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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Optimal Sales Mindset Webinar sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales and hosted by Fred Diamond on December 18, 2020. It featured sales expert Lisa Magnuson, the author of the best-selling Sales Leader Playbook.]
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EPISODE 315: Sales Leader Playbook Author Lisa Magnuson Explores Ways You Can Shift Your Sales Efforts to Grow Your Deals by 5X
LISA’S TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Pre-call planning is critical. Go to www.toplinesale.com and download the pre-call plan. It’s a 2-page fillable PDF I’ve been updating it 15 years so it’s not old, it’s new. You will immediately impact the quality of your calls and start to think a little more strategically about every single one of those calls. For 5X deals, this has to happen and many times it happens with the account team.”
Fred Diamond: You interviewed over 40 sales VPs and when I’m going through the book you have so many worksheets and almost like a recipe on how to go after deals. The subtitle of the book is How To Win 5X Deals Repeatedly. Let’s talk about 2020, we’re doing today’s show, it’s December 4th, everybody knows what’s been going on. We’re going to touch on some things from 2020 but can you grow 5X deals in 2020? What have been some of your observations of that?
Lisa Magnuson: You can, and some of my clients did. As a matter of fact, every one of my clients got some version of a 5X deal in 2020 and they all looked a little bit different. I’ll use some of those examples but it was much more challenging in 2020, saw much fewer big deals than in a normal year, virtually no RFP activity – everybody tries to avoid RFPs anyways, but there wasn’t a lot of that activity either. I think people were just trying to figure out how to sell virtually and do the basics.
Fred Diamond: Let’s get started, 2020-21 realities. We just started talking about that a second ago but let’s talk about some specifics, let’s get a little more detail into some of the observations that you’ve had and we’ll go through some of the steps that the people listening to today’s podcast or watching the webinar can take to grow their deals. It’s very exciting, when we announced that we were doing the show people were automatically enthralled with the concept of 5Xing deals. I want to applaud you, first of all, for having that real focused angle of your consulting and your training that you do to really help sales professionals think bigger at a minimum. As I tell people, it’s just as easy to get a 40 million dollar deal as it is a 10 thousand dollar deal.
Lisa Magnuson: It may take a little bit longer, but yes [laughs].
Fred Diamond: And more people involved possibly, but definitely. Let’s get to the specifics, what are some of the realities in 2021 and what’s facing us right now?
Lisa Magnuson: I think we can make a much longer list for sure but there were three basic things that I struggled with my clients all year. That is all of a sudden, people didn’t have any bandwidth for risk so if it was an existing customer, you’re probably going to keep that customer because they weren’t going to make a change. If it was a prospect and you wanted them to move away from what they’re doing now, that was really difficult. More risk-averse than ever, people were staying with the status quo.
The second thing is simplicity, Fred, you and I were talking about before the show that everybody has been in sort of a brain fog. If something isn’t simple – a simple reason you want to meet, a simple proposal, a simple suggestion for a next step – if it’s not simple, no receptivity. They’re not going to say yes and much more so than in prior years. The last thing is the whole thing about impact which of course is always important, but people were taking action this year on their priorities only, there was nothing outside of that. If your solution couldn’t directly impact their immediate priorities, it wasn’t going to go anywhere.
Fred Diamond: Halfway through the year we started using the hashtag with almost all of our webinars and podcasts, #rightnow, because customers were dealing with one of three things. They were dealing with getting past whatever the pandemic meant to their business, secondly, they were getting past the financial impact that the pandemic had brought on and thirdly, whatever the third thing was. Maybe it was something that personally affected the business or figuring out new things to sell because they were no longer having a market. I tell this story many times, one of our members sold supplies to arenas and theaters and his business completely shut down in March. He sent me a text one day saying, “Do you know anybody who needs two tons of popcorn?” Now we’re at the end of the year, this is December and you’re talking to large sales teams, big companies all the time. Have some of these eased up a little bit or is this going to be the new normal? I hate to say new normal, it’s my least favorite expression, but is this going to be the new normal moving forward?
