Blog Articles
hot topics and links
have a question

about us
meet the team


OVERVIEW of the Proven Enterprise Sales Process, Steps 1 to 10
By Peter Meyer

If you are interested in improving your enterprise sales and you have some 5 minute time slots, this can be a great read for you. You'll find a series on a proven and pretty unique sales process that works a charm for enterprise sales.
The process has 7 steps. Over the years we've found that if you get through step 4 you'll have a 95% chance of getting a fairly large enterprise deal at full margin. And these deals usually close sooner than you would have expected.
In other words, this is a great series of articles to share with sales teams and channels. Which I think is why Excellence Essentials commissioned it for their journal.
The series of articles was an experiment for both the journal and for me, and it seems to have worked pretty well. The articles are being published once a month. As they do, you will find the article published here as well. Right now, we are half way through. Articles 1 to 5 (of 10) are now in this blog.
Of course you should read them on the journal if you can. Take a look at: Excellence Essentionals
However, if you want to see them all in one place, right here in the Meyer Group site is where that will happen.
Since this is all public domain now, I'd like to encourage you to share the articles. Please give them attribution to Excellence Essentials and to the Meyer Group.
If you have a channel operation or direct sales team that would benefit from some attention, drop me a line and lets talk about tailoring the content for your company. It can be easy, and if your channels or sales teams use it, you can grow your revenue substantially. That is what I have in mind.
The first article is right here, and the rest follow it on the same page.
With thanks!

Step 1 - Start Before Your First Call
The Professional Enterprise Sales Process
More Large Deals in Less Time

A Series of 10 Articles
for Sales and Service Essentials
by Peter Meyer, of the Meyer Group

Do you want to close more enterprise deals, more quickly, at prices that reflect your true value? You're not the first to ask. You've come to the right place.

Here you have the first of a series of 10 articles on how to increase your value to enterprise customers, value as *they* see it. With that you'll move complex deals to quicker closes. This process is based on original research, and has been tested and refined over several years. For complex sales, this is proven to work. Going by the results: When you apply the process and get through the step in Part 8, 95% of the enterprise sales close. And they close within days. This works partially because you are recognized to be delivering more value to your customer.

Each article in the series will take a step of the Enterprise Sales Process and explore it. And since the perception of value starts with the very first time you meet your prospect, the process starts *before* that first call happens. It starts when you choose the right first contact, not the easy one, so let's start there.

The Value Assumption
To cut the time to revenue, you are looking for a sponsor of influence. That should start with a key assumption: That you are here to add value to the customer, not just take his or her money.

That decision to add value to both should drive your plans for whom to call at the customer. The traditional contact may think that she or he should be deciding things, but often you would rather find a business person of real influence at the enterprise.

The recognition of your value as a contributor to your customer is not a function of how high you call. *Your value to the enterprise is a function of what you deliver that a key influencer recognizes as important.* It is not a function of the organization chart. The right person to call on is the one who can help you deliver value and exert influence to make your deal work. She or he will do that when it helps their agenda. Lets look at that a bit more.

Influence is Not Authority
Consider the difference between influence and authority. If you were to want to sell an idea to the U.S. government in Washington, would you look for authority or influence? Is there anyone higher in authority than the President of the United States? However, consider: The President is the commander of the most powerful army in the world, but can he or she get a budget passed?

In workshops we ask executives to identify the most influential people in Washington. The President never gets selected for this. Nor do the Speaker of the House or the leaders of the Senate. We know that the most influential people in the nation's capital don't always have the mantle of authority.

The same applies to your customers. If you would not count on President Obama to make your deal, why would you count on the CEO to make it? You wouldn't. You would go look for influence. In your sales cycle, you cannot have enough influence.

Who do you want? You want to find the right sponsor in the enterprise, and she or he should be a person with real influence who is willing to work to solve his or her own problem.

Looking for the Sponsors of Influence
Finding influence isn't easy. But with a few key indicators you can begin to identify who the most influential people will be.

First: Start with resources. Influencers are given access to time, people, and money to make things happen. Ask around and find who gets the resources inside the enterprise. Key assets flow silently from the least influential to the most influential managers and people. Follow them.

Second: Every organization has a few "go to" persons. These are the women and men that the enterprise relies on when the pressure is at the worst. If you watch top level sport you know who "go to" players are for a winning team. In your enterprise customer, ask who they might be.

Third: Many organizations have a successful manager or executive who is good at promoting the people around her or him. It makes for a very influential person. Ask around for this skill.

Finally: The most influential people are the ones who are known to be great listeners. Consider: When someone listens to you, do you tend to listen to him or her? If you can find the person who is known to listen you will probably find a key influencer.

By the way, when you become the person who listens *you* become a key influencer.

Pause before you pick up the phone and call the person with the most likely title. Make your point of entry into the enterprise the first step in searching for and finding a person with influence. Start here.

To Find the Key Influencers - Look For Who:
1 - Has the most people, the most time, the most money?
2 - Is the "go to" person?
3 - Is known to promote others?
4 - Is known to be a great listener?

