As a junior sales manager years ago, I was assigned to be a product specialist on a team charged with managing one of our biggest clients. In a planning meeting before an on-site visit to the client, I was tasked with the following: “Ensure the customer is completely comfortable with our product and technology vision. If they are not, your job is to commit them to return to our HQ for an executive briefing”.
At the meeting there were minor questions around the product, but the customer was ready to buy and was really there to discuss the terms of the contract. The designated spokesman on our team was poised for the closing moment, papers and pen in hand. Then I remembered my task. I interrupted the meeting and reminded the customer that if they had concerns, they were welcome to visit our HQ for an executive briefing. Whoa… Silence. I could have just delayed the deal by weeks - I actually was kicked under the table!
I had forgotten this part of my task: “…..IF they are not comfortable…” But they never were. Fortunately, my faux paus didn’t cause a delay and the senior sales exec. steered us back on track.
The same challenge exists when selling your company, only magnified exponentially. A prospective buyer will seek to confirm their diligence in every interaction, dialog, and contact. They are waiting for someone to go off script, reveal a personal agenda, or offer unsolicited information.
It’s imperative that a unified team communicates with one voice, ensuring that all parties are aligned in expectation and understanding when negotiating with a buyer. Here are three keys to achieving this:
1) Preparation: Educate designated staff, management, and shareholders on the exact value points and key messages that are to be communicated and understood by the buyer. Try role playing to identify points of emphasis.
2) Dedicated Point: Assign an experienced executive or point of contact who will prepare for, and be present in, all communications. They not only can help clarify certain issues, but can garner tremendous insight by developing a comprehensive understanding of how the buyer is navigating the process.
3) You are a team: There will always be internal conflicts in your company. For example, a customer support team that has to realign customer expectations can be frustrated with an exuberant sales team. A solidified management team addresses its issues behind closed doors. Not only are they united on key messages; but they are united in their support of each member on the team.