Many people have written me and
asked how I am able to secure such large deals. Most think I am associated
with very large companies. Not true. The largest companies I ever worked for
were a $400 million high tech company (two years) and one of the top 20 CPA
firms in the U.S. (six years). Other than that, my working career (almost four
decades) has been with startups or smaller companies. Yet, many people will
believe we have large resources, and that they could never pull off a large
deal. While I won't divulge finance details of my present company, suffice it
to say we are under $10 million. Yet we were able to beat out companies like
Bank of America, PayPal and Western Union in a recent sale.
I strongly believe that sales should be an industry of it's own. A good closer should be able to sell anything to anybody. There may be slight differences selling a product (tangible) vs service (intangible), but otherwise, selling is selling.
Over the years I have been quite successful with larger deals. I go for them, as it takes as much time to sell a large deal as it does a small one. And my closing ratio is quite high (better than 75%) as I only seek those accounts for which I believe I have a solution.
So what’s my secret? It’s more than one secret. Rather it is a combination of strategy, marketing and confidence. What are you selling? Comfort. The prospect needs to be comfortable that you can solve his problems, have credibility, have the strength to carry out the deal and know what you are doing.
Here are my thoughts:
1. First, you must read “High Probability Selling” by Jacques Werth. On a marketing list to which we subscribe, I posted an analogy of selling to playing poker to which Jacques responded with comments about HPS. I didn't realize that I had used those tactics my entire career before I even read the book! HPS works.
2. Selling is like poker. When you play poker the money on the table is not yours. Suckers throw good money after bad by betting more because they have $x on the table. Same with selling. Who makes the decision for the solution you are offering? If you can't talk to the decision maker, don't talk to the prospect. You are wasting your time and theirs. Talking to non-decision makers is throwing money on the table with no assurance of a win.
In poker you should drop out six out of seven hands (in stud, after the first cards are dealt; in draw, after looking at your initial hand). However, you should also win six out of seven hands in which you stay. So the odds are in your favor. Same holds true in selling. Drop out of the deal if you can't reach the decision makers. Not all deals are for you.
In poker you need to keep playing for at least 20 hours to wear out your opponents. Same with selling. Most sales people give up after three calls, yet most prospects are not reached until the fifth or sixth call.
3. Think big. You need to have confidence when you go into a big deal, expecting to close them. It is much easier to close a big deal than a small one. Relatively speaking the smaller deal may represent a larger percentage of expenditure. Hence the smaller company will think twice (or three, or four, or five…) times before deciding.
4. Confidence in product or services. You need to have confidence that what you sell is a good product or service, and that it will satisfy the prospect. If selling a service or software, learn the details intimately. Go through the details as though you were a customer. Be sure you can answer all questions. Avoid answers like “I'll get back to you” unless, of course, you are really stuck. And, be intellectually honest if you don't know the answer, say you don't know.
Good sales people go through every detail of every presentation, and rehearse it many times before meeting with the prospect. I once had a colleague who would drive me nuts rehearsing out loud. When I said I understood, he replied “But I'm not doing it for you. I'm doing it for me. I need to be prepared.”
5. Know your prospect. Learn everything you can about the prospective company. Who are they? What do they do? Where do they have facilities? Are they local? National? Global? Do they have sister companies?
6. Listen. When meeting with a prospect for the first time, only bring a blank pad and listen to their needs. Write down the issues and summarize them for the prospect when your initial meeting is done. Limit the issues to no more than five. Ask them “If we solve these issues, can we do business?” If yes, prepare a presentation. If no, find out why not, and if you don't get a satisfactory answer, thank them and move on.
7. Manage resources. Know and understand your resources. They become part of your solution. Today we'll fly my banner, tomorrow we'll fly yours. That’s the success of consulting firms the ability to round up as many people as you can for a particular project. Years ago we did a project at Land O’Lakes where there were approx 1,000 people on that project, with my two partner software house the software solution for part of the project.
