7 Steps to Getting That $100,000 Deal

ben sardella

Over the last few years I’ve tried to help you increase your revenue by teaching you how to sell. I’ve broken down the system I use for closing big deals, and I’ve even talked about the strategies I’ve learned over the years.

But what works for me probably won’t work for you. Why? It’s because I’ve spent the last ten years building my brand by speaking at conferences, blogging and going to hundreds of networking events. All of those efforts have resulted in 1,200 businesses hitting me up each and every month.

When you are starting out, no one is going to come knocking on your door. So the big question is… how are you going to close $100,000 deals when people don’t know about you?

Well, my VP of sales, Ben Sardella, created a 7-step process you can use to generate millions of dollars in revenue each year. He used the same strategy at TRUSTe and took them from being non-profitable to generating $16,000,000 in annual sales. He was also the first sales rep at NetSuite, who he grew them from being a startup with no revenue to being a company worth six billion dollars… all with the same 7-step process.

So what’s this 7-step process? Here are the steps:

  1. Find your prospect
  2. Contact your prospect
  3. Make it about them
  4. Help them
  5. Create a proposal
  6. Create a mutual action plan
  7. Always follow up

Now, lets dive into each step:

Step #1: Find your prospect

Who is your ideal prospect? Is it a small business or a large one? What type of company? Which department are you selling to within a company?

At KISSmetrics, our ideal customer is a software as a service or e-commerce company that generates at least a million dollars a year in revenue. Within those two company types, we ideally want to sell to the VP of marketing, director of marketing or marketing manager as they are the decision makers.

This method of identifying your ideal customer is called the Zebra Method, in which you identify your ideal customer type and only sell to them and no one else. By focusing your efforts, you will be able to improve your closing ratios.

Once you know your ideal customer, you can then find them using Data.com, which mainly focuses on the Fortune 5,000. Alternatively, you can use LinkedIn. LinkedIn works well for companies of all sizes.

Through those two services, you will not only be able to find companies, but you will also be able to get the email address and, potentially, phone number of the exact person you want to contact within a company.

If you are selling a web-based technology, you can also use Datanyze to get contact records of the top million sites on the web.

Step #2: Contact your prospect

By now you should have a list of potential customers along with their contact information. Before you contact any of them, you should do a bit of research on their company and on them.

Try to find any quotes about them from press pieces or even blog posts. Look to see if they have a website, Facebook page, Twitter profile or anything else you can think of. You can also use Rapportive to help you with this task.

Once you’ve learned a bit more about them, you want to send them an email quoting something about them as this will increase the odds of them responding. Ideally, that quote should be related to a pain they may be having your product or service can solve.

Here is an example of an email our KISSmetrics VP of sales would send me…

Subject: are you really making data-based decisions?

Hi Neil,

I noticed you mentioned on Quick Sprout that you should base your business decisions off data. I wanted to introduce you to KISSmetrics because we can provide you with data on your customers that will help you boost your lifetime value and reduce your churn.

If you are wondering how effective our solution is, companies like Microsoft, Hulu, and Amazon use it on a daily basis to make better business decisions.

Let me know when you are free to chat.

Ben Sardella

Before you send your email, however, make sure you use Yesware to track if they received, and even opened, your email. Once you email them, you will want to call them and leave a message letting them know your name, the company you are with and the fact that you sent them an email. The reason I said to leave a message is because it is very unlikely that you will be able to get a hold of them through the phone.

If by a slim chance you are able to get a hold of them on the phone, ask them if it is a good time to chat. If it is, proceed to step 3. If it isn’t, ask them what day and time would be good for a 15-minute call to learn about their business.

If they don’t have time to chat with you now or in the future, ask them if they can give you permission to talk to someone on their team. If they say yes, ask for an email introduction as this creates a “referral”, which should help that new person trust you a bit more.

Step #3: Make it about them

During your call you should rarely talk about yourself. The call isn’t about you or your company: it should be about them.

Within your conversation, you should be able to find the problems they are facing, diagnose them and get to the root of the problem. This will help you determine how you or your company can potentially help them.

Sometimes you may realize that your company can’t solve their problems. If that is the case, be upfront with them. Don’t try to sell them a promise you can’t deliver on.

Lastly, you need to ask them who else within the company is experiencing the same pain. If there is someone else, you should ask for an introduction. The reason this is important is because it tells you if there are any other people that can influence the decision.

