Bill Hildebrand, North American Vice President of Sales, Planar Systems Inc
Recently, we had an opportunity to sit down with Bill Hildebrand, North American Vice President of Sales with Planar Systems Inc. He treated us to his perspective on what makes top-performing salespeople different and what sales leaders can do to train and support them. He shared a number of unique ideas focused around:
- Talking too Much Has the Most Negative Impact
- Get Back to People Quickly and Be Responsive
- Top Performers Outwork the Competition
- Bill’s Advice to Sales Managers
Early in the interview, Bill said something that really framed the rest of our conversation,
“Most people wouldn’t think being in the military would teach you to sell, but it does. I was a military recruiter and recruited doctors and nurses and learned more about selling by recruiting 17 year olds into the army. I learned from watching great recruiters that were held to an extremely high standard of honesty and integrity. You had to sell by telling the truth. I also learned there’s no harder job in the world than being in sales. You’re taking someone’s baby and sending them off somewhere else in uniform. If parents don’t trust you, you don’t walk out with a contract. It’s really about instilling trust and that’s what it always came down to. ”
Bill began his sales and leadership career in what some might consider an unlikely place. The foundations of his future success, lead from the front mentality, and no holds barred honesty and integrity were laid at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was as an infantry officer at Fort Benning that many of his core values and beliefs were instilled within him.
Bill’s approach to selling with a high standard of honesty and integrity is something we at SalesGym have observed time and again in the highest echelons of performance. This is a behavior that is critical to the long-term success of top performing sales people. You may be able to ge one or two deals by pulling the wool over your clients eyes but you’ll never fill your pipeline with referrals and repeat customers if this is the way you do business.
Talking Too Much Has the Most Negative Impact
When we asked Bill his thoughts on this biggest reason that so many salespeople struggle to get out of the middle of the pack he made this observation,
“Talking too much is the worst habit that has the most negative impact. If you’re getting ready to talk, you’re not listening. Being too overwhelming in the conversation is what gets most salespeople in trouble.”
When a salesperson dominates the interaction with the client they not only fail to actively listen and demonstrate their investment in the clients success they also often fall short in discovering the clients true motivations and their reasons for buying. Bill explains,
“Too much talking takes away the buyer’s reason to buy. It takes away their choice and they’re talked into [the sale]. Even if you manage to talk the customer into it, they’ve lost their reason to buy.”
In Bill’s experience he has seen this tableau play out time and time again. When we asked why he thought so many salespeople fall into this trap, Bill replied,
“It’s human nature because most people that go into sales are outward-oriented and talking is just what they do. Some of the best salespeople I see are people that come in with no sales experience and because they’re laid back and good listeners, that gives them a big advantage. I think people just like to talk when they’re knowledgeable and when they know what you’re talking about, it’s a natural thing to want to talk more.”
Get Back to People Quickly and Be Responsive
Bill said something to us that really caught our attention:
“Be responsive. It’s amazing to me how bad people are at getting back to their customers they’re trying to sell something to. Get back to people quickly and be responsive.”
In a world dominated by automation and electronic communication few things will make you stand out more than creating a genuine human connection with your customer. Salespeople who struggle to stay engaged with their customers will have a difficult time breaking through to the level of top performers. When we asked Bill the best way for salespeople to stay responsive he delivered this refreshing slap of the obvious:
“Answer your phone. It amazes me how many people in sales are terrible at follow up. If I have a salesperson with 20 unanswered emails and a bunch of missed phone calls that person isn’t going to go anywhere. We’re in a world where nobody answers their phone anymore … If I was going to write a book on sales that would be the first and the last page.”
So, in summary, listen, answer the phone, and get back to customers quickly. These basic customer oriented habits pay big dividends.
Top Performers Outwork the Competition
We asked Bill what he’s observed about top performers he could share with us. He immediately responded with:
“I’ve never seen a top performer that doesn’t work really really hard and they find a way to enjoy it.”
It’s this drive to outwork the competition while also finding passion and joy in what they are doing that really sets top performers head and shoulders above their peers. When hard work is merged with passion there is little that cannot be accomplished.
Additionally, Bill offered another observation about top performers:
“First, they’re intelligent and they pick up context and grasp things the first time that other people need to hear 2 or 3 times. Second, they play well on a team. I’ve seen great salespeople that aren’t trusted, snake deals and aren’t transparent and aren’t part of the team and they don’t last.”
Bill’s Advice to Sales Managers
As our interview drew to a close Bill offered the following pieces of advice to anyone who finds themselves in a coaching or leadership role:
- “To me, it helped that I started as a top performing salesperson for several years so I know what the job is and I know what it takes to be successful. You need to be able to watch your people make a presentation and then critique them on how they did, how their powerpoint worked and what they could have done to be better.”
- “Another important thing is brutal honesty … the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I’m going to give you real honest feedback, no hurt feelings here, if we set it up that way up front, it usually goes just fine.”
- “Lead by example and take care of your people. Don’t expect your people to do things you’re not willing to do yourself.”
Thanks to Bill for the interview and solid tips on how to what sets top performers apart. 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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