David Rudnitsky had no idea so many people were interested in his sales playbook.
He just knew it worked really well. Rudnitsky used these plays to help take salesforce.com from $25 million to more than $5 billion in revenue in his 12-plus years with the company.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff even wrote about this proven playbook in his own book, “Behind the Cloud.”
Then, last month, a Business Insider reporter “leaked” Rudnitsky’s sales secrets in an article titled, “Salesforce’s most successful salesman made tons of money by following this secret playbook.”
The thing went viral, quickly racking up close to 1 million views.
“It took on a life of its own,” Rudnitsky said. “I received an incredible number of emails, texts and LinkedIn messages from people literally all over the world.”
Rudnitsky was kind enough to sit down with us to expand on the ideas in his playbook, so you can use them in your organization to accelerate your sales.
But if you’re scheming to hire him away from us, no dice. Rudnitsky is completely locked in as XANT’s senior vice president of enterprise sales.
1. Think big, have attitude.
Thinking big and demonstrating a winning attitude might be the single most important ingredient in Rudnitsky’s playbook.
Startups, in particular, must exude confidence so your prospects view you as a viable business partner.
Get them intellectually and emotionally invested in your road map. We’re not talking about a product road map. This is the inspirational road map that paints your vision for the future.
To steal a phrase from hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, this road map proves that you are skating to where the puck is going to be, not where it is right now.
“That’s the approach you have to take when you’re a young company fighting for your place in the market,” Rudnitsky said.
Your customers must believe that you can take them on this journey.
Thinking big and having attitude also help you recruit world-class talent. Rudnitsky said he joined XANT because he bought into the vision of the company’s CEO and founder, Dave Elkington.
“Dave sold me on his vision of building the world’s first predictive sales cloud to enable sales teams to connect with buyers in exciting new ways,” Rudnitsky said. “When we sit down with customers, we don’t discuss products. We discuss this vision and journey.”
2. No deal is won or lost alone.
Lone-wolf sales reps who insist on winning multimillion-dollar deals on their own don’t impress Rudnitsky.
He’d much rather see you include as many teammates as possible in the sales cycle.
Every deal has a lot of moving parts. If you try to do it all yourself, you might jeopardize the deal. And that’s actually kind of selfish.
Involving teammates accomplishes two key objectives:
- Mitigates risk.
- Creates opportunities to demonstrate additional value and increase the size of the deal.
“I’ve never closed a significant deal where I’ve not had other people involved,” Rudnitsky said. “A selfish salesperson doesn’t have a very long shelf life in this industry. They are the one-and-done types who fizzle out really fast.”
How can teams of workers who are spread across the country use technology to collaborate on deals remotely?
Rudnitsky recommends using the Salesforce platform and Chatter for collaboration. This will allow your teams to collaborate from anywhere in the world and from any device.
He also said web conferencing software, like GoToMeeting or WebEx, is essential because it helps teammates feel connected, no matter where they happen to be geographically.
3. Connect the dots. Never cold call — always call with a plan.
In today’s business environment, sales teams must take advantage of mobile and social.
It’s inexcusable for a sales rep not to do the right research before a sales call.
Connect the dots. Reach out to existing contacts and find connections before engaging with a prospect.
Scour your LinkedIn connections. With a little creativity, you can almost always find a way to warm things up.
Rudnitsky recalls a time when he and Jim Steele closed a big deal after lining up a meeting with a receptive CEO. The only reason the CEO agreed to talk to them was because they first reached out to one of their customers, who happened to sit on the CEO’s board.
That warm introduction was solid gold.
But it didn’t just smack them in the face. It required research and planning.
Sadly, only about 30% of sales reps do this effectively, Rudnitsky estimates.
“The hardest part is figuring out the angles,” he said. “You have to be creative and figure out where the connection is, so you don’t have to make a pure cold call.”
How can technology facilitate this research for a hybrid field/inside sales rep?
In addition to using LinkedIn, Rudnitsky recommends the following methods:
- Search Facebook
- Examine company websites
- Don’t overlook board members and advisors
- Read annual reports
- Study 10-K filings
- Scan testimonials to identify a company’s best customers
- Note the company’s biggest suppliers
“It drives me crazy when a rep gets on the phone without finding a connection first,” Rudnitsky said. “And with all of the publicly available information, there’s absolutely no reason to make this mistake.”
4. Focus on ‘why not’ — why might this deal not close.
Rudnitsky says it’s easy to spew out a million reasons why a prospect will choose you. But you should build your strategy around why they won’t.
Where are the red flags? Contemplate the worst-case scenario.
For example, maybe you sell predictive sales technology, but the company that’s evaluating your solution has never deployed anything predictive.
Why do you think they’ll use predictive now?
A “why not” could be as simple as, “They’ve never done business with us before.”
You can plan strategies to pre-emptively tackle these concerns as long as you consider them upfront.
