Welcome to the Secret Sauce, a series by the Crystal team where we have deep-dive conversations with fast-rising sales leaders to learn about the most unique, potent ingredient to their success.
Alex Hanbury is a sales leader at Drift, having sold more than anyone in company history (it took us a while to pull that statistic out of him), which helps over 50,000 businesses engage with the right customers and accelerate revenue. Alex was employee #37 at the company (now over 600 employees) and was recently promoted to a leadership position building the sales mid-market and growth teams for Drift’s London location.
Rising quickly through the ranks, setting new records, and thriving at a rapidly-growing SaaS company is no easy task, so we wanted to know his secret sauce…
“Getting someone to say ‘I want your product’ is just the beginning. That is when the relationship intensifies...After that, you must partner together with a shared mission moving forward to make it a reality.”
With his experience as a top sales performer for companies such as Hubspot and his current role, he has mastered the art of building authentic relationships with his clients and higher conversion rates with his prospects.
Alex compares the sales motion to a marathon. Many reps focus on the first half–the outreach, demo, negotiation, education– but lose steam in the second half–aligning internal stakeholders, getting approvals, moving paperwork along, etc. There’s a good reason for that: The first half is exciting and opportunistic, while the second half often feels like a grind, with crucial but more mundane hard work.
The “Deal Marathon”
Alex sees opportunities in the grind, so he puts a heavy focus on the second half of the marathon, and results speak for themselves.
“I have built relationships with some clients to the point where we text each other regularly, and it has nothing to do with business. They just became my friends. Most of that happened in the long, slow parts of the sales cycle where we had to spend a lot of time working together to bring it across the finish line.”
In the second half of the deal cycle, Alex views himself as a “close consultant” brought in to help solve a specific problem and get internal buy-in to make a change.He recommends going through the customer’s buying motion and establishing their process while suggesting things you’ve done in the past that you can then build into the motion. It’s a mindset that he has internalized as his own personal framework for building long-term client relationships.
Sometimes, reps don’t fully understand just how many steps there are between a “yes” and getting the contract signed. After that initial yes, you’re barely halfway through the race. Maintaining velocity here is crucial – as champions prioritize a million other things, sales reps must keep the momentum going.
Alex’s recommendations for keeping the momentum going throughout the sales motion marathon:
- Identify their problem with their current state that is preventing them from achieving their goals, identify your solution as their future state, and get them to believe in it.
- Keep the value at the top of their mind, driving urgency.
- Build business cases that they believe in/they provided input on and/or created with you
- Provide fresh, new content to equip your champion.
- Recommend events you have going on that they might find valuable.
- Provide any other resources to remind stakeholders of the problem they are trying to solve and what they are missing out on if they delay.
Roadblocks to be aware of:
- Internal validation: Proving (in as many ways as possible) that moving forward is the right decision.
- Coordination: Bringing multiple stakeholders in: sales leaders, marketing leaders, etc., and making sure everyone is on board.
- Integrations: What other products need to integrate with yours, and who is the person who manages those connections?
- Paperwork: Efficiently processing vendor applications, security questionnaires, legal agreements, and other documents.
The big challenge at this stage is enablement– how reps sell customers on bringing everything to life: onboarding, training, bringing reps up to speed on how to use the solution, etc. Reps must prioritize walking customers through that process, however time-consuming it may be. For this, team selling– bringing in people like customer success and onboarding managers– is most impactful.
If reps focus primarily on the first half of the sales motion, neglecting the importance of the second, then all the work involved is for nothing. Remember, the sales motion is a marathon, and a special emphasis on the second half is where the magic happens and when real connections, friendships, and closed deals are made.