Winning the End-Game – a mind game for solution sales
Put a Sales football down and start the rush up field – the game is on! It can be so exciting, you feel great until you hit the last yard before the goal line – then you slam into a brick wall. The Sales opportunity just stalls. Winning the End Game is what top sales performers plan from the moment they step on the field, planting seeds to eliminate refusals – long before making a proposal. Here is how it is done.
First – this brick wall needs an explanation. You have a great product – why would they refuse?
In practice your solution competes against the status quo – a formidable opponent – as well as other competitors who show up during the approval stages. The competitors include other ways to spend time, other ways to invest money – and other vendors. With luck, especially if your product/service has some novelty and innovation, you will be first on the customer’s doorstep. Things move ahead well, and the prospect says encouraging things – they like your product, they like you. They can get budget funding. Can you answer a few more questions about features, options and pricing? You get lulled into a sense of progress – even when they have you up nights and weekends writing quotes. Then you learn that their management won’t be able to review it this month, or next month – or that budget has been refused, or not allocated (…but they still love your offer). With luck, and some business experience, you will figure out that the “champion” made a weak internal proposal to the decision maker. How did that happen?
Indeed the tough part is this – your champions will not openly explain what went wrong. They will repeat what they were told – e.g. “The organization has to allocate money to other things”, and “Maybe next year.”
Ironically, the decision maker may actually want to buy your product, yet somehow the internal dialog led to a refusal. It turns out that senior executives almost always refuse proposals which have a weak project plan. In fact, especially at the President/CEO level, their main concern is how their team are developing as managers, and demonstrating an ability to select goals carefully, deliver payback in excess of funding allocated, and manage to a timetable that supports the rest of the organization. In other words, they want to see high quality “internal proposals”, and are frustrated at how seldom they see one.
With all this game knowledge now in mind, we can explain how to plant seeds to eliminate refusals.
Winnning the End-Game
First, solution selling is about quiet leadership, and you have to be comfortable leading a customer toward a better internal analysis of the situation. Ask more questions about the purpose of considering a solution – to extend the potential impact to all departments in the company you and your champion can think of. Count things – i.e. ask how many times this problem happens, how many people are affected, how often they spend money for a patchwork solution? The counting will lead to many metrics, which lead to a business case – and may even provide introductions to other influencers in the organization. Get a sense of the cost and revenue impacts for all affected by the problem area. At the end of a first meeting, offer to write up a draft of what you learned, to check for clear understanding – and to cover purposes identified, and payback/value that can be delivered. Encourage your prospect to critique and update the draft.
Lastly – time drivers need to be identified. The question “Mr Customer, when would you like the solution delivered and in operation” is a good start, but it cannot end there. A project plan is not enough. You need to dig up other factoids about projects and programs in the company that have pre-existing investments and deadlines – and make a proposal that supports those timelines.
In summary – you help your customer co-author an internal proposal that has many purposes beyond what you both thought at the first conversation – with a great value proposition in support of many enterprise functions, and with a compelling, date-driven need to be approved promptly, to support everything else the organization is doing this year. That is what gains approval from any senior executive or CEO, and helps you drive your sales funnel forward, and fill a good “pipeline report” to your own management.
Let us know if you would like a drill-down further on any point of this sales technique.