Leveraging the Power of Collaboration
Effective sales methodologies are usually based on a disciplined step-by-step process that moves the relationship between buyer and seller from contact to close. The concept of brainstorming — the freewheeling, ad-hoc practice of putting a diverse group of people in a room and letting them throw out ideas without constraints or criticism — seems to be a poor fit for the discipline and focus of the sales deal.
Former Yahoo! sales executive Tim Sanders disagrees. He acknowledges that advocates of brainstorming can overstate its effectiveness — recent studies have shown weaknesses in solutions emerging from brainstorming sessions. However, he argues, the brainstorming process also offers certain strengths — the power of collaboration among a wide group of stakeholders and contributors, the openness to innovative ideas — that can be missing in the traditional sales process.
Collaboration is vital: The enduring myth of the individual super-salesperson cutting amazing deals is highly unrealistic in an age of highly complex business-to-business sales. Even those organizations that boast about their sales teams are still probably dealing in sales silos that incorporate little input from other areas of the company.
Thus, Sanders has been a long-time practitioner and proponent of what he calls “dealstorming” — a problem-solving methodology that combines the collaborative and inclusive features of brainstorming with the linear discipline of the sales account-management process. In his fifth book, Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenge, Sanders provides a detailed description of the dealstorming sales process — specifically designed to help salespeople stuck in a deal with an intractable problem.
From the sales perspective, the path to innovative solutions for the client is often blocked by other functions of the company that insist that the innovations can’t be developed or implemented, or will be unworkable or ineffective. Frustrated by the resistance, sales professionals refer to these other functions as “the land of no.”
The dealstorming process depends on participation from all parts of the organization, including the land of no. Thus, the first step of dealstorming is to identify and enlist anyone in the organization whose background, experience and skillsets can help them contribute to finding solutions to the intractable sales problem at hand.
Once the team is created, the next step in the process is to prepare the meeting that will be at the core of the dealstorming process. This preparation is best accomplished through a detailed “deal brief” that includes (but is not limited to) the problem question that needs to be resolved, the opportunity the problem presents for the organization (e.g., strengthening your market position), the specific goals of the process, history about the prospect, and constraints and resources.
The Problem Question
Defining the problem question — that is, the core blocking issue in the form of a very specific problem — is key. Sanders uses the example of a sales process blocked by a powerless champion in the client organization. Posing the problem as “How can we save this account?” is of limited use. As a leader thinks through the situation, a more specific problem emerges: The champion is not connecting the sales team with key decision makers because he or she believes the sales organization is just a transactional vendor and not linked to the strategy of the company. Now the problem question to be addressed becomes the much more specific, “How can we prove we are strategic enough to be introduced further up the corporate decision-making chain?”
At the heart of Sanders’ process is the dealstorm meeting. Sanders lays out in detail how the meeting should be facilitated, from preparing the room to using fishbone diagrams to convey the ideas. This is followed by the three steps of “cleaning up after the storm”: implementing ideas, analyzing the response and keeping the dealstorm participants aware of the progress of the deal.
In addition to using his own extensive experience as a sales executive and consultant, Sanders interviewed more than 200 sales leaders around the world, whose stories fill the pages of Dealstorming, supporting with real-world examples the clear methodology and deep insight that makes Sanders’ latest a stand-out problem-solving guide for all sales professionals.
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