This video training was originally presented at the 2019 Sales Hacker Success Summit. In it, Enterprise Account Executive Sales Leader at Lucid Software & Co-Founder/Board Member at Utah Women in Sales, Lanette Richardson, shows you how to leverage your people skills for success.
What You’ll Learn
- How to build genuine connections
- People at all levels are just like you and me
- The importance of being an advisor, not just a sales rep
- The power of trust
- How to know when to walk away
Outline, Timestamps, and Transcript
Building Genuine Connections at Every Level (00:00)
Hi, everybody. Lanette Richardson here. Really excited to be with you here at the Sales Hacker Summit. Hopefully we can get through some really great ideas on how to build some great personal connections with your prospects.
I’m going to share my screen. Bear with me for a minute while I get this thing going, and present, maybe. There we go. Great.
All right. Well, thank you.
We are going to talk about building genuine connections with your prospects at every level. I’m very excited to cover this with you. One of the things that I think is the most important skill in any sales rep is to be able to build those connections. It’s going to set the top sales reps apart from everyone else. You’ll find that great sales skills, great conversations, and great product knowledge can never always finish the job unless you have great connections. [Great] sales reps can overcome anything if they have good connections.
There’s going to be all kinds of hiccups and problems as you work through a sales deal, so make sure that you have those connections right out of the gate, and hopefully, I can help you get some of the skills going here.
Don’t come into any conversation as a sales rep (01:21)
We’re going to cover some of the topics over there on the top part of your screen, but before we get started, I really want to encourage you not to come into any conversation as a sales rep.
Nobody wants to talk to a sales rep. I don’t want to talk to a sales rep. You don’t want to talk to a sales rep. So, don’t come in being a sales rep. Be a trusted advisor. People will listen to friends, they’ll listen to advisors. Be someone that they can trust.
That’s the attitude, that’s the mentality you have to have when you come into any sort of conversation with any of your prospects, and be passionate, be excited about what you do. If you’re boring and you have a rehearsed theme or something that you say over and over again, and it sounds like it, you’re just not any fun, so don’t be so scripted.
Be Prepared (02:07)
Well, let’s start here. First of all, before you start reaching out to people to make these connections, do your homework. Be prepared. You need to know exactly what your product or service does, how you can be helpful to people, and what’s the best way to get that introduced into a company.
Find the people that you need to talk to. Once you find someone that you would like to speak with and you want to build this connection with, get to know everything you can about them. Read news articles about the company, maybe — if this person is in a news article. Look at their LinkedIn profile. Really understand where they’ve been, what they’re doing, and if there’s other research that you can do.
There’s plenty of tools that you can do research on, really get to know who this person is.
Then think about what YOU do. Quantify your product or service to what you’re going to be delivering to them.
What exactly do you feel that you can do for this specific person?
What types of needs would they most likely have and how can you resolve it?
How have you resolved these for other companies, or how has your company resolved these for other companies?
What can you do here?
Really be prepared. Know exactly where you’re going with this call. [Know] if this is a call to just get to know somebody else, or if this is a call where you’re trying to dig into something that you really want to introduce — like a product or service — to them. Know what your end game is on this call. This might be a first call just to set up a demo.
Whatever that is, just know this is where we’re going with this. This is my next steps.
Be Authentic (03:40)
Now that you’re prepared, and you know who you’re talking to, be authentic. It’s really important that you are honest with yourself about why you’re getting into this call. What’s in it for you? Are you reaching out to this person because you have a quota to hit?
We all have quotas to hit, but is that your whole intent? You have to hit a number and you think that you can get X amount of money out of this person?
Because if that’s your intent, or, “I just have to have another call. I’ve got to make so many appointments.” If that’s your intent, they’re going to see it.
There’s a wall there. They always have this wall of resistance, and if you hit that wall with any of these intents, any kind of hidden agendas, people see it. They can feel it. They know what’s coming at them, and you’re never going to get past there.
So, make sure that when you go into a conversation with someone that you’re authentic in it, that your intent is really to build a bond, to really get to know this customer, to really get to know this company.
Don’t be so routine. Don’t make it sound like you say this over and over and over again. Even if you do say it over and over again, make sure it sounds like it’s the first time you’ve said it, that this is a sincere conversation that you’re reaching out to have.
Be Calm (04:51)
Once you found this person — let’s say you found somebody that is a very high level executive in a company — a lot of times you freak out. You’re like, “Oh, my gosh, I’m going to be talking to the CEO or the CFO,” or something. Your heart starts racing. You can’t think. Your tongue gets tied up. You just kind of freak out.