Next: Where is your value going to get the most recognition?

back to top

Step 2 - To Get Your Full Value, First Change Your Agenda
You've figured out who to talk to (Start Before Your First Call in Sales and Service Excellence, XX/YY/ZZ, Page A.) Step 2 is your chance to make yourself different, to say the right thing to make that person of influence want to work with you for her or his own agenda. How should you start?

First, you've worked for years to get where you are and build what you have to offer. You believe passionately in yourself and your product. It is only natural that you want to talk about it from the beginning.

That is natural but it is wrong. Our attorney has a phrase for this: The "Enough about you, lets get back to me" habit.

To do better, think as a customer. The last time someone was selling to you, did the seller lead with your agenda or theirs? As a buyer, what do you prefer to discuss? When you buy something important do you decide based on the seller's agenda or on your own agenda?

We train people to start with the seller's agenda. To make sales happen faster instead of starting with you, start with value to them. As a customer, wouldn't you respect a salesperson who asked you what was important before the pitch starts? Now, as a salesperson, wouldn't you want that same respect?

How Do YOU Buy? A True Story
I learned this when I put together a $750,000 deal for automation at a media company. I'd worked with the Jim (the key V.P. and influencer) for months. When I sat down to present the detailed proposal, it was an informal and friendly meeting. Almost immediately he smiled, held up his hand to stop me and asked where in the 80 pages he could find the price.

What to do? It may be tempting to make the customer wait until we're ready. As a customer, doesn't that feel discourteous? Jim had become a key influencer in this company by giving and earning respecting. I knew that I should do that as well. I put aside my presentation and asked: "Why?"

Jim grinned and told me that he had a guess and wanted to see how close it was. I asked him to write that down. Jim asked each person in the room to do the same. Then I told them the page to look at. He and most of his staff had guessed just a little high. That was when I knew that I had the sale. I'd listened to him and then changed my agenda to match his. That gave him comfort that he would get heard when it mattered. It earned me the deal.

How Do YOU Sell? Do You Want A New Story?
Now, take an honest look at how you start your calls. When you walk in to meet an important person in the account for the first time, do you start with:
"Enough about you, lets get back to me"
"Enough about me, lets get back to you?"

If you want to be able to move a complex sale to quick closure, start with their agenda before yours. Sounds obvious but lets contrast a typical first call with one that helps you avoid discounting.

In a typical first call you might say:
"Hi Ms. Jones, my name is Peter Meyer. I represent the Meyer Group and we are the world's top new market consultants. We get twice the success of the next guy. We are great! Let me tell you some more."

This works. This gets you the image of being like most other salespeople. You are doing the expected. Now, does it say that you listen well?

In a marketplace filled with typical sales people, don't you want stand out and earn the opportunity to move forward? A call that helps you keep price higher will start more like:
"Hi Ms. Jones. Peter Meyer of the Meyer Group. If you want to reach customers in a way that makes them want to hear more about you, can we start there? What is the most important message that you want to send? With that, lets look at the best way to get it to your audience."

If you find out what is important to your prospect before you present, she or he will see you as fundamentally different from every other salesperson who calls on them. When you start with a conversation, your prospect will see you as a listener. He or she will see you as concerned about your customer. If you project this sincerely, you are on your way to keeping your price at the same level as your value - high. And to speeding a complex enterprise sale for you and your company.
Next: Stop Feature, Function, Benefit selling.

back to top

Step 3 - Improve Past Feature/Function/Benefit Selling
The traditional model for selling is Feature, Function, Benefit. We drum it into our salespeople, and our salespeople go out and present that way to our customers. And we close, in a good year, perhaps 25% of the opportunity and it is usually past the initial forecast date. How can we do better in enterprise selling?

As before (see Sales and Service Excellence XX/YY/ZZ Page A) it works best when you start your thinking in the right place. That is with the customer perspective. Consider, when you invest your own time or money, do you buy the benefit first or the feature first? Most buyers want a benefit. They sit through the rest of the process to get to that benefit. Maybe. If they are good influencers, they probably don't wait. May I give you an example?

Too Often Your Feature is Not Their Benefit
Recently I sat with the senior marketing team from a high tech leader in Silicon Valley. They told me their benefit was Time to Market. I asked who the customers are. The answer: CEOs of telecommunications equipment manufacturers.

I asked how the team knew that these CEOs value Time to Market. The answer was that it must be so. Certainly the analysts agree. There are many articles in the business press about it. It resonates with the marketing teams of almost every competitor.

Does that make it right? No, it makes the idea popular in average. But how many customers are average?

Consider your own priorities. You have a dozens or more urgencies on your list. If the first salesperson offers to solve problems 10 to 12 for you, that's good. If another representative offers to solve one of your top three, which of these two gets your attention?

Most of us will choose to solve a top problem. We'll delegate the lower priorities or just let them go. Successful enterprise selling is all about solving the right problem for the key influencers in the company.

How do you know what is key to one person? There is only one way. Earn the right and ask them.

