When I joined the The Next Web about a year ago, I quickly became part of both the Sales and Events team – working directly with our former Sr. Business Development Director, Anne van Ommeren. Our goal was to secure as many possible partners for the upcoming TNW Conferences.
I had some experience coming in, having worked in similar roles at the Nederlandse Energie Maatschappij, Caag Software and Lioness Paw Vodka, but I quickly realized there was a lot to learn at TNW. Anne had a total of seven TNW Conferences under her belt and carried responsibility for some of the biggest deals and accounts of the company. She was the right person to learn from.
What motivated me was the fact that we were working with some of the biggest companies in the tech industry e.g. Google, Microsoft, PayPal, IBM and to know that one day I could be responsible for some of these accounts and deals.
The first step was to learn everything there was to know about how we as TNW can help companies realize their marketing goals. This involved a lot of reading, talking to colleagues and joining calls with (potential) clients.
What makes it intriguing, but also interesting to work here is that The Next Web is much more than a tech news publisher or tech conference. Co-founders Boris and Patrick are entrepreneurs and are constantly working on new ideas and startups, and they highly encourage our own side projects. This means we have a lot of freedom to come up with custom concepts and fulfill a consulting role when talking to other companies about new partnerships.
I have summarized some of my key learnings and recommended sales tools that will come in handy.
First Things First: Leads!
Before you can start with sales, you need a list of companies you want to reach out to. My first lesson was realizing how important it is to have a clear lead qualification model. By defining a clear list with criteria to qualify leads, you will avoid awkward situations and losing valuable time.
Some companies have the luxury of having a marketing team deliver their leads, but for TNW, most startups and other lean companies this is not the case.
A platform that’s extremely relevant for me while qualifying leads is Index.co. Index lets me know about everything happening in tech, from new trending startups, to investment rounds and only the most relevant curated tech news. The advanced search and filter options allow me to find the companies relevant for me and add them to my timeline.
Listen. Listen. Listen. Are you listening?
After just a few weeks, I started reaching out to companies in the tech industry and scheduling calls. I was completely focused on my (sales) pitch and memorizing the facts about the conference and what we have to offer, which didn’t give them a whole lot of time to actually explain what they were interested in.
One of the biggest lessons was to listen and gather as much information as possible during a call, this requires asking a lot of (relevant) questions. I believe in the saying “practice makes perfect” this is especially true for doing sales.
The more you do, the better you will get at it.
Look Beyond The Job Title: Find The Right Person
Along the way I was experimenting with several sales techniques and tools. One that is very useful when doing outreach to new business, is Sell Hack. This is a browser extension to help you build targeted lists so you can send cold emails to your leads.
The third lesson I learned in order to be successful at sales is to reach out to the right person. It might sound like common sense, but with all the creative job titles nowadays it can get tricky.
In my case the goal was always to get in touch with a decision maker for marketing related matters e.g. CMO, VP Marketing, Director of Marketing, Marketing Manager etc. it also depends on the purpose of your outreach. Before you get in touch with a potential client you already want to visualize how you can work together and use this in your emails. By doing this you will have a more targeted approach..
You should always be looking for something that will trigger a specific person or role within a company. I use Linkedin Sales Navigator, which is part of Linkedin’s premium sales package, to find the right people. It allows you to do advanced searches with the lead builder, send direct message through InMail and best of all it recommends leads based on preferences you choose.
Keep track of everything, EVERYTHING!
Lesson number four: it’s important for sales is to log everything you do in Customer Relationship Management system (CRM). We use Salesforce, which is the world’s leading SaaS company, to store all contact information, activity, opportunities and reports.
Another highly recommended tool to smoothen your sales workflow is Cirrus Insight, which integrates your Inbox with Salesforce. Some of its key features are email tracking, book meetings and follow up reminders. By logging all activity with a client, the whole team has a complete overview of what’s happening.
It also makes the process to hand over a client to a colleague much easier. The key is to be consistent and log everything – no excuses!
Be Patient, It’s Not Personal
This brings us to my final lesson: following up! Don’t get discouraged by not receiving replies and don’t take it personal. Understand that people have busy schedules and often deal with full inboxes, your email might not directly be a priority.
I see it as a numbers game and like to compare it with sports. The more people you reach out to, the more replies you will eventually receive. Or as Johan Cruijff said: “To score, you have to shoot.”
These are just a few of the many insights I’ve gained so far. After just one year, I’m now the one responsible for some of the biggest deals and accounts of TNW. I am very grateful for the opportunity TNW has provided to develop myself as a professional. I am proud to be part of this team.
This is a #TNWLife article, a look into life and work at The Next Web.