How To Sell To Billion Dollar Companies (Interview With A Salesman)
In this interview, you’ll find out how my former colleague, and my friend Mirek, sells I.T, and marketing services to large international accounts like Renault, Nissan, BMW, etc. Those are some of his clients (the other ones we won’t mention in this call).
Mirek believes you need to have a mix of strategies, and tools to get in touch with the right people – the decision makers, the budget owners, and the people that can have potential value in what you can deliver.
One thing that Mirek uses, is the dreaded cold calling, because he knows that it still works. Many people are afraid of it, but it still works wonders. He knows the other thing, which links in, is having a great platform, and the different tools to get connected to people, and to actually write to them.
Another thing, which Mirek finds effective is an email, but that really depends on the person, and that’s if you should reach them through email.
He also finds that through relationships with people (friends of friends, and connections), and attending different events, where you can meet people, and talk to them face to face, is really effective.
Mirek thinks that LinkedIn, is right now the best tool is the best tool in the world for finding potential business (there are some local platforms, similar to LinkedIn, and you can also use them). The other thing Mirek uses, is publications in the industry you want to target. He says if you look at LinkedIn, the changes in dynamics are important – you can observe that people are changing their position, or are changing their job.
For Mirek, this is very important information, because when he talks to a person, who is in a very established position at the company, and has been there for years – he’s found that kind of a person, will be less open to risk their position, in order to start a completely new project.
He knows that it’s hard to convince that type of person, to be a pioneer in the industry, but when he sees that same person starts their own company, or their own brand, it’s usually a good time to introduce a completely new solution, or a new concept to such a person, because he’s there in order to implement new changes, and to bring something new into the company.
Mirek has also found that the person starting a new business, will have a beautiful credit of trust, for the beginning. They’ll be more open to risk, and more open to go for something unique. Usually this is when Mirek goes and speaks to them, because there is a much higher opportunity to sell, and a much higher chance to close the deal.
He’s found that who he prefers to work with, depends upon the structure of the company, and the responsibilities spread across different departments. Sometimes he’ll talk to CRM managers, sometimes he’ll talk to marketing directors, e-commerce, or digital managers, and sometimes he’ll speak to the managers of call centres.
He finds that it depends who is responsible for a certain activity, and whose target it is to reach a certain quota. This is what he does, before he gets in touch with a certain company – he does the homework, his research, and tries to find out as much as possible. About how they work, and who is responsible for what.
If he’s selling a website for example, he’ll choose the brand he wants to work with first. Second he’ll do the research around people he would potentially like to work with (five to eight people that would be interesting to him).
Then he’ll research the web, and look for these people. Sometimes they will speak at different conferences, sometime they’ll publish their slides (on slide share). He’s also found that he can find them, being quoted in certain articles, and that Facebook can be helpful as well, because some of them will have open profiles, and you can read what they talk about.
Having gathered all this information, Mirek normally finds that you can pinpoint, what their concerns are, and out of the structure, and knowing how certain industries work, he can find two or three people, that will benefit the most from what he has to offer. Next, he’ll start to talk, to two or three people at the same time, in a certain organization.
Sometimes he’ll be redirected to someone else, and they’ll say yes I’m interested, and then ask him for more information. This is how he starts usually.
He says again, that it depends on the customer. For example if he wants to speak to a CRM manager, and he wants to get to her, he’ll pick up the phone, and use an office phone number, and if he can’t get through, he will try the reception.
If this doesn’t work Mirek will try different phone numbers, until he gets to the right person, in a certain department. Then they will put him through to the person he wants to talk to.
He will also start with an email, and sometimes they will have a phone number in the footer (it’s a mix on how to get a certain phone number). Sometimes, if he’s calling through, especially with international accounts, and he’s calling from a different country, people will usually put him straight through.
If it’s an international call, and you call in the language they speak locally, they’ll usually put you through to the managing director of the company.
To write the initial email, he first of all finds the person he wants to contact, and then the email address of that person. This is homework – he needs to search around the web, to find out what the structure looks like, in a certain company.
He also needs to find out, if it’s a name dot surname, or if it’s the first letter of the name, then dot surname, at the beginning of the email. Once he has this, he will do an introduction email – for example ‘hey this is my name, and this is what we do. I think you should find this interesting, because this is what we can bring to you.
Then, he would use a couple of the different names, of companies he works for, and then he promises a second email, in the next two days that he’ll send. He’ll send a case study from the industry of another brand, from another country.
After that, he follows up on his promise, with a case study, and to get in touch, to ask for feedback.
He’ll then send a third email, asking for some feedback, and also proposing a meeting. He’ll then write to them: ‘I’ll be travelling to your city, in the next two or three weeks, this is my proposition’.
Usually, after the third email, or sometimes fourth email with a meeting proposition, he will get an answer, and he’ll use it in order to follow up with a call, and a meeting, and he’ll let them know. This is typically how Mirek starts.
Mirek has general guidelines, for how he should proceed. What’s also important, is that adjusts for the situation. He’s not very strict when sticking to the guidelines. The main idea, is that with each contact with the customer, he only tries to get one single step ahead.
If it’s his first cold call for potential business, and he’s never exchanged emails with this person, or been in contact with that person, he’ll to spark her attention during the call.
Then he’ll try and get her approval for sending her some more information. If she agrees to Mirek sending some more information over an email, he will then agree on a time that he will call her back in order to get her feedback. This is his only objective in the first meeting (he wants to get the green light, for the second step).
