By involving your company’s subject matter experts in your large account sales, you not only increase your potential to close big, complex deals, but you ensure a smooth transition from agreement to implementation as well.
You are the salesperson pitching a big deal to a huge prospect. Seven buyers assemble across the mahogany conference room table, waiting for reasons to say, “No.” On your side are yourself and four others from your company – let’s say someone from Customer Support, an IT manager, your COO, and an engineer. As your presentation evolves, each member of your team speaks directly, eloquently, and appropriately about their role in meeting this company’s business objectives. They answer tough questions from their buyer counterparts knowledgeably and with conviction. They make the sale for you, as you knew they would.
Wake up… Chances are you are dreaming.
How good are you at involving subject matter experts (SMEs) in your complex sales?
I am a big advocate for integrating technical resource people into the sales process. Large companies have pre-sales engineers, estimators or other staff to fulfill these roles but smaller companies often do not. Involving SMEs with their counterpart peers in the buying group greatly increases your potential to close a large, complex deal. Plus, the time that your SMEs spend with the prospect’s staff pays off big-time in smooth execution of the new agreement.
So why do we find owners, CEOs, sales managers and salespeople hesitant to involve SMEs in a sale? In a word: FEAR.
Salespeople fear that SMEs will misspeak because they don’t understand how to talk to a client. Owners and CEOs fear a waste of valuable work time from important operational people. SMEs fear taking on more work and being unprepared for a role in the sales process.
In order to reduce that fear, you have to meet three important criteria:
- Train your SMEs to leverage their unique
- Plan your sales process to maximize everyone’s
- Win often to reinforce everyone’s confidence in the time and talent
How do you accomplish these three things?
Training – line up your talent. The lead salesperson’s responsibility is to give the buying group—all the influencers—the confidence to make a large purchase from your company. That means they must learn to trust your people, individually and as a team. In a large deal, you can develop trust by being “ABLE” in three attributes:
- Explain and discuss the experience and credentials of each SME as it relates to delivering your services and/or products. The credibility of each team member is one of your credentials to the whale.
- Demonstrate very specifically your team’s knowledge of the buyers and their needs. Communicate your company’s unique solution to solving the very specific issues of their company and each of their roles. “Credibility” is all about you, but “capability” is all about the buyers.
- In large-scale relationships, your team will work with the customer over a long period of time. That means that the people on your team should be likeable. A big part of their role is to develop friendly relationships with their counterparts. Be intentional in your selection and coaching of team members to be sure that they can meet the “likeability” test.
Planning – script and rehearse. Never take a team to meet buyers without rehearsal. The only way to have confidence in your team, and for SMEs to have confidence in themselves, is to walk through the meeting in advance.
If you take SMEs along on the sales call without a specific plan for using them to accomplish one of the three trust areas, you are wasting their time and the company’s money. An SME is part of a sales process step for one reason only: to help you close the deal.
Winning – make a big show. Don’t go cheap. You do not hunt big deals for the exercise; you hunt big deals to win and grow. An enterprise company is likely to bring more than five people to a meeting with your company about a large deal. If you send only one salesperson and perhaps one technical person to the meeting, they will be thinking, “Are they too small to handle us?” or “Do they not get it that this is a big deal?” or “Is this what it will be like to work with this company – everything through a salesperson and none of the real delivery team?”
We use a rule of thumb: “No less than two less.” That means that when you are dealing with a large corporation, take no less than two fewer people to the meeting than the buyers will be bringing. If they have seven, you need at least five. If they have five, you need at least three.
As you practice large-account selling by leading a team of well-prepared SMEs to engage with the buyers, you will experience unprecedented success inclosing large and complex sales – the kind that propel your company’s growth to new levels. Your subject matter experts will rightfully feel a sense of pride and accomplishment, which they will communicate to their peers on the operational side.
Soon you will find that your company’s demonstrated expertise is attracting more enterprise clients and earning you seats at even larger tables.