How to Set the Table for Enterprise Sales Success

Never underestimate the value of hard-won research
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The essentials

When selling solutions to large companies, the sales cycle can be long, involve a lot of stakeholders, and require a depth of intelligence that is difficult to capture. Jim Hamilton, Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Sales Management at Smith School of Business, explored some of challenges of enterprise sales with Shannon Katschilo, Vice President and Country Manager of Medallia’s Canadian operations. Medallia provides a software platform for major brands to capture customer and employee feedback and convert those insights into action.

Jim Hamilton: In terms of top-of-the-funnel activity, how are prospecting and business development evolving? Is there still a big investment in these areas?

Shannon Katschilo: There’s a big investment, and fundamentally prospecting is important for a business to build awareness and identify individuals who can be potential champions. But where I’m noticing a change is in the traditional method of prospecting, where they say an 11-touchpoint cadence is needed. With changes in email usage, emails are really not producing the results that we used to see.

I’m a big believer in social selling and elevating your brand, being human, being authentic. I’m also a big believer augmenting sales activities through email, that you should constantly be delivering value to everyone you reach out to. It’s not: Hey Mr. or Mrs. Buyer, I'd like to sell you technology. Let's set up a meeting. It’s more: Shannon, I noticed that Medallia is growing rapidly in Canada and you’re predominately going after banking organizations. Here’s a really great paper around the sales process.

That’s something I teach all of my frontline reps as well as our business development reps (BDRs). Think about what would make you open an email. Are you constantly delivering value to that individual? Because what we don’t want is to set a tone early in the relationship that we’re focused on just a contract signature and not on the overall success of the program that we’re aiming to deliver.

So now at the top of the sales funnel, there’s greater work on the research side. It has to be far more granular and valuable and requires insights you can’t get easily. What does the process actually look like in terms of the investment you have to make?

We create solution hypotheses for the accounts that we’re targeting. We’ll take an organization and look at their pain points. We’ll look at what else is happening in their industry and how our clients who are in a similar industry are using our product. Then we’ll put together a pretty thorough hypothesis on what that organization looks like with our product launched.

We also do that by various channels as well within an organization: we provide a solution hypothesis which has very granular detail on an ROI (return on investment) basis. What that does is help ensure the messaging and our focus are intact. I also think it elevates us beyond other players in the space who are just doing a one-size-fits-all pitch. It really shows that we’re trusted advisors and that beyond the technology there’s value to be had.

How do you approach the early discovery and learning stages in a complex sales environment?

Discovery is really key to setting the stage for a great sales process and it always comes down to a natural curiosity to learn as much as possible about an organization. Our salespeople ask those second- and third-level questions that get to the pain that an organization is feeling. And I think that when you come into a discovery process with a hypothesis on how an individual would leverage our technology, you gain credibility.

Sales is all about a two-way relationship. So we need to make sure we're not bombarding people with questions that ultimately are pretty selfish. It should be about: I understand that your peers are dealing with X, Y, and Z. Your quarterly report said this. We believe that our technology can help you in this way. Did I get that right? That’s really interesting; can you tell me a bit more? Who’s leading that?

Discovery questions are really important. We hire and look for individuals who have those soft skills that can really get at what we're trying to discover.

Smith School of Business

Goodes Hall, Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario
Canada K7L 3N6

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