7 Signs You Should Walk Away From a Prospect

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Walking away is hard. It’s especially hard when you’re walking away from a potential deal — after all, you’ve spent time, energy, and resources building a relationship, and giving up means you’ll have nothing to show for it.

But in the long run, knowing when to walk away and disqualify a lead will make you far more effective. Every minute spent chasing an impossible or low-value deal is a minute you could spend closing a likely or high-value one. Even if you do convince a poor fit to buy, you’ll be setting yourself up for unhappy customers and a poor reputation.

To avoid the pitfalls of bad-fit prospects, look out for the seven signs you should give up on a deal.

1) The Prospect Can’t Answer These Three Questions

Sales requires some detective skills. You need to uncover your prospect’s pain, figure out what she means (versus what she says), and tailor your messaging to her priorities.

Yet you can’t do all the work. According to Colleen Francis, author of “Nonstop Sales Boom,” sales reps should walk away from prospects who can’t answer these three questions:

  • What does success look like with this project?
  • Who else will be involved in this decision?
  • When do you need to have this project done by?

If the prospect says, “I don’t know,” that tells you that either she’s not serious, or she’s not a decision maker. And if it’s the latter? Well, somewhere during the approval process, the real decision maker will ask her those same questions. Without a satisfactory response, the deal won’t move forward.

Before you give up, try saying, “I’m worried that unless we can figure out what you’re hoping to accomplish — and by when — this might not be the best investment of your time. Should we table this conversation?”

2) They (Really) Don’t Have the Budget

Sales reps are used to hearing “We don’t have the budget,” and “I can’t afford that price.” And that shouldn’t be your cue to give up — many prospects use price as a convenient excuse to get off the phone.

However, some companies really won’t be able to afford your product. Here’s where you should do a bit more discovery: What’s your prospect’s company’s revenue? Is accessing cash a matter of proving the purchase’s value to higher-ups or hoping that a new round of funding comes in? If you changed billing terms or offered a slight discount, would that change things? Do you typically sell to companies of this size with this approximate revenue? If your prospect’s answers are completely misaligned with what you’re able to provide, you’re probably out of this prospect’s price range.

Rather than abandoning the deal with no warning, let your prospect down gently by saying, “Given what you’ve told me about your budget, I don’t believe our product is the right fit for you.”

Score some sales karma by adding, “I’d recommend [Company A] or [Company B]; either should be able to meet your needs within the budget you’ve outlined.”

Now you’ve created some goodwill — so it’s a great time to request a referral. Say, “Do you know anyone who’s looking for a more robust solution?”

3) You’re Competing With 3+ Other Vendors

Given your line of work, you probably enjoy a little competition. But as sales expert Jeff Hoffman explains, pursuing a sale when there’s three or more other vendors in the mix isn’t usually worth it.

Not only do your chances of closing decrease with every direct competitor, Hoffman says, the fact that you’re facing so many other vendors suggests the deal’s still in early stages. You’ll likely be working with a lower-level employee, rather than the decision maker.

And even if you turn down an RFP, that doesn’t mean the opportunity is lost.

“If your company was a serious contender, the manager will tell the researcher to go back to your company and ask again,” Hoffman notes. “If you receive a second request, you will know the prospect is truly interested, and you aren’t wasting your time by getting involved.”

4) They Go Dark

Out of nowhere, your prospect fell off the face of the planet. She won’t return your calls, answer your emails, or respond to your LinkedIn messages. Eventually, you turned to your last-resort re-engagement techniques — and still, zilch.

It’s probably time to stop trying. Sure, there’s a chance she’ll respond to that tenth email or eleventh voicemail, but let’s be real, it’s a very slim chance. Plus, when you refuse to recognize prospects who aren’t interested, you end up with a cluttered pipeline and inaccurate sales forecasts.

You shouldn’t end a relationship by going dark yourself, however. Wrap the relationship professionally by sending a breakup email. Bryan Kreuzberger, founder of Breakthrough Email, says sending a “permission to close your file” email gives reps a chance to learn from the sale. (Check out the template he uses that gets a 76% response rate!)

5) You’re Working With a Coach, Not a Champion

The prospect is picking up the phone and putting your meetings on his calendar, so life is good, right? Not necessarily. Simply talking to you isn’t enough — the prospect needs to be able to move the deal forward.

If a prospect is unable to introduce you to other stakeholders, talk about his budget, share his decision criteria, or answer your questions about his needs, desires, and pain points, he’s likely a coach — someone who can be valuable in providing context around his company’s internal politics and decision making processes, but lacks the authority or influence to impact a deal.

In these situations, you don’t need to abandon the account. You just need to find a champion — someone with access to the decision maker who will sell your product internally. You don’t want to burn bridges with your coach, so don’t insinuate that they’re not useful to you. Instead, keep things positive and ask your point of contact who besides them should be involved in the conversations. They’ll point you to the people who can actually ink a deal.

