Smart Selling

Biz Book Reviews: “Dealstorming” Tackles Sales Process in the Digital Age

Cincom’s Lou Washington reviews …

Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon that Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges

Author: Tim Sanders

Copyright: 2016 Portfolio Penguin

“Dealstorming,” by Tim Sanders, offers up a timely message for organizations that sell—especially those bedeviled by volatile pipelines and disappearing prospects.

The premise is that sales cycles run their course under the eye of the designated seller and buyer. The selling organization, and to some extent the buying organization, entrust their respective representatives to solve any issues that might delay or prevent the closing of the deal. If the issue at hand is beyond the power or skill of the buyer or seller to solve, then the deal withers and eventually dies.

Anyone who works near the pipeline knows the wonderful feeling of seeing promising deals come down through the funnel. They gather momentum and velocity and culminate with a victorious closing at quarter- or year-end. Perhaps you receive a monthly pipeline report or participate in a status meeting that updates everyone on what’s coming in for that reporting period. Regardless, it can be exhilarating!

What’s not exhilarating is seeing the same prospect listed month after month at 45% or 70% close probability with no movement and no explanation as to what’s going on. Eventually these deals are quietly removed from the pipeline and remanded to “nurture” status or some other process that moves the cat off of Sales’ front porch.

Why does this happen? Why do deals start out strong and then silently die on the vine? I put that question to Tim Sanders during a discussion of his book, “Dealstorming.” That question and Tim’s answer are really at the heart of the book’s message.

Here’s what Tim had to say:

Today’s B2B sale is so complicated, a high percentage of opportunities get stuck in the pipeline, eventually leading to “stick with the status quo” decisions. More than ever, salespeople must be faster at solving every little obstacle in the sales process. This requires both collaboration and a process that accelerates how quickly we level up in the prospective sale. Dealstorming combines the wisdom of everyone with a stake in the deal to rapidly innovate the process, create breakthroughs and turn complexity of the sale into a brutal competitive advantage.

The keyword in Tim’s answer is “collaboration.” No one in the organization, including the sales rep, knows everything. As the old motivational poster says, none of us is as strong as all of us. The trick is tapping all of that knowledge and bringing it to bear when issues threaten to derail the sales cycle.

Dealstorming is the process of gathering knowledge assets within the organization to address the threatening issue and help resolve the problem to the customer’s satisfaction. At the center of this process is the sales rep. They are the catalyst for bringing the right experts into the process at the right time.

I asked Tim exactly how this worked.

The sales rep should lead the dealstorming process in consultation with his/her manager. Initially, it’s hard to run meetings with non-sales leads involved, but it’s important that the rep runs the show to develop as well as to execute.

The idea is to recruit the deal team based on asking: Who has a stake in the outcome or has a stake in how we sell? The second question is: Who knows something about our problem?

The way to recruit them is to identify both the revenue opportunity but also a bigger “why” (examples include beating a rival or breaking into a new market). You don’t ask people to come to a meeting, you invite them to be on a deal team. You need a stakeholder from a few groups to truly leverage diverse thinking.

As we got further into this discussion, I asked Tim if this is similar to team selling. Is it a matter of getting experts together on both sides of the table?

You are not bringing more folks into the selling cycle, you are creating a team to meet or conference to creatively explore solutions as to why your deal is stuck.  They don’t go on sales calls.  They aren’t asked to vote on your sales strategy.

Currently, if you have to get creative on product (customization), price, service levels or contractual items, you have to bring Engineering, Design, Finance, Customer Success and Legal into the selling cycle; you have no choice.  With Dealstorming, you are bringing them in earlier.  In my experience (as well as that of 200 sales leaders I’ve interviewed), you can turn the “land of no” into your cheerleader if you’ll trust them enough to help you solve the sales challenge on behalf of the company.

So the appropriate expertise is identified. Then what?

Dealstorming is about organizing meetings comprised on multiple disciplines to explore the root cause of the prospective sale’s sticking point and what the next play should be to solve it.  The process looks like an accordion: big meeting inside and little meeting outside to gain feedback or close, big meeting inside and little meetings with various groups around the company if required, or little meeting back with the prospect. 