If there are other people in the organization who are facing the same problem, go back to step number 2.

Step #4: Help them

The way you can help potential customers is by explaining how you can solve their problems. In essence you are doing this through a pitch.

Don’t make the pitch about how great your product or service is. Instead, make it about how you can solve your potential customer’s problems. You should be giving them examples of how you have helped similar companies solve the same problem.

In addition to that, the pitch should talk about how much money you can save them or how much money you can make them. This is what decision-makers want to hear.

Step #5: Create a proposal

Your proposal should include logos of the companies you worked with, testimonials and what the prospect is going to get by working with you.

You will also have to put a price within the proposal. If you are unsure of what to charge, price based on what you think it is worth to the company. If you ask them what their budget is or what they are willing to pay, they will typically lie and give you a lower number.

Within the proposal, you should also include how much money your product or service is going to save them or make them potentially. This creates a sense of urgency, making them feel that the longer they wait to sign it, the more money they lose.

Step #6: Create a mutual action plan

One of the biggest reasons deals don’t close is because companies aren’t 100% sure what they are getting. The best way to solve this problem is to create a mutual action plan.

The plan should start with identifying the date the company becomes a satisfied, happy customer as a result of using your product or service. Then you need to work backwards to the date when they sign the agreement. In between those two dates, there will be a list of everything both of you will be doing to ensure the success of this project.

This helps ensure that you will be helping the company become successful and encourages the company to sign the contract sooner rather than later.

Step #7: Always follow up

Although this is the last step, it should be used within each step. I would actually say it is the most important step because if you skip it, you won’t be able to close any deals.

You should never miss an email or phone call. Follow up each step of the way and be clear with your communication. Also, respond within a timely fashion… ideally within an hour or two and never later than 24 hours.

Conclusion

If you follow the 7 steps above, you should be able to lock in big deals on a regular basis. This process doesn’t just work for Ben, our VP of sales; it also works for any new sales people we hire. And it has also worked for thousands of other companies.

When leveraging this process, make sure you don’t skip any steps. You have to put in the time and effort to make this work. If you do it right, you can easily close six-figure deals.

What other tactics can you use to close big deals?

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Comments

  1. Great post! Ever since I got into sales a few year back I really think it’s a skill everyone should have, not just for business. Like you said, sales is about providing solutions rather than talking about your service and product features.

    Sales is definitely something I always want to improve. I still periodically re-listen to the interview with you and Ben from your course.

    -Amir

    • Amir, glad I could help. Sometimes when I need more motivation I often listen to that course too. It’s good to brush up on your core skills.

    • Great post Neil! Absolutely the best step by step process. Sales is certainly all about talking to people and building relationships, connections which could lead to one getting their future prospect or a client.

  2. This ones surely a little more informative than the previous $100,000 things….hats off to you Neil

  3. Great Blog Posts, Thanks I will try Your Ideas!

  4. This is dead on. For me, I add in a little extra thing into step 5… after I present a proposal or a pitch, if I know I nailed it, I back off completely. I don’t even send a thank you email. I know that every other sales guy pitching the client’s business is going to do the aggressive follow up right away. So I just wait, cool-guy style. Sometimes I wait a month, sometimes two… it just depends on when I intuitively think they will be ready to make their decision. But I definitely always take a no pressure approach. And when I do follow up, I NEVER ask “How can we move this forward?” or anything aggressive like that. Usually, it’s just like, “Hey, just checking in. How is everything with you guys?”

    I took me ten years to figure this out, and I probably shouldn’t even share it. But it’s cool cause no one ever believes me that backing off works. Fine by me. I’m happy to be the sales guy that stands out from the rest! 100K is a pretty small account these days.

    • Jeff, it looks like you are using the right tactics. It’s all about creating relationships rather than sounding too sales-like. I have found the best strategies revolve around creating friendships and harboring trust.

      • Exactly! We’re not selling used cars here. Relationship-based sales and providing real value… it really is that simple.

  5. This was really eye opening. I think these steps can work for any company and any organization.

  6. This is such an incredibly easy 4 step sales process that you have beautifully broken down into 7 smaller steps. I have tried this and it always works.
    Sometimes we get the results we desire and some other time, prospect is simply not interested. But then, NEXT is the best word after ‘Yes’, isn’t it?
    Thank you for sharing this reminder, Neil. You are AWESOME!
    Regards,
    Kumar

  7. Tried and true! This is not an instant recipe for success. You actually need to work at this to be profitable. My favorite part is #4 (help them). Great sales reps can actually penetrate to find the problem the client didn’t even realize he had.

