Mind the Gap - Closing the deal
How do you get that vital deal closed?
Many times in the history of complex sales, the account team have come back to the office quietly punching the air confident that the deal is in the bag. “Drinks are on me”, says the account manager as they retreat cheerfully to the pub. Only something goes awry overnight and the office descends into a shocked hush the next day when the competition press release announces the latest win!! How the H**l did that happen??
Well dear reader it has happened to everyone at some stage. Were the competition better? Perhaps. Were they slicker? Certainly. Can they do a better job? Probably not! So why did they win?
Well I don’t believe they did … it was us that lost. We didn’t do enough, we weren’t close enough to the customer and deluded ourselves that the relationship was tight but we weren’t paying enough attention, we got complacent! Whatever the real reason deal closing is a tricky time in any commercial relationship.
To find the balance between close working and not living on the customer premises is tough , easy to overdo it but too easy to underplay and to presume that we are in good shape . This is the time when the sales folk should really come to the front and be working flat out handling objections, understanding commercial terms, ensuring that the relationship is true and asking testing questions. Reassuring doubtful customers.
This is when we really need to get some external help to test our assumptions and ask those embarrassing questions while there is time to take corrective action.
Ideally there should be a ‘Closure Plan’ a comprehensive map of the key players, where are they? Who is marking them? What events are they attending? Are your competitors entertaining them perhaps? Which executives are in play? You need to understand in detail who is on the case from the legal &commercial team, where are the finance guys? and so it goes.
Does this sound like a whole complex play? You’re right it is just that, and it is a very intense period and one that is more critical than a good bid with excellent products and pricing.
This is really about cultural and commercial alignment... A meeting of minds. This is not always logical when personalities are involved but whatever the politics are in play we can never have too much insight.
The sales effort at this stage is not be underestimated nor the real mettle of the sales folk, is this where they earn their commissions. It is also where long term commercial relationships are forged... in the heat of the closing stage.