Sliding vs. Deciding

You have have been working with a prospective customer that is very unhappy with their current vendor.

They indicate they are very keen to switch across to your startup.  

Is the sale now in the bag? 

Maybe... 

If your customer is small or has a simple decision process, it shouls be easier for them to change. 

Compare this with romantic relationships. Many couples usually “slide” for big decisions such as moving in together or buying a house.  

However when one partner decides to leave the relationship, that is a Big Change

The following relationship article talks about the comparison between sliding and deciding. https://couplestherapyinc.com/relationship-transitions/ 

Even if they hate the incumbent vendor, it will be less disruptive to stay than to switch across to you!

My advice is to work the sales process as hard as you can until the contract has been signed! Breaking up a relationship is more traumatic than starting a new one. 

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Another way to create new sales leads (Startup Founders)

Most first time startup founders have little sales experience. 

A strategy I have not mentioned previously is increasing sales through aligning with suitable partners. 

Big vendors can use you compliment and enhance their value to their customers. 

You might need to surrender a few percentage points along the way, but you should make up for it by increased sales.

Good partners can have the following characteristics:  

  • They make between $100M and a Billion dollars per year.  
  • Manage long term customer relationships. 
  • Are well connected to big deals in the market.
  • Their insider knowledge is very high.  

Selling through a partner you need to remember:

  • You will now manage at least two customer relationships, the partner and the end customer
  • Be sensitive to the needs and preferences of your partner. Be careful to not do things that causes problems. If they say, don’t contact a particular executive, then don’t do it! I learnt that lesson the hard way a few years back.  
  • Their relationships are long term and built on strong trust. Do not take any action that breaches that trust. Be open to feedback so that you can improve. 

 

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Never Eat Alone

It is important to maintain your network of past colleagues and bosses. There are both personal and commercial benefits for doing this. 

On the personal, you get to maintain friendships which is very rewarding. We all need friends and connections.  

There is also a huge upside on the commercial side if you are in a startup sales role. All these former peers and boses know and trust you and are willing to help you succeed. They will give you insights into their current organisations as well as introduce you to new sales opportunities.  It’s a win-win for everyone.  

In startup sales there is no silver bullet on getting B2B customers, you need to be trying multiple strands. Catching up for coffee or meals with former colleagues is one of the easiest ways.  

A book that I know expands on this topic is Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

I challenge you to give these meetings a try!

Catch up with five former colleagues or bosses and see what happens! 

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Major Sales: Who really does the buying?

This HBR article was originally published in 1982. However the findings are as relevant now as they were 37 years ago. 

The authors shared these three findings: 

  1. Identifying the actual decision maker is not as easy as it sounds.  Power does not always correlate with organisational position. The authors describe how there are actually five bases of power and provides six behavioural clues to uncover who the real decision maker is!
  2. Identify the way in which buyers act in their self interest.  It is a fact that buyers act selfishly. The article shares techniques to determine a customer’s motivation. 
  3. Gather and Apply Psychological Intelligence of your buyers.  These three proposed changes should be implemented: a) make sure that sales calls highly productive and informative, b) listen to your sales force, c) reward regorous fact gathering by the sales team.  

I support these findings because I can see how startups can capture significant value from these practices.  

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Five emerging Trends that will shape the future of Sales

A few months back Tiffani Bova wrote this article on the Salesforce blog regarding the emerging trends in Sales. It is a good article that makes you think  

Here is a quick overview with my comments added (PD): 

 Emerging Trend One: 50% of Sales Metrics will change in the next three years.

TB: Sales leaders will be seeking to get deeper into the customer journey in regards to measuring the success of sales teams. Budgets and win rates are not going away but metrics along the lines of customer satisfaction will be included. 

PD: I don’t believe the change will be that significant because from what I have seen Sales will always be measured by what it has control. Sales teams do not usually control customer success. They are tasked with getting the customer to confirm as soon as they are possibly able to! Customer Success is important but my mixing it into sales too much you risk missing that next quarter earnings for the firm. And as everyone who works in sales knows, sales is about tangible results!  

Emerging Trend Two: Reps will be compensated on usage not deal size. 

TB: This change means that closing a deal is less important than getting a greater amount of users to successfully use it. Reps will be compensated more if a greater number of users take up the product. 

PD: I think this is a fascinating insight! This will mean that during the sales process the Rep won’t just be focussed on getting ink on the contract, but work hard to get more stakeholders buying into the application. It will lead to better adoption by the organisation and more success down the track. 

Emerging Trend Three:  Customer service agents are the new Sales Reps. 

TB: She is talking about how Customer Service and Customer Success staff will become just as empowered as Sales Reps currently are within the organisation.

