My Greatest Sale: How a $15K account turned into $800,000
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My Greatest Sale: How a $15K account turned into $800,000

Editor’s note: Greatest Sales are true accounts of how successful salespeople closed the deal despite sales objections, buyer inertia, cutthroat competition and other obstacles. Steve Von Hoene, President of Journey Learning LLC in Cincinnati, tells how he once won a major upsell by targeting his presentation to his toughest critic.

We were doing about $15,000 a year with a large client. One day they notified us that they planned to consolidate their sales training with one vendor.

Our largest competitor already had about 60% of the client’s business. We had about 6%.

Everyone assumed Goliath would run away with the business. The client had a big investment in their system. Would they really want to lose that investment and start over?

Meet the committee
The buying committee chose three finalists – Goliath, us and one other vendor. The decision, they said, would come down to a “bake-off.” Each team would have 2 hours to present. Then the committee would decide – winner take all.

After we’d presented, we thought we’d won, judging from committee members’ questions and body language. Then we got the results. Vendor #2 was out. And between us and Goliath, they told us, it was a tie.

A tie? How could that be?

Our contact told us the truth. We’d won on the merits. But people on the committee who’d worked with Goliath claimed they’d had a bad day and deserved another shot.

Fair? Of course not. But the buyers had set the rules – and could change them if they want to.

This time around, we were determined to get a clean win. We considered each member of the committee. One in particular – let’s call her Jennifer – had stood out when we’d presented before. She wasn’t the highest ranking person in the room. And she wasn’t on our side. In fact, she’d been one of those lobbying for the do-over.

And when we’d presented, she’d been downright rude. She came late and multitasked during our presentation. She hardly seemed to be paying attention.

But when we got to the Q&A, she’d asked the best questions – detailed, technical, and insightful.

The linchpin
We concluded that Jennifer was the linchpin, and that the others would follow her lead. So this time we decided to sell to Jennifer.

She was obviously devoted to the details, so we dove in. We offered a step-by-step plan of how we would transition them from Goliath’s program to our own. As we’d hoped, Jennifer had lots of questions – which gave us even more opportunities to discuss the details. Others asked questions too, but Jennifer was in command.

This time the decision was swift. Goliath fell, and we got the entire account – worth nearly $250,000.

It gets better. We’d been right about Jennifer. She was the linchpin. She became our main contact and one of our biggest advocates. A year later, she took a job at a much larger firm. There, she soon hired us – with no bake-off this time – for a contract worth $800,000!

Here’s one lesson I learned from my Greatest Sale: Identify and sell to the most knowledgeable person in the room. If you can win over the linchpin, the others will likely follow.

Contact Steve Von Hoene at (513) 236-5757 ;

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