Back in 1987 when I was District Systems Manager for a Fortune 100 technology company, I made one of the largest sales of my professional career worth about $500,000 to a bank in St. Louis. We pulled out all the stops to win the account, including flying the client to our headquarters on the corporate jet (it was the eighties after all and companies still did that).
The interesting thing about winning that sale was that my primary competitor focused their sales efforts on the executive level at the bank. While I had created relationships with the executives, I focused the majority of my time defining our proposal/solution to a manager within the end user department of the bank who would be using our system.
As it turned out, upper level management relied more heavily on the recommendation of their internal subject matter expert than they did the outside professionals that had been ‘wooing’ their business.
That sales experience taught me several valuable lessons about selling: 1) You can never assume you’ve ‘won’ a deal just because you have good relationships with the owner/upper management, 2) Sometimes a technical person who can’t officially say “yes” to your proposal, does in fact have the authority to say “no” and 3) You need to be strategic about how you work with potential clients understanding that in a complex sales cycle, multiple buyers will be involved and will have input into the final decision.