Closing large deals is like playing in the Champions League for salespeople. It’s like the Superbowl in football or Grand Slam in Tennis. Why? Closing a multi-million dollar deal not only means earning a good commission, but also getting the prestige and recognition from top executives, colleagues and clients.
In my career, I’ve had the chance to close a couple of deals like these myself. As a leader who has worked with some of the best big deal closers in this industry, here is my humble opinion and 10 tips on how to close a big deal and what makes them successful. Big deal closers:
- Think Big
- Locate the the Biggest Pain Point
- Look at the Problem/Solution Through the Customers’ Lens.
- Go Deep & Wide
- Build a Master Plan with their Champion
- Build Champions on Multiple Levels
- Understand the Buying Circle & Economic Buyer
- Live in their Accounts
- Master the Messaging
- Plan for the Worst
1. Think Big
Some call it attitude, belief or even arrogance, but big deal closers have a relentless desire to play in this league. Some salespeople would be happy with closing a 50K opportunity within the next 2 weeks. However, big deal closers find this boring and not worth their time.
One of my sales reps once told me: “Where there is smoke there’s fire”. If 50K can be closed, there might be 500K or even 1 mio. So when they smell smoke, they slow it down and start their discovery to uncover the real pain point, which will have a huge consequence for the prospect if not being taken care of.
2. Locate the Biggest Pain Point
During the discovery phase, they always look at the bigger picture and find more information on a potential pain point, demand or initiative.
If there is a technical pain point, they will try to understand the business impact of that.
By looking for the business impact, they usually discover a much bigger magnitude of the underlying pain point and will identify metrics that support the bigger deal. After uncovering the big pain point or business initiative, they will then work on discovering more stakeholders from other departments that share the pain and are looking to solve it.
3. Look at the Problem/Solution Through the Customers’ Lens
If you observe big deal closers, you will find one trait they share – They ask great questions. They are masters of open-ended questions around problems, implied needs and required capabilities. They are driven by the curiosity and desire to truly understand their client’s needs. This makes them come across as natural and honest, which is one of the main factors that make them go above and beyond.
4. Go Deep & Wide
Due to their natural curiosity and drive, they are able to meet more stakeholders and discover even more potential problems, giving them a good understanding of the pain points and implications. They are then able to see the different viewpoints of the respective departments and players involved.
After some time, they gain a good understanding of the needs & implications on the business, many times better than the clients themselves. This allows them to qualify the opportunity before they finally decide to pursue the deal. Yes, believe it or not: If the deal is not “worth their time”, they will not pursue it.
However, if they see a path to closing a big deal, they will start putting together a plan to close it.
5. Build a Master Plan with Their Champion
During the discovery phase, through the conversations with multiple people, a Champion would’ve already been identified. A Champion is somebody who has a shared interest in solving the pain and has power and influence to make things happen.
Together with this person, they build a joint plan to engage with all stakeholders and decision makers to proactively drive the decision process towards a successful outcome for both sides within a given time frame.
6. Build Champions on Multiple Levels
Large deals go through many different stakeholders like Tech Departments, Business, Procurement, Legal & C-Level personnel. As part of their plan, these salespeople often proactively look to meet and understand their criteria for success to:
- Understand potential roadblocks ahead of time
- Nurture them into Champions to support the deal until they close the deal
Decisions for large deals will be segregated and will involve multiple stakeholders and departments. To drive these large deals and stay in control, big deal closers place great emphasis on developing Champions in all of those areas.
7. Understand the Buying Circle & Economic Buyer
A crucial ingredient to successfully closing large deals is to have access to the “Economic Buyer”. This person has the discretionary power to spend, so if she/he says “yes”, there will be no one opposing it. They are usually higher up the chain of command and own the business decision making process.
A successful plan includes meeting the Economic Buyer and discovering the answers to these 3 important questions:
- Does the Economic Buyer support your project at all?
- What are the Economic Buyer’s criteria for success?
- If you can meet these criteria, what would be the next steps to finalize the decision making and drive the deal to closure?
The answer to A will help you understand if the business pain and value proposition are well understood by the EB and worthwhile for them to pursue.
The answer to B will give you an understanding of whether your value proposition is spot on or if it lacks important business relevant items. In any case, it’s good to understand these criteria and support them.
The answer to C will give you clear sight on the decision process, timeline and the buyer’s circle that needs to be involved in closing the deal. Most Economic Buyers these days know that any ROI can only be achieved if they have their team’s buy-in into the project. Therefore, they will only sign off on it once this is taken care of.
8. Live in their Accounts
When clients decide to sign large strategic deals, they will usually go with the vendor that they trust the most. They want to ensure they are being understood and have confidence that their counterparts will be able to achieve their goals after signing the deal.
Successful salespeople establish this simply by living in the account. They partake in project meetings with the prospect to transfer knowledge and solve issues along the way and establish trust by being part of the team. Some salespeople even have 10-15 meetings a week with their clients. Some clients even end up offering them a desk in their office to work from.
This might seem like a lot of effort. However, through this intimacy with the client, salespeople get the opportunity to know everyone involved, the issues, pain points, uncertainties and competitive threats so that they can quickly build champions and address all issues that arise.
9. Master the Messaging
As big deals have to be supported by many stakeholders along the decision process, the case will be discussed on many occasions until the final decision is made.
Experienced salespeople know that they must stay on top of the messaging when it comes to the value proposition for their clients. They make it a point to personally meet all stakeholders to directly convey the value proposition to them.
As clients are busy people full of internal meetings and other priorities, they may not always have the time to listen to a full presentation.Therefore, it’s important that salespeople have a couple of slides with the 3 WHYS prepared:
- Why do anything?
- Why is your solution the best fit?
- Why buy now? (the compelling reason to act)
Having the answers to these questions will make sure that no information about the value proposition will fall through the cracks.
10. Plan for the Worst
The best salespeople I’ve met are always positive and optimistic. However, when it comes to managing their deals, they’re always paranoid about the things that could go wrong because experience showed them that things will go wrong. Unforeseen circumstances such as decision makers leaving, budget cuts, changes in processes in organizations, architecture or financial boards, and important decision makers going on vacation are legitimate obstacles that could put your deal on hold, causing its closure to be delayed.
To avoid this, salespeople plan ahead and create a detailed, reverse engineered close plan that specifies all the steps in the decision and approval processes, outlining events such as validation, board meetings, all the players involved and a plan B for potential obstacles.
While these tips might seem daunting and time intensive, if you follow what the best salespeople do for big deals, it will be rewarding and satisfying.
Never take things for granted! Always be paranoid about the things that might go wrong at the last minute so that you will not be caught off guard. I hope these tips will bring you 1 step closer to closing your $1 Million deal.