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 Amy Leimbach, VP Sales, Portland, at Alpha Media, she shared some thoughts into how sales teams can generate better results. Her insights included:
- The number one mistake salespeople make
- Practice reduces fear
- Ask the tough questions about budget
- Top performers do a lot of the little things right
Early in our conversation, Amy summed up how hard selling really is and the extra effort it takes to build a successful career in sales,
“If you are considering sales, it is not going to be easy and it’s going to take a lot of work. The rewards will be great if you expend the effort. If you think it’s going to be something where you can just work 8 to 5 and check out and be done for the day and not put any time in on the weekends or in the evenings, then you probably aren’t going to be very successful.”
Break the worst bad habit first!
We’re amazed how often sales executives tell us that poor listening and too much talking is the worst habit salespeople get into, but we hear it over and over, which is why we focus so heavily on this one critical mistake that Amy points out,
“The number one worst habit from salespeople is not listening and talking too much. It should be 90% listening, and asking open-ended questions, not close-ended questions that can be answered with a yes or no. Salespeople need to let the client or prospect talk about themselves and their business. If you let them talk more and you talk less, you’ll learn much more about what it will take to earn their business.”
The question is, why do salespeople make this talking too much mistake over and over even after going to training the emphasizes repeatedly how critical listening is to the sales process? Amy reminds us,
“Salespeople often talk too much because they get nervous. They come in with a script in their head and are so focused on relaying the script that they forget and lose sight of why they’re really there, which is to learn from the client.”
What we find is that all too often, salespeople see their role to be out there selling, emphasizing what makes their product better than their competitors. Amy has noticed something similar,
“Sometimes salespeople go out with an agenda thinking, ‘My mission is to sell my product,’ when really their mission should be, ‘I will learn more about this company and their specific needs’. If you focus on the client’s needs first, you’ll better understand how to make your product work for their needs. Top performing salespeople listen, ask great questions that elicit creative responses, and repeat what has been said to confirm they are on the same page with the customer.”
Ask about budget
When salespeople are nervous about asking questions related to budget, spending authority and who the key decision makers are in the process, they set themselves up for a lot of delays and disappointment. Amy points out,
“Salespeople can be afraid to ask for the budget. After you do the client needs analysis, you should walk away with an assignment and a budget. If the client doesn’t have a specific budget in mind, then the salesperson can give them a ballpark range and help them narrow it down.”
Top performers also do a lot of the little things that really add up. Decision makers are constantly assessing whether or not they can trust us and when we pay attention to the little stuff, it gives us as advantage on the competition as Amy has also noticed,
“Top performers do things that surprisingly not everyone does, like getting back to customers in a timely fashion. Timely responses should be one of the most basic behaviors. They set follow up meetings and come back very prepared, answering everything agreed upon from prior meetings. They are proactive about bringing their clients’ new ideas. If there are new company initiatives, they don’t wait for their phone to ring, they call their customers to learn and share. The best salespeople have amazing attitudes and don’t complain.”
Practice reduces fear
Sales involves doing tasks that are difficult and emotionally challenging because they create fear. Most of us tend to avoid what we fear, but that doesn’t work in sales. We’re paid, to a large extent, to overcome our fears and become skillful at doing things that cause most people a lot of anxiety. Practice, as Amy points out, is one of the keys to dealing with fear,
“The more you practice, the less the fear. Cold calling is practice, the more calls you make the less you’re going to fear making them because the calls become a habit. If you only do a few cold calls a week, when you get rejected it will feel foreign and uncomfortable. Don’t allow rejection to become personal; do it often, and it won’t.”
When we, as sales leaders, create a culture where more practice happens and where managers are effective at coaching, we help reduce that anxiety. Practice is an accelerator as Amy describes,
“Salespeople don’t want to look stupid or say the wrong thing. If they don’t practice, and they don’t continue to read, train, and study, then they’re not going to feel comfortable and won’t be able to sell effectively. My top performers are constantly trying to learn, grow, become better. They rarely complain and always try to have a positive attitude. Top performers listen, ask a lot of good questions and they’re creative solutions providers. Top performers always have those same characteristics.”
Advice for Sales Managers
Amy ended our interview by giving us 4 solid pieces of advice for sales managers who want to build stronger sales teams:
- Because most sales managers have grown up from sales, many will make the mistake of taking over on a sales call. A manager who repeatedly takes over sales calls and does the work for the salespeople, will prevent their team members from learning good habits and becoming skilled sellers.
- It's really easy for sales managers that are very busy to cancel one-on-ones and push it off to another week. But pretty soon a month will go by and they have not done a good one-on-one with the salesperson. Managers need to consider, 'Have I spent the time needed, or just checked a box?'
- If you are a salesperson who is thinking about becoming a sales manager, don't go for a title just to get the title. Being a great salesperson is just as important as being a sales manager. Sometimes salespeople make better sellers than managers. Someone in a management position should have the ability to coach and train.
- Once you become a manager you have to realize that while you need to get into the trenches and help close deals, you're not the salesperson. Don’t take over the sales call and process unless you think it is going down the wrong path. Take your years of wisdom gained from selling, provide feedback, and use it to teach your salesperson to be better.
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.