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

This is one article in a series. For the entire series on one page, please see Proven Enterprise Sales Process, Steps 1 to 10 inside this site's Blog Articles pages.

Excellence Essentials, 2016

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.

Originally commissioned by and published in Excellence Essentials, Copyright 2016 by the Meyer Group, all rights reserved. To redistribute, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.