Hey Everyone! It has been a while since I posted and I apologize. SaaS Sales and Sales Coaching has been my passion for many years, but I decided after my layoff in this ‘The Great Tech Layoff,’ I needed to refocus my time and get away from the noise of tech sales for a bit.
It is still my passion and I am on the hunt for a new role, which will come at the right time.
I wanted to be vulnerable in this post because I think a lot of technology sales professionals are struggling…either they are in over their heads with picking up extra work or barely making quota (or if making quota it demands extra steps to get to yes with the economic factors)…or if you were laid off like I was you are in a race for a position against the best of the best in talent.
One position I applied for had 800 applicants in one day.
I also went through an interview that lasted two months and the job went to another candidate. I was depleted.
I know many are going through this but it still stinks.
The greater problem I’ve seen is the lack of care in the corporate space, which as someone who truly felt like their work is family it hurts deeply when you realize you are just a number.
Alas it is the nature of the beast.
So I think it is important to be willing to shift in your process about what your ideal position may be if you are looking and also recognize you might have to transition into a role that might not be the perfect long term fit, but is the ideal RIGHT NOW fit.
What you should not compromise on is always making sure you give your best to the job – your character is your calling card.
So what have I been doing when I’m not hunting for a job?
I have an entrepreneurial spirit so I’m not one to stop creating and problem solving.
I have been running a small art business…not making a ton of money, but it is an outlet for my love of painting and design. I have been able to redo the website and get Print on Demand set up
I also have dedicated a lot of time on my Travel Blog – American Nomad. Through SEO I have increased traffice by over 300% in one month since my layoff…
I have a background in Art History and have started an online art site for online classes – Art Expeditions. We’re growing rapidly on Facebook in one week (300 likes) and I’m going to launch some paid and free courses on Art History soon.
I have also been working on promoting a small business owner and consulting on the go to market strategy.
While it is frustrating not to have my full time job – knowing that I’m growing and creating is a good thing.
My love for winding roads and backcountry byways is the unexpected vistas and stunning mountain views you get via The Blue Ridge Parkway or a state scenic route. The destination may be the same, but the route is more interesting.
While, winding scenic roads with detours and pit stops may be perfect for driving The Blue Ridge Mountains – it is a bit of a nightmare for sales professionals.
We like to order our deal cycle from start to finish…Step 1 – discovery, Step 2- demo, Step-3 Contract Negotiations, Step 4-Close
In theory the road from lead to a successful deal should be that easy – if you follow the right steps and build a good roadmap…
That is why we use methodologies like BANT, MEDDIC, BNAPR and my FOCUS on How to get you from point a to b.
That being said, each deal is unique and subject to unexpected speed bumps, detours and road closures that impede your ability to close a deal.
As I was driving the mountain roads of Georgia, en route to a team event in Atlanta, I realized my GPS went out. I had a map in the backseat, but I was on a random road (a GPS shortcut) and very confused about my location. My first instinct was to pull over and review the map, I started driving east towards a connector road in hopes it would get me to a major highway and signs for Atlanta. I felt relief as I saw a sign for Atlanta and made a turn. I quickly realized, that while the sign said ‘This way to Atlanta’ – the route was filled with road construction and additional detours that at times made me feel as though I’d never reach my destination.
Do you ever feel like is in your sales process – the constant roller coaster of ups and downs from successful demo to a client ghosting you? Add in pressures about quarterly attainment and monthly quotas – we can quickly get overwhelmed as we drive our sales process forward.
As I meandered the backroads of Georgia, I found parallels between a road trip and a sales cycle…
We start with an end goal in mind and assume that if we follow the steps we’ll get to the final destination in x amount of time.
We do need a plan (a method) for tracking and moving deals forward, but we also need to be attentive drivers. Working with a customer to implement technology is not a straight highway – it is a winding mountain road with twists and turns. The good news if you pay attention and stay agile in the moment, focusing on how to navigate changes, without changing your end destination – you will get to the purchase order.
We can prepare for twists and turns by shifting gears without changing the end destination:
When you are driving a winding road, you shift to lower gear and don’t accelerate beyond the speed limit, because if you do then you will crash. Be mindful of the client’s expectations and timeline. Do they actually have budget to get them to the end of the road – or are they going to run out of gas? Who is the champion? Is the decision maker involved early on, or are you going to have to hit the brakes late in the sales cycle and dangle from an unexpected cliff because you didn’t have a path to power.
Focus on HOW is a method that keeps you agile throughout the sales process so you can anticipate the next turn, but are also fully in the moment so you can shift gears and manage the deal with each mile.
It starts with WHY: if a decision maker is not involved in the process as you begin to reveal pricing – WHY? What is the motivation? Are the champions truly able to sell up the chain to convince the DM to sign the PO? Figuring out the overarching ‘why’ of the project builds your a to b, but also focusing on ‘the why’ in the moment helps you to anticipate roadblocks and navigate switchbacks on the deal highway.
Make data driven decisions: Driving a mountain road, you find a rhythm of going with the flow, but also being very vigilant in handling the road. You don’t simply accelerate on a whim – you strategize in the moment so you can maneuver every bend and break effortlessly.
Data Driven – don’t be afraid to ask for transparency about the clients perspective. They may originally have said that they planned to ‘go live’ in January, but given some supply chain issues they now are pushing their start date to March. As sales professionals it stings to ask the tough questions and look for the data, especially if it doesn’t align with our perfect close date – but you need to be aware of all the data and real time insights in the deal to ensure you and the customer are on the same page. This can allow you to drive strategic urgency and also slow the pace as needed to better align with your customer’s timeline.
Focus on HOW you can respond to the deal in the moment, while still driving towards the end destination (closed/won).
Discovery is not something that ends on the first ‘disco call’ – it is necessary to continue to probe and qualifying throughout the sales cycle – not with repeat questions, but rather meaningful questions geared to better understanding if the original insights still align after deeper discovery and ensuring that you and the customer have a firm mutual success plan.
