Last week, I was making it rain opportunities through networking and education with over 1,000 sales professionals at SalesLoft’s Rainmaker 2019 conference. SalesLoft, a hometown tech success here in the ATL, launched Rainmaker in 2014. As I was putting this post together, I hopped into my time machine and zipped back to 2015 when I first attended Rainmaker and wrote about my experience that year.
What I realized in reading that 2015 blog post was that the more things change, the more they actually stay the same. Priorities important in 2015 are even more important today, in 2019. For example…
If you are in a sales role, you simply cannot wait around for others to give you everything you need to succeed. Don’t rely solely on your marketing team to understand the characteristics of your ideal buyer. You, the sales rep, need to own and understand the target buyer persona too. More importantly, you should be spending the bulk of your networking/prospecting/sales call time with ONLY those people! Success also relies on honing your skills, so that you can be the best at your craft of selling. That means you need to invest in your own learning and development every single day! Always keep in mind that learners are earners!
Message matters. If you want your outbound sales activity to convert to more sales conversations, YOU MUST PERSONALIZE your messages. Sales pitches fall on deaf ears. If you want a buyer to give you valuable time on their calendar, you better be focused on what they care about more than what you are trying to sell. That means doing your homework, and this is where tools like LinkedIn, the internet, company websites, Twitter, or InsideView can play a huge role in more effective sales messaging. Bottom line – if your message is all about YOU and what YOU SELL, you are doing it all wrong!
The best sellers DO NOT talk about products and services (see my point above). These sellers don’t ramble on about the features of the products and services they sell. They don’t put buyers to sleep during demos talking about how they do this and why they do that. Especially in the beginning of a new sales relationship, much of that stuff doesn’t matter. Top sellers focus on helping buyers solve business problems that they will pay money to solve. Top sellers know how to ask the RIGHT questions and how to shut up and LISTEN to the answers.
The best sellers understand human behavior. They leverage their ability to clarify and confirm what they know based on up front research before talking to prospects. Validate what you know but don’t “interrogate” buyers during sales calls. Trust me, interrogation is exactly what it feels like to buyers when you insist on walking them through your lengthy discovery process. Instead, respect their precious time by learning much of that information ahead of the meeting. Your sales call will yield much better results!
Top sellers follow a sales process but are smart enough to adapt their approach to fit how the buyer makes purchasing decisions. You might need to eject your assumptions about the buyer’s journey. Even in similar industries, every company has decision making criteria unique to them. If you simply try to force a buyer/buying team to fit your sales process instead to adapting to their purchasing process, you’ll lose more deals than you will win.
Stop listening to experts who are legends in their own minds. Not everything about selling is dead. Nor is there one right way to be successful in selling. I don’t like making ice cold sales calls to strangers not expecting my call. I prefer to use other means to engage buyers first because that is what works for me. But hey, if your cold call activity is converting to a high number of sales calls with qualified buyers, then by all means… DO IT. Every sellers world is going to be unique. You must test, adapt, and test again to determine and consistently utilize what’s right for you.
Relationships in selling STILL matter! This point dovetails the one above. Believe it or not, more than a few self-proclaimed “experts” promote the idea that relationships in selling is dead. During the session I moderated on Social Selling, I asked panelists Samantha McKenna, Kat Charlot and Morgan J. Ingram what they thought about relationships and selling. They all agreed, as did the audience, that developing trusted relationships with targeted buyers is more important than ever. Mock experts trying to get their 15 minutes of fame by trying to be edgy and controversial are not good for our sales profession. In B2B sales, people still buy from people. Regardless how sophisticated technology becomes, I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Building exceptional sales teams drives exceptional sales results. On the morning of Day 3, the panel discussed the elements of building exceptional teams. These panel leaders didn’t talk about squeezing one more millisecond of productivity out of people with another piece of technology. They talked about being human, embracing change and paying attention to the foundation of sales basics. All three leaders talked about being authentic, genuine, vulnerable human beings who hold themselves and others accountable. And during the conference they were not the only leaders to make clear that a people first focus is what drives success now and in the future.
I will close by giving high praise to the SalesLoft team for their focus on speaker diversity at Rainmaker! Other conference organizers… are you listening?
I am not the only woman in sales tired of virtual sales events, webinars and conferences that are dominated by white guys – of any age – on the speaking stage. Highly engaging, well qualified, diverse speakers are not difficult to find. Event organizers simply must make it a priority to better balance the scales.
There is a lot of chatter right now about “women in sales”… why we need to see more women on sales teams and in leadership roles and why diversity and inclusion initiatives are good for business. But talk is cheap! As my mom said often, “Action speaks louder than words!” I learned that SalesLoft set a goal of 51% speaker diversity for Rainmaker 2019. They achieved 54% with 46% of the conference speakers being women! And for the second year in a row, I moderated the panel discussion at the women’s breakfast that SalesLoft made a part of the conference last year. More on that experience in a separate post. A bias toward action is a core value at SalesLoft, and at Rainmaker 2019 they demonstrated that when it comes to excellence in selling, as well as diversity and inclusion, they walk their talk!