Transformation of the Sales Stud
Most of the time, those of us in high-tech sales are so busy traveling mach-one with our hair on fire that we miss out on many of life's little lessons. We don't slow down long enough to analyze what we're doing to see what's working and what's not working. A few years ago, I slowed down just long enough to discover what makes a great enterprise software sales person.
Everyone knows that it takes a fairly sizable ego to have a career in sales. Our egos are what drive us to perform. Our egos enable us to pick up the phone again and again only to hear 'no thanks' on the other end. And, our egos are what allow us to stand firm in tough negotiations.
Unfortunately, our egos are also responsible for making things harder than they need to be. Several years ago, I was trying to pinpoint what it was that made some people on my sales team more effective than others so I could do a better job of hiring. What I realized is that many of the things that people typically associate with good sales people aren't as applicable in high-end enterprise software sales.
Most people say the best sales people are the "real outgoing types." Not necessarily the case in high-tech. Repeatedly, I've seen "real outgoing types" fail miserably. Another common belief is that you will win deals if the prospect likes you better than the competitors' salespeople. While there is truth in this sentiment, things are different in the high stakes of high-tech sales. The investments companies make in technology are too significant to just "buy from someone I like." (Of course, they need to like you and you need to build a rapport. That's Sales 101.)
So what does it take to survive and thrive in enterprise software sales? Making a transformation from a "sales stud" into an "event coordinator" is the answer. Most salespeople, as a result of their healthy egos, have a little bit of "control freak" in them and feel the need to do it all—to be the guy who dazzles their prospects in every way (the sales stud). However, in high-end technology sales, there are many roles that have to be played and it is simply not possible for one individual to perform well in each of these roles.
Nonetheless, the people who have been top-performing sales studs in other industries and environments make valiant attempts to do just that. They try to be technical guru, business process specialist, financial analyst, industry expert and more. The end result is frustration, when they are not as effective as they are used to being.
Again, to be successful in the world of high-end technical sales, you have to transform yourself from a sales stud into an event coordinator. Relying on other people to help you win opportunities, and focusing your efforts on creating and coordinating the right events, will help you win more deals. Your mission is to bring the right people and resources to bear on an opportunity at the right time. This is very often a difficult thing to do because most salespeople feel like they will lose control of their sales cycles if they let too many people get involved. But I challenge you: put a little trust in your team and clearly communicate expectations and see what happens. Think of yourself as the director of a movie, putting careful thought and consideration into the details of what you want to happen in each interaction. If you are a "sales stud," try becoming an "event coordinator." Let other people in your organization help you and watch your W2 grow.