Solving the Right Problem,
Not Your Favorite Problem

In that meeting I turned to the marketing team and told them that on a project for a different client, our firm had called and asked these same CEOs: "What two things keep you up at night?" It is important, but time to market was *not* in the top three answers. To see what made the top of the list, check the footnote below, but the real point is that you only find out when you ask instead of assume what they think will be successful. Enterprise selling works best when we go in asking: "What keeps you up at night?" And then making that the benefit we sell.

If you go to your prospects with Feature, Function, Benefit, you are starting with your priority without knowing if it matters to their business success. You are reducing your chances of a high margin sale. But what if you do the reverse? What if you go to your prospect the way that she or he prefers to buy?

A good alternative? Ask, then sell Benefit, Function, Feature instead. Start by listening, not telling. Then tailor her or his benefit *before* you start. This applies to every key influencer that you meet, no matter what their title.

When you learn what is top of their list of priorities, then you can sell the benefit they really care about. Only then is it appropriate to tell them how you will deliver it, if they even care. So the process becomes these four steps:
1 - Ask something like: What keeps you up at night?
2 - Discuss the benefit as they see it
3 - Quickly, if necessary, show the function you provide that delivers that benefit
4 - Mention the feature name or description to reinforce this. Then go back to the benefit.

How do you know where to start? Ask. And when they tell you, you are on your way to earning a quick, high margin enterprise sale.

Next Month - When and How to Present You, Using a Unique Selling Proposition

If you want a copy of the article "What Keeps Your CEO Up at Night?" please send an E-mail specifically asking for that article to Peter@MeyerGrp.com. The article is made available courtesy of the Business & Economic Review.

back to top

Step 4 - Using a U.S.P. to
Differentiate You

As you plan your enterprise sale, you've figured out who to talk to (see Sales and Service Excellence XX/YY/ZZ Page A.) You know that you want to focus on the benefit at the individual customer sees it. How do you get the conversation started? As always, it starts with taking the customer's viewpoint and working from there.

Talking about ourselves is easy and fun. However, it is often uninteresting to others. Have you ever been subjected to the
"Enough about you, lets get back to me syndrome?"
by a salesperson? Did it make you want to jump up and buy?

Plan to Be the Person Who Usually
Gets the Next Meeting

The key to adding more value (and margin) to an enterprise sale is to earn the position of the person whom your contact wants to see. She or he will get hundreds of meeting requests. Who gets selected? The people who can help this influencer add value to the business. You can start being that person in the first serious conversation. You can use a Unique Selling Proposition (U.S.P.) to do this.

U.S.P.s are short (between three words and two sentences) statements that highlight the benefit of working with you. Following the Benefit first model (Sales and Service Excellence XX/YY/ZZ, Page A) good USPs lead with the focus on your customer. A good U.S.P. does not talk about you. It talks about your customer.

*The best U.S.P.s earn you the right to continue with your customer. They set the stage to ask for and get the next meetings.*

Want some examples? Look at the business advertisements in this morning's Wall Street Journal. Most of them talk about the vendor. A few, however, reach straight out to the reader. The same is true with slogans. Consider two that worked:
"When you need it absolutely, positively, overnight."
"30 minutes or it's free."

These two U.S.P.s do several things correctly. At the time they appeared, they clearly differentiated the supplier from the postal service and parcel companies. More important, they talk about the user's needs, not the vendor's features. Both focus on solving a problem for "you" instead of talking about how Federal Express or Domino's Pizza gets it done.

After all, are you buying a pizza company or a hot pizza? Is the value to you the delivery method or a package delivered on time? These USPs lead with the benefit, not features. You can craft the same kind of U.S.P. and do it for each key influencer in the enterprise. It starts with assuming that you will ask your contact to share what is important to her or him.

Starting Your U.S.P.
To create a U.S.P. that really works, start with the problem. Then provide the solution. One way to start is to say, "You know how . . ." Then describe the problem in a few words. This is your problem statement.

Now resolve it with, "Well, we help you to . . . ," and describe what your prospect gets. Not what he or she does, or what you do. *Describe what value he or she will get from your service.*

For example: "You know how hard it is to get a hot pizza delivered? Well we'll get it to you hot in 30 minutes or it is free."
"You know how hard it is to get a consistently great return on your money? Well you can get access to tools to help you get the best possible return for your exact situation."

Notice that the two U.S.P.s do not explain the how. They only explain the what. Only when you get a buy-in to that do you earn the right to move on to the how. Your key influencers in the enterprise are under pressure. Help them out, lead with the benefit and save the feature and function for a more relaxed time. Start with understanding the problem, not the solution.

You are much more likely to get paid well to solve a problem if your customer thinks you really do understand it. Invest your time in understanding the enterprise problem as that influencer sees it. Then they will want to become the sponsor for whom you are looking.

Next: Using Success Criteria to Speed Enterprise Sales

(For more on U.S.P.s, take a look at Successfully Sell Your Services Over the Internet from Potentials in Marketing,

back to top

Step 5 - Success Criteria - Ask
So That You Can Sell

Would it help you to know what your prospect would prioritize to make happen the most quickly with the least concern about price? This is about using Success Criteria to speed the deal and increase the revenues and margin.

