• Selling exclusively to Human Resources
  • Working with channel partners

When I joined, GuideSpark was a Series B company backed by Storm Ventures that had experienced tremendous growth over the prior 12 months. I joined as a Small/Medium Business (SMB) rep (1-3200 employees) and after five months of outstanding performance was promoted to Major Accounts (3201-10,000 employees).

Selling to Human Resources

At GuideSpark I learned how to sell exclusively to Human Resource (HR) departments. Selling successfully to HR leaders is different from selling to other business units. Generally speaking, HR is not keen to speak to salespeople, to learn about new products and to negotiate contracts. In fact, they’re pretty much the opposite of what you’ve just read. For this reason it takes a different approach to get their attention, to show them your service and, to bring them on as customers.

To give you an example of the adjustments I made while selling GuideSpark, let’s talk about budgets. Unlike other departments, such as Engineering or IT, the typical HR department is allocated a budget for the fiscal year and has to go directly to the CFO if they need more money. For this reason alone, it’s critical to know very early in your relationship with your HR contact whether they have to appropriate funds to buy your product this year. If they don’t have the money, it doesn’t matter how amazing your solution is--you will not have a deal. The basic fact is that your typical HR leader is very leery of salespeople and will shut down quickly if you ask the budget question too aggressively. Balancing the art and the science of dealing with the HR leader is the key to success.

Selling with channel partners

An additional aspect of my sales role at GuideSpark was handling channel partners in my territory. The channel partners were sales people who had long and deep relationships with the accounts in my territory and could bring an HR leader who had budget-to-spend to the table. The channel partners typically had sold these accounts their medical benefit plans for years, if not decades, and looked to GuideSpark to augment the success of the aforementioned benefit plans.

For me, being a quota-sensitive rep who made the majority of his sales directly to the customer, balancing the partner angle was crucial, as one didn’t want to get stuck wasting time with partners who did not deliver fruitful opportunities. I relied heavily on my experience at Microsoft to help navigate these waters and manage my partners the way one would manage sales reps---spending time with the reps who bore the greatest dividends.

Selling to HR gave me a terrific perspective on how the HR department functions. This experience taught me much about selling, and helped round me into the sales professional that I am today.