In today’s article, I’m going to be telling you about some common mistakes that I often find first year or second year account executives make. This will be in the context of my experiences in selling in SaaS, but it’s probably applicable in many cases of being an account executive.
Mistake #1: Focus way much on demo
The first mistake that I see first year or second year AEs often make is that they are focused way too much on getting through their entire demo. Listen, nobody cares about your product or service. They only care about how your product or service is going to make their life easier. Really internalize that. Take a second and think about that. In other words, just because you went through multiple rounds of working with your manager to learn the ins and outs of the product or service that you’re selling, your prospect doesn’t care.
The only thing they actually care about is exactly what parts of your product or service will help make their life easier. So the first mistake that I can share is that people often get way too caught up in working through all the different demo flows that they’ve learned in their sales onboarding. This is a common mistake with beginners because they’re so stressed out about making sure they hit on every single one of the points that their manager has told them to cover in their sales demo. They don’t actually take a second and listen to the needs of the prospective prospect.
Mistake #2: Talking as opposed to listening
That leads me to the second mistake that I see that first year and second year AEs often make, which is they focus way too much on talking as opposed to just shutting up and listening. What I mean by that is they are so focused on them hitting the three to five different talking points that they know is important for them to communicate. That they don’t actually listen to anything that the prospect is saying.
If, for example, your prospect is buying a CRM tool from you and they have just told you about how important it’s for them to have a direct integration to their productivity app. And you have gone ahead and listened to that, but then continue to truck through to the next topical point that you wanted to cover in this call, it means that you’re not listening. What that really means in that situation is you should have paused, listened to the prospect and said, well, prospect, it sounds like integrations are really important to you. Let’s explore that a little bit deeper. Can you tell me more about what specific productivity apps or integrations that you would need to see from us in order to make it really easy to make this a win-win for everybody on your team.
By actively listening to your prospect, you increase your chances of closing the deal. Active listening is a skill that a lot of amateur sales reps really struggle with in their first few years, because they’re so obsessed with getting through all the different talking points of the awesome product, or even in some cases the terrible product that they’re selling. So that’s definitely the second mistake that I often had to coach some first year or second year software SaaS AEs about.
Mistake #3: They avoid pricing conversation
The third mistake that I often see first or second year AEs make is they avoid the pricing conversation. So when it comes time to introduce pricing to the prospect and talk through that pricing, they don’t actually talk about it. In fact, they put it under the rug and then they kind of try to sneak it into a follow up email later on. This is going to sabotage your deals and you are not going to close as much business as you could, because you didn’t have an open and transparent conversation in terms of how your prospect might be thinking about pricing.
It is always super useful at some point in the buyer’s journey when they’re getting to the consideration phase, it is important for you to take a second and talk with your prospect about the pricing options. Make sure they understand what are the different tiers for your respective service or product that you’re selling and exactly which one might be best for them.
You want make sure that as an account executive, you are giving a recommendation in terms of which one is actually best for them and make sure you do it regardless of what your actual personal objectives are. In other words, in the case where you know that the prospect could be best off with just the basic plan of whatever it is you’re selling, give them that recommendation. Say, “Hey, I think the basic plan is best for you, but as you get more advanced later on, when you get to the point of X, Y, Z criteria, you might wanna consider the upgraded plan here because you’ll achieve ABC outcome”.
By doing this, you build some natural trust with your prospect where they actually believe you and you build a new level of rapport that you can leverage later on in the case where you wanna upsell them. But what’s really important is, is that you do actually have that pricing conversation and that you are very deliberate and intentional about being the one to facilitate that conversation and listen to their respective needs.
This is actually gonna be the time when you get a lot of valuable information because oftentimes, prospects will start to reveal some of their buying decision trees, as well as how long it typically takes to close a deal. And that’s super valuable for you as a first or second year sales rep, because that allows you to start forecasting your pipeline more effectively.
If you can forecast exactly which deals you think you’re gonna be coming in the next week or two, then you’re gonna be able to more sustainably work out exactly how much you’re gonna make in commissions in the next month, the next few months, and whether or not your pipeline is in a healthy state.
Mistake #4: They don’t pause in their calls
The next mistake that I often see first year or second year sales reps make is that they don’t just pause in their calls. What I mean by that is they are so focused on getting to the next thing in the conversation that they don’t just wait and let some things sink in. This is what sales reps typically learn with age and experience. But essentially what you’ll notice is that there are certain points in time in your sales conversations, where the best thing you can do is actually just say nothing instead, just stop. And from there, wait for your prospect to react. This can often be really powerful when it comes to digging into some of the benefits that they might realize from your product or service.
Let’s say you’re talking about pricing. Well, it can be really valuable to just take a second and wait for their response as they process through their thoughts on pricing. “Hey, now that we’ve gone over your pricing options, what do you think?” and then just wait. What the amateur sales rep is going to do in that moment is they’re going to think that the prospect not giving them an immediate answer means that they’re immediately losing the deal and they’re gonna desperately try to say something that’s gonna potentially sabotage the deal.
This could look something like, “Hey, this is gonna be $1,500, but if that’s too much for you, then, you know, we can do ABC” and you can see where that sabotage comes in. And instead, this AE could have just said for this service, it’s going to be $1,500. And then they pause. And instead of having to rush into hedging for potential objections and things like that, they just wait for the prospect to actually return the favor in terms of the volume of what they are respectly thinking or feeling at that time.
So definitely work in those pauses. It does take some time and experience. When coaching sales reps in the past, my top recommendation for them was to listen to their calls and try to identify two to three different places where they could have been using pauses more effectively.
Mistake #5: Focus too much on following up
Another mistake that I see a lot of first year and second year AEs make is they focus too much on following up. If you ever have sent an email that just says, just following up, you need to stop sending that it does not add any value to your prospect’s life. It is frankly annoying, and it doesn’t move your deal any closer.
Sure, maybe one in every 10 that you send actually will get a positive response, but there are so many other ways that you can add value to your prospect’s life. For example, you can share an impact study or a case study of somebody similar to them. Or you can sync up with your marketing team and share the latest blog article that your team’s put together that might be valuable to them because it reminds you of something that me was mentioned in the conversation you had.
Bringing in these sorts of points of value, you’re demonstrating that you’re more than just a sales rep. You’re somebody that’s actually on their side working for their cause, working for their benefits. And you actually listen to them when you are on that sort of call with them, learning about what they needed to accomplish from you.
Mistake #6: They don’t focus on discovery
The last mistake that I’d share with you that a lot of first year sales reps make is that they don’t really focus enough on discovery.
In other words, they don’t really dig deeply enough about their respective needs that their prospect needs from them in order to actually see value from their product. The easiest way to dig into discovery is to continue asking why of your respective prospect. So in the case where they said that tracking is important, you might say something like, why is tracking important to you?
And then from there, your prospect might say, well, tracking is important to me because my boss needs me to send this report to him every single Friday. And then from there, you’d say, that’s interesting. Why is it important for you to make sure that your boss gets that report? What is it about that report that’s interesting to him?
And then from there they might say, well, my boss needs this because his boss needs that. And then from there, you’re starting to understand the decision tree and you’re actually understanding what you need to demonstrate to your prospect in order to close the deal.
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