Chapter 3: Finding Your Champion

 Professional inspiration and subsequent execution stems from passionate foundations.  After listening in on a couple of sales presentations, the take-away I’ve drawn is this: I should seek to inspire a passion for success within each and every one of my clients.  Passion offers the most direct route to motivation.  In the context of sales, connecting with a passionate employee-advocate means that you have found your champion. This particular kind of champion is a rarity.  They have the power, internal drive, and motivation to take your product through the tedious bureaucracy of their company, to upper management, and ultimately put in the work it takes to integrate it into their system.  All it takes to achieve that goal of making a sale, is awakening a passion in each client for the product that you yourself are passionate about.

The presentation that drove this idea home was done by a representative from one of our most successful clients. During a whiteboard debrief of their internal sales process, he explained that nearly everyone they contact shows initial interest in their product. Even so, there is a drop off from from 70 percent interest to 40 percent execution in the transition from stakeholder demo to pitching to decision makers.  This could be caused by a variety of things, but one of the more probable is a lack of passionate champions.  Going from thinking a product would benefit your company, to actively fighting for it by presenting it to management is a dramatic progression.  If passion is lacking as these steps advance, particularly if there is pushback from management, the drop off of champions will be dramatic, as exemplified by this particular client.

This got me thinking, how can I instill passion into my champions?  From what I’ve learned thus far, instilling passion can be broken down into two separate processes: staying relevant and exhibiting devotion for your product.  As an account-based sales agency, we have the resources to stay relevant by utilizing a continued contact approach.  If we can hit the decision maker’s emails, create a buzz, and maintain interest throughout the sales process, then the likelihood of client’s investments in our product sustaining over time is much higher.  The second half of this equation is showing a client that they should be passionate about our product because primarily, it solves their problem: our passion is the most powerful tool we can use in conveying that.  People can relate to excitement, hence the telling phrase, “interested people are interesting.”  If I can inspire the same faith I feel for the necessity of my product or service in my clients, I will be infinitely more successful.  So, how can I find the most passionate champions? For now, all I really know is that if I talk the talk, I’ll be more likely to connect with clients who can walk the walk.

Why CSMs should be your Secret Sales Weapons

When I first started at LeadUp, I was equipped with 6 months of cold calling experience, an idealist attitude, and a burning desire to impress my new bosses with my drive and curiosity.

I worked hard, closed a few deals, and ultimately realized that I thrive in customer success rather than sales (anyone else with a  “bleeding heart” will understand). So in order to utilize my strengths, we figured out a way to make customer success the bulk of my role.

Since transitioning from sales to customer success, I’m beginning to see some irony. It’s clear in my new role that customer success has helped my remaining ties to sales thrive. A few cold leads from last winter have since heated up (whoop whoop!), and I have been able to use my new perspective in approaching them.

But don’t worry – I’m not going to make you listen to the story of my resurrection as a sales rep. Instead, I want to share a couple reasons why CSMs might be your best bet for closing rockstar deals, or at least a few reasons they should be involved in order to accelerate the sales process:

CSMs can sniff out a good (or bad) deal a mile away

In customer success, we have the snout of a bloodhound when it comes to clients who have mismanaged expectations, bad tempers, or hard-to-sell products. This means that even if a prospect is ready to sign a check on the spot, your CSM will be the first to say “…let’s pump the brakes.” CSMs know they’ll be left feeling like this if they rush a deal:

marcie's blog

Equally as valuable, we can point out the deals that we should be fighting for. The ones that we know we can take under our wing and make our new golden goose.

The point is: CSMs seek the lifetime value of the deal above the initial payday, so you should seek their expertise when weighing whether it’s a good idea to push your hottest lead to sign on the line that is dotted.

The level of trust and loyalty skyrockets

As I started talking to potential clients while in my customer success role, I realized that I was using anecdotes from my best clients in my pitch to them. This tactic was instantly more attractive than a standard value prop because the potential client could mentally plug themselves into the story – with me still at the steering wheel. Their trust in me was already miles ahead of where it would normally be because they knew I was talking to them as their advocate and their partner.

Knowing that I’ll be with them through every part of their customer journey motivates me to take extra consideration to manage expectations and give advice on the most beneficial timelines to meet their goals. A successful client relationship starts with a very clear  explanation of what on-boarding, ramp up, and the contract execution will look like. Our comfort in communicating contributes to a feeling of loyalty, and ideally, this will translate to a longer and happier relationship between the CSM and client.

