SHREWD: Helps Customers make discerning choices through quick hard headed thinking

SHREWD: Helps Customers make discerning choices through quick hard headed thinking

“All accounting software aren’t born equal Tania” said Maya, Head of Sales, Bean Systems

Relationship Manager Tania twiddled a pencil, shut her notebook and looked at the ceiling. “I don’t get it” she said

“Our company produces world class accounting software. But there are multiple categories to meet varied requirements. You agree?” said Maya

Tania smiled. “I agree Maya. But I still don’t see what that has to do with sales. To my mind, all sales are alike. To me the only difference between deals is in their size. They can be big, mid-sized or small”

“Ok” said Maya “Consider this. You have two deals, both 50 million in value. First one is for a chain of convenience stores that wants to get into taking online orders. They’re interested in our e-commerce software integrating all their 40 locations. Second Customer is a mid sized corrugated paper board manufacturer, supplying to several FMCG leaders. He wants an enterprise level solution that can cover his entire supply and distribution chain and integrate all their line functions. Would you adopt the same sales approach for both the deals?”

Tania drummed on the table “Umm, I’m not so sure now”

“It’s like this Tania. A salesperson has to make a series of choices starting with prospecting right up to closure. Each choice has a cost benefit trade off. So the salesperson must be shrewd in the choices so that it delivers highest possible value to Customer while securing commensurate benefits for the seller”

“This sounds interesting. Can you please elaborate?”

“Run through the standard sales cycle Tania. When you talk to a prospect, don’t you do some quick mental math whether the deal size and value will match your company’s bottom line expectations? Further into the sales process, you have to be choosy in picking whom to meet, what would mean tangible value to the Customer, what negotiated terms and price would be a win for both sides and which delivery and maintenance options would maximize all round value”

“But doesn’t the word ‘shrewd’ sound like we are trying to take advantage of the Customer?”

“No, it is not about being clever in a negative way” laughed Maya “It is about being discerning in choices we make and help the Customer also do the same, while being hard headed in understanding the consequences of those choices”

“Can you give me one more example of how being shrewd is valuable?’

“Yes, in our kind of business for example, a shrewd salesperson would spot deal complexity sufficiently early to assess its impact on value delivery and bottom line. Take a look at this one-pager that gives you the framework at a glance”

“Thanks Maya, I think, I now know how to identify which side of the toast is buttered”

Being a top performer in sales, calls for being shrewd.

This starts right from prospecting, when top performers shrewdly qualify the leads to work on. They avoid wasting time and sales effort on leads with low conversion potential. Their shrewdness extends to their sales conversations. They make generous use of open ended questions to get the Customer lead the conversation. This helps them go beyond mere understanding of Customer’s issues and opportunities and get the Customer to look ahead and make smart choices that can maximize value for the Customer. For instance, they can present cost saving or revenue augmenting ideas that weren’t originally apparent to the Customer.

On receiving an in-principle acceptance to buy, they prepare ahead in extensive detail for the negotiations and play out possible discussion scenarios, to ensure they are ready with alternatives for likely objections. They don’t mistake activity for productivity and make shrewd and continuous measurement of the deal progress.

Top sales performers identify deal complexity fairly early. They use a Deal Complexity Assessment Framework that Maya in our story shared with Tania. Here’s the framework:

Deal Complexity Assessment Framework :

Complexity of a sale is a function of three parameters –

  1. Product (Standalone or a Whole System?)
  2. Post Sale Support needs (6 – 12 months? or a Full suite support from design advice, to participation in evaluation of alternatives to continued relationship after sales including partnering the Customer?)
  3. Width of contact (Or people to be involved from both sides).

Shrewdly, spotting sales complexity early brings 3 high value benefits:

  1. Stakeholders are better managed –Early spotting of sales complexity, helps better preparedness in identification and recognition of stakeholders to be managed
  2. Creates possibility of pricing advantage – Complex deals touch the Customer’s business at multiple points. This should open up possibilities of better pricing in relation to plain vanilla deals
  3. Can elevate sales into consulting – Design advice, participation in solution-evaluation and implementation partnering that go into a complex deal can transform selling into consulting.

Action Question:  Choose the top 3 deals you are currently working on. How discerning are your Customers in the choices they are making? How can you help them look for more?

Related Reading:  Mercuri Insight document Unique Demands on Salesperson in Problem Solving sales

About the series: This is the 47th in a series of 100 Posts that purport to build your #Sales Resilience.. as an individual salesperson, as a sales team, and as a sales organization. Because a Resilient India needs Resilient Sales.


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