Nailing that crucial deal: preparation, sales and negotiation

3 Feb, 2017

Gerald Vanderpuye, co-founder of BuyerDeck, will be delivering a workshop on nailing crucial deals at Tech North’s Founders’ Network Summit on 2nd March 2017. In this guest post he discusses why it is so hard to close this kind of deal, provides some insight into the friction points along the way and how to optimise your sales process for better outcomes.

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Why is it so hard to nail that crucial sales deal?

I’m in the same boat as you. I’m trying to sell our SaaS sales enablement tool into large tech companies. You might be trying to do the same, or trying to reach VPs of other big companies with your product.

Before I started my startup BuyerDeck a few years ago, I managed crucial deals daily, and I was considered a top salesperson by my leadership team at Rackspace. It’s humbling to try nailing key deals as a startup.

Nailing the crucial key deal is tough, but even tougher for startups!

If you’ve just hit another brick wall with another key deal, or have a really important deal you don’t want to screw up, you are not alone and might find this useful. I’ve been thinking about this recently, and realised that understanding what’s going on and why it’s so hard is probably the best way I can optimise our sales strategies going forward. I have had to go back to the drawing board and rethink the challenges we face daily as a sales team managing complex key deals.

If you’re ahead of me and have already come to this realisation, well done! But perhaps this blog post might throw up a few things, or you could add your experience in the comments?

So, these are the key barriers/friction points/brick walls we keep coming across, and a few ideas about how we are getting around them:

Brick Wall 1: Long sales cycles

I’m used to making decisions about buying products or services pretty quickly. That’s because BuyerDeck is a lean, mean, agile startup machine. But when I’ve sold into enterprise businesses, the sales cycle seems to lengthen with the size of the company. This is a real problem for those crucial deals because time kills deals!

So what’s the answer? Knowing time is every sale’s biggest enemy, I have written an extensive whitepaper that explores this in more detail (Control The Timing Of The Deal). For the simpler deals we continue to test negotiation strategies that could reduce sales cycles such as time sensitive pricing and its impacts on our sales cycle.

It may not always be possible to reduce the sales cycle, but we can all manage it better. This starts by understanding your customer and what their timeline is. Are you in next year’s budget, are they approaching MLA’s review dates, are there other milestones on their calendar that a sales cycle needs to align with?

To get this information you need to listen to your customer, ask the right questions and have some industry insight that helps you map out an accurate sales timeline. You need to learn about their procurement, legal, IT review, and risk processes and factor all of this in.

Then you need to get sponsorship from the buyer, a tacit agreement that the timeline works for them and if you hit all the milestones along the way you might have a chance of closing the deal.

And then you need to manage that timeline and make sure all parties do what they’ve agreed.

Brick Wall 2: Your product is unique

I think what we’ve done with BuyerDeck is create something that addresses a specific problem for sales reps in an innovative way and it should be a no-brainer that you buy our sales portal!

Do you feel the same about your product?

The problem is when you create a unique product, and you’re a startup like us, is that it’s an unproven product and the company doesn’t have any sort of track record. This means you’ve got to first prove that your product addresses a big enough problem for a prospect to sit up and take notice, then that it works, and finally that your company can deliver.

Furthermore, if your product is truly unique, there will be no obvious competitors. While this may seem like a good thing, it makes a competitive procurement process impossible.

For those of you who have a more mature company, your problem will be differentiation. You’re already competing in a crowded marketplace, and you’ve got to get your innovative product to stand out from the rest.

One way of doing this is to draw your prospects attention, not to your unique product, but first to your exceptional buyer experience.

Brick Wall 3: You don’t know who you’re selling to

If you want to sell something to BuyerDeck, you just need to talk to Adam or I. If you want to sell to enterprise, there are many other people you need to sell to, and each of them will have their unique problems, motivations and risk criteria.

Just because you have a great relationship with the CEO doesn’t mean that you’ll get a signed contract. Therefore you need to know who the decision makers are: who cares about the problem your solution solves, and who else do they need to involve in the decision making process?

Even if you know who these people are, how can you get access to them so you can sell to them?

Brick Wall 4: No-one wants change

Another issue we come across is that many companies don’t want to switch to a new product or provider. Sure, our product might be 10 times better than the tool they currently use, or it might save or make them thousands compared to the old incumbents – but who wants to rock the boat and start a procurement and implementation process?

There may also be people within the enterprise that want to sabotage your bid. Perhaps they have close relationships with their current supplier, and it becomes political.

To overcome this brick wall you need a combination of things:

  • You need to know who the incumbents are so you can differentiate your product and prove ROI. If you have access to tools like Wappalyzer and Datanyze, they can tell you what software your prospects are using.
  • You need to know who the decision makers are (and your enemies) so you can address their concerns and incentivise them to explore your solution,
  • You need to demonstrate a smooth sales and implementation process to reassure customers that there will be no break in service, only gains to be had.

Besides these brick walls in nailing that crucial deal, during my workshop at Technorth I will also cover how to follow up on sales or leads that go cold and basics like presenting yourself during and after your meetings/calls.

In the workshop

Even if your startup isn’t sales driven, every company eventually finds itself preparing for an unusually crucial meeting, be it with a customer, partner, or investor.

We’ll be delivering a workshop for Tech North that that explores this in depth. We’ll look at preparations for major sales and partnerships, as well as how to present yourself during and after the meeting. We’ll show you how to use proposals to de-escalate tense negotiations, navigate complex purchasing processes, and deal with procurement teams. We’ll also touch on tough situations like what to do when a hot lead goes cold.

By the end of the session you’ll leave with a concrete set of tools and steps to ensure you avoid the obvious mistakes and get the most out of their most important meetings.

What brick walls do you come up against when trying to close crucial deals? Let me know your challenges and I will try to address these in the workshop too. If you want to connect you can find me on LinkedIn here.

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