Asking for the Business and Closing Consistently

Mike Kandel, Sr. Enterprise AE at WorkMarket, on how to ask for the business and close consistently

Today we are joined by Mike Kandel, Sr. Enterprise AE at WorkMarket. Mike is responsible for winning new enterprise accounts and large expansion opportunities within existing accounts. Mike is an expert in consultative selling and strategic marketing, with a successful 10+ year track record of leveraging challenger-oriented sales. 

What you’ll learn from Mike:

  • How to control the sales process
  • Overcoming roadblocks early/often
  • Making it easy for buyers to say “yes”
  • How to ask for the business

CB: We see a lot of early-stage companies lean on qualification guidelines like BANT or MEDDIC when they’re doing founder sales — what should they be asking or doing that those frameworks don’t include?

MK: These are good basic principles to start with, but every organization is nuanced in their buying process. Sure, you can ask about their budget, but also, in enterprise don’t let them tell you “there isn’t budget.” These companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars, and if they’re talking to you they have some kind of problem that needs fixing, whether they admit it or not. It’s my job to justify the value of solving that problem with our solution.

These qualification practices are table stakes, I recommend digging deeper after you get the basic information. What are their desires, intentions, goals, milestones, etc? What do they want to achieve for themselves and their company? Identify that north star and be the trusted advisor helping them get there. If you can prove ROI based on that north star then a lot of the other objections fizzle away.

CB: It’s often difficult to figure out how and when to ask for the business to close a deal, especially for those who may be new to selling — what’s your approach?

MK: I ask for the business bit by bit, and that process doesn’t start when you send a proposal, it starts on the very first call or meeting. The two biggest mistakes I see that kill deals, especially in enterprise sales, are: 1) underestimating how much strategy goes into closing every single deal, and 2) leaving all of the customer’s back-office logistical ‘to-do” items until after getting a verbal commitment. 

For number one, I approach every customer conversation from the vantage point of an empathetic business consultant; I learn as much as I can about their business, workflows, strategies, annual goals, etc. before I get into the meeting. I’ll then fill in the remaining gaps while demonstrating an understanding of their business, which builds credibility and trust with the customer. I start by reading through their annual reports, 10K’s, and websites. Most of the information you need to know about where they are, where they’re going, and the hurdles they need to overcome will be in there.

For number two, I try to learn as much as possible from my point-of-contact about how their company buys software. Identify every person and process that stands between the first meeting and successfully buying a new software solution. This should give you a roadmap and timeline to close with a number of boxes that need to be checked along the way. Of course, you’re going to have to build value via demonstrations and follow-up conversations with various stakeholders, but while all of that is happening, I like to get all of those administrative boxes checked. I’m talking about legal, compliance, IT/security, etc. If you get those out of the way you’re making it SO much easier for the decision-maker to say yes! Here’s how I go about it:

“Who else do you envision using our solution? When can we coordinate a call to walk them through the platform? Also, do you mind connecting me with the legal team so I can see if our T&C language matches their expectations? Can we connect with your IT team to make sure our security matches their needs?”

By checking all of these administrative boxes you’re removing friction for the buyer, then the decision-maker simply has to sign a piece of paper. Make the process as easy as possible for the decision-maker and they’ll reward you for it. Though of course, it’s not always that easy, so have your ears turned on and volume up – the buyer often illuminates the appropriate times to ask for these things.

CB: When you’re pushing the process forward like this, what are the most common objections you face and how do you overcome them?

MK: By far the most common objections I get are around timing, “we’re not there yet” or “we just started talking, why would I introduce you to other departments so early?”. A general rule of thumb I follow is to make the process about them as much as possible. At this point, they told you their buying process and the deadline for having a solution in place, you just need to be their guide through that journey. 

First, I make the call if their timeline is reasonable or not. If it’s a tight timeline given their process, I’ll make that clear and use it to drive urgency. If their timeline is reasonable, I will position those conversations as a point of qualification for working together, for example:

“You’re making a significant time investment by exploring solutions, and we just want to confirm that administratively we’re a good fit to work together. How many times do vendors come in and a snag comes up on the 1-yard line because of IT or legal?”

CB: Clearly an effective seller has to be a strong project manager. With all these participants and processes, it feels like you’re introducing a lot of additional complexity. Do you ever try to limit the number of stakeholders you rope into the decision making process?

MK: Enterprise sales aren’t often made between only two people. There’s a substantial amount of due-diligence, sign offs, product reviews, buy-ins, etc. Large deals, think 6-7 figure contract values, often require you to bring in a deal team of your own – customer success, implementation, sales engineering, etc. You’re the bridge between these stakeholders and their counterparts at the potential customer, and the more bridges you can build the better positioned you are. 

There’s a story I tell about one of the largest private financial companies in the world. Our initial point of contact there managed a single business unit, and to start the scope of the deal was limited to working with that team. We continued networking into additional business units and spent time engaging something like twelve additional executives. Group meetings, one on one meetings, dinners and drinks, demos, one-off check-ins, holiday cards, the whole nine yards. Ultimately, building all of these bridges, being transparent, and being more of a consultant than a seller drove this home. It also enabled us to begin working with them across multiple business units from the start. 

The recipe is simple – Find out what their north star(s) are. Always maintain vision toward those stars and remind your client of them constantly. Be overly communicative with legal, security, etc. Be accommodating, evangelical, and consultative. Bring knowledge, respect, and always be guiding, never pushing them to a solution. They’ll see you as a peer, as a trusted partner, and that’s when you hook them to sign. 

CB: You’ve made the ask, and they said yes. What now? We’ve all seen verbal agreements turn into months of back-and-forth. How do you make sure that a) they actually close, and b) it happens as expeditiously as possible?

MK: I get the decision-maker to sign something ASAP. As soon as I hang up the phone I draft a letter of intent outlining the terms we just spoke about over the phone. It’s usually a simple, one-page document. From there, get a contract in the decision maker’s hands as quickly as possible. As soon as you receive that signed LOI coordinate onboarding calls between all necessary parties. Use any remaining administrative time gaps to continue building value for their organization, do not let things sit and get stale. 

Best way to reach Mike: LinkedIn

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