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Lessons from ‘El Chapo’ – 5 Hidden Tips and Tricks for Closing 80 Percent of Your Sales

I’m known as a Jail-Breaker. This provided us with a talking point when I attended the National Speakers Association conference recently…

In case you have not been following the international news, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has become the USA’s most wanted man following his audacious escape from a high security prison. It is alleged that a $5 million tunnel was built under his cell over the 12 months prior to his escape. At the time of going to press, at least 7 prison officers were released from their positions.

Local commentary indicated that this escape would have cost closer to $20 million when you consider that a number of people may have been paid off for their services and involvement with this escape.

So, how does El Chapo’s escape relate to growing sales leadership and making more profit? Well, just like his tunnel, there are 5 hidden tips and tricks for closing 80% of your sales that I’d like to write about today.

  1. Know Your Clients Inside Out

    I suspect that El Chapo spent time researching the prison guards and other inmates who could help him execute his daring escape. He would have needed to know their motivations and understand the value that they would require to get involved with his escape.

    How well do you understand your clients? Have you taken the time to understand their requirements and relate that to both soft and hard benefits that your solution or service can offer?

    When it comes to successful sales, there needs to be a cultural fit between both organisations. Are you taking the time to understand this and articulate this internally and can you confidently identify the relationships that key decision-makers have with your competitors?

  2. Don’t Underestimate the Cost of Sale

    People are speculating that the overall cost for El Chapo to break out of prison could be as much as 5 times the cost of building the tunnel. What you have to remember is that for any significant sales opportunity, you will be undertaking a marathon – not a sprint!

    The key here is to pace yourself. Make sure that you set a realistic expectation on the decision-making process within your client’s environment. It is not unusual to receive a Request for Pricing (RFP) that defines milestones and key deliverables within the evaluation process. For the most part, the front-end deliverable is the date and time that your response needs to be lodged or submitted. For many organisations, this is becoming a fixed timeframe that cannot be shifted.

    There are two things for you to consider here. The first is whether or not you have enough resources to enable you to meet that timeframe. In many cases, if your proposal arrives 10 minutes late, you could be automatically disqualified!

    Add some ‘fat factor’ into your planning and try to finish your documentation a full 24 hours prior to your ‘absolute-drop-dead’ time when the proposal needs to be couriered out. This can help you cater for some last-minute unforeseen circumstances that could derail you.

    Secondly, assume that the evaluation timeframes detailed in the RFP will probably extend significantly. Therefore, be prepared to have your experts on call for an extended period to account for this. After all, you don’t want an ‘expert witness’ to be out of town on the day that their testimony can condemn or reprieve a plaintiff!

  3. Identify Your “Inside Man” (a.k.a. Key Stakeholders)

    There’s no doubt in my mind that El Chapo didn’t break out of prison by himself. He needed help. Securing a sale has a similar requirement… you’ll need help from the ‘inside.’

    Chart out the key stakeholders and quantify their position – are they pro, against or undetermined in their support for you and your solution?

    As described earlier, make sure that you know of any relationships that they might have with competitors (especially if there is a bloodline relationship). This becomes one of the most common reasons that organisations lose sales. A decision to award the contract is not made on the merits of your solution, its cost-effectiveness, return on investment or features and benefits. It is awarded because a cousin or an in-law is connected to the senior executive that you didn’t have a relationship with.

  4. Ensure That You Are Aligned with Other Suppliers

    According to the Wall Street Journal, nearly 14 months before El Chapo escaped from his maximum-security cell through a tunnel, one of his Sinaloa Cartel lieutenants broke out of another prison in the same way.

    The bigger the sale, the more important it is to have a solid sales team surrounding you.

    In today’s age of complex solutions, you will invariably have other suppliers’ products and services intertwined with yours. Demonstrate the compatibility between your organisations and make sure that there is clear visibility that you are aligned. If possible, share a documented process flow that will give your clients security in the knowledge that escalation paths and service level agreements are in place should anything unforeseen go wrong!

  5. Don’t Leave Any Stone Unturned

    It was reported in TIME that at least 7 people – including Librado Carmona Garcia, the head of the maximum security prison Guzman had been housed in – have been arrested.

    A sales proposal needs to go through a similar thorough evaluation of the client, their relationships and potential stumbling blocks of political alliances that could stop the sale.

    You might want to make sure that you use a sales planning tool like the Target Account Selling (TAS) Tool to help you map strategic individuals, relationships and alliances before, during and after the sale.

    This is a software tool that can help you map the key decision-makers, stakeholders and relationships internally and externally. Features like the ‘Political Map Express’ can help you to identify the right people, gain access, and develop support to give you a competitive advantage to win the business.

    I believe that this is one of the most critical aspects that is often overlooked in the sales process. Just by getting this right up-front, you can evaluate the realistic chances of winning the business. Even to the point of concluding that your chances of success are too slim to justify submitting a proposal.

So, take a leaf out of El Chapo’s book and ask yourself, “Have I understood all my key stakeholders, identified and neutralised my opponents, and am I willing to carry on with ‘business-as-usual’ until it is time to pull the plug and go to the next phase?”

Nsanz GSF