I have been asked to write blogs and articles about my area of expertise which is digital signage, or more specifically, digital menu boards. Because I have been spending so much time working on a very large project I have not had time to write anything recently. Most of us write about important things we have learned because we hope it will help others. Working on my large project gave me the idea for what I’m about to write.
When I look back over my 40+ year career in displays and menu boards I realize what I get the most excited about is selling very large projects. Every time I think about one it is like remembering a great exciting story. So, I thought it may be helpful for some people to pass on what I have learned about selling large projects. Following are some of the most important elements.
1. Your product is the most important. You must have a viable product at a competitive price that your prospective customers need or is a good investment for them.
2. The company you are selling for is also very important. The best sales person in the world cannot sell a large project without a good company to support what they sell. Good companies want to hire the best employees and good employees have to be very selective about the company they work for, especially top sales people.
3. Honesty is much more important on large projects than small projects. It is also more important when you sell a new technology. You can’t sell a large project unless your prospective customers know they can trust you because their jobs will be on the line. People responsible for making large purchases are very skilled at determining how honest you are. I’ve been on sales calls with sales people that always seem to answer “yes, we can do that’ or “my company is the best at that”. Those answers hurt you much more than a simple “I don’t know for sure but I will find out”.
There are times when this can be difficult. As an example, top management at one of the last companies I sold for told me to tell my customer something I knew was not true. I refused to do that and eventually lost my job because of it. However, there has never been any doubt I made the right decision.
4. You must be a good communicator and ask good questions, then listen well to the answers. You must also remember communication is not just the spoken words but also how they say them. It’s critical you know exactly what your customer wants and as much about them as possible. You need to know the decision maker(s), all the influencers and the roles of everyone involved in the project.
Many sales people tend to be so worried about what they are going to say next they don’t listen well to what their customer is saying. I have trained many sales people and the first thing I do after a sales call is ask them what the customer said they wanted and what were some of their concerns. It is usually shocking how little they can remember about what the customer said.
On large projects it may necessary to understand the political situation in large companies in order to plan a good strategy and stay out of trouble. As one example, most QSR restaurants are owned by franchisees. However, if you try to sell a large project to the franchisees without corporate approval you will make enemies of the corporate people responsible for approving your project and it will go nowhere.
5. You must understand the financial resources of the company you are selling, how it will be paid for, who will pay for it and when. A good knowledge of this saved a couple of the largest projects I have ever sold.
6. Don’t ever sell a bad job! You can spend 20-30 years building a great reputation and lose it on one bad job. If you are not sure the product will do what your customer expects it to do, don’t sell it until you are sure. It will cause you more damage than any gain you will ever receive. I can give many examples of this in my industry.
7. On large projects you must plan very carefully and have a great strategy for making the sell, then work very hard to follow it. You will need backup plans for when something goes wrong. This will help you when you have to think on your feet and make decisions quickly and confidently. This may seem like a lot of work but it’s something I enjoy. It’s like a military leader planning a large battle strategy.
8. Last but maybe the most important, you need confidence. You have to decide and KNOW you are going to make the sale or you’ll never make the big ones. If you don’t have the “I’m going to do this or die” type of attitude you will not give it your very best when things go wrong, as they always do. Any doubt will affect your performance negatively. You will not get the best out of your team that is always involved in large projects without such confidence.
9. After you sell a project remember what you did right so you can use it on the next project. If you lose it do your best to find out why. Unfortunately we seem to learn more from our mistakes than we do from what we do right.