The question often comes up regarding defining enterprise selling versus selling into smaller accounts. Given the criticality of pain in selling, I define enterprise selling in terms of the unique pains and challenges that selling organizations face in dealing with large enterprise accounts. Long sales cycles, extensive buyer networks, and sophisticated competitors create problems not encountered with smaller accounts. But the payoff of winning a major account is a truly game-changing, transformative development.
Considering the vast challenges, though, every possible organizational asset must be utilized in the pursuits. From account planning to solution development, effective selling organizations engage powerful portfolios of strategies to accelerate these promising initiatives. But with all that rigor and process, a very fundamental area is often ignored.
Before discussing the simple concept that dramatically increases your chances of winning big deals, let’s consider fingerprinting – the common process used by law enforcement to identify criminals. Of course, we all have fingerprints – our singularly unique physical characteristics. Those lines and ridges on the tips of our fingers are even more unique than our DNA. And when we touch objects, we leave our fingerprints behind. These images, often made visible through professional dusting techniques, provide the undeniable evidence connecting us to places and situations.
Hold that thought and ponder this. If you planned to buy an expensive gift for your significant other, you’d certainly conduct more extensive due diligence than you’d typically undertake in shopping for everyday items. And if the potential purchase was on a “final sale” basis, you’d be even more focused. But regardless of the significant time, you’d spend, uncertainty would remain regarding whether your purchase would hit the mark. There would still be doubt. Unless, of course, you previewed the gift, or at least its concept, with your significant other prior to the purchase. Surprises aside, that conversation, in testing the water, would greatly increase your chances of success. The value of the feedback you’d receive would be immeasurable in helping ensure that your gift, and you, would avoid being miserable flops.
The same concept applies to enterprise pursuits, with their significant organizational investments of money, time and energy. For a great deal of creativity goes into crafting your customized solution, the product of your team’s innovation, client-focused thinking, and hard work. But, creativity and innovation aside, building a brilliant solution without credible, verifiable expectations that the account will find it acceptable is a foolish and tone-deaf strategy. So, just as previewing the expensive gift is a strategic move, you owe it to your organization’s investment to strategically seek the account’s concurrence that you’re on the right track. In Sandler Enterprise Selling, we call this “fingerprinting” or getting the account’s “fingerprints” on the solution. It’s often referred to as “co-crafting” or “solutioning”, but whatever it’s called, it’s a critical step in enterprise pursuits.
I was once involved in a pursuit in which we planned on including an element of offshore delivery in our technology solution for a highly-coveted prospect. Through a fingerprinting conversation with a trusted account contact, we uncovered an organizational bias against offshore services, based on a negative experience that had resulted in legal action. This valuable counsel was sought, offered and acted on. For we had strategically left time to restructure our solution, removing the problematic offshore component, substituting locally-based services. The red flag was removed, paving the way for what resulted in a very nice win. By seeking the account’s fingerprints, the same type of miserable flop that had loomed with the expensive gift was avoided – all because we asked.
Of course, you should never put your contacts in uncomfortable positions and you must be aware that some pursuits forbid certain types of communication. Be smart and follow the rules. But if your relationships aren’t strong enough to allow informal conversations with internal coaches, perhaps you should re-think bidding altogether.
Remember – account relationships are your dynamic assets. Build them, grow them and put them to work to get your clients’ fingerprints all over your solutions. Good things will happen as a result.