So first of all, do your homework. You know this is the right person that you need to talk to. You have value coming into this call, and this is the right person. Stop thinking about who they are, what title they have, and how important they are.
Stop thinking about it. Don’t freak yourself out. Just stay focused on this person and what their needs are. This is just another person, and they have some needs. It’s just another call. It’s just a conversation. So, stop freaking yourself out.
Do be respectful of their power and authority. There is a difference between fear and respect. Make sure you know that line. Always have respect. Fear will stop the conversation, and respect will enhance the conversation.
Be fun. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. I mean, everybody makes mistakes. A lot of times we don’t know all of the answers. Sometimes we say stupid things, and we all say stupid stuff. Just have fun with it. Just really take the pressure off of yourself. Be able to laugh. People enjoy it when people are a little bit more relaxed and they can laugh at themselves, and I’m not saying laugh at yourself on every call. But just have fun in the conversation.
Be personable. There are ways that you can connect with someone. Sometimes you might have gone to the same school. Maybe you grew up in the same area. Maybe you both worked at a previous company in the past. You might have known people that they’ve worked with before. Maybe there’s nothing more of a connection than the fact that what you found that your product or service actually aligns with something that they do. That might be the only connection, and that’s fine.
There is a connection. Keep talking about that connection. Stay close to that connection right there. Those are ways that you can actually break some ice. Even if it was like, “Hey, I went on vacation there last year, that’s an amazing place,” just whatever that connection is. There are things you can find.
It’s All About Them (06:59)
Remember, it’s all about them. Okay? Once you get to this point, and you’re on a call with them, it is all about them.
This is the time to step into their world. What’s it like to be them? What’s it like to have that job, to work at that company? What kind of pressures might they have? What’s going on? Now, this is not an interrogation. This is a conversation, so just remember that you are not drilling them for information.
Understand what you can help with. We already talked about this before, so you’re coming into this knowing, “Okay, here’s where I can help. I’m going to stay focused in the areas I can help.” If we get started on other problems that they’ve got and it’s just nothing that I can do anything with, it’s going to be really hard to reign it back in and bring it back to where we can have this conversation. So stay very focused on talking about the things that are really specifically areas that you can help with.
Three levels of why and validation (07:50)
Now, when you’re in this area — I think it’s super important — the next two things, three levels of why and validation. The three levels of why is when you’re digging into a problem where you’re talking.
The first answer that someone gives you is, “Oh, well here’s the problem. This is what we’re trying to solve. This is what our goal is this year.” Great. That’s a very canned answer. It’s very flat. There’s not a lot to do with that. Everybody probably has that same problem.
You need to dig into that a little bit more. Say, “Oh, that’s great. Yeah. You know, I have a lot of customers that are working on that this year. How is that affecting you? Is this something from last year that you’re bringing forward? Is this a new initiative this year? How’s that going to affect you and your team? Did you have to gear up your staff to handle that? Is this…” All sorts of different ways that you can get to that next level. Just ask another level of why. Why is that important to you? Why is this happening? What’s this affecting?
The second level of answer that they give you is really impactful. You can do a lot with that. This is really starting to uncover what’s going on, really areas that can help. But if you stop there, you’re really not going to do yourself and your customer the best service.
One more time, third level of why. “That’s fascinating. So what would the end result be? I mean, is this something that’s coming up from your highest level people? Is this caused from teams not working together?”
I mean, there are all sorts of reasons that you can dig down into another level. Just why. And maybe it’s like, “I just don’t even understand really how that works. Explain that to me because I’m just trying to really understand how this is working for your team. Tell me a little bit more about that.”
So three levels of why. That third level of why is going to be raw. This is going to be where the pain is. This is going to be where the problems are. You’re going to get a lot more detail.
This is going to really help you to be able to help them. We’re only asking these things so that you can be effective, and so that you can be helpful. And when people know that you care… There’s an old saying of, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” That is absolutely the truth. Digging into these questions in three levels of why really validates to them that you are interested. You really do care. This is something that you’re really concerned about, that you really, really want to help them with.
This is the thing that can be valuable, not only in a business situation, but in any type of relationship. Listen, ask questions, be there.
Don’t talk over them. Let them talk. Never cut them off. Listen. That just validates to someone that they’re important and that you care.
Once you’ve got to that third level of why, there’s a lot that you can do with that. You’re probably starting to see… You probably saw earlier on how you can help. But by this point and time, you can really be specific. I really can see how it can be helpful here.
