Instead of "how do I get Product X into Company Y," ask "how can I help Company Y accomplish their mission with my product in a way they are currently unable to do?" The flipside of this question is "if I were CEO of Company Y, why should I want to buy Product X?"
Instead of "how do I convince Buyer Z to go with Product X," ask yourself "what are Buyer Z's incentives? Do they need to lower costs/increase their revenue/help their team communicate/etc?" Buyer Z has incentives - some of them corporate-wide, some of them specific to her/his day job, some of them very personal. Try to learn what those are.
Also remember that sometimes it's not a good fit, and that's okay. Preserve relationships. Sometimes you catch Buyer Z working for Company Y, and she says "right now, we're really not focused on $THINGYOUDO, and your price would be prohibitive anyway." Fast forward three months and she might have changed jobs into something that is very much $THINGYOUDO, and she now has a vastly increased budget. Much better for both of you if you have preserved the relationship.
Sales becomes a much easier road to walk if you remember "this person is a person just like me, and they've got things they're trying to accomplish in their day job. Let's see if I can help them out."
One can go beyond and suggest alternatives to their own product that might be a better fit. Remember to keep customer's best interest at heart.
I'm in dev tooling market and have suggested open source tools as alternative to my own products numerous times. The kind of trust I gained through it is immense.
I think Saras Sarasvathy's Effectuation Model offers some excellent guidelines on how to approach building trust and developing a viable business relationship. See https://www.skmurphy.com/blog/2010/02/07/saras-sarasvathys-e... and https://www.amazon.com/Effectual-Entrepreneurship-Stuart-Rea... for more on this.
Jerry Weissman's "Understand-Believe-Act" sales model is also a very good fault tree to use in diagnosing where your efforts may be stalled:
Understand: do prospects understand what it is you can do for them (here vision generation and simple explainer demos can help as well as basic case studies with clear examples).
Believe do prospects believe that you can deliver the results you promise (here technical proof demonstrations, benchmarks, case studies, references can all help).
Act: Do they have a reason to act. Are you addressing a critical business issue or a nice to have. What is the total cost of implementing your product (not just your price but any changes in workflow or practice or infrastructure that will be required). How does this compare to value. Is there a critical event or date that offers a strong reason to act.
See https://www.skmurphy.com/blog/2007/08/08/understand-believe-... and https://www.amazon.com/Presenting-Win-Telling-Your-Story/dp/... for more on Weissman's model.
The first goal is to start a conversation and the 2nd is to get a callback for a 2nd conversation.
I'm a big fan of Jeff Thull's approach to sales, as laid out in his books Mastering The Complex Sale, Exceptional Selling, and The Prime Solution. It really goes against the grain of the old school "grab 'em by the throat and don't let go until they buy" mentality. He rejects the kind of stuff you might associate with the sales guys in "Glengarry Glenn Ross" and advocates a much more respectful and honest approach, where the goal is to serve a role closer to that of a doctor or a private detective, than the stereotypical "used car salesman" type.
I couldn't do it justice trying to explain it here, but if this all sounds interesting, I really recommend reading at least Mastering The Complex Sale to get the idea straight from the source.
I also recommend reading How To Measure Anything by Douglas Hubbard. It has nothing to do with sales, at least on the surface. But in terms of understanding customer problems, I think the approach Hubbard espouses can be tremendously useful at a certain point in the process. And I think it can tie back to Thull's idea that if you work closely with the customer to actually jointly develop a solution and explain the value it creates, then there won't be any of the typical "closing" issues, since there won't be any question about the value of the solution.
They're bite-sized sales videos from a partner over there, I found a lot of value out of them.
For a sales strategy and organizational perspective, "Predictable Revenue" is a useful book.
The hardest thing for me to get right was empathizing with my prospects and their challenges. Putting yourselves into their day-to-day problems can be incredibly difficult to do correctly, but improving that skill really helped me in all aspects of the sales process.
I'd recommend just reading a ton of books. There's a formula to sales that is well documented, you just have to adapt the pieces that work with your personality. The ones I'd recommend reading are:
* SPIN Selling
* Never Split the Difference
* Getting to Yes
* To Sell is Human
* Read any free information online about SPIN/NEAT/Sandler
I read all of those cover-to-cover right before I started my consulting business and it made a marked impact on my ability to sell. Like anything, it's a combination of study and practice. Read a book, figure out the nuggets that are important, then practice those tactics. Learn, rinse, repeat.
The way I learned was by watching those who are good at it, tagging along and assisting where I could, then striking out on my own.
