Sustainable growth depends on effective sales processes. Approaching sales in an organized and consistent manner will help your sales team identify viable leads, convert them, and stay on track so that they don’t miss opportunities. For some software developers and ISVs, however, the art of sales is unfamiliar territory, and managing a sales team is a continual challenge.
To help you change sales from a puzzle to one of your areas of expertise, Jennifer Cunningham, manager of key accounts at First American Payments Systems, shares these five tips:
1 It’s better to prospect than to sit back and wait for leads to come to you.
Some ISV sales teams are go-getters, and others tend to sit back and cherry-pick easy sales. Cunningham comments, “Teams with an organized and clear strategy tend to be more successful,” she says.
Their success isn’t due only to the greater volume of leads a sales team generates when they’re dedicated to active prospecting. They also lay the groundwork for the rest of the sales process, including timely conversion. Prospecting, followed by qualifying leads based on factors such as need, annual revenue, and deal size, helps sales teams focus and prioritize their time on top opportunities. “Not asking the right questions can lead to long sales processes and lost deals. It can totally pollute the sales funnel,” Cunningham says.
2 You need a clearly defined value proposition.
Cunningham points out that most prospects typically only ask about two things during a sales call: Whether the solution solves a pain point and price.
“That’s all they know. They aren’t familiar enough with your technology to ask anything else,” she says. If your sales reps don’t educate them about what your solution does and the value it provides, you’ll lose the sale to someone with a lower price. “Your reps need to communicate what your company can do to help their business. It’s the key to winning that opportunity.”
3 Never send out uninformed sales reps.
Sales representatives need to be knowledgeable about more than your technology. They also need to understand their prospects’ industry. “One of our partners develops solutions for golf courses. They hired sales reps with backgrounds in that space so their reps could say, ‘I used to be in your shoes. Here’s how we fixed it,’” Cunningham comments.
If you aren’t in a position to hire new sales reps with specific industry experience, Cunningham suggests finding other ways to encourage your reps to learn about their prospects’ businesses. Your team can set up Google Alerts for each industry for quick access to thought-leadership articles and news. “You can also follow people on LinkedIn that post important news or quotes you can use in a sales pitch,” she says.
She adds that sales reps should also follow their own company’s team on social media and stay on top of internal communications, which are a valuable source of information and insight.
4 Sales is all about relationships.
Cunningham reminds ISVs, “People buy from people they like.” It’s crucial for your sales reps to develop relationships with their prospects. “If you rush through the sales process, you don’t get a chance to learn about the prospect, their products or their business,” she says. “Let them talk about their business. It’s their baby. They’re proud of it..”
Cunningham says when a sales representative establishes a relationship, walls will come down, and the prospect will be more likely to share their issues. “With payments, it may be deposit timeframes, customer service issues or technology breakdowns,” she says. That gives your rep the opportunity to share how payments integration with your software can solve those issues.
5 Sales are not one-and-done.
Technology changes at a rapid pace, consumer behaviors evolve, and competitive pressures force businesses to adopt new processes. When your software plays an integral part in your clients’ business operations, you need to maintain the relationship you’ve built with continued communication so you can identify and manage risk and ensure your customers’ long-term success.
This takes more than a quarterly call and an annual renewal meeting. Cunningham says she always asks when the decision maker’s birthday is and makes a note of the anniversary date of when they sign so she can reach out. “A handwritten card goes a long way to thank them for their business,” she comments. Cunningham adds that sending a note is also an opportunity to include your business card and ask if they’d pass it on to another business owner who could use your solution.
Your sales process should include taking advantage of other opportunities to connect with clients. “If you’re looking for a way to reach out to your existing customers now, talk about the craziness of the world, and ask if they’re staying safe,” she says. Those discussions can lead to offers to implement solutions that can help their businesses, such as contactless payments, e-commerce web pages and online ordering. “It shows compassion and that you’re ready to help your customers,” she says.
“There’s a quote I love that I try to instill to anyone I train,” Cunningham comments. “A sale is not something you pursue. It’s something that happens when you are immersed in your customer.”