Ep 49: Critical Sales Documents for Deal Conversion

BuzzSprout Audio

“If writing, and documenting, and putting these repositories together is not a strength of yours, by all means, outsource it. Outsource what you’re not good at is a big name in the game when it comes to being purpose-driven about sales.” – Taylor Barnes



Josh Sweeney: Hello, my name is Josh Sweeney, joined by my co-host, Taylor Barnes. Taylor, how are you?

Taylor Barnes: I’m well, Josh.

Challenge Illustration

Taylor Barnes: I’m feeling pretty formal today. Formal in the fact that everything that I’m looking at has an RFP, RFQ, RFI, RFX. I mean, I don’t even know if I’m in the radio business or if I’m in the technology business because I see these RFs coming at me nonstop, and these are all formal requests for information.


Challenge Follow up ( I too have been through this… )

Josh Sweeney: That’s a lot of formality and, you know, that’s a big struggle, right? All the formalities to close a deal, right? Legal and documents and everything that goes into that, so —

Taylor Barnes: Nonstop.

Josh Sweeney: They just never end, do they?


The leaders challenge/purpose

Josh Sweeney: So, we see this in a lot of different deals and the challenge we have for our sales leaders for today is do your sales reps have the critical documents required to close the deal? All right, so let’s talk about some of the common critical blockers and documents that go into a deal and some of the solutions to have those ready for the deal flow. So, to start off with, I mean, I see this a lot in SaaS companies. I see this a lot in different organizations depending on whether it’s like an RF-type document, like you said, all these formal proposals, so let’s start there, right? You get a request for proposal, request for quote, RFI, you know, what are you dealing with here?

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, I mean, the deal is there is a lot of critical documents that you must have in order to play the big ball game, the big game, when it comes to responding to some of these formal RFPs, RFQs, and RFIs. So, to be clear, RFP, that’s a request for proposal; RFQ, a request for quote; RFI, a request for information. RFP has also been called a request for price. Now, there’s a lot of different vernacular associated with these things, but the bottom line is that it is a formal request for either information and/or proposal from your organization. Now, if you’re an organization out there that tends to do the majority of your proposals on the phone, “Mr. Customer, it’s gonna cost x, y, z,” or shoot over an e-mail, “It’s gonna cost x, y, z,” then perhaps this might not apply to you if it’s not really getting in the way of you closing deals, but I can tell you the larger that you get, the more that you deal with kind of SMB, corporate enterprise, what have you, they put out formal requests for proposals and that means that they are going to send to roughly three or more organizations out there and they are going to expect a very formal response from you. So these critical documents that we’re talking about and making sure that, you know, the challenge of if your sales reps have them or not, number one, you’ve got to be prepared to give all sorts of very formal, you know, robust answers with attachments and appendixes and all sorts of information when it comes to those RFPs and RFIs.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, and I think one thing you have to really think about is do you want to be part of this program, right? A lot of people would get deals in, I’ve seen it in the past where, you know, you get ten deals in and they’re no problem and then you get to the eleventh one and it’s an RF, right? It’s a request for something, right? It’s that formal model, and so some companies just decide they’re not going to fill these out but other ones, you know, it’s almost crucial, no deal goes without having some sort of formal request, so —

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: — I think part of it is just deciding whether you want to do these and then we’ll talk about some solutions if you want to do and follow up to these types of requests.



Josh Sweeney: We’ll talk about some solutions as to how to make it efficient and really make sure that your sales rep is ready, because that’s the big challenge here, is your sales rep and your team ready for those requests? Can you do them efficiently?

Taylor Barnes: That’s right, and you get involved in a lot of these, Josh. I mean, what are some other critical documents that you see all the time that reps have to have in order to, you know, push the deal forward or push the conversation along?

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, another common one is this cyber security or the security audit package, so I was working with a client actually just a few weeks ago and they sell into the Fortune 500, larger companies, maybe even top 2,000, and when you’re dealing with those levels of companies and you’re providing — often times when you’re providing a software service or you’re storing data, they will send you over this security audit package to ensure that, as a third party vendor, you’re keeping their data secure. So they’re asking all kinds of questions about your backup policies and your security policies and who has access and who’s had security information, security and cyber security training, when was that last executed, and if you can’t fill out this package, they will not do business with you because there has been so many different instances where a large company works with a smaller, you know, boutique firm or another firm, larger firm, sometimes, and a data breach happened, so they have to do their due diligence so a lot of times, you have to be ready to receive this security audit package and know how to fill it out and be ready for that.