That happens when you know exactly and in detail how your sponsor defines success for this project. There is a one best way to find what your prospect values highest: Ask, don't assume. Here are two steps to do that.

Success Criteria in Two Steps
Step one is to find out what the key issues are. It could be as simple as following your U.S.P. (see Sales and Service Excellence XX/YY/ZZ, Page A) with: "Does that problem keep you awake at night? If not, what does?"

Don't assume that you know. Consider: Even if you are right, if you assume your key influencer may think you arrogant. That is not what you want. Just as bad, you are likely to be wrong. For instance, most CEOs do not prioritize cost savings. (For the survey results to that question, see below.) But even if you are right, ask and listen. Listening is what earns you the right to go to the next step.

Step two is to ask how your contact will measure success for the resolution of that problem.

Why do you care about how they measure success?
1 - Again, put yourself in your enterprise sponsor's position. Would you prefer to deal with a salesperson who cares about their commission or a businessperson who cares to understand your business needs? You can use success criteria to position you to be that businessperson.
2 - If you know how the enterprise measures success, you can see how much value you will help the sponsor build. This increases the chances of you getting full price and margin.
3 - If your customer is focused on his or her most important problems, your price becomes less important. They may bicker over price when you discuss a problem that matters less, but for the top three priorities the enterprise will want to get to solution as soon as possible.
4 - With Success Criteria, you will know what would be extra but un-needed work or product. Dropping off extra material or service cuts the prices, speeds the path to success for them and improves the margins for you.
5 - You can use this later to get more business at a higher profit from the same customer.

How Do You Ask?
The words to ask about success criteria are quite easy. You can ask questions like:
- How will you know when you are done with this project?
- How will you know when to celebrate?
Or my favorite:
- What defines success for this project?

The answer might be as simple as "Beating the XX market's return each quarter" or as complicated as a contingent technical or regulatory specification. However, a good answer will always be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and most of all: Important.

When you ask the question you might experience a period of quiet. This is good, don't rush it. Let the silence continue until your sponsor understands the answer. If your influencer has not yet thought this through, he or she needs to do that. If you give space, you are helping them to run their own business.

Once you have the sponsor's criteria, make sure you understand them by repeating it in clear words.

Pause, Become Invaluable
At this point it may be tempting to ask - "If I can do that, what's it worth to you?" Don't. Instead, ask: "To who else would this be important? Who else is important for making this success happen for you?"

These are likely to be the key stakeholders. Without them, the project and your sale are much less likely. Get this list from your sponsor. Then ask: "Do they have the same definition of success? Can we ask them?" Usually, your sponsor does not know, but a smart internal contact will agree to find out.

What you have now is invaluable. You have the list of key stakeholders in the decision. You have an idea of how your sponsor measures success. You probably have the right and support to ask the other stakeholders what keeps them up at night. You can go to them to get their success criteria for the project.

Your role has changed, and you're no longer just a vendor. You are key to the success of the enterprise, the person who asks the right questions. By asking the right questions you've earned the right to become part of the enterprise planning process. You want to be this person.

Now, increase your value to the stakeholders and to your sponsor by volunteering to do a survey. We'll explain what that means in the XX/YY/ZZ edition of Sales and Service Excellence.

Meanwhile, take a look at the article What Keeps the Company President Up at Night? from the Business & Economic Review.

back to top

Step 6 - Become THE Expert on What Matters

Knowing your product or service is important but incomplete. To get the enterprise deal to happen quickly, you will want to become an expert on how the customer's Success Criteria. And then on how to use your offering to make those criteria happen.

Think about yourself as a business customer. Do you prefer to buy from people who understand your needs? *When your prospect believes you understand them and their needs, you can ask them work with you to sculpt your offering to meet both of your needs. This article shows how to make that happen.*

Following the process from the last 5 editions of Sales and Service Excellence you now have invaluable information:
- The list of key stakeholders in your customer's decision.
- An idea of how the key sponsor measures success for a problem that keeps him or her up at night.
- The right and support to ask the other stakeholders what keeps them up at night. You can go to them to get their success criteria for the purchase.

You are no longer just a vendor. You are a person who asks the right questions. You can increase your value to the stakeholders and to your sponsor by doing a short in person survey.

A Personal Survey Makes You More Valuable
The survey is very simple. You do the same thing you did in the pervious article but now talk to each stakeholder. Ask each if the sponsor's request is a top priority. If it is, ask how they define success for that.

What will you have when you are done?
- You'll have information that no-one else in the company has,
- You will know what each stakeholder defines as success for the project, and
- What each will need to fully buy in to the implementation.

This works for you because you're working on a problem that ranks as one of the most important that the sponsor perceives. If this problem is one of the most important ones that these managers face, they will care. When you have talked to each of them and then ask them to come sit down and hear what the other stakeholders' answers are, they will make time for that.

Your image will change. You have made yourself a person with a real understanding of the critical issue and a fresh perspective of it.

