How to Use an SAP to Turn the Sales Process into a Buying Process
by Melissa Rogozinski, Chief Executive Officer
A version of this article first appeared in the March 22, 2022 issue of Law.com.
LegalWeek 2022 was great! We were all so happy to get back together in person, visiting with former colleagues and friends and meeting new ones face-to-face for the first time. The exhibit hall showcased exciting advances in technology, several new companies and the next generation of legal technology sales professionals.
One-week, post-conference, the hype and energy has waned. We’re tired and back in our offices with lots of prospects and potential new clients in our CRMs. As we begin our follow-up process, what is really the best route to converting conference conversations into contracts?
Let me to tell you a true story. Years ago when I sold court reporting, a new client (Terry McCarthy of Lightfoot, Franklin & White in Birmingham, Alabama) invited me to lunch a few weeks after our initial discovery meeting. It was the first time in my career that a client picked up the tab.
After the waiter took our order, Terry asked me:
Terry: “Do you know why I chose to do business with you instead of your competitor?”
Me: “Because I was able to demonstrate to you how our great technology saves you time and money and makes you more profitable.”
Terry: “No. It’s because when you walked into my office, you knew more about me than I knew about myself.”
Terry’s statement forever changed the way I sell legal products and services.
How did I win his business? I prepared. He took a meeting with me based on the referral of other partners at his firm – but he was only willing to give me twenty minutes. There was no time to waste. Prior to our meeting, I researched everything I could find about him: his bio, practice areas, federal and state court cases, case action summary sheets and leveraged all of that to determine where his need was greatest – which was also the best opportunity to provide our services to him.
When I walked in, I took off my watch and laid it on the table and stated, “You’ve given us twenty minutes, so I’d like to share with you what I know about you, your cases, your needs and ask you to fill in any gaps I’ve missed.” Fifteen minutes into the meeting, I stopped and asked him, “What questions do you have for me?”
He insisted that I continue, and we discussed his cases and needs for our services for a full hour.
THAT is how I won his business.
One of the most important tools in a sales executive’s belt is an SAP (Strategic Account Plan). It takes time and effort to conduct the research, put it together and identify the prospect’s pain points, but the return on investment is one of the surest ways to secure an appointment, engage new business and drive revenue.
“Having spoken to literally hundreds of thousands of account executives, I can tell you that the best sales people drill deep and execute off of strategic account plans. Walking into a key account without a strategy is a fool’s errand,” observes Rich Rosen, SaaS Sales and Executive Recruiter at Cornerstone Search. “Strategic account plans allow you to quickly attack a company’s problems and gives you a chance to educate the customer. Your buyer doesn't want to be sold; she wants to learn from you as an expert in a niche that her company’s resources may not cover.”
The following SAP process has helped RPC Strategies secure discovery meetings 100% of the time.
1. Critical Components. There are eight critical components to a well-prepared SAP about your prospect: lead qualification, financials and funding, leadership and key stakeholders, products and services, competitors, business objectives, pain points and an assessment on how your solutions help the prospect overcome the hurdles to reach their goals.
2. Lead Qualification. The first step in writing an SAP is to make sure the lead is appropriately qualified, so you aren’t wasting anyone’s time. BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Time), CHAMP (Challenges, Authority, Money, Prioritization) and MEDICC (Metrics, Economic buyer, Decision criteria, Decision process, Identifying pain, Champions) are three of the most common methodologies for qualifying leads.
3. Research Resources. For information on financials, funding, leadership and key stakeholders, tools like ZoomInfo, Crunchbase, Seamless.ai, 6sense and LinkedIn Sales Navigator provide reliable insight. Developing an in-depth understanding of the prospect’s products, services and competitors can be discovered through their marketing channels, like websites and social media accounts. Your prospect’s business objectives can be identified by researching press releases, news and any pre-meeting conversations you may have had with the prospect.
4. Pain Points. A thoroughly researched SAP should reveal the obstacles hindering your prospect from being able to reach their own business goals. Carefully align your solutions with three to five of your prospect’s pain points. Articulate that message into a personal, tailored email and make sure to suggest two or three dates and times for a thirty-minute discovery meeting.
5. Solution Buying. Prepare for the discovery meeting with “how” and “what” questions to encourage dialogue that confirms or refutes your research and provides additional information not otherwise available. Listen – let them do the talking – and they will often lead themselves to your solution. “You are spot on about my pain points.” “I feel heard.” When your prospect makes comments like this during your discovery meetings, you are no longer selling. Your prospect is buying.
What doesn’t the prospect do well? What market opportunity exists that may not be apparent to them yet? Find out all you can, document it in your SAP, and use that information to tailor your outreach and follow-ups. Harness the knowledge gained through your SAP strategies along with the power of technology to leave no room for “No” at the deal table.