So how do you win a deal from the beginning to the end in business to business sales? This question is constantly being asked but for whatever reason I don’t see anyone really getting into the meat of the deal. That is, the thought process in deciding which prospect to introduce themselves to and which medium to do it. Either via email, phone call, LinkedIn message or any other form of communication. Nor do I see how the initial meeting goes and how they felt through it. How they engaged colleagues, vendors and how they managed that process.
Nor do you see which questions are asked and how they feel asking them in the pocket of the close. I’m going to attempt to paint a picture for you on how I went through this entire process internally, how I engaged my partners and colleagues, how I talked to and emailed my client and how I felt doing it. This will show you exactly how I go about my process and hopefully you’ll learn something from it.
It all started last year when I was prospecting from LinkedIn Sales Navigator. I came across a smaller type of prospect, 50 people on LinkedIn, saw that they had an IT Manager and picked up the phone and called. Back then they weren’t doing anything, and I was only helping clients with one thing, dedicated internet circuits. Fast forward a year, I am reminded of that client, but notice that my contact has moved on and a new COO had joined the company. This was the perfect opportunity and reason to reach out right? Indeed, the new position change for the COO justified at least an InMail through LinkedIn and that is exactly what I did. (See below for a screenshot of the short LinkedIn exchange)
From this point I moved the conversation from LinkedIn to Email where I scheduled a time to visit with the new COO through the assistant. The day of the appointment comes, I drive for 2 hours since there is always traffic in Los Angeles, from that point I remember vividly I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. Since I listen to my voice messages I immediately got the news from the assistant that we had to reschedule. If you know anything about me frustration sets in immediately when someone confirms the calendar invite, accepts, and then last-minute cancels. Yes, I get it things happen, so I let it go and turned a negative into a positive. I made phone calls from my car and tried to set up meetings out in that area.
Fast forward a couple days and I proceeded to follow up via email with this same client. I get an email response that was completely unrelated and confusing to why I’m meeting with the COO in the first place. I had to break it down. (See email below) As you can see, I wasn’t messing around, I had to be as clear and direct as possible to make my intention known, take it or leave it. I felt as though I wasted my time and I wasn’t about to waste another minute. Looking back that directness landed me a video conference call where eventually I met my true “buyer”. That day I was expecting to have a formal, but casual discovery call, instead I met my buyer who knew exactly what he wanted. I prepared my agenda and questioning framework the night before, so I didn’t “wing it”. In my opinion, you must always plan out your calls, video calls or meetings in advance so that you do not get taken by surprise with any scenario or questions the customer can or will throw at you. As long as you have a framework an 7d do your homework you can stay on track.
During the video call I showed my face but my prospect didn’t. Personally, I feel it’s good to show your face on video because you first introduce yourself, you can show emotion and feeling, and the client get’s to put a face to the name. The call lasted exactly 30 minutes. The number one question to get any new prospect talking from my experience is to ask them to “tell me what you’re trying to do” and then listen. 15 minutes later I had so much information I could have ended the call there. I didn’t though because I asked “what else” is the client working with at the office that is “causing” trouble? Turned out that not only did they have a Disaster Recovery challenge, they also had a phone system challenge as well. The number one priority for the prospect was to back up the data so that is what I focused on. The call ended with me summarizing what we talked about and scheduled a time to follow up at the same time the following week while I gathered up my resources.
This is when I took all the data I had collected from the call and had to decide who would be the best fit to work with myself and my new client. Thankfully here at AtlasIP we have one of the best Master Agencies in the country backing us up with vendors that want to work with consultants like us. After a short call and email explaining the situation my client was in we came out with 3 different vendors that could help. At this point I feel as though if you put too many options in front of someone they’ll freeze. There are different opinions on that, but I summarized the pros and cons of each provider and submitted my findings to my client. He chose one of them to engage with and I took it from there. (See email below)
At this point the client wanted to see pricing right away. I am not opposed to sending off pricing right away, but when you talk about backing up your business in the event of an emergency and you actually lose money when you go down simply sending off a price without context is a losing effort. After some back and forth about timing and budget the four-letter word came out... “Fair”. That’s worse than any other because what’s "fair" puts put me in an awkward position, I didn’t know what "fair" was, so I relied on my partner that the customer selected and floated a range cost. (See email)
From this point I engaged with my partner to discuss how to proceed because when a customer asks for a price you typically give it to them right? Right, but this is a different type of sale and solution, I’m literally trying to protect the client’s business from going down and give them the ability to turn back time and be up in running in an hour or so. Thus, I believe it didn’t warrant a quick price and explained that to my partner. We agreed to float a cost in my next email.
The response threw me way off and I felt as though my character had come into question. However, before I fell off the wagon completely I got it together mentally and again called back my partner to figure out a more professional way to proceed. This was determined to be a brush off objection and we decided to try and table price and get to what really mattered. The service. We offered a 30-day trial to compare the solutions apples to apples. That didn’t work either, the customer however was very telling in that he gave me his proposal from the competition. This revealed a couple things (see email). 1. It was nothing what we talked about. 2. There was going to be hidden costs and added head ache if anything did go wrong in this solution.
