Until the fall of 2018, I was a marketing guy working in marketing. It was fun, but it was time for a change.
So when I got the opportunity to be part of something here at Knak, I jumped at the chance. In my new role, I would be responsible for sales, customer success and product management, among other things… which I’m finding out is typical at a small, nimble startup!.
It seemed like a natural progression. I was a marketing guy; I’d be selling to marketing people. Surely, my experience would be a huge advantage.
One year in, I’ve learned what it’s like to be on the other side – to be the one making the call instead of taking the call.
In that year, I’ve uncovered five truths about selling to marketers. They’re lessons I’m now learning to apply – with increasing success.
1. Learn to listen
At the beginning, I listened out of necessity. I knew more about marketing than about sales and customer success, so I listened to learn.
I listened to understand the companies I was pitching to.
I listened to customers so I could figure out their pain points. I listened so I could understand how to frame the services we provide around the problems they needed to solve.
As a marketer, I was used to talking. So learning to listen was hard. I kept wanting to jump in and say, ‘I know what you’re going through because I have been in your shoes.’
What I realized was that you think you have been in everyone’s shoes until you have listened to their story. People’s experiences are unique, and until you listen you won’t be able to navigate through their world.
2. All companies, no matter how big, struggle with the same things
I used to think that start-ups did not face the same challenges as larger, established firms.
One year into my new job, I learned I was mistaken. Every company, big or small, deals with the same kinds of struggles.
Often, the problems relate to the lack of proper tools to deal with the issues they face, or the lack of resources, either human or financial. A small company may not be able to hire a staff developer, for example, while a larger firm with a staff developer may find that person’s workload won’t allow them to take on new projects. It all boils down to the same thing: a lack of resources.
And big or small, companies don’t know what they don’t know. I talk to people who are stuck in old ways of doing things, and simply don’t know about tools that can improve their efficiency – or they’re too busy to take the time to learn how to use them.
Knowing that everyone has the same pain points has made my job easier.
3. Persistence pays off
People are busy; everyone has a lot going on.
If you are trying to sell to them, it can be disheartening when they don’t answer your emails or return your phone calls.
What I’ve learned is that persistence pays off. Many’s the time when, after months of apparently ignoring me, a prospect has suddenly gotten back to me, thanked me for being patient, and encouraged me to continue the dialogue. (Now that I think of it, when I was a marketer I was often too busy to respond to sales pitches.)
It’s all about being on the prospect’s mind the day they face a problem your product can solve. Until they actually have a problem or issue to resolve, they may not act. But when they are ready to act, they are glad to know you can ride in and save the day.
There is a fine line between persistence and nagging. The key, I’ve learned, is to stay positive and leave the ball in their court. Instead of saying, ‘I’ve sent three emails, why haven’t I heard from you?’ I ask if they have questions or if there’s any information they need.
And don’t be afraid to keep at it until they ask you to cease and desist.
Remember, too, that the people you are selling to won’t care if you need one more sale to make your quota for the quarter. You need to work on the customer’s timeline. And if it takes a long time to make a sale, that’s just the way it is.
4. Marketers are smart
The fact that marketers are smart has both positive and negative elements.
On the plus side, they are quick to pick up what I pitch to them.
At Knak, we do things differently from the rest of the industry; our methods are not what people are used to, so it takes a bit of imagination to understand what we’re about.
Marketers ‘get’ us very quickly.
Once they understand what we can do for them, they have very high expectations for our product, especially since we are changing their processes and the way they work.
So the downside (for us) is that we’re constantly challenged by our new (and smart) customers. When they ask a question, they expect us to have an answer!
Anyone selling to marketers had better be fully prepared.
5. Good prospects turn into good customers
When you are pitching to potential new customers, it’s always the case that some people are easier to deal with than others. They make decisions more quickly, or they respond promptly to queries, or they are just plain fun to work with.
I’ve learned that good prospects make good customers. In other words, if you find it easy to establish good relations during the sales process, chances are those good relations will continue once they convert into customers.
The opposite, of course, is also true. People don’t change their spots once they go from being prospects to being customers.
In other words, the sales process is an indicator of customer success.
Beware, too, of people who sign on too easily. A good prospect is someone who does due diligence, who makes sure our product solves a real issue they have – and not some future need they might have. A prospect who hasn’t taken the time to investigate our product may end up being a customer with unrealistic expectations.
A good prospect is also someone who has done their comparison shopping. They have compared our platform to others out there, and made sure we meet their needs.
I also like it when they don’t move too fast, when they take time to review contracts. After all, it’s all about their needs and their timeline.
So there’s my take on selling to marketers. I’m sure I have more to learn, but I know that the lessons I’ve already learned are helping me do my job better.