When I meet with a new hire for the first time, I always challenge them with the old African proverb which most people have never heard. I myself learned about it in Asia of all places. It goes like this- “When the sun raises in Africa, it doesn’t matter if you’re the Lion or the Gazelle, you better start running your ass off.” And I always follow-up with “This is Africa (T.I.A.) – every startup is.” The purpose of this orientation is to ensure everyone is giving 110% to the company and hustling as hard as they can. While that certainly is a major factor, I’ve learned along the way that the truly best sales professionals need three fundamental foundations to maximize their effectiveness – Team, Product, then Hustle.
Why is Team so important – because Teamwork Definitely Makes the Dream Work! Seriously, every deal whether small or large takes a team to execute. While larger deals require larger teams, rarely is any deal closed by a single, superhero Account Executive. As a new AE, it is critical to take the time to meet every member of the team, even those who are not on the immediate team, to develop a strong working relationship. All too often, an AE is focused on passing their sales cert so they can get out there selling - which makes sense - but that’s like flying through boot camp only to get to the front line of battle without a gun. Yes, you’re at the front line but you didn’t take the time to stop by the armory to meet the sergeant who issues firearms. So now, you need to go back to the armory and introduce yourself, likely in a sheepish manner, to ask for something – in this case your gun. And it won’t be the last time, your gun will break, you’ll need a different type of weapon along the way, etc. As is the case in sales, an AE tends to “go back” and ask for something from the company to ensure that a deal closes. This could be simple things like a discount for a multi-year contract, or no use of logo, etc. but in other cases, it’s something like a new product feature or an extension on a current feature that isn’t par with the market. If you haven’t taken the time to learn who does what within the organization, how those teams are structured, how they work, etc. – meeting the needs of your prospect to get the deal over the line is going to be very difficult and potentially could even kill your deal. I’ve seen deals die simply because someone was afraid to ask or thought they couldn’t meet the request so never even tried. Having a strong team dynamic and professional relationships in place will avail such concerns and at least give you the opportunity to work with the right folks to meet the needs of your prospect.
Why is Product so important – well, sure, if you don’t know what you’re selling then you’ll lose all credibility with the prospect and ultimately the sale. That’s fairly well known. However, what I see with most new AEs is they only take the time to learn the product on the surface – just enough to get through the first sales meeting and then let their Sales Engineer (SE) take it from there. While you can skid by on that for a bit, you won’t close any monster deals that way and you’ll flatten out. What the best AEs do is learn the product, sure, but then learn all the Use Cases the product solves and explain why their product is the best tool to solve for those Use Cases. You see, most prospects actually really only care about the end result, what they can do with the product, and how it will help move the needle. The best way to communicate this is through Use Case stories – everyone loves stories of course. However, if you explain a Use Case and someone asks, “that’s awesome, how does your product achieve that,” and you have a blank stare on your face…..boom, you just lost the deal because now you’ve lost credibility. So, why is it so important to learn about the Product……so you can learn the Use Cases and explain them both from a business perspective and also a technical perspective when challenged.
Why is Hustle so important – because you either eat or get eaten….T.I.A. If you need any more explanation on this point – maybe you shouldn’t be in sales :-)