By Fernando Labastida
I was recently remembering the time, eight years ago, right after the NASDAQ crash, when I used to work in the Latin American sales department for Vignette Corporation. Every Monday I’d get on a plane to Mexico City, and every Thursday I’d fly back to Austin.
That was an awesome time: the food, the meetings with famous companies such as Mexicana Airlines, Telcel, Grupo Vitro, etc. I loved the three cocktail lunches that started at 2:30pm and ended at 4:30pm, and then traveling to Monterrey to have some of the best meat dishes on the planet.
However, when I made it back to Austin I literally tore off my dark blue suit and tie the minute I walked in the door to replace it with shorts and T-shirt. I realized: there’s got to be a more efficient way to sell other than traveling all the time, constantly taking taxis to meetings, and wearing suits. Back in the U.S. the selling culture has really gone to efficient and effective selling: using the phone as much as possible, use of productivity enhancing technologies, and the ability to wear whatever you want (within reason).
I decided to interview Scott Schnaars, regional sales director for web 2.0 software vendor Socialtext to find out what are the essential tools a software sales guy in 2009 needs to sell effectively.
Scott Schnaars is a 15 year enterprise software / SaaS sales veteran with a penchant for writing. He is currently a regional sales director with Socialtext, the leading provider of enterprise social networking services. He also blogs at Knuckle Sandwich, periodically does a sales video blog at Beyond Snake Oil and can be found on Twitter under his moniker: Schnaars.
LatinITMarketing: What are the essential technology/tools that a software or technology sales guy must use? What do you use?
Scott Schnaars: There are 2 things that are essential and then a bunch of other tools that are really nice to have. The two essentials are a sales force automation tool (Salesforce.com, Sugar, Siebel) and an online conference tool (WebEx, Adobe Connect, GoToMeeting). And a phone, of course.
A sales force automation (SFA) tool is vital for keeping track of all of your deals, the status, next steps, calendaring, etc. My company, Socialtext, uses Salesforce.com for this. We also use WebEx for giving online demos. As an early WebEx employee, I have an affinity for the product, but I also really like Adobe Connect for the level of interaction it provides. You need to be able to show something.
LatinITMarketing: How can an individual sales person who works for a corporation use social media to his advantage?
Scott Schnaars: Sales is all about relationships and fixing a problem. Social media helps sales reps identify problems and help manage relationships.
Take LinkedIn and Facebook for example. Both services help you to more strongly establish your personal brand and the relationships that you have with your clients. It is important, though, to not abuse these tools. If you routinely spam your customers with offers via LinkedIn and Facebook, you’ll be quickly blocked and SOL.
Twitter on the other hand is a great broadcasting medium. People are always broadcasting their greivances about something. Do a quick search at http://search.twitter.com for your competitors name and you’ll see what I mean. Use a tool like Tweetdeck or Twhirl to keep track of what people are saying about your competitors and chime in where you believe that you can offer value.
LatinITMarketing: Are in-person meetings still needed in the U.S. or is it overrated?
Scott Schnaars: I spend about 1 week per month on the road. I don’t think that in person meetings are as important as they were 10 years ago, but I still think that they are valuable. One of the most unacknowledged traits that a sales person can have is the ability to build rapport over the phone. In about five minutes, one needs to be able to show value and establish a level of trust. I strongly believe that large SaaS deals can be closed over the phone, but it helps being face to face, especially on large transactions.
LatinITMarketing: What are the 3-5 things a technology salesperson can do to make his prospecting job easier?
Scott Schnaars: Prospecting is hard work. I don’t believe that there are any magic bullets other than sweat equity. If it was easy, anyone could do it, but there are some things that make life easier.
1.) Genius – Email marketing has been an acceptable practice for years. Genius gives you visibility into these mail blasts and provides you with analytics on who opened your message and what they did with it (clicked on a link, forwarded, deleted). Genius allows you to focus on the prospects that are interested in your product or service.
2.) Zentact – Zentact is a great way to stay in touch with people. You tag your key contacts with information that is relavant to them and when you hit a website that they might be interested, Zentact reminds you and gives you a form to send a link to your contact.
3.) See my above point about Twitter – Always be on the lookout for new opportunities to start a conversation. Join LinkedIn groups. Join Facebook groups. Got to networking events. Start a blog, do an interview. Eventually, people will find you. In the meantime, you’ve got to keep your eyes open.
4.) Block out time – This might sound like a no brainer, but you’ve got to do it. Allocate a block of at least 3 hours a day to prospect. Turn off Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader and the like. Sit there with your phone and your SFA and just do it. The more you do it, the better you’ll be.
LatinITMarketing: What are the 3-5 things a technology salesperson can do to make his close-rate quicker and reduce the sales cycle?
Scott Schnaars: Again, I don’t think that there is a magic bullet here either. In most cases, you’re at the whim of your customer on the close rate. There are a million things that you can do to increase the level of urgency, but this is also predicated on the level of value you’re showing.
If you go to the doctor and he tells you that you need to lose 200 pounds or your going to die, you’ll start eating fruit salad at every meal starting that afternoon. If you just need to lose a few pounds for a class reunion in 6 months, you’re going to put it off until the last minute. As a sales person, you need to get your customers to look in the mirror and make an accurate representation to what they want to do and how valuable it is to them.
One tool that I’ve fallen in love with is EchoSign, a service that allows e-signature. True story: The last day of Q4, the signator of one of my bigger deals was on vacation with his family. He had no access to a fax, but did have his BlackBerry. I sent him the contract via EchoSign, he was able to review and esign on his BB and we got the deal!
Thanks for sharing Scott!