Some 32 years ago, as a callow sales youth, I was told to go "smoke-stack hunting" in New Jersey.
This was one of the crudest forms of prospecting ever, second only to taking photos of trucks on the highway and seeing which “prospect” had the biggest fleet. (We called that one "drive-by prospecting", BTW).
Smokestack hunting means you get to the highest physical location in the area (and anything over 300m is high in NJ), break out the binoculars and look for smokestacks (big chimneys) on the horizon.
The resignation of pretty much all of the leading politicians that led the UK’s referendum to exit the EU is astounding. Prime Minister Cameron’s departure was followed by Boris Johnson’s punctured deflation, which led to the metaphorical knives being twisted into Gove’s flabby frame. Then the sideshow that was beer-swilling Farage’s personal exit preceded “last-chance Leadsom’s” failure to fight for her principles - after her CV was publicly reviewed and found wanting.
An amazing two weeks in politics.
It could never happen in the business world.
Actually there was some important executive change news this week from the business world.
Not much point talking about Brexit – far smarter minds have weighed in on the debacle and the English empty-headed political responses after the event.
Suffice to say, while I’ve met a few great sales people and also personally closed some big wins, I’ve never met anyone yet who has signed a $2 trillion deal.
Yet that’s what the world’s financial markets had lost by Saturday morning, all due to Brexit.
Meanwhile, in the corporate world, many large tech firms close their FY16 books this week – in fact, June is the busiest fiscal end month after December for US-listed companies.
So this morning, many of my ex-colleagues will be on their last forecast call of the year - and most will be hearing unwelcome news.
Let’s face it, deals always fall out of the funnel at this time of year. And some of them were always aspirational rather than real, anyway.
So it’s the day after torrential thunderstorms slowed down voting in the “Brexit” referendum for commuters in London & the South of England. Based upon turnout rates and affected railway lines, I've estimated that anything up to 500,000 people were kept away from the polling stations by torrential rains and flooded railway lines that at one point looked more like canals than termini.
And after that particular deluge, we find ourselves with another deluge, as the referendum popped up a surprise result.
Britain is leaving the European Community, although possibly not all together (hang on in there, Scotland!)
Now SalesOps tries to work with hard facts and data, and these have been pretty much lacking in the Brexit conversations running up to this historic vote.
However, what we can do is use data analysis tools to see how people were talking, even if what they were saying was nonsense.
Enter the brexit.atavist.com website, which has been following public commentary on social media sites that support hashtags.
If you learned the Tennyson poem about the Battle of Balaclava at school, you’ll remember the feeling of impending dread as the British horsemen trotted to their certain doom at the hands of the surrounding Russian cannons.
And in an intensely competitive bid situation, there’s no getting away from that heart-sunk feeling and the butterflies in the belly immediately after you’ve sent in your proposal. It’s quite a lot like going into Death Valley, knowing that your competitor may have just done a better job with their proposal than have you.
The chances are that the prospect has also asked you to not contact them for a period of time while they review all the proposals. And when they do come back, it will be to the last two in the running.
What you don’t know is when they’ll get back to you.
Or if you’re #1 but being played as #2 in the hope that you’ll drop your price.
Prize number one is of course the opportunity to actually present the proposal to the client. And if you do a great job, you may get some super feedback. (See our war-gaming blog on how to make that happen.)
But if you do present the proposal, then so will the competition, so that’s not necessarily going to differentiate you especially.
Which is why it’s really important to find ways to getting to see and speak with the prospect’s management team during that time of imposed silence. As soon as the proposal’s timetable has been mooted, let alone cast in stone, you have to be thinking how you can get access during the quiet period.
Right now, with the European football championship on, there’s plenty of opportunity to invite your prospects to a fun location to watch a big game – even if it’s on the TV. (Not all opportunities warrant to cost of a trip to France to watch a game live). And if your prospect is a culture vulture, then finding something really different – like the Hay Book Festival or the Aldeburgh Music event – instead of doing the usual West End extravaganza.
But to have invited the right prospects to the Euros, then you would have had to have called them on it months ago. So prior planning on this is key to getting them to accept - even before even they’ve figured out what their actual proposal timetable is. Working out the natural closing timetable for any deal is an important part of sales qualification, and working with the marketing events team early in every sales cycle is critical in managing this important part of the deal.
But if you do it right, you'll be the only sales team talking to the prospect while the decision is going on. And that's worth all the effort you put into this - and more!
To discuss how to engineer sales cycles and closing processes, contact us here.