Qlose is an interview format that meets the best experts in sales teams to find out how they contribute to their company's sales performance.
1. The context
Can you introduce yourself?
Coralie De Robert, Sales Director at Salesloft for the past 3 and a half years, and I'm based in London.
At Salesloft, I support a team of 8 EMEA Account Executives, and 2 Account Executives on the French market.
What are the main stages in a deal?
There are several ways of looking at the main stages of a deal.
The classic way, which starts with qualification, or "Discovery", finding out why prospects are looking at our solution. What problem are they looking to solve? What are their objectives?
Then there's the presentation of the solution, tool or services on offer. Finally, there's the negotiation part. All in all, these are the key stages of a deal, which will determine whether or not it goes ahead.
There are two things that interest me a lot in a deal, and which I discuss a lot with my teams, and that's to ask them where they stand in the deal: are they selling to their champion, or are they selling with their champion?
These are two important steps that will change the way you work with a prospect.
Once you've found your champion, once you've managed to sell him the solution, you then have to sell it together to the other decision-makers, the relationship is completely different.
2. Success and failure factors
What are the indicators of a successful deal?
First of all, for a good qualification, you need to identify a real need in the prospect, whether it's an obstacle, a problem or an objective for that matter. It doesn't always have to be a problem to be solved. Sometimes, it's simply a question of achieving objectives.
Next, a sign that a deal is a good deal is when there's competition!
A deal without competition isn't serious because they're not in a real evaluation stage, they're not mature. In this case, you have to push the prospect to look at the competition, because they're still at an educational stage, and it takes several of us to educate them.
Having a champion is also very important! Moving from selling to your champion to selling with your champion is an essential step towards signing.
It's also vital to understand the prospect's decision-making criteria. It's essential to emerge from the first exchange with the reasons why they're looking for a tool or solution, why they're looking to us now, and why they're looking to us rather than someone else.
At what stage are most deals lost? And why? And how can they be rectified?
Very often, the majority of deals are lost after the solution or product demo.
What usually happens is that, after the demo, the prospect doesn't respond or simply doesn't show up. And yet, during the appointment, a problem or objective had been identified.
At that point, we haven't succeeded in making the project important enough for the prospect to take the time, energy and resources to do a full evaluation and sell the project internally. So there's a real job to be done upstream: you really have to validate and solidify the sales opportunity.
In more detail, three main factors can be identified:
- The first is that sellers are reluctant to disqualify. In concrete terms, there are a lot of deals that aren't really deals in the first place. Very good salespeople are capable of putting 100% of their energy into real deals. The not-so-good ones, on the other hand, will spend their time blowing smoke and doing a lot of work on deals that will never work.
- The second factor is control over the deal. In other words, the ability to set the next steps with a clear agenda, a clear value, and to do so quickly and ideally by incorporating new people into the loop. Setting a next step doesn't happen at the end of a meeting, but at the beginning or in the middle. You need to be able to detect a particular question during the demo, not answer it, keep the exchange on track, and set up a next meeting to deal with that point (sales review, getting in touch with a customer, legal point, etc.).
- The third point is the ability to be in contact with several contacts. Often, a deal is lost because the single contact you had was too busy, didn't see the value of the product or service, or wasn't necessarily rigorous. But if there are several people in the loop, it's possible to get several pieces of information and put pressure on the main contact to move the project forward.
3. The importance of the prospect's internal resources
How can you leverage in-house resources to move a deal forward?
At Salesloft, we have cadences that we use right from the start of the deal to bring several people into the loop.
For example, Salesloft is a sales tool that is mainly used by sales people, but it is often evaluated by people in Operations and often bought by decision-makers who are quite high up. It's not the same sales approach for someone in Operations who uses the platform every day, as it is for the CEO, who is looking to generate revenue.
So at Salesloft, we have cadences for deals above a certain value, with the aim of getting people into the loop, and there are best practices to follow.
Typically, for decision-makers who aren't yet in the loop but who will certainly arrive when it's time to sign the contract, we contact them before the first meeting, telling them that we'll soon be in contact with their teams, explaining the context and telling them that we'll keep them informed of the project's progress.
Once the first meeting is over, we send a second e-mail to summarize the exchange, the problem and/or the objective we're aiming for, and our desire to work together.
With this method, you give, you give, you don't ask for anything until you've given, and as a result, the day you ask for an appointment, for example, which usually happens towards the end of the deal, there's a much better chance of it being accepted.
