“Flex” seems to be the key to building strong connections to engage buyers according to Amanda Healy Collins, VP of Sales for Box. We all know we haven’t been able to do things the way we had before the pandemic. So “flex” is this month’s podcast theme.
I started by asking Amanda for a story about an innovative approach to building strong customer relationships and she shared a few things.
Wine or Whisky
Amanda shared that her company, like others, had to adjust to find ways to meet customers where they were. In other words, they had to flex.
“We had to get very, very creative. We hosted a wine tasting where we shipped a bunch of wine to customers and prospects and had them join a webinar.”
Box held a whisky tasting for prospects and customers. Now, that’s thinking outside the “Box!” (Pun intended.)
For more creative ideas take a look at this, but not till you finish reading this post!
Pick up the Phone
Whaaaaat? Calling people on the phone?! We chuckled over this one. Sounds ridiculous (or intuitive), right?
“One of the things we’ve been trying recently is calling people on the phone. Everyone has flexed to email and LinkedIn campaigns and that's fantastic. You should do that also, and meet people where they are.”
The Box team found great success just picking up the phone. Amanda laughed, “Like it’s new again, because it's been years since we’ve reached out that way.”
I think the phone is effective because so many people have Zoom fatigue. (Nothing against Zoom it’s just become the generic term for video meetings. You know, kind of like Kleenex became the word for tissue.) And it’s not always convenient to do a video call. Again, you need to adjust to try to meet your customers where they are. Figure out how they would like to communicate and reach them via that channel.
Amanda is right. “It’s true that many aren't answering their phone if they don't recognize the number, but for people that you're already in conversation with and need to continue, the phone is awesome.” And I’ll add, if they prefer it, a text can work just as well too.
Overseas business is conducted over WhatsApp. I learned that recently—and was surprised—but we do need to be creative. To flex and to try things we haven’t tried before, or haven’t tried in a long time. And just see what works for our prospects and customers.
Slack It To Me
Amanda shared something I think many of you may be doing.
“One thing we do with existing customers is we set up Slack channels for them. We have an external slack channel so we can keep it private where it's just you and the customer. What a great way to connect because I'll tell you what, emails are getting lost. No one's responding to emails today.”
And it is so true, I mean how many emails do you have sitting in your inbox right now? Go ahead, stop and check. I’ve seen company leaders with 5000 emails in their inbox. Crazy!
Email is not working because you and I don’t want sales emails that are all about the company, their products and services. The sales emails we typically get are not intriguing or engaging in any way—because those sending them haven’t done their homework to figure out what our needs and/or pain points are—that requires effort.
Yes, I have to say it. Why? Because so many reps who are struggling to make connections with customers are out there, winging it.
Amanda commented that Box reps are so successful due to preparedness.
“Our successful account executives, whether it's with a prospect or an existing customer, they're showing up prepared. They're thinking about the customer and they're showing up with a customer mindset. They didn’t just read the financials online really quick, they've thought about how they believe—based on their research—that we can add tremendous value. They're thinking about ways in which they can impact the customer’s business and it's genuine.”
I had Amanda pause there because this is so important: so many salespeople don't prepare enough. They think they prepared, and maybe they prepared a little. But they don't prepare enough. And they are not prepared to bring the data and insights customers need and expect. As Amanda said,
“Think about ways you can impact the customer’s business and be genuine.”
In my last episode, I got a chance to discuss this with Tim Riesterer. People don't know what they don't know. They need solutions, and they've agreed to talk to you. Don’t blow the opportunity. Prepare! Get some data, do your homework, bring them some insights, and then the questions will flow out of that. They'll be asking you questions; you'll have questions for them, and we're not just doing the same old boring discovery call that no one wants to sit through.
As Amanda says, discovery is always happening, “Discovery is an art that you weave into every dialogue.”
What is Making it So Hard?
From Amanda’s vantage point, it goes back to flexing with the pandemic. “The more tenured field sales reps used to just show up. Grab a coffee, show up with muffins. That would at least get you in there for that initial conversation.” You can’t do that anymore. In the new normal, what she sees as the main difficulties are zoom fatigue and no one's reading your emails. But she shares, “You can't give up.” You’ve got to flex and get creative.
What To Do
Amanda and I are like-minded in what to do. It's finding multiple ways to reach out to people. LinkedIn, email and picking up the phone (with an intriguing message)—and maybe even snail mail. Direct mail is making a strong comeback. But we both agree that finding connections through other people that you know is key, “It's working with your partner ecosystem to see if they can facilitate an introduction.” Focus on referral selling.
Amanda is right, and as she told me,
“It's all of those things combined and it's being able to be flexible, because there is no more one size fits all and there's certainly no more make 100 dials and then 20 of those are prospects. That ship sailed a long time ago.”
You need to get in prospects and customer’s paths enough times to give them a chance to respond. That’s at least 8 or 9 touches over multiple channels, with great content. Salespeople need a lot of great content, so they have ammunition to get and keep prospects interested. David Fortino and I talked about that in Episode 4.
The Role of Marketing
If salespeople need to flex, so does marketing. I’m sure you’ll agree with Amanda,
“It’s so important to make sure that marketing and sales are working together on the same goals. It's a partnership and feedback goes both ways. And tracking all the data, all the analytics, all of that in both departments—leadership should do that together. We use digital drip campaigns, webinars, and other things combined, and obviously—we use all those tools available to track and give us the analytics that we need.”
Flex To Help Your Team Build Stronger Relationships
Amanda mentioned some great ways to help your team build stronger relationships. I’ll summarize here so you can choose the ones that will work for you but topping both of our lists is referral selling because it works.
- Referrals — leveraging connections and partnerships. Why not be introduced to someone versus cold outreach?
- Fun Online Events — remember the wine and whisky events mentioned earlier. I’ve done a few of those too, with great results but there are many other fun events you can do. Check out Evenchilada.
- Picking up the Phone — Yep, you heard us right. This works especially well when you are already in conversation and people may have Zoom fatigue.
- Prepare — more and better than ever. Know the people, their company, their customers and their industry as well as how global events may be impacting them.
- Be Genuine — Pretty simple. Care about what you are doing but more importantly, care about people.
We really want everybody reading this, or listening to the podcast to know that there are better, more innovative ways to engage customers. Maybe they're not completely innovative but they're better. They're not just more of the same.
These ways are better, and they enable salespeople to be more successful in engaging their customers. Just picking up the phone and dialing or sending email without any research or understanding, without doing an account-based approach, just isn’t working and it’s burning out salespeople. Not to mention, not getting the engagement they desire or giving their customers what they need.
There is so much more in the discussion I had with Amanda, so please listen to the podcast and then let us know how your team has flexed and what else you are doing that’s working.
Lastly, I wanted to be sure you know that Box and Modus are partners. Marketing teams use Box to load their content. And the sales reps use Modus to get the right content to their buyers at right time for enhanced buyer engagement.