The 4 P's of Enterprise Selling

With due respect to the time-tested 4 P’s of Marketing (Product, Place, Price and Promotion), it’s time to lay out and articulate the 4 P’s of Selling, particularly for business-to-business enterprise selling environments. This is especially important today given the mix of young Millennials and seasoned veteran salespeople in today’s sales organizations. Let us reset on common ground with an eye toward the changing sales landscape and areas of shifting sand.

A New Look at 4 Disciplines4Ps
These 4 P’s (Planning, Prospecting, Presenting and Proposing) move along the well-worn spectrum of the selling process yet today it is necessary to highlight the critical junctures and pivot points that must be skillfully understood and navigated in complex enterprise selling.

Anything less than crisp and tight management here leads to stalled, missed, or lost opportunities. As we’re seeing the blurring of lines and undisciplined approaches in a variety of sales organizations, it’s time to reset and highlight marketplace dynamics and these essential disciplines.

    1. Planning – If left to their own, a vast majority of sales reps will only conduct cursory planning. By planning, I mean Territory Plans: quota achievement Forecasting, breakdown and prioritization by Product/Industry segment, Marketing/New Business/Pipeline Development Initiatives, Key Account Strategies, Top X Opportunities, Top X Prospects, 30-60-90 Day Action Plan. That’s at the macro Territory level. At the Deal or Opportunity level I mean Account/Opportunity Plans: Qualification Checklists and Strategies for determining Business Value, Target Relationships, Solution Development and Evaluation (Demo, Trial, Proof of Concept), Competitive Positioning, and a viable Closing Plan. These need to be adjusted for size and scope of target.

    2. Prospecting – While cold-calling may be passé (all calls should actually be warm calls at some level), that’s no excuse to shy away from the most feared word in sales: Prospecting. Get over it. Salespeople who know how to prospect for new business are the winners today. Of course driving new leads/business involves LinkedIn, Chat Groups, Facebook, Twitter, etc., but it’s not so much about the Tools, it’s about the activity level and quality of execution. Combined with a good territory game plan, this second critical fundamental is key to the flow of the Funnel. It all starts with identification and initial reach out, touch and first conversations with leads and prospects.

    3. Presenting – Here’s where deals often get derailed. There is actually a huge transition from P2 and P3. After the identification of a Lead/Prospect, qualified Opportunities must be determined involving effective probing questioning and a qualification process that is actually two-way focused as both the salesperson and the customer learn and determine if it makes sense to continue through the sales/buying process. Broadly termed Discovery, and may include everything from preliminary demonstrations and technical reviews to executive whiteboard conversations and ROI analyses, this “P” includes the positioning and “presentation” of the problem, product/solution, and your company while deftly uncovering and validating the prospect’s objectives, situation and perspective on the presented topic. This is the deepest and richest part of the selling effort. Giving short shrift here is what proves to be fatal. If a deal appears to stall or not close or is lost, it invariably is not because the salesperson was not a “good closer,” rather it is because the rep failed in the area of Presenting the message, value proposition, and positioning of their solution and company. How to optimize the skillful maneuvering through this “P” is where the critical action is today. We spend most our time here.

    4. Proposing – This final key is moving toward closure of a deal, the delivery of a comprehensive proposal and working through negotiations and final terms and conditions. The denouement of enterprise selling, as it were. After the culmination of a strong qualification and discovery phase, including deft and tailored presentation of the value message and solution, then it remains to package and deliver the engagement/solution strategy in a way that is compelling vs. competition and other objections one’s raised up along that way. Control of the proposal delivery and the aftermath is what separates the top performers from the mediocre. There is still an art of gamesmanship here in the communication of value delivered thus far and from this point forward. The customer is watching closely. The best salespeople orchestrate from this point carefully and generously as they convey the company, team and service levels with which both customer and vendor will agree to align.

While resembling a sales process flow, the 4 P’s of Selling actually really represent the necessary key fundamental disciplines in enterprise sales. Planning dictates priorities, direction and focus. Prospecting proactively pushes aside fear and engages right targets and fills the funnel. Presenting encompasses all skills required to effectively engage, qualify and discover while delivering a compelling story and proof that draws in and intrigues the prospect to continue the dialogue and pull in other appropriate stakeholders. Finally, Proposing is the management of the delivering and closing out of what has been so carefully laid out in the selling effort.

As we say, sales is not rocket science, but it’s not ABC simple either. A focus on the 4 P’s is great guidance, particularly in handling complex enterprise sales in this new era.