6) They Don’t See Your Value

It’s the salesperson’s responsibility to educate the buyer on their solution’s value. If your prospect is struggling to understand why they need your product and how it will help them achieve their goals, reframe your value proposition, show them customer case studies, send them testimonials from your happiest clients, and so on.

But if you’ve repeatedly attempted and failed to convince them of your offering’s ROI, it’s time to call it quits. Some buyers will never grasp the message — and you’ll simply waste your  breath if you keep trying.

While they might end up buying, you’ll have a difficult (if not impossible) time negotating a fair price. After all, they see your product as a commodity. 

7) It’s Not a Good Fit

If your product won’t help the prospect, you’re obligated to walk away. At the end of the day, your mission shouldn’t be closing: It should be delivering the best solution to your customers.

Imagine you sell online reputation management services to restaurants. Because your product isn’t really cost-effective for smaller organizations, you target dining establishments with 20 or more locations. You get an inbound lead for a restaurant with only two locations; after following up, you realize this business will get minimal ROI from your services — if any.

Rather than pushing forward with the sale, you should say, “From what I’ve learned about your restaurant and goals, I don’t believe our product is the best solution. I recommend [alternate product #1] or [alternate product #2] instead, because [reasons A and B].”

This response boosts your reputation as credible and trustworthy — so when the prospect’s restaurant chain gets acquired by a much bigger one, you’ll be the first person she calls. But even if this prospect never becomes a good fit, she’ll likely pass your name along to anyone who is.

Removing a prospect from your pipeline never feels good, even when you know it’s the best thing to do. But there’s a major upside. When you walk away from the prospects who aren’t right for your business, you’ll be able to focus on the prospects who are.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

6 Secrets to Getting a Response From the CEO in 2017

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Imagine you’re a pilot landing a plane. A long runway is obviously better than a short one since it gives you more wiggle room to adjust your approach. When you are tasked with landing on a short strip of runway, you must be far more meticulous about your movements to bring the plane down safely. I often use this metaphor to describe the difference between reaching out to a manager- or junior-level buyer as opposed to a C-level executive. When a salesperson sends a message to a lower-level prospect, they can afford to try a stronger ask at first, and then tweak it or scale back as necessary. But when you’re pitching to a CEO, you really only have one shot to engage them. Bungle the ask and you miss the runway entirely.

With this in mind, salespeople must be deliberate and thoughtful in how they approach CEOs if they hope to receive any kind of response. Here are six tips that can help your pitch land smoothly with the chief executive officer, and maximize your chances of getting a reply. 

How to Get a CEO’s Attention

1) Use a gentle ask.

CEOs are extremely busy, so in my outreach, I’m not going request a meeting or a conference call. Deploying an overly strong ask in the initial email or call will pretty much guarantee never getting a call back. And at this stage, a response is all I’m after — not a signed contract.

CEOs aren’t usually willing or able to give of their limited time. So instead of trying to think of the magical sentence or statistic that will prompt the executive to drop everything and meet with you, I encourage salespeople to consider what CEOs are willing and able to give. In general, CEOs are friendly and outgoing since they’re constantly representing their companies to a variety of audiences. They’re extremely savvy when it comes to social dynamics and credibility.

Take this information and play in their wheelhouse. Rather than a meeting or call request, soften and socialize your close by asking the CEO for a referral or a connection to more information. Not only do these asks require significantly less time and attention, CEOs actually like giving references and information.

For example, an email using this approach might read something like this: “I want to make sure I don’t sound foolish when I call your organization about X issue. Where/from whom can I get the best information on this topic?”

Instead of coming to the CEO as a credible sales rep, you’re now approaching them as a curious student, and you’ll likely find that they’re much more willing to engage on this level. And once they start to engage, you can ramp up the relationship bit by bit.

Another benefit of making it ridiculously easy for the CEO to respond to your message: Getting any sort of response automatically boosts your credibility with others in the organization. Maybe you’re trying to book a meeting with the VP of HR. You think it’s more likely they’ll agree to your call when you say “Well, I got in touch with your CEO last week, and she said X … “? Instant credibility earned.

2) Write emails on your phone.

CEOs are constantly on the go, which means nine times out of 10, they’re reading email on a tablet or smartphone. If an email from an unknown recipient requires them to scroll, it’s not getting read.

Bearing this in mind, write any email intended for a CEO on a smartphone. That way, you see exactly how it will appear to them when they read it. Salespeople often make emails to C-level buyers overly long and complex, because they think they need to sound smart and impressive. But when it comes to getting a response, short and simple is always better.

Don’t sit in front of your desktop computer and fill up the screen with a novel. Get out your phone, type out a few brief sentences, and send.

3) Don’t dismiss the EA.

The common perception among salespeople about executive assistants is that they handle C-level professionals’ calendars and block others’ access to them. End of job description.

