As we close out a successful fiscal year, and move into a new one, the Allocadia Leadership Team has been focusing more than ever on how to grow our sales function and onboard new team members who can help our customers be successful. As we continue to grow Allocadia, it’s important we have a deep understanding of how our organization sells — or should sell. For marketers, having a deep understanding of how your company sells – or should sell – will help you drive better marketing strategy and programs. But I’ve realized that not everyone innately feels like a salesperson. Including me.
Earlier in my career when I was a marketing manager, I was working at a tradeshow booth for Crystal Decisions, when a colleague told me, “You know, you’re a good sales person.” I was surprised. First of all, I didn’t know a lot about Crystal Reports. I wasn’t technical, and I couldn’t really answer a lot of the trade show attendees’ questions. I thought: “I’m not a salesperson!” However, when Katherine and I started Allocadia, we were selling large, enterprise deals, but even then, we didn’t feel like we knew sales. To help us learn, we had an advisor and former colleague from SAP who would meet with us on a weekly basis to hold us accountable on deals and pipeline. But it was still just the two of us doing the demos and mockups, negotiating contracts, and we closed over $1 million in sales as a bootstrapped company. (And we still had to go build the product and provide customer support too!)
So how were we “non-salespeople” able to sell? We may not have known it at the time, but we were focusing on three key things that helped us win great customers:
- Remember: we are all someone’s customer. I realized early on that in life we are all constantly surrounded and involved in some kind of “sales process”. From buying groceries to buying beds (as Hubspot’s CTO and co-founder recently wrote). Once I understood this, it removed the mystery of sales. Selling became much less intimidating when I recognized that we are ALL someone’s customer. Making it more familiar helped me get comfortable with it, and start to understand it.
- Know how to truly help your customer. As Katherine and I were former marketers, we had the benefit of knowing our target market. We were literally selling to our (former) selves. We not only understood our customers’ pain point, we used to feel it and we knew how to help our customers solve it. One of the challenges with companies whose founders ‘were the customer’ can be translating that personal experience back to the team as the business grows. I don’t believe that all Allocadia team members need to be former marketers to sell to our customers, but understanding marketers is critical in showing them how to solve their marketing performance challenges and accomplish their goals, and challenge them respectfully on how to get there. This is especially true in a new market like Marketing Performance Management where our customers look to us as subject matter experts. Paul Teshima at Nudge also talks about “earning trust from people, by adding value, supporting and helping them.”
- Work in partnership with your customers. When we started Allocadia, our early customers were buying from Katherine and me. They knew it was the founders who responded to the inbound lead form and did the demo, but they trusted we could help them and believed we would deliver. There was the spirit of being “in it together” with our customers. We were working together in partnership to accomplish a common goal and create a win-win scenario. Our success in selling to these early customers came down to relationships: people buying from people. If you build a relationship based on trust and helping solve problems, then you’ve set yourself on a path to “sell”. The ability to build relationships is often intrinsic in people and can be tough to train. When I was working that tradeshow booth promoting Crystal Reports, I certainly wasn’t an expert, but I succeeded by building relationships with people. I did this by figuring out how I could help them (even if I didn’t always know the answer).
There are a few of the insights I’ve discovered as I’ve learned how to “sell” while building Allocadia. Hopefully as marketers this can help you understand how your sales team should sell and how you can help them.
We would love to hear your ideas on selling and any experiences you might have had that helped you learn how to sell better. Please comment below or tweet about it on Twitter at @allocadia.
As CEO of Allocadia, I’ve had to learn to lead in a rapidly growing, fast-moving market. And as marketers building Allocadia, we have learned a lot about selling to CMOs: their needs and challenges, and the exciting opportunities that lie ahead in this new Marketing 2.0 world. This Leading in Change: CEO Blog Series is intended to help inspire CMOs and marketing operations to lead and build data-driven marketing organizations.