A long time ago in a country far, far away…..

When I was a youngster selling British building materials to Japanese contractors in Saudi Arabia, one of my colleagues used to trot out the same phrase every time an opportunity got stuck in the sales pipeline, “Business is easy, it is people that make it difficult!”

As a newcomer to sales, I stupidly thought that the people he referred to were the customers, and it never occurred to me that he was talking about the other stakeholders (credit control, legal, suppliers, logistics etc.,). I naively thought that the only people I could and should influence were my clients, after all wasn’t that my job?

Many years passed (I am a slow learner) before I realised that the other people he had referred to weren’t trying to make my life difficult for the good of their health, it was merely that they were working within a fractured system and had a mortgage to pay! The root cause of the difficulty was not with the people, it was with the system.

In larger complex sales (where the buying decision has multiple influencers), the vendor may also be of a similar size and complexity. The business development function then becomes one of facilitating the purchase process, while guiding the project through the vendor’s internal structure.

As these are large projects, they are treated individually and there is little standardisation, so every contract gets assessed and verified by the legal, financial and operational teams; on both the client and the vendors side. Because of this there are numerous delays; the longer the cycle time, the larger the risk that individuals (including the business development manager and his / her opposite number at the clients) will leave the organisation causing further delays. Stage gating in the sales process can also cause challenges; so include a swim lane tool when you map out the sales process, and consider parallel working, e.g. could finance and legal reviews run concurrently?

Tactical timing is also an issue. For instance a vendor may prefer not to have an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) in place until it has been fully ratified by both sides; but the client needs one in place straight away. I would suggest that you embed the required documents in your crm system, where they are easy to access rather than putting them in a separate area. Most good crm systems now offer this facility. I’m currently working with a couple of firms of solicitors to help their clients embed relevant up to date documentation into the clients’ sales processes (When did you last consider IP agreements in a sales meeting!)

Helping your client with the relevant documentation at the right time is a good start to reducing your risk, increasing your revenues and reducing your cost. Mapping out your generic “large sale” sales processes, aligning them with the procurement processes of your clients, and putting together a team to standardise up to date pre contract documentation (rather than reinventing the wheel every time) is good practice.

If you would like a review of your “large sale” process contact me on 0773 262 8113 or email andrew@lean4sales.com

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