Every sales team has those one or two people who were probably captain of the team or squad in high school. These folks have just a bit more swagger than the rest of the group. They like to brag. Does it make them better sales people? I would argue it doesn’t, and bragging about a pipeline deal or a recent win, like most things in a social world, lasts a little longer than a tweet, but not by much. But, that swagger can be captured and repurposed if you make the effort to cultivate amazing stories of deals won and focus on timing.
Sales people know they are only as good as their next deal, and by necessity they are driven by management to be in a “what have you done for me lately?” environment. What this does is create an almost exclusively forward-looking mindset. Asking a sales person to go back and review a deal that is done goes against all their instincts. It’s unfathomable. Their long-term memory is wiped in the pursuit of the forecast they must deliver with a surgeon’s accuracy. This creates a significant challenge for us as marketers. How can you possibly develop a case study, with a sales person’s input, if when you inquire they have already moved on? The answer is simple but uncomfortable for most marketers. It requires both bravery and cunning. You must swim upstream and insert yourself into a swirling vortex of conjecture known as the sales forecast.
The approach is very straight forward. You have to go back in time to the formation of the deal. This presents some challenges for the marketer as facts here change minute to minute - not through dishonesty, but through the life of the deal. Customers change their minds, budgets shrink, project timelines move. You do, however, have to look at it. Why? Because the moment it becomes real is when it closes. At that point the clock is ticking. You have no more than a few business days (or perhaps a week) to capture the afterglow of a deal. The afterglow is the story. It’s your job as a marketer to interview the sales person informally to effectively let him brag. Allow her to show some swagger. Then and only then can you capture the full level of detail that matters. The context of the win is essential. Everything from who the heroes were (always the account managers) to the unsung heroes (which usually ends up being services).
What you don’t see on the chart is the point at which marketing cares. There was simply not enough room on the X axis for that. We as marketers care months or even years down the road. For a salesperson that might as well be decades. This is typically once the customer is successful, deployed, and willing to be a voice. During that same time the sales person has already been paid, won the sales contest, gone on the trip, got the t-shirt and come home to an increased quota. These are certain realities we must face as marketers.
As a marketer and a story teller you must be confident in moving into this world. It will plague you with constant re-writes, it will make you dizzy, and it might make you question the very fabric of reality. The moment it becomes real is the moment the cash register rings. What gives you the advantage as an observer is you have absorbed the gritty life of the deal which makes it an incredibly engaging story. Most of the time it reads like an adventure novel and the advantage is you’ve done all the pre work you need to do. The only missing piece is for someone to stamp it as real, and that is about 2 seconds after the salesperson marks the deal closed. What is absolutely essential however is that you maintain focus on that deal horizon. The afterglow exists only in the window where a salesperson can promote a win with leadership and brag but that has a shelf life somewhere close to fruit sitting on the kitchen counter.
At this stage all you have to do is hand the confident sales person a megaphone. A little hero worship goes a long way. Sit down with salesperson like you would a combat veteran and ask for stories from the front, or in our case the edge. In the fast paced world of sales you don’t get these opportunities all the time and they only live in the afterglow. Luckily for you having invested the time, you watched the deal be born, grow up and move out of the basement into the “wins” column. Why do all this? In the end behind every great case study that took months or years to develop, shoot and publish is the real story. The behind the scenes story of how it really happened. Those are the best stories.