Confront Reality

Don Linder

Where do we stand? What will it take to win this major contract? Executive management must continually ask these questions of their sales teams.

Most sales people and sales managers are overly optimistic about their competitive status and their chances of winning major contracts. This state of mind is an extension of the natural optimism a sales person must have to function effectively in sales. Unfortunately, not facing the facts of your exact status will frequently cause you to select inappropriate sales strategies and tactics, which usually lead to catastrophic results.

The sales team’s confidence needs to be verified by a reality check that determines bad news as well as good news.

Executive management needs to properly assess and forecast business from potential major contracts to control the significant expenditures involved. In-depth analysis of each major opportunity allows the executive to guide the sales team in defining winning strategies and monitoring investment. A rigorous analysis becomes doubly important when sales teams are geographically remote and used to operating quite independently.

To guide the sales team, you need to have a realistic picture of your present position with the customer relative to your competition and, just as important, relative to other potential investments that the customer is considering.

Executive management must use a structured process that forces a critical detailed examination of the status and strategies relative to buying influencers/stakeholders. This process needs to define all the stakeholders and their roles, their exact issues, the competitive status for each issue, and the stakeholder emphasis on each issue.

You’re likely aware of the three buying influences (technical, user, economic) that are present in every buying decision. Your sales teams can likely tell you who these buying influences are when they do an opportunity review.

But most sales teams get the economic buying influence wrong for a variety of reasons. A very common mistake is believing a lower level customer contact who states, “I have the authority to make this decision.”

Another common mistake is thinking that the economic buying influence is in the finance department but in general, it is not the people in finance. It is typically management/executive level people within the user department that actually create the budget that say: “We can save much more money through streamlined processes or by seizing more opportunities that what the solution will cost us.” The finance department will frequently help the user department create the ROI structure for the business case, but generally, the finance department will not champion the approval of the business case.

The next challenge is to be certain you understand the top three issues for each contact. What are the three things that are highest in their concerns about what product or service they are going to purchase? You need to think through those carefully. Is it that they have some issues relative to price? Do they have some performance issues? Do they some feature issues? Do they have concerns about service and support?


About the author

Don Linder, the founder of Major Client Selling, uses structured tools and creative strategies to solve the complex puzzle of selling to big customers. He's the author of "The Seven Deadly Mistakes that Cause You to Lose Large Sales." You can reach Don at


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