Since the inception of this blog, I’ve committed to telling the truth: Confessing the good, the bad and the ugly with regards to getting our software out to the masses! This post is no exception. There’s so many sales videos and books out there that I could have easily compiled a list of sales “to do’s” and called it a day. Instead, if you’re in sales (and we ALL are in one way or another), the ideas I’ve put together in the points below are meant to reinvigorate your passion and your creativity when in the often wildly difficult sales cycle.
First, however, you need to understand why you would even consider wasting your time learning from an amateur sales person like me. Here goes: When you run a startup, you wear EVERY single hat. You don’t have the luxury of focusing on one aspect of the company or delegating what you don’t like or don’t have time to complete yourself. You deal with the complaints. You solve the problems. You work late. You make mistakes. You learn and you get savvy. A friend of mine told me that I couldn’t pay for the education I’m getting right now. For her early insight, I say “Thank you, Michelle!” because this comment lit a fire in my belly! Truth? From the individual who has to understand and know the financials to the person who decides which enhancement to our product is our current priority, it’s all up to me. Of course, our founder, Sheri Tomchick, is there every step of the way as my go to sounding board, as is the team behind our sister company, Plan A. But, at the end of the day, I have the reins and I’ve been told repeatedly, “You ARE StaffStat”! Operations are something I was comfortable with coming in to this opportunity. My stumbling block has always been and admittedly so: sales. I get it: Without sales, we aren’t viable. We could have sat idly by, perfecting our product, working out it’s every angle and watched as competitors inched their way in and passed us by. That was simply not an option. While I still have MUCH to learn, the following is what I’ve come to know over the last 19 months with regards to learning and navigating sales:
- You have to love your product! There’s this thing that happens when you love what you’re selling. You can convince anyone because YOU yourself are genuinely convinced that it’s the best thing since sliced pie (I prefer pie to bread). If you don’t absolutely love what you’re selling… Find another job. You can’t convince anyone if you’re not sold yourself. The following is not me trying to sell my product via our blog, it’s a fact: I love StaffStat! I live and breathe it every day. It’s genius and I wear the pride I feel for it obviously and truly. My prospects know I love it because when I talk about it, my genuine enthusiasm is infectious. I’ve given over a thousand demos and while I’m more confident on my delivery, the passion I feel for our product is as vibrant now as it was during my first presentation. When you love what you sell, people feel it. When they feel it, they get excited and something magical happens: a sale. They believe in you because you believe in your product. They’re excited because you’re excited. They buy because the person selling is honest when explaining how this product is going to better their lives AND means every single word. If you want to be successful at sales, believe in the product you’re selling and good things are bound to happen.
- Ask current customers for one lead! My worst fear has always been to be the “sleazy saleswoman”. However, I’ve watched countless videos and read a ridiculous amount of books on the topic of sales. One reoccurring theme is: Ask your current customers for a lead. Throwing caution to the wind, I did just that, 2 weeks ago. Do you know what happened? EVERY single customer I have sent me an email back! One customer sent me a list of 12 leads, told me to name drop and mentioned an event I should look into attending or sponsoring; all because I did one thing… I asked! The thought process in our little open concept office has been influenced to understand the following: “If you don’t ask, the answer will ALWAYS be no”. Bite the bullet and ask for favors. After all, if they love your product the way you do, they’re likely already singing your praises. You’re just asking that they drive that point home to other potential customers. What’s the worst thing that could happen? They could ignore your voicemail or your email and if you’re in sales, that’s an every day occurrence anyway!
- Take advantage of every opportunity. You hear it all the time: Selling is all about relationships. We JUST got back from a conference and the obviousness of our capacity for relationship building was relevant and helpful! Our current customers were sales people pitching our product for us and driving traffic to our booth. Fellow exhibitors openly provided us with contacts and leads to land new discussions or further current ones. We’ve acquired an impressive list of the who’s who in healthcare and when we walk into a room, it’s with purpose. There is no way that our company is willing to lay down +$10,000 for individuals to hang out behind the booth. I cringe when I walk the floor at a conference and see exhibitors playing Candy Crush on their phones. Reviewing our CRM stats, we sometimes have to call prospects up to 10 times before landing a demo. Tradeshows are our opportunity to provide +100 demos to key decision makers IN our industry and either start that sales conversation or get it going all over again because NOW they get to see it! There’s not a second to waste. Introductions, take them seriously. Demos on site, view them as your opportunity to close a sale, not start one. Build relationships and value them because you never know who your next customer, mentor or partnership could be.
- Speaking of mentors… Find one! I’ve got a few. Some of these individuals are experienced sales people and some are simply smart individuals that have natural insight. Having a mentor to guide you can help you in four significant ways you might never have imagined on your journey to greatness. Why should you bother finding a mentor?
Share experiences. Most of the situations you come across in your sales career – even the toughest and most frustrating ones – aren’t truly unique. A good mentor can tell you how they handled a similar challenge and turned it into an opportunity, or what they learned from the experience. You can take the shortcut to success thanks to your mentor.
Express a different perspective. Each of us has blind spots in our own performance and execution, strengths and weaknesses of which we may not be fully aware. An experienced mentor can help you to recognize and overcome them in a constructive way. This applies on both a tactical and strategic level. Often a mentor can help you find “the big picture view” of yourself and your career, leading you to the questions and insights that result in significant new directions.
Provide encouragement and advice. Many of your professional relationships, especially with managers and supervisors, revolve around the company’s interests, not your own. A mentor has your interests at heart and can help you propel your career forward. One who has been successful in his or her own sales career will provide encouragement and advice that fits you.
Challenge you. Many salespeople think of a mentoring relationship as one that revolves around sage advice, and little more. Certainly, that’s an important part of the mix, but a great mentor won’t just tell you what he or she knows. He or she will push you to get more out of yourself. That’s because your mentor sees your strengths as well as your shortcomings, and will expect you to make the very most of all your talents. In other words, they’re going to be the ones who help you to never settle for “good enough.”
If you’re an experienced sales person, I can only hope that the above has re-inspired you to get out there and sell with passion. If you’re new to this whole selling thing, take it from me, you’ll learn to become the type of sales person you’re meant to be. Now… Stop reading and pick up the phone 😉