The first step, of course, is getting the commitment from the buying organization to move forward with the evaluation of the offering.
As noted in the previous chapter, we believe that prior to committing to a buying cycle, salespeople should meet with all Key Players to understand their issues, determine if their offering represents a fit for the buyer’s environment, establish potential value, and gain consensus that a formal evaluation makes sense. Key Players should understand what’s in it for them. They should then come to some consensus and agreement on (1) the steps needed to reach a decision and (2) the timeframe for the overall evaluation.
Now it’s time to move the process forward. To do so, the salesperson has to orchestrate getting all the key people together. This is the meeting that, in the previous chapter, you invited the chief financial officer to attend. The seller has to summarize progress to date and verify that the buyers feel there is enough potential benefit that further investigation is warranted. Finally—and most important—the seller has to obtain a commitment to proceed.
At some point in this process, the seller may attempt to push toward a commitment by pointing out a fact that should be obvious, but often isn’t: By taking the time to evaluate this particular offering, the buyer is making a serious commitment of time, resources, and effort. Yes, the seller has a lot at stake, but the buyer, too, has money on the table, and that pile of chips is only growing. (Of course, the seller can be prepared to point out the cost to the buyer of not moving, as well.)
Looking for a commitment benefits the selling organization in several ways. First, it continues the qualification process. (If this opportunity is going to fizzle, let’s find out sooner, rather than later.) Second, the selling organization wants to shape the sales cycle as much as possible. Simply put, would you rather sign a lease prepared by your landlord, or one prepared by you?
Looking for a commitment doesn’t always succeed. A salesperson selling enterprise software recently told us about his attempts to obtain agreement on a $100,000 opportunity that he was working on. The VP of Engineering and the CIO were in favor of committing the resources necessary to work with the vendor. The VP of Manufacturing, though, had a track record of having difficulty with implementing technology, and was known to be a potential Adversary. Sure enough, during the meeting designed to gain consensus, the whole deal came unraveled, as the VP of Manufacturing argued passionately, and ultimately succeeded in convincing everyone, that it was “not the right time” to consider new software.
So is our recommendation—scheduling a meeting to extract a commitment from the organization—a bad idea? We don’t think so, because we believe that in sales, bad news early is actually good news. Would you rather learn that the “opportunity” is a pipe(line?) dream in month 1, or in month 6, after you have expended a great deal of time and resources, and have been carrying it on your forecast as having a high probability of closing?