November 26, 2013
The other week, I wrote on the topic of practicing a pitch before a meeting. I wanted to expand upon that notion and talk about what it means for an Account Executive and the extended sales team to bring their ‘A’ game to every interaction with a client. Every on-site meeting, teleconference meeting, email, and phone call is a precious touchpoint with your customers and prospects. They cannot be treated lightly because every engagement in enterprise selling is different. One size, one solution, one approach often does not serve all, and only careful thought and preparation will see you through to close.
I recently, as an outside observer, watched another company prepare for a meeting with a key prospect. I should say try to prepare. The experienced team prepared poorly and then completely botched the opportunity resulting in fire-fighting, finger pointing, and extra costs to turn the opportunity around. It dawned on me as I reflected on 15+ years of enterprise selling just how much “winging it” happens in our profession. I think salespeople – account executives, sales engineers, solution consultants, and executive sponsors – can depend on what they think are tried and true approaches, only to have them backfire or be less effective than originally thought.
So, I came up with the following list of things for an Account Executive to consider as he quarterbacks a deal and leads his team to the end zone:
You are on your own 20-yard line and have your first call with a prospect that fits your solution and your space. Your Inside Sales team worked hard to get you this appointment. You are busy and decide to take the call using a generic pitch not tailored to your prospect’s industry (but you have this content if only you had spent some time preparing.) You did not read the company’s last annual report, and you did not prepare your sales engineer with a run-down on the prospect and why your solution is a fit. How did that meeting work out for you? Did you get to next steps?
You are on your own 40-yard line, well into an opportunity that has a documented buying process and a path for budget approval. The next step is a solution demonstration and value case using the customer’s data that they willingly provided so that you could tailor your approach. You walk in with a half-baked demo that you did not practice with the team ahead of time. You did not choreograph the meeting and ensure your team understood who would answer which type of question. Your team prepared a generic value case. Do you have a rock in the pit of your stomach now? How did that work out for you?
You are well into scoring position and on your opponent’s 30-yard line. This part of the process is to conduct three customer reference calls. The list of references is tried and true. You decide not to coach your references – some of your best customers – in preparation for the calls. Your prospect asks questions you did not know about in advance and that you did not anticipate. Your reference customer is upset, and you blew a key opportunity with your prospect when you were in field goal range. How did that work out for you?
You are about to score – you are on your opponent’s 5-yard line. The final meeting is with the executive teams from both companies. The meeting is a smashing success and you are initially awarded vendor of choice. You forget to counsel your coach about what happens next – what your competition will do to win the business in a last ditch effort, how to navigate the treacherous procurement waters, and how to prepare for the final board approval meeting. You assumed your coach and buyer just knew what was going to happen because they had purchased enterprise software before. How did that work out for you?
One final question – are you winging it or are you bringing your ‘A’ game each and every time?