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 and occasionally we meet someone with not only a fresh perspective but a blueprint for the future. Teesee Murray, Global VP, Digital and Cloud, Tech Industry, is exactly that kind of extraordinary executive and this is the first of several articles featuring her perspective. In this article, we’ll focus on Teesee’s insights into what causes top performers to create better results which centered around:
- Selling is serving vs. the personal quota conquest
- Insights into the challenger sales approach
- Partnering and guiding the customer’s learning journey with humility
Early in the interview, Teesee summarized well that success in selling has more to do with humility, being genuine and serving rather than selling …
“When it comes to a salesperson’s strengths, first, and most important, are soft skills such as EQ and likability. ‘People buy from people’ is tried and true. Number two is humility coupled with acumen. Often there is a perception that a great salesperson must have a big ego and be larger than life. I feel the best salespeople are genuine and able to recognize their unique value along with others value to drive toward a common outcome. They can discern what a customer needs, even if it is dramatically different than the preconceived notions from either side. A good salesperson understands they need to serve the customer. Third is partnership and delivering on the business outcomes. If you start with the endpoint in mind, it helps keep the entire process focused on delivering that outcome. There will always be bumps. We show our true selves when we work through those bumps. It instills confidence and partnership.”
Soft skills vs. the persona quota conquest
When I wrote my first book on successful salespeople back in the late 90’s, I had the good fortune to interview hundreds of top performers across a broad spectrum of industries. Although most of them were more driven and motivated than average salespeople, what really struck me was these top performers were not the stereotypical “sell ice to eskimos” kind of people that could talk you into anything. What we found from all those interviews is top performers have a unique ability to connect and form a bond of genuine trust that gives them a big advantage because you simply feel more comfortable talking with them.
Teesee has noticed something similar,
“The best salespeople have good soft skills. They make sure that the person they’re engaging with understands that this is about the customer and how we can symbiotically help them. Good sales aren’t primarily focused on personal quota conquest. It is about building a win/win for mutually beneficial repeatable business. Humility is one of those undervalued and not often talked about characteristics that makes a great salesperson.”
Sales managers need to hire for and focus training on soft skills, like genuine listening, ability to ask relevant and interesting questions, and being able to put one’s ego aside and focus on what’s best for that customer or decision maker. Teesee explains,
“Sales is a learning journey. I like it because it sounds like it’s an adventure. It’s a journey when you consider what does your next quarter look like? The path to attaining targets may not be clear. You need to build excitement and move forward quickly. Sometimes the best ideas come from the newest teammate. It’s a journey and we all need to grow and change together, along with our customers.”
Insights into the challenger sales approach
“The Challenger Sale” came out in 2011 and had a big impact on the thinking of sales executives all over the world. The observations in that book suggested that a more assertive, insights led approach was generating better results than the more traditional, relationship-focused consultative selling methods most companies were teaching their sales teams.
We’ve noticed for decades that there are a number of the challenger type salespeople out there that find a way to disrupt the thinking of decision makers in a way that creates opportunity without fracturing rapport. This is not easy to do as Teesee explains,
“The Challenger sales model is interesting. I’ve seen it backfire too many times because the person that’s challenging is too abrasive, creating tension. That tension inhibits productive dialogue and it turns the customer off. The talk-to-listen ratio is good to keep in mind to make sure the challenger doesn’t hurt the process.”
What we’ve found is that when you look deeper into successful challenger type salespeople, they nearly always have achieved mastery of consultative selling approaches and they’re very effective at asking, listening and building that relationship so it can handle some occasional sharp insights and questions. Teesee explains,
“When you’re doing a challenger sale, there must first be a baseline relationship with a sense of respect and rapport. It needs to be a relationship where the salesperson knows the customer is going to be open to it. There must be cultural sensitivity. Know your audience. Inclusive problem solving is much better than just dictating the solution. I like to role play in advance to avoid mistakes.”
Teesee explains how important collaboration is, especially when selling big, complex tech projects that involve many smart people to ultimately propose and deliver results.
“Some people take the Challenger concept or their ego too seriously and don’t recognize the damage they do to their own goals. True leadership models the way and does not need to be bombastic. Brilliance is recognizing that you don’t have all the answers and that there is strength in diversity. Gathering answers from many big beautiful brains is better than answers from only one.”
Partnering and guiding the customer’s learning journey
In our interview, Teesee emphasized repeatedly how important it is to be honest and tap into the power of the team to learn and solve problems. In today’s world, especially when it comes to delivering big complex tech solutions, the road is going to be bumpy, new breakthroughs are happening all the time and it’s about picking an organization that can guide the customer through the challenges, not just about who has the best product as Teesee explains,
Nine of the last 10 pursuits we won are due to the partnership and honesty we demonstrate. -Teesee Murray, Global VP, Digital and Cloud, Tech Industry Click To Tweet
“Nine of the last 10 pursuits we won are due to the partnership and honesty we demonstrate. Building a partnership with a customer is a learning journey. It’s discovery for everybody. There will always arise a scenario where the salesperson does not know the answer. The best way to respond to that is, ‘That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer. I will find the answer and I will get back to you.’ The critical part of that is, ‘I will get back to you’, because your responsiveness really simulates to the customer how your company will react once the deal is signed.”
Teesee’s words remind us of the famous Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, “What you do speaks so loud, that I cannot hear what you say.” Summing up Teesee’s insights really comes down to:
- Focus first on building trust by keeping your ego in check and listening
- Focus on serving the customer and guiding them through their own learning journey with the expertise you and your team bring to the table
- Work hard on your soft skills and ability to build relationships that survive inevitable bumps in the road
- Deliver on your promises … what you do in terms of responding to small requests communicates a lot to the customer making bigger buying decisions
“Building a partnership with a customer affords the opportunity to show that this isn’t just a sales engagement, but that you’re buying my company with a deep bench of broad expertise. Customers like that. They want to know that it’s a deeper bench with access to a global team and some super smart people.” — Teesee Murray
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.