Now that you’re an Account Executive, crushing your quota is even more important. But you can’t just stick to the the same playbook and old sales strategies that worked for you when you were an SDR. As an AE, you have new responsibilities and higher expectations.
The tactics that helped you succeed in the SDR role can still be helpful. At the same time, you should develop a new toolbox that help you crush it as an AE. Use these sales strategies:
1) Work with your SDRs to establish an SLA for handing off qualified leads.
Some AEs are irritated by SDRs who hand off leads that aren’t yet ready. But if you’re in this situation, the proper response isn’t to blame the SDR. Instead, you need to rethink the way you’re coaching SDRs in the sales process and formulating their sales strategies.
Spend time coaching SDRs on how to identify leads that are ready for hand-off, and make sure they understand the hand-off process (which can oftentimes be jarring for prospects). In general, it’s best for you to prepare for a call before being handed off a new prospect. The SDR should be involved in the call to create a sense of continuity.
2) Create a system for prospecting and carve out time for it.
Without a steady stream of prospects, your pipeline will dry up very quickly. If you have SDR support, you won’t need to prospect as much, but most AEs regardless of their situation should consistently find sourced opportunities.
Schedule time for prospecting every week, and treat that time like you would an appointment with a customer.
In addition to making the time, work out a system for effective prospecting so that you can optimize that time. Devise an easily repeatable process for researching prospects and contacting stakeholders. Your previous selling experiences and sales strategies can act as a guide, though you may decide to tweak the system as you learn more about selling as an AE.
3) Work on developing personal relationships with customers and prospects.
Customers expect to develop long-term relationships with AEs. To that end, you need to consciously work on your relationship-building skills.
While every relationship will have a unique dynamic, in all cases you’ll need to exercise excellent listening skills. Don’t just talk at prospects and customers. Even when pitching your product, let the other person do most of the talking.
In your conversations with customers, feel free to veer away from business talk when appropriate. Find out about your customer’s family, hobbies, sporting team preferences, and anything else that might help you form a genuine bond that isn’t purely utilitarian. Share things about yourself, too, and make thoughtful gifts at appropriate times.
While maintaining professionalism is important, customers want to feel like their AEs are genuine partners. You can’t establish that kind of relationship if you’re just churning out emails that make demands of the customer without revealing anything about yourself.
4) Learn to cultivate “warm leads.”
When it comes to prospecting as an AE, quality is more important than quantity. If you’re not already prioritizing “warm leads,” it’s time. Warm leads are prospects who have been referred to you, or prospects who have previously engaged with your company in some way, even if it’s been a while.
Outreach to warm leads requires a deft touch. You don’t want to bother a warm lead with a blatant sales pitch. They probably don’t have a pressing need for your product right at this very moment—but that doesn’t mean you can’t turn them into a buyer eventually. Remind these leads that you’re out there by providing genuine value in all communications with them and this is an important aspect in your sales strategies.
5) Familiarize yourself with advanced analytics and sales intelligence tools.
As an SDR you gained some understanding of sales metrics. Now it’s time to take your knowledge to the next level to work out the optimum sales strategies. Make a point of learning how to use sales intelligence tools, and then apply insights from these tools to your work.
It’s helpful to start working with more data sets once you reach the AE level. Become familiar with not just your own data, but the data for the entire sales department. To get really comfortable with data, consider taking a course. You can also seek feedback from data-savvy members of your team.
6) Learn to conduct outbound discovery calls that focuses on the prospect’s needs.
Too many salespeople focus on their own needs during the discovery call. This is a counterproductive strategy that just annoys prospects. A strong first impression is critical for establishing a relationship. When you use that initial contact to serve your own needs, you’re not showing prospects that this is a beneficial relationship for them.
Ask questions that are prospect-centered. If you’re struggling with this, try to observe top AEs in action and learn from them.
7) Stay in close conduct with SDRs on your team.
When you were an SDR, you could focus primarily on your own pipelines. But that’s not true for AEs. You need to remain in close communication with SDRs on your team and provide coaching as necessary.
Schedule regular times to meet with your SDRs and receive an update on the pipeline. Use these meetings as opportunities to provide useful advice so that SDRs are comfortable being honest with you about the state of deals. Frame it as an opportunity for productive collaboration, not performance check-ins.
8) Figure out what motivates you and come up with a system for doing more of it.
Everyone has different motivational triggers. Think hard and honestly about what motivates you. Are you motivated by getting wins and being the best at what you do? Do you prioritize praise from coworkers and supervisors? Or is being able to purchase certain luxury items and experiences more important to you? There is no wrong answer, but once you know what gets you going you can set up a system that uses your triggers to provide a constant source of motivation.
Sales is a grind. You want to make sure that you can get through the harder moments by focusing on something that genuinely motivates you
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