At SalesGym, we’re always on the lookout for sales executives that have interesting and timeless insights into top performers, coaching, and building better sales teams. In a recent interview with Rob Rosiello, Senior Vice President, Americas Sales & Field Operations with Riverbed Technology, he shared some great insights into how to build better sales teams. His insights covered a variety of topics including:
- Top Performers Build a Tribe
- Understand the Importance of Why
- Practice to Build Muscle Memory
- More Focus on Sales Enablement
Early in the interview, Rob said something that really framed the rest of our conversation,
“We have all seen those performers that have the one banner year, but then fall back to the middle. Consistent top performers exhibit a couple of key attributes. One, they are passionately curious. They’re always looking to learn and adapt and don’t make it about what they’re trying to do but rather about what the customer is trying to do. Two, they embrace new things and new technologies. They’re willing to change and willing to learn and yet they always come back to that core center of trying to satisfy a customer by putting the customers outcome front and center. Too many sellers are too worried about what they’re trying to sell instead of what their client is trying to solve. This, to me, is one of the core tenets of sustainable consistent success.”
Rob really nailed it here. Top performers are always learning and they keep figuring out new ways to keep what’s most important to the customer front and center. Rob also emphasized how important it is to align the vision and mission to generate sustainable, long term focus and change,
“It takes more than just training people and having a great product to truly change a company. It takes the vision for where you want to be, along with all the Operational Support infrastructure and different ways of profiling and prospecting and segmenting your customers to achieve the mission.”
Top Performers Build a Tribe
In many sales organizations, it takes a team to make the sale and execute the project that gives the customer what they truly want. This is particularly true when selling services and technology projects. The best salespeople know how to ask for help internally and build those relationships that enable them to get the help they need, when they need it, often with extreme urgency, as Rob points out,
“Top performers build a tribe. They build an army of people that, even though they are not the explicit leader of those people, they can mobilize those people to work for them in concert with what the client-centric desired outcome is.”
Some salespeople feel it’s too risky to bring other people in to meet their prospects and they get overly concerned about mistakes these other less sales focused team members might make. Stronger sellers understand that they can leverage the strengths of other team members to create an even stronger value proposition that has real impact on the decision maker.
Understanding the Importance of Why
Rob explains how he’s helping his sales teams capitalize on the thinking behind one of the most popular speakers today …
“Simon Sinek always says start with ‘Why’. Too many salespeople start with ‘What’ … what they are trying to sell, what it costs and what the features are instead of why is the customer trying to do something and why is the customer implementing? Nobody buys technology just for technology’s sake and nobody buys insurance just for insurance. They’re trying to solve for a why.”
Fortunately, there is much more information easily available for sellers to obtain that can give clear insight into a customer’s “why” factors. And, it’s important to understand that decision makers are also tapping into that easily available information too, as Rob explains,
“Most buyers today know and have more information before they ever even reach out to a salesperson. So, as a salesperson, what is it you’re going to do to differentiate yourself from every other salesperson that shows up trying to sell their wares? My advice, make it about the client and what is going on in their world and “Why” they are making decisions and “What” problem they are trying to solve.”
The good sellers solve a problem / or seize an opportunity for their customers, the poor sellers are very enamored with the “what” they’re trying to sell and in doing so they fill the void of understanding the customer need with their tactical questions.
Rob gave some great advice when selling at the C-Suite level,
“If you’re selling to a publicly traded company, every 90 days you have the best source of information as to the “Why” and “What” clients are doing. It’s the investor presentation. I encourage salespeople to take that investor presentation and pull out one or two slides or a couple of bullets and literally make that the very first part of the presentation or discussion with a client. Slide it across the table to a CIO or to a VP of infrastructure, or the VP of operations and say, “This is what your CEO and CFO said, what is your role in delivering that? How can we help you get there? Why are you making the choices that you’re making? What have you tried in the past? What is the impact of not delivering?” Tie it back to what they have to deliver to their business, whether it be their internal or external customers. There are not enough salespeople that really do that consistently and persistently.”
Practice to Build Muscle Memory
When we interview top performing salespeople, it’s remarkable how many of them tell us the effort they put into practice and preparation is the key to their success. Rob brought up this same insight,
“Studies have shown that it takes about 3 weeks of consistently doing something to create new muscle memory. It’s like the old analogy of Larry Bird shooting a hundred free-throws consistently. He had to sink a hundred in a row or he went back to zero. Or, like Tiger Woods putting a thousand putts. He was the best in the world and still practiced harder than his competitors. Every pilot, no matter how long they fly, has a preflight checklist – that they never waiver from. This notion of practicing and practicing and honing your craft again is what’s critically important.”
“Salespeople have to be committed to their craft, learning every single day, even after 30 years of doing it! The fun part is continual learning because it affords the opportunity to hone and continue to practice your new skills. Some sellers fall into the trap of not looking at people like First Responders or World-Class Athletes or Musicians who are putting in 2, 3, 4x the number of hours of practice time as compared to the actual execution time. How many hundreds of hours is that professional dancer putting in? It’s like the gymnast who has been practicing for 4 years to get to the Olympics for that one minute routine. It’s really critically important to success and salespeople typically don’t do enough of it.”
More Focus on Sales Enablement
Near the end of our interview, Rob shared three really key pieces of advice for sales executives to consider:
Rob’s Keys to Better Sales Enablement
- There are too many training teams and not enough enablement teams. There is a lot of enablement that is basically, "Let's thrust lots of information at people", but there's not the process part that says, "How do we actually ensure that people are adopting the behaviors and the skills that we want? How do we continue to hone and fine-tune those things? Do we have a Coach's Corner? Do we have mentoring minutes?" Organizations put things on the corporate intranet and assume that people are going in and availing themselves of those things. They're not, because there's a thousand things every single day that make them busy and very few things that make them productive. Leaders confuse this dearth of information and availability of training materials with the actual impact that information is having. Build that bridge, create a continuous feedback loop, and the training investment will “enable” results.
- Leaders need to consider, "How do you change your quarterly business review from what has traditionally been a deal centric review to a business operations review? How do you change your weekly forecast cadence from solely about the numbers to coachable moments and how do you change your one-on-one from a deep dive with that individual on their numbers to a more developmental conversation?" How do you even adapt these things to start to reinforce the behaviors that you want but then tie it back to the online learning options you have provided? If leaders solve that, then they can track who is using the online resources and start to correlate the availability of the information and the actions that they take with the success and close the loop between a mass amount of information with actual behavior change.
- Quite often sales is very binary, either you make your number or you don't. Companies are not often enough understanding "Why" people are making their numbers. What are the underpinnings of the salespersons activities, behaviors, as well as how well has the sales leadership & company put people in position to succeed?
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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