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What Every Salesperson Should Know about the Language of Deal Making By Tom Searcy and Henry DeVries


Warren Buffett, the world’s greatest dealmaker, has two rules when making big deals: “Rule Number 1: Never lose money. Rule Number 2: Never forget rule Number 1.”

Money is definitely an important part of the language of deal making. Do you speak in the terms of a big deal? Most sales people don’t often think of language as being an issue between them and their prospects. But to land a big deal with the C suite, it definitely is.

Why? Two reasons:

– You’ll sell one or more steps up on the organization chart of your prospect, at the senior executive level to win your bigger deals. This means that they see their problems in different language terms.

– You get sent to whom you sound like. If you speak the language of feature/benefit or pain/solution, you will be directed down the organization chart and working with you will be delegated to a level at which your biggest deals do not get made.

Executive prospects used to have budgets set in advance for those goods and service needed. In those days you would go into their offices and say something to the effect of, “You’re buying X number of widgets from my competitor. You should buy those widgets from me now because mine are better, they’re less expensive, I handle my inventory more efficiently, and I provide services they can’t match.”

Even more, you had the advantage of a “heads-up” against any existing competition out there. You probably sold your product or service using the following:

– Advantages your product or service brings to the prospects

– Relieving prospects’ pain

– Your special features

– Superiority of your methods.

– Prospects’ issues with former vendors.

– Words like Quality, Service, Capacity, Innovation, On Time Delivery, Guarantees, etc.

And these characteristics are important—to the department manager whose responsibility is to serve as the gatekeeper for the department. Managers are expected to check and double-check all the characteristics you offer as evidence of your solution strength. If they don’t, they lose their jobs.

But now you’re going to sell to higher-level company deal makers, the kind that occupy the C level suites. Since they delegated matters of service, quality, and price to the department manager, they have no interest in hearing about those matters.

Talk About Money, Time and Risk

In our book How to Close a Deal Like Warren Buffett we talk about why big deal makers want to hear about Money, Time, and Risk. This is the language of big deals. Different deal. Different prospects. Therefore, different language.

That doesn’t mean you have to repeat those exact three words in every other sentence. It means you translate your solution descriptions into terms that clearly relay what is of most interest to your prospect. Here’s how it works…

When you mention the quality of your products and services, what do you really mean? If you’re talking about all your certifications of quality, while they’re important, they aren’t what the executives want to hear.

It isn’t that they don’t care about quality. Of course they do. But for higher-level executives, their concern about quality takes a different form.

What does high quality mean to high-level executives? From their perspective, if they do a deal with you and you have high quality products, what do they get? The answer is as simple as A, B, C:

A. Money

– More repeat purchases from their customers

– Reduced waste in production

– Ability to price their products or services above those of their competition

B. Time

– Trust that you will meet deadlines

– Fewer hours spent in dealing with customer complaints

– Quicker installation guaranteed to their customers

C. Risk

– Less risk they can’t meet their deadlines

– Less risk their products or services won’t work correctly

– Greater customer confidence

Sales people need to emphasize, and even quantify, the above kinds of pluses to your solution for C suite executive problems. Saying you have high quality products or services doesn’t do you any good. Showing how those can be translated into money, time, and risk for the senior executives will give you a much better push toward landing your next big deal.
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Former CEOs Tom Searcy and Henry DeVries, co-authors of the McGraw-Hill book How to Close a Deal Like Warren Buffett, are experts on key account sales strategy. With his sales strategy company Hunt Big Sales, Tom has helped clients land more than $5 billion in deals. The ex-head of an Ad Age 500 agency, Henry is on the marketing faculty and is the assistant dean of continuing education at the Univ. of Calif. San Diego.

-what are your thoughts on the ideas above?