Sales and marketing, Channel markets

Getting the Most Out of Customer Deal Reviews

Author: David Brock, president, Partners in Excellence
Author: David Brock

Sales people spend a majority of their time doing deals–finding them, qualifying them, helping their customers navigate the buying process until they make a decision, then ultimately getting the order. Since this is where most of our people live their lives, it’s where sales managers should be spending a lot of time.

Unfortunately, too many sales managers don’t leverage deal review for their full value.

Many of the deal reviews I participate in look more like interrogations. Sales managers pummeling the sales person for data:

  • What solution are you selling?
  • Why do they need it?
  • Who’s involved in the decision?
  • Who’s the competition?  What are they doing to win this?  What are you doing to counteract them?
  • When is this going to close?
  • What do you have to do to win?
  • How much will we have to discount?
  • When did you say this is going to close, again?  Are you absolutely certain?
  • What value will you book this at?
  • Can you upsell a little?
  • Are you really sure about the close date, I need this for the forecast so you need to deliver!

Sound familiar?  Most deal reviews I sit in (at least before the client turns me loose to change what they do) are some variation of this interrogation.  Typically, the manager is getting a lot of status information but doing little to help the sales person win the deal.  Perhaps, based on the information dump, the manager might respond with a few, “You need to do this, make sure you do that, don’t let this happen……”  I suppose they think that adds a lot of value to winning the deal.

What Response Are You Seeking?

But think about that conversation a little. How accurate will the responses be if the sales person is misreading the situation? How accurate will they be if the sales person has the wrong strategy? How often do sales people tell their managers what they want to hear, just to get them off their backs?

Think further, the majority of the answers to these questions can be found in the CRM system–that is if the people are using it (which is an entirely different issue).

The primary purpose of deal reviews is to help the sales person develop and execute sales strategies to win the deal!  Yes, there is a business management component to deal reviews.  We do need the information to make sure our teams are doing the things they need to do to achieve their numbers.  But what we really care about is winning the deal—the deal review I typically see does nothing to help the sales person think about their strategy, think about what the customer is trying to achieve, think about what we should be doing to help the customer in their buying process.

Recently, I read some terribly bad advice on deal reviews from yet another sales guru. He had five terrible tips for deal reviews, three stood out: Stop asking reps to Self-Analyze, Move on to the next question as soon as the rep says, “I don’t know,” Don’t use the deal review to coach. Could anything be more misguided than these pieces of “wisdom?” Clearly, the guru sees the purpose of deal reviews to be like that outlined above. Getting information about the deal, I suppose so the manager can parrot it to senior management.

But the real purpose of the deal review is helping our sales people think about what they are doing, what the customer is doing, and what needs to be done to win. The very concept of helping them think about the deal requires them to self analyze. Thinking about the customer and their goals, thinking about what we need to do, how we create the greatest value, how we incite the customer to move forward in their process is critical to helping the customer make a decision, and our leadership facilitates their making a decision for us. We need to build the capability of our people in developing and executing winning deal strategies. If we don’t ask them to self-analyze, if we don’t develop the capabilities to think strategize, act; how will they ever learn to maximize their ability to win?

Proper Information Gathering

The idea of addressing the “I don’t know’s” is critical–presumably we asked the question because we know having the answer is critical to developing and executing a strong deal strategy. Not knowing these critical things negatively impacts our ability to win. If the sales person doesn’t know the things we know are critical to our ability to win, we have to help them figure out how they will get that information. We have to help them discover how to leverage this in moving the customer through their buying process, in creating value that stands out against the alternatives they might consider.

And if we don’t use the deal review as an opportunity to coach, then when the hell do we coach them about developing and executing winning deal strategies?!!??!  Doesn’t it make sense to use something that has their attention, that’s real, that they can immediately go out and execute to improve their ability to win?

Coaching deals, getting people to think about their deal strategies, helping people lean how to develop and execute winning deal strategies.  For each deal we coach, there’s a huge multiplier effect.  We are developing the capabilities of our people to think about their deals differently–not just the deal we are reviewing and coaching, but to apply that knowledge to every deal they are working on.  As we see our people’s capabilities develop, as they become stronger and more focused in the reviews we conduct with them, we can expect they are applying the same principles to every deal they are working.  In short, they are leveraging the same principles to maximize their ability to win every deal.

We are driven by results.  The most effective way to consistently drive high levels of performance and results is to leverage deal reviews for maximum impact.  Simultaneously, get the business management information you need, but leverage that time spent to develop your people’s capabilities to win!

Afterword: As a shameless plug for Sales Manager Survival Guide, Chapters 20, 21, 22 provide a deep dive into the review process and deal reviews. They provide a step by step guide for preparing, conducting the review, agreeing on next steps, and follow-up. It’s a proven formula for winning!

David Brock is president of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a management consulting firm focused on sales productivity, channel development, strategic alliances and more. Read more blogs from Brock here.