Tell us a bit about yourselves - who are you, how did you get started in sales, what do you like about working in sales?
Tim: My name is Tim, I’m 35 years old, and I love sports and video games. I started working in sales as part of a trainee program at a German “Mittelstand” company in 2010. For me, sales never gets boring - every opportunity is unique. You get to meet new people and overcome new challenges, and I also really like to travel. In the end, sales is about bringing supply and demand together and improving the status quo.
Jan: My name is Jan, I’m also 35 years old, and I live in Munich. I really like sports (soccer, gym), spending time with my dog, listening to audiobooks, watching movies & tv shows and also playing video games. Initially, like Tim, I got in touch with sales while working for a German “Mittelstand” company in 2008. I like working in a competitive environment and in sales, you are always improving and continuously pushing yourself and the team to get 2% ahead of the competition and win the customer’s heart and wallet. Sales to me is always about delivering the most value to our customers, and as well to their customers. Also, building working and long-term relationships is really fun and I learn something new every single day.
You founded the Sales Excellence Podcast together, a leading German podcast for B2B software sales and pre-sales. How did you get the initial idea for the podcast?
Jan: The short answer: Tim was bored ;) No, but honestly … when we both started working together, we often spent hours discussing best practices around sales and pre-sales, how we can continuously improve, what is important, what we should focus on, etc. On top of that, we both really love the audio medium to consume content and learn. So, creating a podcast as a platform to express ourselves and share our thoughts with others was the obvious choice.
Thinking back to when you started off in sales, what were the biggest mistakes you made?
Tim: We both had a rough start in software sales in a sales organization that had no strategy, no plan, and no process. It was a case of winning by price and feature function - which will never work in the end.
What steps did you take to improve upon these mistakes?
Jan: Luckily, we both had key experiences early in our sales careers that fundamentally changed our approach and thinking. For Tim, it was a two-week eye-opening training that he took on value sales. For me, it was an experienced mentor that I listened to on end. Also, shifting from “old-school” German medium-sized companies to an American SaaS company made a huge difference, as our working environment became much more solution-sales focused.
Luckily, now you are both pros when it comes to sales. So let’s share some insights for other sales reps.
Preparation is key - what are the must-dos before every call?
Jan: Yes, preparation is really key. If you don’t prepare for your call beforehand, you are pretty much wasting your time. You should always be well informed about your prospects - not only the target company, but also the specific person you’re talking to. Activities such as checking the company’s website and social media profiles and the Linkedin profile of your prospect are no-brainers, but very important. Having personal information to kick-off the call will always make a good impression and show them that you care about delivering the most value to them.
Tim: Also, ensure your technical setup works well. Test your microphone and video before the call. There are many video conferencing tools available, so make sure yours works with your prospect. 95% of remote meetings start late, oftentimes due to technical difficulties such as firewalls, ad-blockers, etc. which can throw you off your pre-sales game.
What should be the goal for every pre-sales call?
Tim: Your main task is to gain a deep understanding of their problems, and be able to then articulate it back to your customer during a later conversation. Customers buy from those who understand their problems. You want to make your customers aware of the necessity to act.
Jan: On top of that, you want to put yourself in a position to perfectly match your offering against the issues at hand and be able to express the value propositions tailored to your prospect’s needs. The more urgent the problem and the more compelling your arguments, the earlier your prospect will be willing to change something.
Do you have any final insider tips for the perfect sales discovery call?
Tim: Always turn your video on and share your screen with your discovery structure (e.g. mindmap) and let your audience actively participate in the process. This really sets you apart from all the other sales reps and keeps your prospects interested and engaged. And at the same time, you create a useful asset during the call that you can directly share with them afterwards.
Jan: Attempt to approach your discovery from the outside in. First, start understanding the general market and the business model, as well as your prospects’ customers. Then, go one level deeper and get an understanding of your customers’ strategy and vision. Afterwards, look at business processes and organizational interfaces. And lastly, inspect the systems and technology in place.
Want to implement Jan-Erik’s and Tim’s advice directly into your sales calls? We got you! Get their playbook template for the perfect pre-sales discovery call here.