- Research Interviews
The Power of Connecting to Generate More Sales Mark D’Andrea, Chief Revenue Officer, SQAD, LLC
Recently, we had an opportunity to interview Mark D’Andrea, Chief Revenue Officer with SQAD, LLC. and listen to his thinking on what makes top-performing salespeople different, what gives them their competitive edge and what sales leaders can do to train and support them. He shared a number of unique ideas focused around:
- Simplify Your Sales Messaging
- Good Leadership is about Serving Others
- Mark’s Keys to Connecting with Decision Makers
Early in the interview, Mark said something that really framed the rest of our conversation,
“We’ve all been sitting in a room where one of your team members is talking to either the client or a prospect and they’re just hitting it off. Their simple ability to understand that there are common threads in our lives and this is not about a pitch or a product, but connecting with someone else. This skill set (connectability) is one of the most impactful skills I’ve witnessed.”
Decision-makers prefer to do business with people they like and feel a connection with. Building that connection is key to generating more sales.
Simplify Your Sales Messaging
At the SalesGym, we coach and train thousands of salespeople every year and we’ve found the best way to start is to work on sales messaging skills. Salespeople need to be able to make powerful, succinct points tied to competitive advantages and differentiating factors, as Mark explains …
“We go through a process of taking a message down to its simplest form, applying it to business verticals, offering 3 to 4 solutions and then going to market with it. To be successful in enterprise sales, follow the simple guiding principles of offering salient points on business value instead of speaking only to feature parity and differentiators. Talk about their specific business outcomes rather than reviewing industry KPIs. Know when they will benefit from challenging their business approach and develop trust so you can effectively challenge their current way of thinking.”
This is an area where sales leaders can really help their sales teams to improve. What we’ve learned about getting sales messaging into a form where salespeople can learn, practice and master it, boils down to a few steps:
- Identify 5-10 short headlines (10-20 words max) that identify distinct generic differentiating factors your company brings to the table and get them written down.
- Identify a typical decision maker and write down a 30-45 second, highly tailored example of how to communicate that headline to that specific decision maker. Do this for each headline.
- Ideally, use peer-to-peer phrasing, meaning uses the words your customers would use to describe your differentiating factors. Eliminate jargon, acronyms and buzzwords from the explanation.
- If possible, record audio examples of each competitive advantage, tailored to specific decision makers.
- Share this information with the sales team and then practice in sales meetings by asking them to TAILOR their message by focusing on individual differentiating factors, one at a time, focused on specific decision makers.
- Practice, practice, practice. To develop the skill to be concise, tailored and impactful, it takes practice, and we mean every single week kind of practice.
Mark’s Keys to Connecting with Decision Makers
Mark made a few great points about the importance of connecting with decision-makers:
The biggest of all to me is trustworthiness. If you’re known as someone who retains trust and transparency with your clients, that will get you farther than any slick sales technique. Referrals come from people who “trust” you. I think we confuse “like” with “trust” at times in business. Business relationships will end abruptly without the ability to trust that the folks on the other end have your business interests in mind at all times. They might also like you, but they better trust you or its curtains.
I shouldn’t need decks, white papers or fancy videos. I’m going to walk in there with my white board marker and I’m going to explain to this person why I’m the partner they should be working with. Most materials are crutches preventing you from reaching what you’re capable of – this is a connection between two people in the end. Make that connection and use decks and other materials as back-up to YOU.
Don’t get sidetracked by buzzwords in a meeting. Remember to listen to the complete context of a client or prospect’s statements – too often we stop listening after we hear that trigger word and it’s the next five words out of that client’s mouth which really leads to a more transformative business conversation. That’s the conversation you want to have.
Recently, I was working with a top performer in a global financial services firm. He told me the story of a very large client he brought on worth about 200 million dollars in new assets to the firm. What really stood out was the level of preparation he insisted on, before the final presentation, with the two other team members he brought with him to the final meeting. They went through three full rehearsals before that presentation! This is something a lot of top performers do to increase their odds of success, as Mark explains:
“Preparation is key. I don’t care what product you’re walking in that room to sell. Just explain the value of your business and how it impacts their business. Don’t get yourself in a feature conversation, you vs. competition – if you go there you’ve already lost. At the end of the day, they’re going to say, that person walked in here and explained how we can perform better with our partnership. You can make this compelling business case only if you’re prepared.”
If we can connect with the decision-makers, listen to what matters most to them, and then prepare and practice so we can deliver our message in an effective way, we’re going to generate a lot of sales.
Good Leadership is about Serving Others
Often, Sales Managers focus too much on accountability and what they expect from their salespeople and not enough on what they are doing to help their people succeed. Mark explains,
“Regardless of my team sizes throughout my career, several hundred people or a couple of folks, I remind them daily that I work for them not the other way around. Now, trust equals actions over time, so naturally, you can’t ask your team to trust you out of the gate. However, I am going to prove to them daily that everything I say, I’ll do! I’m going to prove it through actions. Trust and transparency equals more results than any other promise you can make.”
Some successful sellers have a hard time adjusting to the role of helping others succeed. It’s important to make sure the people we promote have both strong selling skills and the ability to coach and build others. Mark explains,
“I’ve seen several really good sellers move into management and simply fall apart. From what I’ve seen in these scenarios, that’s just not what they’re built to do. Being a really handsomely paid salesperson is NOT a bad thing, you don’t need to strive to manage teams. Focus on your strengths and excel at it.”
Mark’s Final Thought: Be trustworthy – Trust equals actions over time – you need to do the hard work of convincing them to trust you, then the sky’s the limit.
Thanks to Mark for the interview and solid tips on how to generate stronger sales teams! For videos on how to increase sales utilizing SalesGym’s “Compete Selling” approach, 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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