Lately the tech industry has been a bit of funk, at least with Wall Street. But there are some operators that seem to be immune, such as Criteo. The company, which develops software tools to improve the performance of online marketing campaigns, continues to grow at a rapid clip. During the latest quarter, revenues jumped by 36 percent to $401 million and there was also a hefty profit.
It certainly helps that Criteo is targeting a large market and also has a strong focus on product innovation. But the company has something else that’s been critical -- an effective sales organization.
And yes, there are some valuable lessons here for entrepreneurs.
So to this end, I recently had a chance to talk to James Smith, who is the EVP of Americas for Criteo. Before joining last year, he had successful stints at companies like AOL, Warner Brothers and Verve Mobile. During his career, he has been able to snag clients like Kohl’s, Nordstrom, P&G, Macy’s Best Buy, H&M, Mercedes-Benz, AT&T, Hallmark, Wells Fargo and Target.
OK so what does he recommend when putting together a sales presentation?
“You need to state up front about the value proposition for the customer,” said James. “What’s in it for them? For my company, the value proposition is how our technology can drive incremental sales.”
From there, the sales presentation is really a story -- with a beginning, middle and end. “A good approach is to be provocative,” said James. “This could be about threats of disruption in an industry, such as what’s happening with Uber. This can get the attention of your audience. You can then show how you can be a partner.”
Interestingly enough, James says success is when you can gin up a conversation. “If you are getting questions and comments,” he said, “this is a very good sign. It’s even better if you can just turn off the presentation and engage with the customer.”
But to pull this off, James believes in lots of preparation -- as the pitch needs to be tailored specifically to the needs of the customer. What’s more, he is a big believer in teamwork. “We will have the input of not just the sales people but also those from product development, technical people and marketing,” he said.
Oh, and the team will be at the presentation as well. “I consider that the traditional sales model is outmoded,” said James. “It’s no longer about having one or two sales people making a pitch. Let’s face it, customers don’t want to be sold. Instead, they want partners who can provide solutions.”
Yet there is something that does not change: You need to keep up the momentum to get to a close. But with James, it’s more of a collaborative approach. “The best sales people ask questions,” he said. “You may want to ask: What can I do next? What other information can I provide? Who is the best one to talk to?”
No doubt, this can take time. But, when it comes to building a solid company like Criteo, the key is about focusing on customized long-term relationships, not just quick hits.