I was just about to go out and celebrate one of my biggest win when the phone rang.
I shouldn’t picked it up, I remember thinking later.
The CIO told me not to book the Purchase Order yet.
My heart sank.
I had just gotten two valid purchase orders for a major software purchase for a help desk software system from PeopleSoft, which "used to be" a major company in business operations software.
Turns out that my sale that I thought I had locked up, that I thought I had won, that I had valid 2 Purchase Orders for was being challenged.
It was being challenged by the CFO, who was questioning why the CIO was doing business with a small company like mine. Particularly because PeopleSoft had a investment relationship and they had already licensed some other software from my main competitor, Vantive Software (who incidentally I later went to work for).
So I had to start selling all over.
I had sold quite effectively the help desk department staff, manager, and the CIO. They knew that we had the best product for what they wanted. Vantive had a product with the name help desk on it, but for a number of reasons, it wasn’t as "good" as mine was.
The CIO setup a meeting with the CFO, the CIO, the Help Desk Manager, and another Strategic Partnership VP (the guy behind the Vantive relationship).
I had to help my champions at PeopleSoft prove that we were the best choice.
We reviewed the Help Desk departments’s requirements, our product fit, our company, and our partnerships. I took a lot of questions and some pretty intense ones from the Strategic Partner’s VP.
Shortly after that I found out that I had won the deal…. again. This time for real.
Vantive had a very experienced, very good sales rep up against me at this time I would find out about 3 years later when I went to work for them.
I beat this better sales rep for one reason.
It wasn’t because my product was better, even though it was.
It wasn’t because my company was bigger, stronger, or anything like that – we weren’t.
I beat a better sales rep in that deal because I read the values and culture of my prospect right.
I predicted that if I won, it would be because the CIO and the CFO wanted to let the department head be "empowered" to make what they thought was the best decision.
PeopleSoft had one of these high-tech cultures where people are expected to be smart and make good decisions. If the CFO had forced a decision from the top, it would’ve poisoned the internal culture towards decision making. Manager’s would’ve felt that they couldn’t make decisions themselves. And that would’ve meant serious damage to the work environment.
The "better" sales rep, working for the "better" company didn’t really have the upper hand.
Sell with Pride,
Shameless Shamus Brown
P.S. Get a competition-proof read on the people you sell to now with the Persuasive Selling Skills Audio Program.