Want to take your sales to new heights? It takes more technique than you might think. We asked some of our sales experts on the Salesforce small-and-medium business team to share the most important lessons they’ve learned along the way. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Stay true to your sales process. Don’t take the easy way out by becoming overly transactional to drive urgency. There were several deal cycles where we let the end of quarter hustle and excitement accelerate our deals, but we lost ourselves along the way.
2. Don’t run the same playbook on every customer. Treat each deal uniquely to make sure you are delivering on each individual customers’ needs. If all they really need is pricing at the beginning, don't try to force them to evaluate. Be flexible and try to understand why a different approach would be important to your customer. This will build trust in the long run and show you’re an active listener with your customers’ best interests in mind.
3. Learn the importance of earning trust vs. assuming trust. As account executives, we have to earn the right to get closer to those customers every year. Spend time on activities that won’t necessarily add to the sum of your opportunities (like escalating cases, guiding implementations, swapping products, etc.) This will open up doors and set the stage for future sales conversations.
4. Communicate with an executive buyer in the way they want. It doesn't have to be complicated. Understanding their persona or buying style is sometimes all it takes to make a deal happen at end of month — versus having it push out because you asked for unnecessary steps in the sales process.
5. Leverage onsite shadow sessions to get introductions to new lines of business. It can be difficult to start the conversation with teams that don't leverage your product. However, when I asked to sit down with different end users (i.e. service, engineering, etc.) and conduct shadow sessions, people were very receptive to the idea. Our team was able to learn about gaps in a competitors’ products. We’re now using that knowledge to engage some of our leaders.
6. Never underestimate a new perspective on your accounts. Since account executives sometimes focus on the same accounts for months, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking there are no other projects for us. I recently met with a contact on the Salesforce CPQ team, and we discovered some targets for CPQ and Billing based on customers’ challenges and priorities. Initially, I had not thought of those accounts as traditional fits for those products.
7. Don’t be afraid to offer new insights. I learned that customers appreciate it when you challenge the way they think about their business — and offer new insights in return. When we develop a strong understanding of their business and offer insightful ideas that are tailored to them, we become a true, trusted advisor.
8. Never underestimate the power of customer events. With the help of a fellow account executive and a local partner, we booked a suite at the Padres vs. Giants baseball game at Petco Park. We targeted customers who had gaps and wanted to grow. It was great seeing our customers from all industries network with one another and compare notes on the various ways they run their businesses on Salesforce. Not only did the customers have a blast, but we also walked away with quite a few new opportunities and some solid relationships.
9. Always keep your buyer and their persona in mind. During the negotiation and pricing call for our largest deal of the month, we knew we were selling to an "old school" buyer. We ran the playbook and presented pricing live with the customer to get feedback and confirm signature steps. After the call, the buyer reached out with a few questions over email, and we forgot to keep selling "old school." We replied to his concerns via email. We should have known better. We realized our mistake the moment we received this response:
"I’ll need to re-evaluate. I’ll be in touch."
After a tough 24 hours of trying to get in touch, we were able to catch him on the phone and save the deal. We would have saved ourselves quite a bit of headache if we had simply picked up the phone and hashed out his concerns live.
10. Don’t shy away from an atypical industry or use case. A little due diligence goes a long way. By speaking the customer's language and having a basic understanding of the industry before engaging, the first conversation won't seem like a completely new learning experience and will allow you to deliver value with conviction. This helped me accelerate a deal cycle with a law firm that was completely new to CRM.
11. Know the competitor's proposal and pricing model before presenting an offer during competitive evaluations. We all have an idea of what the typical price point is for some of our frequent competitors and can easily speak to the ranges of investment. However, it's not always easy to understand how that measures up to our pricing and what features are comparable to the various editions we propose.
Take the time to research and review the different pricing, editions, and product packages that our competitors offer. It gives an added advantage to the evaluation and establishes you as a trusted industry expert vs. "just another sales rep."
12. Use an introduction meeting as a negotiation lever. We all have customers who don't want to have anything to do with us — and it sucks. My "phantom" customer called requesting a deeper discount on some additional licenses. I told them that I'd fight for deeper discounts if they were open to my teammate and me coming onsite. The Head of Finance was a little surprised, but nonetheless set a date with us. That onsite visit led to new introductions, a good understanding of their priorities, and a series of new conversations between my customer and Salesforce thought leaders.
13. Don’t walk away from the negotiating table without exhausting all options. I had an opportunity where the CEO was demanding a certain price-per-user because "his friends at other companies pay that." I explained how our discounting model worked, showed the levers I could pull, and was close to walking away entirely.
After brainstorming with a fellow team member, we came back and offered a tiered discounting model where his rate-per-user changes after hitting certain thresholds. The CEO went for it. Not only was this contract structure new to me, but it helped bring peace of mind to a startup that worried about costs as they scale. Always collaborate with those around you on difficult negotiations and never kill a deal early!
Salesforce can help you find customers, win their business, and keep them happy so you can grow faster than ever. Learn more about our small business CRM solutions, follow us on Twitter at @SalesforceSMB, or keep up with us on LinkedIn at Salesforce for Small Business. Join the conversation with #SalesforceEssentials.