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Deal drivers are the things that your prospect (and marketplace) has articulated as being of greatest importance in making a buying decision. It may be price, ease-of-use, performance, support, or a range of other factors. It’s important to note that the deal drivers are very different than requirements; these are the desires of either the company or the specific buyer with which you are dealing.

Bob Apollo, founder if the UK-based marketing group Infusion-Point, agrees that knowing your buyer’s mindset is vital to complex sales. The buyer’s mindset – of which Bob outlines four – will “result in dramatically different behaviours as they conduct their search for a solution.”

In other words, in order to make the sale, you need to know what’s driving the purchase.

What are deal drivers?

The deal drivers are those things external to the problem of the solution being discussed. Your prospect may come to you and say their endgame is to grow by 7.5%. That’s the endgame of the company – but you need to ask why that prospect is coming to you. Are there jobs on the line? Is the company about to be sold? Has the company been sold already?

The thing is, the deal could have less to do with jet engines (for example) and much more to do with the decision maker getting a promotion. If you don’t know what is actually driving the deal – the under-the-surface reasons for your being in the room – then you will have a much more difficult time closing the sale.

One way to figure this out is to jot down any “under-current” type statements you hear. If you hear it enough times, create a Venn diagram of the top three. The point of intersection is your hot spot – the thing you, as a salesperson, can focus on.

To help you decipher deal drivers, think of them as being in three categories. Deal drivers can be motivated by…

Political Reasons: Promotions, internal company dynamics, etc.
Marketplace Reasons: Technology, marketshare, etc.
Ownership Reasons: Company sold, merger, etc.

Notice that deal drivers aren’t requirements. They usually aren’t even the endgame.  It’s a lot more personal and emotional than the endgame. It’s one of the only times in sales that we can say, “It’s not business. It’s personal.”

Proceed With Caution

If your offering cannot deliver on the deal drivers, either the customer will change their fundamental criteria or your organization will need to adjust its target market. This seems obvious in hindsight, but the remains of companies who ignored this simple principle litter the marketing landscape.

And it’s true – sometimes it’s obvious that your offering won’t resonate with the buyer’s deal drivers – but if that were the case, they probably wouldn’t have come to you in the first place. More than likely, they hope your offering is the solution – the gold ticket – to getting what they (personally) want. Once you figure out what it is they want, you can start to steer the conversation more deliberately.

The trick here is it has to be more subtle than “painting the picture” like you did in endgame alignment. You can’t just say, “If you go with us, I’m sure you will get a promotion.” That’s off-putting. Instead you have to say something like, “If you go with us, your sales will grow by at least 7.5%.” That lets the buyer fill in the gap as to what that does or does not mean for them.

As you move into this conversation, I have two tips to leave with you.

Be Thorough: Follow the old Greek maxim, “Know Thyself,” and know what you have to offer. Some salespeople have fallen into the trap of offering more (or less!) than they could or should because they didn’t really know what they had to offer, what their own company’s capabilities were, or how to align with a prospect’s needs. Make sure you and your salespeople know what you’re offering and all the possibilities of the product.

Be Forward-Thinking: This one is a bit tricky because it means striking a balance. Ask yourself, What sort of precedent am I setting by what I deliver? Remember that you’re going to be setting your customer’s expectations for your sales offerings, your ability to meet their deal drivers, and your willingness to change your marketing target. You can only be so flexible without tarnishing your credibility. Make sure you can deliver on your promises before you make them.

  • What else can you do to get to your clients’ “Deal Drivers” faster?
  • How have you navigated this tricky conversation in the past?

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