A Tale of Victory – Read This and Learn

I enjoy winning, but hate losing more.  My last post was tough to write, as no one likes to talk about their failures.  However, analyzing your losses and wins are good ways to keep your focus on the fundamentals.  In my career, I would say that a seller’s ability to limit their mistakes usually is good enough to win.  However, nothing like being down by 1 with the ball at the top of the key….fake step-left, followed by a quick dribble right for a dunk in the paint at the buzzard.  I got a few of those stories too…and here goes one of em.

My boss pulls me in her office one day and explains I am taking over a troubled account.  Specifically, the last seller was moved off the account as he couldn’t get them to close the deal.  I was at an advanced level at this stage of my career, so she had confidence in handing me this science project.  I quickly set a meeting with the CIO and within 5 minutes he complained that I was the 3rd guy to see him in under 12 months (my boss didn’t tell me there was another dude before my predecessor).  Rajeev (fake name for CIO) went on to tell me that we’ve already been selected, but my company’s lack of patience on the close was starting to make him nervous.  Moreover, the deal was only $400K, so he was confused why were we fussing over such a small transaction.  I went on to meet several of his staff with his sponsorship, but was advised to steer clear of the business owners (red flag).

There are several details of this story that I’m forced to leave out, but ultimately I went on a data collection mission for 2 weeks.  What I discovered was, the ROI was light, the business owner didn’t want a change, and CIO wasn’t favored in the eyes of business leadership.  Bad combo.  Worse, the CIO didn’t like or trust our company – but, he did agree to spend time with me given his company’s investment (we were incumbents in Finance).  Attempting to identify his personal win, I felt he simply wanted to be recognized and appreciated within his four walls.

I did more digging and discovered the company’s financial health was mediocre compared to his competitors, and right away knew the CFO would be interested in any IT cost-cutting proposals.  I set another meeting with CIO.  This time, I presented a $6M proposal, but incorporated quite a few products he had not evaluated.  He literally laughed at me and asked if I was crazy given our selection amount of $400K had already been negotiated.  I explained to him my findings, my perception of his reputation in his company, his company’s financial health, and how my proposal could change all of that.  It required him to engage his CFO (not the business owner, which was in procurement), seek his sponsorship, and the additional products in the proposal would force a larger ROI for the project.  Moreover, in my $6M, it showed the $400K procurement initiative at a $100K price tag.  Simply put, the CFO, through the findings of the CIO, could save the company millions per year vs. the weak ROI of Procurement’s software.  The catch?  They would have to engage several other business owners, throw out their current solutions, and use mine.  I presented this with EXTREME candor, respect, and professionalism…but ultimately, I hit a hot button.  He would be recognized quickly amongst his peers and be immediately recognized/branded by his CEO/CFO as a cost cutter.

I remember being in his office the day of my quarter end, staring at each other after a week’s worth of haggling.  He simply said he wasn’t going to sign it.  6 or 7 times he came in to the conference room that day, asking for something – we didn’t budge.  At 10:00 PM, he finally signed.  $3.75M.  That was a good day.  Rajeev and I are still friends – he’s no longer CIO of that company, but I still manage to get a Happy Thanksgiving text from him every year.

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