You’re running one of the largest technology companies on the planet with operations in nearly 200 countries. And one of you customers is a Fortune 100 firm located not far from your corporate HQ. You’re the incumbent in that company where your sales organization is pursuing an opportunity worth tens of millions of dollars. As the CEO, you know about the opportunity and are confident that your sales team will close the deal, particularly as they have been an existing customer for some time, and it’s simply a license renewal that’s not competitive. At least that’s what everybody told you.
The Sales Campaign
What you hadn’t been told about this simple renewal, was that months before the license was due to expire, the customer made contact with your account executive in order to have plenty of time to review, possibly expand, and renew the license. The current solution from your company was working, but not well. That’s why the customer spent time with your account exec to explain the problems they were having under the current license. Staying with your company made sense and was the least disruptive approach, but something was not right. Your account exec was listening, but your company was not.
A great deal of time and effort went into explaining the problems in the hope of your company providing solutions. But, none were forthcoming. Finally, the customer began to look at alternatives. That’s when an astute competitor asked the question, “Why, with everything you have invested in the incumbent’s software, would you consider going with someone else?” The response was, “Because they won’t listen to us and don’t understand our business or the challenges we’re facing with their approach. Moreover, they show no interest in trying to help us. They just want to sell licenses where we have to adapt our business to their software. And, that’s not a solution for us!”
You company has lost a $20+ million deal to a small and unproven competitor. Shortly thereafter, the account exec was fired.
What Went Wrong
Was your account exec careless or inexperienced? Actually, he was not, but his hands were tied. The customer wanted more value with an improved solution; your management wanted a license renewal. The customer wanted to see thought leadership; your management viewed the customer as somewhat incompetent. The account exec was stuck, living in a bad culture that drove bad sales work, which brings the story back to you as CEO.
Is your sales culture an asset or a liability to driving sales success? Asses it yourself, with a quick indicator in my next article.