If you have a little extra money for a commission on early sales, I would highly recommend this approach. There is a lot to be said for seeing someone work under the specific set of conditions your product and domain entail.
The biggest piece of general advice I have is to set aside some time before sales meetings to fully get your head out of the technical details of your product. When you're making the product your mind is focused on what the product is and all its faults and inadequacies. Your customers need you focused on what their problems are, and the capacity your product has to solve them.
You may need serious wall clock time, maybe a couple hours, to transition completely. Remember why you made this thing, remember what the world looks like without it, that's where your customers are and you need to understand their point of view.
Granted, the title is pretty cheesy. And some of the content is, too. And yet I found it super actionable and straightforward. You can usually find used copies on Amazon for a couple of dollars.
Not clear to me what that means. Means sell well?
You have to sign up for their mailing list to get it, but here's the static file:
In the beginning, most people are probably going to dismiss what you've built. That's normal--people have a bias against adding yet another tool to the pile (for good reason). So unless your product is an exact bullseye for solving their problem, and has no real drawbacks, they won't be seriously interested. That's actually fine. You can have an extremely low conversion rate in the beginning. As long as you can find someone who is enthusiastic about what you're doing (and ideally wants to pay you for it), they will show you the path forward.
One of the most important part about sales IMO is to remember that you're dealing with humans on the other side who have their own personal and professional incentives. Think about how you can make your customer look like a genius, get promoted, help make some process better/cheaper or get to a business goal quicker. Do you have a solution to help achieve one of those outcomes? This requires listening far more than speaking and will always result in selling solutions to problems...product feature/functionality is just the way to get there. You may be very proud of everything you've built, and rightly so, but the customer only cares about their own outcomes and whether you can help them achieve it.
I’d just say this:
Know your customers, know the market, know their needs, know their challenges.
Ask yourself: what are you solving for?
The answer is your value proposition.
Your value proposition depends on the customer, but you should be targeting a market with similar needs.
“SPIN selling” is a good framework.
You must establish “common ground” with customers. It’s how you build rapport and show you understand their needs and demonstrate your competency and expertise.
Technical sales is all about problem solving. It’s idenitfying problems (known or unknown to your customers) and introducing solutions that add value to their organization, the product, or the person. Understanding your customer, their environment and needs, and establishing common ground is essential for identifying and introduction technical solutions.
Feel free to email if you’d like to discuss the philosophy of technical sales in more depth: firstname.lastname@example.org
Process is everything. If you can map out the entire sales process in sequences, you can find ways to optimize it.
I started my sales funnel with mostly manual touch points, and gradually started adding automation (automated cadences, automated scheduling, and etc) and we were able to increase our efficiency by 200%.
Track EVERYTHING. Each metric matters a lot, and if you don't have a dashboard of all the metrics, you are going to make some bad decisions (learned it through trial and error)
Also read this book: https://www.amazon.com/Way-Wolf-Straight-Persuasion-Influenc...
His 9th slide here basically outlines how to quantitatively identify what your core problem is: https://www.dropbox.com/s/a75lejeqli1rmrs/Suhail%20Doshi%20-...
That comes down to looking for bugs that “crash” the sales process(objections) and optimizing performance of the sales cycle by decreasing the time it takes to close.
After every sales call, log objections as well as ideas the prospect seemed to respond to positively in a spreadsheet or CRM. Over time, patterns will emerge and you will naturally optimize for being better at sales.
They'll go over everything you need to know about sales. The first thing to learn is that sales is an umbrella term for a lot of different activities many of which won't be relevant to the type of sales you do.
The first two questions you should answer is what type of sale are you making and to who. Selling a $5/month consumer product is very different from selling $300,000/yr product to the CFO of a fortune 500.
Once I unlocked this, my close rate and inbound referrals went through the roof.
Literally closing 95% of leads and 100% of leads are from referrals.
Granted, this is in person 1 on 1 work but isn’t sense is that will translate into the other work you do.
To embody it and get it somatically the best way is to work with a coach or therapist and to get into more intimate relationships (romantic or creative) with someone who has a more secure attachment style.
Doing embodiment work, trauma work, practicing empathy and learning how to hold space.
Note -- you'll also have to be selling something you believe in and that is in integrity with your values -- otherwise you'll be working against yourself.
DM me if you'd like.
Basically he can tell if a sales conversation went well by how much each person is talking. If the customer is talking 80% of the time it went well. Vice versa not so well.