    Overall, a great article and advice. Thanks.

  8. awesome, Always keep mentioned points in my mind while going for any deal.

    thanks.

  9. Another great article. Simple things, but the hard sell never works it has to be about making their life easier.

  10. Totally agree, Neil. Thanks for the Yesware shout-out too! More deals faster!

  11. Great post – I currently do some of those steps but I feel like your advice can improve my process. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Hi Maxx,

    Neil might have a different thought that me, but I work for a website design and digital marketing agency, and we have tried it both ways. We have found it much better to not post flat rates because every site we do is very different – different wants and needs, different budgets. Now, for an agency pitching cost-savings as their differentiation strategy, displaying prices would be a good idea. For us, though, we focus on quality and customization as our core benefits, so advertising our rates kind of goes against our brand message.

    If you have standard SEO packages, I think it would make since to post the prices for that, since the work isn’t on the creative side as much, but I would also include a “custom” option for SEO to show potential clients that you have standard packages but you also have the ability to develop large, highly customized SEO strategies and campaigns.

    We do have a “project estimator” on our site, but it’s rarely 100% accurate. It’s primary purpose is to capture a lead so that I can call them and give them a much more accurate quote after determining their needs.

    I’m also curious to hear Neil weigh in on this one, but not displaying prices on our site has worked well for our agency.

    • As a web developer, i think Jeff is right, every customer is different and they demand different creativity and designing and most may need to be customized. Also looking at the market, there are some big guys out there and also small businesses, There are prices you will quote to a big guy and think you are a joker or its too much while the small guy may feel you are casting them out or something like that. Treat every customer as a great potential customer by dealing with each at a time and price them like their work demands.

  13. Wow, this woke me from deep sleep. Realy interesting and an eye opener. Thanks Neil for sharing.

  14. Hi Neil,
    I was standing in a elevator from just completing a pitch meeting when I received your email. I was like, “Dang, why didn’t he send this sooner” ha.

    I am really intrigued by Step #6: “Create a mutual action plan”. Could you possible update the article with an example? I like the idea, but I’m having a hard time understanding how this would be implemented with my web design clients.

    Thank you,
    Pete

  15. Really appreciate the outline provided. Ideally, I’d like to have this article with me every time I network. There are such good tips here! Thank you!

  16. I am going to implement these steps right away in my new consulting business. I got one client, and need clients desperately. Thanks Neil!

  17. Sometimes,I feel like I was born to be tutored by you. I read your blog and did the “7 advacned way to rank on Google” and it was an hit. Thinking of cold calling a potential client tomorrow and I will just follow your advise to the letter.
    Thanks,you rock!

  18. Thanks a lot Neil ! It’s really a great post with lots of useful tools !

  19. Lots of good details here. I do most of the sales for my business and it’s great to get a fresh perspective and a few new resources I haven’t tried.

  20. Bronwyn Meixelberger :

    Thanks for it, very useful. Really long but I guess it has to be that way with such important informations, thanks :)

  21. nice info and i think i should implement that

  22. Great post. I especially like the attitude of “how can I help.” If we enter these business relationships with looking for ways to add value and help people solve their problems (instead of focusing on your own profit) it is much easier to make contact and make it a win – win.

  23. Neil I’ve been reading your blog for 6 months. Your content is excellent, but I’ve never felt compelled to comment. Until now!

    I’ve read so much sales literature over the years, but this is hands down the best article I’ve read – and so short too!

    Point 6 is genius. I’ve spent the past few hours creating documents to help me engage prospects that are sitting on the damn fence, and will put this into action next week.

    Thank you!

    • Paul, glad I could help. It’s all about re-targeting and reaching out to clients often. It’s so easy to have people fall off the map. Keep up the great work!

  24. Hi Neil,
    In the IM social site – kingged.com, where this article was shared and “kingged”, I have left the comment below:

    I guess the big message here is “you have to put in the time and effort to make this work”. Without hard work and commitment each of the process described may not work towards the closing of that six figure deal.

    Your summations in this post are clear, actionable, and helpful, hence I concur with them.

    However, I would have preferred you emphasized that dynamism of the business environment could affect the outcome of these steps even when they are properly followed by marketers!

