In The Sales Mindset for Founders, we discussed how you as a founder should be looking at the sales function. In today’s post we’ll develop the topic further with the foundations of the sales process—what to do and when. When do you write to people? What do you tell them? I’ll offer you the framework I’m using.
Some people believe they are not born for sales, others think that sales should be pushy and aggressive and it’s not their thing. In fact, people shy away from sales because they don’t know what to expect. The truth is sales is a craft you can learn.
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The sales process
What process suits your organization best? Start with simplifying the procedure. Follow these steps:
- Find potential clients and research them
- Contact them via email, phone, social media, or a networking event. Qualify them, noting if they are a good fit for your service or product.
- Make the sale, also known as close the deal.
By executing these three steps methodically and consistently day after day, week after week, month after month you’ll be able to find your next clients.
The 3 steps in details
Once you locate your customers you should understand their purchasing behavior and create their personas. The personas are the descriptions of your main customers’ profiles – it can be one, two, or more. It’s extremely important to understand your personas – what are their needs, what motivates them, what are their fears and aspirations, what media they follow, where they can be found.
The second stage is all about contacting and qualifying. Reaching out to potential leads usually happens through cold emails, cold calls, social media, and of course offline activities – conferences and trade shows. I’m skipping referrals here because almost every business already has some with which it has kickstarted their sales function. However, to build a stable sales process, have in mind that referrals are part of all the channels and possibilities in front of you.
Once you manage to talk or meet with your potential clients, spend the first few minutes to qualify if there is fit between your two organizations.
A simple method can be to follow the BANT methodology and ask them if they have the (B)udget to invest in a solution, if they are the (A)thority that can make the decision, what exactly is their (N)eed, and with what (T)imeline they operate with. There are numerous methodologies you can follow for qualification – just google “qualification process”. If the person you are speaking to doesn’t cover some of your qualification criteria, maybe it is best to stop here and not invest any more time in this but focus on other leads.
The next part is delivering an effective presentation. The key to holding an effective meeting is to stick to the eighty-twenty percent rule, where eighty percent is listening and twenty percent is talking. Listen actively to what the client struggles with and present the benefits and features of your solution that will alleviate his pain.
In the closing part, there are two critical elements – the objections and the close of the deal.
The objections don’t necessarily mean that people say no to you. Usually they mean that your potential client needs more information and the objection is an invitation to provide it to them. Or that you haven’t yet built the trust necessary to make the sale.
Also remember, when money seems to be the main objection, it usually means that the problem is somewhere else. It could be that they don’t trust you enough to have you as a partner or vendor, or you haven’t helped them see the real value of your solution.
The last element is doing the closing. One question that you can ask is how do we move on from here? You have to ask for the business, that is a must.
Build and follow the sales process
You might have a sales superstar on your team who does her magic or you as a founder might be doing sales by yourself. So why would you need a sales process? Because as the company grows, you’ll need a predictable and scalable model so that you can scale up the business.
So, if you are struggling with building your sales system, start with something easy in terms of execution. It can be as simple as reaching out to people over LinkedIn. Or approach leads at an event, share what you can offer, and see if you have a problem-solution fit with them.
Remember that the most important thing is what people want. And if your product or service is not a good fit, think about how you can still help them – point them an alternative solution or connect them with another vendor that can do the job. Look at this as an investment into building a relationship with them. Companies and their needs are evolving and chances are that they might call you sooner than you think.
Here’s an example of how we helped a UK client in the utility industry to execute on the 3 sales steps: find, qualify and close the deal, where our part was in finding and opening the conversations with their potential clients.
First we researched the utility ecosystem in the UK, marking all the suitable companies that were out of the so-called Big Six (biggest players usually already have everything in place). We were targeting small players in the SMEs segment and marked them using the reports of Ofgem, the utility regulator in the UK. We tried to find all the publicly available information about who the people we need to contact are, what they do, and what are their interests. Then we used email, calling, and LinkedIn interaction to get in touch with them.
After this first sales approach we also researched the biggest utility conferences in Europe and found which one was the highlight. Our client has already been to this conference before and has planned to visit again. So our goal then became to research on it and the people who are going there, then see the specific companies that will be present. Then we simply went there and started promoting our client and doing demand generation on the spot – that meaning we were booking meetings for them.
Making the sale and closing the deal was done by our client entirely. We helped with setting up the stage for the closing. Once identified a lead, a prospect willing to see a demo, the conversation continued on a management level on what would be the exact terms and conditions under which they would start working.
Here’s an exercise to help you understand better what we talked about in this article. Find 20 decision-makers from 20 companies that can be your customers. Based on that, do your research and connect with them, either phone, calling, email, or LinkedIn message.
Talk to them and find out what are their needs. See if you can offer your solution and try to close them.
Go through the process and drop me a message at zdravko [at] out2bound.com about how it went.
And if you decide you are not dealing with sales after all, we can always help you build up the process.
Head of Business Development