Simple question that’s often hard to answer: why do so many sales opportunities suddenly stall? And, on the flip side, how can you close more enterprise deals?
The basic breakdown of the answer is a discussion about indirect sales. See, if you sell SaaS to Pro Users and small businesses, then oftentimes it’s a 1-to-1 relationship: people are selling to people. But when you sell to mid-market and especially larger enterprises (trying to close more enterprise deals), where there are usually 7-8 decision-makers, you’re usually not selling person-to-person. In fact, it’s almost impossible that would be happening. Statistically only 2 out of 7 decision-makers are accessible to you. The others are not!
You’re selling to a champion
A “champion” in most basic definition is someone on the customer side who wants your solution, sees the value in it, and is now going to become your internal advocate and promoter with the other 6-7 decision-makers. This is the guy/gal who will help you close more enterprise deals.
Not so fast, though.
First, you need to understand the research side of all this. Daniel Kahneman, who is considered the founder of behavioral economics, has studied executives at these types of enterprise companies. The research is a little nuanced and admittedly a sales principal might scoff at it, but let’s set it up briefly: let’s say you have these eight decision-makers, and let’s say all of them have a similar reporting structure (i.e. they all report to the CEO or one SVP). Well, because they’re all in a similar line in the company, how similar/different do you think their individual decisions will be?
When Kahneman did this work, many predicted the order of decision-making difference would be small — about 5-10% on a given project.
The reality is much more drastic. Oftentimes similar executives, who’ve worked together for years, have 60% or more difference on their decisions. They’re all reporting the same way and working from the same business model, but … the way they make and process decisions is massively different.
Largely because what’s good for the goose (the CTO) may not be good for the gander (the CFO), and people often make business decisions relative to what will make them look good within their silo/team, not necessarily the entire business.
This is where the “champion” issue becomes challenging. If you want to close more enterprise deals, think about why deals go silent.
Why deals go silent
They go silent because your champion can’t sell internally, in part because of the variability across his colleagues (the other decision-makers), and in part because you spent too much time working that relationship and not enough time preparing the champion to sell internally.
If you want to close more enterprise deals, the 1-2-3 punch is like this:
- Identify the potential champion (what department tends to like your solution the most?)
- Build that relationship (as you normally would)
- Prepare the champion to work the deal internally
You prepare the champion to work on his peers with a mix of:
- Stats about cost-savings and other factors (e.g. revenue-increases, risks-mitigations) that might be important to other decision-makers
- Getting happy hour access to one or two other decision guys at a time
- Asking for background on the other decision-makers as you do your own research (Questions like: “Who else except you is involved in such kind of decisions”, “Please describe your decision making process?”, “Who else was involved in a previous, similar decision you made?”
If you spend a lot of time preparing the internal champion to sell for you — while also using him to get access to the right people — way less deals will go silent.
We have lots of sales “thought leadership” about how every sale is 1-to-1 and we should all be dancing around in a field of flowers developing relationships. Of course you need to develop relationships; that’s not brain surgery to understand that. But much of selling is NOT 1-to-1. It’s selling to a champion to close more enterprise deals, then preparing him to do most of the work internally so that you’re not running in circles for eight decision-makers.