If you google for ‘exception management sales’, the kinds of answers relate to product sales and not services or solution sales. You’ll find answers from codified sales tools like SAP. This failure reminds me a little of typical marketing literature which often talks about products to the exclusion of services, as if services do not exist; a comment on the genesis of marketing theory really since it’s older than the literature services economy.

What I wanted to find was some examples or frameworks on how companies govern and approve complex deals and how they decide to assign additional personnel to help out (writers, legals, financial analysts etc).

In my experience over the last 10 years, product-oriented multinational IT companies do not manage complex services deals adequately. Their processes and maturity are all geared towards products.

I know that services companies like Accenture, E&Y, AT&T, BT and IBM Global Services have pursuit team structures which they enable for the large-scale, high-complexity pursuits.

My question is how does it scale down? What happens if the deal does not pass their ‘massive deal’ test? Is there a mini-pursuit team the sales guys can access? My experience is that there is not, and the sales guy is left to navigate his matrix organisation’s painful structure to get the outcome desired. A lot of the skill in a sales person, in fact one of the characteristics of a ‘senior’ sales person, is how well they steer their corporation towards a deal of interest and how much additional support they can garner through politics and persuasion; the point being it’s not usually because an exception management process kicked in and threw support at them.

What is needed

I’d like a field sales person to have a process:

  • which is fast,
  • has transparent tests and clear benefits,
  • is integrated with the appropriate senior decision makers’ diaries (like an hour scheduled each week for deal review of this type)
  • which benefits the sales person with access to either a  pursuit team or additional support.

To succeed, that process needs:

  • to skip many levels upward so that true executive decision-making and resources can be deployed. (In case that’s not obvious enough, I do not mean a sales manager, but a VP of Sales or higher)
  • to have personnel who are available to focus on the deal, but do not have a ‘corporate policy’ agenda to enforce, and will work in the spirit of the deal, even if it’s trying to sell something in a way which is not standard practice.