Email after price float:
Just left you a message after talking to Michael at ADS.
Let’s take the pricing off the table, it’s important I know, but let’s get into the meat of the matter.
Michael is willing to do a 30 day trial in backing up one of your servers. Try and then buy, or not.
You then pit ADS against Storage Craft for 30 days in the same way and test how they rank against each other.
They can get you set up with the trial by latest Friday.
Would you like to try ADS out? Let me know and I’ll get that ball rolling for you.
We can never take pricing off the table. See the attached quote from StorageCraft. I had Kyocera draft the quote as they are the third party (much like yourself) acting on our behalf. Although expensive, StorageCraft is one of the best on the market and this was a ONE time fee--not 4-5k a month as you proposed.
Can you do better? I don't want to do any "drive it for 30 day option." I want to know the one time fee, placed in a proposal like the one I have attached. Please send me the proposal if ADS can do better.
I thus responded with this email with the help of my partner giving me the guidance to stay calm in the pocket of the sales process. (See response below) We really had to break apart what the client told me and what he received from his original vendor. I also showed the added benefits of the solution I was proposing versus what seemed to be nothing but downside after the fact with the competition. There was basically no after sale support and if anything did go wrong my client would be on the hook and on his own. I showed that by sticking with me we would provided the post sales support and partnership he was looking for in a new vendor relationship.
It seems like you’re approaching the challenge in two different ways with Kyocera:
Kyocera Intelligence is the “MSP” arm of Kyocera, the document solutions company. I have seen more and more “copier” companies get into the IT services business. This explains why this is a purchase order and not a services contract. Allcovered is another example of a Copier company launching an IT services arm. Konica Minolta is the parent company of that brand.
Regarding the order, you are purchasing 2 SAN’s, which I assume are for local storage, which was not something we discussed as a requirement. On June 1st Email . “I want a backup solution for the attached documentation. Full recovery and the ability to spin up servers within 24 hours”. Even looking back on our first call you said that you wanted to have your servers spun up in the cloud if in the event of an outage/emergency. You also wanted analytics and reporting with the ability to scale. A partnership. I am a consultant, I do care about helping you make a good decision. I can’t afford to lose you as a customer like Kyocera can. I don’t have billions backing me up.
Based on the proposal you showed me and what I’m proposing with Sky it’s apples to oranges. Continuing.
They have a three year maintenance agreement also attached. Again, I assume this is for local file and folder recovery or it will act as the primary data store for the network. In addition to the hardware, you are purchasing drives and remote replication. Those all look like 1 time costs for the next 36 months (based on the support agreement).
Then I believe there are annual costs for the Shadow Protect licenses and Cloud Credits…so call that $5,500 annually for three years for a total of $16,500. (Hidden Fee)
So over 36 months it looks like the individual piece parts of this solution will cost approx. $55,000.
Now what I don’t see is the following:
- Who does the daily monitoring, maintaining and support?
- When there is a break in the chain or the synthetic merge does not complete, how will you be notified and who will re-seed and be charged for the time?
- Who does the testing, what is the frequency, and what is the cost?
- When an issue happens and you need to spin up in the cloud, who is responsible for that and What is the cost to Lincoln? What is the speed of turn up in the cloud? What is the SLA?
- What if you need to add additional server instances?
With ADS Direct to Cloud – Rapid Recovery:
- There is no hardware required
- It is a fully managed service, all care and feeding is handled by Sky, you can continue to focus on the mission critical operations of Claremont.
- Sky is available 24X7X365 and handles the cloud turn up if you need cloud recovery.
- With Rapid Recovery, Sky can turn on any system within 30 minutes per server, will all servers powering on at the same time. You would just need to direct your network to the hosted Sky images. This is in the ADS SLA
- If you add additional servers, there is no incremental costs to Claremont.
If you’re willing John to talk through the Sky solution and really understand what you’re getting over the long term let’s set a call up with Mike and customize the pricing.
Standing by for next steps.
Now at this point I was sweating bullets because in my mind I just called out my client and laid everything he said to me down. I felt like I took a hard run at how the competition was going to support him in the long run. I gave myself a 50-50 shot at a positive response and wasn’t holding my breath since this was one of my “walk away” moments. Thank goodness though the email came back positively! It had worked, I don’t know, perhaps sometimes it’s good to challenge your customer and sometimes they do see the light and come back to you. When this happens, I felt as though I had gained some ground as I had entered this sales process a couple laps down. (See below response)
I'll process this and get back to you. I do think a call would be helpful. However, a written proposal would be even better. Any chance you (or ADS) can send me a formal proposal for what you have below? Then, we can walk through that proposal with myself and our COO on the call.
At this point I had to follow up and set a time on the calendar to schedule the video conference call and demonstration of the solution. Something great happened in the middle of this process, I was asked if I could help him out with another product completely unrelated to what we were working on primarily. I directly attributed that to the fact that the client and myself had built a level of respect for each other and he recognized the value I could bring outside of just doing one thing.
