Sales success has always been contingent on building relationships and earning trust, but SaaS (software as a service) has turned the selling of software upside down in a good way. Because of the cost and the central role of the service to the client’s business, building long term relationships is imperative to retaining customers for the long haul. Profitable SaaS selling is dependent on a new breed of sales leaders and direct reps who possess a different set of skills and personal attributes.
Mark Petruzzi and Paul Melchiorre are industry veterans who have worked for well-known cloud computing titans including Salesforce, Oracle, Cisco, Microsoft, IBM, Zoom, SAP, and DocuSign. In their new book, Selling the Cloud: A Playbook for Success in Cloud Software and Enterprise Sales, Petruzzi and Melchiorre share the strategies they have developed, refined, and applied for the past 25 years to become enterprise cloud software sales leaders, along with the mindset and behavioral traits of the top performers in the industry.
We asked one of the authors, Mark Petruzzi, to elaborate on some of the counterintuitive points he and Melchiorre make in their book.
Grit Daily: You write that it is crucial for cloud software vendors to make sure their customers are capturing the most value from their products and services. Isn’t that the job of customer service or tech support?
Ensuring the capture of value is not a one-department job, it’s a combined effort. Customer service and tech support are part of the team, focusing on experiences and effective solutions, but it is the vendor’s job to build in the need and desired want (outcome) in the first place. They are the frontliners when it comes to building relationships and discovering said wants and needs, so naturally, they are the ones expected to deliver value. And when the prospect becomes a customer, it is still the job of the vendor to ensure that their product or service is up to par with the value that they promised to deliver in the buying process.
Grit Daily: What, in your experience, are the most effective sales strategies?
I believe the three most powerful approaches right now are private equity go-to-market strategy, customer success, and consulting partnerships/strategic alliances. That said, the one thing they have in common is they all require an immense amount of trust. If there is one thing to focus on in your sales career, it is a genuine commitment to building and nurturing trust-based relationships rooted in good intentions, mutual benefit, and good-old-fashioned, human-to-human interaction. When your customers and strategic partners think of you as a trusted resource, they are more likely to take your advice to heart and have more constructive conversations with you. Trust enables intimacy and it opens doors. The key is mastering the art of earning it by:
-COMMUNICATING THROUGH stories
-ALWAYS BEING authentic
Grit Daily: Anybody who is approving the purchase of anything expensive has to trust the person who is selling it. How do sales pros develop that trust?
I cannot stress this enough – trust-filled relationships are EVERYTHING in a purchase experience. Regardless of outcome, building trust creates sustainable relationships and can yield opportunity. I would say the most important thing to remember is to always come from a genuine, authentic place where you have the customer’s best interest in mind. Instead of viewing yourself as a salesperson, focus on being a resource. Your goal should be to harness a relationship with your customer in which they let go of the fear of being “sold” and, instead, turn to you for advice and expertise. Additionally, something that’s often overlooked is consistency. It is imperative when building trust to try your best to be conscious and consistent with every interaction and result you deliver.
Grit Daily: You say that women excel in sales. Why do you say that?
As the sales industry shifts, we are seeing a correlation between success and emotional intelligence. Qualities of having a high EQ include being a good listener, being self-aware, having empathy, and being patient, to name a few. If you take a look at the numbers, you’ll see women consistently outperforming men in closing and effectiveness. Unfortunately, the number of women in sales is not nearly as high as I would like to see it, and those numbers are even slimmer in tech sales. I am optimistic that this trend will change; there is so much to be learned from women and I think many companies are starting to take notice.
Grit Daily: You emphasize building a “customer-first sales team.” What do you mean by that, and what is the purpose of building that team?
To me, “customer-first” means always having your customers’ best interest at the forefront of your decisions. This includes connecting with customers at an individual level (not just understanding their wants and needs), investing in customer-centric ideas, and harnessing an ecosystem that aligns with their values. In my experience, a team that is customer oriented is a successful team. It creates loyalty, increases referrals, and ultimately leads to sustainable success on both ends. The nice part is, it’s a win-win opportunity when you spend your time serving your customers and building trust.
Grit Daily: It’s a bit of a cliche, but the mantra of salespeople is ABC always be closing. Yet you write that closing is only the beginning in SaaS sales. Why?
The traditional approach to closing is focused on short-term, defined objectives. I don’t believe that closing is an end goal that equates to wins and losses. Whether you make the close or not, it should be a deal worth dissecting and learning from. Really successful selling in SaaS is not about having the best sales methodology or always saying the right thing at the right time. It is about continuously and steadfastly building your own IPC’s. Creating trust equity by ensuring that every question that could be asked by the prospect is answered and every step of the decision process is fulfilled throughout the sales cycle is what will allow you to win.