Maybe that was the case 20 or 30 years ago. But in 2016, executive assistants are extraordinarily competent in a plethora of areas, and their duties extend far beyond administrative tasks. Beyond keeping their boss’ calendars, EAs also represent their managers at internal and external meetings and sometimes even make decisions on their behalf.

Because of this, I think of the executive assistant as the CEO by proxy. Instead of trying to bypass the EA, work with them to get the information you need and indirectly engage the CEO. Sometimes interacting with and posing your ask to the EA is more beneficial then accessing the CEO. For example, if I was building an ROI calculator to strengthen a presentation and needed data from the CEO to complete it, getting it from the EA is just as good — and much faster. When it comes to any other ask besides signing the contract, I don’t distinguish between the CEO and their EA due to how closely they work together. 

It’s also a good idea to call the EA and pick their brain before you reach out to the CEO — after all, they know more than anyone else what works with their boss and what doesn’t. However, EAs are busy people too, and they won’t just give you the information you want simply because you asked for it.

Keeping in mind that EAs get countless calls from salespeople pitching “value and benefits” for the CEO, differentiate yourself from other reps by showing your vulnerability. For example, here’s how you might kick off your call with the EA:

“Hi, Mike. I’m going to be reaching out to Wendy soon, and I don’t want to look stupid … what’s the one thing I definitely shouldn’t say?”

Ah — now you’ve got their attention. The EA can be critical in your campaign to reach the CEO, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot by dismissing them.

4) Draw on the college connection.

Salespeople often try to find common contacts, interests, or employers when reaching out to prospects. This is a smart technique, but it can be tailored even further with CEOs.

The most powerful connection you can use with the chief executive isn’t their current company, their former company, or any of their colleagues past or present. It’s their college. In general, CEOs are extremely involved with their alma maters, and if you went to their school or know someone who did, use that as an in. Reminiscing about college days can quickly become talking about current business.

5) Call late.

Common sales wisdom holds that salespeople should call executives early in the day, before they get too busy. But in my experience, connect rate (which I define as a phone call over 60 seconds long) is notoriously low in the morning hours. Why? When a CEO gets to their office, they might not have gotten in the swing of things quite yet, but they’re distracted — thinking about all the tasks they have to get done that day. Not the ideal time to hear from a salesperson.

The end of the day tends to be a better time to call the C-suite — think 5 to 8 p.m. local time. Later in the day, you’ll find that the person on the other end of the line is less distracted, a little tired, and in an overall better mood.

You might be concerned that a late call will be a bother to an executive. But to me, this is a non-issue. If your call comes at a bad time, they simply won’t pick up. Not to mention that what a CEO finds “bothersome” has little to do with your timing and everything to do with your message. If you have a good message, they’ll be interested in what you have to say — even if it’s a bit late.

6) Use a 45-day cadence.

Industry standard is five touches in 30 days. For CEOS, I advise five touches in 45 days.

CEOs’ schedules rarely exist on a monthly cadence. They think about quaters, not months. Most prospects are available sometime within a month. No matter when I reach you, there will be sliver of time in four weeks that you’re available — even if for two of those weeks you’re on vacation, sick, off-site, working on a major proect, and so on.

But many CEOs will disappear for an entire three weeks at a time, depending on what they’re doing.

A CEO can’t stay away from her company for an entire 45 days, which is why I recommend an extended calling schedule.

Want more sales tips? Subscribe to my quarterly newsletter “The Deal Doctor™” to receive my latest tips, techniques, and strategies to achieve greater sales.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

Why the Best Salespeople Are SNIPERs, Not Spear-Throwers

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We all remember the adage: Good sales people are like spear throwers, whilst marketing casts the net.

Spear throwing is so ’90s. It may as well be Neolithic.

In this age of modern technology, I’ve found the machine gun is a more accurate metaphor for most salespeople when they begin.

They lack focus and often pick too many targets — many of which are not the right ones.

This often leads to longer ramp time, countless burnt leads, and a non-structured approach that’s hard to measure and even harder to repeat.

As salespeople gradually mature, I think they become more like rocket launchers.

They become more effective in closing deals, but often there is a certain amount of fall out in every deal. This is visible in:

  • Signs of weakness in the handover to customer success
  • Customers confused about features that were misrepresented or not mentioned during the sales process
  • Some internal stakeholders feeling off put by the conduct of the lead salesperson and potentially reluctant to work with them again
  • Incomplete CRM records, making attribution almost impossible
  • Key points of contact on the customer side who feel the sales person was less experienced or careless, diluting experience and brand equity

At a certain level of expertise, my best sales people evolve into revenue ‘snipers.’

They demonstrate an extraordinarily ability to research, select, and close business in a way that you can rely upon.

For ease of explanation, I’d like to introduce the SNIPER methodology. This acronym is extremely helpful in teaching and practicing the approach:

  • Select
  • Negotiate
  • Individualize
  • Personalize
  • Execute
  • Repeat

Select

A sales rep carefully takes the time to make two key selections.

