Sales is not only a science, but also an art. And we all know there are a lot of bad sales people, just like there are a bunch of lousy artists. I therefore have a great appreciation for excellent sales professionals. Plus, being an operations executive is truly a sales job, and I have to get a buy-in on any larger initiative. I also have been in sales myself, built many systems to make “sales hunting” easier, and recruited my share of sales people.
So where does Darth Vader come in? Blame it on one of the Boston’s best sales masters - Matthew Bellows, founder of Yesware, which is a really useful e-mail tool for sales. I recently went to see one of Matthew’s stellar presentations. Unfortunately, the video isn’t available online yet, but one part of his presentation really resonated with me – his description of the two personality types you have to work with to close a sale – Champions and Darth Vaders. Champions will guide you through the organization and sell your product to others in the company, because they genuinely like you and the product you sell. Darth Vaders, on the other hand, will question you and be skeptical, most likely because they have been screwed before. You see, “Darth Vaders” get hit up by sales pitches every day from the early morning until late at night. They are jaded from sales tricks and are there to make your job very hard. Every business has to have both Champions and Darth Vaders.
I am usually a “Darth Vader” so I totally understand how many of my counterparts think and feel too. We usually handle the money in the company and guard the organization. It is our job to be skeptical and temper the Champions’ enthusiasm, because we will have to own the mess if anything goes wrong. But, we do buy and we buy a lot! It is our job to procure resources and tools for our team. I’m guessing I’ve spent several million in services and products.
So how the heck do you sell to us? Here are the 7 rules you should never ever break or risk being blacklisted or having an extremely short relationship with our businesses:
7. Do not waste our CEOs’ time! Clogging the email or voicemail box of our CEOs gets you nowhere. Not only is their box probably full, half the time our CEO may have no idea about what you are selling. If we told you “no” and you decide to go over us to our CEO, even if you get lucky with one sale, you will now be on our blacklist and will regret it.
6. Treat our gatekeepers like they are the CEO of our company! Not only are they our eyes, ears, and hands, but they are also the reason we can work through an enormous mountains of issues. If you are disrespectful to them, you will have no chance at a sale. Don’t just focus on getting past our gatekeepers, instead recruit them to your side and turn them into your Champions.
5. Be honest! If you tell us nonsense, like you have no competition, or you are not able to tell us where your competitors are better, you lose any chance of a positive report. We are very loyal to honest vendors. Every vendor we have in our go-to contact list is there, because they either sent us to their competitor or told us we should not be buying yet. That goes for both commodities and premium products/services.
4. Dump that script! Since we get hit up with cold calls and emails all day long, we can tell who had what sales training. Consultative selling, AIDA, AIDCA, Sandler, etc. – we know when you are running each technique on us. This just gets you labeled as a rookie, and we care about our companies too much to let rookies touch them. Sales should be a conversation with lots of listening – you can’t script and rehearse that.
3. Keep your word! This is one very common complaint! Don’t forget to call when you say you will, send us the information we requested, deliver scopes and quotes on time, etc.
2. Listen a heck of a lot more than you talk! Ask us the kind of questions that set the context first, then delve deeper into our “pains”. Your consultative perception of our “pain” is usually nothing like our real “pain”. If you yap too much about your “benefits”, you may just miss the sale.
1. Do your homework! Look at our websites, media articles, D&B (which has more info than we want out there), and social media presence. The more you know about us before you call, the more we will feel you invested in us, and this does make us want to talk to you. In addition, if you were respectful to our gatekeepers, they may have already provided you with a lot of very relevant information.
BONUS MATERIAL: If you are a female, for the love of anything sacred you have, please do not think a short skirt or a stuffed bra will get you a real sale. This is not college. We have businesses to run, so please show some class! The same goes for men trying to flirt with female employees in our companies – save it for the bar scene! We see stuff this like this every day and consider it a liability to our company – we want nothing to do with it.
Photo credit: Helmut Edlmayer