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Sales Development, Sales Process

The Art Of Making Love

Jacco van der Kooij

Written by Jacco van der Kooij

Founder, Winning by Design


This was the title of the closing keynote at Rainmaker 2017, a conference hosted by SalesLoft in Atlanta where modern B2B sales leaders gather to share best practices. Although the title is provocative don’t worry. It is not going to be a weird conversation by a Dutch guy fueled with Red Bull. This is about the modern approach to sell — or rather how to help your customers succeed.

Sales Traditionally Has Been Motivated By Money

For the past 100 years B2B sales has been about making money. Making money for your company, for yourself, your family and occasionally, although not a requirement — for your customers.

Sales of subscription services is challenging this mindset because customers can and will quit their subscription if they are not achieving the impact. Although pricing models for our customers have changed the underlying sales methodology has not.

Today most sales organizations are still run by an alpha that is quoting the ABC of sales — Always Be Closing. They are propagating a mindset aimed at getting a client on a call, agree on a meeting, or close a deal for something that might not even be a good fit for the customer.

Traditional Sales Methodology: Land & Expand

This traditional sales methodology is based on a Land $ Expand model. A model in which a motivated seller closes the client on a solution, followed by a customer success team that is going to try to make the customer love the product, in the hopes of expansion business.

Take a look at a compensation plan and the internal business metrics and you will notice there is very little consideration around customer success. This is considered the customer success team’s responsibility — after sales has closed the deal.

Traditional Sales Activities

By mapping the activities to the Land $ Expand model you will notice they reflect agenda’s of most sales kick-offs and training classes. This does not reflects what’s on the agenda of the customer. Worse these are the same activities most customers hate to undergo. Read the list and ask yourself if you are making a big purchase if you’d enjoy going through any of these activities?

Being Customer Centric

Subscription based services such as SaaS require us to rethink this strategy as competition is fierce, putting pressure on the financial model. They have to be Customer Centric… STOP!!! Does anyone even know what being “Customer Centric” actually means?

One thing is for sure tweeting about being customer centric is not the same as doing the activities that demonstrate it!

Customer Centric Methodology: Educate. Commit. Assist.

What if we switch it, what if we make customer love the first step? Would this change the model?

In this approach the [seller] focuses on the educational process to help a customer make the right [buying] decision. Then both commit, followed by assisting each other to achieve success.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

If you have to make a customer love you you are doing it wrong. My family loves me — not because I make them, but because my actions every day prove that. In sales you can demonstrate love in every activity you do, every day. Below notice how the traditional activities have changed into more customer centric activities.

The Art of Making Love

Sooner or later, everyone in sales runs into a customer who loves them. As the saying goes: Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. So how do you Make Love consistently? Surely not by turning Making Love into a process!? This would make it feel disingenuous to the customer — and very similar to automated emails. Instead think of turning Making Love into an Art. Create a great experience consistently while still making each experience unique!

What to do?

Step 1: Create “stages” that reflect a customer’s experience

To create repeated sales success think of the experiences a customer goes through not a funnel, or stages.

  • What is their AARGH! moment… when they realize they have a problem. Do they even know? How can you know if the problem is a priority? If so what can you send them to get this AARGH! experience?
  • What is their AHA! moment… when they realize there is a solution. How is your team creating this? (marketing) What are the questions they should ask? (sales) What are the customer stories they are sharing? (customer success)
  • What is their WOW! moment… is your team focused on diagnosing the impact on the client’s business? Are they assisting the client to make the right decision?
  • What is their BOOM! moment… that moment that the customer thinks to themselves “We launched on-time, as promised, within budget and are on track for success.”
  • What is their YEAH! moment… when the customer sees that it works as advertised and provides the impact they had hoped for.

and finally

  • Do you help them to realize the OMG!… when they think to themselves “Why did I not know about this before? Others need to know this!”

These are six very distinct experiences the people in customer facing roles should focus on in a subscription business.

Step 2: Create actions in each experience

  • Start a conversation: A series of scripted emails with the ask to setup a meeting is not aimed at having a conversation. To start a conversation demonstrate you have done your research, how it can impact their business, show curiosity with the intent to understand. Why is this relevant for them: Relevance supersedes personalization!
  • During a conversation Diagnose the client’s situation: which means you have to prepare the right questions and listen to/understand, and take notes on their answers. Compare this to pitching where you are trained to blurb out a value proposition and see if it sticks.
  • Negotiating is something you do with an adversary and it often results in discounts — creating a lower perception of value for your product and service. Instead think of it as trading using an exchange of products and/or services of equal value. Which reflects value of your products and service.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Being customer centric also means that as an industry we have to stop the locker-room banter when we talk about our customers. Public speakers on Account Based Marketing, one of the hippest approaches, commonly refer to the new approach as Spear Fishing. Ask yourself: Who is the fish in this scenario? and what happens to the fish? In customer centric we should resent any language that refers to the customer in any combative way.

Step 3: Become an Expert in Interaction

The way how you interact with a customer makes all the difference. In a noisy world those that are experts in interaction will rise above the rest. At Winning by Design we created a framework to re-introduce the importance of human communication skills.

Note: TALKER maps across any kind of media, for example Tone of Voice can be exchanged in the form of emoticons during texting/emailing.

Step 4: Implement frameworks of best practices

In the example below we created a fairly straightforward framework of a customer centric meeting. In this framework meetings consisting of six key elements; scheduling, invitation, confirmation, preparation, the meeting itself and the follow-up. In each of these steps we then create very specific customer centric action. We refer to such a framework as a blueprint.

For example during the confirmation of the meeting we recommend B2B sales professionals to include something of value in the confirmation message; such as the CEO vision video, market research etc. This allows the B2B Sales Executive to open the call with “Did any of you read the…” If yes “What did you take-away from it?” If no “Would you like me to give you the cliff notes?.

Step 5: Coach not Train

Implementing these frameworks has proven tougher than it sounds. In most organizations the discomfort involved in changing from the current — or lack of a methodology exceeds that of the discomfort of missing the target. Let that sink in for a second… To change behavior we found that you need to implement a training model in which discomfort is created by not changing to the proven framework! How? Listen to their calls in front of the team and coach them on what went right/wrong.

Love Your Customer. There Is No Downside.

Sales organizations default to a sales process/activities that have no alignment to the customers needs and wants. The subscription business is allowing customers to express their desire for change with their wallet. Implementing a more modern methodology will result in a revered and successful [sales] organization loved by customers.