The first is choosing which account to target based on extensive research (most of which can be done online using public data).

The second and most commonly forgotten step is to conduct a second degree of selection as to which POCs (point of contacts) are most likely to exhibit the problems the salesperson knows their product can solve.

A SNIPER salesperson usually updates the CRM with this information, allowing them to personalize subsequent interactions.

Negotiate

We must not forget that in most situations we seek to avoid conflict. That is why a SNIPER must exhibit supreme skills in negotiation — making the client feel as if they are being heard and that compromises are being made on both sides.

Individualize

Elite SNIPERs are known for having a trademark; the signs of their involvement are always clearly visible.

I like to use physical touches, such as wearing a cowboy hat and attending meetings with unique clothing. You can also differentiate yourself by your speaking style, professionalism, subject matter knowledge, and punctuality in replies.

The goal: Make yourself memorable and unique from the other 99 sales people who’ll come knocking on the door.

Personalize

Every effective SNIPER takes the time to tailor a strategy based on the specific characteristics of each target they select.

Although reps consistently use the SNIPER methodology, they tailor their approach to each prospect to create interest and service their unique needs.

Taking time to create one-to-one emails, proactively avoiding common vendor assumptions, and making the effort to meet in person are all signs of SNIPER’s highly personalized strategy.

Execute

Execution separates the good from the best. Often the steps above can be followed directly, yet still most people have something missing when it comes to the close.

SNIPERs attempt to complete the mission at all costs. This is justified because they’re only targeting fully qualified opportunities, as predicated by the first step.

In the unlikely event that despite following this method, something occurs dynamically which may stall the deal (such as a merger or acquisition), they are ready to immediately abort and move on to a target with a higher chance of success.

Repeat

SNIPERs are different from standard performers in that they follow this method time and time again. Stopping only to make minor technique modifications, they generally build further pipeline velocity through the efficiency created.

Additionally, their methodical approach makes them perfect future mentors for new hires and/or sales managers.

Would you rather hold onto the spear, or do you believe that the SNIPER method has a place? Let me know in the comments below.

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on LinkedIn and has been republished here with permission.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

The B2B Outreach Strategy That Helped Us Win Our First 10 Customers

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Early-stage companies often cast too wide a net when defining their target customer base. They believe the more prospects, the better — but pursuing the wrong types of prospects wastes precious time, cash, and sales resources. There’s a high opportunity cost to chasing someone who won’t buy (or buys and quickly churns).

All the while, your competitors are entering the market and getting to large and enterprise clients more quickly than you.

I’ve now helped three early-stage tech companies go from zero revenue to cash-flow positive. Honing in on the most valuable accounts and customer stakeholders has helped me accelerate B2B sales at each of these. In fact, the company I currently lead, Spotted Media, used this three-step plan to acquire our first set of customers before we even had a fully functioning web site.

Step 1: Create an Ideal Customer Profile

An Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) should consist of five strict bullet points that you will not waver on. This means you can’t work any prospect who does not check all five boxes of your ICP.

An ICP might consist of the following:

  • Revenue size (e.g. more than $200 million in annual sales)
  • Employee count (e.g. no fewer than 1,000 verified LinkedIn employees)
  • Organization’s employee structure (e.g. the brand must have an in-house media team)
  • Type of product sold (e.g. a direct manufacturer)
  • A mutual goal (e.g. a manufacturer that cares about increasing brand awareness)

Once you’ve created your Ideal Customer Profile, the next step is thinking through the people who work for this ideal customer. Stop asking yourself surface-level questions like, “Are they in marketing?” and start asking yourself in-depth, meaningful questions about these professionals’ motivations.

That leads me to the next step.

Step 2: Create a Persona Map

Choose the three primary roles that you sell into (e.g. the VP of Advertising, the VP of Media, and the VP of Brand Marketing), then outline the following for each of these three roles:

  1. The buyer’s 2-3 primary daily responsibilities (projects they work on and think about every day)
  2. 2-3 ways your company can help make the buyer’s daily responsibilities easier
  3. The buyer’s 2-3 longer-term goals
  4. 2-3 ways in which your company can help further the buyer’s longer-term goals
  5. How your company can get this person promoted faster than their peers

This approach will save you and your team a great deal of time in the future when you’re at your laptop thinking, “What messaging and language should I use when reaching out to this person?” By filling in the five points above for each of your target roles, your outreach messaging will practically craft itself. Repurpose points #2 and #4 specifically for your email outreach.

These should appear within the first few sentences of your outreach emails to the target contact. Here is an example:

Ideas for [prospect’s company] re: [goal]

Dear [prospect’s name],

I am reaching out to you given your role in media at [prospect’s company]. [Vendor] can help [prospect’s company] improve [point #1] with its millennial customers by [point #2]. [Vendor] is helping [Client A] and [Client B] media teams achieve a [point #3] that is [X%] more efficient through [point #4].

