Using Consultative Sales to Close Fortune 100 Companies
This week we had the pleasure of interviewing Bryan Silverman, Manager of Business Development and Chief of Staff for Crowdtap. Bryan has been responsible for selling into Fortune 100 & 250 companies while at Crowdtap and has shared his best practices for using a consultative sales strategy.
Throughout the interview, you’re going to get key insights such as:
- Developing and executing a consultative sales strategy
- Ways of building back trust with clients after a misstep
- The ins-and-outs of selling to Fortune 100 & 250 Companies
- Strategies to motivate your salespeople on taking a long-term approach
Interview with Bryan Silverman
Nudge: What’s your story?
Bryan: My brother and I started a company called Star Toilet Paper while we were in college. What we did was print ads on rolls of toilet paper and then give them to local businesses for free, charging the advertisers for the promotion. It was a great way to capture people’s attention, especially before everyone had a smartphone. We grew in local markets but it was challenging to scale and so we decided to look into other options.
From there I wanted to work with a business that gave me a taste of enterprise-level sales. I found Crowdtap while searching for jobs during my senior year of college and over the past few years have worked my way up to my role as Manager of Business Development and Chief of Staff.
Throughout my roles the goal has been to crack into the brand managers of Fortune 100 and 250 companies, getting them bought into our product. We helped marketers use insight into the passions of their brand’s consumers to break through the mass of ineffective influencer advertising.
You actually caught me at an exciting time though, we’ve just launched a new product called Suzy, which is a very quick-turn market research and business intelligence tool that allows clients to leave no assumption untested.
Bryan’s Consultative Sales Approach for Fortune 100 & 250 Companies
Nudge: What differentiates your product and sales style from other companies?
Bryan: In terms of the product itself, I’ll talk about Suzy specifically. What we do differently is the speed at which we can turn around powerful consumer insights, enabling managers to make faster data-driven decisions. We let these brand managers test their assumptions with highly targeted groups of people, getting very quick feedback on what resonated with them.
From a sales perspective, a big part of what we do is a distinct focus on building strong customer relationships. Many tech companies have a highly structured sales process and want to hammer leads through the pipeline on a more transactional basis. This can be great and works for some types of business, but for us, we need place a greater focus on developing that bond with customers and understanding the unique problems they have.
Something we’ve always built into our sales culture is to not be “yes-men”. A lot of times throughout the sales process we will say no to things that we don’t think are beneficial to our prospects or clearly explain what our product can and cannot do to avoid over-selling. It’s good practice because we’re not here to just shell out some technology, we’re here to help drive their business.
You’ve probably heard the term “consultative sales”, it’s especially key when it comes to large enterprise sales and is something we take to heart.
Key Insight: 4 Keys to Executing a Consultative Sales Strategy
- Throughout the process ensure you ask open-ended questions to better understand why the prospect or company have a problem
- Ensure you are actively listening to the answers they’re giving and read between the lines to understand the underlying motivations for what they’re talking about
- Work through the problems that are being uncovered with the prospect, whether or not that means they will directly use your product
- Through points 1-3, make sure that you are qualifying the prospect. While you want to build a relationship with them and help them, you need to ensure you’re making good use of both yours and their time.
Deciding if Consultative Sales is Right for Your Business
Nudge: How did you come to this process? Why did you decide to go with a consultative sale?
Bryan: We found that it’s not successful when you try to do a more transactional sale. The other thing is that during the sales process, you’re the first point of contact for the client with your company and should be leaving a good impression on them.
If you come and just try to sell them something, they will remember that. We burnt some bridges in the past that we’re trying to build back up from that type of thing. That’s why we feel it’s important to realize that you’re always trying to make the sale, but if it’s not looking good you want to be sure to leave a good taste in their mouth.
Key Insight: 4 Situations Where a Consultative Sales Strategy is a Good Fit
- You are selling something that requires an emphasis on value, not features.
- The price of your product is less important than the value it creates.
- If your product/service is brand new and prospects may not understand the value it creates.
- You are in a highly competitive marketplace that requires higher standards of service in order to differentiate the product/service offerings.
Building Back Client Relationships After a Misstep
Nudge: Is there an example you can walk me through where there was a burnt relationship and then you built it back? What’s the process of how you saved that deal?
Bryan: The most important thing is that what you sell in the sales process is either the same or under promising what a client is going to get when they buy. You don’t ever want to overpromise and underdeliver. I think we had some salespeople in the past who over promised and that came back to bite us.
What we did, in the end, was just come to them and admit the mistake, clarifying what we could do well and how we could help them. As such, we could start with a smaller partnership then the last time, gaining back that trust and showing them results. Ultimately that was something that got them more interested because they still really liked the premise of our product.
Key Insight: 3 Steps to Build Back Client Relationships After a Misstep
- Be honest – Come forward with the mistake and talk about it transparently with them.
