B2B Sales Mentors Book: 20 Stories from 20 Top 1% Sales Professionals. To learn more: http://top1.fm/b2b
In between the regular interview episodes, we’ll continue to release sample stories from the book like this one. You can either listen to the episode and hear Evan read his story, or read the full text below.
“Live With Your In-Laws”
By: Evan Kelsay
IF YOU WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN SALES, LIVE WITH YOUR IN-LAWS
“What do you need to crush your quota this year?” my wife asked me.
“Time” I answered.
In 2018, I started a new sales job at a technology company selling enterprise software after over 6 years at my previous company and a decade in a different industry.
My wife was between jobs, we had toddler twin boys, and we were living short-term with my in-laws because we wanted to buy a house in the next year. Leaving the steady paycheck and consistent performance for another individual contributor role at a new company was a risk, but my wife knew a new challenge would be good for me and believed in my abilities.
I was determined to make this new move work, but I knew that running a great sales cycle (or a series of them) at my priority accounts would take time. Lots of it. Here’s a sampling of what I believe is required during the Preparation phase before having even one conversation with the account …
- Interview potential end-users to understand their pain and what keeps them from doing their jobs.
- Perform deep research into the company’s (and their competitors’ and customers’) financials, presence on review sites, and job descriptions to digest and formulate a point-of-view about challenges and opportunities their industry and company faces, specifically what’s limiting growth, ballooning cost, and increasing risk.
- Map the names, titles, and connections of everyone you think is on the buying committee (over 6 people and growing, per CEB) and everyone you think might influence each member of the buying committee, which is at least 2-3 people for every committee member.
- Interview channel partners of yours who do business with that account in order to understand how the account makes buying decisions around technology.
- Work with your marketing counterparts to run “air cover” campaigns targeting specific personas at that account.
- Engage your leadership, fellow employees, your network, and your investors to judge “connection warmth” of their network to the leadership at the account and where warm intros are most advantageous at each stage of the deal.
A mentor once characterized a great sales process as playing 3-dimensional chess, but you have to create an environment that allows you the time to play the game. Otherwise, the best you can offer an account is a compelling game of checkers.
After 2008 and the subsequent Great Recession, many executives wanted to reign in rogue spending and felt they needed more control over the procurement process for major and, increasingly, minor purchases at their companies. They put stricter formal and informal rules and guidelines in place for buying anything. Information flow to potential vendors was restricted; maximum-dollar signing capacity without oversight was lowered; and more formal, collective evaluation processes for purchasing were installed. The days of a single, autonomous decision-maker were long gone and in that person’s place now stood large buying committees with an army of influencers. There are now exponentially more people you need to persuade to get a deal done in the modern era. (NOTE: Most of your champions and coaches within your accounts do not know this.)
Most companies have not adapted their sales model and resources to reflect this new paradigm, challenging salespeople to succeed at playing 3-dimensional chess without a rook, bishop, or knight. This forces most salespeople to be more transactional with accounts, because they don’t have the time to properly prepare, focus, and execute great sales cycles consistently.
However, if you do it right, the account will perceive enough value in what you do to believe they are losing significant revenue and/or increasing cost and risk every month they don’t have your solution. The cost of what you sell will be secondary to your solution’s ROI. This is when it gets really fun. It will feel like you’re speaking to your champions and their influencers as a partner who’s on their side of the table instead of across from it. It will result in a deal that will transform your year and create a really close bond between you and your champions for years to come.
The downside is that you need a large amount of time if you are to do it right. I’m not such a Sales Jedi that I can crush quota AND be the world’s best husband, dad, son, brother, mentor, friend, etc. For me, it meant I had to cut back on other things in my life to succeed at my job. When I said to my wife that I needed more time this year to feel comfortable, I had the time I needed to crush quota, she said, “I’ll handle everything else outside of work. Go get ‘em.”
And my family did – I didn’t have to worry about paying bills, taking kids to the dentist, cooking dinner, selling my house, etc. I was incredibly fortunate that everyone was willing to pitch in, but it was necessary to succeed. I now understand why it’s common in many cultures outside of the West for many generations to cohabitate. There’s just so much that needs to get done.
Wait, what? Did you say “sell a house?” Yes, my family were such rock stars that they fixed up and sold a house I owned in my home state of Indiana without me so much as having to lift a finger.
In addition to simplifying my home life, I was fortunate that my new company’s sales organization was led by grizzled, career salespeople whose philosophy was to give their sellers the resources below, across, and above them to in order delegate the division of labor necessary to surround influencers and buying committees.
With the gift of time both at home and at work, I locked myself in my in-law’s attic (that doubled as an office) and got to work. Preparation. Focus. Execution. Remember that part in Forrest Gump when he finally breaks off the leg braces and sprints away? It felt like that. I ended up over 8x my annual quota.
Us sales folk are naturally social and easily distractible. Many of us don’t have an army of family members to rely on or leadership that understands what we really need in order to succeed. My best advice is to simplify your life as much as you can to ensure success because selling in the modern era is getting more complex, not less.
Want more from Evan Kelsay? He was the star of episode 56: Evan Kelsay of Seismic – 800% Achievement with a Massive Deal and 74: Let Sellers Sell with Evan Kelsay (Round 2)