Validate. Validation is also one of the biggest things that you can do to build a relationship because the only two things you can do to build your relationship is listen and validate.
So, the three levels of why is listening and validation. Validation is letting them know that they’ve done a great job.
I mean, you can come back and say, “I have worked with a lot of customers that do what you do, but you have certainly got the most unique, impressive way of doing that. Kudos to you and your team. You guys have really knocked it out of the park this year.” Anything that you can say… If you’re listening, you’ll hear those things that they’re doing that are unique, [those things] that are really great.
Or, “Man, you’ve really had a lot on your plate this year. I can’t believe you’ve been managing all those teams. This is really a lot that you’ve been handling. You’ve been doing a great job with it.” Any type of validation that you can get that sincere.
You need to listen because you’re going to want to validate them as a human being and as someone doing their job as a professional. Look for those ways that you can validate them. Everybody’s done something impressive. Just stick with it until you really know what they’ve done that’s really great.
Or even, “Heading up this initiative. That’s a lot. That’s impressive that you’re taking this on and trying to solve that. That’s a big challenge.”
And then you can partner with them. “I’m excited to help you with that. I’m excited to be a little part of what you’re trying to do here. I really hope that we can work together to get some of these goals of yours to come to fruition.”
These are areas where you’re actually down into raw person-to-person connections. It really makes a huge difference because you’re now really connecting. You’re both clicking on the same pattern. You’re working together, and now you’re opening it up to include yourself into part of what their world is by saying, “I can’t wait to work with you…” “I’m really looking forward to…” “Hopefully we can find some ground where I can help you with that…” “That’s an amazing project. I’d love to be part of that…” Those are the types of things that will really make a difference.
Now, another thing that you can do to really help yourself is take notes. Write down specific words or phrases they use, ways they describe something that’s unique to them, that is really a form of expression that they use. When you are able to repeat that back to them — and you’re down the line, they’re telling you all this stuff — when you go, “It’s really amazing that you did, what did you say that you called it this,” or however you can then repeat that back to them in their language. That solidifies that you heard that. You’re repeating their words back to them and when they hear that in their brain, they’re saying, “This person gets me. This person gets it like I get it.”
And they don’t really understand that necessarily it’s just their words coming back to them, but because it is their words coming back to them, and it’s coming from another person, that’s validating that you listened, you care, and you get it.
So looking for some of those ways to really help connect there, that goes a long way. If you can’t get anything else out of this, those two are the biggest things. Really listening, digging deep, validating, and then giving that feedback, knowing that you understood you get it.
Be Trustworthy (14:03)
Be trustworthy though. You cannot come into this with the, like I said earlier, a hidden agenda. You can’t be trying to sneak one by on somebody. Your intent has to be honest and upright. People have to know that you have their back.
People want to know that you are in it to take care of them as well as your company. You’re not just looking after the best of your company, but you’re also looking out for the best for your clients. Sometimes that’s a fine line because you want to push harder, but if people know you’ve got their back, they’ll be in your court for a lot longer. You’ll get bigger deals. You’ll have longer relationships. You’ll get spread out into companies farther and wider because you’re being trustworthy. They know that you’re in there to help them. That’s really super important as well.
Always be responsive and proactive too. Don’t get an email and go to work on it, but then don’t let them know you’re going to work on it, and then they don’t hear from you for two weeks.
At least respond. “Sounds great. I’m going to get on that. I’ll get back to you soon.” “Hey, I just got your voicemail. I’m working on that.” Or at least respond back. “Here’s the papers that you’re asking for. Here’s the documentation.” Respond.
Don’t let things go more than a few hours if they email you or leave a voicemail. You don’t always have to have the answer, but at least let them know that you heard, that you’re there, and that you’re on top of it. So you’re not ignoring them.
Building those relationships and getting that trust is knowing that you didn’t just get on the phone and then forget about them. So make sure that those important factors are covered.
Keep the Fire Alive (15:38)
And then don’t let the conversation go cold. There is a 48-hour rule that says you always need to be in touch after your first conversation. There’s got to be some form of communication within 48 hours or less after that.
So, one of the ways you can do that is to always schedule the next meeting on your current events. So if you’re in a call, or in a meeting, or a demo, or on-site with them, before you leave say, “Hey, let’s schedule a follow-up. We’re both busy. I know it’s going to get out of both our calendars. Let’s find a time. What’s your week look like next week? How does tomorrow look? Do you have time later this week?”
Whatever it is, get it on the calendar. If you’re on a calendar in less than 48 hours, then you got your 48-hour rule taking care of. If for some reason you can’t get back with them or your next meeting’s not for longer than 48 hours, let’s say a week, two weeks, a month, they’re going to totally forget you because it’s only one conversation.
