Here are some key strategies that will enable you to position yourself properly. Planning and execution will get you there.
First, Free Up the Time
The first thing to do is to allocate a portion of the time remaining in the year to working on securing a place in your customer`s next term budget. Although you still have numbers to deliver this year, you must discern which of the deals in your pipeline to pursue now, versus which you should no longer focus on in order to to free up that time.
Here are some questions to ask to see where you stand in deals for this year:
There are more questions to ask, of course. But what you need to do is focus more thought, effort, and resources on the deals that are winnable. Spend less effort on those that will not happen this year.
The most important thing to do is to unemotionally flush the deals from your pipeline that you can`t win or that aren`t any longer real opportunities. (Maybe they never were in the first place.) If you don`t go through this exercise, you won`t have time to do what it will take to get into your customers` next year`s budgets.
What is Your Customer`s Plan for Next Year?
Your customer`s goals, objectives and strategies may have changed for the remainder of this year due any number of internal or external circumstances. That`s why you may be looking at a pipeline with inactive opportunities.
But what about next year? If you are working within a department, business unit, agency, or division, find out where they are in their planning and budgeting cycle.
Find That Budget Holder
From whose budget will the investment in your product or service come? That person may not be making the technical recommendation or decision, but they are the one you need to make contact with in order to set the plan in motion.
Your best tool is an organization chart. When you uncover an initiative, see a need, or strategically create customer demand, look at the org chart and find the likely budget holder. That`s the person who will be paying for your product and getting the value from it as well.
Ideally you`ll want to build you relationship with the budget holder, but that isn`t always possible. You will want to stay in touch however, briefing them regularly, and making sure that they know that first on your mind is helping them meet their plans and objectives for next year.
You`ll need to find creative, value-laden ways to get in front of budget holders, key buyers, decision makers and business managers. It`s a lot easier to get a meeting now with a real buyer than when an evaluation is underway next year.
Wiring Next Year`s Deal
Best-in-class sales organizations invest the time perfecting an RFP foundation document that they will provide certain key prospects so those prospects can better define their requirements for future purchases. Needless to say, those "sample RFPs" include unique value and capabilities that the supplier can deliver, along with a recommended, proven process for a customer evaluation.
This isn`t new. I learned about this the hard way years ago when a competitor of mine gave their prospects (who were often mine as well) a compelling, content-rich "Requirements Definition Manual with Examples" document. When a prospect finally showed me a copy, I was floored. Opportunity missed. Lesson learned.
The challenge for you, if you don`t already have a tool like this to help lock in requirements and a budget, is to get one or, if you have no resources at hand, create one yourself. It`s busy work, not requiring a great deal of creativity. You take a handful of RFPs that you have received and
Pros who win the big deals create a custom document like this for potential clients. They focus in on capabilities that they know the customer will need and they they uniquely provide.
The point here is to get your stuff into your prospect`s hands now, when their thoughts are being formulated, and biases aren`t yet in place.
There is no better time than right now to select a customer or two and begin setting their agenda for next year`s evaluation.
Q & A
Here are two questions that salesreps pose with my responses:
Q: How do I know if my prospect is just blowing me off, or if they really do have the money?
A: Here are some indicators of probable funding:
Q: How do I get my product or service positioned as a higher priority?
A: There is really only one way to do that: Work with your customer until they are convinced that investing in your product/service will get them closer to achieving their goals and objectives than investing in something else.
Winners talk a lot about controlling deals, influencing customer buying processes, and grabbing mindshare. If you want to get your product or service into your customers` next term budget, you`ve got to start now--even with everything that`s on your plate. Tomorrow is too late.
Dave Stein, Author of How Winners Sell