Tim Sanders is an expert in the field of sales. He's spent his whole career arranging enormous agreements for some of the world's most powerful corporations. And he understands how revolutionary closing a major account can be.
Dealstorming was created to aid in the cracking of the toughest accounts using a mixture of deal-making and brainstorming (explains the name).
Follow us for the next 10 minutes to discuss why the sales climate is becoming more difficult. And how you can utilize the dealstorming process to close customers that previously thought impossible to complete.
PS: While this may appear to be a book for extremely large corporations, the concept may be applied to businesses of any size. In fact, I'd argue that it's even more critical in smaller firms, where a single huge transaction might be life-changing.
Consider conducting this activity with a group of advisers or mastermind team participants if you're a solitary entrepreneur.
Why Selling Is Getting Harder, Not Easier
Every now and again, an opportunity comes up that you really must win. Maybe it's the scale of the sale, or perhaps it's the importance of placing a logo on your site's "Customers" page, which will open up previously unexplored markets for you.
In these cases, a new strategy is required, one that makes use of your team's collective expertise to close the transaction.
Sanders has discovered that the world's most successful sales companies frequently bring together cross-functional teams to collaborate on large sales difficulties. They do it via highly organized meetings and project work.
Why is that?
There have been four major advancements that have made sales more difficult than ever before.
For starters, you're not selling face-to-face to a single decision-maker anymore. Especially if you're offering business solutions. Selling is largely taking place online, via emails, and through various decision-makers and promoters.
Second, before they accept to meet with you, prospects nowadays have access to an unbelievable quantity of information. According to one survey, over 60% of buying decisions are made before speaking with a supplier.
Third, the products we sell these days are more complicated. To comprehend the cutting-edge solutions we've designed for today's always-on environment, we'll need more brain power and time.
Lastly, the technologies that are being developed have made it easier to start a business, resulting in an increase in the number of rivals in the marketplace today.
When all of these elements are considered, it becomes more difficult to close agreements, specifically those that have the potential to revolutionize your organization.
This Is Where Dealstorming Comes In
When your typical sales strategy becomes stuck—whether you're utilizing The Challenger Sale idea, SPIN Selling, or another sales methodology—it's time to rally the troops to close the deal.
Which brings up the question: Where in the sales process may you get stuck?
Sanders has defined four separate processes that must be completed to close a deal.
Contact is the initial stage. This step entails meeting with all of your prospect's key stakeholders, including intelligence officers, advocates, logisticians, and decision-makers.
Conceive is the second step. This is where you create a vision for how your firm may assist their prospective company in achieving more of their goals.
Convince is the third step. It's now all about persuading your prospects to believe in the vision you've crafted. You'll frequently find yourself equipping internal champions with weapons to sell your proposition to other influencers and decision-makers you won't even meet.
The contract is the fourth and final stage. This step is self-explanatory.
Suppose you reach a deadlock with a significant prospect after following your current approach. In that case, it's time to advance to Dealstorming Step 1.
Dealstorming Step #1: Qualify
The first step is to confirm an issue that cannot be fixed without outside help. Have you, for example, appropriately and thoroughly implemented your current sales process?
After you've passed that checkpoint, you'll need to figure out the strategic interest of the sales opportunity to your firm. Revenue potential, branding power, and market penetration are all things to think about here.
Will this transaction strengthen some or all of those corporate objectives? Sanders recommends assigning a score to the strategic value of the transaction on a scale of one to ten.
Then, based on the resources you now have, you'll evaluate the extent of difficulty in tackling the sales problem.
Again, rate the difficulty on a scale of 1-10.
Lastly, combining those two figures gives you the number of personnel you'll probably need from your firm to address this problem.
If you give the strategic value an 8 and the level of difficulty a 9, you'll get a resource number of 72, which puts you in the top category. This means you might enlist the help of up to 12 individuals from your company to solve this challenge.
- Scores below 10 need no one.
- Scores between 10 and 29 need 2-3.
- Scores between 30 and 49 need 4-5.