Do you have 15 minutes to hear about the unique ideas we have for the [prospect’s company] media team on [date] or [date]?

Thanks in advance,
Janet

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You’ve mapped out the specifics of your ideal customer, the personal motivations of the stakeholders — now where do you go from here? To focus your outreach on the right people, you have to prioritize.

Step 3: Prioritize Your Personas

Prioritize your personas by ranking each buyer on a scale from one to five on the following:

  • Alignment with your solution
  • Size of their budget
  • Level of influence within the organization

Once you’ve calculated the scores for alignment, budget, and influence, lay out a strategic plan for your outreach starting with the buyers with the highest totals. (In this example, the VP of Media ranks the highest.)

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This exercise will drastically reduce wasted time and optimize your outreach while allowing you to get in front of the right people faster.

What’s the result of this upfront investment in strategy? Efficient outreach that specifically addresses the needs of your various buyers. Your messages will resonate more, and your prospects will respond more frequently.

Say goodbye to the typical results at early-stage companies, and say hello to more calls, meetings, and closed business.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

How to Choose the Right Accounts for ABM (and 3X Your Average Deal)

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There’s no doubt that Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is hot right now. According to the SiriusDecisions 2016 State of ABM, 70% of all B2B companies are focused on driving account-based selling programs. That number is up 350% from the previous year’s study.

Research from the ABM Leadership Alliance found B2B marketers saw a 171% lift in their average annual contract value (ACV) when implementing ABM strategies.

But while many are talking about what ABM is and why you should adopt it, few are teaching the tactics.

At Engagio, we’ve set out to create the most clear and complete guide to ABM. In this post, we’re going to dive into the first and most important part of account-based sales: Selecting the right accounts to target.

How to Choose Target Accounts for Account-Based Marketing 

Building an ABM Engine with Data

Using the right data fuels your ABM rocket. Neglecting to use data, or even worse, using the wrong data, can lead to internal combustion and complete system failure.

A study by SiriusDecisions proves better data results in better account selection, which leads to a 35-40% higher average sales selling price (ASP). How much would 35-40% add to your bottom line? Using the right data points allows you to scientifically identify the accounts with the highest likelihood of doing business with you. This data can also tell you which existing customers are likely to expand.

The two key types of data you’ll need to draw better company-level insights are firmographics and technographics. Firmographics are company characteristics that best predict a good fit including company size, industry, number of employees, estimated revenue, estimated growth, and number of locations. Technographics are the technologies your target accounts currently use or are looking to invest in — for example, complementary technologies to yours, technology that rules out your solution or makes it less necessary, or competitive solutions where you know you have a highly win rate.

Get Insights on Contacts to Shorten Sales Cycles

Next, identify the contacts you’ll need to reach out to within your target accounts. Take the time upfront to research the customer stakeholders, their place on the organizational chart, personal goals, and the level of influence they each have. Targeted sales prospecting lets you get to the right people in less time.

The specific details you’re looking for include:

  • Job title
  • Tenure
  • Decision-making hierarchy
  • Account affiliation
  • Activity/engagement history
  • Skills and proficiencies
  • Experience with your category

Once you’ve collected these details, you can build an “influence matrix,” which will give you and your team members more clarity into the buying and decision making processes within the account. This step can decrease your sales cycle by as much as 50%.

Getting Access to Decision Makers with Market Insights

According to 75% of executives surveyed by ITSMA, prospects welcome even unsolicited material when the ideas are relevant to their business. After you’ve found the right accounts and the right contacts, deliver relevant business insights.

To organize your account based plays effectively, you need to know:

  1. The target’s industry and market trends
  2. SWOT analysis of the target account
  3. The relationships inside the account
  4. Your connections to the account

This information will lead you to the content and delivery methods you should use with each account. Providing compelling insights generates credibility, trust, and ultimately more business.

From Idea to Execution: How Engagio Selects and Tiers Accounts

Selecting target account is a rigorous process. We use three funnels:

  • Funnel 1: Target accounts
  • Funnel 2: Qualified but non-target accounts
  • Funnel 3: All other accounts

Target accounts are hand-selected by the individual account executives (AEs) with help from Marketing (which provides firmographic data and a definition of the Ideal Customer Profile).

Funnel 2 represents all the non-target accounts that meet our ICP and have become a Marketing Qualified Account (MQA). MQAs are similar to MQLs; however, when you’re taking an account-based approach, you focus on accounts rather than leads.

