Developing Winning Sales Solutions

There comes a time when you hang up the phone or leave a sales call and you have to go to your technical team and tell them what you signed up for. After being called crazy and subsequently promising that you won’t do it again and that you’ll have someone from engineering come with you on the next call – you and your team come to the realization that you need to solve this problem and the fun begins.

Develop Solution Layer

The arena of problem solving and group interactions is way beyond the scope of this article, or the series for that matter. But what we can offer here are tips on high-level things you should be doing to help ensure that whatever solution you find and propose is chosen as the winner by your prospect.

The journey from getting a prospect to be interested in your solution to having them cut a purchase order against your proposal can be a trying experience to say the least. Just the thought of typing up a jumbo proposal with all the gory details can take months of preparation. If all that work is for naught, you lost not only that business, but all the opportunities that you could have been working on instead. Economists call these opportunity costs.

We preach the creation of a “zero-surprise proposalTM” for complex sales. This means that by the time your prospect gets the proposal in the mail, she already knows what it says – and she certainly doesn’t have to flip to the back page to find the price.

The trick to creating this zero-surprise proposal is to involve your prospect in the solution development stage. Getting her input has two major benefits. First, you’ll be able to ensure that your solution satisfies the technical and business issues that she’s mostly concerned with. She will know and understand the economic issues of implementing any suggestions that she provides you with. And secondly, if she provided input into the solution, she now has ownership and all the pride and attachment that come with that. This is a bond that your competition will almost never have – and never be able to break.

So the problem to be solved is when and where to bring your prospect into the solution design stage of the proposal to help make sure that your business case matches up with your client’s business case needs. They should ideally meet at a single point of agreement and information should flow between the two organizations as these business cases are developed. In fact, in the end, the two business cases should look as if you cheated off of each other.
Business case matchup

Melding Engineering and Business Brains

How you handle integrating your prospect into your solution brainstorming sessions can be quite a delicate situation. Is she technically competent and ignorant of business issues or is she a buyer with no technical knowledge? The way to handle it, is to create a team of participants from the prospect’s organization so that every aspect of the decision is represented and enough buy-in is fostered to make your ultimate proposal rise to the top of the heap.

The need to possibly coerce a team of volunteers to continuously evaluate your proposal is why we stress to start as high in the organization chart as you possibly can when prospecting out your target (see “Getting the Initial Sales Appointment” for tips on doing just that). Let’s say that you started up a relationship with the CEO of a medium size business and you were trying to sell your modeling consulting service to them. He’ll tell you to talk to Sally in engineering because “she deals with that stuff”. Thank him for that lead and ask if there is anyone on the business side that you should also be talking to. “Our controller Sam takes care of all that business”. There you have it, you need to tie in Sally and Sam, and you can bet that they both will play ball with you – because the CEO said so.

You now have the necessary players identified and committed to at least review your proposal along the way and offer their incremental insights.

It’s like you have an insider pulling for you.

The next step is deciding how and when you want to roll them into your process. Too early and you give them too much control and information about the solution. Bring them in too late and you run the risk of them telling you that you need to scrap everything and start over in a different direction.

Present your two or three proposed paths and ask them which they prefer and why. Would they change anything? Do they understand the different economics at play between the two options? Would they be available for conferences as the ideas are further defined? Do they see any technical, financial, or political constraints that would be a barrier for either of the proposed solutions? And so forth.

Be careful not to patronize them here. Let me be clear that you are not integrating them into your team simply to get a soft advantage when the award stage comes to pass. You are using them to help design a solution that will best serve their needs. This is having high intent and their best interest at heart. If you are using them to play games on the surface just to get a feel good advantage, they will see through it and your plan will backfire. No one knows the issues better than them, so they are a great resource to help solve those issues.

NOTE: A word of caution here regarding intellectual property (IP). A downside to bringing in the prospect during the solution design stage is that they can possibly claim that they helped you design the product or process and fight you for the IP. Typically, you want to work on the proposal on your own dime to make it a little more clear who owns what. But when they provide input, it can get messy. I’m not allowed to give legal advice here other than to say that if you think that one of your solutions is a novel method that could be patented or you want to keep a trade secret, consult with an attorney before bringing your prospects into the loop.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment ↓

There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge