The Sales Success Stories Book – 60 Stories from 20 Top 1% Sales Professionals was published October 16, 2018. Learn more: http://top1.fm/book
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 John read his story, or read the full text below.
“You’re on an UNSTOPPABLE Rollercoaster”
By: Abel Lomas
Selling Like You’re Speed Dating
When I started in my new role at a ~50 person start-up in April of 2018, I had a few set target accounts that I absolutely wanted to win. Think of this as the shortlist that’s more important than the commission check. It’s about something bigger – an account that I wanted to secure as part of my tenure with the company.
To no surprise, the BDR team had been hammering the account for months with no response. I joined in the fun and three of us were targeting the account. Then, just a couple weeks later, a VP of Marketing from the target account registered on our site and we had a meeting scheduled for May 21st.
The meeting was like a speed date that went all too well. We quickly escalated to a proposal on May 24th, than to price/package negotiations, then to starting the contract redline process on June 1st with a target to have a contract signed by mid-June. We had done a couple of rounds of redlines and had 1 open redline item when the account went silent. It wasn’t until June 26th when we finally heard back, indicating that the contract was on hold until mid-July. As most teams do, we tried multiple “hero” outreaches including executive-to-executive level outreaches, all of which were ignored. We wouldn’t be closing the deal within the calendar quarter, and to make the emotional state even worse, on June 28th another vendor in our space tweeted about their relationship with the company which included a quote from the company’s CMO.
From Dead to A Renewed Chase
As the calendar flipped to July, I advised my leadership team that one of three things would happen.
1. we’d be awarded the business as negotiated in Q3 (unlikely)
2. we’d have to renegotiate and settle for a smaller deal (possible) – or worst case –
3. the deal was actually dead and we’d have to start from scratch (most likely)
On July 17, as we attempted to re-engage, what we were already thinking was finally confirmed – the deal was dead and they subsequently wouldn’t revisit a partnership until 2019.
It may be all business and not personal, but I took this personally. I started the grieving process with sadness, reflection, and thought. My stomach was twisted in knots as I reflected on the situation. I examined every step and every action I had taken. Also, by the Friday of that week, I came to the conclusion that I hadn’t “sold” the account and I needed to reset my frame of mind and start a new pursuit. I was hungry, and my mind was now free to think of new possibilities.
Saturday morning began full of excitement. While the CMO had previously alluded us, I had a plan to finally get him engaged. Whether true or not, the reason I heard why the project was stalled was due to a soft Q2. As a result, my plan was to text him at noon ET on Saturday, knowing that he wouldn’t be in a business meeting. Here is how that played out, with the names removed:
July 21, 2018, 12:02 ET;
“CMO (Name), If you truly believe your buyers trust your customers before your marketing, we should discuss how to make truly customer powered to prevent another disappointing quarter. You don’t have to buy (now), but accept my challenge and let’s share a vision.”
July 21, 2018, 12:24 ET;
“Abel: Adding (name) who is my new VP of Marketing – she’s leading the charge. I’ll let the two of your connect from here. “
With just a few lines of text on a cell phone, the chase is reborn, and the chase was real. It took until August 16 to have my first meeting with the new VP of Marketing. She brought several people to the table, all of whom deferred to her in the meeting. Within one breath, it was clear that she has a high IQ and is extremely kind but won’t hesitate to be extremely direct. It was clear that she had the respect and attention of everyone, whether on this call or anywhere she was present. The call went well, yet she didn’t show up for our next call on September 4th. She also wouldn’t accept the rescheduled date for September 12th, so I texted her early that morning when I thought she might be between the train and her office. She responds with the following message:
“Hi Abel, appreciate the enthusiasm… full transparency we don’t have any budget until January to do anything comprehensive with you, but looking forward to chatting. “
The call itself was turned into a discussion about the business justification. I told her how we approach business justification and she shared with me what she needed in the justification. By Wednesday, September 19th, the justification was in her inbox. I asked her for the opportunity to review together, to which she responded that she’d get back to me next week. With her not willing to commit time, we planned a trip to see her in person. We built a whole itinerary around meeting her without knowing if she’d even show up. With this in mind, we de-risked the trip in two different ways:
1. We scheduled meetings with several other companies to make good use of the trip
2. We worked with a champion within this account to block out time when the VP of Marketing was likely to be available
Fast-forwarding to Oct 4th, we were on the ground in NYC. That morning was just beautiful. Mild yet cool, clear skies and NYC was bustling with its usual energy. That morning our primary reason for the trip – meeting with the VP of Marketing – had finally accepted our meeting invitation.
The Face to Face
Later that afternoon, we arrived in the office lobby and rode up the elevator to their floor. We were greeted by three friendly souls at the reception desk who signed us in and showed us to the water cooler. They had us take a seat as we waited for the VP of Marketing to come to get us. If we planned this right, this would be her last meeting of the day and we expected her to be late with the hope that she wouldn’t be in a rush to see us off. About 15 minutes after the planned start time, she comes out to greet us. She first introduces herself to my boss and they shake hands. Second, she turns to me with her hand extended to which I told her I was going to need a hug. In fairness, I created an awkward moment and got an awkward side hug. We then turn as she led us to a large, high-tech conference room overlooking a massive screen. She asked us if we wanted to plug in to present but we declined to have a conversation instead (although I had every piece of content possible ready if necessary).
We started the meeting by finding common ground in people we knew in common and finding some commonly shared experiences. It took no time to realize that this was truly a magnificent person we were sitting across from. After only about 10 minutes, and before getting into any prepared content, she pauses the meeting and proceeds to tell us that she likes us personally and respected our commitment to not just the hard work we put into every meeting, but by delivering value to her and her team at every touchpoint in the buyer journey with us. Even though she didn’t have this in her budget plan, she wanted to put together a deal.
Her next question… What is the smallest deal we can do just to get started? After answering her question, I finally shared what she didn’t know. I told her that we had negotiated a deal in May and we were just a week away from signing when the deal went on hold. Her reaction was priceless, “Abel! If I had known how we screwed you I would have been more empathetic to you. Tell me what that deal was and let’s get it done.” Now, maybe she would have been empathetic if I had told her sooner, but to this day I believe that I had to earn that moment of empathy. If I had shared that information any sooner, I wouldn’t have gotten the reaction I received that day.
As we prepared to depart her office, she once again greeted my boss with a handshake. She then turns to me with her arms open and says, “Abel, bring it in.” As we exited the elevator and exited the building back into the streets of NYC, we were greeted with the chill of a cold fall downpour. There is no other way to say this, but we had made it rain.
A few weeks later on Oct 31st, we officially added this new fantastic customer. Had we followed the typical path, we might just be restarting the sales cycle now. Also, maybe by 2020, I could call them a customer. Instead, we challenged each other and ended up deciding that a partnership was worth more than waiting for fiscal budgets to work themselves out.
1. Sales might be a rollercoaster, but it is the REP that needs to be UNSTOPPABLE. Otherwise, the rollercoaster is likely to stop at the wrong point in the buyer journey.
2. Deliver value at every touchpoint, whether on a scheduled call, a note between meetings, or any other time that a customer is touched. VALUE TRUMPS AVAILABLE BUDGET.
3. If you don’t have a clear state of mind, do what it takes to achieve clarity before you act. The result of a CLEAR MIND will make all the difference in the world.
4. We all know about the Challenger Sale, but challenge everything including yourself, your team, your prospects, their boss(es), and your customers. If there is no challenge, it’s not worth the fight.
5. Be HUMAN. Show EMPATHY and practice empathy in every customer touchpoint. Some people might call it karma, but you never know when the empathy will be turned in your favor.
Want more from Abel Lomas? He was the star of episode 59: Abel Lomas – TrustRadius’ Top AE – Always Be Helping