- Scores between 50 and 69 need 6-9.
- Scores over 70 need 10-12.
Obviously, these figures should be used as a starting point rather than gospel. If you're going to make an error, err on the side of reducing the number of people instead of increasing it.
Dealstorming Step #2: Organize
So now you know how much money you'll need. It's time to figure out who needs to be engaged. The overarching notion involves all relevant internal stakeholders in the issue-solving and implementation process.
In every dealstorm, you'll have to fulfill four different responsibilities.
The problem owner is the individual who is ultimately in charge of resolving the sales issue. This is typically the account executive.
The sponsor is responsible for qualifying the dealstorm and advising on the viability of various solutions. If possible, avoid bringing in a senior executive to fill this position.
The duty of resources is the next one that helps in the process. This will make up most of your team and therefore can come from any department. They'll provide ideas, raise concerns, and help with the dealstorm's deliverables.
"Who is generally excluded from these dialogues for the incorrect reasons?" is a concern you might wish to pose here.
You should also look for people in your company who are in the same position as those you're attempting to market to.
The information master is the last role in the dealstorm. This individual is in charge of ensuring that everything in the dealstorming process is logged and followed upon. They should if at all possible, set up a common workstation online. This is the case with Google Docs, for example.
Now it's time to assemble your team and persuade them to join your dealstorm. Remember, you're creating a group of volunteers, not drafting someone.
So, to sell yourself effectively, you'll need to be convincing. On top of everything else they have to accomplish, make a compelling case for why they should join you.
Make individual contact with each person, especially if it's possible to meet in person. If you can't have them over personally, use video calls instead.
Dealstorming Step #3: Prepare
The next stage is to prepare your team for the actual dealstorming session.
The account executive prepares the team by preparing a detailed yet concise deal brief. It should include critical account information to all parties involved and define the sales challenge in 4 pages or fewer.
Deliver this brief to your team at least 3 days before the dealstorm, and if feasible, give them a weekend to go through it before they participate. Remember that you're asking these folks to contribute outside of their normal responsibilities.
The following is the structure for that.
Here's an illustration you could come across frequently. Your target has a champion who's already given you some minor orders. Still, it will not connect you to the key stakeholders so that you may clinch a larger strategic contract.
"How can we be acquainted with the key decision-makers so that we can complete a more strategic deal?" would be the problem question.
This should contain the income potential and any higher-level strategic opportunities, such as gaining market share or outperforming competitors.
This is where you organize the decision-makers who make up the purchasing web. Add everyone who could act as a "blocking" to the agreement—people who can't officially approve it but can certainly put the brakes on the process. You should directly link each player's bio or other information here.
Include a chronology of everything that transpired in this account, including any attempts to close the strategic sale. It's beneficial to include context from any previous talks you've had with the prospect here.
Make a record of any recent events that prompted the dealstorm, as well as any current events at your prospect's firm.
These are any limitations you'll confront in your search for solutions. This will guarantee that any pre-meeting brainstorming your team undertakes is relevant and not a waste of time.
Constraints, rather than limiting creativity, have been demonstrated to enhance it.
Anything you have that you can utilize to assist design a solution to the sales challenges are considered assets.
Provide an assignment that you've created for each member of your team in the last section. Make each task unique depending on what you really want them to learn, prepare, or consider.
Dealstorming Step #4: Convene
We'll next go to the meeting itself. The meeting's purpose is to plan the account's "next best move."
The dealstorm's organizer must determine whether or not to hire a facilitator. This meeting must proceed well for everyone to have a positive experience and avoid future dealstorms.
Effective listening, cautiousness, and aggressiveness are three qualities you should look for in a facilitator. A group gathering with strong players can quickly devolve into pandemonium if these three characteristics are lacking.
Once you've gotten that out of the way, you must choose a location for the meeting.
The most important consideration here will be convenience. Exotic off-site places are exciting, but getting everyone to the meeting is the most important thing. Sanders recommends booking conference rooms in the heart of the city.
