Sales for non-sales people

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I am a startup founder and one of the most powerful lessons for me was to learn and accept that DO NOT know everything. That’s why I ask for help. That’s why I have mentors (some of which speak to me only once - and yet they leave a footprint on how I do business). The last mentoring call I had was about sales. I am a startup founder and I realize that there is much I am yet to learn about sales. So I reached out to Helga for help. She is an international B2B sales acceleration specialist and speaker, the only sales executive in Portugal certified Fellow;, the highest recognition of sales excellence awarded by the Institute of Sales Management and the Association of Sales Professionals. For 17 years based out of London, she was a trusted director of business development for some of the world’s largest organizations in technology, data, ethics and compliance, succeeding in highly competitive markets.

Fast forward to our online meeting - and Helga’s face radiates joy when she talks to me about selling. Her enthusiasm is so contagious that I feel how my latop screen radiates sunshine.

Helga believes that the salesperson profession is all about integrity, resolving problems and being customer-centric. This might not be the image that pops into your head when you think about a salesperson. I imagined someone pushy who is after my money and trying to getting me to buy now or in the next 30 minutes. As a startup founder, I have to do sales - so I would like to re-write the stereotype of a typical salesperson that I have in my head and move it closer to what Helga sees and feels every day :). I will be the person to radiates sunshine from the screen or while talking to you next time.

We start talking about the piture I can show her immediately - our sales funnel. We have 6 stages in there - awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation and purchase. If I have to be hones with myself, I myself do not see the difference between consideration and intent.

Helga starts by helping me shift my perception of the sales deals we have in our funnel. She suggest that I call our deals opportunities. Then the sales funnel becomes a place to look for the probability of each opportunity travelling to the next stage of the funnel.

Then she follows with a suggestion - to replace consideration with discovery. In the views, the most important stage of the sales funnel is the time we talk to the customer about their needs. As soon as we start understanding the needs, only then we can see how we can help them and what our product can do for them. Helga says that 80% of the time spent on sales is in the discover stage. I like this - and I also realize that I had been looking into automating sales as if it is a simple-step procedure. We are not there yet and I hope that many discoveries we will finally know all the simple steps we need to follow to close a client.

Here is what Helga want to understand during the discovery stage - what their problems are, what the risks they can reduce are, and what the opportunities that they are missing are.

We reach the part of our conversation that I liked the most. Helga says to me:

Your solution means NOTHING until your client envisions using your product to solve their problem.

Sometimes the client do not realie they have a problem. In these cases, your solution means NOTHING until the person on the other side accepts that there is a problem worth solving. Wow - there words are both very powerful and grouding. I think that every founder should write them on their whiteboard at the office.

Here is what Helga suggests for us to ask to help them see and realize their problem:

Finally, she suggest that the 1 sentence pitch we deliver to the client when we first start talking to them is carefully creafted. Learn by example here.

Overall, my conversation with Helga left me feeling like I am in a house. There was a locked door in this house which was how to do sales comfortably when you are not a sales person. I feel like helga opened that door for me, encouraged me to enter after equipting me with the essentials, and most importantly - she told me to enter when I am ready. This left me feel empowered. Now, one baby step forward, I enter the room through the door and explore what’s in there.

Key Takeaways

  1. Our product means NOTHING. The only thing that matters in WHAT DOES IT DO FOR THEM (the client).
  2. Spend a lot of time in the DISCOVERY stage.
  3. Design your 1 sentence pitch to be a good shot in the dark.

Image Credit: LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash.