How To Work With Vendors For Long-Lead Sales

It's a dream sale: Valued at more than $1 million, this IT sales opportunity is lucrative, and it showcases what your firm is really good at. Not only will it be exciting to work on, but it will also be a star in your portfolio. The only concern? Getting it to all run smootly. Jay Miller, worldwide vice president of Channel Sales and Alliances at Crossbeam Systems, offers suggestions on how to move the sale from to move the deal from handshake to final payment.

When such an IT sales opportunity take more than 12 months to close, technology vendors and solution providers must work harmoniously together to successfully win the deal. When approaching a long-lead sales opportunity, there are several aspects a VAR or integrator must be aware of when evaluating vendors to work with on a project. Not only does “closing the deal” require many meetings and conversations, but it also needs to be managed properly from both sides. Making sure you choose the “right” vendor is just the first step.

Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when trying to close that $1 million-plus sale.

1. Look for a good project manager

With several moving parts to be aware of, project management is the #1 skill a sales person needs to have in order to be successful. A detail-oriented project manager is critical as he/she will need to do everything from scoping out the customer needs to managing the design and implementation process to guiding everyone through a successful proof of concept. As the VAR, this role is particularly important since the vendor will likely rely on your experience with the customer to help navigate the often muddy waters of internal politics, figure out who owns the budget for various projects, identify and develop key executive relationships, and help drive the sale from the beginning through the final sign offs.

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2. Work together on budgetary concerns through proof of concept

In terms of budgetary implications, you and the project manager should collaborate to scope out any budgetary implications or limitations. That may be the most important part of the process, as you need to work with the customer to identify if they can afford the solution(s) you are looking to provide them. No one wants to waste time having countless meetings for six months if the solution you’re offering is over-priced or simply too complex for their needs.

Once you have determined if you can move forward with the agreed upon costs, work with your vendor to develop the proof of concept. While this may be the shortest stage of the process, it can actually yield the most insight into how the deal is moving. At this point, you can tell if things are moving in your favor and where others may fall in the competition.

3. Create a good relationship with the customer

Even if the vendor is taking the lead during the process, this doesn’t mean you should sit idly by. As the VAR, you need to think of yourself as an invaluable connection between the vendor and the customer. It is paramount that you showcase the value you provide during each interaction. Work to develop relationships all the way to the C-suite, because when the sale reaches its final stages, you will be at your most vulnerable. If purchasing has decided to put your project out to bid – as auctions have become an increasingly popular way to reduce costs – you could be quickly left out in the cold. However, if you’ve become close to the key stakeholders, just one call down to purchasing could stop the bid before it starts. Relationships are everything, and if you haven’t succeeded in demonstrating the value you deliver, purchasing will only be too happy to hand the deal to the lowest bidder.

4. Protect your interests

Find a (vendor) partner that can protect your interests. Vendors with programs that allow the VAR to register deals will almost automatically protect your stake in the project, allowing you to provide a lower discount and deliver more services to the customer. This will help bridge goodwill among all parties.

While it appears the vendor may be in the driver seat most of the time, that isn’t always the case. When end of quarter comes, the vendor may turn to you to help close the deal. This is where you have the edge. If you have already worked with a customer and have greater knowledge of how they work in terms of approvals and purchasing power, the vendor will rely on your expertise to quickly close the deal, making it a profitable quarter for everyone.

In the end, the technology vendor and the VAR are involved in a long, drawn out, highly circuitous road to win a deal when it comes to large enterprise sales. Success in the long sales cycle depends on creating tight relationships with everyone involved, bringing your strengths to the table, and making sure you are always balancing the many moving parts to the sale, at every stage of the process. Finally, it’s about showing value to the customer – as a VAR or a vendor, you need to demonstrate why you are the only one for the job who will support their needs into the future.

And a little patience and persistence couldn’t hurt either