7 August 2020

Sales hacks and startup advice from a Salesforce Account Manager

Edouard has always had a passion for tech and helping customers. He has gained valuable experience from his sales roles in Tech MNC, startups, and the advisory he does for Series A & B entrepreneurs. Now a Salesforce Account Manager, he shares with us some of the most important sales hacks and gives some valuable advice to startups.

 

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  Faye Chong

  Content Marketer

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 ASEAN tech scene.

Soon after, he realized that his objective would be to create further value with his customers with an end-to-end approach to their challenges. This led him to where he is today.

Fast forward to today, Edouard (who also goes by Ed), is an Account Executive at Salesforce where he helps these companies understand and engage with their customers better to provide satisfaction and generate revenue growth.

Currently, he’s managing the High-Tech 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 be customer-obsessed

“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 able to connect all the dots around a particular customer? Does their sales team suggest valuable and clear steps in the evaluation journey with the prospects? Are the Sales teams able to really “listen” to the customer before jumping in and assuming?

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 has never been a successful long-term strategy ever for both your customers, thus your company.

The sales hack here is to start the discussion by letting the customers share what keeps them up at night. What is their current business problem and how will they achieve their desired outcome?

Then, steer the conversation to the solution that will emerge from there. Leading with a solution in mind from the beginning is a common mistake.

You have to think, 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”, and being able to adjust to the reality of your clients is crucial and starts with active listening and genuine curiosity.

 

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, a very important sales hack was shared. 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 realistic number of customers first before moving on to replicating this success with another segment of customers. This way, there’s still progress while maintaining focus.

The feedback from active customers is underrated, while this is actually the best data for you to adjust your GTM strategy.

 

4. Don’t blindly prospect

Through the years, Ed has discovered many ways to do sales prospecting. This includes emails, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, warm referrals, Sales Calls…all of these following a precise cadence.

He’s a fan of two techniques: the executive Basho email coupled and Sandler/BANT methodologies.

Basho email method

The Basho email is a concise, 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 can be time-consuming as it requires reps to conduct in-depth research to find out about a prospect’s background, priorities, and pain points.

However, 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”.

 

Sandler Sales Submarine. Source: LucidChart.

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. The bigger the segment you are targeting, the more complex the sales cycle

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, and the decision-making process most of the time involves many different stakeholders and functions.

This means that it will take more time to connect with and nurture them.
While it may seem like a daunting task, Ed shares ideas on how businesses can go about doing it.

Firstly, Ed advises creating engagement with the identified decision-makers or power personas in order to quickly validate the interest of an organization. In fact most of the time, these large corporations make decisions from the top. Once the interest is confirmed by the leaders, it is then easier to ask for access to the relevant extended teams and work on building a solid business case.

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 organizations the confidence to invest in transformational Technology that has a payback attached to it.

With that said, small organizations like startups need to be aware of the level of compliance that these large companies have to follow. There are certain rules and regulations that larger companies have to abide by.

Ed stresses that reps “should do their homework before reaching out to them. As there is a considerable amount of time to be saved here if the segment you are targeting has a high barrier entry due to its high regulation standards”.

He adds that Startups have more to win if they focus on win-win engagements with smaller/mid-sized customers where they will be able to understand the mechanics of their success, then grow these industry use cases into success stories that can fit the complexity of the enterprise ecosystem.

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 the ignition phase”.

 

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 for startups.

He shared some tips on how SaaS entrepreneurs 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”.

To support this philosophy, we’ve created Novocall and TimeSync to streamline business-customer communication in order to increase conversion rates.

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 nurturing their prospects and customers with consistent organic content shared through the relevant automation campaigns and posts.

 

Key Takeaways

Based on Ed’s sales journey, there are several key lessons we, startups, 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 a more demanding sales strategy than those used to approach smaller 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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