These are difficult times, for sure. As our clients and prospects face daunting challenges, our business opportunities have been few and far between. Truly, we’re all being tested. But as some vertical markets and geographies have begun to rebound, pent-up demand and unaddressed pains have generated new opportunities. And, of course, there’s great interest in these scarce deals. You’re hungry for a win and so are your competitors. Hungry? Starving, actually. Think about the old adage about never going grocery shopping on an empty stomach. The same caution applies now in the major account selling space. But what of “desperate times call for desperate measures”, the quote often attributed to Hippocrates? The tantalizing mantra is driving vendors today to cut prices, drop margins, and blindly agree to downright scary contract terms, all in the interest of winning. Winning at all costs. Emotion trumps reason. Need eats principle for breakfast.
Proceed with caution.
I had a conversation with the Chief Sales Officer of a SAAS firm who told me her organization’s major opportunity pursuit costs have increased by 30% due to COVID-19. Of course, she was referring to the financial impact of enterprise pursuits, always significant but exacerbated now as there are very few revenues to offset the costs. But major account pursuits burden you with much more than the financial expense. For to credibly pursue large deals involves people, scarce human resources whose time is always precious, but especially now with Coronavirus cutbacks. And when resources are made available to engage in complex pursuits, their talents are often unavailable to other initiatives. And the opportunity cost dragon enjoys the feast.
So, in this turbulent time, it’s even more important to focus only on the highest probability deals – “profile” deals that align most closely to your capabilities and give you the greatest chance of successful delivery, healthy margins, and robust client satisfaction. While placing your limited bets wisely on these aligned deals, it’s equally critical to pass on those that simply don’t match. As tough as these qualifying decisions are in this strange time, they’ve never been more important. For they save precious expense and allow you to deploy scarce resources on more fruitful initiatives. Let your competitors lower their standards and shortcut their processes. Stand your ground. Ignore Hippocrates and follow the guidance of Jon Stewart, who said “If you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, they’re not values at all. They’re hobbies”.
It’s really about the principles of qualification – determining early acceleration or early exit in every deal. Even now, there should be no gray area between the two. Accelerate or exit. But how do you know?
The framework for the answer starts with a clear understanding of what your organization does well and what a truly aligned opportunity looks like. With that clarity established, a framework like Sandler Enterprise Selling’s Pursuit Navigator provides the practical Go/No-Go process to evaluate the worthiness of enterprise opportunities. How? By breaking each opportunity’s issues into three workable categories – Client Issues, Selling Team Issues, and Financing/Contract Issues. And you evaluate each issue, determining your levels of stability or risk for each one. For each issue, are you stable or is there a risk? And what are some of the issues? How about whether you have multi-level relationships in the account? Or whether you clearly understand who your competitors are and what their relationships are with the prospect firm? What about contractual guarantees, warranties, or penalties that will likely be involved? Do you understand their implications and consequences? Valid questions to consider – now more than ever. Of course, the number of issues you evaluate will vary depending on the size and impact of the deals. And for the risks that you candidly identify, you build pragmatic action plans to quickly mitigate the doubt. Nothing good will come of ignoring risks and delaying action. Especially now.
The results of your risk mitigation efforts will either reinforce your confidence in pursuing a deal or clarify the levels of danger, verifying your decision to pass. In either case, you gain impactful information to drive educated decisions. Of course, some measure of risk is to be expected. But not risk you don’t evaluate. Not risk you don’t address. And certainly not risk you don’t try to mitigate. Levels of acceptable risk are your call, but you can’t make that call credibly without clearly understanding the consequences. Burying your head in the sand is a pitiful strategy. With pragmatic risk mitigation, you either increase your chances of winning or you add confidence to your decision to pass on the deal.
Early acceleration or early exit. For your organization and all its stakeholders, they are both gifts. Yes, even now.