Funnel 1 accounts are further broken out into three tiers. Each AE selects roughly five Tier 1 accounts, 45 Tier 2 accounts, and 150 Tier 3 accounts. These tiers are important because they decide how we will treat each account:

  • Tier 1: This is ABM in its truest sense. We use deep research, a customized account plan, personalized content, bespoke campaigns, and one-to-one communication. There’s no automation.
  • Tier 2: These accounts also receive individual research, but they’re limited to a few key points of information for each account. We won’t use completely personalized plays and custom content but will still deliver highly relevant touches based on their industry and persona.
  • Tier 3: This bucket includes all the accounts that you want to target but don’t have the resources for personalization and customization. ITSMA calls this Programmatic ABM. It’s traditional marketing with account-level targeting and customization. The key difference from demand gen is that instead of scoring leads, you track account-level engagement and wait until the account hits a sufficient threshold to label them an MQA.

After you select your target accounts, it’s time to map out the players. Use data and predictive analytics to identify the individuals who represent your key personas inside each target account Once we have the accounts and contacts, we use our own platform (ABM Analytics) to understand key engagement metrics inside each account.

Identify the Right Data with Insight Resources

If you want to be successful with ABM, you need to invest in new resources. The proportionately larger deals you’ll be closing will make this investment worth it.

Here are some of our best tips and lessons we’ve learned around implementing ABM:

  • Insight generation has to be somebody’s job, or it’s nobody’s job.
  • Incentivize your people: Compensate your Sales Development Reps on insight collection metrics, or run a SPIF.
  • Utilize third-party vendors that specialize in collecting insights on companies and people.

This is just the beginning of the ABM process, but it’s the most important piece. Get this wrong, and you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. Get this right and your business will see growth like it’s never seen before.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

15 Bad Habits That Make Salespeople Seem Pushy (And How to Correct Them)

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Salespeople get a bad rap. In HubSpot Research’s newest study, Buyers Speak Out: How Sales Needs to Evolve, respondents were asked to submit the word they most associated with salespeople.

The #1 response? “Pushy.”

Yikes.Persistence is part of being a salesperson. In fact, 80% of sales require five or more follow-ups. And there’s an obvious difference between consistently adding a bit of value with each check-in and doggedly pursuing prospects who have, in no uncertain terms, told you they’re not interested.

But the contrast between persistence and pushiness isn’t always so clear. If you’re doing any of the things on the list below, you might be coming off as pushy without even realizing it.

15 Reasons Buyers Think Salespeople Are Pushy

1) You call or email without new updates to share.

What you think: You’re keeping yourself top-of-mind and on your prospect’s radar.

Why it’s pushy: You’re keeping yourself top-of-mind, all right — as that annoying salesperson who won’t stop calling. Don’t reach out unless you have something new to share; otherwise you’re taking up your prospect’s time without providing any value.

2) You ask the same question multiple times.

What you think: You haven’t gotten the information you need, so it can’t hurt to ask again … right?

Why it’s pushy: Your prospect has already answered your question to the best of their ability, so why keep beating a dead horse? Try phrasing your question a different way or coming at it from a different angle to avoid exhausting your prospects.

3) You start talking about your product right away.

What you think: Your product is great! Why wouldn’t a prospect want to hear about it?

Why it’s pushy: Never lead by talking about your product. Unless your prospect is already quite familiar with your product’s value proposition, starting with the value it brings and how it will change your prospect’s business is a more effective way to get a conversation started.

4) You use a lot of declarative words and phrases (“should,” “have to,” “need to,” etc.)

What you think: You try to spend time during each sales call giving advice and sharing best practices with your prospects.

Why it’s pushy: Your intentions are noble, so keep doing what you’re doing. The problem here is a matter of semantics. Telling a prospect repeatedly what they “should” or “have to” or “need to” do comes off as bossy and condescending even if your only intent is to help. Instead, try phrases like, “Businesses like yours have seen success …” or “What we’ve found drives results is …”

5) You make statements instead of asking questions.

What you think: You’re an expert on the vertical you sell into, so there are a few safe assumptions you can make about your prospect’s business.

Why it’s pushy: While your prospect’s business might function like the hundreds you’ve seen before in their industry, you don’t necessarily know the specifics. Even if you have a pretty good sense of what the answer might be, asking questions such as, “So I’ve seen X problem a lot at companies like yours, are you experiencing something similar?” shows your prospect that you care about their unique perspective, while simultaneously showing off your expertise.

6) You start every objection answer with “But … “

What you think: You’re just trying to handle objections, and “but” is the first filler word that comes to mind.

Why it’s pushy: Constantly saying “but” comes off as argumentative and puts prospects on the defensive. Instead, try the Ransberger Pivot:

  1. Acknowledge your prospect’s objections.
  2. Understand their hesitation, or ask questions until you do.
  3. Find a common goal burned in your prospect’s objections, and build on it to convince them your offering is the best way to achieve that end.

7) You treat all objections equally.

What you think: You (understandably) want to make the sale, so sometimes you find yourself on autopilot when answering objections.

Why it’s pushy: There’s a significant difference between, “This problem is a priority for us, but let’s wait until next quarter to talk … “ and “We’ve had seven straight quarters of losses — we just can’t afford to implement anything right now.”

