DIRECTS: Well chosen is half won

DIRECTS: Well chosen is half won

Shankar scrolled to the bottom of the spread sheet.

“Just 3 prospects” he counted on his fingers “2 warm and 1 gone tepid already. And just 2 weeks to go before quarter end. Curse this Covid season”

“What do we do?” he asked no one in particular. Shankar’s company Euclid Solutions, offered packaged accounting software to SMEs. Shankar headed Product Sales. Shankar and his band of 4 young RMs had created a blockbuster out of their tax application branded as “Tax Triumph”. Post GST implementation the application had become a hot favourite with small and medium businesses

The phone rang and Shankar spilled some coffee.

“Hi Shankar, this is Azad. Remember I used to head Finance for IJK Forgings?”

“Oh yes, what a pleasure Azad, how are you and, how is our Tax Triumph package doing?”

“That was one of the best tax software applications, I have used. But listen, the reason I called was to tell you I have moved jobs. I am now CFO of STUV Chemicals. I have some business to discuss with you”

“It will be a pleasure to do business with you Azad. What can we do for you?”

“STUV is a 5 billion turnover company and looking at big growth. Our products are in demand as they go into production of disinfectants, virucidal formulations and sanitizers. Can you customize Tax Triumph for us?”

“That would be exciting”

“A caveat though Shankar. Our procurement, sales and IT too must be okay with it. Can you make a proposal document and send it to me?”

“Absolutely Azad, we will revert to you in the next 5 days”

Hanging up, Shankar fumbled with his phone. “Guys” he yelled “I have some sensational news” His RMs trooped in. “Let’s get to the conference hall where we can maintain distance and talk. Order coffee first though”

An hour later, Shankar pondered over the discarded coffee cups. He closed his eyes and opened a paper clip. Speaking as if to himself, he asked his colleagues “You guys think we can handle this? I will take this to Dinesh, our VP Sales. He will have some ideas”

Dinesh smiled “Calm down Shankar. Big deals always mean big nerves. In a market like this, the prospect of making a hash of a large opportunity can be terrifying. But in picking the right opportunities and delivering on them there are 3 variables you must manage.

First is the competence of your people. This isn’t something you can change overnight. So you should know how to make the best of it. Then comes their energy and motivation. You can make a difference in improving this. Third is the time available within the system to accomplish the deal.

Unless you direct the efforts of your team, things can come unstuck. Your people may not be able to assess their own capabilities and dispassionately check whether they are equipped to deliver on a big deal.

They may over or under estimate. They may not also be good judges of challenges involved. It is here that a sales manager’s direction can make a critical difference.

Let’s sit down tomorrow and I’ll help you map our strengths against the deal complexity factors. I’m sure we can swing this”

Sales veterans recognise that if right choices aren’t made, specially in difficult markets, winning can feel like a curse. Consider a sales team, like the one in our story, getting along by selling standalone products. A mid-sized fish in a small pond. Then poof, the team lands a mega opportunity. After the champagne runs out, worries take over, unless the sales efforts are consciously directed.

This is because there are usually 3 complexity factors the sales leader has to reckon with

(1) People factor - Several people are involved on both sides. In our story, the buyer company will want its procurement, sales, finance and IT to sign off before the deal is inked. From the seller’s side, the tax experts, developers and sales should tango to craft a solution that can sell

(2) Need factor - The needs and expectations of the customer may not be clear at the start. The solution may undergo changes during the sales cycle. A quote attributed to Henry Ford captures this best. ‘Faster horses’ is what the Customer might want, until you show him a car.

(3) Buying criteria factor – In a large opportunity every stakeholder uses different buying criteria to evaluate the deal. What Procurement wants from a tax accounting software is not the same as what Finance requires. However, as discussions progress and the solution contours become clearer to stakeholders, you can influence them to modify their buying criteria

No wonder, seasoned sales leaders heading teams see themselves like generals leading troops into battle. They know that if they have to win the war, they must be actively involved in directing their people.

They recognise that effective direction (i) Ensures action - When and where needed (ii) Synergises sales efforts (iii) Keeps sales team motivated (iv) Helps pivot and course correct (v) Optimizes use of sales resources.

In difficult markets and crisis situations, the resilient sales teams are ones who make the right choices to work on and whose efforts are well directed in achieving those choices

Pause to reflect: “No wonder, seasoned sales leaders heading teams see themselves like generals leading troops into battle. They know that if they have to win the war, they must be actively involved in directing their people”

Action Question: Review the top 10 target accounts on your radar. How can you direct your team to choose the right opportunities to work on and successfully convert them?

Related Readings:  Mercuri Insight document on “Are you managing large opportunities well enough?”

Takeaway Quote:  “Directing attention toward where it needs to go is a primal task of leadership.” ― Daniel Goleman

About the series: This is the 59th in a series of 100 Posts that seek 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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