Inspired by "Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager" by Ben Horowitz
So before I dive in, don't get me wrong. Having a well defined, clearly iterated Sales Process is hugely important for every sales team. There should be an easy to follow flow with how teams approach sales pursuits, with exit criteria for each stage and percentages to include for forecasting. Each salesperson should be a master of that process, and at any time be able to categorize their opportunities into a stage, with a great explanation and plan for next steps to advance through the process. But guess what...that's not enough!
When it comes to a selling, there are arguably ten times as many things that are out of your control, as opposed to in your control. So why do we obsess over those external elements, when we can look at what is directly in our power to control?
So here we are at the end of another month and quarter. Sales reps everywhere are pushing as hard as possible to create some last minute urgency to bring in those final deals.
Every salesperson I have met has their own style and approach. Some are lighthearted and laid back, while others are sticklers to process and firm commitment. There are the relationship-builders who form bonds, and build advocates in their prospects. The classic hard-workers who pound the phone, and play the numbers game to get to their number. Problem solvers are detailed in their approach, and try to be conscientious in their post sale follow up. Then there are the lone wolves who pave their own way and process, and the challengers who bring new ideas to the table to encourage a new way of thinking for the prospect. The Challenger Sale does an amazing job of laying these out, but in this post I want to discuss one way I have begun to view the world of salesperson archetypes: the Doctor or the Therapist.
Galactic Scoundrel, renowned smuggler, space cowboy. All things I immediately think of when I think "Sales", right? Maybe thats just the Star Wars nerd in me.
Regardless though, if you look at some of those famous lines said none other than Han Solo, there may be some sales wisdom we can appreciate, and apply to Inbound Selling.
- "Never tell me the odds!"
Sales is a tough job, it is extremely difficult and at times you will often feel like you're facing insurmountable odds. But just like Han Solo himself flying straight into an asteroid field, don't think about everything working against you, focus on what you can control! Prospecting, call volume, and attitude are all things we as sales professionals have direct control over. So instead of looking at what is working against you, ignore the odds and control your inputs.
- "Great, kid. Don't get cocky"
So you've had some early success, maybe you were at the top of the charts one month or quarter, and that should be celebrated. But it can be easy in a selling role to let it get to your head, and let it affect the next quarter or month. A good day, week, or month should be acknowledged and evaluated for what was done right. But always remember, whether it is gunning down tie-fighters or closing deals, that we need to keep egos in check and practice humility to focus on how we can sustain consistent performance.
- "Punch it"
No I don't mean your Cisco phone, although there are times it's tempting not to. I'm talking about that overdrive capability salespeople possess. The ability to tune out everything and crank out an hours worth of high volume activity. Blasting into hyperspace isn't just for Han Solo, but for every SDR or Account Executive that needs to put in that top of the funnel activity. So buckle up, and GO!
- "Look, I ain't in this for your revolution, and I'm not in it for you, princess. I expect to be well paid. I'm in it for the money”
Okay so maybe there are some things Han has said we don't necessarily agree with, this being one of those. The salespeople of today are not in it for the money, but often times for the challenge, competition, and the value we bring prospects to help them overcome complex business challenges and realize target goals! So sorry Han, we are not in it for the money, and based on the movies, neither are you. Which brings us to our last quote...
- "Laugh it up, Fuzzball!"
I don't know if you can relate to the fuzzball part here, but anyways this is extremely important to a sales career and a lot of times in life! The ability to display humor, and laugh, not only reduces the stress of a selling role but also helps us in the sales process. Our prospects are also humans, and the ability to make them smile and laugh only helps us realize that, and a lot of times can eradicate that dynamic of salesperson/buyer in your conversations. So go ahead, crack and smile and laugh it up!
Inbound Selling has become something more and more salespeople and marketers are talking about. It has crept into our vocabulary as something that effective sales reps need to be doing..
So what is Inbound Selling? Most definitions iterate that its the process of selling, uniquely matched to the way consumers/businesses buy. Sounds easy enough right? Let's dive into the process itself
I found the above image from non-other than HubSpot's sales blog, and I think its a great depiction as to what the Inbound Selling process looks like, step-by-step.
Finding potential prospects is really where the sales process begins, and makes a huge difference if done correctly. All too often I speak to sales professionals who are just not focusing on this step before they pick up the phone or send an email. If we don't define what makes a quality customer, we don't have any direction as to who is a good fit to call in the first place. Inbound prospecting as I like to call it, is a great way to identify good fit prospects, and engage them in our Inbound Selling process. Ensure you have a targeted approach by defining an ideal fit customer, using things like company size, industry, B2B/B2C, persona, etc.
Ok so now you have that "Ideal Client Profille" built out, and maybe even built out a target list of prospects who fit the criteria. Great! Now what? Research, research, and more research. I am not saying you need to write a 20 page thesis on everything you can gather about the company, but it makes a huge difference if you learn what you can about the industry, your specific contact, and the business overall. Take a look at their website and identify areas you think they could improve on. Come up with some suggestions of how you can help, generate and write down some positiuoning statements. The idea here is to customize your outreach and treat every prospect like a human. This post by Pete Caputa, Inbound Selling leader, is an awesome one to reference here.
I think this step is the most important part of the Inbound Selling process, and something that truly differentiates this sales process from the "old school" ways. A lot of salespeople focus on nailing their pitch, but really the focus needs to be on asking the right questions to diagnose and understand. This step is all about asking what the prospects goals are, what challenges they face, and how you can help them connect the two by providing value. Budget also needs to be a part of this conversation to set expectations. It is less about your product/service, and all about what their initiatives are. I like to say that in this step you want to act as an outside business consultant, going in to truly understand all of their business aspects and where there may be a gap.
This is where we connect everything we have learned so far, and turn it into an actionable plan. Recap their goals and challenges, make your final recommendations as to the plan to achieve them. Lay out how you product / service is directly tied into that plan and ensure they understand the value add compared to the budget. Ensure your prospect understands the plan you have discussed, and come together with a timeline meeting their expectations.