Have you ever heard the phrase… “this is a must win deal” or even worse, “this is ours to lose”? Often this can be a self-fulfilling prophecy resulting from excess stress and/or a large dollop of over-confidence by sales people everywhere.
Deals where one of your team members thought they had a great meeting, and now they can’t get any attention from the customer or client are also frustrating.
Much of my work in complex selling environments is centred around coaching leaders and teams on high-priority, high-value, complex deals. My role is often to help leaders become better coaches and use an ‘Inside-Out’ rather than an ‘Outside-In’ approach. The former requires a good structure, questioning and patience based on asking. The latter tents to be directive and based on telling.
The goal as the Leaders in an Opportunity Advancement or Deal Coaching Session is to help your opportunity owner(s) answer the question: Based on what we know what should we do?
I recommend using a straightforward organising structure for the conversation, so here’s my 5-step approach to help you get better at deal coaching.
- Set expectations and establish roles
The opening of the session is very important. Be sure to state that the purpose of the session is to create value for the opportunity owner. He or she is the decision maker relative to the value generated by the session. Your intent should be to create strategic and tactical alternatives. Ideally, the opportunity owner will leave with a better plan or clearer course of action than they had prior to attending the session.
Put the opportunity owner in control right away. Assign them the role of documenting what is discussed and creating the action plan. Your role is to facilitate the discussion and contribute your experience, subject matter expertise and company knowledge. You can also help to identify and address internal issues and barriers.
- Set a GOAL for the discussion (End In Mind)
Calibrate expectations by stating the time available (typically no more than 5 minutes) and then asking them a question such as:
- What do you want from this discussion?
- What would you like to accomplish in the time we have together?
- What would we need to accomplish to make this a good use of your time?
- Review the opportunity or situation (Current State)
You want to quickly (10 minutes) hear first-hand from the opportunity owner their perspective on what’s going on. Use the following questions to help guide the conversation:
- What is the nature of the opportunity?
- How did it come about?
- How long have you been working on this?
- Who have you spoken to or met with?
- What are upcoming key milestones and deliverables?
- What obstacles are you facing?
- What obstacles are others facing?
Stay focused on the reality. Ask more questions to fully understand the current state. Don’t give advice… yet.
- Explore Ideas (Ideation)
Once you and the opportunity owner have an idea of what’s going on, you can begin to explore options for how to move forward. I suggest investing 20-30 minutes for this stage. Your objective is to generate a wide range of ideas that will help them reach their goal for the session and select the most viable option.
A discussion of this nature will typically relate to 3 things:
- The importance and thoroughness of the Business Case
- The client’s willingness and ability to apply appropriate resources, including budget
- The client’s decision process
Often you will find the content is weak because the opportunity owner does not have enough information. Work with them to add to the list, identify additional sources of information, and after they have exhausted their ideas, offer any that you have.
In the spirit of creating options, do so by asking “Based on our discussion, what steps could you take?”
- Identify and agree key actions (Next Steps)
Do not end a coaching session without an agreed upon action plan. You have identified many steps the opportunity owner couldtake. Now you must help to identify the steps he or she shouldtake. Work with the sales person to help them decide, document and follow through.
Proactively schedule time to discuss progress and, if necessary, adjust the course of action based on feedback. (What went well? What didn’t? What would you have done differently?)
As the Leader, you are responsible for facilitating the discussion. Refrain from judging, telling, and doing. This is critical so that you encourage your team to think independently.
The Sales Coach www.thrivesalescoaching.co.uk