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 an interview with Jay McDonald, VP North American Sales at Alliance Laundry Systems, he shared some great insights into what he’s found separates the superstar salespeople from all the rest.
- The Talking Too Much Bad Habit Salespeople Get into
- What Separates The Superstars
- Promote The Right People Into Sales Management
- Advice For New Sales Managers
Early in the interview, Jay said something that really framed the rest of our conversation,
The difference between a good salesperson and a great salesperson is that if you're a great salesperson, you never stop learning. - Jay McDonald, VP North American Sales at Alliance Laundry Systems Click To Tweet
“The difference between a good salesperson and a great salesperson is that if you’re a great salesperson, you never stop learning. If you feel that you have hit the Pinnacle and don’t have to worry about reading books, going to lectures, or trying to learn from every sales call, if you really feel like you’ve learned everything, then it’s all downhill from there and you’re not going to be a very good salesperson.”
We’ve found, in working with top performing salespeople and managers over the years that the skills required to become a top producer literally demand a near full-time learning mentality, as Jay has noticed.
The Talking Too Much Bad Habit Salespeople Get into
The first mistake we see, with over 70% of the salespeople we coach and train, is taking too long to get to the point and simply talking too much on sales calls and meetings. This has been true for decades as Jay explains,
The worst selling habits are when salespeople talk first and then talk too much. - Jay McDonald, VP North American Sales at Alliance Laundry Systems Click To Tweet
“The worst selling habits are when salespeople talk first and then talk too much. Every sales training book you read, even those written a hundred years ago, say shut up. Shut up when you get the order, but really shut up at the beginning as well.”
Often, when planning a sales meeting with a high potential decision maker, salespeople think carefully about what they want to present, what they want to highlight about their strengths and how their competitive advantages beat the competition. All of this is fine and important, but top performers tend to spend more time planning a strategy based on questions and breaking through resistance to get the decision makers and influencers to open up and honestly share what their needs, preferences, biases and key decision driving criteria are first. This is a major difference between top performers and the rest.
Jay explains how important it is to listen and learn before presenting,
“Too many salespeople work really hard to put their presentations together and a lot of times that presentation is based on how they would like to be sold. When you’re dealing with a buyer, a very polite buyer will let you go through your whole pitch. In reality, until you figure out what the buyer really wants and how they like to be sold, you’re not going to be that successful unless you have just a tremendous product or the cheapest price.”
Most sales organizations would make progress faster if they would focus for an entire year on intense training and coaching to become better at asking questions, listening and summarizing before selling. This single focus area would produce better results with at least 70% of all salespeople than more training on technology, complex selling strategies and elaborate account development analysis tools.
What Separates The Superstars
When asked about what he has noticed about top performers, Jay emphasized the importance of patience,
“Sales is a patience game. A lot of people feel that they have to close on something every time, even if it’s just another appointment. A lot of the younger people seem to be more used to getting things instantly, the instant gratification with the internet, and texting. Sometimes a really good sale may take three months, or six months, or two years to develop.”
Jay also gave us some great insights into how top performers prepare and rehearse their presentations in advance,
“The Superstar salespeople, they’re thinking about sales all the time. Just because they create a pitch or a presentation once, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get tweaked constantly. The really good salesperson will create a presentation, maybe two weeks ahead of time and tweak it a little bit every day versus the marginal salesperson that will create a presentation and put it in the binder and not bring it out again until it’s time to present.”
There’s truly no shortcut to excellence when it comes to getting ready for a key presentation. Just as athletes, musicians and elite military units rehearse continuously so they can perform at their best under extreme pressure, the same is true for salespeople. It’s not easy to be effective when it matters most, as Jay explains,
“A lot of salespeople are trying to shortcut the system and not prepare as much as they would have in the past. If you’ve got a 10-minute sales call, it’s very possible that you’re going to put three to five hours of preparation into that to make it effective. The shorter the call the better the presentation has to be.”
If you’re going to sell on value and communicate a solution that goes much further than a short-term transaction, it takes more work as Jay explains,
“It is so much harder to sell on value. If you’re selling value then you’re showing the benefits of the product and that is what a lot of people forget. It’s so much easier to rattle off a list of features.”
Promote The Right People Into Sales Management
Jay has seen a number of sales managers struggle to generate results with their sales teams simply because they can’t make that transition from player to coach,
“Where a sales manager can really struggle, especially if they were really good at sales, is sometimes the best salesman is not the best manager and vice versa. A lot of salespeople have the expectation that they would grow in their career path and become the sales manager, then the VP of sales. That may be right for some people but for others, it becomes a catastrophic failure. Too many good salespeople end up leaving the company because they were not prepared for being the coach and sitting on the sidelines. Sometimes being the coach is a lot tougher because you can’t completely control what your players are doing as well as you control yourself.”
Coaching is about raising the performance of the team through practice, rehearsal, preparation and building a culture that builds winners. The sales managers that are always stepping in to take the big shot at the highest pressure moments are going to have a tough time building a strong team as Jay explains,
“The worst sales managers are the ones that even if they’re making a joint call with their employee, will jump in and take over too much of the conversation. That demoralizes the younger, less experienced, salesperson and they’re never going to learn anything that way. The better sales managers aren’t afraid to inject some of their salespeople into situations and let them fail once in a while. You’ll learn so much more when you don’t get the sale than when you get it.”
Advice For New Sales Managers
We finished our interview with Jay asking him for some advice he’d offer to new sales managers. He shared a few golden nuggets with us:
- Managers continue to get so much pressure from above that they feel it's all they can do just to work on those short-term priorities. You're always going to be in a crunch position with that mentality where you can never develop your people because you don't have time versus setting aside time for long term projects every week. A lot of people say, ‘well I don't have time for that’. Really, you don't have time not to do it. It depends on if you want to be the hamster running in the maze all the time or if you want to work long-term to make it happen.
- If you are new to management, the most important thing you have to do is not try to be the super salesperson anymore. Listen to your people, understand how they do it, try to learn something from them. Just because you're the coach doesn't mean you're the teacher or the lecturer and you should really be able to gain Insight from talking to your team and continuing to learn. Secondly, one of your main functions is going to be the buffer between your employees and your senior management. You really need to understand your employees’ needs and at the same time, you also have to understand the needs of your management. You have two levels of selling so it makes it twice as hard.
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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