Not all objections are created equal. Some can be resolved simply by educating your prospect. Some are a result of inertia and can be mitigated by creating a sense of urgency. But there are always objections that stop a deal in its tracks, and treating those like minor concerns that can be talked away won’t endear you to your prospects. Learn to spot the difference between brush-offs, points of confusion, and true blockers.

8) You won’t let your prospect off the phone.

What you think: Your prospect actually picked up! You’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity and cover as much as possible.

Why it’s pushy: Your prospect is busy. Really busy. If they’re a good fit for your product, schedule a longer call when they have more time and follow up with helpful resources so you stay on their radar.

9) You keep bringing up new, seemingly unrelated, offerings.

What you think: You’re trying to pique your prospect’s interest by mentioning new product lines or services that could benefit them.

Why it’s pushy: Offering an add-on or trying to go for an upsell isn’t inherently bad. Just be sure you’re telling a coherent story that ties all your offerings together. Making it clear that you’re tailoring a specific set of products for your prospect avoids the impression that you’re throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.

10) You don’t know when to say when.

What you think: If you just try a little harder, maybe your prospect will buy.

Why it’s pushy: It’s unfortunate, but let’s face it — you won’t win every deal. At some point in most closed-lost deals, it becomes apparent that there’s no more you can do, and continuing to pester a prospect will leave a bad taste in their mouths. So know when to throw in the towel. Your time is better spent on prospects who stand a good chance of closing.

11) You don’t try to get buy-in from your prospect.

What you think: You’ve gone through this sales process hundreds of times before, and you know what makes sense for your buyers.

Why it’s pushy: Besides the fact that it’s just not smart to try and run a sales process without confirming your prospect is okay with it, it’s also bad manners. At every step of the way, check to see whether your proposed next steps make sense. Not only will your prospect appreciate your solicitousness, getting their buy-in on small steps will psychologically make it easier for them to say “yes” to the big ask — would you like to buy?

12) You talk fast and interrupt.

What you think: You’re naturally a fast talker and an enthusiastic person.

Why it’s pushy: You’re understandably excited about your product and eager to share its value with prospects. But blazing through a conversation creates the impression that you’re just waiting until your prospect’s done speaking so you can talk again. Cutting prospects off is a no-no as well — in fact, the less you speak, the more useful information you’re likely to get.

13) Your calls-to-action don’t align with your prospect’s buying stage.

What you think: You can tell your buyer has the business pain your product solves, and you want to help them by jumping into a formal sales process.

Why it’s pushy: Just because you can tell a buyer suffers from X business pain doesn’t mean they’ve realized it yet. So even if a call-to-action will eventually be useful for them (like a product demo), offering it when they’re still in the education stage just makes it seem like you’re rushing them along because you want to close a deal. Instead, move the sales process forward by teaching your buyers about their problems and helping them devise a solution that includes your product if appropriate.

14) You won’t take no for an answer.

What you think: You know certain commitments make prospects far likelier to close, so if at first you don’t succeed in getting the buyer’s phone number, an introduction to the signing authority, or a meeting with Procurement, you keep trying.

Why it’s pushy: Your prospect has rejected your request for a reason. They don’t feel comfortable giving you the information or help you’ve requested, and asking again will only make them more uncomfortable.

The issue probably stems from how and when you asked. If you haven’t explained why your ask will benefit your prospect and timed it appropriately, of course they’ll say no. It’s fine to ask for their personal number on the first call (provided you give context, such as, “It’ll make it easier to answer questions and schedule future meetings if we have each other’s cells.”) However, it’s typically not a good idea to ask for an intro to the decision maker — you haven’t yet proven your value. 

15) You don’t vary your outreach.

What you think: You have the buyer’s email address, so when you’re trying to connect with them or engage them after they’ve gone dark, you keep sending emails.

Why it’s pushy: It’s the “boy who cried wolf” effect. After a while, your buyer will completely tune out your messages. The ssalesperson-seems-pushy-compressor-181681-edited.jpgame holds true no matter which channel you’re using — if you keep calling them or nudging them on social media, you’ll quickly become a nuisance.

To avoid this issue, spread your outreach across multiple mediums. Here’s a sample schedule:

  • Day 1: Email.
  • Day 3: Call (leave a voicemail.)
  • Day 4: Like their post on LinkedIn.
  • Day 6: Call (don’t leave a voicemail.)
  • Day 8: Email.
  • Day 10: Send a break-up email.

Simply mixing up your outreach decreases the chances you’ll seem stalkerish.

The behavior that comes off as pushy to buyers likely sparks from your excitement to share insights with your prospects and help as many as possible. This isn’t a bad attitude to have. But realize that you won’t get through to prospects who are frustrated with yet another “pushy” salesperson. Avoid these bad habits so you never lose a deal for the wrong reasons.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

3 Startup Sales Mistakes I'll Never Repeat

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Moving from a successful corporate sales career to being the co-founder of a tech startup was a steep learning curve. I passionately believed that great success lay in repeating what I had done previously and, although the majority of my efforts were as effective as before, I found myself relaxing some principles integral to my previous success.

