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Sell me your story

Advice for entrepreneurs on how to sell themselves, their employees and their company 24/7

Successful entrepreneurs are always selling – and it’s all about the story, says Lally Rementilla, President and Chief Financial Officer of Quantius, based on her 25 years of leadership experience in the telecom, media and technology sectors.

“Everyone should have the ability to tell their own story,” she advised women gathered for the Power of Selling – Women’s Edition session at the Accelerator for Women in Entrepreneurship (AWE) series at Innovation Factory.

“You need to sell yourself, your employees and your company 24/7.”

Rementilla, an accountant “by training and by nature,” notes the irony in her conviction that the story is key to sales – it’s what captures attention and what people remember, beyond the facts and financials.

Her insight comes from the opportunity to work with “the best sales people and best marketers” during a career of senior finance roles in companies including Nulogy Corporation, Lavalife Corp and Lucent Technologies, leading to her recommendations for sales success:

1. To make something clear to others, FIRST make it clear to yourself.

“Conviction is a word we used a lot at Nulogy,” Rementilla said. “You are your first customer. You have to be convinced and have the conviction to understand the value prop you are making to the market. The most successful sales teams are those that have customer empathy as a key driver of success.”

It’s essential to understand “the customer journey and be able to articulate what the customer pain points are, and how you’re going to be solving that for the customer.

“Map out your customer journey and put yourselves in their shoes. What is the convincing point about what you do?”

2. You will need to touch your customer 7-10 times in order to sell.

Many customer touchpoints are required to make a sale, so it’s important to know who your customers are and how long your sales cycle is, and then double it, she advised.

As you map out touchpoints, consider how to get warm referrals. Who are the key centers of influence that can make the right referrals?

“Warm introductions will increase your hit rate to 50-70%,” she noted. “Get out there. Go out to a lot of networking events or customer conferences where would see a lot of contacts.

“When I go to conferences, I never really expect to make a sale,” she said. “I always look for one milestone – to get a meeting, for prospect to know who I am and what we do, and to get sense of initial interest.”

An email newsletter “about the journey that we have a Quantius” is another tactic that Rementilla uses to stay in front of institutional and high net worth investors every month.

“A newsletter increases your chances of getting those touchpoints – you can get your seven to 10 touchpoints done over the course of 12 months because you’re there in their inbox every month … There is a very high correlation between open rates and engagement. You’re always striving for the next meeting, the next meeting, the next meeting.

“When you’re sharing your story and what’s happening to your business, it’s a more engaging way that sets you up apart from the crowd.”

But consistency is key, she noted. Create a schedule and stick to it.

3. Learn to tell stories through numbers.

“When you’re willing to go out and work on your customer’s business case, you’re also able to establish a rapport,” Rementilla said. “At the end of day, selling is helping a customer solve a business problem.” At Lucent, she was involved in helping a customer develop a financial model to see the outcomes of a purchase from a financial perspective, “so [the customer] could raise the money to buy our equipment. Eventually we landed a $55-million deal.”

Ask yourself: “What are the things I could do in order to help my customer make that financial decision? How can this [sale] help the customer increase revenues or decrease costs, or increase customer satisfaction? How do you convince them you can be a good business partner?”

4. Seek to be on a level playing field … know your sports and fathers with daughters.

Female entrepreneurs often work in male-dominated industries, Rementilla noted. “It’s a reality we need to face.”

To build that network and strong relationships, she turned to a strategy of keeping up to date on sports, and eventually established a daily newsletter – The Gal’s got Game – to help other women do the same. “Sports is a natural topic. The CEO of Fortune 100 company and the person in mailroom can always bond through sports. It’s one way we can galvanize people.”

Another tip is to “gravitate towards and really understand who are the fathers and the fathers with daughters. Men with daughters run more socially responsible organizations” and show more support for women in business, she stated.

5. The best way to finance your company is through your customer.

Look at importance of selling and getting first revenue milestone, Rementilla stressed. “The first dollar is great because gives you an idea how your going to make money.” You’ll get traction and can reinvest those funds into the next product.

6. Be mindful of the border. Learn how to sell on both sides.

Selling in the United States and in Canada is very different, she cautioned. You’ll want to customize your pitch and manage expectations for how you’re going to manage each market.

In the much larger U.S. market, you have a 10 per cent chance of getting a meeting, “but once you do there’s a 90 per cent chance the customer will buy. In Canada, everyone takes a meeting, but you have a 10 per cent chance of making a sale. You have to expect these dynamics. As Canadians, we tend to be polite and accommodate everyone. You have to be prepared to understand who the tire kickers are.”

In Canada, there’s also the “long Canadian maybe” in response to a proposal. Be aware of being strung along, as your time is valuable. “You have to be mindful of which 7-10 touchpoints you are pursuing. Don’t waste too much time following up with certain customers.”

On the other hand, Rementilla has found that Americans are fast and direct – and if they say no, they’ll provide an explanation. “I encourage you to ask why and ask when: What are the milestones I need to hit, so you can say yes?”

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