Jos van der Meulen is co-owner of Aexus and therefore has over 20 years’ worth of experience in sales. A big part of the job is large account sales and that’s slightly different from smaller accounts. In this interview you’ll get to know the process of large account sales and what Jos’ role is in getting those sales.
What are your responsibilities when it comes to large account sales?
Jos is responsible for training people at Aexus. Jos: “The goal is to get new people to follow certain trajectories at Aexus, because it’s a different way of doing sales than working in a company that just sells software. At Aexus, we work with new technologies and that adds extra factors which you have to keep in mind. Because it’s about new technologies, companies didn’t reserve any budget for those types of technologies, and you have to convince the company to reserve a budget for it. These are the factors that are relevant combined with the general forms of sales. There are certain things that are always important, like, never ‘assume’.
So, there are many factors to keep in mind with the more complex part of the sales process, especially when you have a partner who is at the forefront of a new technology with an extra dimension. You need to define your business cases and also make sure that companies want to adapt to that technology at the moment you reach out, instead of it just being a ‘nice-to-have’.”
What defines large account sales?
Jos: “Aexus are working with many large accounts. The biggest part of the technologies we represent, are in between 40K and 500K per year. That’s what we call large accounts with bigger sales trajectories. It’s important for us to make sure that our sales people are doing the right things. Everyone on our team is able to work with large accounts. Aexus does field sales, so we don’t only do the lead generation, but we realize the first clients in a new market. It concerns technologies that target corporate companies with over 500 employees. So, by definition it’s often a complex sales process.”
What does a large account sales process look like?
Jos: “Like I said, we always train and coach our people for sale of this type of sales. What’s important for the companies we represent (scale-up companies who wants to enter new territories) is that they have to realize it’s a different way of sales. That’s because you are unknown in a market, the technology is unknown and often you don’t have customers in that new territory. So, when it comes to reaching out, you have to keep that in mind. At first you have to make sure that you are very clear about the added value of the solution you are representing. You never start pushing to just sell the product. You have to start the conversation from the pain points of the customer. Take a HR onboarding tool as an example. We start the conversation by saying: ‘Your company has challenges with onboarding people quickly. We’ve developed a technology that helps companies like yours onboard people faster, so you can grow faster’.
We can use a copy-paste strategy in new territories. We usually know there is a certain way of offering solutions that works in the region they are already active in. We copy-paste that strategy to new territories. We notice that it works for similar companies. We try to target the same industries to see if they recognize the same challenges. So we start with the lessons learned of the home industry and we carefully discover how the new territory is responding to that approach.
It’s important to have the people on board who recognize those challenges, and then it’s important to define the exact challenges. That’s where the sales trajectory starts and where you discover the differences between completing it successfully or not being able to do define the exact challenges. In that case you’ll always remain as a ‘nice-to-have’ solution. Because you weren’t able to explain the added value of the solution, the prospect doesn’t see it.
It’s quite hard to define the real challenges and problems that companies are experiencing and that is how Aexus can be of added value to companies who are trying to enter new markets or territories. We don’t only connect new technology companies with businesses who might be interested, but our team members are highly qualified and able to present the new technology the right way. We know that we have to help such companies to gain insight about what the added value is to consider if they are going to implement this. That’s not because that technology turns out to be very state-of-the-art, but at the bottom of the line we point out what the technology brings them.
Knowledge of the market is very important as well. And, you also need to know which parts are important. Do they want to test it (with a Proof of Concept) to see if the technology does what it’s supposed to do in their own environment? Or, is that less important? This also has to do with the technology in terms of whether it is desirable to test this or not.”
How long does such a process take?
Jos: “The majority will take between 4 to 9 months from making the first contact to closing such a process. This concerns the technology parties that we represent. But some processes can also take longer than a year. We partner with a company that offers facial recognition technology. That’s such an innovative and interesting technology, because they can make certain things very efficient. Think about banking apps which use this technology. They want to be sure that their technology is safer than using a card reader to login to the app. It’s very complex and they want to have that completely cleared up, so such a trajectory will take longer than a year.”
Are certain departments involved in large accounts sales that are not involved in smaller accounts?
Jos: “Often there is that extra complexity in which several departments have to be involved and have to say something about it. We always choose the business side. We must convince the business people first. We have to make sure that they want this technology and that they want it right now. Often, we also have to get other departments on board. For example IT must implement it. That’s a department that by definition is hard to convince because they already have a lot on their plate. So, they will say ‘no’ very easily. We don’t approach such a department first, because the chance that they hold off is quite high. They should actually get the command from the business side that it just has to be done.
Other departments that can get involved are units like legal & compliance. The business side may think that it’s very cool, but people from legal & compliance must also think something of it. These are often stakeholders who are involved in the second phase to do qualifications because the business side wants it. So the sales processes always start with the business side.”
Do you ever approach a new industry for Aexus or is Aexus familiar with every industry?
Jos: “It sometimes happens that we have done less for a particular industry. Like Agri-tech. We used to do little with that industry but now we have a number of interesting projects in it. The same goes for the Health Care industry. 5 years ago, we did almost nothing there, but the Health Care industry is now an interesting sector for Aexus.”
Jos: “You have to realize that the first phase is the most complex phase: introducing a technology in a new market where you don’t have any existing customers yet. And that is exactly why Aexus have had this clear focus for over 20 years and have built up the expertise.
In addition, it is important to know that these kind of processes take a long time due to their complexity. So, it is important that you start with the business side from the start. You have to make sure the business side is on board and they see the added value of your technology. And, make sure you get that all out. As an example, we have a technology that ensures that fewer people call the helpdesk because you can also handle this in a different way. That is interesting, because it means that you can organize your customer care team more efficiently. That’s such an outcome, but that is not enough. We always give examples of what this means in practice. Think of it like an onion that you have to peel off the layers, until they cry with happiness. You have to get to that level. And, you only get there if you go further in terms of the questions you ask. So you ask questions like, ‘How many fewer people would you need if you would implement this technology? What is the hourly rate of those people on average? Okay, so if we calculate this, it means that you save so many people and therefore so much money…
Diving into this is important because it increases your chance of success, but also to ensure that companies want to get involved right now instead of staying in the ‘nice-to-have’ quadrant because that’s what you often see between getting something successful and closing a deal. Our strength is to show why companies need it now and why it would be a positive thing to wait no longer. Think of the cost savings or whatever they can get ahead of the competition. It should be clear that they should do it now rather than later.
You also have to map out the sales process very clearly, to prevent the prediction from being wrong. If you get stuck as a ‘nice-to-have’, it’s hard to make accurate predictions. And that is so important for the technology companies, because they are in a growth phase and predictions are essential for investors. They can’t afford to say they’re doing a million this year and it turns out to be 300k because they ended up getting it wrong. So, forecasting is often essential for the partners Aexus works with.”
If you’d like to find out more about this, get in touch. We’re always more than happy to jump on a call.