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, exactly. I mean, regardless if you’re heavy into information technology or if you run an organization that’s kind of on a skeleton backbone of information technology, rest assured your customers care, okay? They care, and if they’ve got a TV, they can see the fact that this is a very relevant subject in today’s world. There’s a lot of smart people out there all over the world that are cyber thieves and they just come in and hack into your network and go steal information. In some cases, they don’t even have to steal anything, they just hold you hostage. So, they hold you hostage so you can’t even log into your own stuff and get along to your business operations. Those things are real world issues and that’s why customers out there ask for your security audit package to make sure that, you know, if they’re going to sign on with you and hand over some, you know, potentially sensitive data or intellectual property or what have you, that they’re going to want to feel protected inside your organization. So that’s why these things are really relevant, and along those same regards, Josh, one that I see a lot is kind of like a business continuity plan or a disaster recovery plan. Let’s say that, you know, that we’ve got a lot of customers out there that want to know, “Hey, if our organization blows up or if our organization gets hacked or if our organization has a fire in one of the warehouses or whatever the situation is, what is our business continuity plan? What do we have in place that says we’re going to make it, number one, and then we’re going to keep operations afloat, number two?” The disaster recovery one I see a lot.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, that’s a huge one. It goes even further than like the security, right? Because you’re talking about continuity and DR and, with that, you know, their concern is really if they go with you as a vendor and you become a crucial part of one of their processes or something that they have to deliver and at any point in which you’re crucial to the business or it would be hard to overcome it, are you going to provide that continuity to them? And this gets more and more common as you move up. I feel it gets more common as you move up the ladder, right? As you move into bigger and bigger deals. What’s another thing that you see happen a lot from like a document perspective or just, you know, something you have to have to be prepared or be prepared for when you’re getting closer to closing a deal?

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, and before we go further, I realized a second ago that I might have said the word “appendixes” which is completely incorrect grammar and I almost made — I had to go on mute to make myself laugh. “Appendices” is what I mean so you need to create an appendices probably, some sort of library, but one of the ones that we see a lot as well, Josh, is in escrow, they really want — it’s just that there’s so many types of documents, escrow, disaster recovery, business continuity, our security plan, you know, any sort of certificates that make us better than the other, any sort of value-added documents, people hear the words “ISO” a lot, “ISO 9000,” for instance, is a quality management system in a lot of organizations. It’s pretty prominent in the IT business but it’s extremely common in many other industries. So, ISO 9000 is another one of those things that if you have it and you have somebody else, say a third party, that comes in and says, “Here are your critical documents, Mr. Customer —” I’m sorry, you know, for them, it’s the customer, to say, “I am great at this, I have a process that I follow, I have a repeatable this and that when this happens, this is the risk that’s associated, continuous improvement,” all those types of things, people tend to hold those close to the vest I found, Josh, which kind of cracks me up a little bit because it’s not very practical to just tell ourselves that we’re great at some things, right?

Josh Sweeney: Right.

Taylor Barnes: Tell other people, so we’ve got a lot of, you know, whether it’s an operations officer or a data protection officer that says, “I don’t know if we should show these documents to the customer because it says exactly how we do things.” At the end of the day, that is one of those documents that’s going to be required as a critical piece of information to get you to the next step and I always recommend sharing that information out there and, guys and girls, one thing to mention here, you might be involved in organizations that are simply trying to check the box that gets through some of these things just to make sure that they’re going to be dealing with an organization that has their stuff together, or they’re going to take it really seriously. Either case, you want to make sure that you’ve got those documents readily available to submit no matter what so whether they’re checking the boxes or taking a deep dive into how you do it so you can ultimately just push this deal along. That’s the ultimate goal of this thing, right? What do you have to have in order to get the deal, to push the deal along, right? That’s what we’re talking about.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, and I think it’s not — like you said, it’s not only to push the deal along because you have to have all these to progress to the next stage in many of these situations, but one other thing you kind of hinted at there was, with the certifications and almost even further than the certs but the differentiators. So, like you said, I find that if you have all of these in place, the prospect knows that you have your stuff together. If you can get an RFP done in a timely manner and quickly, if you’re asking, “Hey, if you go with us, if you select us, are you going to do a security audit? Are you gonna need escrow? Are you gonna need certifications?” All of these different questions help establish that the sales rep knows what they’re talking about, they’ve been through this before, and they can proactively provide it while your competitor that’s bidding on the same deal or working on the same deal doesn’t even ask about those, doesn’t have their stuff together, has to scramble to get it together, so I think as a differentiator, you know, all of these are a big point and differentiation with the security and the other certificates is another big one. We proactively use certificates as a differentiator. I’ve used that in many businesses where we show how many certs we have, you know, in this case, you know, more recently, it’s all of our HubSpot certifications. In the past, in telecom, it was, “Hey, yeah, you can hire somebody to do that a lot cheaper, but we’re certified by Leviton and, you know, they will actually guarantee our work afterwards, so if you have a problem, you know, we have all the certifications.” So you can go cheaper but it’s not gonna be guaranteed, right? It’s not going to be tested. You’re going to have problems later, you’re going to have to pay extra, you know? So I think there’s a lot of differentiators there.

