According to Neal Cross, the art of effective selling is all about selling things in the right order, and knowing who to speak to
Nine out of 10 fintech startups who talk to Neal Cross, Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) at DBS, fail their sales pitches within five minutes.
And that is because there is one underlying problem that all of them share: They are selling their products in the wrong order.
In a candid presentation at the FinTech Global Summit Singapore 2017 held in LATTICE80, a fintech hub backed by the Marvelstone Group, Cross offered a few simple pointers about the art and science of sales.
He said that effective selling is about convincing someone to join you to produce an outcome that is desirable to both parties.
To accomplish that, SMEs need to establish the right order of their sales process. This is especially pertinent for B2B sales, especially solutions for large corporations.
“Don’t sell your product — that’s the worst thing you can sell,” said Cross.
“Sell yourself — that’s the single most important thing. People buy from people. I need to know you are someone I can work with. I need to know I can trust you.”
In the tech industry, all new software that has just been shipped out will have bugs; It doesn’t matter if the QC team is particularly meticulous, one sly bug, no matter how minor, will slip out. That’s just the nature of the technology.
It is, therefore, imperative that the customer can trust the business to stand by them and troubleshoot any problem that may arise.
Once that trust has been established, businesses can begin their product sales pitch.
Setting up the meeting
Scheduling a business meeting may seem like a basic step, but handle it carelessly, and a sales opportunity may be squandered.
The key is, there is already an existing cordial relationship with the potential customer, impromptu meetings should be avoided.
“I get email messages saying: ‘can I meet you this afternoon?’ or ‘I’m in Singapore today, can I meet you?’,” said Cross.
“What that says to me is this: You are disrespectful of my position and my time, and you are disorganised. Hence you are a risk,” he said.
As a general rule of thumb, never book a meeting without two weeks in advance. The minimum buffer time is one week.
And once the meeting has been set up, a clear meeting agenda needs to be established. There has to be a plan to drive towards an outcome.
Identify the decision makers
In business, time is money. Time wasted equals to cash thrown to the wind. So salespeople or founders need to research and understand who are they going to meet before entering the meeting room.
“The real science [of selling] is about knowing who is in the room,” said Cross.
He said there are three types of personalities that every salesperson will encounter.
First, there’s the Fox.
“These guys are friendly and will talk you to death but they have no power [to buy].”
Second, there’s the Blocker.
“Blockers are not good in the room. They don’t like you for personal reasons. [For example] they could already be developing a solution similar to yours,” he said.
Third, there is the person who has power over the money. These are the people who can make a decision to buy.
“Some startups are almost dying because they are in the wrong opportunity. You could be talking to a marketing person who can’t make the decision to close,” said Cross.
But that does not mean the marketing person — or anyone without the power to make decisions — is of no use to sales.
In fact, they may be useful leads that can help businesses connect with the right decision makers
“Find out their personal motivations. Find out how they get their bonus. Understand their KPIs. Talk about what they are trying to achieve, then position the product in a way that will help achieve their outcome.”
For example, a marketing person may have insider information about the organisational structure and people within the company. In my case, I write about startups as part of my job, so while my company or I may not purchase the product, I can certainly help to spread the word about it (as long as it’s legit, of course).
Businesses need to understand the mechanics of the ecosystem when building their sales deck. In many cases, tech startups will have one presentation deck for the VCs and one for the customers.
Showing the wrong one the wrong organisation can have consequences.
For example, it is not wise for founders to show their business plan and exit strategy to customers. Corporate customers would not be enticed to buy a product if they know the company wants to get acquired in two years, for example.
VCs would also prefer to have an in-depth understanding about the company and its motivations, as opposed to seeing an actual demo of the product.
“VCs know early stage startups pivot, so they are really looking at the person, the concept and their business model,” said Cross.
To pitch to corporate customers, it is crucial to know how the sales rhythm works. Essentially, they are three stages to it.
First, there is the presentation of the product’s features. Then, if the customer shows interest, they will naturally enquire about the price. Finally, if they are seriously considering a purchase, they will want to know the risks involved.
“You can’t say the same thing throughout your sales pitch. It’s always about risk at the end. You need to smooth things with the customers … They may want to know [for example] if the product is scalable. If you are very smart, you can also increase the price at the end,” said Cross.
Image Credit: AsiaOne
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