During my circuitous route to a career in sales I’ve experimented and evolved my method selling by into multiple industries to a variety of people. Being an open source person, I'm sharing my key tactics selling into different demographics and the generic version.
Selling to Scientists
My first sales job was with the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE.com) where I didn’t necessarily sell, but “interested” scientists to submit their work to us for potential publication. My tactic was simple, when I finally garnered a dialogue with the scientist I’d ask, “tell me about your research”.
Scientists are global thought leaders in a domain that few if anybody else knows about, so inquiring, and importantly caring, about what their life’s work is all about really helped close the deal. If you are currently selling to scientists check out the link below.*
Selling to Librarians
As JoVE.com grew we moved to selling subscriptions to librarians. Here, the issue wasn’t getting them on the phone since roughly eighty percent of all calls to librarians resulted in a conversation with a decision maker, the issue was getting around “no”.
Why? Librarians were (and probably still are) getting their budget slashed and are therefore cutting subscriptions. So I started reading a variety of books by critical authors (eg Zig Ziglar, Robert Cialdini etc…).
In the end the key finding for me was trying to determine WHY a librarian would subscribe to journal, so I asked a number of librarians, “why would you subscribe to a new journal?”.
The answer was that if people ask for the journal in significant numbers, they’d get a subscription. We developed a marketing campaign that would request people to email their librarian every time they wanted to access our content.
Selling to Marketing Managers
Since JoVE.com was a video format journal we had full length technical videos of scientists using these complicated pieces of hardware. Initially we felt that the videos would sell themselves to the life science companies.
Please make note, NOTHING sells itself.
I tried a variety of tactics, none of which worked very well or any better than the other tactics I tried so I tried a new one; at several life science conferences I went to the marketing managers and simply asked them, “what were the top 3 problems selling to scientists?”.
They were gracious enough to answer.
I compiled the answers and came up with 5 unique categories focused for each different discipline in science and scripted them out. Then whenever an objection came up I was already armed with soundbites, collateral, and case studies showing how JoVE.com could help.
Selling to IT managers
From JoVE I moved to Duo Security selling into a completely different demographic. To me selling two factor authentication was like selling a steel door to a company that all the company employees would have to unlock, pass through, then lock behind them. You can imagine why the IT managers were not excited about this, even when they knew they needed it.
I was new to this industry and I had to crack the code, so again I tried a variety of different approaches, all based on a genuine interest on helping them, what finally worked was, “tell me the biggest issue with security?”
The answer, again, came back that security products were hard to deploy, harder to manage, and hardest to get people to use.
Fortunately Duo Security has a product that was easy to deploy, easy to manage, and easy to use.
Selling to Facility Managers & Event Planners
Recently I moved from Duo Security to Message Blocks and started selling to two more groups; hoteliers and event planners, both of whom have to work with each other. This put me in a unique position to act as a counsellor or interpreter between these two groups.
Again, new to the industry, I needed to come up to speed quickly, however I believe I’ve refined the process down to a key question that has already given dividends, “tell me you top 3 problems working with event planners” and “tell me you top 3 problems working with hoteliers”.
After talking with both groups of people on both sides of the table I have developed a very clear understanding the core issues that will help event planners and hoteliers have better working relationships leading to better events executed more efficiently.
The selling key
So what is the key? To me the key is asking the question, "tell me your problem ABC" where ABC is the critical industry pain.
Do you agree with my approach?
Do you have a key approach for uncovering your sales flow? Please share your comments below!
*If you are looking for a great read on selling to scientists, get this book from the Linus Group. I have no affiliation with the Linus Group, I just like their methods.