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Secrets of a Top Enterprise Sales Strategist

Sharon Gillenwater
by Sharon Gillenwater on Mar 12, 2014 12:43:00 PM

How “Last Mile” Research Can Help You Close Deals—and Save Your Skin

Ned Daubney is the type of secret weapon every sales team wishes they had. For more than two decades he has been “the man behind the curtain,” so-to-speak, empowering top sales performers at companies like Dell, Cisco, Genuity and IBM. Ned provides critical insight that helps sales pros prep for meetings with executives from their most important strategic accounts.

Screen Shot 2014 03 12 at 9.51.34 AMNed describes his work as “last mile” research. In a nutshell, he helps sales connect the dots between a customer’s strategy and the solutions that the company can provide.

Ned contacted us recently to talk about how Boardroom Insiders is supporting his work—and he even offered to share some of his secrets and lessons learned. So we asked Ned to write an article for our newsletter, which follows below:

How to Actively Apply Boardroom Insiders Research to Executive Briefings

By Ned Daubney, Last Mile Research

The Information Age is both a gift and a burden. You still need to intelligently apply what you find.

Working with top executive briefing programs, we have found that taking the time to connect good research with specific customer opportunities – and sharing it with all discussion leaders, absolutely drives a more customized and successful executive briefing.

While Boardroom Insiders filters and fine-tunes customer intelligence, I map it to specific opportunities (or account plans) and help sales teams thoughtfully exploit what they know.

Over the years our work has not only added value to executive briefings, we have also helped sales teams avoid potentially embarrassing situations. Of course, we have also seen a few epic fails when the homework did not get done. Here are some tips—along with examples of how we helped sales teams “connect the dots.”

Tip 1: Use information about your customers to help “break the ice” as we did in this case:

  • Three executives from a Salt Lake City organization were visiting a vendor.  I stumbled upon the perfect ice-breaker when I found out that two of the three were on the upcoming Summer Olympics organizing committee.  Clearly these Olympics were a source of pride. So I invited one of our product managers who had actually skated in a prior Olympics. By the time we sat down for the meeting, everyone had a smile on their face. A powerfully applied nugget of personal information can make a big difference.

Tip 2: Understand the context in which your decision makers are operating.  “Last mile” research can—and should—shape your strategy for each customer, as it did in this case:

  • A leading IT outsourcing firm selling ERP services to a large chemical firm tweaked its strategy after research found that the firm’s new CIO had no formal IT education, had just been hired away from a much smaller firm, and that her last ERP implementation was now failing miserably. Her new CEO had publicly promoted his new ERP plan and his new CIO as its champion. Based on this intelligence, the firm decided to position its ERP outsourcing service as a way to the take the load off her back, and even more delicately – as a way to save her job.

Tip 3: Thoroughly research your company’s own history with a customer to avoid embarrassing oversights. In this case, our research averted a negative outcome:

  • A new sales team preparing for an executive briefing with a CIO had no idea that less than two years earlier he had presented at their own sales conference. The topic of his videotaped speech, which could be found online, was: “How I prefer sales people to approach and sell to me”

Tip 4: Always do your homework. Unfortunately, I have been at the table when, for whatever reason, no one did. These are painful lessons—don’t let this happen to you:

  • At a customer briefing, the CIO of mid-size manufacturer asked the sales team if anyone was familiar with his firm’s business strategy. After an awkward silence, he dejectedly explained their strategy. It was clear that this deal was already lost.
  • A state government CIO told me how frustrated she was with IT vendors’ lack of preparation. She now insists that vendors understand her strategy and initiatives before they walk in her door. “This is public information”, she says. “Find it”.

You can’t make these things up – there are hidden sales information roadmaps everywhere. Take the information and map it to your opportunity.

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Sharon Gillenwater
Written by Sharon Gillenwater
Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, which maintains an extensive database of the most in-depth executive profiles on the market, from Fortune 500 companies to independent non-profits, to help sales and marketing professionals build deeper relationships and close more deals with clients. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.

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