The ABCs of Selling, from Three Top CEOs


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There’s nothing like hearing a CEO talk about sales. I just heard three of them – all men – talk about the real deal of selling: into CEOs, into IT, and sometimes, into their boards.

PR and sales ought to be joined at the hip – and increasingly, we are. It’s our job to drive more leads that close faster. Building brand is hugely valuable – and certainly part of it. Being able to make the numbers, for marketing and sales, is even better.

So when Bill Hewitt, the CEO, president and director of Kalido, a 10-year-old start-up, and Patrick Morley, the president and CEO of Bit9, who has six ventures and three IPOs behind him, and Steve Orenberg, the chief sales officer of the U.S. unit of Kapersky Labs offered to talk about how they sell, 150 suits jammed the room, at a breakfast sponsored by NETSEA, the local networking group for sales professionals.

The #1 Question
All three agreed: What do CEOs care about when you’re trying to sell them? There’s only one universal answer: Growing revenue. And occasionally, how to book it. So when you’re selling into the top seat, don’t back into it. It is always, always, about the money.

That’s especially important because most IT sales these days are about driving incremental value, and often, ripping something out. Just managing this process requires an intense understanding of the corporate culture, organizational change, and macro-shifts in the industry or economy. It also means the sales team needs to know more; about the company, the context, and the players.

What’s Changed
“You have to know how things are being bought today –which is more important than the way things are being sold.” That’s from Stephen Orenberg. Three years ago, procurement and finance pretty much took over. Now, and more often than anyone likes, when an enterprise sales guy asks the buyer what the budget is, he doesn’t even claim to know. That’s a problem.

So the savviest do the work-around. They scope out publicly available data on all key players. They know where they live, when they bought their house, how much their mortgage is, and a lot of other data you’d like to think no one sees. And they use it to profile the buyer, and tune their approach.

And What Doesn’t Work
These CEOs admitted that they block sales guys like themselves. For starters, they get about 15 to 20 pitches a day, from guys just like the suits sitting in the room. And most of the pitches stink. And this is where it started to sound sadly like a bad PR pitch. These so-called sales emails talk about the pitcher’s name, and company, and product. But not the CEO’s company, something relevant, and how to solve a real problem. Maybe 30 percent do it right. And those emails get read. Especially when the sales rep also asks who they should follow up with.

And that’s when a good lead is born.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Amy Bermar
Amy Bermar founded Corporate Ink determined to create the kind of PR firm reporters wanted to work with. She spent her first 10 years writing for dailies and knew that good PR makes for great stories 20 years later – she's built one of the tech industry's top boutique firms.


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