When you are done with the survey, you will have the success criteria as seen by each of the people you need to have support you. You will have a lot of notes, and an idea of how to adapt your solution so that it has the best chance of success. And you will be able to schedule a meeting to share all that with the stakeholders (see the next month's article in Sales and Service Excellence.)

Survey Steps
The steps are easy.
A - Ask your sponsor to have someone set up a meeting with each stakeholder individually. Let them know that you only need 45 to 60 minutes, and that you will ask two questions.
B - When you get to the meeting, remind the stakeholder that each question and answer is confidential. Later you will share all the answers with the stakeholder as a way of paying them back for the time, but no one's name will be attached to any answer.
C - Then ask: What are your success criteria for this problem? And: Is this problem truly important?
D - Then take lots of notes.
E - When you are done, restate what you have heard and ask if you have it right.

In almost every case you will find that you have a half hour of listening from just those two questions. You may ask some probing questions or you may find that you need to do nothing but keep up. Remember to say thank you and tell them they will be invited to the discussion of the results. They'll come.

Two things to avoid. - Never offer to tell them the answers. Why? Even if you think you know the solution you are probably wrong. You need to hear all the stakeholders before you know anything. Even if you're right, it is insulting to offer a solution before you have heard all the stakeholders.
- Never break confidentiality.

Then schedule the next meeting, where you will share all of this with the stakeholders and then let them buy into the right solution. That is called the Design Session, and we'll discuss it in the next issue of Sales and Service Excellence.

back to top

Step 7 - Helping the Customer to Choose You - Design Session Part 1

An enterprise customer who moves quickly buys from you for his or her own reasons. You can help them do that. A key to your success is the Design Session.

This session is the meeting where you will share the results of your survey (Sales and Service Excellence XX/YY/ZZ Page A) and let the stakeholders define and own the best possible solution. When you are done with the Design Session, you will all have:
- A solution to one of the truly important problems the enterprise faces,
- A solution that has you right in the middle of it, as a member of their team,
- A price you suggest and they have agreed to in this session,
- All the information that you need to create the proposal and contract,
- The commitment of each stakeholder that they will support that proposal and make it happen. They'll do it for their own reasons.

With this, the enterprise team feels ownership and commitment to solve a key problem. They'll treat your offering as part of the solution, on par with each of their efforts.

History shows that 95% of the time you will get this project at a price that is fair to both of you, usually within a week or two.

Ownership - Key to Success

One of the keys to getting a solution that works is that you want the sponsor and stakeholders to chose the solution, not you. You want *them* to have real ownership of it. That is the only way it will get done.

To get ownership, you also need to accept that this team may choose what seems a technically sub-optimal solution. Accept it. Would you rather have an elegant solution or one that will get implemented?

The Design Session Overview

Before you start the session, ask your sponsor or his/her assistant to schedule 4 hours. In advance, make a list of all the likely customer costs for the project, not just yours.

Plan on these steps for your Design Session:

A - Start the session by reviewing the survey answers. Show the stakeholders where they agreed and where they disagreed.
B - Facilitate agreement on one or two success criteria that make sense to them. Don't tell them! This may take a half hour or hour. It usually starts with "Omigod - who said that?" and quickly turns to commonality and compromise. You are very valuable here. This kind of agreement usually takes months or years without a neutral facilitator.
C - Then offer a solution. Use a whiteboard and sketch out a summary for them, diagrams and all. *Be careful not to offer the right solution!* Offer one that is close but a little off. It will not be hard to be a little wrong. You will discover that you didn't know something important.
D - Tell the stakeholders that your idea is wrong, that this is the start of the discussion. Ask them to improve on your idea. If the problem is important, and your solution meets most of the success criteria, they will use the sense of compromise and do that.
E - Again, facilitate an answer.

As the answer unfolds, you'll have a whiteboard full of success criteria and solutions. They will be developing the solutions, and they will be feeling ownership. And since this is important to all of them, they will work to make a quick solution possible.

Why Price is Not Important

Now comes the part where you get to keep your price up and ride their momentum to a quicker deal. Before you stop this discussion, get them to uncover every possible cost. This should include travel, phone charges, stamps, everything. Ask them to be thorough. Make especially sure they look at the costs of people and time.
The total costs for the overall project will probably be much higher than they thought. Perhaps they assumed $2M and the whiteboard shows that it is really $4M. That figure includes your fees, which is a small part of the overall cost. In a total budget of $4M, these stakeholders are not going to start looking at whether your costs should be $1.225M or $1.355M. What they will be doing is asking if the solution is worth four million dollars.

F - So ask the difficult question. Ask what the cost of not doing the solution is. Get each stakeholder to answer. If this is a really important problem, then the cost of doing nothing will be higher than the cost on the board. They will make a quick business decision. They will be committed to making this work, quickly, and your cost will be a minor issue.
G - Go around the room and ask each stakeholder if they will do what it takes to make this work. Ask them to commit in front of their peers. If they do, you will have a deal. If they do not, go back to step D.
H - Say thanks and that you will have a summary of all this on their computers in two hours.

