by Mike Secor
President, Rule One Partners
most promising sales models emerging in the consulting services industry are the
Strategic Account Team Model and the Pursuit Team Model.
Both are structured to leverage the strengths of the entire organization.
Both are based on strategic selling techniques and both are focused on
the business interests and issues facing their customers and prospects.
These models can also be implemented within small, medium and large
consulting services firms. This model has proved effective in selling vertical
solutions, horizontal/functional solutions, outsourcing services and integrated
enterprise wide solutions. The
focus of this article will be on the Pursuit Team Model.
PURSUIT TEAM MODEL
pursuit team model is defined as the deployment of one or more high performance,
highly skilled, customer-focused selling teams.
It combines the elements of sales strategy, business/industry strategy,
and solution/delivery strategy to form a highly credible, value-oriented team
focused on a defined, but limited, set of new customers and prospects.
The smallest team will typically consist of an experienced sales person,
an industry/functional SME, and a Principal or Sr. Manager responsible for
project or solution delivery. Larger
teams may include both industry and functional SME’s, technology and creative
design experts, marketing/branding specialists, application specialists, etc.
The size of the teams will depend largely on the magnitude of the
opportunity, the availability of resources, and the budget established for the
cost of sales for a particular opportunity/account.
The primary responsibility of a pursuit team is to “open the door” to
a targeted strategic account with a significant, high value, high impact project
or solution. The ultimate goal of
the pursuit team is to provide such compelling value to the customer that the
team sustains project work and discovery of new opportunities for several months
and perhaps years.
first step in implementing a Pursuit Team model is to define a core set of
strategic targets. These targets should reflect business characteristics that
match up well with the “go to market” strategy and core capabilities and
experience of the firm. A
“pursuit team” is formed around each strategic target, initially consisting
of a Sales Lead and an Industry/Functional Lead. The team should expect to
conduct market research and strategic planning before the first appointments are
scheduled. This up-front, detailed
planning will help the teams identify what high priority business issues the
prospect is faced with relevant to the value statements and capabilities of the
services firm. It will help the
team to also define who are the key decision makers within the target account.
It will also help the team to determine what additional support resources
may be required to join the pursuit team to enhance credibility with the
specific targets are researched and chosen, supporting members of the core
pursuit team are assigned. Most
common in services firms today are two or three member core teams, representing
a solid base of expertise in sales strategy, business strategy and
project/solution delivery. Members
of the core team should expect to be present at any client meetings in the
initial stages of the sales cycle. Customers
understand the team based selling model, and quickly come to appreciate the
experience of the team and the perceived value the team may bring to their
business opportunities or issues.
Sales Lead has primary responsibility for orchestrating the entire sales process
to closure, establishing and growing new relationships, and ensuring that all
sales and business issues are uncovered and addressed during the sales cycle.
The Sales Lead in this model is typically a Sr. Sales Executive, Partner, or a
sales-oriented Corporate Executive (smaller companies). Key to the Sales
Lead’s role is their ability to regularly qualify decision makers,
influencers, and the overall buying process to increase the probability of
successful closure and ensure the customer’s expectations are being met.
Sales strategy sessions with the pursuit team are typically scheduled and
facilitated by the Sales Lead as well. The
Sales Lead needs to have a firm understanding of the prospects industry/business
issues, and should have a general knowledge of the firm’s delivery
process/solutions to build credibility with the prospect.
This person should have a strong understanding of how to manage a complex
sales cycle or solution sale.
Industry/Functional Lead has primary responsibility for creating business
credibility with the prospect. This
person should have broad industry/functional knowledge in order to discuss new
ideas or business solutions with the prospect.
This person is the adjunct business strategist that will lead discussions
with the customer to extract their business requirements and priorities to
enable the pursuit team to solve a problem or create an opportunity for the
prospect. This person is also
typically expected to bring insight of the customer’s industry and business
opportunities to the team so that value statements can be defined and
consistently communicated to the target customer.
Delivery Lead has responsibility for structuring the delivery elements of the
project or solution. Most prospects
want to know early on who the day- to-day project director will be.
By integrating this role into the core pursuit team, the team is able to
build credibility faster, develop a key relationship earlier, and decrease
delivery risks associated with transitioning specific solution knowledge and
customer expectations. Relevant
experience, either in the prospects industry or functional areas, is of
significant benefit in gaining rapid credibility for the Delivery Leader.
the Pursuit Team is formed, planning and strategy becomes the critical elements
of any complex sale. If conducted
properly with the right process and tools, it can lead to increased win rates
and a reduced overall cost of sales. Many
of the standard sales processes (Miller-Heiman, Holden, OnTarget, etc) have
similar approaches for conducting Opportunity Management or Account Planning
sessions. Any services firm
involved in complex selling should adopt a formal sales process, if for nothing
more than to promote consistency of work and a common sales language.
