In this post-COVID time, the sales hunger to win big deals is intense. But the irony is that in selling to large accounts, sales cycles are typically long and drawn out. Alas, no easy solution to recovering from eighteen months of pandemic paralysis. And as the calendar pages turn in major account pursuits, doubt, uncertainty, risk, and costs add up. The commitment of finances, organizational energy, and resources – human and otherwise can be crippling. Especially now, in the fog of post-COVID fatigue. But with all the frustrations the passing months bring, there are positives for effective and organized selling organizations – teams that are good at what they do. Because, as we all know, every action you take in a major pursuit is evaluated by the prospect organization, giving the buying team a keen view of your responsiveness, follow-up, and attention to detail. The same is true, of course, about actions you choose not to take.
In these extended evaluation periods, leaving positive impressions is critical. And the evaluation of your actions and inactions don’t occur in a vacuum. They’re constantly compared with what your competitors in the deal do as well. And regardless of how savvy or sophisticated those competitors are, it’s possible they might become just a bit careless as the seasons pass. Maybe their post-COVID anxieties will cause them to take their eyes off the ball for just a moment, neglecting a prospect request or thoughtlessly issuing a boilerplate response instead of customizing a meaningful reply. At just the right time, leaving just the wrong impression.
Over the course of these long enterprise pursuits, you’ll be dealing with wide, diverse buyer networks. And while there’s much talk about the power of team selling, there’s less focus on the fact that prospect organizations buy in teams as well. The buyer network you face will consist of representatives from purchasing, finance, legal, and other corporate functions relevant to the organization’s needs in the pursuit. This buyer diversity is one of the key challenges in major account selling and it requires the selling team to perform due diligence to understand not only the roles but the impacts of each buyer. You must know, for example, what actual level of authority purchasing has and how actively involved in the decision the actual users of the product or service will be. And you must also be able to gauge the extent of the power of the legal and contracts teams in the process and strategize accordingly. These are complex issues indeed and while the buyers wear different functional hats, they’re all subject matter experts in the organization whose business you are fighting hard to win. And since it’s highly likely that interactions with buying teams will remain largely virtual for now, your tasks must be accomplished via screens. Challenges indeed. And your job is to turn them into opportunities.
In any romance, you must show your very best to your potential partner. And over the long course of a major pursuit, the depth and breadth of your organization must be made evident. The strategy of mapping organizational “Ducks with Ducks” can be game-changing. Consider the power of aligning your accounting team with the accountants on the buying team. Or how about attorney-to-attorney contact? Have you ever noticed how disconnected conversations can be when a sales rep communicates with a buying organization’s lawyer? Or how smoothly conversations go when the attorneys connect directly? Not only do these function-to-function connections provide meaningful communication in a pursuit, but they also give the buying organization a view into the enriched value of your organization – a glimpse of your DNA, if you will. And they may also lay the groundwork for functional relationship-building as well, increasing your likelihood of winning the deal and also smoothing out any future road bumps after the business is won.
Not all these functional connections will necessarily increase your chances of winning. Some may be trivial in nature. But trust this. Some will make a difference. And making the connections will show that you care enough to facilitate meaningful dialogue in response to buying team requests. At a time when some of your savvy competitors may be taking their foggy post-COVID eyes off the ball.
Of course, there will be pursuits in which certain contacts are difficult to establish, or in some cases, even forbidden. And by no means do I suggest that you put your significant investment at risk by playing loosely with the rules. Be smart. But never neglect any opportunity to enrich the budding business relationship by creating functional alignment. Doing so, very simply stated, increases your chances of success.
Stay focused. As hard as it might be in this time of recovery, be patient with major account pursuits. Remember the four most important words in selling – It’s not about you. And be certain that you give the prospect organization a clear view as to what they can expect of you after you’ve won the business by using your selling team assets – your functional colleagues. Show the buyers, in the pursuit, the value they will ultimately gain from you as their partner. Trusting that you have done your due diligence and that the deal is well worth pursuing, make sure your actions show that the deal is worth pursuing well.