Some steps are so important that there is a significant risk that the entire opportunity will go up in smoke if it is not handled correctly. World class sales organizations specifically identify these crucial steps in their sales process and they call them by a name like ‘Major Interaction.’ To access emerging best practices for Sales Process design, download our 10th annual workbook, How to Make Your Number in 2017. Turn to the Sales Process phase on pages 279 – 281 of the workbook.
Does your sales process make a distinction between the ordinary steps of the sale and the extraordinary ones? Why does this make a difference? In the B2B selling environment, here’s what you need to know. The characteristics of a Major Interaction (MI) include:
- Each MI is clearly identified in the Sales Process
- The selling team’s responsibilities are well-defined
- There are no more than 1 or 2 per Stage
- The MI is a mandatory coaching opportunity for the manager
- A Call Plan is always used to prepare for an MI
- Marketing creates specific resources for each MI
Poor Major Interaction Execution Kills Deals
In Stage 1 of most sales processes there are two critical major interactions that happen when the sales team first meets with the Influencer or Decision Maker, and later when the sales rep gains agreement with the buyer on the next steps of the buying process. If either one of these two interactions are executed poorly, the deal will die right here in Stage 1. Many deals never progress beyond Stage 1 precisely because the activities were not recognized as Major Interactions. The event is then poorly planned as the sales rep wings it, and the result is a failure to help the customer advance to the exit criteria for the stage.
Coach to Improve Deal Survival
It is critical to improve the yield of early stage deals in order to fill the later stages of the pipeline. This is the time when reps can benefit most from coaching by sales managers. Together, the manager and rep plan and execute a successful outcome. This is a learning experience for the rep that transfers the skills of the manager and builds a foundation of repeatable early-stage practices. Unlike most managers who jump in at critical points in the late stages to heroically close the deal, the early MI’s provide managers with a platform that has a lasting value in developing the skills of the team.
Cross the Chasm between Sales and Marketing
One of the side benefits of planning for Major Interactions is that it gives Marketing a clear role in the sales process. Without a specific MI in mind, Marketing creates a general-purpose set of customer-facing collateral materials that describe the value proposition, competitive advantages, and business benefits of the proposed solutions. These often take the form of a 30 page PowerPoint slide deck that contains a broad array of ideas relevant to make the buying decision. The rep selects a dozen positioning slides; the sales engineer selects another dozen technical slides and they are ready to pitch a solution to the customer. This is a grossly ineffective way to work. The message is delivered clumsily at best, since it was cobbled together by sales reps and engineers who are not skilled at the art of messaging.
Once identified in the sales process, Major Interactions provide the Marketing team with a brief list of specific events that require customer-facing collateral material to move the customer through the buying process. With clearly defined exit criteria associated with each Major Interaction, Marketing can develop highly targeted messages that consistently achieve the required result.
Examples of these key client-facing events include:
- Introductory Meeting
- Needs Analysis Meeting
- Discovery Review and Results Meeting
- Product Demonstration Meeting
- High Level Solution Discussion
- Solution Outline Meeting
- Proposal delivery meeting
The end result of focusing on MI’s is that Marketing receives clear instructions for collateral content, and Sales receives resources that perform a specific function extremely effectively. To aid in building the right message at the right time, the specifications for each MI collateral can be defined in a hand-off document. Download the Major Interaction Marketing Request to use for your own planning purposes.
I would like to hear your comments about how your sales process leverages MIs. They are critical steps in the sales process and they offer a unique opportunity to build a bridge today between Marketing and Sales
For a comprehensive list of emerging best practices for Sales Process design, download our 10th annual workbook, How to Make Your Number in 2017. Turn to the Sales Process phase on pages 279 – 281 of the workbook.