Wave Oglesby, V.P. Sales & Marketing, Columbia Forest Products
Recently, we had an opportunity to connect with Wave Oglesby, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Columbia Forest Products and listen to his thinking on what makes top performing salespeople different, what gives them their competitive edge and what sales leaders can do to train and support them. He shared a number of unique ideas focused around:
- If You Don’t Have Trust in Business You Have Nothing
- Listening Isn’t Just a Sales Skill, It’s a Life Skill
- Most Salespeople Don’t Ever Practice
- Sales Managers Need to Learn How to Transfer Skills and Knowledge
- Wave’s Advice to Salespeople and Sales Managers
Early in the interview, Wave spoke about how critical relationship building is in the sales process,
“Selling is a relationship business, as much today as it was 25 years ago, but the relationship has changed. 30 years ago, all you did was go and call on people face-to-face. Then came the telephone, then came the fax machine, then came email, then came text, then came blogs. All of that has been about establishing the relationship and trying to find out from the customer how he wants to be sold, what he wants to be sold, and when he wants to buy. Lots of people just don’t understand that. A relationship is just like being married, you have to work at it. People today just don’t understand how hard a job that is.”
If You Don’t Have Trust in Business You Have Nothing
We asked Wave what he sees as the key to building strong and lasting relationships with your customers. Wave replied,
“If you don’t have trust in business you have nothing because your business relationships are going to be stressed many times over the years. If [the relationship] is not based on trust, then your customer will leave you very quickly.”
As Wave points out, so much of success in sales today is determined by the long-term relationships you cultivate with your customers. We live in a global economy where everything is available at the click of a button. Few things will help you to stand out in a sea of competitors offering similar products that meet your customer’s needs as much as cultivating a genuine human connection with your client that is based on trust.
Next, we asked Wave how he builds relationships based on trust with his customers,
“Early in selling, when I was a salesperson, I would tell prospects if you ever have a question, concern or problem about a product you buy, whether it be from me or somebody else in the industry we are in, pick up the phone and call me. I was positioning myself as the subject matter expert to them. Nine times out of ten, over a 25-year period of time, most people where I started the relationship like that became the best customers we ever had.”
Wave raises an interesting point that salespeople and leaders sometimes miss. When the customer views the salesperson as an expert and seeks their advice regarding business or products even from their competitors, that is when a relationship built on trust has been achieved. In that moment, the salesperson moves from a person selling something, to a trusted partner.
Listening Isn’t Just a Sales Skill, It’s a Life Skill
At this point, our conversation turned to the worst habits salespeople get into. Here is Wave’s thinking,
“The number one worst habit that salespeople have is a tendency to not listen and talk more than they listen. The better you teach somebody to listen, and the less they talk, the better off they’re going to be. That’s not just a sales skill, that’s a life skill.”
We asked Wave why so many salespeople seem to struggle with effective listening. Wave explained,
“If you’re a type ‘A’ person, who’s very competitive, you likely have something in you where you feel the need to tell people what you are all about. You can pick this out in a cocktail party where, usually, about seven to eight minutes into meeting somebody, if they tell you more about them in 15 minutes than they know about you, they’ve probably dominated the conversation. This type of person has a hard time listening well.”
Sales is a competitive industry dominated by competitive and outgoing people. Many salespeople are confident in the knowledge they possess and enjoy explaining that knowledge to prospective buyers and anyone else who will listen. Top performing salespeople have learned to temper that extraversion and enthusiasm with humble curiosity about their customers and a strong desire to listen and understand.
Most Salespeople Don’t Ever Practice
When we asked Wave his thoughts on the biggest problems that prevent salespeople from succeeding he delivered this cold slap of the obvious,
“The problem is most salespeople don’t ever practice.”
In working with thousands of salespeople to help them sell the way top performers do, we agree with Wave’s assertion. The bulk of the practice that salespeople get happens on live calls with their prospective clients. This can result in a salesperson that is at best underprepared, or at worst, unable to execute. Wave explained the critical role practice plays in success in this way,
“A pro golfer once shared with me what his preparation routine was. He would hit over a thousand golf balls almost every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, hence, he could tell you that he could hit a 7-iron 180.5 yards. Salespeople are no different than a golfer but they walk into a sales presentation having not practiced and they don’t have a plan for what they will do or how they will do it. How can they ever expect to know that they’re going to hit a 7-iron 180.5 yards, every time without steady consistent practice?”
This type of focused practice is near the top of the many things that set top performers apart. In both salespeople and sales managers, we have found that having an athletic-mindset and approaching training the way elite athletes do indicated a high likelihood of success.
Sales Managers Need to Learn How to Transfer Skills and Knowledge
At this point in the interview, Wave made an interesting point about the sales manager’s role as a coach that stood out to us. Wave observed,
“Sales management needs to learn how to coach and teach…You should always try to send your managers to coaching and teaching clinics because that’s how they learn how to transfer skills and knowledge to people by teaching, not dictating.”
The continued commitment to the growth and development of sales managers is an often overlooked area of opportunity in many organizations. As sales managers are inundated with meetings, reports, and metrics, the focus of their role often shifts from coach to supervisor. Sales managers become incredibly effective at divining meaning from spreadsheets and reporting out on the sales team’s numbers, but they may miss the opportunity to play a pivotal role in the development of their salespeople. Coaching and teaching will have a bigger impact, over the long run, than endless analysis of data and metrics.
Wave’s Advice to Salespeople and Sales Managers
At the conclusion of our interview Wave offered the following pieces of sage advice for salespeople and sales managers.
- “Know where you can truly make a difference and add value. In any relationship, find out where you can make a difference, in their business, in their life, or just in their day. When you can make a difference, then you become significant. Significance will make or break you in your future and career. He who is of no significance will go nowhere.”
- “When it comes to sales managers, there’s a lot of people that have done what you’re getting ready to do. Seek out and find mentors that will surely help you do your job. All you have to do is sit back and talk to them. Seek the advice of wiser people before you go camping in the desert.”
Thanks to Wave for the interview and solid tips on how to generate stronger sales teams!
For videos on how to increase sales utilizing the SalesGym’s “Compete Selling” approaches, check out our SalesGym YouTube Channel!
SalesGym is a research, consulting, and training company that works with and learns from sales teams all over the world and has refined a coaching and training process that trains sales teams the way elite athletes are trained. More insights and articles from us can be found on our RESOURCES PAGE.
Get expert sales knowledge with our FREE newsletter
Sign up for our monthly newsletter to access top sales training techniques.