My wife's natural tendency is to help solve problems for people. Before that book, she'd talk to someone, noticed that the most urgent problem that they wanted solved is her bothering them, and the obvious solution would leave her with no sale.
Now she is able to playfully get their interest and attention. She gets them to talk through a real problem that they have, it doesn't matter what. She helps them work through how to solve it. She doesn't try to sell them anything. It is up to them to decide whether the experience was enjoyable and valuable enough that they wish to work with https://www.leanst.com/ more. Enough do that sales is fun for her, and has not been a bottleneck to growth.
You're not selling consulting and aren't her, so her exact approach probably won't work for you. But I'd still bet that that book will help you.
Then, it's communication. My fave (Frank Luntz) line is "it's not what you say, it's what thry hear." Put another way, clarity and understanding is the responsibility of the sender. For example, if tbe buyer isn't aware of a benefit, that's oon you / your marketing.
Speaking of benefits, features are nice to list - especially if I'm looking for something in particular - but benefits are what move the needle. Doing X is not the same as Saving me Y or allowing me to do Z.
Finally, it's uusually a numbers game. You'll have to kiss frogs. That's how it is. Mitigate that but also listen. Perhaps they have a need as well?
Okay, one more piece of advice: One of the most important skills in sales is follow-up. Don't assume someone is not interested if they don't respond. That might be the reason...but it also might be because they were busy and they forgot to respond to your email. Keep following up with them until they tell you to stop. I've closed deals after sending emails and making phone calls every week for months.
Oh, and thick skin. You need really thick skin because people treat salespeople like s*.
To transform your product into a Sales Ready Product, you need:
- Unified Engineering, Product, Design and Sales teams
- First-hand customer research
- An inventory of customer objections
- Understanding of what matters most to customers (and what you can ignore)
- A qualification list (and the right initial customers)
- A demo that uses data from the prospect and includes a light switch moment
- Standardized and unified sales training and materials
And pay up for a top-quality mentor. An experienced sales exec can coach you and help you navigate the process. Have a call at least once every two weeks, and pay a lawyer-like rate. Who knows, they may become the VP of Sales as the company grows.
But basically sales is making lots of calls, and asking questions. You will not be doing a lot of talking, but asking questions about their problems. Then you talk and specifically outline why your solution fits their needs. Let them digest it, then ask for the sale. Surprisingly sales people are afraid to ask for that because they don't want to be seen as pushy.
But again you don't need to talk all that much. I've listened to a business partner land a 100k deal and probably did 10 percent of the conversation.
Also practice and expect to be uncomfortable for hundreds of calls.
Edit: if you have a good source of leads and make a lot of calls, get a service like phone burner. It automatically leaves a voicemail for the 95 percent of people you don't get a hold of on the first try. I had a boss that refused to use that service, was making at minimum a quarter million a year and would spend an hour+ every day leaving the same message. Apparently 50 bucks a month was too expensive.
I don't know how you evaluate a business co-founder when you don't have those skills yourself. Because of that? When I was a founder, I avoided getting a business co-founder, even turned down several that would probably have been great. But that's the thing, without that side of the house, it's really hard to get the company to go anywhere, even when everything else lines up.
I mean, evaluating people who provide skills you don't have is hard; that's why companies without a technical person on their founding team have such a hard time. So it's really hard to pick a good business co-founder. It's one of those decisions that will almost certainly kill the company if you choose poorly.
But... there are a lot of decisions that will kill the company (or worse) if you choose poorly.
One the plus side you'll close more deals because of your status as a founder. It makes customers feel confident that any issues they have will be addressed. So you have it easier than an AE which will pick this up after you.
I also like standardizing a few things:
- customer intake doc (which questions to ask). really a lot of the sales process is listening to the customer and capturing their problem
- explainer presentation. just some slides that you can send after the call.
- setup hubspot, clearbit, fullcontact to make sure you know who your inbound leads are
I also enjoy reading SaaStr, most of the advice is for a bit later stage though. IE how to build your sales team.
If that's not an option second best choice is watch and learn. Find sales people who are good that will eat lunch with you often and maybe let you go on a few in person customer calls as a person in the background.
I'll tell you from experience, don't underestimate the skill it takes. I spent quite a bit of time as CTO working closely with a talented team, you'd be amazed at the EIQ and nuance required.
It's hard to explain because the skill set is so different than the product side, and even different from the marketing side.
You'll be visiting a foreign country, but spend enough time there and you'll become fluent enough in the language.
Read "How to Win Friends and Influence People"-Dale Carnegie, to keep empathy in mind when dealing with different people.
