SAMPLE CLIENT NEEDS ANALYSIS
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It was a pleasure meeting with you again. We look forward to continue working with you and your team this summer. It is exciting to see how your sales organization has developed over the past five years. As a follow up to our conversation, this letter will summarize our understanding.
We realize you are now growing fast and dealing with how this affects your culture. You’re pursuing larger projects and doing more selling, chasing 11-20 leads at a time. Of course, this affects your team and the closing ratio is not as high as it was (due in part to new people on board). Your new opportunities are larger as well, ranging from 200k to 2mm. This requires a larger breadth of work and people, as you go after sales with a bigger team. It raises some questions, also: Who all should be introduced to prospects and when? How do you choreograph the sales process? How do you avoid confusion when working with larger sales teams?
Internally, your people have different styles of interacting with customers Since the tenor of the sales process indicates how the client relationship will develop, everyone on your team needs to be mindful of how the sales process affects the nature of the client relationship in the future.
You mentioned a concern common to rapidly growing companies, of slipping into a “big firm” mentality, and losing touch with what got you this far. You started with an unwavering focus on listening to customers, understanding and discussing their situations from their perspective, worrying more about meeting their needs than making money. This obsession with gaining and keeping customers’ trust created your success. The temptation is that, as success increases, one starts thinking more about one’s self interest (how to keep growing), and less about the customer’s interests (how to keep them growing). With your sales compensation based in part on margins, it is even more important to be attentive to customer needs and have a very long vision of how today’s sales activities will affect you and your customer two or three years from now. What’s the potential value of the relationship, not just of the sale?
To keep focused on the customer requires understanding not just the language of consultative selling, but its nuances as well. Given that large sales require a team approach, each member of your team needs to be in tune with one another and the prospect. You need a clear understanding about each level of contact in the account, who will be involved with whom, when, and why. What’s your objective at each step? At what point in the sales cycle should you introduce your technical expert to the prospect? How do you use your practitioners’ time and expertise efficiently (and let your folks spend evenings and weekends with their loved ones, rather than at work)?
As sales opportunities become larger, the level at which the financial buyer resides typically rises. As the stakes increase, so does the importance of connecting with this buyer early in the sales process. It is also possible that the sponsor may masquerade as the financial buyer (“I control the budget.”), causing the sale to proceed without adequate information, access to all the buyers, or the leverage needed to make good “pass or play” decisions. You also need solid information from financial buyers in order to submit realistic proposals, rather than “shooting for the moon.”
I know that navigating large opportunities with big companies usually requires you to produce a proposal early in the process; that the larger the opportunity, the less leverage you have to negotiate an agreement before giving a quote with specifics. Hence, in order to avoid unpaid consulting (writing and then rewriting unsuccessful proposals), it is essential that proposals are realistic and specific to customer requirements. To maximize profits, proposals must be accurate the first time, which brings us back to the issue of team selling.
All members of your sales team have a responsibility to insure they have accurate information from the prospect, and that their input is considered seriously by colleagues as the sale progresses. When a proposal has to be re-done to better fit the customer’s requirements, it probably indicates a failure to fully understand the needs of all the buyers. An important part of the proposal process is determining early on which projects to pursue and which ones to decline. Prioritizing takes pressure off the whole team. If you’re going after seven projects, with only three people available, it’s helpful to assess which projects are most desirable and which are most likely to come to fruition; then go after the top prospects.
Your people who are new to the sales process need tools to communicate confidently with high-level prospects and assume responsibility for getting answers to their questions. To accomplish this requires a depth of knowledge and confidence so they don’t get distracted or nervous talking with executives at high levels. They need to know you will support them if they assess that a potential project is not a good fit.
You want your new people to understand why the client-centered sales process is such an important part of all the work you do, how it is the foundation of your success, that it sets the tone with clients and reflects the way you feel about yourselves. The sales culture cannot be separated from customer care issues. These can be integrated by understanding how to protect the business interests of your customer’s company and your own.