  25. thanks for information
    Just read your posting :)

  26. I am amazed at how frequently you put out great content.

  27. I was surprised to see that your company does cold calling and prospecting like a stock broker would. I would think they would contact you but good information. Also was nice to read about yesware, I will surely be adding that to my emailing.

  28. I am just wondering how to increase more traffic to my website.

  29. Neil – used to read your blog frequently. I was 1 of the 1200 who called you a couple months ago for your opinion.

    Lately, though, this blog feels more like a cult. The posts are off topic, in my opinion, and they are followed by a bunch of cheerleading comments. Especially this one – as if none of the commenters ever did any real outside sales work. This post is sales 101, guys.

    Neil, what happened to the meaty posts where you shared your knowledge and real life case studies on SEO? If you’re out of ideas, here are a few:

    1) How can I help my $1,000/month security niche client get a quality PR6 link to his site?

    2) Help me understand the culture in India, so I can better work with my outsourcers. To me, everyone I’ve worked with seems to have a “head-down, blinders on” mentality and if I let them run wild, it’d be like Penguin never happened – all my links would be over-optimized. And why do they always cut me off and talk over me when I’m trying to talk with them?

    Look forward to your feedback.

    Mike

    • Thanks for the feedback Mike. I try to blog on all things business and entrepreneurial related… on top of SEO. The day I started the blog, only a few posts of mine were about SEO.

      I will go back to write a bit more on marketing…

      As for the India question, I don’t know as I have a tough time dealing with them as well.

  30. Hello Neil !
    These are awesome and useful steps. Definitely following these steps would be fruitful for all of us. The most attractive step is helping them. Most of the people do not think about it, but I am glad that you have mentioned this because it is the most powerful point.
    Thanks.
    Paul

  31. Your article give us a motivation, thanx for sharing it.

  32. I have just started with internet marketing, have not made any money yet, trying to learn as much as possible. Thanks for great info.

    Rgds,
    Alexander

  33. Ameer Soliman :

    Hi Neil,

    Some great tips here – thank you. Definitely have been doing these things in my own techniques and can see where Mike Munter is coming from. However, one thing i’ve found is trying to contact the key person first before sending an email because you can then tailor the email to be based on what they have as a key pain or even about a discussion you’ve had (which makes it more about them than what you are trying to sell).
    I will always ask for a recommendation on who to contact (either within the business or within their own network of peers – this has worked for me very well in the odd 1 out of 50 that says yes I can recommend someone).
    I would also try to give them some value with the What’s in it for me? approach (for them personally). Sometimes an offer to connect them with someone else in the industry may be a good ‘foot in the door’ to open up the relationship.

    Either way, I’m keen to hear about what other tips you can share and would love to discuss them further with you. Especially in relation to our mobile apps development business.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Ameer.

    • Ameer, great points. I think when it comes to biz dev it’s all about creating a network and utilizing that network at all times. It is essential for anyone growing a business to be razor focused on building a community. Best of luck!

  34. Hey, Neil….. I gotta ask …..when is the Case Study of I Can Has Cheezeburger coming? Or has it arrived and I can’t see it…..either way i’d be hoping for a reply

  35. Thank you neil for the great tips shared.
    I am just struggling to get things settled.. not even started, so wanted to research before i take some big step and I think your tips would help me bringing in some good deals in short period of time.

  36. John Loves Neil :

    Neil I love your website and am a big fan of your hard work.
    I would just like to address a comment you made earlier when you said if you could go back you would not choose this path and would rather go into finance with Goldman and try to make Partner.
    In my opinion, you are in a far greater position at having created success and learned how to make money on your own.

    “Now, let’s talk about climbing the corporate ladder. For most of us, it sucks. Why is that? Oh, I don’t know, maybe it’s got something to do with all the politicking, backstabbing, butt-kissing, ass-covering, BSing, sugar-coating, whining, ego-worshipping, and self-promoting that goes on”

    You focus on creating real value for people where is “ladder climbers” are toxic to a growing company for reasons like:

    “taking account of the ethical and moral dimension in business decisions. (It costs deals)
    Taking a minority position if you believe it is right, or a detached view. (Others see you as outside the team)
    Taking responsibility for the mistakes you or your team makes. (It gets you noticed for the wrong reasons)”

    That being said, there is no real job security even after making to the level of partner. People are regularly “de-partnered.” Good luck finding a top executive position opening like the one you built up over 16+ years of service.