Let’s use an example: you find a China-based company who needs to develop and manage a program that will warehouse and sell giftware to retailers in the US, UK and Australia, and they have no idea where to begin. They also need some research on the giftware industry that they can present to their international board of directors. After you do your blank page fact-finding meeting, you round up your resources. Let's see who we have on E-Tailer’s Digest alone. Obviously these folks have organizations behind them, but they are our contacts.
a. Pam Danziger to obtain reports on the state of the giftware industry (or particular segments).
b. Educators Larry Lockshin, PhD to create a study on the feasibility of doing business in Australia; Terry Ford to do the same thing in UK; Jan Owens or Michelle Kunz, PhD to do the same in the U.S.
c. Jimmy D’Archangelo and/or Bruce Strzelczyk, Managing Partners at top 25 CPA firms, to handle the international and local tax and accounting issues.
d. Phil Glowatz to do a series of focus groups.
e. Jacques Chevron to create a branding strategy
f. Jerry Grooms to implement a RF-controlled bar coding system for their warehouse
g. Brian Feehan to implement a back-end accounting solution to link to the warehouse system
h. Russ Kelly to implement a Web-based solution which will link to the back end and warehouse to tell customers what is available.
i. Ray Gabriel to line up international resources.
j. Quinn Halford ,Adam Boettiger, Brad Waller, Alan Hunkin and a slew of others who will help with advertising.
k. Walt Boyes to help with the B2B development
l. Steve Strompf to open the doors at the major retailers (Steve brought the boxing legends together the last time we worked together).
Wow! With these folks and their organizations, we just put together a team of hundreds of people! So, who said you are a one-man shop?
8. Prepare good marketing material that emphasizes your strengths. Look at your company in a different light. Your resources now total hundreds of people, so your marketing material should reflect this organization.
9. Prepare. Go back to your office and prepare a presentation. Be certain your solution addresses the prospects needs and solves their problems.
10. Meet with the client and start with "I heard you say..." and identify the issues to resolve. Ask if those are the issues (get a “buy in”). If they are not, get the right issues, pack up and go home and prepare for the correct solution.
If this is going to be a presentation to a group and you will have others in attendance, be sure you match up personalities, especially if it will be a 2-3 day presentation. Learn all about the other team - their job functions, their family situation, their hobbies, their likes and dislikes. In one presentation I coordinated we learned that the CTO of the company was a race car buff. Well our Software Development Manager raced cars, so we had a perfect match - job and hobby. We also learned that the President (and daughter of the founder) was recently divorced, so we matched up a divorced executive who had something in common. You can't match a twenty-something with a grandfather for three days. They have very little in common!
11. Present the solution to the issues, preferably with a Power Point presentation or a flip chart. The presentation should be divided into distinct sections as follows:
a. Cover (“Presentation of a __________ solution for the XYZ company”).
b. Objective of the meeting (“Intelligently implement a new computerized order processing, inventory control, accounting, importing, sales analysis and management information system.”)
c. “We heard you …” and identify the five issues that needs to be resolved.
d. Specific solutions - one line per issue summary of your solutions
e. Key benefits of your solution
f. Who you are 1-3 slides of who you are and what you do.
g. Details of the solution
h. Specific solutions once again to show you answered their issues
i. Summary including next steps
Pick up the check! If the prospect identifies the issues, and you can solve the issues (and make them comfortable), how can they not go with you?
Does this work? You betcha! Let me give you some examples of my success:
1. When I was at a company with 30 people, we sold a total retail solution to Camelot Music, an 800 store retail music chain when we were competing against IBM, HP and NCR. And we beat them out again at Bed, Bath and Beyond!
2. At my two-partner firm we sold a point of sale and back end solution to a 20 store East Coast department store chain (20 terminals per store) using an off-the-shelf software solution that normally sold for $1,000 per store. Our charge: $40,000 per store.
3. For a startup financial services company, generated 13,000 new accounts in 60 days, without any capital for marketing. Customers actually thought we had a huge support staff, when there was only four people (working 16 hour days).
4. For a startup giftware B2B wholesaler representing Chinese manufacturers sold to the top 10 retailers, HSN, Avon and others within one year. Also did "The Boxing Legends" with Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Jerry Cooney and Roberto Duran - at less cost than you can imagine.
5. A payment solution to a five million member international organization from a company doing less than $10 million in sales.
6. As an independent, a public relations program for the U.S. Superintendent of Documents
7. As an independent consultant, managed the merger of an independent bank into one of the largest savings banks in the U.S.
So, line up your resources, structure your organization, and go after the big ones.