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, I agree. I agree. And, you know, and regardless of what business you’re in, you have to do your own research as we segue here into the solutions. You have to do your own research on what’s critical for you and what’s going to get you further along in the sales process. There are some things that undoubtedly you’ve been asked more than once. Well, lean into those. What are those? And those documents is a good example of the first solution that we can talk about. Once you dive in to the common documents, the critical documents that you’re asked for in a daily basis, stop fudging it. Stop trying to get around it. Go ahead and build a document repository so that you can give your salespeople access to that whenever they need it. It’s one of those things where — and I’ve seen it both ways, Josh. I’ve seen a lot of organizations kind of keep this folder password protected for some reason, possibly because they think some of it’s, you know, intellectual property, and don’t get me wrong, you don’t want to give the blueprint of the organization up, we’re not saying that, but there are some documents that might sound fancy and it’s something you want to keep close to the chest, really lean into those. It really might not be. It really might be something that you want to expose your customers to. So, number one, I would say, practical statement, build a document repository. What are the critical documents that you need in order that you get asked for every single time you’re involved in a formal request for whatever and something that you need to have at your disposal pretty quickly? I’d say that’s an easy number one. What else, Josh?

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, definitely. I mean, build that library, like you said. Get the RF library together, get the DR plan, get the security documents. If you have to do it once, take the extra time. I know you’re in the throes of closing a big deal and you’re scrambling to get it all together and you’re going to forget about it until the next time somebody asks you and wonder where it went —

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: — you know? So don’t be that person. Go out, take the time to put it together. I think another one is having an escrow plan. So, we talked a little bit about escrow in, you know, common for like software escrow and things like that, but really have a plan in place. Have an escrow vendor that you already use, somebody you already trust and has the escrow documents because, again, those vendors can provide you some of those documents.

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: So I think another solution is going to the vendors that you used to get those documents. You don’t have to create the security docs and the DR plan if you’re outsourcing most of your IT management to another vendor —

Taylor Barnes: That’s right.

Josh Sweeney: If you’re already outsourcing security management to MSSP, they have all these documents and can share them with you so you can build them faster, so I think that’s another solution is really going to the vendor.

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, I love that idea. People forget that a lot, you know, ourselves included. We look at all these different security documents and all these different continuity plans and then we remember, “Wait a minute, some of our platforms are in the cloud provided by someone else. So what is their security policy? What is their business continuity plan?” At the end of the day, I can tell you, just to give you an example, if we say that, yes, our business is run on this platform and this platform lives in the cloud, they will say, “Where does it live in the cloud and tell me more about that downstream process.” So, at the end of the day, it would be really nice to be proactive enough to go out to your vendors, to go out to whoever’s holding your infrastructure or holding the IT and really ask them for their things like their ISO documents, their critical documents, their business continuity plans. They’ve got ’em, most likely, right? Especially when you’re dealing with some of the larger organizations of the world that run a lot of businesses, your Amazons, your Googles, your, you know, what have you. They clearly have got these documents in place so reach out. HubSpot is another one that Josh mentioned. If you’re running, you know, CRM and outbound from HubSpot or whatever it is, there’s a really good chance that a lot of the documents that you need are going to be very easy for you to get but you got to make sure to ask those vendors. I really, really like that one. The last one that I would say, Josh, you hit on building documents, building the RFP response library, proactively creating, you know, whatever you need to, having the escrow in place, but it kind of goes along with it, kind of — it kind of segues into what I was just saying. You can hire someone to do this all for you, okay? Let’s say that you’re in an organization that’s go, go, go, very biz dev heavy, and really does not have time or the knowledge necessarily to sit there and write process documentation, to sit there and write disaster recovery plans or draw up response libraries, there are plenty of organizations out there that can come and do it for you. To give you a very specific example, if we wanted to get certified in quality management, meaning that all the things that we do as an organization meet a certain level of quality, well, you can’t do that yourself and say, “Yeah, ours is great, ours looks great from a quality point,” because that’s the fox watching the henhouse. Nobody buys that, right? You have to hire somebody else, like a third party, like another registrar in some examples, to come in and audit you directly once or twice a year and say, “Yeah, you’re following what is said you would,” and then they give you a fancy little certificate and a fancy little critical document that’s going to be perfect for you to plug in to some of those RFPs in the appendices section, might I add. You think I’m going to lose sleep over that one tonight, Josh?

Josh Sweeney: You’ll be all right. You’ll wake up with the night sweats from it at 2 AM.

Taylor Barnes: Exactly. Exactly. I can almost hear my father screaming at me about that one. Anyway, that’s what we’re getting at here, hiring someone to put together — if writing and documenting and putting these repositories together is not a strength of yours, by all means outsource it. Outsource what we’re not good at is a big name in the game when it comes to being purpose driven about sales.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah. I mean, you give an amazing option, right? To outsource it. Go to those vendors, outsource it, find people that put these documents together. If you know some of these things are coming or you’re just growing into these situations where you’re starting to see these, you know, the lower and cost effective option is just your VA, right? An assistant, an intern, right? There’s all kinds of other options too, so there’s a spectrum, you don’t have to think about it as overcoming this big, expensive project because you may start seeing these packages, seeing these requests come in. So, you know, get somebody to put it together, you know, give ’em a list of everything to go gather up, start putting that together, putting it, you know, in your documentation, having reviews done, be proactive about that. There’s lot of different ways to get that done.


Final Question

Josh Sweeney: So, the final question is: What documents do you need to plan for in order to convert deals?

Taylor Barnes: And this has been Purpose-Driven Sales with Barnes and Sweeney. Now go lead on purpose.

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