Some opportunities need more focus—enough that you should make a big play to win them.
A big play is a bold, atypical action a seller can take to inspire buyer action and set themselves apart from the competition. It's an approach to capture a sales opportunity that is enterprise-worthy, outside the norm, involves a certain amount of risk and is one the buyer would view as a big investment in the partnership.
Some opportunities need more focus—enough that you should make big plays to win them. Sellers who win big sales go above and beyond the competition to win them. And when the potential impact for you and your agency is huge, you want to do everything possible to get the win. Anything less and you essentially serve up the win to your competition. When you need to win and win big, you need a big play.
A big play can be thought of as a “partner investment." This is because bold strategies tend to be perceived by the buyer as an investment in a long-term relationship. Flying a buyer and their team to a customer site to allow them to experience what it's like to work with you and see your offering in action or creating a surprise-and-delight moment in the sales process is a big play. It makes the buyer say, “Wow, that must have taken a lot of effort. Nobody else did that for us."
Big plays can be practically anything that surprises and delights, pushes the relationship-strength-o-meter higher, or drives the buyer to choose you. A smart big play can be worth the investment, whether that investment is in money, time, staff, development or otherwise.
It's time to make a big play when you want to create a major sales opportunity or win one. However, you can only use them so often. They take real investment. If they don't, they're not big plays.
First, you need to make a case for why a big play is a good idea for a particular opportunity. Consider these criteria when deciding whether to make your move:
- Effort: How much effort will it take to execute the big play?
- Cost: How much investment will the big play require?
- Acceptance: Big ideas don't matter if the buyer won't play along. If you're thinking of inviting a client or prospect to an all-expenses-paid conference in another state, you should be positive the invitation will be warmly received.
- Timing: How long will it take to execute the big play?
- Payoff: What's the possible payoff in terms of revenue, margin, loyalty or return on investment?
- Likelihood: What are the chances that the big play will generate the desired result?
- Opportunity cost: What are the chances that other big plays at another account are more attractive than this one?
If the opportunity meets these criteria, then a big play may be just what you need to put yourself and your company over the top to win the deal. However, not every big play is created equal. While every big play requires some sort of investment, the type and level of that investment varies.
The next step in creating a big play is to define your goal. It could be that you need to strengthen your relationship with the key buyers, create new relationships to win the sale or grow the account, maximize the buyers' perception of your vaue or displace a strong competitor.
All four of these challenges can be overcome with the right big play. Here are examples of big plays that address these four areas.
1) Strengthening relationships. One seller invited their buyers to an off-site, one-day, all-expenses-paid executive retreat. They invited leaders from their existing accounts that they knew their prospective buyers would like to connect with and brought in a noted industry speaker.
They positioned the retreat as an exclusive gathering for senior leaders to ex-change ideas, share insights, collaborate on issues and find inspiration among an elite group of industry leaders. This is big, even for a big play, but this client had accounts in the tens and sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars.
2) Creating new relationships. One seller regularly offered to perform research for high-pursuit-intensity opportunities by using their company's unique capabilities and resources in the specific area the prospect focused on.
The cost to them? Committing several important team members to the research effort. The research regularly allowed them to establish connections with new contacts at the company and create groundswells for taking action.
3) Increasing value perception. To maximize the perception of value in the eyes of the buyer, sellers can facilitate value discovery sessions with their buyers to co-create value and brainstorm ideas, as well as bring buyers to their client sites for meetings and tours to show off their capabilities and the positive effects of working with them.
Sellers can also create something custom for the buyer. For example, one company that was selling enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to retail chains visited store sites, interviewed key stakeholders and did an analysis of what they learned. The seller then presented this analysis, along with a roadmap for improving the company's processes. No other company did this, and they were awarded the business.
4) Competitive positioning. You can also use big plays with existing accounts to protect them from competitors and grow them. For example, say you're vulnerable in a certain area that leaves the door open for a competitor to establish themselves with an existing account. You may be able to prevent a competitor's entry by inviting them to become a beta tester for a new product or service that the buyer would find valuable.
Not only will you give them the beta test for free, but you'll also collaborate with them on making it just right for their environment. The client gets to influence the design of the product or service, gain features or functionality they otherwise wouldn't, and save on costs. At the same time, you collaborate deeply with your client, strengthen your relationship with the account and preempt competitors.
The possibilities for big plays are endless. These examples are meant to get the juices flowing. The idea is that when the stakes are high, a big play can be just what you need to stack the deck in your favor to help you win the deal.
Mike Schultz is president of RAIN Group.