Executive Sponsors Can Kill Your Next B2B Sales Deal

Oct 25, 2017 by Bill Golder

B2B sales training

No doubt your sales pipeline has a number of deals that are strategically important to your company.

In other words, the outcome of those deals will dictate the degree of celebratory activities that will take place once the year comes to a close.

A common approach to ensuring no resource is spared and no idea is left on the table is to assemble a deal team.

It's a best practice.

A "more heads are better than one" philosophy can be a game changer to creating a winning pursuit strategy.

I've also seen the best of intentions go sideways when putting together the dream team for an important opportunity.

Definitely deploy a deal team for your important pursuits, but apply these practices so that your deal review team doesn't falter.

1. No Slackers Allowed - NOT Even the Executive Sponsor

The biggest culprit on a deal team to engage in slacking will be the senior executive who is on the team.

You know you have a slacker issue whenever the executive sponsor describes their role as, "I'm here to make sure everyone gets what they need to close this deal." 

This verbiage is code for "I have no role other than to keep tabs on the progress of the deal to report back to the rest of the executive team."

Rule #1 on any effective team is that everyone has a role that carries a specific responsibility. 

Make sure there are clear roles for everyone on the team.

Executive sponsors should have one or more of the following responsibilities:

  • Reaching out directly to the executives of the prospect/customer that are otherwise difficult to reach
  • Facilitating internal meetings that require collaborative problem solving across multiple departments
  • Leveraging their personal network to gain insights on the prospect or customer organization
  • Coaching the deal team on the executive decision making dynamics that should be considered
  • Accelerating internal decisions when needed that otherwise could bog down the sales process

Lastly, and most importantly, the executive sponsor has to play the role of encouraging transparency and vulnerability when the state of a deal is discussed. 

If you're the executive sponsor, then it's your job to make sure that the deal owner feels not just safe pointing out deal vulnerabilities, but is celebrated when they do.

The more gaps and vulnerabilities that are identified, the more likely a better quality pursuit plan is created. 

Executive sponsors play the important role of either encouraging or squashing the identification of issues that can kill a deal if not openly discussed.

2. Common Language

Deal teams flounder when there isn't a well understood methodology and common language to big deal pursuits.

Keep in mind that you will have deal team members who are not sellers, so keep it simple.

Implement a methodology that is effective yet can be easily communicated, taught and reinforced.

What does it mean when you say, the contact is an "influencer" or a "key player?" What's implied when you denote that contact as having "high impact" on the deal?

Arming the team with an effective methodology will accelerate their ability to assess, problem solve and detail meaningful action steps.

3. Fewer is Better

As a general rule, deal teams should be no larger than eight people. 

Smaller teams tend to have less vibrant debates with fewer varying perspectives and insights.

Larger teams make it too cumbersome to meet, get through discussions and settle on a unified selling strategy. 

If you stick to the "no larger than eight" rule, you will help guard your deal team against slacking. It makes it harder to hide.

4. Centralize the Deal Conversations

Let's face it, your salespeople aren't always thrilled when a deal team is established for their deal.

Certainly they're excited about the prospect of the resources at their disposal, but what also will come their way is the burden of communicating the latest and greatest deal status.

Deal teams can quickly bury a salesperson when there's not an established protocol and collaboration tool for everyone to see the deal dialogue and latest snapshot of where the deal stands.

Without this important dashboard in place, your sellers will experience a flurry of email activity multiplied by the number of people on the deal team.

Instead of spending time on selling activity, they spend too much time on email and on the phone making sure everyone is updated and on the same page with regards to the deal strategy.

Leverage your CRM or collaboration software or DealCoachPro (specifically designed for deal team collaboration) to keep the updates, ideas and latest action plan all in one place for all to see anytime.

5. Cadence and Advancement

Long sales cycles often create far too many waiting periods during the course of the sales process.

You might be waiting for a specific meeting to happen or waiting for someone to provide information.

Deal teams are at their best when there's a regular cadence to when they gather.

You want to have a consistent, designated time to reflect on new information, the status of current actions and regularly pose the question, "What else could we be doing right now to advance this deal?"

Establish a regular cadence to reflect, review, refine and act.

Big deals are often won or lost based on seemingly inconsequential actions that helped illuminate a new vulnerability or open the door to a new conversation.

 sales talent

About the Author

Bill Golder

Sales growth consultant with decades of small and large enterprise experience. Former CSO for Miller Heiman and Bulldog Solutions.



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