If you're like many owners, CEOs, VPs of sales, and salespeople, you'd love to land more large accounts. However, large accounts typically have multiple decision makers involved in the process, and that can be a challenge.
Let's take a look at a story involving a large opportunity, the major concept that played into that, some tactics you can use, and a free tool we have available.
A startup looking for funding
Looking for funding for a startup is not dissimilar to prospecting for large accounts. Sure, nobody's business card may say "salesperson" on it, but it's all about selling an opportunity. And it can be complicated with a number of people involved. Understanding how to navigate that group of people is extremely important.
A couple years back, one of my clients was working with a startup to help them get funding. He sat down with the founder and some representatives of an Oklahoma-based organization that invests in entrepreneurs to build successful high-growth companies.
My client knew that in an interaction like that, one good sign is when the investors start asking questions. However, he'd failed to mention that in his pre-brief with the founder.
Soon, the investors started firing off questions left and right. Unfortunately for my client, the founder started to get frustrated. My client watched in shock as the founder became more and more agitated, even slamming his hands down on the table multiple times.
Despite that behavior, the investors were intrigued enough that they invited them back for a second meeting.
This time, my client did a better job pre-briefing with the founder. They discussed the various parties involved, as well as their expectations and how they had behaved last time. Being trained in behavioral styles, my client also coached the founder on how to act in the interaction and what to expect.
The next interaction went far, far better. They were able to dig into what was important to the investors. By the end of that meeting, my client was clear on the expectations of all parties involved, and he had established clear next steps with everyone.
He then helped the founder put together a final pitch taking into consideration the expectations of the investors in a language they would understand. A few days later, their funding was approved.
The cast of characters
How was my client able to pull off a successful round of funding after that first session going so horribly wrong? He understood the cast of characters involved.
The cast of characters is everyone involved in the decision-making process. It's the people who can say yes and the people who can say no. It's people who have a lot of input and people who have just a little input. It's the people who can't say yes but still have veto power.
The first time around, my client forgot that the founder was part of the cast of characters as well. Forgetting about just one of the people involved can derail an entire opportunity if you're not careful.
Fortunately, my client immediately realized what he had done wrong and was able to adequately prepare for the next interaction.
Everyone comes to every interaction with two things: behaviors and expectations. Understanding as much as you can about both for all the people involved is powerful.
Pre-briefing for sales interactions
Hopefully you're already pre-briefing before important sales interactions. Pre-briefing can be done by yourself or with others. It's one of the major differences between professional salespeople and amateur salespeople.
It doesn't matter how big the organization is you're about to meet with. Whether it's a huge company or just one person, there's still a cast of characters behind the scenes.
It could be an owner, CEO, vice president, and manager. It could be a home owner, their spouse, their parent, and their friend.
Part of your pre-brief before every sales interaction should be thinking through who all is involved in that prospect's cast of characters. Here are a few questions you can ask to prepare:
- What cast of characters do you know about already?
- Who else might be part of the cast of characters in this case?
- What behaviors have you already seen from each person?
- What expectations do you already know each person has?
- What questions should you ask to uncover everyone's expectations?
- What is each person's DISC style? Why do you think that?
- Is there anyone you can talk to ahead of time to help you be prepared for the cast of characters?
Of course, when you first start doing this, you likely won't know a lot of the answers. But by consistently making this a part of your pre-brief, you'll start to change the way you think and the questions you ask prospects. Eventually, you'll find yourself better prepared for the cast of characters.
Other ways to get better
If you want to get better at understanding the cast of characters, a number of things can help. We've already talked about pre-briefing, which is huge. But here are a few other methods:
We also have several tools available to help with this, including a free ebook. Eight Unique Challenges in Enterprise Selling is all about the challenges involved in landing larger opportunities.
Next up, Sandler Enterprise Selling is a book all about a selling system to win business with profitable enterprise clients, serve them effectively, and grow those relationships over time.
You can read more and download a free sample chapter here:
Finally, if you need a tool for your pre-briefs that includes information on the cast of characters, grab a free copy of our Pre-Call Planner Tool.
Of course, if you need coaching help, we'd be happy to talk and see if we might be good fit for you and your team. Feel free to contact us.