Monday, September 20, 2010
Dan Callahan

I just finished (again) a portion of Jeff Thull’s Mastering the Complex Sale (see to order a copy).  I see direct applicability to the intell community sales process, which--as readers of this blog know, typically the ultimate in complex selling.


Because so much of traditional selling techniques are not applicable, I don’t spend too much time trying to conform to them.  They tend to be too formulaic or have a way of demeaning the client.  The average intell agency does not behave like a true for-profit corporation and the decision making process is anything but streamlined.


Thull does not treat selling and business development in the typical fashion and that is why I enjoy his writing.  I would like to connect some of what Thull has written to the intell community’s value selling process because it matches a sufficiently intelligent and rigorous process with a very complex clientele.  His approach acknowledges that the IC decision makers don’t rely upon simplistic formulas to make their decisions; nor should we when we’re selling and business developing to them.   


For starters, Thull is accurate when he says we tend to “commoditize ourselves” in the IC market.  When we finally do get the meeting we’ve been trying to secure and all we talk about is ourselves, our company, our solution… we tend to look like every other company in the intell market.  Please refer back to my previous blog entry, “The Power Of Differentiation”.   Yes, there are some basics that every company needs to have but when it comes to the true value that your firm delivers, your company needs something special that has direct bearing on the needs of the intelligence agency to whom you are speaking.  The best way to make this happen is to talk more about the intell agency, their problems, their challenges and their issues, and you will win-over the mind share of your prospect.  When the decision makers believe you understand them, you will have won their confidence.


Secondly, we are all guilty of “death by PowerPoint™ selling!  We do this because we can and we enjoy making cool slides, don’t we?  But this may not be the best way to gain mind share.  Often, listening deeply to the client is the best way to gain their confidence, not “overpowering them with PowerPoint”.  Other portions of Thull’s book advise a doctor’s approach which I really like: first Discover the conditions and environment, then Diagnose the underlying challenges, problems or proximate cause of the problem, if applicable, then Design a tailored solution and finally, Deliver a proposal that explains this tailored solution.  It looks like this:


From Jeff Thull’s Mastering the Complex Sale, John Wiles and Sons


This is a good back-drop from which to sell into the intell agencies.  Think about it: a doctor must listen carefully before he/she can accurately take these steps.  A patient who has been fully heard and listened-to, will seldom be upset even if you’re not able to heal them—they know you understood them and will want to use you in the future.  Try this approach on for size next time you get that key meeting with your intell agency decision maker.

Share Your Thoughts:

Good take on a great book. You're spot on when you note the difficulty that a firm in your industry vertical faces as sales personnel strive to differentiate their offering from the competition, not to mention a commodity solution. Much of this work will boil down to a true discovery of what prospects are up to, very much an exercise in listening and understanding. Unfortunately, most sales people will be hard pressed to expend the effort needed to handle this critical first phase of the process. I would recommend that you post a blog article about listening skills as a great follow up article to this one.