The Art And Science Of Relationship Building Using A Team Approach Along The Customer Journey
My enterprise selling experience of 20+ years has taught me how to move a qualified F1000 lead or prospect successfully into the pipeline using a team selling approach. The lead may have attended a webinar, downloaded a whitepaper, seen an ad on LinkedIn, received a newsletter, or gotten one of the countless direct emails I write passionately on a weekly basis.
Once the lead enters the sales process, I spend a great deal of my time crafting the ‘perfect’ outreach email message by researching their business, analyzing their current digital ads on the web, or scrolling through their LinkedIn bio looking for mutual acquaintances or for specific keywords that would indicate their interests, pain points, and, therefore, receptivity to my message. The lead may be conducting a formalized RFI or RFP process and may have already narrowed the pool of vendors in the event that they’ve initiated the first contact with me or my company.
What’s more, there’s a lot of noise out there with thousands of martech/adtech platforms all clamoring to be heard. Recently, the CMO of one of the largest CPG companies told me he receives 125 cold outreach emails per week from my peers, and yet he responded to mine. Why? Likely because he had an interest in the product I was selling, but also likely because I had taken the time to watch a video recording of a keynote presentation he had delivered and I was able to incorporate a few of the details of his presentation into my outreach email. This is personalization at its best, right?
The bottom line is: that lead is precious and should be treated with the utmost care as I proceed through the sales process. These enterprise sales cycles are long, as they should be. The prospective customer’s marketing team has a lot at stake as they evaluate vendors. Increasingly, marketing teams are being measured by the ROI on their programs, particularly with regard to their digital marketing campaigns where everything can be measured, calculated and analyzed for its performance.
Here are three rules I live by in partnering with my prospective customers along their buying journeys.
#1 – Focus On Building A Relationship
SO – no matter how the lead arrived, whether it seemingly fell into my lap (which I assure you, it didn’t) or I had to artfully finesse it into existence like a siren drawing her ships to shore– I’m in possession of a qualified sales lead–the Holy Grail for enterprise sellers. And now, I also have a mission to help them address their challenges in digital marketing campaigns, personalization, campaign performance and ROI. What next?
Heaven forbid I should proceed full-steam ahead and schedule a presentation & demo right out of the gate. Instead, I ask the prospective customer for a discovery meeting. I want to begin the process of developing a solid, trusting relationship with them. I want to understand what their over-arching business goals are, why they’re considering DCO for their advertising campaigns, where they are in the process of selecting a new partner, the list goes on and on. I want to get to know them:
- Who are they?
- How will partnering with my company improve their lives, personally?
- Will we be able to deliver tremendous ROI, therefore making them a hero within their organization?
Hopefully the answer to the last question is a resounding yes, but first I need to do the work of learning all I can about their goals within the existing framework of their marketing environment.
#2 – Listening is the first step in building trust–the foundation of every relationship
At this point of the process, I prepare for this discovery meeting carefully. I bring my technical sales engineer (TSE) and agree ahead of time who is going to ask which questions. We usually meet internally, even prior to the discovery meeting. Bringing in my TSE is a big part of gaining rapport with the customer and setting the stage for a successful presentation to follow.
My goal for this meeting is to do the least amount of talking possible. I learn nothing when I’m the one doing all the talking. During this initial discovery meeting, I take copious notes and document them internally for my entire team’s review. At Jivox, we use the meeting brief feature of Salesforce. We also make use of other internal communication channels such as Slack, to keep internal stakeholders informed and in the loop.
From there, I do my best to incorporate all of the great intel we’ve just gathered into a customized deck. This is the essence of solution selling. Though there are common challenges facing all marketers today, each customer’s business goals are unique, and their tech stacks have unlimited nuances. I’m lucky enough to have a brilliant internal strategy team for help with the creation of a personalized, branded sales pitch deck. My goal is to let the customer know that we were listening and heard everything they shared in the discovery meeting. The strategy team often has a more global view of the work done with other customers so they can include relevant case studies and customized suggested use cases.
As a matter of practice, I always include an agenda slide at the beginning of the deck. I doublecheck to ensure the agenda reflects all of the pertinent information we wish to impart. Prior to the meeting, I often send that agenda over to the customer to socialize it with them and ask for feedback. I can’t assume my expectations for the meeting are in line with theirs. I’m also careful to tie that agenda to the clock, giving adequate time for each section, building in time for questions along the way. Their time is precious and I want to make the most of our time together.
#3 – Never Go It Alone – Win Together
Ahead of the meeting with the customer, we meet internally as a team to agree on the game plan and assign specific slides to specific team members. If it makes sense to include people from product or engineering into the presentation, I do it, particularly if we’re going to be presenting to an extremely technical customer. I make a point of allowing time to practice our pitch, both as a team and individually. Winging it is never a good idea!
Finally, the time for the pitch has arrived. I show up on time and if on Zoom, my camera is ON! My dad’s motto (a 35-year IBM sales veteran) of “five minutes early is on time and on-time is late” plays well here. I ask for a round of introductions and if it’s a large group, I usually introduce my own team and will ask my main point of contact to identify and introduce the members of their team. Once again, we briefly review the agenda and gain consensus on how the time will be spent together.
From there, I speak clearly and slowly, look for signs of engagement from the customer. Are they nodding their head, taking notes, asking questions, or am I afraid that they’ve potentially lost consciousness while we’ve been speaking? I do NOT drone on and on. I remind myself to take a breath and ask questions. If I find the meeting has gone down a rabbit hole, or if I believe my team’s message is missing the mark, I speak UP. I’m not afraid to gently interrupt to steer the conversation back on track. If any one particular topic begs an inordinate amount of questions, I suggest that we revisit that topic separately on a subsequent call. My goal is to keep the whole team engaged and to cover off on all of the agreed-upon topics.
I ALWAYS allow adequate time for a discussion about next steps at the end. My sales decks always include a slide at the end with just two words: next steps. Knowing what my goal for the meeting ahead of time is key. Often it’s gaining agreement for another meeting, a deeper dive into the tech, or a platform demo. Sometimes it’s an agreement to meet again to discuss pricing or the commercial aspects of the potential partnership.
This is how I build trusting relationships with my customers and ensure that we form a true partnership focused on success. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime for your personalization / creative automation / DCO needs, or even just to generally chat about increasing the relevance of your digital marketing campaigns. Connect with me on LinkedIn.