What do we see, or feel, when we hear about negotiations involving millions of dollars?
Probably movies. Maybe a TV show like Suits.
There’s a certain value, and definitely a mythical aura, surrounding complex sales. Movies and TV shows have given us this idea that heavy, complicated commercial deals happen in boardrooms on the 50th floor, with everyone bringing their A-game in sharp bespoke Italian suits, trying to squeeze the last cent out of a billion-dollar deal. More often than not, billion-dollar deals do not happen except on rare occasions and boardrooms are most often used for meetings when one of the C-level executives misbehaves in public and ruins the company’s image. Sure, it’s nice, but it rarely happens. And even in this case, when it does happen, it’s still not rocket science. But it’s not easy either, and most of the times the boardroom meeting is just the signing step when everything has been agreed before.
For the most part, high value sales do not differ that much from lower value contracts or selling processes, such as trying to sell a bottle of shampoo. You still have to convince the buyer to purchase that shampoo from you. You still have to get the buyer to sign off the contract (maybe not for that shampoo bottle) and get yourself paid. The process is still A to B. But when you’re discussing high value items, such as a cloud computing software license, or aircraft engine parts, the process is still A to B but between them, there’s a lot of Aa, Aab, Aaa…xyz, until you actually get to the B. Which in this case can stand for Boardroom & Signing of the contract.
While it’s relatively easy to understand why getting from A to B, particularly if you think of pricing, complexity of implementing either that software or the product, getting the departments to agree and then accounting to sign off, plus many other factors, I want to focus in this discussion on two specific aspects which are crucial. One of them is getting the key stakeholders, the people who will be using your products, on the same wavelength. Or in other words, to agree with you and see the value of what you’re proposing to them. The second aspect is openly discussing the necessity and value of your products to the team who actually will be the ones using it. Or in other words, to get the actual beneficiaries of the product to understand the product and to get them to enthusiastically support it in the internal team discussions. Both of them will bring you
Let’s look at the first one. Stakeholders. By definition, they are the ones who will sign off on what you want to sell them. They are the ones who take decisions. And having a good relationship with them will definitely help later on when decision time comes. Doing product demos, showcasing the advantages of your product, discussing the value (maybe ROI too?) and what you offer, all of this is pretty standard negotiation tactics. What you should do is to go above and beyond and find exactly their specific need – some sales theories outline this as “pain points” but you will find that a lot of high-value companies do not have pain points, since they need to find a solution for their problems anyhow and improvisation is key until they find a proper solution. Ask questions, build relationships, find exactly what they need and cater to it.
What about the second one? It actually ties in to the above and beyond mantra of earlier. Reach out to the teams who will use your product. Offer yourself (time allowed of course) to showcase them some ideas, maybe give them a product demo to use first or some very clear examples they can relate to. Relate is the most important word here – discussing in abstracts is not gonna help. While the stakeholder will take the decisions, they will rely heavily on the feedback of their colleagues to take that decision, so make sure your provide the required information and maybe even more to those who will be the main beneficiaries.
These are just two points to consider. Crucial ones. But it’s important to understand that when you’re trying to sell something of significant value, you need to make sure you understand both the needs of your key people (the ones who will buy) and the needs of their key people (the ones who will use). Getting both the top-down management and bottom-up teams to like what you’re selling is your difference to getting your meeting to that boardroom to sign.
A to B, still the same, but you need to get to the B.