However, the following mistakes in the early stages of selling the product allowed me to revalidate the importance of all I had learnt.

1) Making Assumptions About the Potential Customer

The product I was selling had a complexity I had never seen in the corporate environment and, upon first inspection, was an easy sell that solved a clear need. However, it quickly became apparent that it didn’t solve my customers’ needs, but my customers’ customers’ needs, and I made the error of assuming they were the same thing.

The product was a smartphone app that removed the need to queue within any venue. For example, rather than waiting to order in a busy bar, the user would both order and pay on their phone. The bar staff would receive this directly, and the customer would be alerted when drinks were ready to collect. Being someone who passionately loathed queuing, this app seemed to be the easiest sell I could imagine. Every venue would want happier customers and more revenue, especially when trial studies had shown an increase in orders when using this technology, right?

What the founders believed and focused on:

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However, the venues saw something different. In their minds, operational obstacles outweighed any benefit, despite the potential increase in revenue and superior experience for their customers.

What the venues hosting our technology believed, i.e. our actual customers:

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What we should have done differently:

We should not have confused our “vision” with solving the current needs of our “real” customer, i.e. the venues hosting our technology. We figured it out eventually, but it would have saved time to formulate a tighter sales strategy and process from the outset.

2) Approaching the Wrong Type of Customer

New products are best built in collaboration with customers who share your vision. This way, the business has orders, sponsors, and revenue when launched. However, sometimes, this doesn’t happen. The core difference between this happening in a startup or corporate business is the amplification of consequence. Startup resources are typically scarce, and a change of direction or lack of insight saps budget, wastes precious time, and stalls revenues.

In our case, the first test cases were not the ideal customer profile. We then made the mistake of chasing anyone who would buy, regardless of whether they were good for the business. The theory was to collect as much “low-hanging fruit” as possible but, couple this scatter-bomb strategy with potential customers promising to buy if we added extra functionality, and you quickly descend to chasing your tail with no revenue.

Your first customers are critical to the success of the business. The most important attribute is not that they “quite like the idea”, but that they are “committed” to the same vision and goals. Startups must find the rare breed of early adopters or visionaries who wholeheartedly support your efforts and, ideally, pay for them. Cash is king. The faster customers pay, the sooner the business is stabilized and out of the danger zone.

What we should have done differently:

We should have been far more stringent about whom we targeted and worked with. We launched with very supportive customers who were ideal in the beginning, but it soon became apparent they weren’t influential enough to appease naysayers. In this regard, we didn’t adapt quickly enough to the changing requirements of the business and wasted too much time having faith in the original business model.

3) Allowing Passion to Interfere With the Sales Process

These are bad practices to avoid:

Believing your time has no value.

Passionately believing in your startup can lead the founding group to devalue their time, because an immense commitment to success drives a willingness to work all waking hours. However, time is as precious as your budget, and there must be a rigorous failsafe on time, energy, and resources, as not monitoring the ROI of your actions can lead to a downward spiral of productivity.

Believing that “founder” status makes you a better salesperson.

Sales is sales, right? It should be, as long as you are adhering to a defined sales strategy and process.

If you ever get the chance, ask a first-time founder to pitch their product, and then ask one of their salespeople to do the same. The chances are that the former will deliver an impassioned vision that tries to convince you of the bigger picture, but the salesperson will be more methodical and ask more questions to first establish the need. The former assumes and convinces, while the latter looks for the actual opportunity.

Despite 15 years of sales experience, I did things I never would have done previously. The emotional connection to my product clouded my judgement, distracted me from my defined sales processes and, if I am brutally honest, lowered my standards of professionalism. I disconnected with customers in a way previously unheard of. It was part ego, part inexperience, and part over-determination to succeed.

A defined sales strategy and process is never more important than in a startup environment. 

Believing you can compensate for lack of commitment with effort.

In a startup, there is a heightened drive to create an amazing customer experience. This is to reward their belief in you and your vision. The tendency is to do anything for them, from developing new features to forgiving behaviors that never would have been acceptable previously. This is wrong. Just as investment rounds are based on results and paid in installments, the sales process must have micro-stages of commitment. Sounds obvious, but when everyone is keen to please, these standards and procedures are easily swept under the carpet.

I am never proud of getting it wrong, and the most frustrating part is these behaviors would never have entered my head in the corporate environment. The good news is that knowledge, and experience, make you better.

If you value this article, please share it, connect with me, and comment below. If you haven’t yet received my 2017 research paper, it discusses the differences between selling in the UK vs. the USA, as well as how digital networks are impacting multinational businesses differently on each side of the pond. Download from my homepage here.

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on LinkedIn and has been republished here with permission.

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Source: 3 Startup Sales Mistakes I'll Never Repeat
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