Editor’s Note: This week we are proud to publish a guest post from Dianne Turner, a longtime enterprise sales professional. Turner has been a valued and trusted advisor for us at Boardroom Insiders as we strive to provide our clients with advice and best practices around enterprise sales and CXO engagement strategy.
David Mamet’s writing always stimulates and challenges me: his House of Games, The Spanish Prisoner, and The Verdict, are all thought-provoking and challenging.
One of the most famous works about sales ever written, Glengarry Glen Ross, is also one of Mamet’s bleakest plays. It depicts the brutal, desperate, and unethical stories of real estate salesmen—yes, sales MEN. Written in 1983, there are no women in this story.
One of the play’s most memorable lines, delivered by Alec Baldwin in the movie version, is “ALWAYS BE CLOSING”! Some sales people think in acronyms: ABC—Always Be Closing. As an enterprise sales professional, that concept rubs me the wrong way. And, if you are selling to senior-level executives, relevance, trust and solutions are needed to engage today’s line of business leaders. Moreover, executives don’t want to feel they are being “closed”; they want to be led through the buying process.
Busting Myth 1: “Always Be Closing”
I prefer ABQ—Always Be QUALIFYING. Always qualifying enables the sales professional to gauge where the buyer is in the decision process. Always qualifying helps the sales professional weed out customers who are tire kicking and focus on those with real potential. Always qualifying ensures the buyer gains insight and value as they move toward making a decision. Always qualifying also helps the sales professional build credibility--and a trusted relationship--with the customer.
Throughout the buyer’s decision journey, I’m always qualifying by asking relevant, buyer-focused questions, such as:
- What’s driving or triggering this need now?
- How will you measure the success (of buying this)?
- When do you expect to implement this solution?
- What budget range is allocated for this solution?
- What are the outcomes if you don’t do this (i.e., buy) as planned?
The more you know about your customer and their business, the likelier you are to ask smart questions that will promote trust and credibility with your buyer. Of course, the ultimate (perhaps last) qualifying question to put to your customer is “Based on all our discussions, and information I have provided to demonstrate this is the right solution, are you ready for a Statement of Work or contract at this time”?
In other words, don’t forget to ask for the business!
Busting Myth 2: “Avoid the Gatekeeper”
Another sales myth that I believe can do more harm than good is “avoid the gatekeeper.” Senior executives have gatekeepers for a reason: they need support to sift through the demands of the work day. Yes, gatekeepers might add some time to the sales cycle because you might have to work through them, but in my experience, working WITH the gatekeeper can help you gain access to the executive more often than not. If the executive you are targeting is senior enough to have an assistant, the exec could push you to the assistant anyway. Why fight it? Who wouldn’t want the assistant in their corner?
Now, you should know that I have walked in the shoes of the assistant. In my twenties, I started my career as an executive assistant to the president of a multi-billion dollar real estate investment firm. My boss depended on me to help him get through the day: fielding/returning phone calls, partner meetings and appointments with visitors. I had the power to bring urgent things to his attention or put unimportant requests in the “tickler file.” You can be sure that the polite sales people looking to get my boss’s attention--and who took the time to treat me as a professional--got quicker attention than those who did not. Now as a sales veteran, I don’t hesitate to seek out help from the assistant of a senior executive, and more often than not, the assistant is very helpful.
When prospecting, I use the assistant to politely ask for help. Always treating the assistant as a fellow professional, I give him or her my “elevator pitch” to prove why I am worthy of the executive’s time. Then I ask his or her advice how best to reach the executive: can I send a brief email to the assistant to share with the executive, or is it best to phone or email the executive directly? If the assistant manages the exec’s calendar, I can get help scheduling a meeting. Once the relationship with the assistant is established, he or she can help confirm what is top of mind for the executive. Of course, by this time I have already done a lot of research on the executive and the account, but it is helpful to get my assumptions validated by someone who works with the executive day-in and day-out.
Even after your foot is in the door, you should continue to cultivate your relationship with the assistant, just as you would with the executive. Pro tip: After I meet with the exec, I’ll drop a thank you note to the assistant for the help in scheduling the meeting.
So there you have it, two sales myths dispelled.
What other sales myths are challenging you?
Dianne Turner is a 25-year B2B sales veteran with enterprise experience in service-intensive industries spanning localization, media, market research, and content marketing. She has worked in London, Paris and San Francisco and currently is director of consulting sales for a global IT research and analyst advisory firm.