Lisa Magnuson: The progression through the year was that in March-April we need to pivot, not panic so we did that, the successful people did that. Then it was, “What is our cobbled together business plan?” It’s not business as normal, it’s business as abnormal comprehending these realities. What does that look like? It might look like smaller, it might look like focusing on the existing customers that we could do more with. The last thing, and I think that’s where we are now to answer your question, is to move from survive towards thrive. Very few people are thriving right now but I’ve noticed that there’s been a shift where people are moving more in that direction from survive to thrive. I’m seeing that everywhere, with every one of my clients I’m seeing that so that’s positive, people have some hope.
Fred Diamond: If you’re in sales, you’ve got to be aspirational. We’re nine months into wherever we are and as we’ve talked many times, 2020 was going to be everybody’s best year. It was only 9 months ago, you and I first started talking over a year ago when our good friend, Barb Weaver suggested that we pick up the book and get to know you. Lisa, let’s get deep into it. I want to thank you also for getting up early, I’m based here in Northern Virginia right outside of DC. I see some of our listeners are on the east coast, we have some in Chicago, we actually have a couple in Europe, good to see some of our friends from Belgium who come onto the webinars every single day. You of course are on the west coast, you’re on the upper Pacific Northwest so thanks for getting up early and doing this. Let’s get deep into the 5X concepts and some things you’ve learned and some things that you’ve recommended.
Lisa Magnuson: First defining the 5X because I get that question a lot. It’s a roughly right term but it basically means about 5 times your average deal size. Most enterprise salespeople know and certainly sales managers and sales VPs that when you’re talking a 5X deal, you have to do all the basics and then you have to do a lot more. You also have to 5X your effort to have a 5X deal come out of the other side of the pipeline. What your viewers are seeing right now is the success system but also the engine and my book follows this exact pattern. What things need to occur in terms of sales leadership for a 5X deal? Things like is it a priority for the sales leadership team to go after big deals? Is that one of their top three priorities? Have they designated account quarterbacks? Are they putting time on their calendar to attend account strategy meeting? There’s that leadership component that’s essential, then you’ve got methodology. Salespeople really hate the word methodology [laughs] along with process but it really just means how you’re going to go after a big deal. I have a way but I’m not married to any specific way, it’s just a way that you go after a big deal. That includes things like relationship mapping and SWOT assessments and competitive analysis and all those things that you absolutely have to have to win. Whatever your way is, commit to it and that’s the second part.
The third part is execution so you have to do it. Right now what I see happening with the companies that are going to be successful next year and close those big deals, they are figuring out their top prospects. They’re scheduling account strategy sessions – I call them war room sessions – the whole year, they’re committing to the year. They’re not just committing to the one or even the first quarter, they’re committing to the year so that they know they’re going to have this focus all year. The last part is the culture, does the company understand and support a big deal culture? Big deals are messy, our friend Barbara Weaver Smith loves to talk about they go backwards before they can go forwards and she’s right. They’re messy, they don’t fit in nicely with comp plans and quarterly time frames but they’re also game changers for companies. Is that culture there to support that effort? If you have all these things happening, you’ve got a 5X deal engine and that’s when you get 5X deals repeatedly, not one-off.
Fred Diamond: We have a couple questions coming in and we’ll probably get to these in some of the upcoming slides that you have here, but let’s take a couple questions here from the audience. One quick thing, one of the things that I really loved about the book when I was reading it was that you talked about how 5X deal was pursued as a team sport almost, I don’t know if you used the word sport per se but you just alluded to the quarterback. It’s about the team coming together and one of the interesting things that has come up on the daily webinars that we’re doing at the Institute for Excellence in Sales is bringing in other organizations that you might not think about if you’re in sales. Yesterday we had a quick brainstorming session and people were saying the obvious things like customer success, enablement, marketing, product development but then other organizations like finance who could put their mind in their mind of the customer and understand where customers are challenged.
