At most sales review meetings what do you hear sales management asking the reps? Questions like these:
- What stage is this opportunity in?
- What value do you have it at in the pipeline?
- Is there upside to that value?
- What forecast category is it in?
- In what quarter will it close?
- What competitors are in the deal?
- What products will they be buying?
- Do they have budget for the purchase?
- How do we meet their primary requirements for a solution?
- How have we demonstrated that we can meet those requirements?
- What are the impacts of not solving those problems?
- How did they attempt to solve those problems before?
- Who is impacted by the consequences of those impacts?
- Who is the primary decision maker?
- What is the decision-making process?
- Who else is involved in the decision and in what roles?
- Who have you developed relationships with in the account?
- What risk is there of a goal-post move?
And on and on.
Some of these questions are about systems and process. Some are about forecasting. Ideally, most are about the problem the customer is trying to solve, the impacts of not solving it, how they tried to solve it before, the ideal solution to the problem, and the benefits of solving it. But in our collective hurry to be process-oriented, methodology-driven, systems-compliant, and solutions-oriented, all too often something critical gets lost:
Why are we going to win?
What? Oh shoot. Yep, forgot to ask that one. And, of course, that’s the most important one. As I sometimes need to remind sales managers, while the process is great, let’s not forget the purpose of the process is to win.
(I’ve even met a few sales managers so wedded to process and discipline that I’ve wondered if they’d rather crash while flying in perfect formation than win flying out of it.)
Process is great. I love process. But let’s not forget the point. How can we do that? With win themes — two to three simple, short, plain-English reasons why you are going to win the deal. Here’s an example. We are going to win because:
- Joe the CFO saw first-hand how Adaptive didn’t scale in his last job and is committed to purchasing a system he can grow with.
- Our partner, CFO Experts, has worked with Joe in the past, has a great relationship with him, and firmly believes that Host is the best fit with the requirements.
Build win themes into your systems and process. Don’t add win themes to the bottom of your Salesforce opportunity screen; put them right up top so the first conversation about any deal — before you dive into the rabbit hole — is “why are we going to win?” Two to three win themes should provide a proposed answer and a healthy platform for strategic discussion.
(And, as my friend Kate pointed out, in case it didn’t come up in the win theme conversation, don’t forget to ask “why might we lose?”)
Of course we need a statement of why we’ll win. As a sales leader if my people don’t have that, then the deal is not qualified and never makes it to deal reviews.
Far more important is why we’ll lose. I recommend a pre-mortem where you gather everyone associated with the deal and ask them this: Imagine we executed our plan to win this deal flawlessly, and we still lost. Why?” That exposes all the hidden threats we don’t think of in our normal opportunity pursuit plan.