In the rush and excitement of building and executing a startup sales process, it’s tempting to relax discipline in exchange for activity.
After all, there’s so much more to be doing: you need more opportunities, you need more conversations, more networking, so you’re too busy to make notes. Right?
If anything, it’s even more crucial to make sure you’re recording the right information to help you gain control of your pipeline, assess performance, and extract useful insights to improve your sales results. But how?
In this post:
Plan the sale and adapt as you learn
The best sales reps I’ve worked with use deal plans to formulate their strategy to each sale.
They know the product they’re selling, and it’s value, the market, and competitors.
They know more than you might expect about their customer, from the problem to be solved to their exact purchase procurement process.
They’ve also got a plan for their sales process.
What levers will be most effective?
How are they going to proactively manage objections?
When to push with contention, when to open negotiation, when to make it personal.
And as they go through the process, they adapt their approach. They acknowledge what’s changed, think through the potential impacts, and adjust until they achieve the ideal outcome.
They weigh up a deal rationally to protect their time and effort, without being muddied by biases and the human condition.
But… where do you start?
Plan deals with STRONGMAN
STRONGMAN is a framework designed to help with solution selling – a problem-led (rather than product-led) approach to examine whether the customer could achieve desired improvements through a new product or process.
As a mnemonic device, STRONGMAN represents eight different areas to review an opportunity, plan your approach, and record changes.
S – solution
T – timeline
R – review
O – options
N – need
G – galvanization
M – money
A – authority
N – negotiation
How to use STRONGMAN in sales
For discipline, I’d recommend adding each area as a separate field in your CRM and ensuring the fields are updated weekly. Every week, add new comments at the top and date the previous notes, so you have a running record of changes. Alternatively, start a Google Doc for each deal and review weekly.
These notes should be completed and shared a day before a weekly sales meeting where the team can ask questions, offer support, and ask for help.
“But sales reps need to be out selling, not filling in admin.”
The average win rate is 47% – in other words, more than half your sales effort goes to unsuccessful deals. Encouraging thoughtful introspective thinking will not only help you improve in the future, but unlock new ideas to correct course earlier.
Creating in-depth notes and plans like this also means sales reps have more leverage to argue for changes they’d like to see in product/marketing/sales, by creating referenceable ‘evidence’. Make sure you’re sharing these updates with your marketing, product marketing, sales enablement teams to help adjust customer understanding, market insight, and identify new enablement opportunities.
Examine STRONGMAN in more detail
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of interrogative questions for each area. Use these prompts to assess, control, and ultimately learn from your opportunities.
S – Solution
How would our solution be used by the customer, to solve their problem?
What would the ideal solution look like?
How do we position our solution in the best light?
Who understands the solution, and who do we need to convince?
T – Timeline
What do we know about the prospect’s timeline?
What’s our ideal timeline?
How do we build momentum in the deal?
When do we need key actions to happen?
R – Review
Is the prospect just researching, or is are they seriously considering our solution?
Is the prospect going to gain value from our solution?
What do you know about their assessment of our product?
What does the prospect need to move into review stage?
Is this a deal we should prioritize or de-prioritize?
O – Options
What’s the status quo, and what’s the business case against it?
What other solutions are there, and how are they ranked by the prospect?
How do we reframe the options available to them, and position ours in the best light?
Can we introduce alternative options to help anchor our solution?
N – Need
How convinced is the prospect by the need for a new solution?
Is everyone in the buying group convinced the need exists and needs to be solved?
How do we increase the need by dialling up pain, fear, uncertainty, doubt, FOMO, etc?
How do we access and convince stakeholders who are more detached from the pain?
G – Galvanization
Note: this is my favourite piece of the puzzle. There’s so much opportunity to build momentum by turning prospects into champions and building urgency to close.
Is the prospect serious? Are they motivated to solve the problem?
Who is galvanized, and why?
How can you utilize other buying stakeholders to improve motivation and drive urgency?
What risks are there that would de-motivate or damage urgency?
M – Money
Where’s the budget coming from?
What’s the purchase process?
Can you pre-engage the procurement process?
What risks exist in accessing their budget?
How will we we proactively counter budget objections?
A – Authority
Does the champion have signing authority, or do they have social capital with the person who does?
Do we understand the buyer stakeholder group well enough to understand how decisions are made?
Who do we need to understand better in the buyer group, and how do we do that?
How will we counter authority-based objections?
N – Negotiation
What signals have we seen that may impact negotiation?
How does our solution compare to alternative options?
What levers and insight do we have, and what negotiation tactics can we expect to use?
Is this a deal to win at any cost, or are we sticking to our proposal? What concessions can we offer for procurement, if any?
Build a stronger go-to-market approach
STRONGMAN is not the only framework to use – so give it a try, find another one, or create your own deal strategy template.
Taking a product to market through sales is an exercise in building confidence in your ability to do so repeatedly. So train the team, capture the insight, and use it to get better.
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