Much of our time as salespeople is spent trying to "get the deal."
So once we get the meeting with the prospect, we want to "differentiate our offerings".
Then we follow up with "identifying opportunities" which leads to "delivering the value", "blocking out the competition", "overcoming objections" and eventually to "getting them to sign on the line which is dotted!"
If you've carried a bag, you know what I'm talking about. - these steps may be labeled differently, or be in different order, or have a few sub-steps associated with them, or you may thing they are completely different - but it's undeniable that all of this work leads up to SELLING THINGS TO PEOPLE.
This article is NOT about that.
This is about all the internal issues that arise while we are trying to get the client to say YES!
If you're asking "what do you mean?" I have one question for you "is your company hiring?"
Now for the rest of us: anyone who has ever sold anything, whether it be lemonade on a hot summer day or a global Enterprise Resource Planning solution, has most likely sent at least ONE approved and hard won deal to the Sales Disablement Organization (SDO).
The SDO is the part - or parts - of your company that are responsible for either fulfillment or compliance or contractual language or even pricing in your company.
The mission of the SDO, as we salespeople see it, is to:
- To put up roadblocks for internal pricing, solution and contractual language reviews...
- To remind us of a new policy change we got in a single email nine months ago that we didn't remember and now has put our deal in jeopardy...
- To tell us that the product or service we just sold has either been discontinued or isn't shipping on time or has twelve major bug fixes, of which only three are on the road-map to be corrected this quarter...
- To say us "just get it resigned" like that's the easiest thing in the world...
Have I hit on any nerves out there? Hello, anyone, anyone?
Obviously people who work in the SDO are just doing their jobs - and making salespeople comply with policy, pricing guidelines and product/service constraints is a GOOD THING.
But so very much of our time is spent trying to WORK THE DEAL, we forget about the other half of the equation.
Ask any TOP PERFORMER why they left a company - I bet you that many of them would answer this way "the company made delivering what I sold too hard."
As sales professionals, we work on the PRESALE and SALE - how to prospect, how to engage and change the game - how to get the deal. We read (and write) books and blogs and we listen to podcasts and we take classes and we join networking groups and we mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy diveys...
We do all of this - just to engage our company's internal SDO - an organization we have little or no control over.
Or do we?
Let's keep it, as Larry Wilmore says, "100" - we all know what a setback is: it's an unanticipated or sudden check in progress; a change from better to worse.
Well I am calling us, as salespeople, out on the UNANTICIPATED portion of that definition.
We didn't just fall off the turnip truck - we all know what's coming down the pike. We all know the hoops we have to jump through do get a deal submitted where we work.
It's not like we were born yesterday and have no idea of what our company's internal process is.
We HAVE actually sold things and got them delivered before we read (or wrote) this LinkedIn Article.
Feigning surprise shock and awe, or simply chalking it up to "that's the way it is" doesn't cut mustard in my book.
We're not all in Rick's Cafe American, saying we're "Shocked! Shocked that gambling is going on in this establishment!"
So how do we address it? And no, crying in the breakroom is not an option (save that for End of Quarter HA!)
Well in my experience, whatever company in which I am working, I attempt to create an internal "setback schedule" for back-end process.
When I marshall a deal through my organization, I know the steps I need to take and more importantly I know the steps OTHERS need to take to get my deal DONE!
Rather than just writing them down and checking them off, I actually assign DATES and BENCHMARKS to each step in the process.
Sure this take a lot of work - ONCE or TWICE. But after that, every opportunity I have gets inserted in to the SETBACK SCHEDULE.
For instance - if I need a deal to close by a certain date - I know the following:
- Sales Engineer must be engaged by A
- Solution must be identified by B
- Final Credit Check must be completed by C
- Solution Outline and Offering must be completed by D
- Internal P&L calculations must be completed by E
- A whole bunch of steps F through V that will take too long to put here...
- Final Pricing request must be submitted W
- Contract Language and Terms and Conditions must be approved SLT by X and then by Operations by Y and Legal by Z
So when I run up against something - a block with pricing or constraint regarding software implementation dates - I can shift my dates accordingly. Or I can utilize resources in my SLT to escalate issues to get over those humps to make my closing date.
Now this is just an example and your mileage may vary - but it's important to point out this one thing: the Setback Schedule runs in PARALLEL with my customer facing sales process schedule.
Yeah I know, more work for me. Whoa is me, swing low sweet chariot and all that.
But think of it this way - in the sales process (customer facing) we strive not to leave our sales process to our customer - how many times have you pushed back on the old "give me the info and I'll sell it internally" objection (which is really what it is) from your client?
You know leaving the pitch to that person will effectively kill your control of the deal and kill your sale.
And if you truly believe that - why would you leave your internal process to people that are 1) tasked with looking for errors in process and 2) get comp'd the same whether the deal closes this month or not?
If you've read my previous posts, I am pretty hard on sales managers and sales people - or maybe I just expect more from us.
Listen - around the bar I love regaling my peers with stories how the SDO almost killed a deal for me - I tell those stories very well and most times I have people rolling around the floor.
But note how I said "almost killed a deal".
At the end of the day, the deal - ALL OF IT - is my responsibility. No one ever changed the world by saying "that's not my job."
I would bet the person a the top of your sales revenue board has never said that either.
I'm lucky enough to be in a profession that STILL rewards based on performance rather than time in position.
So yes - I have worked in companies that have an SDO - and it's my job to minimize it's effect.
This is just one way I've done it - I'd welcome your thoughts on the SDO - how have you dealt with it in your organization? Let me know if any of this resonated or if I'm just shouting in the wind. And message me if you want to see an example of my setback schedules I've used in the past. I don't mind sharing.