You will have the enterprise committed to move forward, quickly. Don't wait to close.

back to top

Step 8 - Helping the Customer Choose You - Design Sessions Part 2

Lets consider some details on the design session that we laid out in Sales and Service Excellence XX/YY/ZZ, Page A.

Last month we outlined the eight steps {{(A through H)}} of the session. Most of the time you will go smoothly from the start to the end. Sometimes problems crop up. Lets solve them for you.

Problem 1 - "Am I doing all this work to make it easier for my competition?"

When the problem is not important, there is always time for your sponsor to talk to your competition. However, since you have both chosen to work on one the most important problems your customer has, and the stakeholders trust you in their business, delay is highly unlikely.

Look at it from your stakeholders' perspective. They want this resolved, and soon. They couldn't deal with it themselves, but now they have a known and comfortable resource (you) who knows as much about the problem as they do. One who can lead them to solution. If you were them, would you delay?

Problem 2 - Purchasing says you can't do this.

The stakeholders get excited about solving a real problem, and they have a good resource to help them solve it. They won't wait for purchasing to catch up.

Remember that every purchasing department has rules to go past bidding and low price. They use these exclusions all the time. An influential sponsor with a truly important problem to solve will invoke the exception. In the design session you got both of those on your side.

Problem 3 - Customer wants to know your price before they start looking at the solution.

People either focus first on the solution or the price. If the solution is not important, the price will be. If you start to field price requests, take it as a sign that the problem you want to work on is not high on their list. Use this as a signal to look for the problem that matters. Solving the top priorities will be important enough to outweigh price.

Remember that it will be misleading to give a price ballpark before you have all agreed on a plan. Your response to the question can be to make this clear, and tell the prospect that you simply do not know what the total costs will be until you have all agreed on the solution. Consider: What if a doctor prescribes a treatment without taking the time to diagnose? Would that be malpractice? Would your influential sponsor want to suffer malpractice?

Problem 4 - Customer says that they want to negotiate your price.

If they want to do this before you are done with a design session, tell them that you want to set a price before you negotiate it. During the design session, your price is clearly going to be a small part of the total cost. Someone who wants to focus on that price has two choices. Choice one is that they can do that in the design session with all of the other stakeholders focused on solving an important problem. It makes that one person look like petty and very few people will do that.

Choice two is to try to talk to you about price later. If that happens, you have two choices. You might as well lay them both out. Choice one - unilaterally change the agreement you all agreed to during the design session. That is an abuse of a trust. Choice two - delay the solution, telling the stakeholders that you are delaying so that you can discuss what they will see as a small cost. If the problem is important, that won't work.

For the high priority problems, the stakeholders won't argue price. They will want to negotiate how fast can you get going. That is a good problem to have! You are moving a long sales cycle into a very compressed sales cycle.

Next month - what about the close?

back to top

Step 9 - Proposing When You Can't Close Fast Enough to Satisfy Your Enterprise Customer

Is it a problem when the enterprise customer wants to close the deal before you thought you were ready? Without negotiating a price?

And what about that long proposal you always use?

One side effect of a good design session {{Sales and Service Excellence XX/YY/ZZ Page A}} is that the customer is really excited about getting their solution. Your sponsor and the stakeholders see a path to closure for one of the top problems on their list. They want to get down that path fast.

You want to close quickly, so do they. With this process it's common for the senior manager in the room to turn to you and ask how soon you can have a proposal on his or her desk.

The wrong answer is: "Tomorrow."

The right answer is: "30 minutes."

That eliminates the long proposal your company might usually use. Instead it mandates a proposal of no more than a page and a half.

Crafting the Winning Proposal

To do this, stay in the meeting room after the design session and use your laptop. Write up what I am going to suggest, and then send it to the nearest printer.

Your proposal should be a letter from you (representing your company) to the sponsor. Your letter/proposal should answer only these questions:
1 - How all of you in the design session define success,
2 - What you will do to make sure that happens (take no more than two sentences to do this),
3 - When you'll have it done (this will be determined by the success criteria),
4 - What the overall costs will be (this comes from the estimate by the stakeholders in the design session),
5 - What your costs will be,
6 - Any important assumptions, and
7 - That you will go forward with an OK on from the customer on this letter, subject to all your normal terms and conditions.

What is missing here? The page after page on how wonderful your features are, the incredible detail you will follow to do a great job, all your references, that long contract you might have, an inch of sales material, the inevitable typos, a 3-ring binder, and a week of delay. No features, no functions, only benefits.

Why Go Short With A Proposal

Why is it missing? Because all the decision makers know what is important to them. They know:
A - What they agreed to in the design session.
B - The overall plan (although you should make sure you document it for later).
C - That you are a key part of it, and what your price is.
D - That they all said yes to all of that.
E - That they want the solution and people who get in the way are a problem.

The key stakeholders and sponsor in the enterprise are sold on you and your product as part of a larger solution. And they want to move. Now.

So, they will not read the extra pages. They are done reviewing things. If you ask them to read a binder, you will be getting in the way. Don't delay your close.

