Don't assume that getting a top executive on board means that you've closed the deal.
Suppose you're selling software and have just met with a top executive of a mid-sized firm. You've confirmed that they've got a need for your solution. After a detailed discussion, the executive says: "Let's make this happen."
Time to celebrate, right? Well, not really.
While you may have convinced one decision-maker that you've got the right solution, you are a long way from closing the deal, according to Julie Thomas, CEO of the sales productivity firm ValueSelling Associates.
She points out that, in complex sales situations, you have no idea whether a deal is real or not until you have answers to the following questions:
Who else has a stake in the decision?
Is there any stakeholder who reviews this decision prior to payment?
Is there any stakeholder who can veto this decision once it's been made?
What needs to happen in order for payment to take place?
Is a purchase order required and, if so, how does it get generated?
How has the customer purchased similar offerings in the past?
What happened and how long did it take to execute on the decision?
Has budget been allocated and, if not, how does it get allocated?
Once the decision is finally made, what happens then?
In other words, the initial buy-in is usually the opening of the sales process rather than the closing of the deal. Even with the support of a top executive, you've still got plenty of work ahead.
GEOFFREY JAMES writes "Sales Source on Inc.com," the world's most-read sales-oriented blog. His new book, Business Without the Bullsh*t, will be published in early 2014. To get weekly blog updates, sign up for his free "Insider" newsletter. @Sales_Source