You Want Big Dollars; Solve Big Problems

I was on a call today with a partner when they told us they weren’t going to bid our solution. They said they were going to go a different direction. A few people on my team asked a couple of high-level questions, but you could tell everyone was a bit shocked and little was being said. I sat and listened for a minute, concerned no one was going to probe. Just as I was about to start the probing myself, someone jumped in and started asking the right questions. They asked the partner why they chose the alternative option. They asked how they came to the decision they did etc. They probed and asked a lot of good questions.

I don’t suspect we will change their mind, but the questions led to something much larger. We are chasing that down now.

This reminded of a great story from one of my favorite sales books; Hope Is Not A Strategy

In it, the author, Rick Page told this story of a sales call:

Mark open the meeting by asking, “What can we do for you?”

The information technology officer replied, we have a fifty-thousand dollar engagement for technical architecture consulting for an application we are starting to build.

Mark reacted. “Is that it? Fifty thousand dollars for technical architecture consulting? That’s not what we do best. There are other product vendors that do that as effectively as we can, for less money. But at that point he began to drill down to the business problem. And the knife he used to peel back the onion to the business problem is a simple word. “Why?’

“Why do you need the technical architecture?”

“Well we have an application to develop, and we need to do it by January.” said the IT manager

“Why January?” asked the business development manager (Mark)

“Its a government regulation.” said the IT manager.

“Why is it a government regulation?”

“Derivatives control.”

“Ah, derivatives control. Let me guess: You have one person trading highly leveraged derivatives, the whole bank is exposed and nobody knows what he’s doing . Am I right?”

“Precisely,” said the V.P. of finance

The business developer said. “So this is a survival issue to the bank, isn’t it?”

“Exactly,” said the V.P. of finance.

“And since you’re one of the lead banks in this country, this could be a survival issue for the country?” said the business developer.

“That’s why it’s a government regulation,” said the VP of finance

The business developer could have stopped there, but he actually went farther and higher up the value chain of business issues. “I understand you lost three hundred and fifty million dollars; people lost their jobs and went to jail; and it was all over the newspaper, right?”

“Right,” said the VP of finance.

The business developer then went further and held up the annual report. “I read in your president’s statement that he wants you to be one of the lead banks in Europe for multinational banking; is that correct?”

“You’ve done your homework,” said the VP of finance. It’s an important goal.”

The business developer asked, “Do you think he’s going to be satisfied if we tell him that we built a system to make us compliant? We’re just like all the other banks, we’re compliant. Instead, how would you like to have the best derivatives control system in Europe, to be able to draw multinational banks to you and gain competitive advantage?”

“That’s exactly what we want,” said the VP of finance.

The initial inquiry was for fifty thousand dollars. When they signed the deal, it was for five million dollars, which may only be a starter kit for several years of the same billing level.

Sales is about going deep. It’s about getting in the shoes, pants, coat and life of your customers. It’s about getting to the core issue, and peeling back the onion.

We almost missed this today. But we didn’t. We found a bigger problem.

If you want big dollars; solve big problems