Speak the right language

Are you a sales multi-linguist? What you say and how you say it depends on who you’re talking to. Tom Castley shows us why.

In June we staged our first Sales Confidence conference at HereEast, in London’s Olympic Park. We called it SaaSGrowth2018. We had over 200 SaaS professionals in the audience, watching more than 30 of London’s foremost SaaS experts share their knowledge. Even if you couldn’t make it, we want to share the inspiration and education with you through our SaaSGrowth2018 articles.

Tom Castley

‘How to successfully navigate, negotiate and sell to FTSE 100 companies and enterprise accounts’ was the title of one of the morning sessions. We were excited to welcome 5 sales experts to the SaaSGrowth stage to talk about how they do business.

Tom Castley is RVP at Apptio and a long-time friend of Sales Confidence. He spoke at one of our early events and brought the house down with his punchy, iconoclastic style. At SaaSGrowth2018, Tom shared with us 17 things that drive success, although I’m not sure if he made it to 17 before time ran out. One of Tom’s tips was ‘Speak the right language.’

‘CXOs, VPs, execs and middle management all speak a different language. Currently, the majority of you [salespeople] will only speak one.

‘You’ll know when you’ve got it wrong when you phone up and you eventually get through and speak to a CEO, CRO or CIO. You’ll start talking to them and they’ll say ‘One of my guys is dealing with that.’ Then, they’ll hand you down. When they hand you down, it’s because you haven’t spoken their language.’

Why are there different languages in business?

What Tom meant by ‘speaking a different language’ is that everyone in an organisation works to different parameters. They have different problems to solve. Their goal is to solve their problems, but each person will have to do something different to address them.

Tom explains it this way.

‘CXOs talk about growing quicker than the market or grabbing market share. That’s all they care about. You need to frame your solution around those 2 aspirations.’

‘Execs talk about making more money or saving money. I always translate that into efficiency.’

‘Middle management is all about reducing the risk on how to deliver what the execs are looking for.’

‘Align yourself to have those 3 sales cycles working in parallel. Be able to translate between them. Don’t rely on a sales champion in middle management. You’ve got to do it.’

How to be a sales polyglot

As salespeople, how can we speak the right language to the right people? It’s difficult as we all have levels where we are most comfortable.

This is a problem that is addressed by the Account-Based Marketing (ABM) methodology, where multiple decision-makers at all levels of a target organisation are courted at the same time, using personalised super-relevant content.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re selling to. We know what their concerns are, as Tom says. What are the problems keeping them awake at night? How can you articulate how your product solves that problem, in a way that will grab their attention?

Ask your team and sales leaders to help you if necessary. What sales messages have worked with CEOs, for example? How have they successfully framed their solution in the past?

How many languages do you speak?

Over to you now. How many languages do you have in your sales arsenal? How do you make your solution appeal to the CEO as well as the middle management? Let us know in the comments.

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