Instead, hand your page long proposal to the sponsor and sit in her or his office until he or she can read it. Then ask two questions:
1 - Is all that what you agreed to?
2 - Will you OK it so we can start?

If you do a good design session, this works 9.5 times out of 10. You'll leave with a signed document that contractually obligates that customer to pay you the price you asked.

Now the ball is in your court, and you have to deliver. Start the delivery process, then celebrate. You are just getting started on the next quick and profitable enterprise sale.

back to top

Step 10 - Get the Next Contract With Your New Favorite Enterprise Customer

Can you use a little planning to get the next contract with almost no fuss? Can you get it from the customer you would rather do business with?

Lets look at setting yourself up for the next contract. Following the process, so far, you have:
1. Let the customer define the problem that he or she wants to solve with your help,
2. Made sure that it was one the few really critical problems with which he or she deals, and
3. Let the customer be a part of designing you into the solution, as they take ownership of making it work.
This produces a solution that is likely to happen quickly and will have enthusiastic support from your customer. It gives you an easy close. Then you get to deliver.

We'll assume that you deliver exactly what you promised and with no surprises from you. Then what?

Getting the Next Contract

If you have a customer who trusts you with their top problems, and you have just helped them resolve one, they will want your resourceful help again.

In the design session {{Sales and Service Excellence XX/YY/ZZ and XX/YY/ZZ}} you asked the stakeholders to set the success criteria for the project. Now, as soon as you have delivered, go to each stakeholder and ask two questions:
1 - "Did we meet the success criteria we all agreed to?"
2 - "What are the next two problems that keep you up at night?"

This is a hard question for many of us to ask. After all, what if the stakeholder says no? What if the stakeholder wants to change the success criteria? What if the stakeholder will not talk to you?

The reason that it works is that you did two things of real importance. One is that you got them to choose a problem that really matters to them. The other is that you asked the stakeholder, in front of his or her peers, to commit to the solution to that problem and to the success criteria the group set. Important problems matter and if a person is working on something that matters to them, they are not likely to play games with it. Nor are they likely to blow it off.

Instead, they are probably going to want to meet with you to discuss this. And, since they were part of the solution, they will probably be honest about whether they met the key success criteria. Everyone likes to celebrate success. Getting people to answer the first question turns out to be much less painful that you might expect.

Once you have that, you have a person who matters and agrees that you made good things happen. You have just helped solve one of the most important problems they face.

So, ask what the next two most important problems are. Then start the cycle again, doing the survey and the design session from scratch.

In this way you can choose the customers you like and stick with them, helping them improve their businesses as you build yours. Since you only deal with critical issues, they will continue to pay you what you are worth, and give you the respect you deserve.

You have an enterprise sales cycle that closes quickly at high margins. You can repeat it as you see fit. Congratulations! What else would you want?

back to top

Bonus -
Can I Charge for A Good Proposal?

A question that I often hear is:
"Doing a thorough proposal could cost me 10 days easily to do it right. Could I request a small fee for that service up-front?"

My response: What about asking for a larger fee? Why? Many successful salespeople and business owners close more of their deals when they charge for their proposals. Let me explain.

Start by thinking of price not as a cost recovery tool, but as a marketing tool. Right or wrong, many people value what they get according to what they pay, not according to what it costs you to produce it. The fact that it takes you 10 days to do the proposal is not important to your customer. Your customer is more likely to remember how much time that he or she has invested. When that happens, people look at "free" as a problem, not an opportunity.

If a salesperson offers you a new Lexus for a dollar, do you look for the catch? Most of us would. But, what if you pay $50,000 for the same Lexus? Will you polish that car and keep it clean for years? Again, most of us would.

Apply that thought to the first product that your prospect sees from you: your proposal. Which of these two is a customer more likely use - the idea that is free or the one that costs several thousand dollars? If you charge for your proposal, history shows that your ideas will get more respect and get used more often.

To get that money, you have to deliver a product of true value as the client sees it. If the client doesn't think it valuable, they will not and should not have to pay for it.

Now look at your proposals in that light. Try this test:

Take any three proposals that you have delivered in the past year.

Open them to the first page - and then count the number of times it refers to the prospect by name or company name.

Now count how often the document's first page refers to you or your company.

If you find that the page talks more about you than them, or talks about you first, ask yourself a basic question: Why should the customer pay you for that?

The two rules of successful proposals are simple:

1 - Only talk about what matters to the prospect. (Only offer value as they see it).
2 - Charge for that value according to what the prospect will realize, not you.

Next time, start with something of value as the client sees it. Your client came to you with a problem. When your proposal offers some information that can help solve the problem it has real value. If the document offers some discovery that the client can really use but would not have gotten elsewhere, then you have a product to sell. You should charge accordingly.

Don't set the price for your proposal according to your hours or according to your sense of competition. Set the price at a level that will make your customer want to do what they have invested in. Remember that people are more likely to use something that they paid to get.

If You Charge for a Proposal, How Do You Collect?

Business people who present proposals for high-value products and services usually use one of these three strategies:

Strategy 1 - Ask for the money up-front. Then you are, effectively, selling a design specification for your work.