What's also interesting to do is to put people in our company in touch with people in the prospect's company. For example, ask the CFO to send a message to the CFO in the prospect's company.
At Salesloft, this task is automated thanks to a free tool we've developed, available on Salesloft Labs, called "Draft on Behalf". It's a Gmail extension that allows you to create an email with the person who is to receive it and the person who is to send it, simply by clicking on a link and a pre-written email appears. This way, you don't have to write a new email every time, which saves a considerable amount of time, and also helps to align resources internally.
How do you find your champion?
First of all, you need to be able to build a rapport with your contacts, to have a human side, while remaining natural and authentic.
Next, we need to test the person we're talking to to find out whether they're going to be our internal champion. In practical terms, this means, for example, asking him for access to other decision-makers. Whether or not he approves will tell us whether he's going to be our champion.
Another question to ask is, for the same price and with an unlimited budget, if it were up to him or her, which solution he or she would choose. If he or she mentions your company by name, you've got your champion.
At this point, we move from selling to our champion to selling with our champion!
4. Objections and common situations
How best to manage several deals at the same time?
The first thing is pipeline management, working on the deals that are most likely to be signed.
Then, the second thing is to be well organized, to use cadences or nurturing sequences to feed your pipeline.
The third point is to manage the next steps for each deal, to have a very clear agenda of what's going to happen, what was said last time, what's going to be discussed at the next point, etc. This step is very important. This step is very important, and if it's not managed properly, it becomes very complicated to manage the deal properly.
What advice do you have for Salespeople who can't get a deal off the ground?
The first point is to disqualify, to go for the no. It's not serious, it happens, but you have to be aware of it, so don't hesitate to ask.
When you establish a good human relationship with the prospect from the outset, it's much easier to find out, because it'll come from the prospect himself, and he'll give the reasons.
The second thing is to talk to several people at the prospect's premises. When you talk to just one person, it's very easy to lose contact, whereas when you talk to five people, it's more difficult. When you don't hear from the prospect, what you can do is send a message on LinkedIn to someone on his or her team to ask for news. In general, it's very easy to find out why the prospect hasn't replied and why.
It's also important to respect the prospect's schedule. When all the signals are green, you have to trust yourself, and maybe the prospect doesn't respond anymore because he's so busy. Don't forget that it's complicated to buy a product or solution; it takes time.
How can you shorten the sales cycle as much as possible?
It's all about managing the next steps, and keeping the time between appointments as short as possible. It's simple, but it really is the best way to move your deal forward.
The best salespeople also have the ability to create urgency when there isn't any. To create urgency according to the prospect's agenda, whether it's the season, the time of the month, etc.
For example, when you sell a product or service to the sales department, you have to do it by the 15th of the month, because they're too busy at the end of the month.
So you have to work around your prospect's agenda. It's very important to have studied your targets in depth to be able to act in the best possible way.
5. The negotiation stage
How do you manage a price difference with the competition?
To manage this aspect, it's important to have a good understanding of the prospect's objectives and decision-making criteria.
In a situation where the sole decision-making criterion is price, and you're not the cheapest, that's as far as it goes. You need to highlight the desired objective and explain why our solution is the most suitable, and justify the price, explaining that with a low budget, it will be complicated, if not impossible, to achieve your objective.
You have to sell the value of your solution or service, but value is perceived in relation to price and return on investment. It's vital to understand the objective (time savings, performance, retention, etc.), to relate it to a monetary cost, and then to set it against the price of the proposed solution and/or service, and then to compare the ROI of different solutions.
It's also important to know the prospect's budget as quickly as possible, as this is an opportunity to qualify or disqualify very quickly and avoid wasting unnecessary time.
Secondly, when you're competing with a company that charges similar prices, you need to be aware of this fairly quickly, and not enter into negotiations until you know which solution your prospect has chosen for the same price.
The last word...
Do you have one or more resources you like to consult to improve your Sales approach?
I follow several personalities on LinkedIn that I find inspiring, including Charlotte Johnson who is an expert on the subject of prospecting, and Dan Elkeïm, the founder of Topo who shares interesting information.
The Blinklist app is also great for people who don't have time to read entire books as it does summaries, and in particular I've read summaries of books like "Selling Above and Below the Line" or "The Challenger Sale" which give key sales concepts.
I also watch every episode of Qlose by Qobra!
And finally, the Slack "Sales Tribes" community is also a great resource for sales people at all levels. It offers Random Coffees on a regular basis, and it's a great opportunity to exchange ideas with peers, which is very enriching.