Sales Advice to A Startup Founder

Sales Advice to A Startup Founder

Every Monday, I meet with the Founder/CEO of an enterprise social learning startup to discuss sales and marketing strategy and execution. Because the CEO’s background is in program management, I have been helping him refine his consultative selling skills at the executive-level. During our conversation this week, we discussed his upcoming (follow-up) meeting with a large international bank based in Europe. While NOT exhaustive, below are the key areas that we discussed for having a successful consultative sales engagement with a customer.

Background Preparation
• Research the customer. What challenges do they face? What opportunities do they have?
• Research the contact. Use social media to review their background, history, etc. Use it to build rapport.
• What do you want to accomplish? Create an agenda. Send it to the contact in advance for buy-in.
• Who is for the deal? Who is against it? Strengthen your supporters. Neutralize your opponents.
• Match preparation and planning to level of importance. The more important, the more time required.

Business Conversation
• What are the company’s key business objectives and priorities?
• How is IT supporting those objectives? What capabilities are needed?
• Never lead with your product or features. How can your product solve the customer’s business problem?
• Focus on educating the decision maker. Education is non-threatening. Consultant/teacher versus seller.
• Speak in the decision maker’s language. What is important to them?  Each function is different (e.g., IT, Sales, etc.).

Decision Making
• Who is the decision maker? One person? Buying committee?
• Does DM run a profit center or cost center? If PC, focus on increasing revenue. If CC, focus on reducing costs.
• How are decisions made within the company? What needs to happen for a P.O. to be cut?
• Does the decision maker have budget? What is their timeline?
• Always maintain equal business statute with the decision-maker(s) and executives. Power buys from power.

Value Proposition
• Quantify business problems in financial terms using the customer’s numbers.
• ROI and payback must be strong; otherwise, your product is a “nice to have” versus a “must have.”
• Do not be afraid to acknowledge the competition’s strengths. It disarms the customer and increases credibility.
• How have you helped similar customers (industry, size, etc.) and executives (title) achieve meaningful results?
• How can you help the customer perform better than the industry average? That is, create a competitive advantage?

What Next?
• Create an evaluation plan, including milestones and timelines. Who is doing what and by when?
• Follow up in writing and request the customer formally agree to the evaluation plan.
• Make time the enemy – opportunity cost. Quantify how much it will cost the customer to wait or do nothing.
• Conduct regular check-point meetings to ensure accountability and progress.
• Promote partnership between the two companies and teams. Help each other increase profits to grow together.

All contents copyright © 2012, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.


One Response to Sales Advice to A Startup Founder

  1. Alanna Anale says:

    This was an extremely helpful post. Many thanks for sharing this information.


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