7 August 2020
Tips from a Salesforce team lead | Sales hacks and startup advice
Edouard Obin has always had a passion for tech and helping customers. He has gained valuable experience over the years from his sales roles in various startups. Now a Team Lead at Salesforce, he shares with us some of the most important sales hacks and gives some valuable advice to startups.
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Edouard Obin has always been into technology.
He later realized that he also had a passion for understanding business-customer relationships and how it impacts customers.
After attending a forum with a friend, he got acquainted with some Salesforce employees. There, he found out that B2B sales roles merged both his interests into a single job.
Then in 2015, Ed started his sales journey with Salesforce in Europe as part of the business development (BD) team. But his journey didn’t stop there.
He later took on roles such as Head of Sales at Saleswhale and an account executive at 90 Seconds. These experiences got him closer to the tech scene.
Soon after, he realized that his true passion centered around customer satisfaction and this led him to where he is today.
Fast forward to today, Edouard (who also goes by Ed), is an Accounts Executive at Salesforce where he helps these companies understand and engage with their customers to provide satisfaction and added value.
Currently, he’s managing the leading, high-tech manufacturing accounts for Salesforce in Singapore.
Novocall’s CEO and co-founder JJ Huang sat down with Ed where he shared about the sales hacks and startup advice he has accumulated over the years.
What 5 years in sales taught him
1. Always prioritize your customers
“It’s all about being focused on the customer”, said Ed when asked if his experiences were all related to sales.
“Even though everything I did was related to sales, I would say that the underlying driver was customer success.”
Ed said that businesses have to be focused on their customers every step along the sales funnel. From qualifying inbound leads to the actual purchase stage, it’s always about delivering customer satisfaction.
Despite probably being the most fundamental sales principle, this sales hack is often forgotten. Businesses should always ask themselves “how do you bring value to your customers?” Ed said.
Are their sales teams too pushy in their tactics? Do their sales team give the lead sufficient time to consider before getting back to them? Do their sales teams change their tone once they find out that the lead cannot afford your product or service?
Prioritizing experience leads to greater customer satisfaction, positive word-of-mouth, and loyal customers.
At the end of the day, it’s about bringing value to customers to achieve long-term relationships.
2. Use a consultative sales approach
To Ed, approaching customers by hard-selling a product or solution first is not the best way to do sales.
The sales hack here is to start the discussion with a particular use case by finding out the pain points and challenges the customer faces. What is their current business problem and how will they achieve their desired outcome?
Then, steer the conversation to the solution. How exactly will the solution bring value and help customers solve their problems?
“Salespeople should be consultants first,” he says. Their role is to understand the problems in order to add value to their customers.
When asked how his sales strategy changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ed mentioned that “sales is very contextual”.
Speaking from his own experience, Ed had many opportunities and deals lined up before the pandemic struck.
However, Ed didn’t forget to check up on his customers.
“I kept in touch with them, I asked them how they were doing and how’s the team,” Ed said. “The customer recently came back and said that they were ready to close the deal.”
His customer appreciated his consultative approach, constantly checking up on their well-being.
“They appreciated the fact that I didn’t force them even when they were almost ready to sign the deal,” he added.
3. Don’t expand at the expense of losing focus
Ed said that while scaling is great for understanding the market fit and growing a business quickly, there is a risk of losing the value of personalization.
“If you go too much at scale, you lose focus. And when you lose focus, value takes a back seat”.
It’s more important to craft the right personas to reach out to and have a clear direction to take.
In an interview with Jerry Chua, co-founder of LogTech relocation platform Moovaz, he shared a very important sales hack. One of their growth strategies was to remain very focused on what value they are providing their customers.
Finding a new home is just one of the many things relocators need to think about when moving to a new country. Yet Moovaz decided to focus solely on logistics.
This helped them create a niche group of customers and establish a good name for themselves in the space.
That being said, being focused doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to scale a business and explore other opportunities.
Ed suggests working on a small dedicated group of customers first before moving on to approach another segment of customers. This way, there’s still progress while maintaining focus.
4. Don’t blindly prospect
Through the years, Ed has discovered many ways to do sales prospecting. This includes emails, sales phone calls, and via LinkedIn prospecting.
He’s a fan of two techniques. The Basho email and Sandler sales methodologies.
Basho email method
The Basho email is a highly personalized email usually intended for the top decision-makers.
Even though it is a type of cold email, it helps sales reps get the customer’s attention by showing a deep understanding of the customer.
This method is time-consuming as it requires reps to conduct in-depth research to find out about a prospect’s background, priorities, and pain points.
An example template can go something like this:
I read this article about xxx. I’ve read your commentary on this issue. In particular, your article titled xxxxx, and I thought I would reach out to you.
Your opinions regarding xxx are xxx. (then add your own message, keep it brief).
Would it be alright to have a short discussion around your xxx strategy and how we could potentially add value to your business?
I look forward to hearing from you either way,
With a 60% response rate and an 80% engagement rate, Basho emailing is an effective outreach strategy.
