Shorten Sell Cycles – whiteboard to winning

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Collaboration Selling whiteboard diagram

Tom and I were talking about the question: How do we shorten sales cycles? Some white boarding suddenly erupted, and here’s what we concluded.

Problem Statement – We had generally seen our opportunities close in about 8 months, with some closing in a bit under 6 months – and the average skewed by so many opportunities that got past 9 months and were still stalled. The 9 month experience is scary, since it often means we cannot even get an order approved for the next budget year, when prospects will have new budget money for things they really want to buy. So, how do we shorten a sell cycle really means: How do we shorten a “Buy Cycle”?

Imagine the Internal Decision Meeting – First, buying new solutions in a complex businesses can be challenging – yet each opportunity has its own drivers and can be won, lost or stalled by various factors. To get situation specific, imagine your champion presenting your proposal to the big boss, the man or woman who makes the go/no-go decision, perhaps the CEO. In a multi-month process, this will not be the first time the CEO has heard about this new solution project.  In fact, they have probably talked it over in the context of many opportunities for business improvement – this is just one of them which compete for a finite solutions budget.

Whiteboard to Winning – Whiteboarding at this stage I usually do with stick figures – your champion in front of the big guy, the big guy himself, and a line drawn with you on the outside.

List Win or Loss/Delay Reasons – Ask yourself the 2 questions:

– How can we win?

– How can we lose?   (assume stalled = lost)

For each question, a long list will emerge – then you look at each win or loss reason and suggest a way to support that winning path, or get off that losing path.

Reset Account Strategy Goals – A reset of your goals is then possible – your default may have been to just “get the meeting”, “ask questions”, “listen”, and “handle objections”. Unfortunately, these basic selling skills may lead you to a customer’s interest in your products and services, spending all your time there without gaining insight on the customer’s business  – and set the stage for buying delay.

Losing path items can be very productive idea generators – for example the stick figure diagram will make you ask, what if we lose because the big guy has different priorities than our champion?  So, can we meet the decision maker earlier? How do we arrange that?

We know that the winning path involves an “internal proposal”, not our own product/offering proposal (see my earlier post on winning the end game). So we make a plan early on, first call if possible, to offer help with a Project Outline, prior to writing up our Product Proposal, something most customers will love to do as it saves them time. This changes the discussion framework, enabling you to ask questions about the big guy’s priorities – allowing you to ask for a CEO meeting in the early stages of project formation. Don’t be shy – even if this is refused you may be offered another valuable introduction to increase your knowledge or influence at the account.


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