Sales and Marketing Advice for Florida Business
Why your title (and role) is important for clients to understand
In sales, is it important for your customer to know your title, and further, to understand what your role is? Would that really matter to them, or make a difference in whether they buy or not?
The answer is yes. If people you are dealing with understand your title and your role, your business relationship will go much smoother. This is just as true when dealing with others inside your company as well as your prospects and customers. Some of you aren’t going to like this news, yet it’s the truth. Well, it’s the reality as I see it based on my years of experience selling and marketing.
Many company roles and titles get batted around these days. And that’s okay unless expectations are not correctly set.
Let me illustrate this with an example. Once I was asked by the investors of a tech company to consult with its new leader. My mission was to help them develop and implement a business development strategy. The singular goal was to generate revenue through strategic partnerships.
I’ve been leading complex, strategic business development efforts for most of my career and the assignment seemed clear enough, or so I thought. It turned out that the incoming president of the tech company came from the non-profit world and defined business development in the context of donor fundraising.
The new president talked about investment sustainability -- while I talked about strategic business relationships that drive sustainable revenue. He spoke about the importance of appealing to the altruistic nature of people and investing in noble ideas. I said we needed to focus on the value his company that we offered its partners, and the mutual strategic benefits their customers would receive.
After about a week and many long discussions, the incoming president finally said, “Oh, you’re a sales guy, not a business development professional.”
The temptation to yell was overwhelming. Of course I’m in sales, just operating at a different level. At least he was one step closer to understanding the mission of diving customer-facing revenue, as opposed to just investment dollars.
So, that got me thinking: Maybe titles are important and roles are critical. Particularly for people responsible for driving revenue.
In sales, there’s all different types of roles. All are important; they just operate at different levels and fill different needs, usually dictated by company strategy.
Have you examined your sales titles, and your roles? Try these “lables” on for size. In sales, you need to be:
… a bag-carrying, objective-focused sales jockey. This is not meant to be derogatory, however, let’s get this out of the way right up front -- this person is given a sales quota and is very tactically oriented. They know every trick in the book on how to go for the close. Plus, this type of sales person knows how to work the compensation plan to their advantage. And they think in a deliberate non-big picture way, not based on the company’s vision. The title used most often is account executive (AE). They’ll approach only qualified leads and set the hook as fast as possible. If for any reason AEs don’t feel the love, they quickly move on to bigger fish. Companies need this sort of person selling for them. Point them in a direction and the good AEs successfully fill any short-term revenue gaps quickly. The great account executives are like racehorses. And just like a thoroughbred, management needs to keep a close eye on them, yet not get in the way unless they get off course. That happens a lot.
… a low-hanging fruit opportunity-finder. To keep skilled account executives focused on closing, many companies shift the front end of the sales cycle to sales development reps (SDRs). The idea is to offload AEs by having much less experienced SDRs set appointments. If AEs are tactically oriented, then SDRs are tactical to the extreme! It’s a teaming approach and makes sense, except when it doesn’t; such as in “complex” selling and marketing situations, which is a amusing way of saying too many people are involved in the decision-making process. The problem in today’s world of complex selling is that the multitudes of buyers in a single account enter the sales cycle already full of knowledge, opinions, and even feelings about products and companies like yours -- and usually they are not all on the same page. It’s tricky to maneuver in that environment and takes a solid ground game by a tightly knit marketing and sales team to brand, communicate, and educate -- and here’s the key, with a shared strategic vision. This is not to say that using the SDR / AE model doesn’t make sense; it just depends on the business strategy and the complexity of the sale. Oh, some companies add one more layer of sales here with a role dedicated to account management after the AE moves on to the next kill. Now, it’s getting interesting!
… a strategic selling machine. Now it’s time to inject strategy into the selling process -- well, only if you want big sales to big customers that will drive big revenue for a long time to come. That requires a strategy and the selling skills of a “higher-grade” salesperson known as a business development executive. This type of selling requires someone who knows how to take on the challenges of complex selling, and also is adept at crafting strategies and plans, leading to significantly expanded market share and revenue streams. Here’s an example; a company has created a type of unique cloud software platform that has an clearly identified market and hires SDRs to research who would likely need this and set up calls for their AE partner to close. The margins are high, but selling one user at time is a pain, and worse if it falls into the complex category. In an effort to make a quantum leap in revenue growth, the company brings in a business development executive who quickly determines that there are potential partners that have large numbers of existing customers that fit the target market and at the same time, have a gap in their offering that the cloud service fills. It’s just like magic, but better. It strategic!
There is no right or wrong here. Deciding how you present yourself and how that fits with what your company wants to accomplish in both the short and long term will determine your selling strategy.
In many cases there’s room for crossing boundaries, using mixed selling strategies. The way you present yourself should be the best fit for your client's needs, and one that will build a sales process that he/she will love.
Your identity is at least a little fungible, if it gets the sale, right?
Ron Stein is founder of More Customers Academy, helping business leaders build strategic messaging and positioning that cuts through the competitive noise to grow revenue. Ron has developed his own highly successful 5-step Stand Out & Sell More approach to winning new customers as a result of his twenty-five years of business development, marketing, and selling experiences. He works with a range of businesses, from startups to large corporations across industries including technology and healthcare, manufacturing, and financial services and banking. Ron conducts workshops, leads company meetings, offers keynote talks, and consults. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or by email.