Closing the Loop: A mutual success plan or Discovery Agreement are critical from the early stages of a deal to ensure that you and the customer are aligned on BANT, and the end goal – working to implement the project in a way that benefits the client and closes new business for your company. Mutual success plans hold you both accountable to ensuring transparency in the path to PO
Ex: While I figured out a way to Atlanta without my GPS, if I had simply downloaded the directions via Google Maps before my adventure, I wouldn’t have gotten off course. The offline map would have continued to guide me without hassles and detours. A Mutual Success Plan does the same thing – it ensures that if details change in the deal (say a close date), you can refer to your discovery agreement to prevent unnecessary roadblocks. “In our mutual success plan you said that your company wants this launch to go live in January to ensure you can streamline your renewals process – why are you suddenly wanting to push this to Q2?” – the close date may still change, but you and your client are both held accountable to timeline and implementation, etc…
Distractions on the long winding road to PO:
It is important to be mindful of where you are in the process…mind the gap of what you need to do to get to the PO. Don’t assume that you have a done deal simply because the CEO liked a feature. Why did they like that feature? What gap does it fill? What value is bringing to their table. Is it a nice to have (that’s cool) or a need to have to transforming their business and yield ROI.
When working with multiple decision makers and champions we can often get into the weeds and go on a wild goose chase trying to get answers for questions that are not relevant to the final decision making process. Always qualify – why? How would this be helpful? I know that I spent two weeks getting compliance documentations for a champion thinking it would convince the CEO to purchase, but the DM cared more about integration with their ERP system.
Don’t let one thorn prevent you from seeing the rosebush. This may sound a bit cliche, but it is easy to get distracted and frustrated when we have a gatekeeper, false champion or board member who piles on a mountain of pressure and objections right before the deal closes. Don’t panic! Instead mind the gap and focus on what you can control to get the deal back on track and answer their objections.
A pro tip here is to always do a service close on the deeper discovery call and demo (outside of cost, does this meet your requirements) – this will not always nip every last minute objection in the bud, but it will help to offset last minute ‘distraction objections’ that delay you and your customer from transforming their business.
The past week, I’ve been traveling on the road and I realize that we need to constantly be mindful of our surroundings and the gap to hit our quota, but we also need to be able to tune out the roadside distractions and focus on the road. Focus on the immediate road again, but also ensure that you are mindful of your destination. Agility and the ability to tune into the moment without being paralyzed by unexpected roadblocks will ensure you are able to navigate the winding deal cycle with agility and strategic perseverance.
The technology world feels like a winding rollercoaster to the top of Mt. Vesuvius the past few weeks. While we all can mentally reign ourselves in and focus on how to prepare and respond to shifts in the business, it is also extremely dizzying.
Remember it is okay to take a moment to breathe. Sometimes we have to recognize our original path and destination (career, promotion to new role, etc…) might have to completely change because that road is closed. It’s okay – you have a right to be stressed, but mind the gap – recognized you can get over this rough patch and God always has a better plan ahead. The key is to stay in the moment, but not be controlled by the moment. This upheaval will not determine the final outcome and if anything it is just rerouting you to a longterm future success that you might not have otherwise explored.
Thanks again for following – I’m in the field, cold calling and meeting with clients every day…I am always learning and love to hear your feedback.
I’ve been on the road meeting with clients in the field and connecting with my team in person about how we can adapt to the current macroeconomic climate facing tech sales.
As sales professionals, especially in the world of tech – our mindset is our most powerful asset because in one given day we can be fighting a hurricane of emotions, for example:
You enjoy your latte and smile because you expect a forecasted deal to come through by the end of the day only to get that ominous email from a client: ‘can we postpone this discussion until The New Year?’
You suddenly feel like a ton of bricks hit you…you breathe in deep and chug another sip of coffee…Time for Objection Handling
You spend hours trying to re-engage the client and also scrambling to backfill your ‘pipeline’ so you aren’t on the ‘naughty list’
I experienced all of these emotions and more the past few days – and to be honest I felt like I was on the Loch Ness Monster roller coaster for the twentieth time.
And while I love to work from home, it was beneficial to see I wasn’t alone – my teammates were struggling with similar issues – from panic about deals, to powering through prospecting blocks – the emotion of high and lows hits you like a hurricane wall.
We are all feeling the pressure of Q4 as we navigate news of tech layoffs. As we discussed in my previous post, the best thing we can do when we feel the hurricane of sales cloud our forecast is to ‘mind the gap.’
We talk about forecasting a lot in sales…working in cloud sales I can’t help but compare a bad month, lost deal, etc…to dark clouds that threaten to destroy the beautiful forecast I expected. At this point we might panic – we’re doomed! But in truth this is an opportunity to ‘mind the gap’
Focus on what you need to do in order to protect yourself from the ‘storm surge’:
Get an umbrella – if you lose a deal, then you need to make sure you have a backup plan in place – reach out to existing or new customers and work to back fill the pipeline. Speak with your manager and team on creative ways you can get quick wins that help your customer’s achieve success and ensure you have enough ‘coverage’ (your umbrella) to hit your target number.
While most sales professionals understand that you need 3 x pipe generation to ensure you have coverage to hit your target – it isn’t always easy, especially now when many companies are tightening their budgets…so aim for 3x pipe, but also…
Focus on ensuring you are prepped for the ‘hurricane’ of uncertainty – but eliminating uncertainty. 99% of deals are lost because we didn’t take time in discovery to make sure we had a comprehensive picture of how our client purchases technology. In this macroeconomic environment it is essential to get the DM involved from the start – even if there is pushback. Anticipate red flags in advance so you can address those concerns before they wreck your deal.
Pro tip – a good way to game plan is creating a ‘war room’ on big bets with your team (including your manager) – where you look for weaknesses in the forecast and close date and work together to combat any potential hold ups.
Control your controlables – mind the gap – aware of the ‘noise’ about uncertainty, but combat it with doing what you can control. You can dial 80 prospects a week…You can focus on building the best presentation for your client and truly listening to their needs…you can go the extra mile in supporting your client and showing you care. This may not win the deal every time, but this consistency and focus will help you get to the finish line
Be mindful in persistence: I’m a problem solver and if something isn’t working I try to figure out why…however, when I get panicked about my number I tend to go full on work harder and be so persistent that I’ll have to win the second half of this tied game…While persistence and hard work is essential – you need to be mindful about your actions. If sending 100 emails a day isn’t getting response rates – then don’t keep sending the same email. You instead need to diagnose what is not working and work smarter with persistence to improve and find success.
Hope these insights are helpful. I’ve leaned into them the past week.
The evolving shifts in the economy probably feel like you are trying to board or deboard a moving train. With major tech companies like Meta and Twitter announcing major layoffs – it feels like a train trying to avoid a broken bridge…screeching halt.
As an Account Executive in the field, I have felt disoriented – especially when my company announced layoffs. I quickly realized that panic will only lead to catastrophe. The world may seem upside down, but you can learn to navigate the storm and find success.
I will be dedicating the next series of posts on:
Focus on HOW you find success in your current role in the midst of market uncertainty…Focus on How is going to be zeroing in on practical ways you can calm the panic and focus on achieving your goals and providing the value your clients need. We will also diving into practical too
Career preparedness – resume, job search tips, interview tips, etc…
The Tech Twister of Layoffs – How did we get to this point?
While I can debate the ‘R’ word, in spite of this I would argue we’re not in a recession or even close to a major recession, given the overall jobs reports and trends, however tech sales is in a mini-recession. This is an interesting take by UNC Economics Professor Christian Lundblad.
My hiring class at my last two companies was over 1000 people and onboarding said hiring was continuing to rise. At one point Salesforce hoped to add 12,000 new jobs (post 2020).
So while it is easy to blame the economy, I think we also have to take in a bit of what sales professionals call ‘bad forecasting.’
Too many tech and online retail companies expected their increased revenue from the Work from Home era would continue to skyrocket at the same levels as 2020. Economically this was never feasible because so there is only so much ramp you can accelerate to in rapid growth before it matures to viable longterm growth, which is much smaller.
A lot of companies assumed their record growth was a sign of increasing demand (which is true), but instead of scalability and targeted expansion they fell to the curse of growing too rapidly and in turn hiring way to many people to fast.
There hope was that growth would drive more business and if you just hired a few more people to target more accounts, more customers…statistically you’d have to increase your sales to 3x (or whatever the goal)
The problem is the market reach. In COVID many businesses were forced to adopt technology (say e-sig) at an astronomic rate – the rocket of work from home fueled the untapped market to respond so quickly you essentially have a situation you accelerate too quickly you reach a bottleneck in potential for growth.
In this situation you then anticipate slower net new growth and re-align on product development for a new go to market strategy and also expand offerings/licenses to current customers
This means you anticipate growth overall but not record growth – and certainly not growth to in some cases triple your workforce
Too many companies hired too fast – their logic ‘if we just had more people in more seats we’d hit that so-called number.’ This works when you truly have room to grow – but hiring just for the sake of anticipated growth puts the cart before the horse. It backfired for many tech giants who felt they were untouchable after their golden success even in the worst of the economic drought in the pandemic
Inflation spoiled the party:
No doubt that inflation has slowed economic growth. From an economic standpoint that actually could be a good thing long term to ensure we don’t out pace natural growth (ex: we worry about the housing sector – but truly the housing prices were getting to expensive for long term sustainable growth).
Inflation is no doubt going to slow spending for companies because we are all adjusting budgets due to constriction of how far our money will go.
This can be an opportunity for tech: technology can eliminate costly silos and processes – the problem is that instead of a quick sale of neat features – it becomes a longer sales cycle focused on scrutinized value.
Educating clients on value tied to cost is tedious and usually becomes a multi-vendor cycle.
What we’ve learned: While tech has long been a Wall Street darling because it dangles the carrot of the art of the possible and foundation of potential – tech is not bulletproof. At the end of the day, tech needs to hold itself accountable to smart and scalable decisions, with forward thinking growth that is tied to reasonable risk. Even the best and biggest tech company can struggle if it makes a wrong turn on an poor acquisition.
In short – tech has been given a pass of ‘valuation based on the intangile – the possible, but not seen’ even when the market would logically hold a much lower valuation. This leads to unrealistic forecasting and stumbles for shareholders when valuation is not realized.
Okay, so we get the economics – but I’m worried about my job and hitting quota!
Me too! I am in the trenches with you. After a five minute ‘aaah’ session (we all deserve that) – I want you to grab a blank notebook…let’s do an exercise…
Write down your fears and what you are struggling with
Write down what your clients are facing and struggling with
How can your product/service help them right now? What is the value and how can you build enough ROI that the value becomes worth the investment.
Who would care about the value. Think about your decision makers and who authorizing new purchases in economic slowdown. While earlier in the year you might be selling to the IT director – now you have to go through the CFO. Buyer personas are critical for success as we adjust the way we sell to business leaders
CFO: How can investing in your product help save the company money, time, etc…
Mind the Gap: Focus on HOW to Navigate Uncertainty:
A recurring expression we’ll return to on the blog is “to mind the gap” –
When I first heard that my company plans to lay off 2000 employees in the coming weeks that anxious end of the world it of your stomach feel stole my peace. In times of anxiety I always pray to The Holy Spirit to give me peace and clarity. In doing so I kept thinking about my trip to London in 2005 and the Underground intercom blasting the message ‘mind the gap between the station platform and train door.’
I marinated on the expression ‘mind the gap’ and it hit me:
We need to tune out the noise and focus on what we can control, but in doing so, we need to be aware of our surroundings – but not consumed by them. Be mindful of the challenges surrounding you and your clients, but don’t fall into the pit (the gap) of fear so you are unable to ‘board’ your next stage in your journey.
Be aware of the ‘gaps’ – the noise, but don’t get pushed onto the train of worry. I recommend turning off the news during the workday and avoiding message boards like The Layoff during working hours. Curate how you digest your news so you don’t wind up distracted.
Control what you can control:
As humans we hate uncertainty because we like to be in control. As sales professionals it is our job to be in control of the sales cycle – but at the end of the day the truth is we have limited control.
We cannot control the macroeconomic factors in our economy
We CAN control the way we target and educate our customers during economic changes to show the unique value we provide and use this as a competitive advantage against uncertainty.
We cannot control international conflicts affecting the economy and supply chain issues
We CAN control how we approach problem solving and look for creative and cost effective ways to mitigate factors like supply chain issues…ex: you cannot control a cyber attack, but you can be prepared against potential ransomware attack providing client peace of mind.
We cannot force our customers to agree to purchase (and if we do it will most likely result in churn)
We CAN work on mutual agreement plans/Discovery Agreements throughout the process to engage and hold your customer accountable through the buying cycle so you can:
overcome red flags before they become game stoppers
anticipate client needs and build value, etc…
make sure we have the right people involved in the decision making process
We cannot control layoffs. At the end of the day you work at your job and you can love your job, but it does not equate who you are.
You can create an action plan for career preparedness.
What are my skills? Do I want to stay in the same sector or do I want to transition to a new type of role?
What continuing education opportunities can I invest time in to keep my skills sharp. (I recommend LinkedIn learning and coursera)
Get your resume dusted off and practice interviewing
Start applying for other potential roles (ahead of layoff)
I look forward to starting this journey and remember to mind the gap between the storm around you and how you can get to your destination.
With the macroeconomic shifts in the economy driven by inflation and supply chain issues, traditional selling of showing pain point value isn’t simply enough in 2022.
Don’t get me wrong, addressing pain in processes and showing a solution is helpful and builds a foundation in value mapping for a client – but you cannot simply rely on the tested formula of a problem + your solution = resolution + signed contract.
I’ve had several deals in the past six months not get over the finish line, not because value wasn’t built – the client saw value, but their ‘why’ for action had changed.
In this climate you need to look at distinct ‘Customer WHYs’ – both are interconnected an important to understand and address in winning a deal.
Longterm Business Initiatives: This also can include a personal driving ‘why’ for a CEO or champion, but it all tracks back to the longterm goals of the business and culture of the company.
example: Manufacturing Company wants to open a new plant and increase production on a new patented projected within two years. They want to grow their company accounts by 40% in the next five years…This example is a bit vague – but it shows the growth motion with targeted focus that you can use for actionable steps as you partner on technology implementation.
The problem in 2022: Many longterm goals for a company are still in motion, but the C-Suite is delaying their growth timeline or pivoting to more immediate goals as a result of supply chain issues, consumer demand, talent shortage etc…
As a salesperson you still need to explore and build out a practical roadmap (step by step – focusing on phased approach) for their longterm business initiatives, but unfortunately in our current climate this is often NOT enough to drive urgency and a immediate path to PO.
Short term/process oriented goals: In a typical sales cycle you can drive urgency with discussing the immediate ROI – ‘how will this help me NOW’ approach, which is usually tied to tackling processes + pain and how your product can solve that bottleneck. This differs a bit than the longterm initiatives because you are not looking at the long term value as much as solving a problem in the NOW.
In value selling you really need to tackle the process pain (supply chain is effecting on time delivery because we don’t have a clear inventory system of our warehouses) + strategic scalability to realize longterm goals beyond point by point solutions. You need a mix of both to truly bring value.
Ex: We can immediately help you by providing real time insights to your inventory issues so you can ensure you have the tools to maximize on time delivery; our tool also allows you insight into other suppliers networks so you can ensure you can anticipate demand before supplies run out…Long term we need to figure out a better way for you to scale, so that you can manufacture more parts and have a growth strategy…
This is just one example, but you show the short term fix + long term strategy = value. “By increasing your ability to monitor inventory you will save time on excel sheets and data silos, this time enables you to increase your productivity on meaningful tasks by 10 hours a week. In addition the inventory software helps you to understand the ever evolving market so you can ramp or slow production as needed, reducing shortages and overages which lead to costs…
Emotional WHY: You can speak to logic and dig meaningful pain points when building value and urgency with longterm and short term business initiatives – through discovery and logically explaining the way they save time, money and build for scalable growth – but in the heart of every deal cycle there is an emotional element that can both benefit and critically impact a deal cycle.
Emotion connects us in our humanity and if you are an empathetic consultative salesperson you can tap into emotion in impactful ways to help the client how transformation will positively impact their day to day job and business success.
Fear of missing out – because in truth if they don’t act they will lag behind in the industry…this is a fear based emotion, but is powerful because you are helping them to see past the in the moment status quo and open up to the possible.
Risk vs reward: humans are more apt to take action out of fear of loss versus gain. Showing how they lose by not moving forward (without being a fear monger – that is not professional) is important to get to the heart of ‘why’ you are a must have technology vs a ‘nice to have’ feature.
The art of the possible…we love to dream and the chance to see the art of what could be and the positive impact is often a driver when we make purchase decisions…Ex: I want a new car because mine has over 100,000 miles, but in reality it still runs and has no major issues – but I see the art of the possible with a new car…not worrying about future repairs, the better stereo system (key as I love music)…the warranty…
I apologize if that was a bit longwinded, but the point is that we have multiple factors that initiate purchase and stalled deals.
All of these are still major factors in how we run discovery and understand the why of the client, unfortunately our third point – EMOTION – has begun to take over in most deal cycles.
You can build the most compelling case for change; provide a business value map with real data showing their ROI and time to value…it can resolve every single need and want – and yet you still fail to get a PO.
I had one client tell me point blank – “you sold us on the product, the price and the value – but we are AFRAID of change right now because of the economy.”
I countered with explaining that ‘I understand that fear, most businesses are struggling with inflation and concerns about the recession, but if you look at businesses that excel during economic downturns it is because they automate redundant processes, put their people and clients first and invest in the right technology. Investing in technology doesn’t solve problems on it’s own – you do need to be mindful. So many business leaders panic and think a recession means you stop hiring, stop investing, but in truth you want to get out of this downturn without losing a step you instead need to invest smarter. Putting money into the right technology that can eliminate wasteful spending on data silos and will unite teams to increase productivity – that saves businesses.”
Fear is our biggest competitor now – Fear of the unknown and real issues from inflation. The problem with fear is when we give into its power it becomes a self fulling prophecy. Fear makes us close our minds to possibility and opportunity, which in turn leads to restricting growth and success for business.
As sales consultants we need to understand the client’s why in this current state of ‘now’ – what are their concerns about impacts from the macroeconomic environment…How can you help them address that fear -and align with their why – so you are providing a path from fear – to meaningful planning.
Being a salesperson in an economic shift it is our task to meaningfully challenge our clients fear and help guide them on a path for success – even if it is a bit different than we both originally planned.
Can they afford an investment now? If not – what are the reasons? How can you help address those factors?
What fears do they have? Focus on HOW you can address them and work to build a meaningful action plan
There is no one size fits all approach here, but understanding the emotional drivers of you clients WHY right now is critical for mutual success. Our economy moves forward through partnerships, growth and innovation. When we allow fear to sideline vision we all lose. On the flip side, we also need to be cognizant that there are real issues (inflation, war in Ukraine, supply chain) – so if those are driving economic instability – how can we work together to solve those points so this downturn is merely a blip on the radar – versus a business ending moment in time.
Please comment below with your thoughts!
About: Adele Lassiter has over fifteen years of Sales Experience from being a ‘creative costume consultant’ for a theatre shop in high school to owning her own talent agency, retail at Big Box before transitioning to tech sales. She developed her FOCUS on HOW method to simplify sales in the moment to guide success across the sales cycle.
She is the author of ‘Solitude Lake’ – a cozy romance written under her pen name – Adele Darcy. Available on Amazon
The past few months I’ve been trying everything to get email responses from prospects. In the past I always exceeded in being the ’email queen’ able to draft relevant emails and get meaningful connection through email…but things shifted starting earlier this year.
I’ve noticed it is harder and harder to penetrate the frozen fortress of client’s inboxes. The majority of outreach (call and emailing) goes unanswered – leaving me out in the cold. I have been stumped…but always a problem solver I’ve continue to work on figuring out ways to provide meaningful impact for potential clients.
In taking stock of a few of my recent emails – I realized as tailored as they were they lacked several critical points:
Why Now – our product may be relevant, but what is the urgency for booking time. There is not specific relevant urgency to encourage the prospect feel the urgency to explore value now, versus deferring to a future date.
Tailored, but not tailored enough…on average C-Suite professionals receive 100-200 emails per day. Simply crafting a well-written email is not enough to get a response, let alone a meeting. C-Suite execs expect that you already understand their business needs and speak to the PAIN before you reach out. Each email needs to be addressed to that unique individual and their role at the company.
Too long/Too Short: Shorter emails yield a higher conversion rate, as most of us live in the mobile era of quick reads on the go. We want the point and purpose instantly – without longwinded language and conversation. Some of my emails, though well-written were simply too long for an intro email.
On the flip side, you need to have purpose, point and why in the email. It may seem logical to lean into a simple email like ‘Hey can we connect about (your company) and technology next week?’ – that gets to the point but lacks purpose. Too much brevity will quickly be deleted and look unprofessional because you are not showing that you can provide value – and their time (like yours) is extremely valuable.
I fell into some bad habits – copy and paste and templates that you customize a bit when writing the email can serve a purpose, but in this hyper competitive space for getting prospects attention – the slightly tailored templates don’t work to yield meaningful results. This is especially true on New Logo/Greenfield motions where there is no pre-existing trust and value to urge the prospect to ‘open’ and ‘respond’ to the email.
Prospecting is HARD:
I started my career in sales cold calling for a local newspaper during college. I also cold-called alumni at my alma mater to earn money for our school’s scholarship fund…that build some good bones – as rejection and smile and dial with humor became essential.
Those experiences prepped me for my year in the ‘lead gen pit’ – a Hunger Games of sales and hustle demanded 130-150 calls a day – yielding 3-4 meetings booked. It built a toughness for rejection, but lets face it – no matter how much you prospect it feels awkward. It is the awkwardness of sales…like dating you ‘court’ your prospects and hope they will say yes to the meeting – then you build relationship.
It is important to remember, especially when things are feeling like mud and muck – that sales is hard and it is okay. You don’t need to beat yourself up. Often the scripts and emails you used successfully for months/years may similar need to be adjusted because people evolve and adapt. What doesn’t change – the fact that you have an opportunity to help businesses understand pain points and guide them to a solution. Your call could save a business – my previous role selling encrypted email and e-sig during the pandemic literally kept certain companies in business when they couldn’t do taxes/loans face to face.
Focus on WHY: No matter what professional or personal task – you need to act with purpose and that is driven by the ‘why.’
Why are you emailing this person? Your why may be ‘I need meetings and ACV’ – but that why is doesn’t matter to your client. They don’t care about your quota…they care about their business and how to solve pain and find value so their reach their goals. So the why has to be – what is the ‘why’ of my prospect.
I’ve been researching ‘the why’ for common roles (CEO, CFO, Sales Director) and figuring out a baseline of their drivers. I then recommend researching the unique individual on LinkedIn and their website to figure out what their goals are and put yourself in their shoes – do all this before drafting the email.
Winning Tips for Connection:
*Don’t stay stagnant, if something isn’t working then tweak it. Ask your manager and team for advice. Recognize one email might work for one CFO and not another. Try to learn and grow with each message.
While emailing may feel like a metric to reach – don’t simply log emails like a metric – it is an introduction to relationship. When you start thinking of outreach not as another touch – but a true focus on that unique business and person you will find success. People can see through ‘marketing’ blubber – they know their value and you need to show them you do as well.
Tailor the message to the unique recipient
Examples:Ask yourself – what is their role? What does their day to day entail? If you were in their shoes what would be your ‘why’ – what problems would be working to actively solve?
Research their industry and business – what are the major bottlenecks that are driving technology/economic shifts in that space (ex: manufacturing – supply chain issues and sales and service need to be unified)
Find some common ground…it never hurts to include a bit of rapport if you can. If you notice they are an alum of your university or both share a connection – use that as a genuine show of your human connection
Focus on WHY: Why are you emailing them as opposed to anyone else. Show how you can solve a relevant problem in a unique way that drives urgency without being pushy.
You recognize that they are having x issues (Ex: supply chain) and you have a platform to unify the supply chain inventory and speed to delivery. Speak to that unique value, which will drive natural urgency versus the pushy approach of ‘we help you make more money and we need to speak now, etc…’
Don’t use platitudes – buzzwords are only useful when backed up with How: Give them the Why, but don’t forget a glimpse of How. Example: We help improve supply chain management through data automation and a single view across teams, which provides on average 30% increase on time to value.
Focus on WHY and HOW you are relevant
Keep it short, easy to read and actionable
Write the way you speak (with proper grammar of course) – you don’t want to sound like a marketing email, but instead as a trusted expert and fellow HUMAN BEING who wants to connect.
Read out loud before sending to make sure it reads well.
Be appreciative: Show genuine gratitude – not over the top praise, but thoughtful thanks for their time, because you understand their grace in giving you time in response.
Your solution has more value than their time: You also are confident enough to recognize that their time is valuable – but you also give them nuggets of facts to show you investing time with you is going to yield ROI.
Offer a coffee or lunch – but only if it makes sense: don’
Other quick tips:
This is a marathon, not a sprint…on average post COVID it takes 16 touches to get a response from a contact. That seems pestering, but unfortunately we need to use gracious persistence.
What is gracious persistence – being polite in tapping and asking for time AND providing value adds on each touch (relevant webinar, info about state of business, etc…)
You are not called to be a ghost hunter – but when you know the value you can bring to a business – at least due the diligence to ensure you did everything you can to provide the insight and ask for the time…why – because you have a purpose in reaching out and can help their business.
Use LinkedIn – LinkedIn has become saturated with inmails, but it is still a good spot to learn about a client and to connect with them.
What are tips? Let’s start a discussion
About: Adele Lassiter has over fifteen years of Sales Experience from being a ‘creative costume consultant’ for a theatre shop in high school to owning her own talent agency, retail at Big Box before transitioning to tech sales. She developed her FOCUS on HOW method to simplify sales in the moment to guide success across the sales cycle.
She is the author of ‘Solitude Lake’ – a cozy romance written under her pen name – Adele Darcy. Available on Amazon
Hello friends! If we were face to face, I’d treat you to a hot cup of coffee – what is your favorite roast this time of the year? I’m in love Maple Lattes with extra espresso.
I wanted to catch up and give you an update on what I’ve been up to and the exciting new chapter of Adele Lassiter Coaching and my Focus on How method.
In April I transitioned to an exciting role at Salesforce – the #1 CRM in the world! I was drawn to Salesforce because of their focus on putting clients first and creating a culture of innovation. Citrix was my undergrad in sales, but I chose Salesforce to be my masters and Ph.D path for becoming the best sales professional I can be.
And while my blog is separate from my work Salesforce and my opinions on the blog are my own, I’ve been in a ‘sales bootcamp’ during my first six months working for a company that puts clients first and focuses on value selling. I’ve learned a lot in the field the past few months, from cold calling to figuring out market research. Sales is never boring. It demands a kinetic energy – even the best performers cannot be static or rely on the status quo because at the end of the day the market is always adjusting. You need to be keenly aware of shifts and also being able to throw your pride out the window when your perfectly honed sales skills (ahem my cold calling) aren’t producing the same results they used to.
Sales demands focusing on how we can improve and grow constantly. Sales is truly a career for lifelong learners, driven by purpose and curiosity.
When I started Adele Lassiter Coaching – I wanted to create a forum for knowledge sharing – where I could provide insight from my successes and failures in the field. Every successful sales professional finds mastery in their craft, not by quick wins- but through fortitude, constant ingenuity, patience and the ability to listen and learn from others.
In taking on my new AE role, I realized: I needed to take time to FOCUS on How to scale my new job, as well as my side hustles and professional endeavors outside of work.
Focus on scalability and the epicenter of purpose is important, without losing sight of your goal.
I have have lot of hobbies and professional goals: I am a singer-songwriter, a novelist, an artist, a travel blogger and a sales coach and account executive…add in family and faith responsibilities – time management is KEY.
Prioritizing is a foundation of HOW to find success and avoid burnout. While I can build time to scale for my various goals simultaneously, I also realized that sometimes we need to set up a queue for goals bound with accountability.
I reviewed my personal and professional ‘why’ and what it would take drive my goals forward. Financial security is key and that comes from success at work. Professional development is a core why that drives me –
While my passion for mentoring sales professionals runs deep, I realized that in order to find success at Salesforce I needed to focus on my new role and dive into the firehose of learning. I focused on my WHY in the moment – learning and growing professionally through immersion in my new sales role in a top tech company for innovation. I focused on giving my all to my clients and going above and beyond to provide the best experiences for their business success.
I’ve been tested…transitioning from being an expert at a former company to a new hire is HARD. It takes time and focus on both the immediate now with the perspective of the greater journey. I love that Salesforce uses the Trailhead motif – as a hiker I often equate sales to climbing a mountain. You need to focus on each bend and break on the rocky trail to keep your footing, but you power through because you know the end result is the mountaintop view.
Outside of Sales:
I released my first novel, ‘Solitude Lake,’ under my pen name Adele Darcy. Launching a book and promoting it takes a lot of energy. I have been digging into understand Amazon and SEO.
I’ve built my travel blog American Nomad with over 10,000 miles of adventure since December 2021. I continue to post travel posts bi-weekly including my new coffee blog: Destination Coffee
Adele Lassiter Creative – I started selling my contemporary impressionism paintings on Etsy in January. I’ve built a brand on facebook and Instagram (still a process) and continued to grow as an artist. I’m excited to announce that I recently had my first public art show in the RDU area.
I look forward to diving back into The Focus on How method in the coming weeks and re-launching my YouTube site. Exciting things are coming for the blog and I invite you into the journey.
Adele Lassiter Coaching – Let’s RESET:
I am excited to RESET my Focus on HOW blog series on Adele Lassiter Coaching
What’s brewing for ALC (Adele Lassiter Coaching)?
Virtual Coffee Sessions on LinkedIn Live (each session will feature a delicious coffee and great content from sales professionals)
When I started this blog, my focus was to be vulnerable enough to share what is working and how to learn from failures.
I’ve had a tough couple of months as I’ve transitioned into solely new logo space. I’ve worked with greenfield clients before with great success, but I also recognize that was powered by hardcore SDR efforts and extreme hustle.
In my early days of New Logo at my previous company, I started off as an SDR and on average it took 40-50 dials to get to one meeting booked (on a good day). On average we pounded the phones with 130-150 calls a days with 30 second pitches and qualifying questions. I also was on a pilot team for emailing and ended up finding it took 40 emails to get to one meeting (and roughly 8 touches with calls/LinkedIn/email)
It burned you out quickly, but at the end of the day it did yield results – it took that much focus on cold calling to get a viable return on time.
As an SDR you are solely focused on outreach, which when done properly can help drive the fuel for Account Executives to focus solely on deal cycle and partner with SDRs on the deal.
However in most cases we work as individual contributors and are required to dial, book, discover and demo. I have done this as well and with success, but usually I also had a mix of Inbound and Growth accounts to help build my pipeline.
In my current role I am completely focused on being a hunter – going in cold and trying to get the meeting, build value and transition to a sales cycle.
I have always been good at cold calling because I love to connect with people, but I’ve found that post pandemic getting to yes is far more taxing than I ever realized.
Clients are bombarded with time constraints and extra workload that makes them less likely to give you that ‘prime time’ fifteen minutes – even if you offer then a cup of Starbucks (you can get a meeting with me by the way for a pumpkin spice 🙂
Often times many prospects don’t pick up the phone, so we turn to emails and LinkedIn, but even email has become a desert wasteland lately.
I find myself spending four hours crafting personalized and to the point emails with relevant content only to get the following responses:
I have thick skin but this has been a form of torture that is excruciating.
I continue to tweak emails and my conversations – from discussions about value and ROI (macro-economic issues and how we can help) to focusing on learning about current processes to webinars and also industry focused resources.
I take time to research and thoughtfully build these cadences because I care about my prospects. I know I can help them save time and in turn money. I know the value I can bring, but getting past ‘remove’ has been tedious.
So I wanted to reach out to the community for your tips…what is working and what challenges are you facing?
Tips I’ve found to be helpful:
As sales professionals we cannot maintain the status quo…call scripts and emails that worked two weeks ago might not resonant this week…or one cadence might speak to the heart of a pain point with one client but not another – you do need to keep it personalized enough to show that you are invested in their business.
Invites to webinars can be a helpful open door to conversation, especially if you wait to ask for a meeting until after the webinar…show that you provide value and are not pushy
Speak to their industry language
The outreach is NOT about YOU – it is about your CLIENT and helping them to evaluate the best technology/solutions for their business. It is about providing help specific to their unique challenges as an advocate – not as a pushy salesperson. Feature pitching or ‘what we do’ often detracts prospects from booking a meeting. Instead: Why we are reaching out and the value we bring to your unique business. This is a fine line as sometimes we can accidentally move towards feature pitching versus value.
How can this help the customer? How much time can this bring back into their day
How has utilizing x product led to others in their industry finding success
It takes 8-16 touches…
I call this ‘gracious persistence’ – you have to keep re-mailing and calling until you get a ‘no’ or ‘yes’ – you also need to try multiple contacts at a company
When you do this – don’t be forceful…be gracious and with each email or touch make sure to provide some value – be it an article, video, or webinar -don’t simply follow-up to follow up. Be specific on the ‘why’ – why is it worth their time to take this meeting
I’d love to continue this conversation as we move into the fall.
One area we are targeting at my company is in-person drop-offs with swag, asking for a future meeting. It is hit or miss and I’m still in the trenches figuring out if this ‘old-school’ tactic is going to be the best approach for standing out in a sea of cold outreach.
With sales with always have to be creative and focus not on the ‘no’ but ‘remove’ the obstacles that keep us from getting to ‘yes.’
Hootie & the Blowfish 1990s hit says ‘Time ain’t no friend of mine…wasting time.’
“A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” Job 14:5
You can make more money – but you cannot add more time to the twenty-four hours in a day.
Can you imagine what we could get down with ‘eight days a week.’
In all seriousness I bring this up because, while opportunity cost and return on time has always been important in business and personal life, with COVID this has only been magnified.
Time is valuable – an employee doesn’t want to work at home till eleven o’clock at night trying to get a purchase order processed and navigate multiple systems.
IT directors don’t want to have to go in after hours for simple patches that could be automated. IT Directors also don’t want to have to spend extra time digging into additional reports on multiple data silos from numerous not integrated software to ensure security.
For those of us who did work 20 of 24 hours just to be on top of everything – burnout is real. That leads to employee disengagement and attrition, which leads to less productivity.
As we enter the ‘post’ pandemic phase – where COVID is still active, but we are in a new era per se, the biggest conversation piece I recommend driving with customers is time.
Their time for a conversation is valuable -so when prospecting you have to be focused and specific in your value for requesting their time. IT has to be about their needs and not your feature pitch.
In speaking with customers – they are most likely dealing with budget freezes or stiffening approvals. Digging into processes and pain is still a foundation – but your ROI evaluation needs to be target to time.
What is their time worth? What would the cost of that time back to the company and their personal life be? How would that time improve value.
Many CEOS and CFOS don’t care about process – but how does this help the company make money and improve operational workflow. How does this empower productivity and ensure employee retention.
Time is being lost with most pain points you are investigating – time can be quantified to money.
With prospecting I feel I waste time with a ‘cold approach’ – cold calling and emailing is essential in sales and can be targeted, but when I don’t have a cadence in place I’m not able to get the return on my time.
Pivot your conversations around time and the cost of time. How have supply chain issues slowed down your workforce – if we were able to help empower your technicians to quickly file reports in the field and take orders – how would that improve your time and money.
Don’t forget when leaning into value – think about ROT – Return on Time and how you can help power the clock to ‘go back’ even a few hours a week.
You cannot avoid the headlines – recession, economic uncertainty, macroeconomic shifts…These headlines tend to lead to somewhat of a clickbait mentality that triggers fear and anxiety. As humans we are risk averse…it is in our DNA. We are also wired to think negatively when faced with potential risk – even if the reward associated with the risk has a solid foundation for success.
I bring this up, because as a seller we are in a purgatory of sorts with buyers. We’ve faced a lot of challenges since COVID and depending on your unique industry each of those challenges was unique, yet interconnected to risk from COVID – leading to supply chain, employee attrition/absence from illness, work from home, etc..
During COVID the tech sector mostly succeeded in netting record growth. Of course this depends on product and strategy – but for tech companies based on cybersecurity, virtualization and work from home simplicity – technology helped fill a void.
At my previous company I helped empower countless small businesses to purchase technology to help keep their doors option – from e-signature and secure email for lending documents to work from home options that ensured security and collaboration during the trenches of the pandemic.
While many forecasters saw this upswing in the tech segment as an indicator for continued fast paced growth – in truth much of this quick customer acquisition did not need to be tied to long term growth strategy.
The fast-paced growth falsely accelerated normal expansion in many sectors (including technology). I viewed these increased sales as a windfall – a grace to help power through the economy, but not a long term trajectory for natural growth and economic expansion. Unfortunately many companies overreached and assumed buying trends would continue to accelerate at the same level of acquisition versus taking a more conservative view of natural contraction in an expanding market.
While I’m not going to pretend to be an economist, I do have a background in economics and I personally think that we are not moving into a recession, but rather the market is adjusting to a more balanced expansion from an ‘bubble’ of sorts from post COVID.
We are battling inflation however. I hate inflation – who wants to pay $4.00 for gas and have added fees. However this ‘slowing’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Inflation doesn’t equal recession. The housing market was growing way to rapidly and having some contraction on that extreme bidding will long term help retain stability in the market. I know in Raleigh the housing market went from $166,000 from my condo (former owner) to now over $400,000 (much more than I paid) and that is not sustainable.
Some of this contraction is not a bad thing – what is the problem is the panic associated with macroeconomic shifts. The media in general tries to do a good job explaining the issues, but they also are driving headlines and the minute we hear ‘recession’ panic sets in. I think if we truly move into a full recession it will be because of self-prophecy of fear more than even inflation and realistic market contraction.
I bring this up because this shift forces us as sellers and individuals paying our bills to adjust our perspective. Whether it is fully logical or not, many companies – even with plenty of equity and consistent sales choose to ‘pause’ hiring and start to go into ‘recession-mode’ even before we’re fully there. This is frustrating when you are working to sell services because even essential investments are locked down due to ‘fear of risk’
I keep hearing – “we’re fine to invest in this now, but honestly we fear the unknown.” The unknown and status quo are the biggest foes anyone in business from selling apparel to high tech is going to face. As individuals we are feeling the pinch in our pockets with inflation so we can emphasize with this mentality.
I encourage you to be willingly to step out on a limb for your clients and focus on their concerns but also challenge them with the HOW they can not only survive but thrive in the macroeconomic shift.
A successful business needs to invest in technology and strategize on two fronts – short term implications (supply chain, COVID, war for talent – work from home) but the short term focus can never outweigh the long term strategy. You must have a balance. Otherwise a business will not be secure – it will be completely reliant on the ebbs and flows of the economy. The macroeconomic factors are key at any time, but they are only part of the ‘portfolio’ companies need to build with.
It is our job as sales consultants to educate and empower our clients for success within these current challenges (keeping the lights on) and also helping to build a roadmap for longterm success so they can rise to meet any challenge.
Now more than ever -sales professionals are called to be consultants and partners in ensuring clients purchase the correct technology. You need to walk them through a holistic view of the short-term and long-term investment and scalability.
The companies that are primed to survive events from COVID to recessions are flexible and open to change, but also rooted in longterm strategy and mission. They don’t panic simply because of a few off quarters – but use tools, people and dive into their client needs to ensure they are flexible and adjust according to the market. Adjusting to the market – but not panicking because of the market.
Help clients recognize what is working and what is broken through quality discovery and genuinely trying to understand their business. Don’t rush in conversations to assume or push a product, but rather figure out holistically what is working and what is broken. Focus on HOW fixing the broken pain points in the business will affect change – will it be longterm meaningful change. How can we work towards fixing issues permanently instead of a quick band-aid with not transition plan to get to the true problem.
What will help companies successfully navigate market changes (similar to COVID) is a resilient mindset that focuses on people, processes and technology.
The biggest issues that companies I work with face is that they bleed cost (time, revenue, talent attrition, customer attrition) because of broken processes. There is not central source of truth and automation is limited.
Investing in technology that automates client relationship data (like Salesforce) across teams from sales/marketing to service and HR is necessary.
Simply having quality technology is not enough if you cannot organize and access the data efficiently. Companies need automation and integration so their most important asset – PEOPLE (employees who work hard for them and clients who purchase) are not forced to waste valuable time on redundant processes.
Data silos also are big threats for security. SECURITY is often overlooked by smaller companies who don’t want to invest in protections against things like ransomware because ‘we’ve never had issues before’ – but that mindset is going to end up leading to serious potential external threats that could shut down a business. Some technology needs to be invested in regardless of ‘do I have that issue now’ based on ‘what if.’
Time is money – when speaking to your clients in this current economic environment – many may be sold on a product, the features – even the proposed value – but in order to close the deal YOU MUST equate that value to TIME and MONEY – what is the ROI…not perceived ROI but real stats based on analysis.
Focus on details:
How many hours do you spend on x task?
What would you do if you had that time back
How much is that costing you per hour?
If you were able to get those hours back and save that cost with investing in an automated tool how can that help your business with x challenge.
In truth many companies handle recession fears in the worst way:
layoffs, budget freezes, etc…
While there are times this is necessary – with the right investment in people, processes you can usually avoid layoffs by simply streamlining time through automation and increase time to value.
These are the sorts of conversations you need to target with your customers now more than ever. The product may work and have value – but you need to focus on crucial conversations on HOW you can help with cost (pay more, but ROI is three fold) and do so in a targeted and precise way that speaks not to uncertainty but lays a solid foundation for growth and scalability even in times of uncertainty.
Sorry if a bit longwinded but I think this is important food for thought.
Take time to focus on how your clients are losing money/value with current processes. Drill into the pain, but take it further by challenging them with a roadmap to a future state that helps AUTOMATE and remove data silos
Security and automation are two critical focus points to ensure time to value for clients
Don’t simply speak about value – show the real business value (numbers) of how you will effect meaningful change in the business and help them to not only survive but thrive uncertain economic conditions