I was excited. I was enthralled. I was elated. I was feeling on top of the world. The reason for my happiness was that one of my prospects had verbally given me confirmation that they had decided to move forward with us for their sales transformation project.
I was excited because this was going to be a large sales deal for me in this organisation. I was enthralled because the hard work that I had put in for almost 6 months was about to fructify. I was elated because the confirmation came directly from the President of the customer organisation. I was feeling on top of the world because if I got this one large deal, I would complete my quota for the quarter. What else could be great news for a sales professional?
It all started 6 months back, when through a colleague I was able to connect with the President of an established software organisation. The first introductory conversation lasted only 15 minutes, but a strong platform was laid. As always, the prospect ended the conversation with, “Sir, I will get back to you once we have a requirement.”
Since it was the President of the organisation, I decided not to disturb him with my follow up calls. Instead, I sent him emails with valuable information. After a month, I got a mail from the CHRO of the organisation, requesting to have a meeting with me. At the end of the meeting, I had a feeling that the CHRO was convinced about our sales transformation services.
That was the starting point of a series of meetings with multiple stakeholders that included many CXOs. All CXOs were convinced about our solution. I along with my Managing Director were able to ensure that the customer calcuated their own ROI for the project (getting the customer to calculate ROI in their own terms helps them see the big picture and acknowledge value). I could sense that this large sales deal was in our control and favour.
The CHRO requested for a meeting with their Procurement Head, to finalise the commercials as well. What can you expect from a procurement person? You guessed it right. A discount! I had prepared well for the meeting and could clearly establish the value that they would realise through the project. I came out of the meeting with minimal damage (generally salespeople come out with many wounds and scars after meeting with procurement). He assured me that within a week or 10 days, they would release the purchase order. It was one of the most memorable meetings I had ever had.
The final proposal was sent and I went into a dream world. I started calculating the incentives and commission amount that I would get. I even went one step ahead in terms of planning how to distribute this money amongst a few lenders from whom I had borrowed money!
After 10 days, when I followed up with procurement, there was a cold response. That was the first negative vibe that I sensed. After a few days, I reached out to the main sponsor of the project, the CHRO – cold response from him too. Days and weeks passed but there was no news from the customer. Time kills deals and desparation started to set in. The end of the quarter was fast approaching and so were the money lenders.
We finally got the news that the software company had got a new investor and they had put on hold all upcoming projects and investments. This included our project as well.
It was a big jolt for me. My dreams came crashing down. I went from feeling on “Top of the World” to abysmal depression.
Why did the deal not fructify? What mistake did I commit?
When I did an analysis, I realised that:
- The basic qualification criteria of BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timelines) was fulfilled.
- Budget was not an issue. B ticked ✅
- My first conversation was with the top most man – the president. If he says yes, who can say no? His blessings were there. So, Authority was not an issue. A ticked ✅
- There was a Need and the client confirmed and established this themselves. N ticked ✅
- The prospect defined the Timelines. T ticked ✅
- I had also mapped all the critical stakeholders and managed all of them throughout the 6 month period.
- The value proposition was done correctly.
- I approached the Cost vs. Investment angle clearly.
- I ensured that the prospect calculated the value (There is a saying – If I say it, it is sold. If the customer says it, it is gold).
- At the end of our call, the procurement team was satisfied.
All roads were clear. There were no red flags. But then, why could I not qualify the deal?
The Hidden Authority
After much pondering, I realized an important mistake that I had committed while progressing the large deal. While I was focusing on all parameters of BANT, I didn’t realize that it was actually BAANT that I should have been focusing on. You may wonder what is this additional “A” in BAANT. It is the “Hidden Authority”.
As the word suggests, the hidden authority is always hidden. It could be a PE firm or a large firm which is looking out for acquisitions. It could even be the Board, which the Presidents of organisations are answerable to.
What can you do in this situation?
You may ask, “What could you have done in this situation, as it was not in your control?”
- I could have mapped the new investor as well.
- Since I don’t have direct access to this hidden A, I could have worked with the main Authority on how to convince this hidden A.
- I would not have projected this large sales deal to my management for that quarter.
In most cases, the “Authority” will decide the deal. But in some cases, especially large deals, we should be looking out for the “Hidden Authority”, who may swing the deal.
Remember, if you map and manage the Hidden Authority, it will be a gold mine. This Hidden Authority might be serving many other organisations and they may get you many more large deals.
How do we find the hidden A?
During the sales conversation, when you ask for commitment from the main Authority, watch out for their response. If they do not give you a convincing answer, there are chances that they are waiting for a green signal from the Hidden Authority. It is time to start planning on how to reach the hidden authority.
How do we access and convince this hidden authority?
Most of the time, we cannot access the Hidden Authority without a ‘go ahead’ from the main Authority. Remember, this main Authority is also a human being and is longing for appreciation and recognition. A smart sales professional will identify this and explain how the project / deal will help him gain recognition from the hidden authority. Once this is clearly established, it is a lot more easy to access the hidden authority and convince him.
While ordinary salepeople will reach upto the first A, i.e, Authority, it is the elite set of extraordinary salespeople, who will somehow access the second A, i.e, “Hidden Authority”. Hence BANT alone is not enough to qualify the deal, it is BAANT.
Don’t forget the hidden authority!