Most likely your deal now moves out of the hands of the buyers’ table and into the depths of legal and accounting. The formal contract remains to be completed, and the timetable remains to be determined. You are in a much bigger hurry to get started than your new customer is.
What can you do? Here are some tactics:
- Learn to anticipate that this will happen; don’t let it take you by surprise. Understand that bureaucracies do not move at the speed of entrepreneurs.
- Create and implement a carefully crafted plan for that period of time we call “sewing the mouth shut”—the time between when the whale says “yes” and you receive payment for your first invoice.
- In that plan, stipulate what steps people on your team will take with people on the whale’s team in anticipation of getting started. Most important:
1. Schedule—work with the whale’s team to set get-acquainted meetings, site visits, information exchange, fact-finding, etc.
2. Invoice—your proposal should have included some preliminary work that can be done while the contracts are processing. Make this whale a customer at your earliest opportunity.
3. Visibility—have a system of simple reports to several of your new customer’s end users to keep them apprised of how you are preparing to fulfill your contract with them.
- Keep your account manager in close contact with his or her counterpart, and take action promptly if there is any lack of expected action.
Through some tough experiences, I’ve learned how important it is for the seller to own the ramp-up process. My team would be trying to schedule key events and activities with little success. We would be frustrated that the new customer was holding things up. But of course the whale always thinks that YOU are holding things up, which is why you need to manage the deal especially after you’ve sold it!
Have you had a deal that faded away after it was sold? I’d love to hear about it.