We’ve been on a roll with our People > Process articles lately! Once the word got out that we were in search of rockstar sales professionals and leaders to highlight in our series, we’ve had the privilege of speaking with many incredibly talented individuals. A few of our latest conversations have included the likes of Russell Van Leuven, Sr. Director of Sales at DiscoverOrg, Ally Brettnacher, Senior Account Executive at Sigstr, and Simon Mutlu, Large Enterprise Accounts at Slack. Throughout the interviews, we’ve consistently been blown away by the similarities that many of these sales professionals possess—but also by their unique stories and advice for how they consistently earn respect and trust from their clients and prospects.
We continue along in our People > Processes series with our eighth article featuring Danielle Pata, Account Executive, Commercial Sales at Marketo, a world leader in marketing automation software. Believe it or not, Danielle had zero intentions of landing a career in enterprise technology sales (or sales at all, for that matter). She went to school for dance and later added on a second major of psychology with her eyes set on becoming a professional dancer. But as fate would have it, she needed a way to make ends meet, which is when she dipped her toes into the tech startup scene. She first started as an intern, then moved to a BDR role, then finally a customer success role. Now, 4 years later, she’s an account executive and neck deep in the tech scene with no plans of leaving.
Thanks to Danielle’s non-sales background, she has a unique approach to building prospect relationships: one that’s fun and very down to earth. This human approach has allowed her to consistently attain quota, upsell more than 2x of her target, and attain personal goals, like read a new sales book every quarter and visit more national parks.
Play the Role of a Detective
Danielle’s Director often refers to her as a detective, which she of course takes as a huge compliment. Danielle is always eager to learn more, dig deeper, and uncover the root of the problem or opportunity for her prospects. She believes that on the first call, a prospect should talk 90% of the time. While it can be hard to get a new contact to open up during the first few interactions, she relies on some classic open-ended questions that she can lean into and use as a jumping off point:
- Tell me about the customer lifecycle today. Once a lead comes in, what happens to it?
- How might your team use this feature in your day to day?
- How does this process or solution compare with what you’re doing today?
- How does this solution compare to other vendors that you’ve seen?
It requires some balance to stay credible, but Danielle likes to insert a few personal questions during each conversation in order to learn about her contacts on the other end of the call so she can treat them like the humans that they are.
Treat Prospects Like Humans— Listen and Use Emotion!
On that note, Danielle often reminds her team that Marketo’s contacts are humans before they are prospects. And generally, as the company sells to marketers, they’re also a lot of fun! Rather than approach her meetings in a buttoned-up fashion which typically makes marketers uncomfortable, Danielle seeks to build true relationships that extend beyond just the deal. For example, one of her current prospect accounts loves to try new breweries and often travels to events, so she sent the team carry-on cocktail kits—not because she was trying to be gimmicky, but because she truly cares about them as people.
She also explained that calls can add an interesting dynamic as the face-to-face aspect is lost and it’s hard to read emotion which, to Danielle, is absolutely key to observe. So when Danielle hears her contact make a sound on the other end (like a sigh), she calls it out and asks them what they’re thinking. She’s found that this human approach breaks down barriers and helps her prospects open up to her. In fact, many of her prospects have her cell phone number and will text or call her about questions after normal hours. She loves this because the conversation is more authentic and, once the end of the sales cycle approaches, it’s not awkward for her to text or call her prospect in return.
Be Honest With Prospects About What They Actually Need
Marketo offers many features and add-ons that aren’t entirely necessary for those just starting out with marketing automation. Rather than try to oversell features, add users, or push services, Danielle takes a very honest approach and helps her prospects map out exactly what they need to be successful at that their current stage. By taking the high road and sacrificing some financial gain in the short term, she consistently attains 2x her target for upsells later on, once her prospects begin to ramp up. Danielle believes that the reason she’s been so successful with this approach has everything to do with the trust and confidence she built with her prospects early on in the sales process.
Danielle’s Advice: Always Set Measurable Business (and Personal) Goals!
As Danielle took an unusual path to arrive at her career in enterprise technology sales, she spent the first several years soaking up whatever information she could about sales—and continues to challenge herself to keep learning and reaching new goals. So naturally, her advice for others, regardless of whether they’ve been in sales for years or are just starting out, is to set audacious goals.
“Always set goals for yourself, both for business and personal. Start by setting the big goals, and then break those into small, achievable daily goals. I stay motivated by reaching my goals—I’ll do anything to hit them,” Danielle said.
For Danielle, her current (non quota-related) goals look like this:
- Read one sales book every quarter (two of her recent favorites include Mastering the Complex Sale and To Sell Is Human)
- Follow sales leaders on social media (@JohnMBarrows @Tiffani_Bova and @Funnelholic)
- Travel to 8 National Parks!
Ready to Learn More?
For more information on best practices of great sales leaders, check out the Costello resources below. If you’d like to see Costello in action, request a personalized demo of our real-time sales playbook software.