The landscape of sales is ever-changing; sales professionals and organizations must evolve within it to stay ahead of their competitors. Few executives understand this better than Josh Bouk, Vice President, Global Sales & Marketing, Cass Information Systems, Inc. He sat down with us in a recent interview to share some insights into his view of sales in the modern world.
- Sales is a Competitive Advantage
- Credibility is Critical to Success
- Empathy is Our First Job
- Not Everyone is Destined for Sales Management
- Hands-on Coaching Drives Success
Sales is a Competitive Advantage
Early in the interview, Josh said something that really framed the rest of our conversation,
“How do you sell better than your competition? It’s not about the product, it’s not about the price, and it’s not about the terms. It’s about how you sell and the buyer’s experience of your sales process. You must be more memorable, more compelling, and provide a clearer image of the customer’s success than the competition.”
In the thousands of coaching sessions we have done for our clients, we’ve heard the same thing time and time again. So many sales professionals get caught up in highlighting the features and benefits of the widget or service they’re pushing on the customer and they forget what is most essential to the sales process; that is the customer’s experience.
Instead of expecting the product to sell itself, top salespeople spend the time to learn what is most important to the customer. Once the seller has a clear idea of how the customer defines success, only then can they position their product in a way that is memorable, compelling, and adds value.
What sets top-performing salespeople and organizations apart isn’t the product they’re selling, it’s their commitment to continuously improving their sales process. Josh put it best when he said:
“I really do believe that sales is strategic. It should be a competitive advantage. In highly competitive markets, assuming you have a good product (no product is perfect) and a fair price, sales effectively is the competitive advantage that grows your company. That means every enterprise should focus time, energy and resources on being really good at sales.”
Credibility is Critical to Success
The sales process is not what it was 30 years ago. One-time axioms like “Always Be Closing” and “Follow up until they buy or die” have, thankfully, long been retired from any top performer’s vocabulary. Instead, credibility now stands like a stone pillar at the center of any sales professional’s sales-readiness.
As Josh said:
“Credibility is absolutely critical right now in our top performers. The days of the 1980s three-martini lunch relationship sales guys are over…”
Thanks to smart devices and the internet, we have access to the collective wisdom of the entire human race, at our fingertips, on-demand, 24/7. Consumers have never been more discerning, more prepared, or better informed than they are today.
Your personal credibility as a sales professional and the ability to make a genuine human connection are the only things that can buoy you up above the sea of information our consumers are inundated with each day.
Empathy is Our First Job
If you were to ask salespeople what their job is, you would get a myriad of answers which might include answers like: “closing deals, getting sales, or negotiating contracts”. And while these activities may be the way many salespeople earn commissions, they are actually an outcome, which is the favorable byproduct of the behaviors that make up a sales professional’s primary job.
“As sales professionals, we try to embody these four core values. Empathy, credibility, discipline, and passion. Our first job, as a sales professional, is to have empathy. We must learn about the person we’re talking to. We need to stop trying to sell and first find out what they are experiencing, where they are challenged and how they view success.”
Not Everyone is Destined for Sales Management
Many organizations today work hard at lowering attrition and retaining talent, however, the flip side of that coin is that it costs just as much, if not more, to keep the wrong people or to have the right people in the wrong position. To succeed in today’s marketplace, it is just as important to fill roles in your organization with the right people as it is to focus on retaining internally grown talent.
A big part of keeping people and ensuring you have the right people in the right role is giving your sales professionals the permission and the opportunity to self-actualize. The top seller in your company may not be the greatest sales manager, as a matter of fact, we’ve found that there’s a pretty strong possibility they aren’t, and that’s okay. Give your sales professionals the permission to do what they’re best at each and every day whether that’s maintaining sole ownership of the real estate on top of the leader board or giving their team members the tools they need to one day reach the top themselves.
Josh summed it up in this way:
“When we are looking for senior sales leadership, it can be easy to want your number one in sales to take his expertise and approach and train others to become top sales performers as well. However, that is not always the case. Not everyone is destined for sales management. So we look and see where we have those individuals who are a natural fit. Are they the apex predator who finds fulfillment in knocking down big deals or are they a better coach and mentor, finding enjoyment in serving and enabling others? Those are two very different skill sets.
I don’t consider sales professionals whose career focus is both top salesperson and sales management. Nor do I consider those who don’t have an answer when I ask them what direction they see their career heading in terms of sales leadership. If you think you can do it all, you are never going to reach your apex.
Your passion is going to be in either sales or sales management. Don’t let your ego drive your desired career title. Do what you want to do – day in and day out so you find continued success and fulfillment.”
Hands-on Coaching Drives Success
It seems it would go without saying that hands-on coaching drives success. However, we have found that as organizations grow and the demands placed on sales leaders become ever greater, one of the first things to fall by the wayside is hands-on coaching.
Pay close attention to the ratio of direct reports to managers in your organization to ensure leaders are able to dedicate the necessary time and attention to this crucial driver of success.
Josh had this recommendation:
“We don’t create teams where the manager has so many direct reports that they can’t spend enough time training individuals. Our personnel assignments vary, but it is really important that the manager is able to facilitate each member of their team’s success”.
As our interview drew to a close Josh offered this final thought:
“Metrics don’t drive success. Hands-on coaching drives success”
We couldn’t agree more.
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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