Plant the flag

If you’re spending too much time waiting and hoping your prospect will buy, it’s time to ‘plant the flag’. Christian Lund, Founder of Templafy, shows us how.

Last month we staged our 4th Sales Confidence live event at the Salesforce Tower in London. 100 SaaS devotees gathered to hear 4 of London’s most knowledgeable founders and sales leaders share their secrets. If you couldn’t make it, we’re producing a series of articles covering all the talks, so you can still share in the knowledge.

Our 3rd speaker was Christian Lund. Christian is Founder and CPO of Templafy, a company changing the game in on-brand document production. Most of their clients are enterprise level companies, where deals often get bogged down in bureaucracy and chains of command. Luckily, there’s a method to alleviate these delays. It’s called ‘planting the flag’.

Why?

Here’s how Christian explained why you need to change the sales process a little to achieve results when selling to enterprises.

‘When you’re a salesperson and you get good feedback from a customer, you’re like ‘YES!’ Then you realise you’re super-far from the deal being done. You need to do all kinds of stakeholder management. We’ve invested I don’t know how much time going into businesses, following paths, whatever. Nothing ever comes out of it.’

‘Then, we thought, what happens if we try to change things a little bit? That’s when we introduced a concept we call ‘plant the flag’.

The concept

There are 5 steps around ‘planting the flag’, but they all centre around one concept.

‘If you have a customer where we can see there is perceived solution fit, there is interest from the customer, and they have the right needs that we can solve from a customer perspective. That’s where we flip the scene a little a bit.’

‘We tell them, ‘Listen. No way in hell are we ever going to sell anything to you unless we prove that this is something that’ll work for you. It has to work from both a technical perspective and a functional perspective. It has to solve your direct needs.’

The customer is naturally very pleased with this upfront assertion. The rest of the process follows on from this premise.

Step 1 – How we do the deal

The next steps of the process involves getting the customer to agree that once you can prove your product works for them, you can close the deal.

First off, you need to find out how a deal gets done in that particular enterprise.

‘The next thing we say is ‘First, we need to know where you are in terms of timeline. Are you at a stage right now where we can get a deal through the company, including procurement, and actually put a date on when we can close the deal?’

Step 2 – Budget

The next step is assessing whether they have the budget available to make the deal.

‘We need to agree on what this will cost if we go ahead. After we make the investment with the Proof of Concept (POC), we need to know that the deal can go forward.’

You don’t need to set a figure in stone at this stage, you can agree to revisit it later at the procurement stage. You do, however, need to agree on a ballpark cost. It makes no sense to put time an effort into the POC if the client then turns around and says that it doesn’t fit their budget.

Step 3 – Agree on criteria and date

This is the part where, having agreed on a timeline and budget, you get some commitment. You still don’t want any vagueness at this stage, however. Strict, measurable criteria need to be drawn up and enforced.

‘We will line up very specific things against their requirements, so we can say, ‘Does it work?’, or, ‘Does it not work?’ We will condense it into 2 weeks.’

Once you have agreed on criteria, budget and timeline, that’s when you can confidently put all the time, effort, manpower and investment into providing your customer with the best POC possible and closing the deal.

Step 4 – POC

This should be the easy part if you have done the first 3 steps correctly, and your product solves the problems you thought it did.

Run the POC and show your customer its worth.

Step 5 – Close the deal!

‘When we do this we never, ever, lose a deal. It’s been groundbreaking for us. It’s a process everyone can follow.’

Advantages of ‘plant the flag’

‘Plant the flag’ works because it’s so positive. By employing this method you’re showing confidence in your product and its capacity to meet your customer’s needs. You’re also showing empathy with your customer, that you’re not just after their money, you want to make their lives easier.

From your point of view, you get to crystallise the likelihood of closing a deal. No more ‘happy ears’, only hard evidence and mutual agreement. This means you get to use your time more efficiently.

Customers are also impressed that you are taking control of the sales process. You’re setting the terms rather than waiting for them to take the lead.

Final tip

Christian’s final tip was to get specialists at different stages of the ‘planting the flag’ process, rather than having one person take it from start to finish.

‘Some that are really good at setting up the first interaction and lead gen, some that are good at conversion, some that will work with the company for nearly a year, doing the stakeholder mapping, then finally someone who knows how to structure the processes to close the deal.’

It’s a novel idea which is bearing fruit for Templafy. However, we want to know what you think? Have you ever used ‘plant the flag’ or a similar method? What unorthodox methods do you use to hurry up the deal-making process? We’d love to know. Leave us a comment to share your tips with the Sales Confidence community.

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