The best salespeople know one thing, that to become a trusted advisor, you must forget about telling them about your product, and focus on understanding why they require it.
Dr. John Watson: What could she possibly need?
Sherlock Holmes: It doesn’t matter.
Dr. John Watson: An alibi? A beard? A human canoe. She could sit on your back and paddle you up the Thames.
Many startups/scaleups believe that closing the deal should be completed as soon as the a budget has been discussed and agreed. When you provide a SaaS solution that requires enablement, education, and implementation, know that 100K is not just an annual contract value target. It is a minimum value that will get you the proper attention to secure resources on the customer side and avoid churn. Unfortunately, it is often easier to secure a 30-40K budget and do transactional selling or product selling rather than building out the complete value of your solution.
Sherlock Holmes: My mind rebels at stagnation! Give me problems! Give me work!
At the origin of it all is discovering a reason to act which ultimately unlocks the purchase. In sales books and methodologies, authors commonly refer to it as technical or functional pain. A capacity that is missing, something that your prospect cannot do such as ‘incapacity to automate, inability to analyse the data, inefficiency in the process…’ If you stop at that, you may imagine the rest of the sentence, thinking, assuming these inabilities represent a big issue for your prospect. Unfortunately, what you imagine is not always what it is.
Sherlock Holmes : [to Watson] Never theorise before you have data. Invariably, you end up twisting facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts.
Therefore, never assume. Always confirm. Engage your prospect through an open, guided conversation. Use your empathy and likable personality to draw your interlocutor into telling you about the ‘horror’ story of their technical issue. If you manage to get there, your prospect will believe the consequences of their inabilities. To avoid the horror stories repeating over and over again, you must convince your prospects that they need to find a solution.
Sherlock Holmes : [Frenetically desiring more relevant information on the case] Data, data, data! I cannot make bricks without clay!
A technical pain can generate interest in the prospects and secure the involvement of more stakeholders, especially if the team you are engaging with is the one suffering from it. Yet, if you stop just there in your investigation, the perimeter of your solution may never attract the attention of the executives, let alone their support and money.
Sherlock Holmes: Case reopened.
You must understand the impact of the technical pain (and the horror stories) on the company’s business. What are the consequences of this technical pain to the business? Are they losing market share to their competitors because they are not digitising fast enough? Are they losing their talent because of repetitive manual tasks? Are they piling up costs at the customer call center because they are not providing a seamless customer experience? Why are these technical pains issues? To Whom? What are they doing to fix it? And what are the other initiatives put in place (that you can relate to)? You must find out the consequences of the technical pains, for when the business is hurting and the business understands why, budgets are found.
Sherlock Holmes: My journey took me somewhat further down the rabbit hole than I intended and though I dirtied my fluffy white tail I have emerged, enlightened.
When the business is suffering, powerful people take a personal interest in solving the matter to avoid a negative impact on their career and future success. And when influential people take a troublesome issue under their responsibility, urgency appears.
Find the technical/functional pain and its impact on the team, on the business, and the person who wants to fix it. Only then can you make sure they understand how you are the best partner and solution to solve their problems.
Proper qualification is the essence of a long-term customer/vendor relationship and the core of any successful sales organisation. At the heart of it all is a good mix of artful skills, preparation, and good natured curiosity combined with a brilliant mind to put it all together.
Sherlock Holmes: There was never any magic. Merely conjuring tricks.
Caroline Franczia is a regular columnist for Maddyness and the founder of Uppercut First. Experienced in working for large companies such as Oracle, Computer Associates, and BMC, Caroline also lived in Silicon Valley for four years before moving to startups (Sprinklr, Datadog, Confluent) where she witnessed on the ground the benefits of a well-thought sales strategy. These are the foundations of UF: a structure that accompanies the European startups in their sales strategy by giving them an undeniable advantage in their go-to-market.