Ensure the room provides a location for exchanging ideas and information (whiteboards and/or flip charts) accessible to everyone.
Don't bother sending out a plan ahead of time; instead, display it on one of the room's charts.
The issue owner should start the meeting by stating a dealstorm's aim and reminding everyone why winning the deal is crucial.
Then proceed to introductions, ensuring that everyone knows why each individual was invited and what benefits they may offer due to their role.
Next, go over the meeting's basic rules. Sanders has discovered that the following four guidelines are effective:
- It is possible to get ideas from everywhere.
- Act based on facts; investigate hunches.
- Keep your attention on the current segment.
- There should be no distractions.
Then, continue on to the problem-solving section. Spend 15 minutes for this conversation, and keep it focused on the problem's accuracy and why it occurs. Before you get to the solution part, your team will most likely give many insights into the issue.
Then you go on to the solution debate, which is the core of the dealstorm meeting and the reason you put in so much effort putting this group together in the first place.
The "next greatest plays" are nominated, debated, and decided on here. To prevent the "primacy effect," which is a significant inclination to be drawn to the first choice presented, express to the team that you are searching for more than one suggestion.
A question worth asking the group is whether there is anything you can do "inside the box"—perhaps all you need is a best practice or two to address the problem.
Once you've covered that terrain, explore the "out of the box" topic. Make sure to go through the "constraints" section of the brief here to keep the conversation on track.
Shift gears into the "narrowing" section of the solution conversation after you've gathered all of the group's thoughts. As a group, ask yourselves the following questions about each idea:
- "How does this work?"
- "What are your primary assumptions?"
Those questions aim to condense the concepts into one or two, which should be regarded as the "next best play."
The goal isn't to build consensus, but you DO want to make sure that everyone in the room can live with whichever solution is chosen as the way forward. Otherwise, the concept will never be implemented.
Finally, conclude the meeting by going through the action items from the agenda so that everyone is clear on their next steps.
Dealstorming Steps #5-7: Execute/Analyze/Report
This is the point when the rubber hits the road. While you may have been aware that you should be completing the tasks listed in steps 5-7, you must do them correctly.
There are a few important stages to executing a shared concept in Step #5 (Execute).
- Verify what has been discussed and agreed upon.
- Double-check your assumptions about the major difficulties and the solution.
- If possible, implement the concept carefully and in a fashion that allows for a test-iterate-launch strategy.
Essentially, you're putting the play you decided on at the dealstorming session into action.
So here is the pro tip: if you've developed a new strategy that you've never attempted before, don't start your meeting with the customer with it. You shouldn't aim to fool your client, but people instinctively suspect unfamiliar ideas. Simply be aware of it and control it.
Step #6 (Analyze) requires you to determine whether or not the play was successful. Measure with real data wherever feasible. If you were looking for a solution to a problem at work,
You must report the results of your work to the team in Step #7 (Report).
Assess if they are good or bad. Having your squad informed increases the likelihood that you will be ready to dial them in the future. They may have suggestions for what you may attempt better next time. When you give your report, be sure to compliment the team on the solution they came up with.
Ultimately, you've circled back to step 1, and you should reconsider the chance. Is this still a critical strategic sell if you haven't finalized the deal? Is there a new stumbling block that demands you to reassemble the team?
If you've tried to enter the dealstorm but still aren't sure what it's all about and how to get started, there's no harm in giving it another go.
Every company, large or small, should be on the lookout for potentially game-changing partnerships. The difficulty is that, for a good reason, these transactions are notoriously difficult to close.
You now have a step-by-step strategy for using your team's combined ability to develop a plan of attack for capturing that account.
We went through a similar procedure at Readitfor.me and secured our first major corporate deal with Zappos.
What is our solution? Email the CEO with a comprehensive explanation of why our service is a perfect fit for their company culture and how this might be a huge victory for them.
It took a long time to put everything together, but it turned out to be a game-changer for us.
Dealstorming is a process of managing potential deal outcomes and combining them into opportunities for success. So, get to work finding that transformative sale in your business, and dealstorm your way to success.