Sandler sales method
The Sandler sales method requires a mutual understanding between the rep and a customer. This means that the sales rep acts more like a trusted advisor than a salesperson.
This method was developed based on human psychology, which is why Sandler-trained sales reps aren’t as aggressive or pushy.
It puts the most emphasis on the qualification stage rather than the closing stage. This sales process is illustrated by the “Sandler Submarine”.
This sales process focuses on three main aspects. This includes establishing a relationship, qualifying the prospect, and closing the sale.
One thing to note is that with this method of sales, the rep leaves it up to the customer to close the deal.
While these are popular sales hacks used by many sales reps, Ed said that “it’s more important to find the one that you like.”
He’s met several salespeople who managed to climb to the top of the ladder by capitalizing on their skills.
On top of that, “sales reps cannot run prospecting campaigns with no methodology, targets, and strategy. You need to do your homework before reaching out to someone”, he said.
The bottom line is, businesses shouldn’t blindly prospect using techniques and strategies that they aren’t comfortable with.
5. Be careful when selling to bigger companies
Enterprise companies can be tricky to reach out to.
As a more structured organization with more processes, they will naturally be more cautious about introducing new products or services. The change could potentially slow down their productivity.
This means that it will take more time to connect with and nurture them.
While it may seem like a daunting task, Ed shares how businesses can go about doing it.
Firstly, Ed advised against reaching out directly to the top decision-makers. There’s a high chance these busy people will ignore these emails. Instead, work with the different departments and build a business case that helps articulate value for them. Businesses should work their way up slowly.
Another valuable tip Ed emphasized is to always make sure that sales reps are able to articulate the value proposition and ROI. This gives big companies the confidence in a business’ product to provide them with the solution they need.
With that said, businesses need to be aware of the level of compliance that these companies have to follow. There are certain rules and regulations that larger companies have to abide by. Ed stresses that reps “should do your homework before reaching out to them.”
For example, if a smaller company’s product or service is not General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant but the enterprise it is approaching is, the odds of it securing the deal is practically zero.
His last tip is to tap on middle-market companies first, before progressively tapping on the bigger players.
Many businesses are quick to expand by engaging with big companies. But unless businesses already have everything tailored and made for enterprise, he thinks middle-market firms are the “sweet spot for now”.
Over the years, Ed has worked in various sales roles for different startups and has picked up many sales hacks. Unfortunately, he said that this was all many businesses focused on.
During this period, he saw many startups fail to establish a clear positioning in the market and stressed the importance of doing so.
How startups can establish a clear positioning
“People will mistake you for another type of business, and it’s difficult to fight this,” said Ed on the importance of having a clear brand position.
He shared some tips on how startups can do so.
1. Work on a clear mission and vision statement
Having a clear mission and vision statement is important to establish a business in the market.
They outline the company’s business and highlight the strategies for reaching a company’s goals. It provides a clear direction in which the company wants to go and shapes the culture of the organization.
The mission and vision statements of a company help direct the organizational strategy of a business. Only by establishing a clear strategy, the business can develop short- and long-term goals to achieve organizational success.
For example, Novocall’s mission is to “help businesses communicate faster and more personally with their customers”. Our vision statement is to “create seamless sales conversations”.
2. Craft an ideal customer profile
A business should first define their ideal customer profiles (ICP). Who are their key personas that will most likely use their product or service?
By clearly establishing an ICP, businesses can tailor their sales and marketing efforts to those who are most likely to buy from them now.
They’re also able to identify customers with the highest potential of using their product or service.
In other words, the purpose of an ICP helps to identify, source, and prioritize a businesses’ best prospects.
This minimizes the risk of targeting the wrong customers and helps businesses better understand their customers’ pain points and how they can articulate their value proposition.
3. Communicate your brand value to targets customers
Once businesses have identified a persona, they need to spend hours digging deep.
Where do their customers find information? Which industries are they from? What titles do they hold and what business functions do they operate in? Are they most receptive to social media posts, blogs, or webinars? The list goes on.
Once the best modes of communication have been identified, businesses can start with email blasts to get people to notice and think about their product or service.
Based on Ed’s sales journey, there are several key lessons we can take away.
Firstly, businesses should always place their customers and prioritize creating a great experience for them. In that regard, a more consultative approach to interacting with customers should be used.
While it is important to grow your customer base, businesses should not do it without having a clear strategy. Approaching enterprise-level companies require different sales tactics than those used to approach middle-market companies. These sales hacks aside, businesses should not neglect the importance of establishing a clear brand positioning.
Having a clear mission statement, creating an ideal ICP, and communicating your brand value to your customers all help position your business clearly among your competitors.
At the very core of Ed’s sales journey lies the lesson of purposeful communication. Salespeople should always play a consultative role and conduct sales in a deliberate way based on an in-depth understanding of the customers’ needs. It is essential that businesses do not underestimate the power of communication as it affects how customers perceive their brand.
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