Later on, he will send over the information, and call her back to get her feedback, and after that feedback, he likes to schedule a meeting with her. This is the second step – once he has the meeting scheduled, he’ll go there, and do the demo.
He wants to have another step, where there is a second demo with the I.T department, or with the sales department, depending on who is going to be involved with the project, and other people, who are going to influence the deal.
From Mirek’s experience, he’s found that it’s very individual to the business, as to how long it will take to close a deal. The shortest deals he’s done from first contact, to a contract, took two months. The longest it’s taken him to get a contract, has been three years from the initial contact, to the signature.
Mirek’s found that a typical lead nurturing process, for it to work, he needs to be in contact, and stay in contact with the person. You need to know what’s happening in her organization, because you need to know how she is developing as a person, and how the organization is growing.
Mirek has found in the past, if you’ve done your research, and you’ve got the information about the company, and it’s not the right moment, and there not ready to implement his solution yet, then it’s best to wait.
He’s found, that it’s effective to stay in touch with that person. It’s a top of mind positioning – once the idea was, you’d send some articles to that person, and then you’d send a new report. You would show up just for the coffee, to check back on what’s happening to the person, and what’s happening in the organization. If the latest merger has changed anything In the structure, or if the departments changing, or if there are new people are showing up, or leaving, because there might be some blockers leaving the company, and then it will be easier for you to get the green light, from one department, to another.
Mirek thinks that just calling in, and saying: “hey, how are you?” is probably no good – this is probably a bad idea. His view is that, if your company, has a nice new report that could be useful for that person, or if there’s a new case study that is smart, or if you know about something very interesting from her industry (her competition is doing something really cool for example).
He thinks that this is something you should do – keep her in the loop, send her some information, get in touch once in a while to stay on their mind (the guy, or the girl, who’s the expert in that field).
The crazy thing that Mirek’s observed in the industry, is that in certain countries, or certain industries, people rotate pretty fast.
He’s found that, once in a while, one senior person you could have been talking with in brand A, after a year or two, they end up with brand B, and since they want to be the stars in the new company, they will call you, and invite you out to dinner, because they want you to show them what you have.
if you stay in touch with people, no matter where they go, Mirek’s found that after a certain period of time (approximately 2 years), in the industry you’re working in, you end up having a lot people working for the brands, that you have never been in touch with before, but right now these people want to get back to you, and want to reach out.
Mirek’s most important advice is to not get scared. These people at large companies, are exactly the same buyers, as small companies. He’s found that, the biggest difference, is that in a large company, there will be a lot more people involved.
In his sales, he’s found that there will be more politics between the departments, and you need to be careful, because large organizations sometimes tend to be more protective, over the solutions they have.
For them, buying Mirek’s solution is not only a conversation about the benefit the solution will bring, or the cost reduction that you can actually bring to the company. It’s also about the position that this person has. They’re thinking about how risky the project could be – whether it could end badly, or will it actually turn that person into a star.
He thinks that you need to take that into account, and that it’s also important to remember, that this person is not on a single planet on the horizon – she is standing in between different people, and relationships, and politics inside the organization.
Mirek’s found, that you need to address so much more in the process, when selling to large companies, but he would say: “it’s sometimes much easier to sell to large organizations, rather than small, or medium organizations”.
The biggest advantage of selling to larger companies, instead of small ones, is the invoice, because the larger companies, usually need larger solutions, and you can charge them more, because you can bring them more value, and benefit.
The large companies, will give you the leverage of the brand, which you can use later on in the sales to other companies.
The companies that Mirek works with, and the solutions he provides working with larger companies, gives him more advantage, because the scale of the business is so much bigger. Thanks to the scale, he can perform much better.
For Mirek, the larger the customer, the lower the risk of the project, because sometimes with the really small customers, it’s hard to deliver value for the customer, because the business is too small.
The larger guys aren’t always paying Mirek for a long time, but if he has a midsized customer, and you do a very good implementation, and the return on the investment is excellent, you’re then going to have a good relationship with the customer.
He’s found, that you can take really good care of the customer, and that you can stay for years with such a customer, because you’re a crucial part of the business.
With large companies, he’s seen that he has to do his work, on an excellent level, but he can’t control all aspects. Large companies get sold to another brand, and then there will be a change over the whole department. New companies showing up, new tenders, new agencies being brought in, and there are a lot of elements, which can jeopardize your relationship with the customer.
Mirek’s found that sometimes, if you can get into an organization, and get deep down there, and you’re doing your work, and they are benefiting a lot from what you’re doing, you can stay for years, because it’s actually really hard for them to kick you out of such a company, as they’re benefiting a lot from what you’re doing.
Events are not Mirek’s favourite thing, because usually the people are most interested in just showing up for a speech, and then leaving straight away, and there will also be lots of people who want to talk to them.
Instead Mirek goes to their presentations, and listens carefully, and then he approaches them right after their speech, and he talks about what they were talking about. He tries to relate to whatever they were talking about, and he tries to add into that his story, or opinion.
Out of such a conversation, that’s usually a good moment to say what you’re doing, exchange business cards, and sometimes to agree on the next meeting, right after the event.
I’m sure, that a lot of guys reading this, will be eager to implement this, and the USA has been doing this for years, very successfully. Everything he said, go listen to it twice, and then implement it, because it really works.