the 'BRIEF' framework for providing deal updates

VP: “Hey Tim. I have a call with our Sr. VP later today and I need an update on the [Insert Company Name] deal that you’re working on.  I recall you were working with Joe (Prospect) trying to get him to commit.  Where are we with that?”

Rep: “Funny you ask. I just bumped into Joe in Starbucks and by chance we both were wearing the same tie.  We had a good laugh and I asked him about the proposal I emailed last month.  He told me he hadn’t reviewed it because he’s been on vacation for 2 weeks.  He had to use his vacation prior to the end of year or he’d lose it.  You know their fiscal year is June – July, so Joe had to take his vacation this month.  Isn’t that odd? Usually vacation policies are tied to the calendar year, but I think this company is different.  Now that I think about it…other companies may do this too.  During our conversation Joe was really apologetic that he hadn’t returned my calls or emails.  He told me he’d definitely review the proposal.  I think we have a great shot to close this business.  He just needs some time to review the proposal.”

Does this sound familiar?  I’m sure the VP is pulling out her hair because this Rep has just wasted valuable time and she still has no clue about the true status of this deal.  Sharing or receiving irrelevant information is a problem for many professionals.  We believe that the more information we share the better.  However, experienced managers only need the answers to the questions they’ve asked.  They’re smart enough to dig deeper with follow-up questions if needed. 

So how about we save each other time when updating your manager about a deal by following the following simple heuristic?

“BRIEF” is a simple mnemonic you can use the next time someone asks you for an update.

B- Background

Provide a current synopsis of the deal or situation.  This gives your manager a base of knowledge from which to work from.  Example: “I’ve been working the Federal Bank deal for 3 months.  We’ve moved past the initial discussions and I’ve discovered they’ve allocated money for this project.”

R- Results

Share the current results/status of the deal.  Example, “Although they have money for this project. We have not had subsequent discussions to effectively position our offering versus the incumbent

I - Issues

Highlight the issues that are impacting the current results.  Example, “We hadn’t positioned our offering b/c the primary decision-maker has left the company. Her departure has left a huge void in the evaluation team. Tomorrow the company will announce that her direct report is expected backfill her position immediately.”

E - Essentials

Provide the company-specific essential process information that will move forward or close the deal .  For example, I worked for a services firm that knew when prospects interacted with consultants on 3 or more occasions, there was an 86% chance that the deal would close.  It’s ok  if your company doesn’t have that level of specificity.  But if your company has been in business for a few years, someone internally understands the essentials needed to get a deal done in your company.  Share those essentials when you brief your manager.

F - Future

Provide an intellectually honest prediction about the future status and timing of this deal.  If you’ve delivered an accurate assessment using the previous steps, then this step should be relatively easy.  Simply think about the information provided in the previous steps and make a prediction.  Example, “I think we can close this deal next month after we bring the new person up to speed with a facility tour and she engages our Security VP and lead engineer”.

Good managers will quickly digest this information and ask relevant questions to clear up any items to ensure there’s no misunderstanding.  They may not agree with your final prediction but at least they have enough relevant information to make a decision for themselves. 

Happy BRIEFing!

Jamail Carter