” – Duke Corporate Education.
Generating leads
To generate leads (business) there are several things you can do – some quick and some requiring much investment. The following are quick steps:
  • Proactively work with regional sales teams
  • Work with the marketing teams
  • Leverage network of contacts within HP and industry
  • Proactively build my network with sales, management and consultants
  • Work seminars and/or trade shows with manufacturer sponsorship
  • Participate in manufacture seminars and/or trade shows
  • Joint calls with manufacturer representatives focused on providing the customer a total solution
  • Explore the possibility of joint marketing campaigns with partners
  • Write KBs
The following is a more in depth plan:
  • Selecting a target industry – though my solutions are mostly horizontal in nature, understanding an industry is a great asset.
  • Develop a deep understanding of the industry and key players – Google is a great place to start but if you have money, purchase industry studies that cover industry trends and needs. Also purchase studies that assess your competition so that you understand the competition.
  • Select core solution(s) – develop solutions that meet the need from a functional and cost perspective. Refer to IDC, Gartner and Forrester studies that provide insight regarding growth and demand areas.
  • These studies will also provide you with an understanding of “barriers to entry” – what it takes to be a viable player.
    Select core solution(s) – develop solutions that meet the need from a functional and cost perspective.
  • Develop marketing materials – create marketing material and plans that create industry visibility. Another valuable tool is industry publications such as magazines and books. For example, I couple of years ago I was interviewed for Microsoft Ideas Magazine.
  • Build relationships with entities that will boost industry confidence and help facilitate awareness regarding the company.
  • Leverage knowledge, experience and resources.
Creating opportunities
Several years ago an established and well respected Salesman told me “Ron, you create opportunities within an account and the only way you can do this is to be assigned to accounts so that you gain a deep understanding of their business – good and bad. You leverage this understanding and create solutions.” This same person told me to read “Consultative Selling” by Mac Hannon.
This sort of sales is very different from opportunistic sales leads and responding to RFPs. Mature consulting organizations will create their opportunities and invest much time so are viewed as industry leaders.
Managing the sales funnel
Managing your sales funnel requires diligence and patience. Deals come in a variety of flavors – early leads not well scoped to those where the sales time has invested significant time and funds in creating the opportunity.
Typically my sales funnel has a 40% hurdle rate. Specifically, if there isn’t a 40% chance or better that we’ll win I give the deal a low priority or don’t work on it at all until the hurdle is met. Why do this? You have limited resources, why focus on bad deals?
When classifying deals, I group them by their stage within a lifecycle which is as follows:
  • Leads – early leads from peers or partners.
  • Scoping – discussions have begun with the client to assess requirements.
  • Proposal – a proposal is being developed
  • Delivery – a contract is signed and delivery has begun.
  • Closure – the project is complete and we discuss further opportunity
There are several tools available for managing the sales funnel, I invested four months developing my own application called “Funnel Manager”. Funnel Manager is a collaborative tool that captures the essence of the deal – something a spreadsheet doesn’t do.
The application is based on the Holden sales methodology so that key sales data is captured thus providing the team with key information for assessing win probability.
Further study
If you want to learn more the following books are recommended:
  • The eProcess Edge: Creating Customer Value & Business in the Internet Era
  • The Sales Bible
  • Marketing Your Consulting and Professional Services
  • Power Based Selling – secrets of an ivy league street fighter
  • Customer Service for the New Millennium: Winning and Keeping Value-Driven Buyers
  • Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done
  • The hidden value of social networks
  • Consulting Mastery: How the Best make the Biggest Difference
  • Influencing and Collaborating for Results
  • Virtuoso Teams – lessons from teams that changed their worlds
  • Building effective teams
  • Consultative Selling