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Sales Solutions
Cover Your Bases vol 8, issue #8
August, 2011

In baseball, each player in the field is assigned a position. Infielders (with the exception of the shortstop), are identified by the bases they play - first base, second, base, and third base. Whenever there is a play at their base, their job is to "cover" that base - that is - to get to that base and be ready to catch the ball that's being thrown their way. Failure to cover the base means the opposing team's player will be safe - a bad outcome for you and for your team.


In complex sales (defined broadly as any deal where multiple players are involved in the evaluation and selection of a vendor, and typically characterized by high dollar volumes and correspondingly high visibility and exposure on the part of those players) - as in baseball - there are also bases to be covered which, if they're not, will more often than not result in a bad outcome for you and for your company. But unlike in baseball - where the failure to cover a base may not be catastrophic (the runner may not score, and even if he does, it's usually not the winning run) - in sales the ramifications are more severe: not covering your bases will more often than not cost you a deal.



What exactly does "covering you bases" in sales mean?


In complex selling situations, there are numerous "bases" that need to be covered. For example, one base is identifying who these players are. Another is determining what role they will play in the evaluation process (will this person be trying out the product, will that person be looking at the technical specifications, will that person be evaluating cost and value?). Still another is knowing which alternatives the prospect is considering (including an internal one), and how each player (particularly the more influential ones) feels about your offering vs. the alternatives.


Think about a deal you're working on right now. How do you feel in your gut about this piece of business? Highly confident that you'll close it? Mildly so? 50/50? Or do you have that worried, uneasy feeling you can't quite put your finger on? If it's anything less than "feeling pretty good", it's probably because there's a base out there that hasn't been fully covered, an objection that hasn't been addressed, a player who hasn't been "sold" yet, or rumors of a possible change in the organizational structure (a "reorg") that could upset your apple cart. In which case you clearly have some work to do.


ACTION ITEM

For this piece of business (and for other complex sales you're working on), ask yourself the following questions: Do I know who all the players are? Do I know what role each will play in the evaluation? Do I know what business results each wants from the engagement? Do I know what the personal win is for each of them? Do I know who I'm up against? Is there anyone in the organization who doesn't want me to win this business? Is there someone who does - and have I established a strong relationship with this person? If so, get moving enlisting that person to help you get the answers to any unanswered questions you have - to cover your uncovered bases - and to give you the inside skinny on what it will take to win this deal. If not, make it job number one to find such a person - because without one, closing this deal will be that much more difficult.


Good Selling!




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