Don't just discuss the product. Use your proposal to provide an effective solution. Show how this specific organization will use the product to get the most advantage. Add a time line, offer suggestions that go beyond the product, make it a map to implement the final solution. Write and present a design specification for achieving the result that the customer wants. You are delivering real value. A large consulting firm would charge a fair price for that. You should as well.

Strategy 2 - Say that they are going to be paying for all of that design work, but as part of the total job price. You will still present that proposal that delivers real value. The price for the project will include a fair price for the development and the proposal. This has the advantage of allowing the client to move forward with the proposal without contracting for the full project.

Invest a few hours with the organization to get the right answers, to build the high quality and high value recommendations that will allow the results your customer wants. Again, the proposal is not for product, you are proposing the combination of processes and investments needed to get a solution.

To price it, give your customer a lump sum for the whole project. If your product costs $60,000, and the analysis and specification is $20,000, you will ask for $80,000.

It puts you at a little risk. In real life, the risk is slight. Ninety-five percent of these deals happen when you follow steps 1 to 10 above.

Strategy 3 - Say that you will do the proposal free. Free is the most popular because no decisions have to get made. However, if you choose this, remember that you are assigning a value to your work: nothing. Nothing is a strong message. You are saying that your work is not worth much. The customer will often say thanks and then hire a consultant to tell him or her what you already knew.

Applying the Three Strategies to A Real Situation

Let's examine a real example. Custom Call Centers (CCC) makes advanced systems that handle and route incoming data and telephone calls for places like airline reservation centers. CCC is in a competitive business, with very good salespeople. Jane Jordan, CCC's salesperson, wants to sell a system to BigTel. (These are not their real names.)

Using strategy 1 - Jane will break the project into two parts starting with the proposal. When she talks to BigTel, she'll note that how they use the software is just as important as buying the right package. She'll tell BigTel that she can help make sure they are happy by doing some up-front analysis. She will guarantee that they will be happy with it, and offer to create a call flow plan and implementation plan for $25,000. Her entire proposal focuses on the implementation. BigTel will get a document and a presentation. The result will be a much better installation. BigTel has a small decision to make - to spend only $25,000 to make sure the larger investment will work.

Using strategy 2 - Jane keeps the two halves of the proposal together. She'll tell BigTel that she will do something unique to BigTel but standard for CCC. She'll make sure the system will work to BigTel's specifications when CCC installs it. BigTel gets a tremendous amount of high-quality call flow and systems analysis, costing $25,000. The good news is that BigTel will only pay for it if they use it. She will do the analysis for BigTel immediately, and bill for it when BigTel accepts the system.

Jane will do the analysis and submit a proposal for the whole package. Instead of talking about CCC, she'll talk about BigTel and BigTel's issues. She will make it clear that she'll deliver a plan to support the way BigTel actually works. When BigTel turns the system on, CCC gets paid for everything. BigTel has an easy decision since there is no up-front cost for this. BigTel also realizes that they are not just getting a system that works the way the supplier defines it; the customer gets a system that works the way BigTel defines it.

Using strategy 3 - Jane will tell BigTel that if it buys the system for $200,000, it will get the systems analysis free. If the customer doesn't buy, BigTel still gets the free analysis.

Strategy 3 is harder for BigTel. To go along with it, the managers there would have to decide that the cost of the system is fair, but the free analysis is not worth anything. If it's not worth anything, their implementation may be flawed.

What Really Happened?

In the real case, Jane went up against a competitor who could do the same analysis. CCC asked Jane to use Strategy 3. The competitor used Strategy 1 and won. Worse, when the salesperson saw how easy winning that way was, the competitor adapted. The company started to maneuver deals so that CCC would give the proposal away while the competitor would continue to charge high amounts for theirs. The competitor won 3/4 of the deals.

CCC lost twice each time -- they paid to do a high value proposal and they lost deals until they realized the problem.

You don't have to lose twice. Use your proposal to send the right message -- that you deliver valuable results the customer can use right away, and that they will invest to get the right solutions. After all, isn't that what your customer really wants?

back to top

The Meyer Group
883 Cadillac Drive
Scotts Valley, CA 95066-3303
(831) 439-9607

Steps 1-10

1- Start Before Your First Call

2- To Get Your Full Value, First Change Your Agenda

3- Improve Past Feature/Function/Benefit Selling

4- Using a U.S.P. to Differentiate You

5- Success Criteria - Ask So That You Can Sell

6- Become THE Expert on What Matters

7- Helping the Customer to Choose You - Design Session Part 1

8- Helping the Customer Choose You - Design Sessions Part 2

9- Proposing When You Can't Close Fast Enough to Satisfy Your Enterprise Customer

10- Get the Next Contract With Your New Favorite Enterprise Customer

Bonus- Can I Charge for A Good Proposal?

email: info@meyergrp.com
phone: (831) 439-9607

home | blog articles | corporate page | hot topics and links | articles | books | have a question
print and broadcast media page | about us | meet the team | search | the meyer index

© 2014 The Meyer Group | All rights reserved