I recently attended EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Gala in Salt Lake City. The evening was full of inspiring stories about bringing great ideas to life, overcoming adversity, and having a lot of fun. This year, as in previous years, the most impressive entrepreneurs were in the technology space. Each CEO had taken a disruptive idea and developed it into a product or solution that brought their company tremendous growth and unprecedented success.
Before our Silicon Valley colleagues stop reading this post, let me point out that the Salt Lake City area has been a tech bedrock for years. Dubbed "Silicon Slopes", among the city’s most recent assets are four tech unicorns (Plurasight, Qualtrics, Domo, and InsideSales), as well as a $2 billion transaction between Vivint and Blackstone Capital Partners. That said, while I am deeply proud of my home state, I applaud our tech colleagues everywhere who drive growth in an ever-changing landscape.
It’s well known that if you’re not continuously growing in the tech industry, you’re dying. Ram Charan put it simply: “No growth means lagging behind in a world that grows every day. Investors expect it, employees are more energized by it, customers are generally attracted to it, and executives are measured by it.” There’s no space where this is truer than tech. Tech is the frontier of evolution and the bar keeps on rising.
Working with our tech clients is a wild ride and a tremendous learning experience – one for which I and my colleagues have a great passion. I’d like to share a few thoughts on what we have experienced.
Tech’s freneticism comes with some formidable growing pains. Growth means more hiring and, because competition for great candidates is so cutthroat, high turnover is a prevalent issue. Product training can be time consuming when you’re continually hiring new (and typically young) sales reps. Ramping up their selling skills takes time out of the field and requires ongoing coaching. With the high churn of new employees, forecasting becomes less reliable, conversion rates decrease, and inconsistent client service create a disparate experience for each customer, muddying the waters as you try to educate the world about your offering. To compound this problem, hot buzz around the company’s offering often translates to an excited and rushed sales pitch that focuses on features and functions, rather than on actual value to the client.
Leaders face a daunting challenge. Painting the bus while it’s barreling down the highway is real for them. Skyrocketing growth expectations can impede their ability to lead their teams the way they need to. They may become overwhelmed and, as a result, ineffectual at accelerating sales velocity.
Slower is faster
Every sales organization needs a benchmark and a blueprint for the way forward, especially in tech. While we can’t manage everything, we can manage the process deals go through and the experience our clients have with us. When you have a consistent language and framework for selling, it guides reps in determining the ideal opportunity, the necessary information to gather, and the appropriate people to talk with.
Creating a consistent, repeatable process should be simple, so it’s adaptable and scalable. This may take time, but momentum builds when all your sales reps are moving in the same direction. It’s also critical to have the right coaching from leaders to sustain the common methodology.
The concept of slower is faster works on the deal level as well. Rather than being anxious and excited to regurgitate the same sales pitch they’ve delivered a thousand times, reps need to slow down. Let’s talk about the client’s needs before we talk about our solution. Take time to clarify your understanding before you move forward. I know that listening first seems slower, but you’ll be able to move to the solution that matters much faster, offering the client exactly what they need to know to decide – nothing more, nothing less.
Soon, you will experience deal velocity, by understanding more about your client’s situation. They will be able to put together all the pieces to close the deal. Slowing down also allows you to identify earlier in the cycle when prospective clients aren’t a good match and you can exit gracefully, rather than spending meaningless hours on a pursuit that won’t go anywhere.
FranklinCovey’s sales methodology, Helping Clients Succeed® was born in the technology space. Our founder, Mahan Khalsa, had sworn off sales, hoping never to sell again, before he founded a computer systems company. He writes, “After burning through our venture capital, we came to the moment when the new company actually had to sell something.” The need for sales was inevitable, and he went to work to understand what he needed to do. He started seeing what worked and what didn’t, what interfered with long-term growth and what facilitated it. His commitment to client-centric work, even if it meant going slower, eventually led to wild success. He sold his company and then began a career of helping others learn to sell.
Is slowing down really worth it? We recently worked with a global technology firm with a disappointing $3.2 million pipeline in the negotiation stage and a 10-to-1 conversion ratio stage. After 18 weeks of relentless focus on building a consistent, repeatable process, their pipeline increased to $20 million in the negotiation stage.
In summary, slower is typically more client centric, because you take the time to understand your client on the deal level as well as the market level. How have you seen growth impact sales? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
 Ram Charan, What the CEO Wants You to Know, ©2001 Crown Business, page 45