When deals start going south, the natural impulse is to look at the usual suspects - pricing, sales performance, competition, etc. But for more sustainable results, look away .. in a different direction.

As a sales head or the CEO of a B2B solution provider or a systems integrator, the deal pipeline and the deal-win ratio is everything! When deals start going south, the natural impulse is to look at the usual suspects - pricing, sales executive (SE) performance, and competition, etc.

B2B sales process is typically characterized by some form of requirements document – RFP, RFI, Tender – before the actual procurement. More and more research data now points to the fact that buyers tend to reach out to potential sellers, much later in their need-discovery journey. Thus, if you are looking to impact your deal results over long term, focusing on the phase preceding the RFP is imperative.


What is your - SE : Account ratio?

Probably we all know that entering the deal when the RFP is about to be released is not a great idea. Yet in the field, we see this happening so very often

So, the first area to check is whether the SEs have enough time to prospect, qualify and influence the RFP process early on. Most organisations classify the accounts as – Enterprise | Commercial | SME – and assign the SEs in a ratio that makes economic sense. For Enterprise customers it varies form 5-10 accounts per SE. For Commercial it ranges from 30-100 accounts, and for SME its 100-300. The economics of every business is different but the golden rule is to be more conservative than you think.

Don’t stop there. Have a look at the ratio of the pre-sales team to the no. of accounts too. In solution sales, the pre-sales team is a key resource in ensuring deal victories. Their knowledge has more weight with the technical buyers. A US based software OEM I know used to follow a TRIAD model wherein it would measure the ratio of the SE + IC (Industry Consultant) + SA (Solution Architect) to the no. of accounts in the territory. Maybe it’s too heavy a pre-sales effort but the larger the deal value the heavier should be the investment in pre-sales roles.

Do you have product/service sales specialist?

If you look at OEM sales teams you will find a lot of emphasis on product specialist sales roles. The account manager (SE) is responsible for the revenue from all offerings in a given account. Whereas the Product sales manager is responsible for all the sales from that product in a given territory.

With SIs, until recently, it was difficult to find a SE dedicated to a service offering. When you have a specialized sales person responsible for an offering he will scout, seed, nurture opportunities for that offering in advance and support the efforts of the account manager. This will ensure better and earlier engagement in the pre-RFP stage.

Where are your Marketing efforts focussed?

The decision-making team in a RFP scenario has a technical committee which determines the technical ranking of the various bids. While there are many members in the committee, the biggest say is that of a technical guru/expert who is a highly regarded because of his academic/research background in the specific area. Such experts are not very active in the commercial dealings and thus do not appear easily to the naked eye. Also, their way of determining the technical competencies is non-standard. One senior academician I know used to connect with his peers in the US to understand the trends there and use that data to evaluate the participating bids.

Are your marketing efforts connecting with such diverse decision makers? Some organisations hold special events dedicated to these experts with more R&D/academic oriented speakers and topics that appeal to their intellect.

Another relatively new trend is to adopt ABM – Account Based Marketing. Whereas the prevalent marketing campaigns focus on getting more leads/accounts into the funnel, ABM preaches to develop marketing efforts specifically to your high potential accounts. With ABM you design and target custom content as per the buyer personas and their current state in the buying cycle, garnering a much larger share of their mind-share early in the sales process.

Have you explored Inside-sales seriously?

As the name suggests, Inside-sales is a team of sales specialists whose job is to run a sales process without stepping out. It has typically met two objectives – contact and qualify leads before they are handed to the field sales teams. And fulfil small ticket deals independently.

Together with ABM, it can play a similar role – that of generating demand, nurturing the lead, and continuing the mindshare with the identified accounts in the pre-RFP phase of the sales cycle.

How deep is your sales team going?

Obviously, this discussion can’t be over without scrutinizing the depth of the sales team’s capability. A competent sales person not only needs to map and influence the Technical Committee and CXOs, she also needs to roll-up her sleeves and work with the Assistant Manager who is drafting the RFP. The best-case scenario is where the SE has been able to secure the copy of the draft RFP before its release.

As Stephen Covey said, if you want to address the “urgent”, focus on the “important”. With these 5 “important” ways you should see a change in the deal results, not immediately but definitely.

Comments and observations welcome at hello@pricebid.co.