 

I hope for all you CSMs out there, this inspires you to take a proactive approach to becoming involved in your company’s sales process. For the account execs and sales reps still reading, I have the utmost respect for your process and hope these thoughts help you guys close the best accounts possible. Look out for more thoughts on Customer Success and Sales collaboration coming soon!

-Marcie

Chapter 2: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Sales is about developing connections: understanding what makes people tick and how to tap into that.  A salesperson’s job is to make someone feel like they need a product that they otherwise might not have known existed.  Developing the ability to see the world from a customer’s perspective is the first place to begin the process.  As Jacco Van De Kooij and Fernando Pizarro point out in their book, BluePrints for a SaaS Sales Organization, “The question to ask is not, ‘how are we going to sell it?’ but rather ‘how is the customer going to buy it?’”  This week, I’ve been reflecting on the differences between the sales-centric model and the customer-centric model.  As I begin my journey with sales, it’s my hope that I utilize the latter as much as possible.

If being a member of my tennis team has taught me anything, it’s this: the stronger our team chemistry is, the better we are.  When a team is collectively aware of the goal they are looking to accomplish together, and competing for one another instead of just themselves, they are infinitely stronger.  If I’m in the middle of a difficult conditioning session, and I look next to me to see a my teammates fighting their way through it, I’m going to try ten times harder for them than I would if I was alone.  That conditioning session might be the difference between clinching the finals of nationals in a tight third set, or losing because your body isn’t strong enough to make it through.  Talent obviously plays a role in this; meaning that if you have a group of talented  salespeople, they’ll get the job done, the same way that a talented team will inevitably win.  But if a salesperson can convince a client that they are on the same team and working toward the same goal, suddenly, they both have a greater personal investment in the deal. That common understanding results in their cumulative potential for success suddenly skyrocketing.  This propensity towards teamwork is the basis for the customer-centric model.

The sales-centric model, on the other hand, is incredibly controlled, moving through the trite stages from contacting, to demoing, and ultimately getting to every sales-guru’s favorite step: closing out the win.  In this model, there are simplified steps for the salesperson to follow, but the major challenge is to limit any drops in profitability due to “churn” (a measure of the number of customers who unsubscribe to your service after a given amount of time). Churn only happens when the customer does not see enough benefit in the continuation of paying for the service initially sold to them. The customer-centric model solves this dilemma

CCM eliminates the differing goals between salesperson and customer.  Their objectives merge, and the goal becomes solving the problem the customer is facing with your, the salesperson’s, product, and extending that solution over time.  As long as the salesperson is constantly looking to assist the customer, churn shouldn’t happen.

By explicitly addressing the client’s problem–the one the salesperson and the client would be solving together–and applying the CCM model to the period of time following the initial quick-fix, the customer sees value in sticking around.  Working as a team toward a shared goal creates good chemistry, and the better the chemistry, the more a team can accomplish together.  The team I am referring to forms between the sales force and their client.  Like I said before, I’m far from an expert in sales, but the importance and power behind teamwork has been a lesson I’ve learned time and time again.  Through my tennis career, I’ve seen what can happen when a group of people set their mind toward the same goal, and how much they are willing to do for each other (considering my shin splints, it’s a lot).  This concept can, and should, be translated to sales.  If I’m just trying to get my numbers up, there’s no way I will be helping a customer as much as I know that I can, because I’m more focused on the number than on their company’s success.  If we develop a give and take relationship, where I bring in a new customer and really do solve whatever problem his company is facing, he will continue working with me.  I will be able to sell more, and eliminate the churn I was at risk for previously.   The most successful teams develop when the vendors and the client realize they are playing on the same side, and build their relationship upon that assumption.

 

On Making the Audience the Hero: An Incredible[s-themed] Approach to Cold Contacts

I have to be honest upfront: I did not come up with this wonderful principle. However, one of the people I admire most did, and he was inspired by the great teams at Pixar (hence our theme for today).

When I first heard the phrase “make the audience the hero,” it was in relation to giving tours at the one and only University of Georgia (go dawgs!). Our boss urged us to understand that in order to really get our message across, the story couldn’t be about us. Rather, it needed to be about the people we were telling the story to. The high school students visiting our campus didn’t necessarily want to hear about their tour guide’s college experiences; they wanted to see if they would fit into the culture of the campuses they visited–to see if those experiences the tour guides talked about could be their own. This meant that there was a balance to reach, and that the goal should be for our audiences to realize their potential, not to remind ourselves of our own.