If you’re diligent about tracking won-losses, you will know why you’re losing deals. Use this information to protect yourself in future deals.
A hybrid field/inside sales team that has embraced technology can find valuable patterns in the data.
For example, you might notice from your won-lost reports that a high number of deals get delayed at the end of the sales cycle. After investigating, it might be obvious that a security review by the customer was required before signing but was unaddressed during the sales cycle.
By proactively introducing your prospects to your security model in the beginning of the sales cycle, you can head off this objection before it arises.
Or maybe when you’re selling into a particular industry, the sales cycle takes longer.
By arming yourself with the right data, you can plan and prepare for any obstacle.
5. Always take the deal off the table.
Sales reps often jeopardize a deal by trying to add more seats or services.
Close it. You can always ask for more later. Over-negotiation kills deals all the time.
What if your executive sponsor receives a promotion or switches to a new division or company before the contract is signed?
That could sabotage months of hard work.
When a deal’s ready to close, you better close it. Because that means a budget has been approved.
If you wait, you often lose.
You still must have the confidence to ask for more after they’ve committed to use you.
Rudnitsky likes to ask the question, “What about … ?”
What about sales forecasting? Are your sales forecasts as accurate and actionable as you’d like them to be?
That simple question can open the door to the customer buying a little bit more – or a lot more.
6. Get your face in the place.
Rudnitsky still likes to meet with prospects in person when possible.
When you walk the halls, you learn more about your prospect’s business than you can from any research. You also build relationships you can leverage.
“The ultimate compliment is when somebody tells you that you know their business better than they do,” Rudnitsky said.
Walking the halls gives you an insane level of credibility. You start to earn the right to do business with them.
In a hybrid field/inside sales model, you need to virtually walk the halls. Connect the dots with multiple people in the organization, early and often.
Ask your contacts, “Who else might influence this decision?”
If you only communicate with one person, that could cost you the deal.
You must win their confidence so they feel comfortable introducing you to the other stakeholders.
“I will respect the fact that you’re the decision maker and keep you in the loop the whole time. But we’ve found that it works out better for everyone when we include all stakeholders in the conversation.”
If you just call a bunch of different people and don’t keep the point person in the loop, that’s when the prospect will get upset.
Many prospects actually want your help navigating their own company. They will thank you for bridging the gap with their security team, for instance.
You can earn their trust by helping them do a difficult part of their jobs.
7. Fun facts build instant credibility.
Information is power. Use fun facts to develop credibility and help you win the deal.
This goes way beyond just throwing up a logo on a slide. It requires in-depth knowledge of your territory and customers.
Share facts like these with prospects:
- Who you competed with on a particular deal
- Why you won
- The business problem you solved
- Results and metrics after the customer implemented your solution
That’s a lot of information to collect, and it highlights the fact that selling is a team sport.
Your sales reps must work closely with your customer success and account management groups to ensure that results are measured and reported.
8. Be proactive on all paperwork.
Many times, sales reps get so caught up doing what they need to do to move a deal forward that they neglect the basic blocking and tackling. That’s when things like paperwork, terms and order forms slip through the cracks.
Details like paperwork can stall deals for months, sometimes extending the sales cycle unnecessarily.
“Not only is it prudent to stay on top of paperwork because it saves you time in the sales cycle; it also qualifies the opportunity better,” Rudnitsky said.
If the customer is willing to take the time to get procurement or legal to review your paperwork, it’s a pretty strong buying signal.
“Paperwork is a big step,” he said. “You have to earn your way to asking them to review your paperwork.”
9. Always get quid pro quo in negotiations.
There’s an art to knowing when to ask for something in return when a customer requests a concession.
Approve the easy asks as quickly as possible to build goodwill.
Save quid pro quo for the bigger requests.
For example, if your customer insists on a big concession, you might ask for permission to announce the deal in the press. That could generate a lot of publicity and help you win other big deals.
It’s crucial to let the customer know upfront what’s important to you. Maintain transparency in the sales cycle and clearly identify anything that is not negotiable.
For example, anything that affects your ability to recognize revenue will certainly be off the table.
10. Share best practices: emails, proposals, etc.
Sales leaders should always be on the lookout for stellar work among their reps.
“If you see something that’s really compelling, it’s up to you, the sales leader, to broadcast it,” Rudnitsky said.
If one person finds a sales presentation that works, it would be silly not to share that with the rest of the team.
At XANT, we use Salesforce Chatter to share best practices and collaborate on deals. Find a platform that meets your needs.
11. Go after game changers
Rudnitsky highlighted two types of game-changing deals:
- A deal so large that it boosts the value or profitability of your company.
- A deal that opens the door for future deals. For example, this could be the first deal you do in a particular industry or vertical.
“These game-changing deals separate the great reps from the good reps,” Rudnitsky said. “They are not easy to get. They take a long time and a lot of planning. Not everybody gets a game-changer, but when you do, it’s more than worth all the hard work it took to make it happen.”
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