The Big Sale

Rescue a CEO recently asked how a big sale was different than any other. An edited version of my response, which they published, follows:

To paraphrase Rick Blaine, Humphrey Bogart’s character in Casablanca, closing a big sale is just like closing any other, only more so. Yes, the raw size of the deal, the potential upside, and the validation of effort feel fantastic, but the selling process is still the process. Only with a bit more process.

Why? In a big sale you’re proposing a solution to a bigger, deeper, or more complicated need. This requires a greater creation of value and attention to your prospect’s inner decision steps - it’s not the time to wing it. Your buyer has to feel, more than ever, that every step of their decision making process was a "firm step," one they can justify and defend if need-be.

Here's an example: I was once selling a multi-million dollar piece of lab equipment to a major university where three decision makers were each contributing equal funds to the purchase over the course of two years. This was a very complex sale and a big one.

My job was to close just two of the buyers, but, as the dialog developed, it was easy to see each of the three buyers was at a very different decision stage. One was unsure we were a valid option, one wanted a more capable configuration yet feared the loss of future funding, and one foresaw that the equipment would quickly become over scheduled.

In my book Close that Sale! these buyers were stuck at decision stages two, four, and three.

My strategy was to meet each prospect where they were in the decision making process, work with them only on that stage until they were ready to move on, and step-by-step, to advance both the individual and collective closing dialogs.

It was almost like being in four separate sales processes at once. And while each process began very slowly, they all picked up speed as the three buyers caucused after each visit or discussion.

I also found that my competition, who had even offered "free" upgrades to other equipment at the university as part of this sale, were not nimble enough to stay up with the new dialog. In fact, their final proposal looked like a generic first draft compared to ours. That's right, "ours" — that of the three buyers and myself.

By not panicking and sticking to the process, I closed all three buyers, even with a higher price than my competitors, while delivering far greater value and completely addressing each buyer's needs.

Yes, closing a big sale is like closing any other, only more so. More value, more trust, more future opportunities, and yes, more fun.