15 July 2019
We aren't servers, we are sales people!
Before I came to Gaslight, I remember sitting in a company wide sales meeting with a c-level executive discussing which opportunities in our current pipeline we could close quickly to hit quarterly numbers. Then I heard, “We aren’t servers, we are salespeople.” I nodded and moved the conversation forward, but later on my commute home, I couldn’t stop thinking about the meaning behind that sentence. More importantly, what would the impact to our prospects/clients be if everyone thought this way?
Let me put this out into the world… I understand that my job at its core is to identify opportunities, connect a solution with our service and close the deal as soon as possible to drive revenue for my company, (wow, that seems a little cold when you actually put it on paper). In reality my day to day doesn’t seem that cold at Gaslight. On a daily basis I’m connecting with intelligent people, learning about their challenges, and helping them decide if we are the right fit to help them. So when I hear, “We aren’t servers, we are sales people,” it makes me think of the old school, 1990’s “Boiler Room” sales that they used to teach at the entry level, yuck.
The message that the executive was hoping to get across that board room was this; we need to persuade prospects that are uncomfortable moving forward with the project to close regardless of how comfortable they are. When a prospect is uncomfortable, they stall, and his solution to stalling - push harder. He’s hoping to remove time from the equation. In his eyes time is what gives the prospect the opportunity to find a good excuse to back out of a sale. In reality this is human nature. We as humans are pressured by imposed deadlines and find comfort in having time to review.
The better solution here (like most things in life) is to find a balance. Your sales team has to move opportunities through the pipeline and close them on a consistent basis. If you are using metrics to track your pipeline, you will see obvious areas where your opportunities are slowing, or fizzling out. As a sales person, this is an opportunity to self evaluate the sales process and discover what YOU are doing wrong, not what the prospect is doing wrong. There are many sales tactics and tools you can put in place with the prospect to help them stay on track, while still giving them the opportunity to step on the brakes if they are uncomfortable moving forward, my favorite tool is the “MAAP - Mutually Agreed Action Plan”. Here is a great high level overview of a MAAP and how/when to use it by Sales Hacker.
If you carve an opportunity down to its core and start to think about why it may be slowing down, oftentimes you’ll find a lack of trust. If there is a need, and your service or product solves that need, and there is a budget in place that reports back solid ROI numbers - then why would an opportunity stall? Lack of trust. The prospect doesn’t fully trust you and/or your company. They don’t trust the solution you have laid out for them, or the competency of the team that is going to be assigned to their project. Being in the custom software development space these are often six to seven figure decisions, and making big moves with big waves to follow doesn’t come easy for most people. In a lot of ways their job, career, and professional reputation depends on making the right decision. Understanding this weight and showing empathy towards their situation will allow you to meet the client where they stand. They aren’t looking for someone to push them, they want you to stand next to them arm and arm and walk down the path together. Making every step in unison, moving forward naturally. They want to know that you stand behind your solution, and won’t disappear if it isn’t well received. They want to know that you have their back, that this is a team effort and they won’t be stuck alone having to answer to their boss (everyone has one) as to why they chose your solution, or went with your company over others. I challenge you to walk down that path with your prospects, practice empathy, and understand that large financial decisions are uncomfortable.
Obviously, there’s a place in the world for servers, and for sales people. What’s not so obvious is that you cannot rush trust. Forcing trust only benefits you temporarily to close a deal, and prospects see right through that. If you understand that building trust doesn’t come packaged in a metrics driven model, and you are genuine in helping your prospects, trust will happen naturally. And trust will give your prospects the piece of mind to make a decision and move forward with the project. Help them understand that you are setting the pace, yet they are the ones running the marathon, completely in control of the end result.
I’m sure you are asking, “Ok Mr. know it all… How do I build trust and close deals quickly?” The answer is complex, but working for an organization that values doing right by their clients is the first step. [“Getting Naked” by Patrick Lencioni] (https://www.amazon.com/Getting-Naked-Business-Shedding-Sabotage/dp/0787976393/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_0?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=XM4NS0T8SCVW8J8DRREY) is a required reading for all employees at Gaslight. Start there, and remember that doing right by the client, even if it means short-term financial sacrifice for you personally, will ALWAYS come back to you in future success!
My personal philosophy:
In sales you can frequently get bogged down by metrics and statistics, but at the end of the day all I really care about is constantly improving my ability to make my prospects and clients feel comfortable making complex decisions. Everything else will flow from that simple action.