    I think a better question would be, what direction would you go in after you finished high school in terms of industry, position, and education? Do you still see a bright future in SEO considering the shift to social media emphasis and “real content” or suggest another avenue?

    Thank you for taking to answer questions.

    • You make a good point, there is no such thing as stability… but you don’t have to stab people in the back to climb the laddar. That’s what a lot of people think but I know a ton of people who made it to the top without stabbing people or playing political games.

      As for SEO there is a bright future. SEO just involves a lot more like social and content marketing as you mentioned. And over time it will evolve even more.

      But you should go wherever your heart tells you. Go with what you are passionate about.

  37. Very informative articles, I have bookmarked this page for future reference, very nice and helpful..

    Thank you

  38. Hi Neal, I read your post about how you succeeded to gather 5 million traffic in 3 months. That was such an inspirational and informative blog. I will surely try to improve my blog’s stats also based on your post. Great post.

  39. Thank you Neil, this is very interesting. The biggest challenge for getting the a 100k deal is getting in front of prospects.

    Do you have any advice on how to contact people effectively and how to get a reply?

  40. Thanks, for bringing up this article it summarizes the process of cracking deals in such simple to understand steps.

    Thanks a lot Neil and Ben.

  41. Neil, this plan you and Ben are using has been explained in a very straightforward and easy to understand way, thanks for that.
    Hope the implementation is as smooth.

  42. Great Blog Posts, Thanks I will try Your Ideas!

  43. Long nice steps to proceed to the elite levels of deal closing. calling straight after sending the email is something I wasn’t doing, so it’s a good point to keep in mind from now on.

    The posts shows some aggressive marketing, but I’m wondering if you starting up and does not still have big clients under your belt what suggestions would you advice?

    Especially for Web Development and Information design company, would like to here one or two points you can suggest when going after big clients for website redevelopments and Online strategy integration projects like SEO and PPC campaign management work?

    Thanks, and really great to hear about Bed and his work.

    • I would replicate the same strategy. We used it when we were a startup with little to no clients and we have to figure out how to get business. Try it… it works well. I used to do it for my SEO agency back in the day.

  44. Thanks for the awesome post, a must for everyone into sales and marketing.

  45. I think I definitely need to tweak my proposal layout to give it more of an impact.

  46. Helpful as always. Great info Neil, thanks!

  47. Neil. Just one word AWESOME.
    100 k is always a big deal. Its the first cliff we have in our mind when we are start such ventures.
    And moreover follow up and other details you mentioned are so true. I noticed you find more time to reply to comments .
    Thanks for this.

  48. Hello Neil !
    This is an awesome post. These are important 7 steps. Specially the point “create a mutual action plan” has its great significance.
    Thanks for sharing these effective tips.
    Lara

  49. While this is a concise list of prospecting and follow up best practices, I think this post should be named “corp sales for dummies” instead of 7 steps to close big deals.

    IMHO what’s lacking are the steps to cultivating the ‘solution sale’ derived by uncovering their 1-2 strategic initiatives which are typically not the face-value challenges/pains that prompted them to fill out the contact me form. While these will differ from DM to DM, dept to dept, it is incumbent on the big game hunter to cut through the noise and build momentum (and urgency!)

    I’m no Ziglar, but from front line experience, there also a ton of additional ‘tactical’ mechanics from the political consensus, technical sign-off, contract structuring, etc etc that all needs to harmonize before the CEO (who’s a- almost always present in a deal of this size yet b- typically isolated from the frenzy) is willing to bet a good chunk of his revenue to you.

    Neil / Ben – I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir so a follow up post with these additional levers (from both ends of the table – AE vs DM) would be uber helpful.

    • Thanks for the feedback. You are right because it is general, so it lacks some of the technical stuff.

      I will consider a follow up post.

      Again, thanks for the feedback. :)

  50. Hey Neil,

    I’m a big fan of yours and now I would like to ask for your help.

    Can you give me an example how a Mutual Action Plan looks like? I’m putting together a plan for a distributor not a customer and I think this needs to be somehow different than a plan given to a customer.

    Thanks so much in advance,

    Andy

  51. Hitting deals and closing it are two different things
    I have faced some very tough clients in my years of doing business online.

    This article has helped built my self confidence

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