The Software Sales Graveyard…The Path to Funding.

I remember my first sales methodology training – a 2-day class with a sales czar instructor whose resume would embarrass the best of sellers.  I was so excited, as I never understood why Universities lacked sales training as a core discipline for business majors – and I consumed anything that could teach me how to make as much money in the shortest time possible.  We were asked to bring a “live deal” to dissect, and boy did I have a perfect opportunity.  My version of perfect was…well…a deal that was baked, tee’d up, and ready for me to swoop in and close.  Moreover, my deal was a whopper, as the deal size would bring me 2x my quota and pay me exactly $365K in commission (yep…broke the cardinal rule of counting chickens before they hatch).  It was perfect.  Until it wasn’t.  Veterans in the class along with my instructor dissected my deal and determined – not only was I not winning…I was losing.

I left that class not feeling dejected, but thinking my peers were just jealous.  After all, my exec sponsor and decision maker said my presentation was the best she’s ever seen (I had 5 pre-sales engineers who put on the best demo of my career).  I connected my SVP of Sales with the COO, and he said my company was selected.  The CIO confessed that architecturally, only my company’s solution made sense as my competitor’s product couldn’t even connect with their outbound dialer.   The CMO agreed that my competitor’s solution did not provide him with any offering at all.  I had “touched em all” and won the hearts of every single person…except 1.  The CFO.

Not only did I lose that deal, but I found a few years later that the size of my competitor’s deal made my counterpart a million-dollar commission ($1.1M to be exact).  I wish I could tell you I instantly learned a good hard lesson that day, but I spent years justifying that particular deal to a few nuances outside of my control.  After all, I knew more than my sales methodology class content, my peers who sliced my deal open, and certainly had more ability at 25 years old than my experienced instructor.

Sad fact is, it took many years of prosecuting deals before I came to the realization that focusing on the path to funding was the difference between winning and losing.  After moving in to sales leadership, I’ve seen even the best sellers fumble the football on the 10-yard line due to their inability or lack of focus around identifying and appealing to the folks that can say yes or no to the funding of a transaction.

So, in the deal that made my competitor a millionaire, what exactly did she do to out-maneuver?

  1. She created an event that forced a face-off with the CFO. I never asked for a meeting with the CFO, as I was sure that my sponsor would figure out a way to secure the funding.  Welcome to the NFL Rookie…they hit harder up here.
  2. Another division of her company had incumbency status, and she was able to show a significant cost increase around those incumbent licenses should the company move to my solution. I was in a mathlete competition with an MIT scholar, and all I had were basic add/subtract skills.
  3. It was in Finance where she had incumbency status, so she spent much of her time winning their hearts with extra support, extra attention, and inserting FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) around the disruption of my particular solution to their daily job. Her solution, owned by the same company, of course had “out of the box” integration, hence making their jobs much easier.

Every situation is different, but moral of the story is you need to give ample focus, energy, thought, and attention to the stakeholders in the organization that write checks.  I look forward to hearing similar stories of your journey to mastering the path to funding!

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