Simple Sales Advice from Box’s VP of Sales Productivity

Doug Landis by

I’m in an enviable position where I both buy technology (for Box) and at the same time, train people how to sell our technology (Box). The duality of my role as both a buyer and a seller affords me great opportunity for learning AND quickly sharing what I learn.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my story, as a buyer, with a broader audience as I think this may resonate with some of you. Agree or disagree on the premise, or insight, makes no difference to me as this is just information, and you are free to do with it as you please.

A few weeks ago I received a prospecting email from an AE (we’ll call him Bob). The subject of Bob’s email made it very clear to me (in a matter of .5 seconds) that he did his homework “Saw you are speaking at TOPO summit, excited to meet you!”

Bob further demonstrated his research skills by referring to my company name, Box, which told me that this wasn’t a canned email and he highlighted the fact that he was a big fan of Oregon football (in case you didn’t know I attended the University of Oregon). So overall Bob gets a solid B for personalizing his email and building rapport.

So I replied. Of course it wasn’t the reply he wanted because I said thank you for doing your homework however given what I know about your company (because I had to go look them up) this is not a solution that is top of mind right now (“right now” being important words).

After sending my reply I assumed Bob’s next move would be to lob one more desperate email pleading to just ‘get 5 min of my time to explain to me how amazing his company was’ however to my surprise Bob’s next move was even better.

Bob tapped into my eleemosynary side by explaining to me that he was a hungry enterprise sales exec looking to crack into the world of large technology companies and that he was trying to expand his network and learn from accomplished professionals (such as me) and if there was any way to give him some advice, he would be appreciate it.

Great move Bob. You see I believe at our core we all really enjoy helping other people, assuming that the request isn’t too demanding or outside of our comfort zone. So of course I had to reply (and now I was engaged). The question you may ask is what did I say?

Well it goes a little something like this…

  • Half of selling is Timing, the other half is Relevance (ok huge generalization here but you get my drift)
  • If the Timing isn’t right but the Relevance of your message is, then there is a chance in the future
  • If Timing is right but the Relevance of your message is off then you lose to a competitor.

If neither are right you get deleted and forgotten about

I went on to explain what could have helped him be more relevant to me (as I had already explained that the timing wasn’t right for us) was to share a story (that would resonate with someone in my role) or a use case or a reference. It didn’t have to be long, it just had to be about my world, my customers (my sales reps). His first message to me was only relevant to me as it was about ME, nice but not compelling enough.

At the end of the day your message to a customer needs to demonstrate this level of homework as it shows that you care, and that you understand my world (you get me), but it also has to be relevant to my world (at this point in time). Put your consultant hat on and THINK about what I might be working on, what might be a priority for me, my company. Draw a connection to what you do and what’s going on in my world.

If the timing is right, and your message is relevant who knows your buyer (me) might just answer and to many of us knowing “something” is a little victory in this game we call selling.

Good luck and good selling!

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  • Perry

    Evidently, at Openview Partners, it’s as if the technological advances (I.e, web, cloud, mobile, data analytics, etc.) we’ve witnessed in sales automation over the past decade have never happened!

    Fact: 50-75 percent of all sales transactions today never involve a sales rep. In the cases where a buyer might interact with a sale person at all, studies show the interaction is shorter in duration, less frequent, and occurring far later in the sales cycle.

    Fact: the selling process of virtually any organization is entirely codified today. Software is very reliably in production, right now, which renders the selling process of virtually any product or service entirely digitized. From end to end, the selling process is completely automated now — and has been for much of the past decade.

    To think that sales people are still somehow generating any significant volume of sales by sending emails to prospects and pitching them on products or services, one by one… this is simply no longer relevant, no longer economically viable, and frankly, no longer true.

    • Benjamin

      With all respect Perry, rubbish.

      Fact: If you are in the business of selling high value, long term, Enterprise solutions – then personal relationships still matter. Web, cloud, mobile, data analytics, etc can assist with this (and they certainly do for me), but at the end of the day direct personal relationships are still more successful at securing and maintaining long term accounts.

      • Perry

        Totally agree, Benjamin!… but its’ more true than ever, I’m afraid:

        sales resulting from direct personal relationships are accounting for smaller overall growth in terms of number of transactions and marketshare.

        Just ask Amazon, Google, Twitter, Facebook, and any other pure digital player out there today.

        It’s only a matter of time that we’ll see even the “complex” products and services go completely digitized. I’d say within 5 years, at current rates of technology adoption.