We’ve got a question from Eugene in Chicago, Eugene wants to know, “Is it possible to 5X deals using your approach with existing customers?” That’s a great question. You talked before about how one of the realities of 2020 is that it’s been challenging to prospect for new but does your approach work for existing customers as well?
Lisa Magnuson: That’s a great question, Eugene, I get that question all the time. My answer to that question is absolutely. As a matter of fact, we know it’s easier to get more business with existing customers yet you really have to do the same things. You really have to pull in the whole team thinking creatively like you said, Fred and you really have to commit to account strategy overtime. The leaders have to make it a priority, we have to have a culture that supports it so absolutely. Especially this year, a lot of the work that I do with my clients, the war room work was with existing clients, less than in prior years with new prospects. It’s the same effort only easier, which is better [laughs].
Fred Diamond: We have a question here from Sonny, Sonny is in the DC area. He says, “Where does business value fit in the success system?” That’s a great question, thank you, Sonny. One thing that we talk about a lot over the daily Sales Game Changers webcast that we do is the whole concept of value and value has almost been redefined in 2020 because, like you just said, people are faced with this challenge now. Customers don’t want to hear from you talking about the future unless it’s going to help them right now and unfortunately we still see a lot of ignorant questions coming from salespeople. Everyone here who’s on LinkedIn probably gets 3 or 4 LinkedIn emails a day, “Are you looking to change your IT system?” You’re talking to the wrong person.
Talk about value and talk about where that fits in. What is your definition of that?
Lisa Magnuson: Great question, Sonny. When I talk about value, you would find on this engine or the success wheel that it would fall under the methodology and the execution. My approach to value is something called win themes, something I’ve been talking about for a long time, a lot of years. The definition of win themes are customer priorities, your strengths, where is the intersection between those two things? What it absolutely is not is all your strengths. So many times we want to share all of our strengths and have a customer try to figure out where the value is, they don’t have the bandwidth for that right now. They really never did but now they really don’t, so you have to absolutely understand their priorities and when I say priorities, it could be their top projects, their goals, I use priorities as an umbrella term. What are their top three? Not top 10, top 3 priorities right now and where do those intersect with the strengths that you can bring? When you can do that, that’s where the value is, that’s where the sweet spot is, that’s where they are going to want to talk to you more. Value is more important than ever.
One of the things I wanted to mention about this wheel is for those that want to invest in my book, it’s on Amazon. If they say their Amazon receipt number, they can get this wheel in the form of an assessment because there’s a play for each of the things on this wheel is how the book is designed. Each thing on this wheel is a play, each play is defined, how do you deploy the play? What are the yellow flags, the red flags? Then there’s an expert, I searched literally the world for the expert for each play and there’s a little expert sideline coach for each play. If they say their Amazon receipt number, they can enter that into my website and they can get this in the form of an assessment. I use the assessment all the time with my clients because it points out where the holes are and where you need to focus. Coming back to value, if you’re not focused on value then that’s a gap and that would come out under advances in the methodologies play of the book.
Fred Diamond: Lisa, we need to go back here because we’re getting a couple questions from people who are still a little bit confused. I’m just going to read one of the questions here, “I’m still trying to understand the system. Can you please explain more about what a 5 deal sales culture and 5 deal sales expectations mean?” We have a lot of people here who are at various stages of their sales career, give us another definition now that we’ve gone through the assessment and the various stages again on what a 5 deal culture looks like and also expectations as well.
