I’m often asked how I define enterprise selling versus selling into small and medium-sized accounts. At Sandler, we believe strongly in the power of pain. Our founder, David Sandler famously said, “No pain, no sale”. So, not surprisingly, we define enterprise selling in terms of the unique pains and challenges that organizations face in selling to and serving large enterprise accounts. Challenges such as long sales cycles, wide buyer networks and the significant investments required in enterprise pursuits all create problems not encountered with smaller accounts. But the payoffs of winning enterprise business are huge. For landing a major account can be a game-changing, transformative development for selling organizations.
Given the daunting challenges, though, every possible organizational asset must be engaged to fortify enterprise pursuits. From account and opportunity planning to value-based solution development, effective selling organizations typically utilize sophisticated portfolios of tactics and strategies to add acceleration to these promising initiatives. But with all that rigor and organization, quite often a very fundamental area is completely ignored.
Before we talk about the simple concept that dramatically increases your chances of winning large enterprise deals, let’s about fingerprinting. The familiar term brings to mind the common process used by law enforcement agencies to identify criminals. We all have fingerprints, of course, and they are our singularly unique physical characteristics. Those lines, ridges and flowing patterns on the tips of our fingers, believe it or not, are even more unique than our DNA. For while identical twins can share the same DNA, their fingerprints are always different. And when we touch objects and surfaces, we leave our fingerprints behind. These images, often uncovered and made visible by dusting techniques utilized by professionals, provide very strong evidence that connects us to scenes and situations. The embedded fingerprints leave their uniquely identifiable marks as undeniable and verifiable evidence of the impressions we made.
Hold that thought and then think about this. If you planned to buy an expensive gift for your significant other, you’d certainly conduct your due diligence, involving much more vigilance than in the research you’d typically undertake with everyday shopping for mundane items. And if the potential purchase was on a “cash only – final sale” basis, you’d be even more focused as the stakes would be clearly higher. But regardless of the significant time and effort you’d spend, doubt and uncertainty would remain regarding whether your purchase would truly hit the mark. You would still be unsure about whether your gift would generate the happiness commensurate with your time and effort. Unless, of course, you took the time to preview the gift, or at least its concept, directly with your significant other prior to the purchase. Surprises aside, that conversation, testing the water about specific likes and dislikes, would greatly increase the chances that the item chosen would be spot on. The value of the feedback you received would be immeasurable in helping insure that your gift, and you, would avoid being miserable flops.
The same concept applies to enterprise pursuits, with their significant organizational investments of money, time and energy. For a great deal of creativity goes into crafting your customized, account-specific solution, which is the product of your team’s innovation, client-focused thinking and hard work. But, creativity and innovation aside, building a brilliant solution without credible, verifiable expectations that the account will find it acceptable is a dangerous and tone-deaf strategy. So, just as previewing the expensive gift with your significant other prior to making the buy is a strategic move, you owe it to yourself and your organization’s investment to strategically seek the account’s concurrence that you’re on the right track. In Sandler Enterprise Selling, we call this “fingerprinting” or getting the account’s “fingerprints” on your solution. It’s sometimes referred to as “co-crafting” or “solutioning”, but whatever the term, it’s as close as you can get to a mandatory exercise in the world of enterprise pursuits.
In a previous life, I was involved in a pursuit in which we had planned on including an element of offshore delivery in our technology integration solution for a highly-coveted prospect. Through a fingerprinting conversation with a trusted contact and coach in the account, we were cautioned to reconsider our solution due to an organizational bias against offshore services, based on a very negative experience with an IT provider that had resulted in legal action. This wise and highly valuable counsel was sought, offered and acted on. We had strategically left plenty of time to restructure our solution and we proceeded to drop the problematic offshore component and substituted locally-based services, removing the red flag and paving the way for what turned out to be a very, very nice win. By seeking and obtaining the account’s fingerprints on our solution, the same type of miserable flop that had loomed with the expensive gift was thankfully avoided – all because we asked.
Of course, you must never put your contacts in uncomfortable positions and you have to be aware that some pursuits forbid certain types of communication. Be smart. Following the rules is always good advice. But if your relationships aren’t strong enough to facilitate informal conversations with internal coaches, perhaps you should re-think bidding on the opportunity altogether.
Remember – account relationships are your dynamic assets. Build them, grow them and put them to work to get your clients’ fingerprints all over your solutions. Good things will happen as a result.