James Bruno, Sr. Manager Sales Enablement, Juniper University Education Services
Recently, we had an opportunity to connect with James Bruno, Sr. Manager of Sales Enablement at Juniper University Education Services and listen to his thoughts concerning top performing salespeople, what makes them different, what gives them their edge and what sales leaders can do to train and support them. He shared a number of unique ideas focused around:
- In Sales, Nuances Matter
- Top Performers Leverage Relationships
- Leverage Internal Relationships
- How To Make Training Work
Early in the interview, James said something that really stood out as critical,
“Most buyers today do so much research before they even take a sales call, that what used to be the sales cycle is gone. Today’s buyer doesn’t want you to come in and ask a bunch of questions to try to uncover their pain. They want you to come in understanding their pain and having an idea of how to help their business. That should be the first conversation, about them and their business and how you can help their business. It shouldn’t be about asking a ton of qualifying questions.”
This is an important shift that more and more sales leaders are noticing. Businesses and consumers alike are doing more of their own research before they make a purchase, and this has shifted the role of salespeople. Top performers now must bring the value generating insights that research cannot bring to the decision maker and enable those insights to increase the value perception of all the people in the decision making process.
In Sales, Nuances Matter
James shared an interesting insight into how top performers get a competitive edge,
“Top performers have a deep understanding of the company they’re selling to. It’s more than just understanding what the company does and how they do it, it’s understanding the nuances of how they go and procure customers. They understand the buying nuances within that customer, like knowing who has influence and who has the ability to circumvent certain procurement processes if needed. It is almost as if they’re an embedded expert of that company, both from where that company is trying to go as a business and how that company makes decisions.”
Something we hear from sales leaders in nearly all B2B industries is the increasing challenge of finding and influencing all the people that influence the final decision. Increasingly, larger buying decisions are made through consensus and we need to meet and influence the influencers.
Top Performers Leverage Relationships
In order to meet the needs of a business in our rapidly changing selling landscape, it takes knowledge of the company you are working with, but it also takes building relationships with key decision makers. James touched on this when he said:
“Our best salespeople know where and how to leverage our alliance relationships and/or a key partner. There are only so many resources to go around and the best salespeople really know when and how to trigger those buttons to make sure they get the right resources at the right time and at the right sales meeting during the sales process.”
Leverage Internal Relationships
As anyone in a large organization knows, resource scarcity isn’t just an external issue for “other” businesses. There are always internal realities when it comes to resource distribution, and top performers know how to pull the right levers at the right time to keep momentum on their side. James found this was an area many salespeople have overlooked, and he summarized the issue as such:
“Our top salespeople do as much internal selling as external selling. They compete for internal resources, to get the resources and the intelligent people that are needed at a particular point in the sales process to support that sale. There’s an internal sale in order to succeed and those who do it better are more likely to succeed.”
So how do salespeople develop these critical relationships? James pointed directly to listening skills, and avoiding one of the 4 bad habits that roughly 70% of all salespeople fall into, talking too much:
“Not only do salespeople talk too much, I’ve actually seen situations when the buyer actually says, ‘Hey, I’m not interested,’ and the salesperson keeps talking about it. Sometimes salespeople talk so much they don’t hear! There’s so much information a salesperson needs to have that they only glean so much at a time. They often prepare to talk about the things they know about and are comfortable with, so come heck or high water they will keep talking about it until the prospect says, ‘Okay, let’s talk more,’ or they say, ‘Hey, I gotta go.’”
Fortunately, salespeople can learn to break the too much talking and too little asking > listening > learning, but it takes practice and repetition. Know what to do isn’t enough. Just like athletes need repeated practice to understand the game plan and execute the plays skillfully under pressure, so do salespeople.
How To Make Training Work
Traditional sales training methods are often an effective way to convey information, but it’s not nearly as effective at breaking the stubborn bad habits salespeople get into like poor listening, conveying generic competitive advantages and getting nervous when it comes time to ask for the business. We have all seen this play out, but James makes a great observation as to why that may be:
“Trainers historically would teach the sales process then leave. Companies would then be wondering why it didn’t stick. Salespeople are tired of having this great training and then having all of their support for that training disappear. They need to implement training that goes beyond training and includes the whole process of how it will be reinforced.”
That emphasis on the need for follow-up after the classroom training is something we have found to be true while conducting research studies into sales behavior, and James summarized it perfectly. He also provided a strategy to work through this common issue:
“The best training takes into account how to get smaller bits of information out to people. Information that salespeople can consume and utilize numerous times so that behavior now becomes part of who they are. There is always a big question of how to start to influence managers to be coaches so that they’re not actually the top salesperson on their team and making the number for their team, but they’re being a multiplier and coaching five people to make their numbers.”
This focus on breaking the sales process and behaviors into smaller pieces, and working with sales teams over time, is the most effective way we have observed when it comes to breaking bad habits and creating new ideal ones. Jame’s insights into the problems sales teams face, as well as the solutions to those problems have largely aligned with what we have observed while conducting studies on the issue, and we were happy to have the opportunity to learn from his experiences.
Thanks to James 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.
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