PD: I can see the benefits of some larger SaaS organisations doing this. However the risk is that if Customer Success becomes more commercial they may dilute the skills that set them apart in the first place. Customers like Customer Success because they have only one focus. Customers feel more safe to open up to a CSR about what their real challenge is.  

Emerging Trend Four: Modern selling continues to explanatory into more digital channels. 

TB: The lines between B2B and B2C will blur. Customer engagement will increase on emerging channels: SMS, chat, mobile chat and video.  

PD: I agree this is happening and is being driven by both the sales professional and the customer. 

Emerging Trend Five: AI will require more sales headcount, not less. 

TB: Studies show that AI is leading to more job growth, not less. 

PD: For the past 3 years AI has been oversold as a panacea to solve all of life’s problems. One day we will all be enslaved by our AI masters! 😵 But at least for now AI is playing a supportive - not a lead role.  

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Asking for advice

There is a common observation made by startup investors in Silicon Valley: 

 “If you ask investors for money you will get advice. If you ask them for advice you will get money”. 

 I have had similar experiences in the sales process. If you are new and genuinely trying to open up new markets, you should approach senior executives for advice. 

Everybody likes to be valued for their wisdom and perspective. Asking very specific questions on the viability of your offering will get interesting responses. 

When you hear criticism, ask why. Go deep. These insights are super valuable.  

It goes without saying that your motivation for advice needs to be genuine. 

Often the exchange will provide leads or even wam introductions if the executive sees value in your mission as a startup founder. 

It will cost you a few dollars for a coffee and 20 mins of your time. What have you got to lose? 

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How to present your sales pitch in five slides

Startups give too much information in their sale pitch.

This might feel therapeutic for the founder, but it can kill the sale because too much information will confuse and distract the buyer.   

Instead you want to present a simple message that gets your customers thinking about the value they can get from your product or services.  

Here is one approach using five simple slides:

  1. About your organisation (size, age, customers). 
  2. List the products or services you sell. 
  3. Summarise the value this brings to your customers.  
  4. Provide 3 short stories or case studies that illustrate that value. Limit each story to 30 seconds.  
  5. Explain the process you usually take  with onboarding customers. You could explain your basic terms, support offered and other initiatives you think they might be interested in. 

The last slide is a good way to get the customer thinking about how the product would work within their organisation. It also allows you to ask the most important question of the entire meeting: What is their decision-making process?  

KIS = Keep it Simple!

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Inner Voices...

He is not going to respond to my request to meet.

He is too busy for me.

I am just annoying her.

I tried selling to that company in the past and it just did not work!

They would much rather deal with my competitors.

I don’t have a strong relationship with that organisation.

What every you are saying to yourself…

It is true.

How to build a relationship with large organisations? Approach their blog writer!

Getting into new large organisations is a challenge.

They have gatekeepers to keep people like you from meeting with them.

You cannot blame companies for doing this. If their senior executives accepted every invitation to meet with a potential vendor, they would never get their own work done!

This morning while reading the Hubspot Blog, I came across this interesting article.

One suggestion was “View their Author Page” which means see who is writing all the interesting articles on the Company Blog. Find a way to connect with them via common interests (shared problems in the same industry, innovation or other topics), then use that relationship to be introduced to important stakeholders within the organisation.

Chances are, someone who has been trusted to write about the Company’s vision is already an important stakeholder. Their support could help you to build a great relationship with that organisation.

I have not tried this idea myself. But I will give it a try myself.

Stay tuned!

Getting personal with your email prospecting

Please try and the following exercise: 

Check your inbox and deleted folders for emails you received that you decided to ignore.  

Why did you do this?  Could it be:

  • The content was not a topic you were interested in
  • The writing style or format was clearly generated by a machine; or
  • You felt no personal connection to the writer or message?

Regardless of how you email prospect, keep in mind your message is going to a human being who has very powerful conscious and subconscious filters to ignore what’s not important to them.  

Case in point: what was the last Banner Advertisement that you last saw? 

When you email people you have no relationship with, consider the following:

  • Find a style of writing that fits to your  “voice” in the way you write. It conveys they are dealing with a human being. 
  • Express your enthusiasm and warmth because it will create a better connection. I use emojis to assist me with this. 😀
  • Be direct about why you are writing and what you are asking. I limit my first email to 3 lines. It can help you to keep on point and remove unnecessary words. 
  • Check out the Templates section of my website. The Google Sheet has many good examples. 

Marketing and prospecting tools have yet been able to comprehensively pass the Turing Test

Industries will vary but with the right amount of effort you should expect to get at least a 50-80% response rate.

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