Lisa Magnuson: I have to say, those were the hardest plays to write. Culture is hard to define, that’s why there’s questions about that but most of those plays inside of the culture part of my playbook, I talk about what is the evidence that you have a five deal culture? Let me give you an example. If you have executives – it could be a CFO, a CEO, Director of Marketing, whatever, if you have executives willing to attend account strategy meetings, maybe not all the meetings but a couple meetings then that’s evidence of a 5X deal culture. Another example, let’s say that you’ve got a couple 5X deals in your company, most companies have a couple and my whole thing is how you get them repeatedly, but most companies have a couple. Did you celebrate that? Did the celebration include not just sales but everybody that was involved in any kind of way as a resource? That is evidence that you have a 5X deal culture because a company values 5X deals and they want to celebrate 5X deals. Hopefully that answers the question but when it comes to culture, my whole thing is what is the evidence that you either do have or don’t have a 5X deal culture?
Fred Diamond: We have one more question before we move onto the next slide. The question is, “We don’t sell very expensive solutions, can we also be a 5X culture?” That’s an interesting question. Before the call, we were talking about 40 million dollar deals being just as easy to get as a 10 thousand dollar deal but let’s say, if a company sells 25 thousand dollar IT solutions, can a 5X culture also be part of that type of a company?
Lisa Magnuson: Maybe some companies don’t have the ability to do 5X deals but I would say most companies do, that’s why I don’t have a dollar amount on it. If your average sale is 25 thousand dollars, then a big deal for you might be 125 thousand dollars, somebody wants to buy 5 of what you have instead of just the one thing. For that, you’re probably going to have to do things a little bit differently so you don’t have to have this pervasive culture, but will your company’s culture support that? Will they support spending time on account strategy meetings with the right people involved and will they stick it out over the long haul to get that 125 thousand dollar deal?
Fred Diamond: Do you think a big part of it is mindset? You mentioned by bringing executives into the account strategy meetings as well. Every Thursday we do an Optimal Sales Mindset webinar and I’m going to guess a big part of this is the mindset. I could easily see a company that sells 25 thousand dollar solutions offering more things. As a matter of fact, that’s been one of the big themes of 2020 is if customers aren’t buying what you’ve historically offered, you need to find other things to be offering them because you can’t just sit around. Some of the great companies that we work with all the time, some of the great sales professionals have found other things to offer and it hasn’t been easy. One example is we work with a sports team who sells tickets for people to go to games, obviously every arena has been closed. What they started doing was a whole bunch of online competitions and they would sell sponsorships, a competition to figure out who’s the greatest player on our team of all time. Fans would vote and submit ideas and they got one of the biggest insurance companies on the planet to sponsor that. New thing they had to create, if you will. So, is mindset a critical part of a 5X culture?
Lisa Magnuson: It absolutely is because that culture starts with that mindset. I talked a lot about the evidence that you can actually see, do the executives come to the strategy meetings? Do you celebrate a 5X deal in your company? It starts with a mindset that you want 5X deals and that they are different so they’re going to take longer, they are messy, they are complex, there’s going to be more people involved, there’s going to be more resources. You’re going to do things to get a 5X deal that you don’t normally have to do. If your company maybe doesn’t have pilots, for a 5X deal maybe you’re going to have to do a pilot. It starts with a mindset that is, “Yes, we want this and we’re going to support it” and you do have to get creative. I can’t even believe how creative my clients got this year.
Fred Diamond: I’m actually very excited we have you today on the Creativity in Sales webcast because I’m beginning to get a better picture even having read the book on things that you can be offering your customer as it relates to training, service, support and add-on type things that would take a deal to 5X. Talk about this next slide here, what exactly are we talking about here?
Lisa Magnuson: This slide is to show that you can systematically improve your chances of getting a 5X deal through doing certain things identifying those 5X prospects. Maybe you have a process to evaluate them, to score them like my scoring tool for that. Then the account strategy work, we know that happens over a period of time. I have all different kinds of clients but if I had to do an average of my clients, it’d probably be about 9 months. Some are longer, some are shorter but about 9 months so that has to happen over time and by doing that kind of work, relationship building, figuring out who the competitors are, then you add that win theme. That’s the value conversation, it’s like you’re partnering with your customer to really understand their priorities and you’re carefully putting together the value that you can bring to impact those priorities. Lastly, pre-call planning. We know you can get a 20% boost in sales effectiveness just by committing to pre-call planning as a habit and you put all that together, you’ve got that 5X deal engine going even if you don’t have every single thing on that wheel that we just looked at. You can pick and choose and really put yourself in a winning position.
