There’s a lot of talk about the differences between transactional and complex selling, but Christopher Engman says that’s not granular enough. Beyond complex and account-based selling, there’s a world he calls the Mega Deal environment.
We caught up with him recently to ask about this distinction, and how companies can position themselves to win more Mega Deals. Here’s what he had to say.
Q: How are Mega Deals different from other types of complex deals?
In a semi-complex sales process, there is a part of the deal that is a mutual design phase-where you design the scope of the work, and so on. There may be multiple people involved in the selling and buying process. With Mega Deals, you have that too, but you may have fifty to a few hundred people involved in the deal, all with their own competing needs and interests, and the complexity may be such that you can’t reasonably expect any one person to understand all the components of the deal.
I define a Mega Deal by three criteria: The change journey, building consensus, and trust.
- Component one, the change journey, refers not to when the customer starts their buying process, but rather when they complete the sale. In a Mega Deal, signing the contract starts a change journey--so there are big similarities between Mega Deals and change management. Because of this, the sales team has to be able to convince the customer that there is a strong need for that change.
- Component two, consensus, refers to the necessity of reaching a consensus within the organization. When the deal size is big, with a lot of people involved, you have a large number of influencers and decision makers, and you have to reach a consensus on deal size and many other factors.
- Component three, trust, refers to the necessity of selling trust. In a large sale, you as a human being cannot fully grasp the full complexity—your brain is simply not capable of it. For instance, how do you differentiate between a Boeing and an Airbus? You have to pull in a ton of experts, and even the experts won’t each be able to understand every component. So trust becomes important--trust in your own team, and trust in the brand.
If you don’t grasp all three, you won’t win Mega Deals. You may convince a buying decision maker that they need to make a change, but if you can’t get consensus within the organization, it won’t happen. You may be able to get consensus within the organization, but if you haven’t developed trust, they may choose a vendor who has.
Q: You’ve obviously spent a lot of time thinking about this. Where did all this come from for you?
I have an unusual background. I’m a mathematician who went into sales and marketing, then became a CIO, and now I’m back in sales and marketing.
I’ve sold software solutions at two companies that I founded, with complex sales cycles. After that, I was recruited by a client to serve as CIO for the second largest fashion retailer in the Nordics. I know of no other person who’s been a head of IT and a head of sales and marketing. It’s an unusual combination. In that position, I was exposed to buying large complex solutions, multi-million dollar deals with extensive complexity. So I gained insights from the buyer’s point of view, and saw how hard it is for people to agree internally on a big deal, let alone for an outsider to gain that consensus.
Over the past nine years, I built Vendemore, which I’ve recently sold. Vendemore is a marketing platform for Mega Deals. They work with IBM, Ericsson, Siemens, Tata and over 150 other Fortune 2000 companies, to help them land really big deals, in the tens of millions or billions of dollars.
So Mega Deals have been a big part of my experience, making me qualified to talk about them. Plus, I’m nerding around the topic all the time, extracting as much as possible from other sales experts, and studying their learnings. It’s become something I get asked to speak about a lot now—I speak at The Gartner Marketing conference in San Diego, at different Sirius Decisions conferences, and others. I’ve also recently joined Climeon as their head of sales and marketing and investor, to help them with deals in the $10 million arena and up.
Q: I understand you’re involved in local politics as well. Have you learned anything from that?
I am, part-time, involved with politics in my city, and I’ve done a lot of work at the EU level when it comes to internet privacy, representing my company. So, yes, there are actually a lot of similarities between Mega Deals and getting things done in politics.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you want to propose a legislation about cleantech. It’s easy to think that the minister of environment will already know everything you have to say, but then there are all the constituents and others in government, so the message has to be broken down into the language of non-experts, and it has to give each stakeholder a reason why they should care about change.
And all the same components apply—change, consensus, trust, it’s the same thing. Politicians frequently have to make decisions based on too little information, even big decisions. So you get all this lobbying, and it’s not always the best idea—or the best vendor—that wins. It’s usually whoever got their lobbying—or sales and marketing—right that wins.
Q: So how do you get Mega Deals right?
You have to start by selling the problem really well. Way too many companies jump too fast into the solution, and park there. But if you look at organizations that are highly successful, you’ll see that they spend a lot of time with the problem. They may spend several workshops nailing the current state. The idea is to create a burning platform—to make the employees and other stakeholders feel that their feet are burning, that they’re in a position where they can’t stay. You need to get a “crisis” mentality. The way to do that is to investigate the pain points, spend more time on it, and don’t jump too quickly into how you will solve the problem.
