A customer decides THAT they want to buy from YOU before they decide WHAT they want to buy from YOUR COMPANY
The following Monday, I received an email from a friend and former customer who had since moved to another organization. She asked if we were open to joining her and her team in a meeting to discuss the work we did together, as they were looking for a partner to do similar work. The meeting was set the following week. What followed that first meeting was one of the most exhilarating, challenging and fast-moving sales processes I’ve ever been a part of. The team was everything you could ask for in a buyer, forthcoming, open and direct about where we stood in the race to secure a piece of business that would most definitely be one of the most important deals we’ve closed during my time with Habits at Work. There were two other companies vying for the business and we entered the race a distant third, at least in terms of timing.
We began with a Reconnaissance or “R” Conversation (or what you might call a Discovery conversation). There was a lot to unearth and understand. We were under immense time pressure, as the team responsible for the work was already behind on meeting deadlines. More than once, they requested a product demo. You can understand why: they had almost certainly been through some form of “discovery” with the other two potential vendors and so doing this a third time was adding extra time. Though every bone in my body wanted to show them every detail of our product, we knew that if there was ever a time to be disciplined and stick to the fundamentals we know, it was now. After meeting 2-3 times per week for about a month to fully understand where the business was at that time, their vision of success in future, and how they’re thinking about getting there, we had finally completed the four parts of an “R” Conversation and were ready to show them our solution (having satisfied ourselves that we were a very good fit for their needs). As I was asking for feedback at the end of one of our meetings, I added an extra exploration question: “Why are you continuing conversations with us?”
We were now not only in the race but a real contender. And if we could come from SO far behind in the process and be one of the players in the arena, we knew we had a real chance of winning this deal. After an unbelievable lift from our team to produce and deliver over the course of that month, we received a verbal, “Yes, you are our top choice. We want to work with you. Now we just need to figure out the details.” Any seasoned seller will tell you “the devil is in the details” and contract negotiations were pleasant (thanks to the wonderfully gracious nature of our key point people) but filled with many tough issues, legal nuances and hard negotiations. And the clock was ticking until the scheduled “go live” date.
In the end, cool heads on both sides prevailed and we got the deal done, but not before a final obstacle raised its head. The question was raised about whether the program design was a fit for their needs, after all. In particular, whether or not our proposed program, which focused on “R” Conversations, was missing the point. “Shouldn’t sellers be focused more on presenting solutions and driving to a close?” they asked. When I say our buyer was a salesperson’s dream, I mean it. He asked one simple question to his team, “When did you decide you wanted to work with Habits at Work?” The team responded, “During the Reconnaissance Conversation!” With that realization, they saw what was possible for their own team. If THEY had decided they wanted to work with us during the Reconnaissance phase, then the same would likely be true for their own prospects.
In a phrase: Buyers decide THAT they want to buy (from you) before they decide WHAT they want to buy (from your company). This decision is based on how sellers behave, and then buyers start to look for reasons to confirm that your product matches their needs. In other words, a partnership emerges in which buyers and sellers work together to ensure a good product/need fit. That’s exactly what we did with this customer. They changed their views on what might be a great fit, we adjusted our solution to come closer to their revised needs, and we met in the middle. A sign of a great partnership that was strong even before the ink had dried on the contract itself. A relentless pursuit of partnership on both sides finally got our deal over the line, and we had signed the biggest contract of my career! But the biggest takeaway for me was seeing just how important our work is for sales teams. “R” Conversations are the place where a sale can be made BEFORE you even say a word about your actual product. How amazing is that?
And just goes to confirm what Roosevelt said with my own paraphrasing added in: People don’t care how much you know or how your product works until they know how much you care by having the patience to spend the right amount of time in “R” Conversations!