Even though it was really good, they’re still going to forget you. Make sure you follow up within 48 hours somehow. Send an email, “Hey, I ran into this. I was thinking about our conversation the other day,” or, “I keep thinking about these amazing things that you’re doing over there. I’m really excited to be part of this. Just wanted to shoot over this little thought that I had,” or, “Thanks for meeting with me. Looking forward to our meeting in a couple of weeks. Here’s a just follow up of what we talked about this, this and this. And we’re going to be meeting about this.” Anything.
You’ve just got to keep in front of their mind. Helping them keep you in their mind also ingrains that conversation. If you let anything go cold, it’s really hard to get it back. It’s hard to get back to that same level. Any type of contact really, really helps them keep thinking about you and just keeps that friendship going, that level of connection going that you’ve got started.
Personal Connection (17:28)
Another thing you can do is make another personal connection. So there are other ways of making personal connections. You can do face-to-face visits. Now this doesn’t have to be 48 hours. This is just another form. There are several touches that happen with a person and a company before you actually get somewhere.
A face-to-face visit is huge because they get to see you, they get to know who you are. You’re a real person, you have real lives. You are actually a physical being, not just a voice on a phone. And people really start relating to you a little bit more. We’ve got so much of a world now where you can just do a lot of things on Zoom and phone calls and emails and things like that that sometimes we lose that personal connection. A lot of businesses are face to face and that’s great. But if you’re not, try to get a face to face visit.
Also, follow up with the email and the validation. Always follow up and keep in mind those important things that they’re working on to validate those impressive things that they’re working on and how impressed you are with your team. Maybe you talk to one of their team leads and that person’s really got things together. Different types of validation.
Not always complimentary validation either. I mean, sometimes that’s important, but you can also say, “Here’s the validation. We thought that these numbers were correct, and I just wanted to let you know that absolutely. I’ve run some numbers and it looks like we can actually come in even better than you and I had even considered.” Any type of feedback, any type of validation of figures, numbers, product, anything. That’s really good to send them.
A personal thank you card in the mail, those are great. I get those once in a while. I send them once in a while. I don’t do it all the time. I probably should do it more, but I think they’re great. I think they’re really wonderful. People just don’t get them anymore. So be one of those people. Be somebody that’s making another connection that way.
Another way you can do even your 48-hour touch bases, connect with them on LinkedIn. Say, “Hey, I’m going to send you a LinkedIn connection. Love to follow you. Let’s just look for my invite here in the next day or so.” Another way that you can actually just stay in touch with people.
Key Takeaways (19:36)
So I just want to sum things up, kind of wrap them up and let you get back to your day. But as an overall overview, just remember people are people at all levels. There’s people that have some really exciting high-level titles, great jobs, they’re way above anything that I could ever even imagine of being, but they’re still people. People that maybe are even beginning. And sometimes you are working with people that are in this starting phases, just starting a job, but they’re all people. Everyone is like you and I. We have goals, we have family, we have life outside of our jobs. Just remember not to be intimidated or not to be too assumptive and critical of people, no matter what their positions are. Just respect everyone and stop thinking about titles.
Don’t be a sales rep. Be a trusted advisor. That’s a huge thing. Really try to find that way that you can advise them. Try to find that position where you can come in and help them with a problem.
Don’t waste anyone’s time. Always be prepared, especially in your first calls. Make sure that you know who you’re talking to and that you’re prepared for that call.
Everyone has a problem they’re trying to solve and you know that they have that problem because you’re there with a solution or a product or something that solves problems. There isn’t a company anywhere that’s just like, “You know what? Let’s just do exactly what we did this year. And let’s not change a thing.” There’s nothing like that. Everyone’s got higher goals. They want to grow, they want to change things, they want to improve processes. Everyone has a problem they’re trying to solve. And that’s why we’re in business because we have things that can help solve those problems. So just remember that. Always find those problems. Don’t forget that they’re… Even if they say they don’t, they do just. You’ve just got to find them.
And people buy from people that they trust. Always do the right thing. Even if it means walking away. And like I said before, if you’ve got nothing else out of this, listen, listen, listen. Three levels of why and validate. Let people know that they are important, that you heard them, and that you really care. Those are the most important things that you can do to really build some great connections with people.
So thanks for listening to me. I hope we can connect on LinkedIn. Looking forward to hearing from all of you I guess. It would be great. Love brainstorming with people and really appreciate your time today. Thanks so much.