By Laura Kane, Head of Business Development and Sales, NA Large Enterprise, PayPal

When speaking with one of the best Sales Strategists I know, he reminded me of the key tenet of selling; one that has not changed, regardless of increased digitization. The key to strategic selling may sound like a cliché to sales rep with more than a week’s experience, but for many it’s a reminder of where the focus has to be: your customer.

Recent research tells us that only 15% of executives believe that their meetings with salespeople are valuable and live up to their expectations. Can you definitively state that you’re not part of the offending 85%?

Every seller (as well as the associated support functions like marketing and solution architects) has to keep at front of mind the ultimate business goal: increasing shareholder value. Whether a privately held or publicly listed company, or even in the public sector, there will be one or more parties to which the leaders of the business must show care of duty. This is why no matter what you are selling – hardware, software, services, supplies – the deliverable is what that product means in terms of business outcomes.

If you, as the sales rep, can’t connect your offering to the operational KPIs of your buyer (e.g. market share, productivity, or customer retention), and the business value (e.g. ROI, growth or brand), you are leaving to chance their ability to build the internal business case for you. The closer you can get to proving value, the easier you make it for them to buy from you. And the more you can quantify that value for all the decision makers in the buying group, the greater the likelihood that you will overcome your primary competitor – the status quo. Nothing compels a customer to act on a proposal like a sales rep who is willing to stand by their offering with a commitment to deliver quantifiable value to a buyer and their boss.

The challenge for many sellers is that they fail to prepare. Customer discovery does get easier with time and practice, yet in the face of a weekly sales forecast meeting, many reps forget its importance, and instead focus on their products rather than the customer. And since customers are no longer willing to spend their time educating sellers, the approach has to be prepare, assume, then verify – not ask, “What keeps you awake at night?”

You have to remember that you have three distinct sales that you have to win: first; get the customer to agree to meet. This will happen if your initial pitch (whether it be an introductory email, marketing brochure or outbound phone call) is aligned at one of the current priorities for the individual, and they’re willing to risk investing time to hear more from you. This is why you can’t have just one pitch; even if you have only one product to sell, you need a number of ways to hook that into the business value.

Your second sale is the one where you are fighting against the status quo. Now that the customer has agreed to listen to your pitch, you have to prove that the perceived risk of changing from their current situation to one where they take on whatever you have proposed. Here in particular, tailoring must be applied: in order for it to resonate, your message must be adapted for their vertical, their role within their organization, their pain points, and their personality – and all of that must be aligned with where they are on the buying cycle.

Assuming you’ve been successful at the first two sales, the third and final sale is for you to convince them that not only should they do something (as you did in the second sale), you now have to convince them to do it with you. If you’ve done your job well, you have not only demonstrated the value of your suggestion, but proven that you are best placed to deliver that value to them…thanks to your knowledge of their business, your experience in their space, and your offering – and how’s that differentiated from your direct competitors and alternative solutions.

Being in sales is one of the more challenging jobs on the planet today – but therein lies the opportunity. If you can show your customers that you can provide value to their business – if you can be part of the 15% – then you will stand out from the maelstrom of reps, and be best placed to succeed for the rest of your days, no matter what you’re selling.

– Conversation between Laura Kane, PayPal and Andy Jaeger, Quadmark

As a reformed payments Attorney, Laura now heads up Sales and Market Expansion for PayPal’s Large Enterprise Division across a multitude of industries. Laura has been with PayPal since 2014. Before joining PayPal, Laura was Vice President of Global Corporate Payments at American Express. Prior to joining American Express, Laura was Vice President of Business Development for GE Capital, where she led the growth of GE’s private label credit portfolio for over 7 years. Laura practiced payments law for 15 years working for large national law firms and banking trade associations. Once she discovered her passion for sales, she made the move and never looked back.