Neal Cross, chief innovation officer of DBS Bank, has underscored the importance of sales skills in fintech startups encompassing all functions including the ability to win clients, hire talent or pitch to a potential investor.
“Nine out of 10 fintechs that talk to me fail within 5 minutes and I can’t work with them,” Cross observed when speaking on the ‘The art and science of sales’, at a fintech event organised at community workspace LATTICE80.
Highlighting the need for entrepreneurs to develop and refine their sales skills in dealing with corporates, he said: “If you can’t sell your product, all you’ve done is built software for yourself. To succeed you need to be able to sell your product.”
He observed, “the single most important thing that you sell is yourself. Companies don’t buy from companies. People buy from people.”
“Across the spectrum, company credibility is a critical factor in order to “sell solutions to large corporates,” he added.
According to him, SMEs (small & medium enterprises) and startups need to establish appropriate sales processes, something especially pertinent for B2B sales.
Within the technology sector, given that new software always emerges despite being thoroughly checked, it is imperative corporate clients can trust their vendor to stand by them and troubleshoot any problems that come up. He, therefore, was of the view that relational skills, among a suite of sales skills were needed to built trust.
Once this foundation of trust has been established, businesses can commence with their product sales pitch, Cross added.
Know the ground
The DBS chief innovation officer was of the view that for fintech startups selling to organisations, they needed to sell their clients a product aligned with their clients’ vision. And achieving this requires that entrepreneurs understand the internal mechanisms of that organisation, as well as their relevant industry and corporate ecosystem. Salespeople need the ability to manage multi-level, multifunctional relationships, as well understand relational and business dynamics. This is reflected in the contemporary sales process, he explained.
And achieving this requires that entrepreneurs understand the internal mechanisms of that organisation, as well as their relevant industry and corporate ecosystem. Salespeople need the ability to manage multi-level, multifunctional relationships, as well understand relational and business dynamics. This is reflected in the contemporary sales process, he explained.
For effective selling, particularly in the B2B segment with its long sales cycle and continuous burning of cash, Cross argued that alternate approaches such as revenue-sharing with channel partners, and securing reference customers who can generate leads.
The most practical elements that he offered as part of the business sales process involves steps such as scheduling meetings with a buffer time of at least two weeks; entering meetings with a clear agenda; paying attention to the spoken and unspoken, and having case studies prepared.
He further pointed out that solution providers must address the core issue of worry by the corporate – can this provider effectively implement and deliver the solution?
As part of following this up, Cross emphasised the need for clarity in action plans after the meeting. With organisations viewing a purchase through the matrix of features, price and risk in implementing the solution, it is also crucial for salespeople to identify the decision makers in a meeting, he said.
Cross said there are three personalities salespeople will encounter in a meeting room – a fox, a blocker and the purchaser (i..e power over the money). Foxs are friendly but waste time and have no power to decide on purchases, while blockers can dislike a salesperon for personal reasons or otherwise have an opposing agenda.
However, Cross noted that even foxes and blockers who many not be decision makers can still generate leads and eventually connect a business to the right decision maker.