Create a system to track all sales interactions in a pipeline. Potential deals enter and move through confirmation stages: customer interested, value proven to customer, customer says they'll buy, purchase order received, check clears and product delivered. Take the $ amount of the potential deal and value it at 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, 100% as it progresses.
If you build a pipeline of deals you'll have an idea of how much revenue to expect from your current prospects. 200% pipeline value to your goal would give you a lot o confidence that you'll close enough deals to make your number.
All "role models" for sales I knew were akin to used car salesmen. They try to push something on you very hard using cheap sales tactics.
This doesn't work in B2B, especially enterprise. Sleaze salesmen are going extinct. People are getting immune to any "one weird trick to get a sale". You are there to solve your customer problem, help your sponsor look good inside their enterprise and only then get paid. Focus on maximizing the value you are providing to the customer, making this value very clear as early as possible and only after that getting a fraction of that value back in $.
"Your job as a sales person is to find the 20 people in this town who have a $100k problem."
You may meet a lot of people who have a $100 or a $1,000 or a $10,000 problem along the way. Be honest that it's not the right time to work together and move on (for now).
It's tempting to want to work with these customers but in the early days, you want to find people with a really big problem. As you grow you'll be able to expand your reach.
This is hard advice to follow because leads are so hard to come by at first and because you want to help everyone if you're passionate about what you're building.
Keeping prices high helps with this because it will disqualify a lot of people that would probably waste your time anyway.
"If you build it, they will not come"
1. You're still trying to figure out exactly what it is you're building and how to best price/sell it. That is, you're still in more of a "customer development" mode than a pure "push the accelerator on sales for all it's worth" model.
2. You don't have any money to hire a sales person, because you're either bootstrapping or haven't raised a round yet.
That said, one hidden benefit of hiring someone to help with sales is that it forces you to spend time focusing on it (instead of just coding or whatever). It's sort of an expensive way to practice time management, but it can work if you need that push. Just don't expect the person to actually sell anything--figuring that out will still be mostly up to you.
But... there is probably a baseline price below which it doesn't make sense to have a full time sales person knocking on doors. In that case, drop down one level to "Inside Sales" where you hire people to cold call a list and pitch your product.
If your product can't afford inside sales, sell direct online and optimize your funnel.
* Train yourself to equate the dopamine hit you get with running a new piece of code you made with the act (not necessarily success) of performing a sales activity. For example, by the end of today, do 10 cold emails and 10 cold calls. Then, feel good about it. Don't worry about the outcomes just yet; get into the groove of performing the act.
* Get out of the room. Always be getting coffee, going to meetups, connecting with groups you part of, etc. The more people know who you are, the more people can help you.
Disclosure : I'm a 3-time technical founder with 1 abject failure, 1 IPO and 1 private sale exit who wishes somebody had told him this 30 years ago.
I agree with everyone else here that says "Don't try to master everything". Instead, learn how to speak the language and do enough so you don't miss opportunities. A good partner will go a long way.
SPIN selling is good for technical products that needs lots of explaining.
Challenger sales is advanced and tough to master but the ideal target just from statistics-those who challenge the prospect with a market insight. Craziest thing I learned was you introduce your product at the last slide! You really get into the prospects world and then challenge the old way of things...thats all i can remember....also marijuana is legal in Canada today so its kicking in so im in the writing mood.
I'd love to write a bit about my experience as a sales engineer and also selling SaaS tool ($99~999) over thet phone if anybody is interested...basically I went from being a coder to hustling.
That's why our Founder/Developers couldn't sell for shit.
But a salesperson could. Because it was blue. Fucking blue.
Self awareness is a killer for most developers. They are too close to the music. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Hopefully you are selling to other technical people, in which case a multitude of sins are covered if your product is truly needed.
Think how you convince the buyer that your product will help him earn more money/ save more money. If you can e.g. get a percentage of the money that (s)he makes/saves, that's very often an easy sell.
A lot like tech there are tools for every problem and in sales there is a playbook for every kind of product.
Get actual training as opposed to watching videos or reading books.
and of course ... taking action - making those calls and scheduling meetings.
What is their background?
What are they selling?
Who are they selling to?
Look at Trump: hate him or love him virtually every person he meets face to face comments on how warm, interested and compassionate he comes across as. BS or not... that's the way most perceive him.
Oh yeah, and this Is a hard and fast rule. The instant that they say yes; Stop selling. You never know if that one more thing you consider to be a benefit will backfire and make them decide not to purchase.