A month back I posted about the largest proposal I ever sent in my career, which was for a half a billion dollars.
It got quite the response on LinkedIn, so I wanted to dedicate this newsletter to deconstructing it and share the lessons we learned from winning a large deal from it.
Before getting to the proposal, it’s first important to set the stage on this particular account.
I was a “new logo hunter” in 2018 and first got introduced into the account (a large ~$10B global telco company who was not yet our customer) in December of that year.
I was far down the path to closing my first two deals at LivePerson that month with Delta Air Lines and Aramark, which meant I was working very closely with our EVP of Sales.
Because those deals progressed well in my first year, it helped me earn his trust when strategic opportunities came across his desk.
Best way to earn the trust of your execs is to deliver good work.
So when the telco brand’s EVP of CX and Regional Market Strategy reached out to our EVP of Sales, he assigned me to lead the pursuit.
I had the trust of our EVP, but now it was time to earn the trust of their EVP (and their broader team).
Make it Easy to Get Inside Their Four Walls
Since there was significant urgency with the timing of the deal, and we were going to need to displace their mainline business’s incumbent provider, I knew I was going to need help.
I won’t bore you with the details of winning that initial deal, but we got a small six figure deal done in Q1 2019 to support the launch of a new mobile brand they were creating. I do want to point out that I couldn’t have closed that deal without partnering well with Rick, the head of our Gainshare at the time.
Because we needed to move fast, and they wanted outcomes, not managing new software, we effectively leveraged Gainshare (our Managed Services business unit) as a key driver for accelerating the deal. That helped us to land an MSA (Master Services Agreement) so that we could become an official supplier to the company.
We agreed that the mobile brand’s deal would be a POC (proof of concept) for us to expand into their mainline cable business.
With the MSA on our side (albeit after some tough negotiations with their procurement team) and the ability to better control the outcomes because they were hiring us on performance, our chances for a large expansion were strong.
Present the Case Using Their Data
Because we were running their entire CX program for the mobile brand, which launched successfully, we earned significant trust with their EVP, who was the sponsor, and we were making a name for ourselves across their C-Suite.
And because I linked up and worked well with Rick and the entire Gainshare team, a lot of the burden was lifted from my shoulders. Rick forged a more meaningful relationship with the sponsor, because he was seen more as a peer to him than me…and I was entirely ok with that!
Holding onto your ego will only diminish your commission checks.
Best way to earn the trust of your prospect’s executive sponsor is to bring in an internal supporter who can be their peer.
With a solid foundation of trust in place, visible creativity and innovation on display, and good early results in hand, we had momentum on our side to expand into the parent business.
This is where we deployed strategic design thinking into the sales process (if you want a great book on this topic, check out Naked Sales: How Design Thinking Reveals Customer Motives and Drives Revenue).
Through the strong relationships we forged with various stakeholders (end users all the way up to the executive team), we were able to gather the key data we needed to formulate our proposal.
Using this data, we were able to see customer support phone calls were costing them nearly $200M a year JUST ON LABOR!
We also knew they were outsourcing their customer service labor across multiple BPOs (Business Process Outsourcing) globally and primarily using voice calls as the channel to resolve customer support issues.
The case before us was to prove that switching from voice calls as the primary customer support channel to messaging will drive down costs, increase the efficiency of the agents (because they wouldn’t have to handle one call at a time, especially when we introduced automation), and improve the customer experience (because let’s face it, who wants to wait on hold?).
Use the Facts
Now with their actual data in hand, we could work backwards to build our case.
We understood clearly what they were ultimately trying to achieve – “champion challenge” their voice BPOs so they weren’t so dependent on costly outsourced labor while also delivering a better, more modern customer experience than their competitors.
Like a litigator in a courtroom presenting an effective case, we simply used the facts – theirs and ours.
Their numbers just happened to be really large, but the case would have been no different if it was $2M a year or $2B a year.
Starting with the $198M annual labor cost problem as our starting point, we laid out just a handful of slides with the facts:
→ CSAT is higher with messaging than voice calls
→ Messaging + AI provides up to 25x efficiency
Then we laid out our suggested path forward:
→ A three year view of the savings ($90M in total)
→ A simple phased approach to achieving it
→ A simple technical illustration showing how the integrations will work
The total proposed cost to the customer (and revenue to us) was $504M over three years.
But to them, it was like locking in $90M less than what they were paying currently.
The End Result?
There was no real dispute on the numbers we presented. The $198M labor only annual cost we presented was very close to their real number.
We ended up moving forward with a single use case with the intent to champion challenge one of their largest voice BPOs before expanding further.
The deal was for $6.6M and was my largest deal that particular year. Overall, it was an 8.5 month total sales cycle from meeting them for the first time in December 2018, to closing the large deal in Q3 2019.
The best part…we now had a stake in going after a nearly $200M a year budget. They have continued to expand further and are one of our top Gainshare customers.
The “success algorithm” is quite simple:
- Earn trust. Your company and product needs to be good, but so do you.
- Get help. Having a good internal supporter to be equal to their executive sponsor is key.
- Good early results uncover the facts (and gives you momentum). You need to collect their actual data, not a hypothesis, to make the proposal more real, and then move quickly while sentiment and interest are high.
- Apply design thinking. Work backwards from the ultimate end result- the output of the transformation to guide your plan.
- Set up the strategy using project management skills. Show and easily articulate how to go from point A to Z without a lot of complicated jargon or slides.
Anybody who tries to make selling big deals more complex than this, simply hasn’t done it.
When you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:
- Get the exact system I’ve used to go from earning $200K to over $1M a year in SaaS sales without burning out here. (1,800+ students)
- Join a community of Purpose-Curious™ sellers in the Make More Hustle Less Club where we develop a personal operating system together here. (300+ members)
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