Tommy Crawford isn’t your “average sales guy”. He’s spent his career crafting the art of persuasion beginning at Duke Energy, where he took his first sales gig and eventually worked up to leading the company’s consumer and product marketing efforts. When that “internet thing” started to get popular, Tommy took a chance on technology and the rest, as they say, is history. He has worked with some of the world’s largest brands and led his teams to new levels of success. A pioneer of the online measurement, data and research space, Tommy takes the art of persuasion to a whole new level.
Talentedly: What has been the most valuable skill in selling yourself as a professional?
Tommy Crawford: Relationship building, hands down. Some people collect cars or stamps (remember those?); I collect people. I have a genuine interest in others, and investing in those relationships is just naturally who I am. But I learned a long time ago that by taking an interest in others and finding ways to help them succeed, I ended up outpacing my own goals and expectations. This was true when I was a sales rep, and it was even more true when I became a leader.
TLY: What is the most memorable sales tactic you’ve seen, for better or for worse?
TC: Creating a Win-Win solution is the best I’ve seen. As an overarching strategy, I live by the rule that you cannot succeed unless you create Win-Win solutions. I believe that if someone in the deal loses, then eventually everyone will lose. For example, a few years ago, I was helping with a negotiation on an international contract. The deal had been in play for nearly a year and wasn’t moving. I was called in to help move things along and get it closed. I joined a conference call with the client and his procurement director. The director pointedly told us we had to drop our price by 33 percent. I did not hesitate, I explained that at that price, we would be losing money and no matter how much we valued them as a client, we were prepared to walk away from the table if that was the final offer. We eventually came to a mutual agreement on the deal terms, giving the client the deliverable they wanted and allowing us to earn a fair price. To this day, I refuse to take a deal that is not a Win-Win, even if it means I walk away with nothing. In the end, it is better than resenting the client and the deal.
TLY: As a salesperson, you must always be trying to convince and persuade. What’s the secret sauce to be an Influencer?
TC: It is all about trust. I believe in being honest about who you are and what you are there to do. Selling is hard work and it isn’t about gimmicks or tricks, but about being a partner and providing solutions for your clients. I approach every opportunity as a way to help my client solve a problem, fill a gap, or to help them meet their goals. I don’t pretend to have all the answers and I never over sell my company’s capabilities; that is a recipe for failure. Ultimately, my clients and team trust me because they know they can count on me to do what I say I will do.
TLY: You have spent a lot of your career selling information and data. Data is the new black, with everyone clamoring for more data, more insights, more context. What’s the hardest part about selling “data”?
TC: Getting clients to focus on what is important is tough. Today, data is everywhere, and many clients think more is better … but often times more is just more. Yes, you can find tons of information online and you can mine your own databases and servers. This gives you robust amounts of data to analyze but it usually includes a lot of noise or unnecessary results. A good information and data partner can deliver tools as well as expertise in using those tools but it can be hard to help the client see they need both.
TLY: How has the art of selling transformed throughout your time in the industry?
TC: Solution sales has shifted from just selling to your target buyer to now include their procurement and sourcing team. Today, you are just as likely to get a call from someone in procurement as you are from your actual end user. When that happens, understanding how the decision will be made becomes really important because according to a recent Harvard Business Review article, 60% of purchasing decisions are made before a sales rep is ever engaged to “help” a customer with their solution. It is no longer enough to know how your solutions fills their need, that is still important but you have to also understand the decision making process, down to the role procurement and others will play in the final decision.
(This content was originally posted at Talentedly.)
Lydia Loizides is serial entrepreneur, technology provocateur and relentless challenger of the status quo. She spends her days as Founder & CEO of Talentedly, a technology company on a mission to help people grow from good to great at work (technology + people = amazing results). The rest of her waking moments are spent running, reading, learning, and trying to prove that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42. You can follow Lydia @lydiaNYC @GetTalentedly, on LinkedIn and the Huffington Post.