Deal reviews: Everyone does them. Most sales reps and managers hate them.

Every business-to-business (B2B) sales organization of any size has some version of a strategic deal review or full account review. More often than not, the review is painful for three primary reasons: It focuses on what the team is trying to sell to the customer; it’s often an extended replay of the same updates delivered in forecast calls; and it only includes the sales team, along with senior sales leadership or executive team members who may not be involved in the day-to-day strategy of the account.

Business leaders need to not only shift their approach to deal reviews but also how they train the revenue team to address the “why” behind that shift. On a recent episode of Revenue Optimization Radio, Jane Freeman, vice president of sales excellence at language translation and content management company SDL, said that when thinking about deal reviews, most companies need to enact several critical behavioral shifts to transform sales operations:

  • Focus on problem-solving for customers.
  • Identify opportunities for collaboration and improvement by bringing the right stakeholders to the table.
  • Elevate the expertise of the revenue team.

Changing the Mindset to Focus on the Customer

A recent Gartner study pointed out that customers have access to more, and better, information than ever before: “Customers sift through and assess a mountain of seemingly high-quality information, prioritize relevant sources and make sense of data from different sources. This leads to customers spending a full 15% of the buying cycle time deconflicting information.”

Clearly, this process is inefficient and unrealistic for customers looking to streamline the buying process. Sales professionals need to learn how to step back from the product or service at hand and focus on identifying what the customer needs, spending more time accessing the decision-makers and uncovering pain points. Not only will this approach uncover white space and develop a more meaningful customer relationship, but it will also lead to a more positive customer experience. In a recent Accenture survey, 90% of B2B leaders said that customer experience is key to achieving strategic priorities, so this change in mindset is critical.

Once the sales team understands how to move away from a linear approach and start thinking about the buyer’s problems and decision-makers, it has a better chance of developing a stronger approach to problem-solving. This series of changes can sometime feel time-consuming and like it doesn’t focus on the actual product, but it establishes the foundation for a better outcome for the client.

Moving From “Deal Review” to “Collaborate, Test and Improve”

Deal reviews can often feel like a cross-examination when the questions start flooding in from around the table, especially from senior executives who may not be familiar with the customers or have much insight into the relationships. If deal reviews are the only times the collective revenue teams come together, they may miss out on collaboration opportunities while catching the group up to speed. To shift from “deal review” to “test and improve,” these meetings need stakeholders whose collective perspectives can generate new ideas and creative problem-solving strategies.

Collaboration is a critical element of the deal review process to capitalize on the team’s global insight and expertise around a particular client account or deal pursuit. The goal is to train the full revenue team — from leadership to customer specialists — to collaborate in a structured process to test the current status of the account or deal and apply the team’s best thinking to improve the value and consistent messages delivered to the customer.

“At the deal level, ‘test and improve’ is an opportunity to look at that deal and assess whether we are proposing the right solution,” Freeman said. “Have we understood the right challenges? Do we have the right people at the table? Are we able to get the different perspectives necessary to win? Are we positioning the right solutions?”

This approach also applies at the account level. Bringing the extended team to the table ensures that the messages are tailored to include the industry-specific insights and strategies that will enable client success. Account planning is a long game, because the strategies for a given account may take two to three years to come to fruition, placing a premium on consistent account reviews and improvement.

Exposing “Pockets of Brilliance”

Enterprise selling is a team sport, but deal reviews often bring only the sales and executive leaders to the table. Deal reviews should focus on bringing cross-functional insights and industry expertise into the “test and improve” review process to break down barriers. This approach helps unlock what Freeman calls the “pockets of brilliance” that lead to the breakthroughs necessary to help the team accelerate success. It’s those participants — the solution development team, the engineers and the product development team — that add the most value, because they have a green view of the deal or account and of the strategies that the team is putting forward.

Successful revenue teams engage their functional team members in sales strategy and customer discussions, from including the chief marketing officer in sales calls to reviewing financial services strategies with the internal finance team. The goal is to go as deep as possible into the mindset, language and industry of customers to serve them more effectively and to optimize and deliver value-based outcomes.

It takes only a handful of tangible behavioral shifts to turn every deal review into a value-added exercise for everyone involved. Changing the team’s mindset from viewing it as a sales review to seeing it as an opportunity to solve client problems turns the deal review into a collaborative exercise to test the strategy, improve the outcomes and activate the entire organization to become part of the revenue team.