Sales is perhaps one of the most misunderstood aspects of building a business. That’s largely an abundance of conflicting advice.
Early on in Atlassian’s growth story, CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes famously said that he grew the company’s global customer base without the need of a single salesperson.
Atlassian may have hit the jackpot with Jira, but speaking from experience, it’s rare for an incredible product to sell itself.
There are plenty of enterprise technology companies, including Shootsta, that have seen significant success from investing in sales early and scaling it with the business.
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We work with over 250 clients globally. We won over 100 of those last calendar year.
Our roster includes Deloitte, Coles, HSBC, Zuora, AstraZeneca, Samsung and DHL — the kind of companies that startups strive for and often struggle to work with.
The secret here is that very few of our deals are inbound leads. Almost all of them take months to land.
And perhaps, most surprisingly in this day and age of automation and mass communication, most of them start with a single phone call.
What really makes us memorable, however, is the personalised video we send the prospect usually within the same day as the call.
After years of scaling our business, we wanted to reveal what’s worked and what hasn’t with our sales process, clear up some misconception, and help companies simply sell better, as a good sales function can be the difference between a product or service succeeding.
Cold calls aren’t dead
At a surface level, everyone hates cold calling.
People generally do not like making them. They generally don’t like answering them either.
But what if I told you that the vast majority (nearly 40%) of all of our leads for major clients came from an initial cold call.
Also, we don’t get hung up on that often.
Cold calls are the best way for a company to make an initial and personal connection with a prospect. They allow you to cut through the clutter and build an immediate rapport that supports the entire sales process.
However, there are a few tricks to cold calling.
The first is to pick the right target for a call. You need to understand who you are selling to (the decision-maker in the organisation) and then you need to work your way down the chain of authority.
So, if you have a technology product, you’d start with the CIO or CTO, and then try IT managers under them if you can’t get through.
You also need to understand their day and when they will be most open to a call.
Some might prefer just before or just after work. Others may have busy mornings, but easier afternoons.
Knowing your prospect is the key to getting them to answer. If you’re unsure of this, see if there’s anyone in your network who holds this role at an organisation and ask them.
In fact, the more specific and targeted you can be on the call, the better the outcome.
Finally, the initial call is about seeing whether there is a problem that you can solve with your product. It should be quick and should be focused on building an initial memorable connection that will allow you to proceed with the rest of the sales process.
It shouldn’t be all about business either, you want to relate to the person as a human being and get to know them.
Regardless of how good you are, cold calling is a numbers game.
The biggest mistake is assuming you will close the deal on this initial call. Pushing for that will end up working against you.
The follow-up video
Cold calling isn’t new — it’s a tried and true tactic. The real secret in our sales success lies in the video we send immediately after the call.
After each and every call we make, we send the prospect a personalised video via email outlining Shootsta’s offering.
The person who made the call also fronts the camera and tailors the script to directly address the prospect and what was discussed on the call.
It’s within the same day as the call, or early the next day if the call was made quite late.
For us, this allows us to demonstrate the power of fast video communications at a very early stage of the sales process.
But for other companies, we believe it’s still an incredibly powerful tool for cementing that relationship and putting a face to that voice on the phone.
That’s especially true this year, where due to COVID-19, it’s generally harder to secure a face-to-face meeting or time in someone’s diary for a video call.
Much like the cold call, we keep the sales video short and to the point. It’s really just an invitation to a meeting and outlines the next steps.
Be patient and don’t take shortcuts
You won’t win a deal with a major company overnight. On average, it takes us about five months from that initial call to closing a deal. You have to be on the ball through the entire process, and continue that same level of personalisation and dedication you put in at the beginning.
The whole sales process comes undone — and can actually do brand damage — when you start to get lazy or take shortcuts.
In my experience, broad sales-y emails to thousands of people have never been conducive in piquing the interest of executives in large companies.
Also, changing gears and sending prospects generic material once they’ve been secured as a firm lead can work against you in converting them.
Sales is hard work.
When you are hiring salespeople, you need individuals who aren’t just driven by money, but are motivated to close the deal and put in the extra mile to do so. They also need enough emotional intelligence to know when they are becoming an annoyance to the prospect.
Sales is difficult for organisations to master.
For every client you win, there will be several leads that you lose. It also takes time for your sales team to learn the product and learn their prospects too.
It can be a substantial investment for early-stage companies — one that often has to be weighed up with marketing spend and other priorities in the business.
But a solid sales function could be the difference between your company landing a major client in their first few years of operation, which can have a tangible difference on your growth trajectory.
In our experience, the more blue-chip clients you win, the easier it gets, as each major brand you partner with boosts your pitch credibility.
There are many great products that simply don’t get off the ground because they need a sales arm to help drive adoption and demonstrate the use-case behind them.
Even in the rare instance that you have a product that sells itself, a robust sales arm can help you further capitalise on your success.
Good sales tactics shouldn’t be a secret weapon. But with most companies casting their net wide and relying on automation to convert their clients, it could give you the edge you need to stand out in your market.