What does an equitable sales process look like?

Photo by  Mike Petrucci

Photo by Mike Petrucci


What does an equitable sales process look like?

Written by Simon Galperin for GroundSource.

In 2017, I was leading growth for an international marketing tech company and had very ambitious goals. I had landed a meeting with my dream customer and pitched. And then I followed up. And then I followed up again. And again. Until I got this response (paraphrased):

You’re not respecting me or my time. I told you I’d reach back out. I’m interested in your product but you’re turning me off.

Needless to say, I never heard from them again. And I felt terrible. Like, god awful. (I still do if you’re reading this!) And not because I lost a sales opportunity but because I was setting aside my values to reach goals that weren’t even mine and ruining my relationships in the process.

At GroundSource, I get to think critically about what equitable relationships look like in all of our work, including sales. Coincidentally, that self inquiry is what a lot of journalists are going through as they face the prospect of directly asking their communities for financial support more and more. Here’s how we’re thinking about an equitable sales process.

Build alignment

We’re using the word “sales” because it’s common industry parlance but what we really mean is “alignment.” Does the work of this individual or organization align with ours? Can the technology we provide equip them? Can the service we offer support them? We look for BANT:

  • Budget — do they have the resources they need, financial or otherwise?

  • Authority — are they empowered within their organization or community to do this work?

  • Need — do they need what we can provide and do they know what they’ll do with it?

  • Timeline — when can we begin working together?

And because we’re seeking alignment instead of a sale at all costs, we try to guide unqualified customers towards qualification in the content we produce and in our initial consultations with them.

We want everyone that spends time with us to think critically about how they’re listening to their community and why. This way they can understand what they need to connect with and serve them. The way we see it, the more organizations that are qualified to make a decision about whether or not they need GroundSource, the better off the whole ecosystem.

Ask for what you need

Asking for what you need is a fundamental part of participating in an equitable process. That’s why we’ve recently adopted a new pricing model that reflects not just what we need to get by, but what we need to succeed. It’s unfair to our customers if we hamstring ourselves because we’re uncomfortable asking for what we need to serve them better.

We ask our customers to tell us what they need, so the least we can do is hold ourselves to the same standard. (And it’s best practice to continually review your pricing as your business, products, and services evolve.) But it’s not just about what we need.

Open up to co-creation

We exist in an ecosystem. We create and are created by the world around us. And we look for opportunities for co-creation because those kinds of bonds make the ecosystem stronger. We lead with connection, trying to understand our peers’ needs to understand how we can work together to help meet them.

So we offer need-based discounts, especially to organizations serving underserved communities. We build custom integrations and platform enhancements by request. And our sales process often leads to partners, not just customers. That’s because sometimes all an organization needs is tools and coaching. And sometimes they need someone to help them push the boundaries of what’s possible.

Equitable sales in practice

The above are general observations and each business will practice equitable sales differently. But here are a few of the practical ways GroundSource seeks to do so.

  1. Make your first call a discovery call. It’s about listening to one another first, not selling something.

  2. Limit your follow up emails. We limit our follow up emails to two.

  3. Know who you’re speaking with. Don’t email or call without having some background on the person and organization.

  4. Communicate about the process. Tell people what to expect.

  5. Don’t be defensive. Some people might not pick up what you’re putting down and that’s okay. Seek to understand where there is a lapse in communication.

A disclaimer

My final thought on this is a disclaimer. Everything I’ve written above does not define an equitable sales process. Instead, it is a set of practices that we believe bend toward equity in a traditionally inequitable process.

They are not enough. They can be greatly improved and elaborated upon. And we should be held accountable to those ever evolving standards.

GroundSource is here to help you engage your community equitably.