I love selling. I’ve had the privilege of working with hundreds of customers in my 4+ years at Marketo, so I’ve seen my share of wins and my share of losses. There are many important best practices in sales, but the formula for winning is simple: you earn trust. As for the deals you end up on the short-end of, well, no one’s ever said: “Ray, I trust you, but I’m not going to buy from you.”
Whether you’re a seasoned Account Executive who’s been selling since before the internet, or a newly promoted whippersnapper who made the most calls on the Lead Qualification team, anyone can become a trusted adviser to their clients or prospective clients. That said, it’s not easy. Here are the 3 pillars of trust that I challenge every AE on the Marketo sales team to live and breathe when speaking with prospective customers:
1) Get the person on the other end to LIKE you.
And don’t fake it with cheesy small talk. “How is the weather out there?” won’t cut it. Find some common ground, and actually enjoy the other person’s company. After all, you’re going to spend some time together as you explore whether there is a mutual fit. Check out their LinkedIn profile, look at their past employment history, and be genuinely interested in that person and making their project successful.
One of the best ways to make someone like you – in a genuine way – is to ask them questions about themselves. This is actually effective in two ways: if you let them steer the conversation, and listen closely, you’re more likely to discover your common ground.
To make sure you remember what you learn through LinkedIn and what the person tells you on the phone, add the details into your CRM system the second you hang up the phone. Next time when you two speak, you can easily recall the details since they will be in the lead record.
2) Understand the buyer’s needs better than anyone else – even the buyer themselves.
People don’t buy products because they have nothing better to do than spend their company’s money. People buy products because they are looking to grow the business, fix a problem, or improve on a key initiative. This is true with our product, marketing automation software, but it applies to any industry. It’s your responsibility to find out what those main drivers are.
You should start by doing research into your buyer’s company – have they recently experienced a big growth or reorganization? Received negative attention for a technical problem? Come to the conversation with your background information in place, and then ask for more. Know their key initiatives, ask how those have evolved over time, and ask them to project into the future. How can your product get them there?
Listen for their drivers and ask questions that allow you to walk in their shoes. If you focus on the needs they’ve shared, and on how your product can address those needs, your product’s price tag won’t matter as much.
3) Offer ideas that the buyer hasn’t thought of before they spoke to you.
You are the expert in your industry and in how customers get value from your solution, and prospective customers will need your help in presenting that vision to the higher-ups. Arm them with ideas that will make them look good in front of their boss. You can provide them with relevant case studies, competitor histories, and, most importantly, detailed projections. How will the partnership with your company help them six weeks, six months, or six years down the road?
Your prospective client has probably done some homework before speaking to you, and they’ll have at least some vision of how they might partner with your company — but have a couple of nuggets in your back pocket that will resonate. You’ll earn credibility, and make your customer’s life easier. Partnerships are often formed for intuitive, emotional reasons (see tip #1), but your buyer needs to back up their decision with thorough research and hard data.
Good salespeople close deals, but great salespeople earn trust. Trust breeds loyal customers, and with the “Easy-on, Easy-off” promise of SaaS, sales organizations hit in the leadoff spot. So step up to the plate.
How are you (or your team) earning trust during the sales process? Let us know in the comments below!