After a six-month-long selection process, Monica Rostini – the Account Executive for a global software firm – was surprised when Hans Van De Veer, the Director of IT at a multi-national bank, arranged a 30-minute meeting with Katarina Telstoid – Director of Finance. Hans explained that the project was on hold until Katrina reviewed Monica’s proposal and discussed it with her. Monica was surprised but eager as she viewed this as an opportunity to meet Hans’ boss Katrina, and potentially expand the size of the project.
Prior to the meeting, Monica performed some research on Katarina. She learned that Katrina is originally from Switzerland and an avid skier. She owns a vacation property in Meribel in the French Alps. This is great news because skiing happens to be a favorite hobby of Monica’s as well. Now Monica knows exactly how to start the meeting.
On the day of the meeting, Monica arrives fifteen minutes early. She patiently waits in the reception area and reviews her notes about her solution and how it would improve their business processes. She glances at her mobile phone and realizes that it’s now 9:05. Just then, Katarina’s executive assistant greets Monica and brings her to the executive suite. At 9:15, Katarina finally appears and invites Monica into her office. She apologizes for running late as she just completed a global conference call with the regions. She sits at her guest table and offers Monica a seat. The meeting finally begins!
Monica begins with, “Katarina, thank you for taking the time to meet with me today. Say, I learned that you really enjoy skiing. That is certainly something we have in common! I am an avid skier as well. I understand you have a place in Meribel. That is one of my favorite ski areas. Why did you choose Meribel?”
Five minutes later, Katrina redirects the discussion about skiing. She leans forward on the desk with her hands folded, “Monica, thank you for meeting with me today. Now, what can I do for you?” Monica jumps on the opportunity, eager to close the deal, “Katarina, as you know, I’ve been working with your operational team for some time now on ways to improve the data delivery and business processes of your customer service representatives when potential clients contact them for new credit card applications and credit limit increases. Our software uses the latest technology such as BPM and Analytics to deliver key information to your CSR’s while they have the prospect on the telephone. Hans said you wanted to review the proposal so I brought a copy with me and thought we could spend a few minutes reviewing it for any final questions you might have.”
Katrina begins with, “Yes, yes, I’ve reviewed your proposal and have had several meetings with Hans about this potential project.” “Great” Monica replies. “Why don’t I walk you through the proposal.”
She puts the extra copy of the proposal in front of Katrina and turns to the first page. “The proposal begins with an executive summary and then on page two is information about our company. We have been in business for over 35 years, we are the larg-“Katrina interrupts, “I’m sorry to interrupt but, we don’t have much time. I have another appointment in 10 minutes. This is a fine proposal but, to be perfectly open with you I have been working for some time with an outsourcing firm that has presented me with a rather compelling proposal to eliminate all of our call center headcount and move those positions to a third-party contract. In that proposal, the outsourcing firm showed me some impressive return on investment analysis. They detailed how we can do everything you’re are describing for 30% less than we are spending today, improve our results and, we won’t need to go through a costly and time-consuming software implementation. Say, Monica, I have a conference call I need to jump on. I’m sorry to cut this meeting short, but I’m sure you understand.”
“Sure, sure” Monica replies. Out of desperation, she continues with, “if you have just 2 more minutes, I would really like to learn more about this alternative and possibly understand how I might convince you to reconsider your decision to outsource.”
“I’m sorry but, the decision to not spend capital and expense budget on this project was made yesterday. However, if things fall through with the outsourcing firm in negotiations, I’ll have Hans give you a call.” At this, she stands and extends her hand and it is clear that the meeting is over. Monica thanks her for her time and the meeting (and potential project) is terminated.
Monica is surprised, confused, and crestfallen. As she returned to her office, she removed this opportunity from the forecast and documented the removal as a “no decision”.
Hans initially contacted Monica and that was the start of this opportunity. He explained that he had met with a peer that had implemented her solution. At the beginning of the sales process, Monica met Hans and qualified for the opportunity. He assured her that there was a budget assigned to this initiative and he had the authority to spend those budget euros. Furthermore, Monica provided Hans a range for the scope of the project and he agreed to move forward with a selection process. At this point, he contacted two competitors so he could perform a proper selection of a new solution. His team was actively engaged with Monica throughout what she thought was a budgeted and qualified selection process.
Analysis of What Happened
The simple answer is that Monica qualified the opportunity at the wrong level in the organization. However, a close examination of the facts reveals a number of places for improvement in Monica’s approach and execution that would have led to dramatically different results.
Qualify and seek sponsorship at the highest levels of an opportunity – Like many salespeople, Monica worked her opportunity at a comfortable level. Hans assured her he had budgetary authority thus she never worked at establishing a connection beyond him.
Present insights at the highest levels of an opportunity – Insight selling is necessary in order to make and keep connections at higher levels of an opportunity. It is through insights that an executive will agree to meetings. Insights are identified through strategic mapping and sourced through a variety of methods. I will discuss more on identifying and sourcing insights in the next installment in this series.
Present insights to executives throughout the sales process – The majority of executive contact takes place at the beginning and end of the sales process. In Monica’s opportunity, she lost contact with Katrina and in so doing, lost the deal to another initiative that maintained contact. I will discuss a variety of winning techniques for securing consistent contact with executives in the third installment in this series.
Present and defend the value of your solution during insight meetings – Delivering insights produces credibility and trust with an executive. However, value builds justification for your solution. Value has a variety of definitions in opportunities. The most obvious is some form of return on investment. However, it can also come in the form of supporting strategic initiatives, which is often the case with governmental opportunities. I will write more about value selling in the fourth installment in this series.
If Monica had the opportunity to start again, she would have approached Katrina early in the process with some insights that provided her with a new perspective on this type of project. She would have established the value of the project and would have sold it to Hans as it being in his best interests. She would have sought the sponsorship to move forward with Hans and the selection process and promised to report back any further insights as the project unfolded. Throughout the sales process in steps like discovery and demo, she would have scheduled and conducted additional insight meetings to remain in contact with Katarina. There wouldn’t be surprises at the end of the sales process and, after negotiations (almost everyone negotiates), she would have been awarded the business.