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Sales Solutions
Is the Best Person Selling the Right Person(s)? vol 8, issue #4
April, 2011

I had just finished debriefing a sales person who'd lost a deal. It turns out Andy's (sole) contact was not successful in convincing the apparent decision-maker of the merits of investing in his solution. I asked him to tell me how he thought the meeting between his contact and the CFO went - how he thought his contact made his case. He had no clue. I then asked him who he thought would be best qualified to make the case to the CFO. His answer, of course, was "me."

No one - not even your "champion" - can make the case for changing from the status quo to your solution as effectively as you can. But if you never ask for the opportunity to do so (which Andy didn't), you'll never it. You're then left to rely on your contact who - despite having a great desire to acquire and use your solution - more often than not doesn't possess the persuasive abilities that you do. So your first order of business after you've "sold" your contact is to "sell" him on letting you present to whoever else is involved in the decision (which you should have determined earlier on in the sales process.

Andy's mistake was in relying on his one contact to sell the solution to his CFO, someone who - when his contact approached him - most likely had no idea who Andy, his company, or his product were, why his Director of Credit was spending time evaluating it, and why he felt it necessary to take on an added expense when there was no apparent need to do so. In other words, Andy's contact did not make a strong enough case - if he made any case at all - for adopting Andy's solution. The result - Andy didn't get the sale, his contact didn't get the solution he wanted, and is now stuck with the same unacceptable situation he started with. And the company is left with an inefficient, costly process.

My counsel to Andy was to wait till the dust settles, then go back to his contact and

  • Confirm that he was indeed sold. It's possible that Andy didn't fully qualify his contact, and that not getting approval to purchase Andy's product is something is no big deal - he can live without it

  • If he was sold, ask him if he'd be willing to work together to put together a business case for making the investment in Andy's solution - the problem, the adverse impact on the organization (both financial and otherwise) of doing nothing, and the improvement (both financial and otherwise) the organization would realize by making the investment. A business case is less formal (and much shorter and less detailed) than a proposal - which you should not be preparing unless and until you are pretty certain you've made the short list and are close to getting a decision.

  • Offer to make a joint presentation to the CFO or - if the CFO is the type that doesn't talk to sales people - coach his contact on making the case himself, with the business case document as his ammunition.

The verdict is still out, but I hope to have a successful outcome to report in next month's newsletter.


Examine your pipeline and identify those deals where you don't feel they're quite sold yet. Then - together with your champions - build a business case for each. Use a consistent format (to receive the template I use, click here). It doesn't have to be fancy. It doesn't have to be long (in fact, it should fit on one page). What it does have to do is concisely capture the reason you're engaged with the company, the ramifications of doing nothing, and the benefits that will accrue by purchasing your product or service. While this may already be obvious to your contact, it doesn't hurt to reinforce it - in writing. Next, with the help of your champion, identify all the relevant participants in the decision (if you haven't already) and make your case to each one, using a version of the business plan personalized to address the expressed needs of each. When all of these people are "sold" - including the decision-maker - you'll have yourself a deal!

Good Selling!

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