Then, to scale your impact (including the pains), you have to really talk to quite a lot of people within the target company. Some you’ll talk to by phone and email, others by LinkedIn profile. The lunch and learn is another valuable tactic—you bring the salads and sandwiches, and your main contact brings the internal audience. You address a problem, a trend or an insight that’s of interest to the people you want to reach, and your cost is basically your travel there and the lunch. It is pivotal to not sell during the lunch and learn sessions. Be the Aston Martin in the Bond film not the Bond film itself.
It lets you do what I call bee swarming. Imagine you’re holding bees in your hand, and you teach them all to speak in your voice. When you release them, they go around speaking to your audience. So this is one way to scale your audience from the sales side.
It’s important to do this work in parallel, using a divide and conquer approach. This allows you to control the politics, instead of the politics controlling you. A typical mistake is to bring people inside the target company together too soon. Instead, you want to play on personal agendas and keep targets apart as long as possible.
Q: Is marketing different for Mega Deals too?
Yes, in fact that’s the basis of our success with Vendemore. You want to use an account-based approach, and build trust throughout each target organization through targeted marketing. For instance, you can pinpoint a target organization’s IP numbers—take BP as an example. Then you can show content and ads to employees at that company on over a million different sites. You want to spread it out over a long time so they don’t realize they’re being targeted.
You can target the right videos and articles based on where BP is in the buying process with your organization—for instance, you can use the ad time to accelerate their perception of the burning platform. And the more you do that, if you do it right, the more critical you make that issue in the minds of your targets.
Q: A lot of folks are talking about social selling these days? Is there a place for it in Mega Deals?
There is, but the big difference with Mega Deals is that each salesperson might only have one to five accounts that they work with. So it’s not about getting more contacts, but about doing more things that are relevant to those one to five accounts, and spreading attention to more contacts within those accounts.
As an example, inside one of the biggest IT companies in the world, I have over 350 contacts. That was for one of Vendemore’s accounts. I could easily have over 100 parallel discussions. When you reach that level, you have more political power inside the company than the employees do. You become influential. So if you really want to play the Mega Deal game, you should make sure you have a vast amount of contacts in your top accounts.
Q: You’ve talked about Mergers and Acquisitions in some of your articles. Is there anything Mega Deal companies should do differently when considering M&A?
There’s a big mistake a lot of Mega Deal companies make when evaluating economies of scale. They look at whether a potential acquisition sells into the same target companies, but they fail to analyze whether they’re selling to the same buying centers within those companies. If one company is selling to marketing people, and the other is selling to logistics people, then there’s not much leverage. I’ve actually done a lot of research on this, and published most of it on Linkedin.
[Editor’s Note: You can read Engman’s research and analysis on the topic here.]
Q: Obviously, tools like Vendemore’s are interesting for Mega Deal marketing. Are there tools on the sales side that are equally critical?
From a sales technology perspective, CRMs are not made for Mega Deals. Membrain is made for this kind of selling.. If you log into a normal CRM, it’s focused on a contact. With Mega Deals, you need to be able to see the account as a whole, how the buying center is shaping up, who you’re talking to, who you’re not talking to, and where everyone is in the buying process.
Q: Is there anything we haven’t covered that you want to talk about?
Oh, definitely. The topic of Mega Deals is far too large to cover in one interview. For instance, there’s the topic of Social selling for Mega Deals, how Artificial Intelligence will enter the Mega Deal world, how companies doing Mega Deals are organized, which KPIs are used by sales and marketing teams doing Mega Deals, how you do lead generation when 5% hit rate is not ok...but +70% is required or how to work with Cliff hangers in Mega Deals.
[Editor’s Note: You can read articles by Engman on each of those topics by clicking the links.]
Q: It sounds like we’ll have to have more conversations like this.
Find out how Membrain can help you win more Mega Deals by scheduling a demo.
About Christopher Engman
Christopher is running sales and marketing at Climeon, a global fast growing cleantech company. Prior to Climeon Christopher founded 3 tech companies of which the last one is Vendemore. Vendemore is one of the leaders in Account Based Marketing with 150+ Fortune 2000 companies as clients. Christopher is an international speaker in marketing and sales conferences with the speciality in Mega Deals (very large B2B deals). Christopher is a part time politician, has been CIO for a large retailer and has written a book about forecasting of the Swedish state budget.