This ideal inspires both my personal and professional writing, and whenever I get stuck on my writing for LeadUp, I remember this principle. And as soon as I do, I feel like this:

dash

I’m smiling and I’m running off to write–motivated by bettering those who receive my emails. Making the audience the hero is key for my role. It is the non-sales differentiation that make my emails stand out in inboxes rather than get filed away.

For the salespeople currently reading this, you’re probably thinking: “Jessie, this is old news, I glorify my prospects all the time.” But that’s not what I’m getting at here.

Although heroes commonly achieve glory in the stories we hear–such as the Incredibles family and all of their Super friends saving their town from Syndrome–your prospects’ goals are very different from the superheroes’ listed above. Therefore, stringing together compliments and praises to glorify your prospect doesn’t actually make them feel like the hero. Those tactics just flatter them, which may work in some cases, but chances are they can see through it.

In other words…

no capes

Take the BS–the capes–out. If your cape can get caught in an air turbine, swept up by an elevator, or stuck on a missile, then your tendency to buff up emails or calls with old sales tricks will likely lead you to the same fate as those unfortunate Supers.

Instead, carefully think through what it means to be in your prospect’s shoes. Be truly empathetic. Do they really need what you’re offering? Honestly, sometimes the answer may be no. But, as the salesperson who believes in their product, you know that your offering can improve your prospect’s work life, even if they don’t understand how yet.

Making your audience the hero is the solution. Adding value to your prospect’s day is not hard–it just takes a shift in priorities. It’s a mindset that has a great effect on your outreach. Rather than giving a marketing pitch on your product, empathize with the challenges your prospect may be facing–the challenges that your product can help with. Rather than sending them another client testimonial, send them a TED talk you came across that reminded you of why you were reaching out to them in the first place. And most importantly, explain why you are making those decisions. Remember, the audience needs to envision how they fit into your offering–they are the student looking for a university where they will fit in and the kid in the theater feeling empowered by another hero’s journey–so don’t bombard them with your story; let them rewrite their own with you in it.

Try this strategy today and see what happens. Remind yourself of those five words and think of Mr. Incredible when you do it; your prospect should feel like Mr. or Mrs. Incredible, not you.

Good luck with your mission.

incredibles

Chapter 1: Some Words That Stuck With Me

I have a bit of a temper on the tennis court.  If I miss a shot, there are times I can’t help but yell out some choice words a little too loud for most referees likings (they usually let me off the hook).  My strength is that I can typically recover from that jolt of anger within the 30 seconds I have in between points, and be mentally ready for whatever comes my way once the next ball is in play.  This sequence is what came to mind when I spoke with Morgan Ingram, creator of the SDR Chronicles at Terminus and trailblazer in the world of sales blogs, at a recent networking event.  He told me that the most important part of sales is keeping a level head, and honestly, I’d never thought about that.  

I am going to lose in sales more than I ever did in my collegiate tennis career, and that is a fact I need to accept.  Like I said in my last blog, I hate losing.  But finding that balance between being competitive, or invested in the outcome of my efforts, and being too emotional, might mean the difference between being a good salesperson and a great one. I’m not about to sacrifice that “great” title.  If I hold onto the resentment of one failed sales call while on the phone with the next potential client, the results would likely be cringe-worthy.  I’m going to save you, my boss, and myself that cringe, and try to learn from that mistake before I make it.

After that initial burst of anger and disappointment felt after losing a point, the most important thing for me to do is slowly walk to the back fence, take a deep breath, and figure out what I need to fix.  Did I lose focus?  Did I make an unforced error?  Whatever the cause may be, the only thing I can do is learn from it and move on.  An overwhelming majority of the time, winning a tennis match means winning 51 – 55% of the points.  That means that even if you win, you will lose just under half of the total points played.  Just because I lose one sales call, doesn’t mean I’m about to give away the match because of my frustration.  That frustration is meant to fuel a fire that will ultimately lead to a successful sales call, followed by another, and another.  I’m not quite sure what “winning the match” will feel like for me in sales, but once I do, you better believe I’m coming for that “great” title.