As an Account Executive, how many times have you dreaded making a sales call, wondering if the prospect really wanted to hear from you? Sales is a tough job, but it can also be very rewarding.
The latest surveys and research indicates that customer experience is the most significant differentiator these days. Customers expect their experience with a company to include Nordstrom-level service. As an account executive (AE), you are the main line of communication between a prospect and the brand you represent.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of 5 ways to be successful as an Account Executive in this customer-focused business environment.
1. Be Competitively Optimistic
People in sales are notoriously competitive. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s a big part of why we’re successful at what we do! One thing that competitive people have in common is the belief that they can – and will – win. That’s called optimism, and you can’t win without it.
Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi believed this was the key to success:
“You’ve got to be smart to be number one in any business. But more importantly, you’ve got to play with your heart, with every fiber of your body. If you’re lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he’s never going to come off the field second.”
– Vince Lombardi
Business is no different than sports in that they’re both driven by healthy competition. Like football players, that competitive optimism is what enables AEs to be resilient, come back with alternative solutions, and always be working towards a win. Don’t stop believin’!
2. Be Personable
People don’t buy from businesses; they buy from people they like. As an AE, you are your company’s link to customers. No pressure, right?
Really though – this is the most fun part of sales (aside from winning, that is). This is where you get to make friends. If you can make your prospect feel like you’ve known each other for years within the first few minutes of meeting, your chance of winning the account is probably pretty good. Of course, you’d better know your stuff, but people are more giving of their time to their friends.*
Mention the baseball game last night, ask about a recent trip, extract a funny story about their kid – anything! Check out your prospect’s LinkedIn before you walk into the meeting for ideas. Get someone talking about themselves and they’ll walk away from the conversation thinking it’s the best meeting they’ve ever had.
*No matter how friendly you become with a client, never mistake your business relationship for a personal friendship.
3. Be Responsive
Being responsive is one of the easiest things you can do to strengthen a relationship, yet so many of us have gotten distracted and forgotten a follow-up. We know you’re busy. We are too! Your customers don’t need to know that though. Get the simple things right and follow up ASAP.
Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes. When you don’t get a response to your inquiries, you probably view it as terrible customer service. It doesn’t matter that your contact didn’t sleep well, had five meetings before noon, and is taking 5 minutes to scarf down a granola bar at their desk. You don’t see that. All you see is an email with no reply.
People remember subpar service. Don’t wait a day to respond. If you don’t have an answer, at least acknowledge the issue and relay that you’re working on it. Do the small things. It won’t go unnoticed.
4. Be a Consultant
Consultants sometimes get an eye roll, but they can be an asset. We’re not talking about a “meeting with the Bobs.” Consultative selling is simply about identifying a prospect’s needs and helping them get to a solution. Rather than focusing on making the perfect sales pitch, focus on having a meaningful dialogue with your prospect. This is the way you’ll learn how you specifically can offer a solution.
Consultative selling is something we heard referred to often at Rainmaker. In her keynote speech, Lisa McCloud told us to ask ourselves: “How will this customer be different by doing business with us?” If you can answer that question, you’ve done a good job of being a consultative seller. By the end of the discovery process, the buyer should be able to make the pitch to you!
5. Follow Up Effectively
How often have you presented and closed a deal the same day? Those unicorn deals typically don’t happen. The buyer usually needs to bring the deal back to their team, pitch it to their CEO, and/or run it by finance. All of that takes time. If you try to rush the buyer through it, you could lose the deal.
Patience is typically not one of a salesperson’s many talents. While you’re waiting for the “yes,” work on finding creative ways to add value and stay top of mind. All that work you did previously asking questions and learning about issues that affect their business can be used in the follow-up. It’s an extension of your consultative selling process.
Always be thinking about opportunities to provide relevant information. Look out for things that will be meaningful to them. Did they mention struggling with a sales coverage model? Send over a cool infographic on Hunters vs. Farmers. Is the buyer really into baseball? Send over a note about how the Braves won their opener in extra innings with a walk-off homer. Then, close the letter with a casual check-in asking if they need anything further from you.
Don’t stop here! Follow up after the sale. Stay in touch with your buyer through the implementation process and beyond. You never know when you’ll be able to provide them with another solution in the future.