How well are sales reps equipped to do this? I know some sales folks who are more natural leaders than others. Some I know are more inclined to want to just handle it themselves. I asked Tim how reps can develop these skills and learn to exploit their own organization.

Tim related his own story from his early days at Yahoo!

When I first joined Yahoo back in 2000 (they bought our company, Mark Cuban’s broadcast.com), I sought out to make friends outside of Sales. Every day, I ate lunch with a different group.  One day Marketing, next day Customer Success.  I explored their world, their challenges and listened to their pet peeves.  Then I found ways to help them on their projects.  I coached people on presentations, networked with them internally to gain resources and even helped them design slides! By doing all of these favors, I developed trust and friendship. Later, when I found my first big sales challenge (Ford) that qualified for a Dealstorm project, recruiting them was easy-peasy.  “The best time to develop relationships is long before you need them.”

Another aspect of selling that has changed radically in recent times is technology. CPQ, sales portals and CRM systems are just few of the tools and systems that are being folded into the selling process. I asked Tim how the Dealstorm is affected by the new technology.

It works even better with CPQ, CRM tools and customer portals because it’s easier to build stronger Deal Briefs for every team member to read before the meeting. 

We position our CPQ offering as an “expert in the rep’s pocket.” I asked Tim if he thought technology could actually be part of the collaboration process.

In the collaboration process, information and expertise serve as fuel and engine.  In the book, I talk about Deal Mentors, who are hard to find for a specific situation without a strong CPQ solution.  Several of my clients have sought out ways to organize experts based on account experience, decision-maker-level experience, industry experience, etc.  Anytime they can put that at a sales rep’s fingertips, team building gets easier and solutions come faster!

Another issue the Dealstorm must confront is the ever-evolving level of content marketing and guided selling strategies employed by selling organizations. Many customers are doing their own research prior to reaching out to any seller contacts, and they are forming ideas and opinions based on their own research.

Tim tells us that this can be problematic for Sales and makes the collaboration aspects of Dealstorming more critical than ever.

This is a big reason sales is more complicated than ever.  Today, the sales rep must “unteach” prospects who rely on SEO-driven marketing content from various solution providers or niche blogs.  Most of them are not edited/vetted very well, and many of their conclusions/headlines are more geared to grab attention than to educate and enlighten.  The Dealstorm enables reps to leverage the wisdom of marketing mirrors to your decision-makers and others who can help figure out how to unteach without insulting.

While many buyers are 57% through their buying journey, in many cases, they aren’t aware of other problems they currently have that require a solution.  Self-research stats only apply to prospects with a recognized need to change … which is actually pretty rare. 

Recommendation

I’ve read any number of books on selling and making the sales process more effective. Anyone involved in this business knows that sales improvement is indeed an industry unto itself. There are great books, good books, okay books and frankly, awful books that are meant to help individuals and companies boost their sales games and learn to compete effectively.

I always look for two things when it comes to these books: 1) Simplicity and 2) ease of action.

Is the idea or concept easy to understand? And, is it easy to implement? Dealstorming passes the test on both of these questions. The concept is draped in common sense—the process to implement is as easy as anything implemented in the business world. No, it’s not plug and play, but it is intuitive, natural and appeals to the strengths of human nature.

Too many sales organizations remain steeped in the past. They are huddled off to the side of the organization and guarded from contact with others by their own management. They succeed or fail on their own, and that’s not the way to run an organization. IT, Finance, Engineering, Product Management—virtually everyone else in the organization is accountable and visible to management and the organization in general.

Sales is too important to be left on its own. Dealstorming is an excellent methodology to not only advance the effectiveness of your sales team but also to bring Sales to the organizational “grown-ups table” as well.

Everyone wins.

Pick up a copy of “Dealstorming” at your favorite online source. It’s a great read!

Buy Tim’s book from AMAZON.

Buy Tim’s book from Penguin Random House publishing.

Check out Tim’s website.

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