Fred Diamond: We have a comment here that one of our guests, Eileen, made. She says that if you were creative, you could easily figure out ways to grow your existing deals by 5X. It’s getting clear here right now that it goes back to Sonny’s question that customers – even existing customers – will take your call, they’ll talk to you but if you’re not bringing them value in what they need today to get past whatever the pandemic has stopped, to get past the economic challenges the pandemic has forced upon us, they’ll be kind to you but they probably won’t spend a whole lot of time as they’re dealing with their particular challenges. I think your model here is a really effective way to put value first because people aren’t just going to look for more things or looking for solutions, we always talk about solutions but critical right now, “How are you going to help me get past this?”
Lisa Magnuson: I want to make a comment to Eileen. The great news is with 5X deals is because you’re bringing more people into the conversation, you don’t have to figure out that creative thing by yourself. I was just working with a client this morning in the UK and he has a very large opportunity but it’s through a channel, so he feels like he has limited ability to impact his ultimate success. He’s gathered everything about what he does know about what’s happening and I encouraged him, “Now’s a perfect time to pull the account team together and brainstorm, given what you know, what can you do? How can you get creative?” Because there’s always things you can do to advance your sales cycle. The good news is you don’t have to have all those ideas yourself, just pull the account team together and say, “We want to make some progress, what can we do?” I tell clients all the time, the account team gets it right. If you have a great account team and they’re dedicated to the effort and you have a culture where people can be honest so you can share ideas, you can brain storm, you can also poke holes in those ideas… “No, we should not approach that executive right now, the timing is not right. We do need an executive sponsor but we have to wait.” Those are all good conversations the account team can have and then you can move forward. The account team will get it right, I promise.
Fred Diamond: We have a question here from Sue and Sue is a daily guest on the Sales Game Changers webinar. Sue wants to know, “We’re on Zoom all day long, is this going to be a process that requires more Zoom time?” That’s an interesting question. As I’m looking at your roadmap here, I’m going to do a little shift on Sue’s question. Is this a replacement for your normal sales process or is this just a better way to think about larger deals to grow your business? Again, we go back to mindset. Is it basically, “We’re going to be selling stuff, let’s think about ways to grow what we’re offering”? It’s a brilliant idea if it is.
Lisa Magnuson: It’s not a replacement, it’s in addition to. One of the reasons why I’ve got a score card and just simply a matter of criteria is you can’t do all this for all your deals, you just can’t have strategy meetings for every deal or you just won’t be selling unless you’re a national account manager, then you can if that’s your job. It’s in addition to you still have to go through your normal sales process and in addition for a 5X deal, now you’ve got to engage the account team, you can’t do it on your own. You have to have what I call war room sessions or account strategy sessions, you need more relationships than you had before.
I’ll give you a perfect example coming back to the comment about Zoom. One of my clients early March-April had a big 5X prospect that was at the beginning stages, this thing hit and their company wasn’t adapt at selling on Zoom, they could go visit their customers, they could have coffee, they could have them in-fort to tour their office. There were things that they did that worked that all of a sudden couldn’t happen anymore so the salesperson came to the account team and said, “I don’t know what to do.” We said, “Just set up the first Zoom meeting with the group” and she was scared to do it because it wasn’t just her and one other person, there were going to be like five people on the Zoom call and she wasn’t proficient with Zoom, not comfortable but she did it because the team really encouraged her to do it. Long story short, she did that and that led to more meetings and more meetings. From her first hesitant interaction with this 5X prospect in March-April she closed a 5X deal in July, her biggest deal that she’s ever closed in her career. She figured out how to get it done on Zoom so yes, you’ve got to use whatever you have available. If what we have right now is Zoom, it’s Zoom. If that changes, we’ll change with it.