We ended up having the conference call with the COO this time listening to us in the background which was great. After some brief introductions and objective setting I turned the rains over to my partner to go through the solution. What was great is that I asked if we should record the demonstration so that people on my customers end could view the solution as well. I’d do that again because you can get others involved who aren’t able to attend the original call date. From this point, my partner who I was working with felt comfortable enough to provide me with the official proposal and scope of work to be done and how it was going to go. Now the negotiation has switched over to my customer. Almost there!
The response was normal in comparing two vendors from a buyer’s point of view. When I got the email, I was taken back because I’m an emotional person and have always stood my ground and been stubborn. I get that from my Grandmother. However, in my evolution as a sales professional I literally told myself to relax and look at it from my client’s point of view. I called up my partner and shared the request which was the best thing I could do. (see email response) I still felt as though the client still didn’t understand and get what we were trying to do for him. A fully managed solution versus not. Looking back my tone in the email seemed strong with a touch of frustration because I had thought we had gotten passed this stage in the process. But it’s not about me, it’s about helping the client make a better decision, so I asked what he wanted to do? He gave me another chance in the negotiation.
I didn't see any revised or additional proposal from ADS. Is the $2,500/$3,000 quote for a 36 month term the best offer? CraftStorage revised their quote and came in much lower and at 24 months.
I should have sent it to you.. I have it attached for you. Dave was able to go with a 9-12TB tier for $2500 a month. 36 month term. SKY went low and gave you more storage.
I’m assuming the competition is still giving you an onsite storage box. If that’s the case we’re still comparing apples and oranges.
So tell me what you’d like to do? Manage it yourself. Or have ADS fully manage the solution for you with all the support you could possibly want.
Let’s talk today.
Sometimes you see that when you concede on pricing or term just to get the deal you’re leaving money on the table. True, I did, but it’s definitely better to come away with something than nothing and that is what I felt was happening at this point. There is a say in Texas Holdem called “Pot Committed”, it’s when you put so much money into the hand/pot that you can’t leave because it would cost too much for you to fold at that moment. This is exactly what I thought here, I’m “pot committed” so let’s just go "all in" and get this deal done. I asked exactly where I needed to be because I didn’t want to go back and forth with my partner and my customer anymore. I got my answer. (See email)
Thanks, Daniel. They are actually providing cloud storage as well as support management. I don't like the 36 months. If they can get that $2,500 down and less time on contract, I'm inclined to go with ADS.
Ok I’m going to ask you and I’m going ask Mike one more time.
What is the term and number with SKY that you’d go with today?
I called my partner and shared with him the request, without putting words in his mouth I believe were on the same page as we both put time and effort into this deal. “Pot Committed” if you will and turning back now or being firm would have been counterproductive. We got the client what he asked for and I responded to my client with the good news. I asked for his commitment at this point and go his green light to proceed with procuring the paperwork for him to sign. Was the deal done at this point? Not yet. (See winning email + follow up)
John we look forward to working with you!
See below. Do I have your tentative agreement today to sign off on the investment tomorrow morning? I have to report your green light to Mike to get the paperwork.
- 24 Month Term
- $2000 a month
- $1500 installation
- 9-12 TB Tier
Answer from Customer:
Done. Make it happen, Daniel.
Now during this flurry of emails I’m calling my clients office because some things are better spoken than read. But I failed to reach him via phone call. Sometimes you have to work the way your client wants to work, if that’s phone then call, if that’s email then email. You get the point. At this juncture there was one final objection that was some language concerning the termination clause. Again, I acted fast and shared the information with my partner who suggested we knock out a 5-minute call to make sure we address his concern completely. I tracked my customer down and brought my partner and client back together to knock out the language. It was agreed on in less than 5 minutes on the phone. Later that day I received the updated contract with the language discussed.
Sometimes you know that when you’re working with someone that understands who you are and what you’re about they tend to stick to their word. My client on the phone said he’ll have the paperwork signed same day, once I sent him the updated paperwork a couple hours later is was done! Those two hours seem like an eternity though when you know you’re at the finish line, you definitely don’t want to trip leading up the line. However, all that anxiety was alleviated with the email saying “attached”! Not done yet, if you have an order form that has multiple parts to sign you have to get the whole order in. Nothing can be half signed, or half submitted, or it doesn’t count. I missed the terms and conditions page, thus I asked for that to be sent as well and it was 5 minutes later.
What’s great about this client is that they aren’t a one and done type of customer. I will work with them on other projects moving forward and the only way that was possible is from being responsive and challenge the client when I had to. In the pocket of the sales process I had different emotions that I had to check to keep my clients best interest in mind. That perspective and calmness under tough competition go me through to the end with a signed order. Not saying my sales process is the best but it definitely works when deployed on the right customer at the right time. Ultimately timing is the biggest X factor in any new opportunity and deal.
Let me know how you win over your customers and what you say and do to get the ink on paper. Until next time!
Daniel Macias – Telecom Sales Professional