After 10 years in business development, account executive Christoph shares how he has stopped doing sales to create orders, and started conversations to create lasting business relationships instead.

Yesterday I received a phone call. The person on the other side was friendly. He knew my name… but that was about it. He was inviting me to meet him and his CEO to discuss how I can optimize my finances. It made me feel uncomfortable. As a fellow salesperson, I did not want to be rude, knowing that those guys get a lot of pushback every day. On the other hand, I couldn't stop asking myself: What is he thinking?

I am in Sales. My task is to find the right partner who needs our experts to find solutions that bring their organization forward. I am looking to create partnerships that benefit both sides. I have stopped prioritizing my own sales goals. 

Traditional Sales Culture Sucks

Sales is a profession that doesn’t have a good reputation. Nobody wants to be sold to. Nobody wants to be convinced into making a purchase. Nobody wants to be invited to a meeting with someone they don’t know to discuss internal issues and a service they don’t even care about. When we think about sales, the smooth-talking person at the second-hand car dealership immediately comes to mind. The kind of character that makes your guard go up. Or what comes to your mind? 

The problem here is a sales culture that is driven by incentives on new business. It makes the transaction impersonal and degrades the customer to an object that helps the sales rep fulfill his or her targets. 

Over the years I have executed several hard sales tactics and strategies, from cold calls to email campaigns, often with a concrete solution in mind that I want to sell to a customer. I created assumptions about my targets’ needs based on my market research. I approached them with my set value proposition and followed up. My success was very predictable. 

My biggest mistake was: to talk, rather than to listen. Why is this so hard? It is because when I hear a problem, I get excited because I do know that we can help, that we have a solution and I see that there is potential for business. But does my value proposition really matter at an early stage?

Stop Talking, Start Listening

During our internal sales focus meetings, the Web Essentials Sales Team regularly review our initiatives. We had to recognize that if we want to generate good work for our business, we need to put even more effort into understanding who our peer is, where their pain points are and what goals they need to achieve. 

To do this well, I had to start listening and to ask questions, to inspire and to ask more questions. Through this approach, I recognize my would-like-to-be-customer as a person and partner. And my peer looks at me in the eye rather than wanting to disengage as quickly as possible.

Often the customer has a problem but they don't know what the solution is. By asking the right questions early on, and bringing the right people to follow-up meetings, we find ourselves getting collectively inspired by technical solutions to problems that the customer didn't even know were possible.

<< My goal is that every contact walks away from the meeting with a weight off their shoulders, and excited about what the partnership could mean for their business. >>

For example, as we were sitting with a customer to chat about how we can help them to revamp their website, it eventually turned out that the new website on the table is just the tip of the iceberg and that there is a larger need, the analysis and revamp of their entire digital infrastructure. My customer told me that they spent a lot of money on solutions and concepts that did not help her. “They didn’t give me anything I did not already know” she said. With her, I recognized, the listening had just started. 

What I appreciate the most about this approach is that when it comes to signing the contract, both sides are looking forward to stepping into a mutually-beneficial partnership. And that feeling lasts much longer than the empty thrill of a hard sale.

I have stopped doing sales to create orders, I have started conversations to create lasting business relationships. 

Are you a creative salesperson into selling partnerships over hard sales? Apply for one of our open sales positions in Cambodia

Christoph Lüthy

Christoph Lüthy

Christoph is a creative Senior Account Executive who believes that the secret to a great digital solution lies in a strong relationship, a shared vision, a mutual understanding of business and users, and a working environment that doesn't fear failure. His passion is connecting the right people with the right resources to make a product that can change lives.