In a sort of sales stream of consciousness, the post the other day got me thinking about preparation before the BIG presentation. Preparation in the selling sense of doing what needs to be done in order to avoid surprises, effectively applying what I refer to as triangulation. In sales terms, triangulation is the act of establishing a broad, informed and influential group of contacts within a given account, and then validating amongst them in order to determine organizational (sales) reality. The assumption is that you’re working with them individually and often. Individually because you want direct, candid and critical feedback. Often because reality is likely to be fluid, biased and fraught with political undercurrents. (Most big, expensive and strategic decisions are. Turf is being challenged, departments are being rewarded or punished, organizations and staffing expand and contract based on the outcome of these deals.)
It behooves you to know which way the wind is blowing. And the best way to do that is through lots of conversations with lots of different people inside the company, because there are lots of things you want to know and you want to hear the feedback from as many sources as possible. How is the proposal being received? Who stands to gain/lose from this new initiative? Where is the funding coming from? Who gains/loses staff? Does anyone benefit/suffer from this decision(versus a different one, for example)?
Triangulation is key. You want to survey your customers, listening for different messages and perspectives, looking for areas of commonality and dissent. Based upon what you hear, you can better tailor the solution to meet those needs, or at least be prepared to respond effectively to the various questions/comments/objections that come up. It’s in among these preparatory conversations that the selling really takes place, and it’s where the deal will flourish or die. The big proposal meeting is often simply theatrical formality, the decision already made…and your future already decided.