Recently, we had the good fortune to interview Bill Kaack, Vice President of Sales/Marketing with Wolters Kluwer and talk about a wide range of topics about top-performing sellers and how to build more of them. Early in the interview, Bill said something that really framed the rest of our conversation,
“There are definitely three kinds of sellers – those that should not be in sales, those that can manage a way through the sales process once a lead is established, and those that are demand creators. We should be hiring and developing more of the third.”
Our interview centered around a number of topics to find and help build more of those “demand creators” that every sales organization wants more of:
- Better Research Leads to More Compelling Solutions
- Differentiate Yourself By Setting an Example
- Invest in the Team, Invest in the Culture
Better Research Leads to More Compelling Solutions
Selling has evolved over the decades. Prior to the ’80s, salespeople were taught elaborate sales pitches, patterned presentations and rehearsed responses to objections. Then, modern consultative selling really caught on in the ’80s that was focused more on questions to find needs you could focus your presentation on and around 2010, more assertive “Challenger” or insight-led selling approaches became more popular.
Now, with the modern internet and easy availability of information about companies, products, and services, we are in an era where the best salespeople are learning more about prospects and customers BEFORE they meet with them than ever before, as Bill explains,
“Those that are doing the best are some of the brightest and actually take the time to do both research on the client side as well as really understand our solutions so that they can understand where the fit is.”
A lot of buyers have told us how frustrating they find it when a salesperson walks into their office and asks the most basic questions, trying to understand their company when that information could easily have been found prior to the meeting. Several buyers have told us they are suffering from “discovery fatigue” and just can’t put up with salespeople that don’t do their homework before the meeting. Bill explains,
“There’s only so much time that a client is going to give you to learn about their business and they’re not going to give you any time to learn things that you could have found out somewhere else before you meet.”
Because decision-makers have less time to spend with sellers it’s important to maximize every minute you get in face-to-face or voice-to-voice interactions as Bill explains,
“You don’t have as much time as you did in the past to be able to establish yourself as a credible source or resource.”
Differentiate Yourself By Setting an Example
Bill shared some fascinating ideas that relate to how top performers demonstrate their competence and competitive advantages:
- I firmly believe that how you do what you do is as important, if not more important, than what you do as a business, because I do think that in front of the client, how you do what you do matters. The way we make a difference is to be able to do what we do better than anybody else does.
- A lot of success has to do with how sellers present themselves in front of the client; their preparation, their listening skills, and EQ skills.
- Great execution requires disciplined balance. It’s the preparation and the research that you’ve already done. It’s what you choose to expose upfront and what you choose to wait and expose in the conversation.
We need to remember, the buyer is paying attention not just to what we say and what we present, but to how we carry ourselves, our preparation, our follow-up and ability to deliver on promises, on time, all the time.
Invest in the Team, Invest in the Culture
Every sales organization has a culture and ideally, that culture attracts, builds and sustains top performers and repels poor performers quickly. How sales leaders react to their team members defines the culture as Bill points out,
“So if you praise people all day, it’s a praising culture. If you punish people all day, it’s a punishing culture. It’s purely behavioral. I always loved that description because culture is defined by what we do, and what we do becomes our culture.”
Bill gave us five really good ideas on how sales leaders can build a stronger, more productive sales culture to attract, build, and retain more of those demand creators that can take performance to the next level:
- Invest in the team, and invest heavily so they understand that this is a learning culture.
- I think there's a lot of pressure to sell which creates pressure to play, or actually be in the game instead of practicing. We don't realize that practice is the most essential part of the game.
- Building trust is the fastest way to build followership as a leader. It also speeds business.
- Engage with the seller in a way that they understand that you're not there to judge and it's not a test. It's a continuous improvement exercise. I think this gets people more willing to take risks. This requires trust.
- I have found, in many cases, that new sales leaders haven't taken the job necessarily for what the job really entails, but rather for advancement in career. When you think of the best leaders, they’re the ones that have a desire to serve – they’re in the boat with you, with a hand on the oar.
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.
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