Fred Diamond: Sue says, “Thank you so much for that answer” and Nick also says, “That’s a great answer and a great methodology, way to go.” We’ve got time for a couple more points so let’s just tell people what they can do to get started. What do you recommend? Let’s get some of the people here who are listening and watching today’s webinar started again on thinking about implementing these deals and these processes. What do they need to do?
Lisa Magnuson: You can start super small, let’s say you just have one prospect or current customer – even better if it’s a current customer because it’s going to be easier – that you think you can do more with. If you have more, great but it doesn’t have to be a lot. Then you get that team together, who is the team? Not just you and your manager, think a little bit bigger than that. Who are the people that could add value? Then you’re going to do some research. Yes, salespeople really hate to do research. We’ll go to LinkedIn, we’ll go to their website but I mean really research so that you can get to the win theme so you can figure out how you’re going to get to that executive sponsor eventually. You’re going to do that research and then gather the account team because you’re going to keep meeting. If it’s hot, you’re going to be meeting every couple weeks. If it’s a little bit longer term maybe you’re meeting once a month, not less than once a month, though. It’s these account strategies over time, it could be 6 to 9 months or more, maybe less.
Now you’re going to start to do some strategy work, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. I like to look at both internal perspective on each of those four quadrants and external. What does that mean? Let’s just take strengths. What are your internal strengths that you believe that you can add value to this prospect or current customer? External would be what do they see as your strengths? If they don’t see the same ones that you see, then that creates an opportunity for you. You have that thought process, it’s not just a SWOT maybe as we know it in other ways, it’s an account SWOT and you’re looking at your perspective and putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and thinking about it from their perspective. That’s creating actions which are going to advance.
Then you’re going to figure out what your goals are, what do you think you can accomplish? You’re going to start to build those win themes and you’re going to stay at it, maybe you’re going to do some competitive analysis if there’s one of those nasty competitors that are in there. All of that happens in these account strategy or war meetings over time and you’ll know what to do, you’ll know what’s most important at the time. If you commit to that, you commit to the meetings, you commit to the team, you keep the team moving forward, you’re going to win.
Fred Diamond: Lisa, I think it’s a brilliant idea and as we’re going through this conversation I wasn’t quite clear on exactly everything that it meant but now I’m thinking about some deals that some of our members have told me about recently. I remember asking them, “Could you have added service? Could you have added some support? Could you have added some training to it?” One of our members was struggling, they were just making a deal and that was it, they wouldn’t hear from the customer for a year and I said, “Why don’t you add this, this and this?” Is that what goes into a 5X deal as well? For example, if you’re a software company, you sell a big block of software, is this thinking about additional ways to grow the deal, that it doesn’t matter where the 5X comes from, where the revenue comes from?
Lisa Magnuson: It depends on your company but I don’t know any company that’s not. Can you add additional services? Can you add value that maybe isn’t monetized right now but could be monetized down the road? One of my clients is in the process of partnering with their biggest customers to build long term strategy maps that map out the value that they want to provide for those clients over time. You can find value in a lot of different ways.
Fred Diamond: Lisa, Give us one thing, you’ve given us 30, give us one specific thing they need to do right now.
Lisa Magnuson: My one thing and I get asked this question all the time, pre-call planning, it’s amazing. What I want them to do is I want them to go to my website which is www.toplinesale.com and download my pre-call plan. It’s a 2 page fillable PDF, I’ve been updating it 15 years so it’s not old, it’s new. I think it’s on the bottom of my resources page on my website, that automatically will sign you up for my e-newsletter so there’s something in it for me. But what’s in it for your audience, Fred is that they can immediately impact the quality of their call and start to think a little more strategically about every single one of those calls. For 5X deals, this has to happen and many times it happens with the account team. That’s something they can do right now, get that pre-call plan, it’s free and start using it. I use it every single week with clients, every week for 15 years.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo