The sales landscape is always changing but by gathering insights from other sellers we can determine how to handle major challenges when selling.
Brandon Bruce is co-founder of Cirrus Insight and he’s going to address how to we can get out of our own zone, where we focus exclusively on ourselves and our companies and seek opportunities to interact with other people.
Today’s episode is a reboot of episode 736, with great information about long-term strategy, providing value, and email outreach.
The world of sales is constantly evolving. One of the challenges Brandon sees with sales right now is an unspoken push that exists. Because there are a bunch of companies at the growth stage, and a bunch of companies just starting out, there’s a tremendous amount of energy in the sales industry.
There’s a premium on hitting numbers. Everyone is hustling and trying to find a way to build a better mousetrap. On the negative side, sellers might be hyperfocused on closing deals so that they forget to prioritize the personal connection. Because connections take time, and sales reps get antsy, we sometimes try to speed things along.
We don’t want to close a deal next month; we want to close it this month.
Brandon believes there’s a happy medium to be found. We must work to focus on building sustainable relationships even while we focus on making our numbers.
Companies that focus too narrowly on numbers will likely struggle to achieve long-term customer success. The customers won’t stay as long because the deals were one-time kinds of relationships. It’s easier for customers to walk away when the customer doesn’t know us well.
Brandon remembers buying a countertop, a one-time purchase, from a company that worked to develop a relationship with him. They were struggling to find exactly what he wanted until they discovered an unused countertop in a storage area. It was exactly what he needed, and it was something a previous customer decided against using. And the company sold it to him for 50 percent off.
He calls it a great selling experience because they listened to his needs and they thought about how they could best help him. And even when they had a chance to make more money off the deal, they sold it to him at a great price.
Even though he won’t be in the market for a countertop anytime soon, they created an evangelist in him. If anyone should ask where to buy a countertop, he’ll absolutely recommend that company.
They closed a deal, they moved product, and they build a sustainable relationship.
We should probably remind ourselves to focus on doing the right thing, and sometimes allowing ourselves to take the easy option. We’re tempted to feel like we should push a little harder, but sometimes we can take the easy deal that leaves the customer feeling satisfied.
Your customer will become an evangelist for your company. You might have missed a chance to get a little more from them, but because you gave them more, you’ll have the opportunity to earn more from them.
Building customer relationships benefits your long-run philosophy.
I joined an organization that gave its sellers to the book, Raving Fans, as part of its onboarding process. It helped us understand the value of customers who bought our solution and then stayed with us to upgrade and buy more later.
It’s valuable to have a customer who likes your product and who will promote you on social media and leave you reviews. A raving fan might take you to their next three jobs, or mention you on their podcast.
It has less to do with building a predictable sales machine and more to do with building a fan base who is passionate and who might do unpredictable things.
Reaching out to prospects
It’s getting harder and harder to reach prospects, and sellers use a variety of tactics to do it.
E-commerce has gotten huge, and statistics show that buyers have done a tremendous amount of research before they engage in the sales process. Despite that, there’s still room for a lot of outreach and prospecting. But how can we bridge that gap if we have buyers who are already doing a lot of the work themselves?
Begin by making it really easy for your customers to have a conversation. Brandon’s company puts its calendars on the website so that customers who want to schedule time with them can immediately see what is available. Once they schedule a time, it will automatically appear on the company’s calendar. It’s buyer-driven versus seller-driven.
Prospects come to them more often now asking for a demo. Meeting them part-way helps to bridge that gap.
Another option they use is the ability to place bulky slides in a web portal and then provide a link to it instead of putting the slide in an email. It’s useful because they can click on it and view it online. They don’t have to worry about malware or about a bulky attachment loading too slowly.
They also get real-time analytics about their slide deck: they know which slide people are most interested in, and where they abandon the slides. The team can then offer to follow up with a demo.
Brandon calls the process meeting halfway, which he said is how the best sales always happen. It’s a buyer saying, “I’m ready to buy,” and a seller saying, “We’re pretty interested in selling to you.” It creates a partnership where everyone brings something to the table.
Persuade by sharing insights. Many people have a distaste for sales because they perceive it as a seller trying to trick a buyer in buying something he doesn’t need. But that’s not selling. That’s trickery.
Sales is an art and not a science. It can’t be reduced to an algorithm, at least not yet, because it involves nuanced decisions as part of the relationship. In his own case, the company was looking to make a purchase, but the VP of marketing was skittish because the company wasn’t pushing for the sale at all. It left her with the sense that they don’t really want their business.
The art results from trying to find the right amount of positive pressure to get the deal closed. It’s figuring out what your buyer needs and wants to hear, telling them, and moving the conversation forward.
Email outreach is difficult and it has gotten harder over the lifetime of Brandon’s company. As with any trend in technology, as more and more people come on board with automation, there’s simply more volume. Those on the receiving end are overwhelmed by it, and it’s hard to overcome the spam filters. It’s difficult to break through.
Short emails work the best; perhaps two or three lines long with single sentence paragraphs. It must be super easy to read at a glance because people don’t tend to read deep content.
Clearly state what you do and provide a link or two. Make it very easy for the user to click and say, “I want to learn more.” They’re much simpler than the newsletter-type emails that are rich in image and video. Google and other filters often knock those out. It’s a simple, text-based email with an intriguing subject.
Recognize that vanity metrics might get you a 100-percent open rate, but they don’t drive conversations, and conversations drive sales.
Consider asking other people in your industry for feedback. Brandon likes to send ideas to other tech founders and ask if his ideas seem insane or totally off-base. Because it’s a very giving community, people often write back to offer thoughts and ideas.
Keep the excitement
Sales will always be a hustle. It won’t ever be easy. It’s a nice idea to think that you can create some kind of machine that will keep the money rolling in, but it isn’t realistic. We must keep putting our heads down, hustling, and meeting the customers halfway. Make deals that are easy to say yes to and that leave your customers feeling confident about the decision.
Let your audience know that doing business with you is easy.
“How to Handle Major Challenges When Selling” episode resources
Connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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