The benefits of brainstorming have seeped into the culture at large, straight from the marketing and sales culture where the idea originated. But these benefits only go so far. When faced with a truly daunting sales deadlock, it’s important to take it a step further. That’s where dealstorming comes in. Dealstorming is creating a multi-dimensional, cross-departmental team to broaden the chances of finding creative solutions to issues that can occur in the sales process.
In an interview with Tim Sanders, author of Dealstorming: The secret weapon that can solve your toughest sales challenges, he explained his seven-step process for dealing with any major sales deadlock.
While working as the Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo (and as a consultant for a wide range of B2B companies), Sanders realized that when sales and marketing teams come together to solve a sales challenge, they succeed far more often than when the sales team tries to handle it alone.
Below is the 7-step dealstorming process that Sanders outlined during our interview with him on the B2B Growth Show:
Before anything else can happen, you have to determine the scope of the dealstorming process.
Based on the complexity of the sales challenge and the value of the sales opportunity, how many people need to be involved?
Is this a small enough project for the Fantastic Four or should the entire Justice League be involved?
Once the size of the team is determined, it’s time to start recruiting your new power team to join the cause.
Generally, you need to ask yourself two questions when looking for team members: Who already has a stake in this project? Who are the experts?
Recognizing when a project will be beneficial for someone can make it easier to win their help, as it gives you talking points to get them on board.
Another good way to inspire people within the business is by bringing in the idea of rivalry with a major competitor. Sanders mentioned that when he was with Yahoo, he would use their competition with AOL/Time Warner to spur team members into action.
Sometimes the people available within the company may not be enough. Looking for what Sanders calls “deal mentors” from outside could be the final piece in creating a dynamite dealstorm team.
So the next step should be meeting with the team, right? Well, sort of.
Before you actually gather your team in a room to discuss the issue, you should make sure that everyone is on the same page by sending them a deal brief to outline exactly what you’re trying to accomplish.
The brief should only be around 2-3 pages so that it’s compact but contains clear information.
You’ll want to include the following: an overview of the issue, an influence map of all the major players involved, what has happened to bring you to this deadlock, any relevant current information in the news, and even individual thinking assignments to get the wheels in everyone’s heads turning.
Taking the time to prepare everyone helps keep the meeting from turning into an info dump.
Send out the brief a few days before the meeting so that the team’s ideas have time to properly incubate. If you can put a weekend in between the sending of the brief and the meeting, so much the better.
You want to find the happy medium between giving the ideas time to mature and giving the thinker so much time that they forget about the ideas all together.
Now that everyone is properly prepped, it’s time to meet up. But even the term “meeting” can be stilting. Rather, think of it as a gathering of minds.Don’t invite people to a meeting. Meetings are boring. Have a gathering instead.
An effective hack here is to have everyone meet 10 minutes before the official meeting time. This helps make sure everyone is present and social niceties are out of the way so the meeting can actually start on time.
For the first fifteen minutes or so, you’ll want to figure out what the real problem is that the team is trying to solve. Don’t assume that you know what the real issue is already. You’ll really want to get to the root of the deadlock to come up with the best solution.
The bulk of the gathering should be discussing what the next best play will be. After all, that’s really the whole point of this first meetup.
Unlike in a brainstorming session, a dealstorming meeting should look critically at ideas that are presented while everyone is still in the same room. The point is to figure out where to go from here.
This could mean combining a couple of the strongest ideas or finding the one idea that everyone can live with.
It’s important to remember that in sales situations like this, time is not on your side. That’s why the execution step is all about quick action and rapid problem-solving.
Short deadlines are important here.
One thing that can help with this is prototyping. Creating mockups or drawing out the idea for a process can help others to visualize what exactly is happening and rectify any issues quickly.
Prototyping removes some of the more abstract elements of creative thought, which can disguise problems for far too long. And you don’t have time for those kinds of problems.
There are several points to look at carefully when figuring out if a dealstorm team is working out for you.
For one thing, are you making progress on the deal? In his book, Sanders explains how he views the progress of a sales venture in terms of four levels. If you aren’t leveling up, it may be time to reconsider your approach or reevaluate the wisdom of continuing the venture at all.
It’s also important to look at externalities like collateral damage and collateral benefits that have come from the steps you’ve taken.
The dealstorm team should also be analyzed carefully. Pay attention to who had the right idea in meetings, who had the wrong idea, and how well the group listened to each. It may be necessary at this point to make changes to the team, but you won’t know unless you carefully evaluate their input and results.
This step is really all about closing the loop and making sure that everyone is on the same page. It’s important to be transparent with the team on the results of your analysis.
You’re more likely to get important feedback if you keep reporting continuously throughout the process of the deal.
Reporting is also essential for establishing best practices in future sales ventures. If something emerges from the dealstorming that turns out to be better than the regular sales process, it’s vital that you get that incorporated into the regular sales process quickly.
A study by Deeper Media showed that on average it takes 30 months for a process to get implemented across the board. Meanwhile, higher-level companies only take an average of 91 days to do this.
When confronted with a major sales deadlock, creating a collaborative team from multiple departments can help you reach new and better solutions.
Brainstorming may help to spark new ideas, but dealstorming can help you achieve more fully-formed ideas that can be put into action to solve the problem in less time.