Yup, that is right. There are 10, count ’em, 10 key questions you must have answers for on your deal or you have the potential of it NOT CLOSING!!!
I have found it very beneficial to documents my sales plans over the years whether using tools like TAS plans or homegrown tools, but one thing I always ensure is that the following 10 questions always have answers. And if they do not, they become the key questions I need to get answers to immediately!
1) What is the challenge, business issue or pain that your client has?
A clear definition of the problem or initiative is key. Not your definition as the sales rep, but a mutually agreed up definition from both you and the sponsor. Identify the key buying requirements associated with fixing this pain upfront. Continue to validate these through the cycle.
2) Has your client ever made efforts to solve this issue before? What happened? Why are they looking now?
Background is key. More insight to the companies buying behaviors and history will help you see pitfalls before they happen.
3) What is the current cost of doing nothing?
This is a basic fundamental of your business case. This is a key driver to develop your total ROI of your offering or solution. If they have this costs, review it with them. If they do not, offer to document this current cost. It is extremely valuable to both parties. Be sure when offering this, that something is received in return. The sale should be a constant win/win.
4) What is the budget for this process? If there is no net new budget, can we re-allocate the budget from the current process?
If there is no money budgeted now, try to work it in for a future budget item. Perhaps offer to work with the team to develop the business case to justify this in the future years budget. If there is budget, start to develop the business case to evaluate the ROI. Some organizations aim for a 3 year payback. As what your clients target is. This is also a great time to ask how the budget was developed. Did any third parties assist?
5) Who is the decision maker? Who ultimately signs the contract? What is the procurement process? Are there any evaluation committees? Does your company has standard T&Cs approved?
This is where things can get sticky. Depending upon if you are working with a central procurement group (via the line of business), a government agency or commercial company; all of the procurement processes will be unique. Ensure that whomever you are told is the signer, has the budget authority to sign off on an expenditure of your size. Ask is there have ever been exceptions to this approval process and why? If this is the first time your terms and conditions have been removed by your client, ask your sponsor to have their legal department start reviewing them early.
6) What other companies is your sponsor reviewing or have they spoken to?
Getting the lay of the land is crucial. Developing a sales strategy based upon your strengths and weaknesses (yes we all have them) against the competition cannot be overlooked. Do not be cocky and forget this step. And do not rule out the internal development effort as a potential competitor. It is one! If there are companies they are reviewing, find out their prior history with your client. What other products do they own from this company? What are the executive relationships between the two firms? Find any linkages you can between the companies to make sure it is a fair fight.
7) Do not forget to define success of the project or engagement?
We all want to close and close fast. But if your client has unrealistic expectations from the project, then what? They will never buy from you again nor provide a good reference. One bad reference is all it takes to bring your new sales cycles to their knees.
8) How does this project help your sponsor? What are their personal goals and aspirations?
Do not forget, this project is indeed personal both to you and your sponsor. Does your sponsor become eligible for a promotion after the success of this project? Improve their bonus? What about their boss? How does it impact them?
9) Who is your favorite thus far?
Do not hesitate to ask during your sales process for confirmation that you are winning! Ask the hard questions. What have they liked from your company that they have seen? What did they not like? What did they like better from other vendors? How important is that? Be sure to re validate from question one around their top requirements. Have they changed? Has another vendor shown a way to meet them better than your offering?
10) what is the time line of this project? What happens if they do not make that date?
Yup, you guessed it…the pending decision. Who’s ass is on the line if this project is delayed or late? What happens? Nothing? Well good luck then…no reason for that client to act? Oh, you lose the budget? Or you committed this as tied to one of your MBOs for the year?….great, we will ensure you get your MBO on our side and meet that procurement date.
P.S – Do not forget to ask for the business!
P.S.S. – Here are a couple of good books on the sales cycle: