March 26, 2020

Executives will listen when you know something that they need to know NOW.

I have had a draft article on the disservice we are doing our prospectors (AEs and SDRs) by not teaching them the first principles behind prospect engagement… I deleted it today because I can reframe it more positively based on the success I am seeing some teams have today (March 26, 2020).

[If you scan the headings you may assume this is fluff you know, but just give me the benefit of the doubt – I hate fluff and avoid writing it]

When I first moved to San Francisco I would make a 45 minute commute using Google Maps to tell me when to make every turn – After 6 months I was embarrassed by the realization that if I had to deviate by even one turn, I would have no idea where I was. This is the driving equivalent of what many of us are doing to our SDRs and junior AEs – If you put them on autopilot they will never learn what to do outside of the context we trained them on. THIS IS THAT TIME.

What I am about to share below is going to make old school enterprise reps slap their foreheads and I hope it helps newer reps, sales leaders & sales enablement professionals turn things around fast. It is in the context of net new prospects, not expanding existing business.

Principle 1: Target companies who have the ability to buy your solution

This week I had a chat with Dan Kessler, a senior executive who I will paraphrase – There are three types of companies right now:
1) The severely impacted – Airlines etc.
Unless you have a solution that alleviates/supports immediate priorities, steer clear. Don’t be tempted to send them ‘relationship building’ material right now. They are in fire fighting mode and will not get a positive feeling about your words of support, ‘helpful’articles on remote working etc. Leave them alone.

2) Negatively impacted and newly remote
Tread carefully here – If you have the right solution, then you can get decisions FAST. I was taught by the former CFO of Johnson and Johnson to stick this on my wall:

Executives will listen when you know something that they need to know NOW.

See how powerful that statement is? It assumes you know what their priorities are and that your offering is top of the list.

This is where we need to get old school – No sending out mass sequences/cadences unless you sell to SMB and the economics mean you just have to do volume. Do the appropriate research for your segment (SMB>MM>ENT) and then send a carefully worded note to the persona who is facing a challenge caused by the current crisis and tell them how you can help. Don’t mention COVID, don’t start with, “In these trying times etc”. Just get to the point and include something like the following in the body:

If you are looking to reduce opex in XXX area, then we should talk, because I saved [similar company] XX% last quarter. ” [You could word it better, but you see the point I am making.]

Hot topics I am hearing every day right now?
– How to build pipe without field events
– How to keep sales cycles moving without meeting in person
– Reducing opex…. Any way possible
– Employee morale/engagement…. Etc etc…

3) Essential services eg. Remote communications, Healthcare, etc
Get after them! Again, no need to talk about COVID – Just think about what problems they are solving for right now? Some of these companies can’t hire fast enough and the have all the downstream challenges:
– Finding talent
– Onboarding quickly
– Retaining/building culture during fast scale-up
– Employee equipment

[I have a buddy who is a senior executive at a computer hardware manufacturer – Their laptop (remote working) sales are SKYROCKETING. ]

Principle 2: Be relevant

I actually embedded this in the above, but it is worth repeating. I am STILL getting outreach from BDRs who want to sell me live event management services. That is the fastest way to get in the SPAM box.

A final note

We should be thinking like this always and many are not – All boats float in a rising tide and the tide is going out right now. If we help our people be more thoughtful, we can avoid being left on the rocks – barnacles exposed.