- Reinvest in the relationship – Offer them a discount or access to other products/services.
- Learn from the mistakes. Ensure you know exactly what went wrong and how to fix it moving forward, ensure you share this best practice across your whole team.
Selling Through Fortune 100 & 250 Companies
Nudge: When selling into Fortune 100 & 250 companies, does your sales process every change?
Bryan: The high-level process is the same, but the steps between each stage of that are always changing. You should aim to standardize that because it helps with training, helps you understand where things are doing well or poorly, but you also have to be flexible enough to deal with different situations.
A lot of times when we’re selling, our prospects don’t know the best way to approach it internally, which oftentimes is a big hurdle. We try to walk them through the process and understand this together. By doing so, we can help them by making recommendations that are based on best practices from our end.
Nudge: I know selling through an organization can be challenging. What are some of the ways you helped your champions sell-through to their boss?
Bryan: We first understand their business problem, this way we can relate what they’re looking for back to how we can actually solve their problem. Once understanding this we provide them with materials to help them communicate the idea internally.
Another thing we do is offer up our time and resources to help them pitch the team internally. Sometimes they say no, but many times they appreciate it and see it as very helpful because it means they don’t have to prep anything or worry about doing a big presentation. If they don’t want that, we’ll try to have some sort of prep call before they go in to pitch it themselves.
When someone isn’t willing to do that prep call before they go into an internal presentation, it’s possible that they’re not super excited about working together.
Key Insight: 4 Steps for Selling Through Fortune 100 & 250 Companies
- Ensure you get a clear understanding of the problem you’re solving for this specific prospect
- Create a business case that illustrates how your product will solve this problem
- Offer your time and resources to help your champion present this to their boss
- If you can’t be directly involved, walk your champion through best practices for presenting this business case internally
Properly Incentivizing Your Sales Team
Nudge: How do you motivate employees to take a long-term approach, to not push too hard and damage the relationship?
Bryan: You can do a couple of things.
- Teaching people the value of pipeline. It’s critical to know that anything I’m doing right now, based on my sales cycle, won’t close until next quarter. To make sure I don’t run out of deal flow I need to continue building up next quarter’s pipeline. I also work on the bottom of the funnel for this quarter.
- Hiring people who care about the business is so important. If you find someone who only cares about selling and commission it’s going to be really hard for them not to push deals to close to get it into their quarter.
- Having incentives on an annual basis in addition to a monthly or quarterly basis. If you only incentivize people on a quarterly basis – which don’t get me wrong, you still want this in order to push people to close deals – it leads to very short-term thinking.
Key Insight: 3 Ways to Motivate Your Salespeople to Take a Long-Term Approach
- Teach people the value of building pipeline
- Hire people who care about the business
- Create more long-term incentive structures
Using Consultative Sales To Close Fortune 100 & 250 Companies
Nudge: When you’ve got someone hooked and you’ve got the DM in the conversation. How do you get that deal closed?
Bryan: The million dollar question!
Bottom of the funnel is always hard. That being said, my goal on the first call or two is to be able to draw out the path to purchase, it’s a concept my mentors taught me. By the end of the first call or two you should know:
- What their pain points are
- Which stakeholders need to be involved
- What internal processes need to be navigated (eg: procurement and/or legal)
- What the timeline will look like
- How much budget the prospect has to spend
If you collect this information and have drawn it out up front, then closing it is a whole lot easier. If you’re afraid to ask those hard questions then there will be all sorts of red flags and obstacles along the way that you haven’t figured out yet. So from the beginning be sure you establish what that whole process looks like and that makes it much easier to close as you move along.
How to Adopt Consultative Sales as a Startup
Nudge: With everything you’ve talked about, how would you advise someone who wants to adopt a consultative sales strategy?
Bryan: There are two very important things to consider when you use consultative sales:
- Drawing out the path to purchase is something you can iterate on and so I would try to draw that out based on your current assumptions. At the same time make sure it is flexible so that you can make changes and figure out who you’re selling to.
- Every single piece of contact you have with a prospect should be adding value. You should never just be “checking in”. Whether it has to do with your product or not, be sure that you are adding value with either an article, webinar, demo, etc… This is what makes content marketing so valuable and why it’s been blowing up, you need to be able to share content with them that will add value to their lives.
Nudge: Do you have any closing advice for startups selling to these big Fortune 100 or 250 companies?
Bryan: If you’re coming from a startup or small company it’s really important to find your internal champion who believes in your product. Sometimes it can be hard to get into these larger corporations that are entrenched in their ways, so if you can kind of find people who might go a bit rogue to bring you in and introduce you to their boss, that is hard to find but once you have it, it’s a huge help.
Key Insight: 3 Things Startups Have to do When Selling to Fortune 100 & 250 Companies
- Draw out the path to purchase
- Add value at every touchpoint with a prospect
- Empower your internal champion at the organization
Nudge: Thanks Bryan.