Some of the tangible benefits that are derived from these strategic
planning sessions are as follows:
Creation of the value statements and value
proposition that will be used throughout the sales cycle
Key buyers and influencers will be identified from
which relationship strategies can be defined
The target’s “buying” process is defined and
mapped to the firms selling process
The competitive landscape is defined and
competitive strategies can be created
Specific action plans for each pursuit team member
are defined during the sales cycle
Pursuit Team should also be supported from many of the other firm’s business
areas that can make or break a successful sales initiative.
Has marketing provided forward “ground cover” to familiarize the
target with your company’s brand and value statements?
Is marketing providing industry research and target specific research to
help the pursuit teams understand what the targets opportunities and challenges
are? If executive peer-to-peer
selling is required, are the executives up to speed and on board with their
expected role in the sales cycle? Do
your company’s service contracts help or hurt your overall selling efforts.
Is finance and delivery support in support of your deal structure and
work plans? The questions need to
be addressed early in a sales cycle to increase the team’s probability of
ultimate success of the Pursuit Team Model is dependent on several key factors.
These factors influence the individual members ability to work as a
cohesive team, and to foster trust among the team members around common goals
and objectives for the pursuit.
the initial stages of the pursuit, the Sales Lead will typically control the
actions of the team to schedule meetings, secure follow up actions, and qualify
the prospect and opportunities presented. During
the middle stages, the Industry/Functional Lead may control the actions of the
team, and schedule workshops or meeting with the prospect in an effort to build
credibility and develop deeper business understanding and relationships.
In the late stages, the Delivery Lead may have account control to ensure
that the ultimate solution is on target with the customer’s needs and
expectations. Finally, all the core members of the pursuit team would work
closely together to prepare, present, negotiate, close and kick off the
is important to realize that one attribute of the pursuit team model is a shared
relationship model, in other words, no one person owns or controls the
relationships with the target account. Prospects
and customers will come to expect different things from the different members of
the core pursuit team. For example,
the Delivery Leader will always be on point to address day to day project
issues, while the Sales Lead is typically on point to address business
relationship or contract issues. This
should be expected and encouraged. With
multiple relationships, a firm is better able to insulate it’s risks against
elements of longer term relationship neglect or minor conflicts.
It is also important to understand that complex sales involve multiple
buyers and buying influences. Pursuit
teams should create relationship maps for each target they are pursuing and
assign responsibility for fostering relationships with each of the buying
simply, if the core pursuit team does not effectively communicate between
members and the prospect, it will not be successful. Like any team, it takes time to become familiar with each
others “playing style”. Until
that point comes, daily collaboration with the team is extremely important.
Large opportunities are not won with “by the seat of your pants”
planning. Strategies and counter
strategies need to be formulated, action plans defined, progress communicated,
and issues and opportunities openly discussed to either resolve or plan for in
future meetings. Anyone in sales will tell you that poor communication will
kill a deal faster than any competitor can.
Defined and Communicated Roles
of the core team need to understand their defined roles in the pursuit process,
play to their strengths, and support the roles of the other members with the
prospect. Know in advance the areas
of decision authority that will be delegated to each core team member (i.e.
pricing, prototype development, access to industry best practices, contract
negotiations, etc.) For example,
should the client asks the delivery lead about some contractual issues, the
delivery lead should defer the questions to the sales lead, “I’ll let Joe
know that we spoke and have him call you today to address your questions.”
Conversely, you wouldn’t want a salesperson making critical decisions
to modify a work plan. Communicate these roles to the client early in the sales
cycle in order to build value from your team selling approach. Most clients appreciate the investment of a team of people to
help them to realize an opportunity or solve a problem. They realize that it
typically results in a more detailed, tailored solution to their needs.
implemented correctly, the pursuit team model is a very effective structure for
complex sales and consultative sales. As
teams are formed and they gain experience in selling as a team, sales
effectiveness increases dramatically. Tangible
benefits often achieved from this model are increased win ratios and the pursuit
of larger opportunities. Customers benefit from the depth of understanding that the
pursuit teams have about the customer’s industry and business.
Secor is President of Rule One Partners in Dallas, TX, a strategic sales
consulting firm focused on enabling sales excellence and revenue growth for
Professional Services Organizations. Mike
has over 15 years experience in leading consulting sales operations and direct
sales in the system integration and outsourcing sectors.
He has held sales and executive sales management positions with companies
such as EDS, Cap Gemini, BSG Consulting, Align Solutions, and Luminant
Worldwide. Rule One Partners is a
Certified Provider for Revenue Storm, a professional services firm founded by
LaVon Koerner that offers integrated consulting and programs designed around
revenue acceleration and bringing clarity and focus to the areas of sales and