Theresa Glenna, Global Market Access Senior Project Manager, Sales and Training Specialist at TUV SUD America
Recently, we had an opportunity to connect with Theresa Glenna, Global Market Access (GMA) Senior Project Manager, Sales and Training Specialist at TUV SUD America and listen to her 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. She shared a number of unique ideas focused around:
- Top Performers Ask Questions that Get at the Heart of the Customer’s Needs
- Poor Preparation and Discovery Leads to Rework
- Become the Expert in the Customer’s Eyes
- Be Humble and Approach Training with Intent
- Effective Coaches Meet Their Salespeople at Their Level
Early in the interview, Theresa said something that really framed the rest of our conversation,
“Salespeople rarely get any practice that isn’t real-life practice. They don’t get any opportunity to rehearse and practice the skills to perform under pressure.”
This is a challenge facing a number of organizations, but one that can be easy to miss, especially since the costs associated are not always readily apparent. Many companies lack the capacity, infrastructure, and foresight to formally construct a practice framework for their salespeople, this can result in missed opportunities and cause top performing salespeople to feel stagnant and as though they are not receiving the training and development they often crave. When this happens, good salespeople may choose to leave and mediocre salespeople will have a hard time getting any better.
Top Performers Ask Questions that Get at the Heart of the Customer’s Needs
We asked Theresa her thoughts on what sets top performers apart. Here is her thinking,
“Top performers manage their schedule and organize it in a way they can be effective. Other salespeople tend to be rushed and transactional because they feel they are behind. This causes them to lose focus and lose the finer points of active listening and asking great questions.”
The link between an optimized schedule and sales performance often goes overlooked. Selling is largely about productivity and creating opportunity. A salesperson who maintains an optimized schedule has already taken a huge step towards accomplishing those two things.
Next, we asked Theresa to tell us more about asking great questions and she shared:
“Top performers ask questions like “What are you doing currently?”, or “What is not effective about your current solution?”. These types of questions really get at the heart of the customer’s needs and allow you to be relevant with your service offering, instead of pitching a generic solution to everyone.”
As Theresa observes, the ability to ask direct, insightful, open-ended questions is a key to identifying bigger selling opportunities. What we’ve found is top performers listen in a way so they can then tailor their responses in a more relevant and impactful way.
Poor Preparation and Discovery Leads to Rework
Next, our conversation shifted to the bad habits salespeople get into that limit their success. We asked Theresa about some of the worst habits she has seen from salespeople in her experience. Theresa commented,
“Too often salespeople are just looking for the opportunity to get their information out there. They exchange the initial pleasantries and then rush forward to their pitch without first understanding the customer’s needs; they end up sounding like a used car salesman.”
The habit of pitching too early, before the salesperson has gained a clear understanding of the customer’s situation, is one that holds many salespeople back. Not only can pitching too early result in fewer successful interactions for the salesperson it may also have unforeseen negative impacts on the customer and the people that support the sales department. Theresa explains,
“If salespeople just take a request and pass that down the line without really looking at it that leads to wasted time and resources. Poor preparation and discovery leads to rework and missed critical items such as customer deadlines.”
Identifying the right opportunities is a more efficient way to work and it creates easier follow-up for other people in the organization.
Become the Expert in the Customer’s Eyes
At this point in the interview, we asked Theresa how salespeople can break the habit of pitching too early. Theresa advised,
“Customers are looking for an expert and a partner. They want someone who knows the industry and knows the rules and will partner with them to implement a solution. Once you’ve become the expert in the customer’s eyes, then you can offer a solution. Up to that point, the customer is cautious and guarded. It’s not until you get to that point of trust that you can ask for the sale.”
One of the primary roles of the salesperson is to create an environment where closing the sale is not the main focus or intent but instead a natural byproduct of the process. Top performers frequently achieve this by building a relationship with their customer in which the customer feels that the salesperson is both a trusted expert and a partner. As Theresa points out this is when buying resistance is lowest and a solution can be offered. When it’s timed right, the solution is perceived not as a sales pitch but as an organic recommendation based on the customer’s situation.
There is a Lack of Individualization in Sales Coaching
Sales managers today are expected to juggle ever-increasing demands on their time, accountability for their team’s performance, all while putting out the fires that naturally spring up each day as part of the job. Of all the hats that a sales manager wears the one that is least understood may be that of the coach. We asked Theresa what makes a sales manager an effective coach. Theresa noted,
“The managers that are the most effective coaches meet their salespeople at their level. They don’t approach the coaching as an authoritarian figure; they walk hand-in-hand with the salesperson and experience their challenges and successes first hand. Sales managers who only talk about numbers and metrics and use pep rally type of coaching is not very effective. There is a lack of individualization when it comes to coaching sales.”
Unfortunately, a hyper-focus on numbers can sometimes result in tunnel-vision that impacts their weekly sales meetings and training sessions with their team. Theresa explains this particular challenge in this way,
“When sales managers focus solely on the metrics and numbers, they fail to get a clear picture of what is holding that salesperson back. When the sales manager becomes the person who will lift you up instead of tear you down… that’s when they become most effective.”
Be Humble and Approach Training with Intent
Towards the end of our interview, Theresa offered the following pieces of advice to salespeople who want to become top performers.
- “One of the most important factors of growing as a salesperson is to be coachable and trainable. Being humble and approaching training and learning with the intent to listen, ask questions, and be engaged is key.”
- “The salespeople that really excel take what they’ve learned and attempt to implement and ask for feedback. Top performers are always seeking feedback.”
Thanks to Theresa for the interview and solid tips on how to generate stronger sales teams!
For videos on how to increase sales utilizing the SalesGym’s “Compete Selling” approaches, 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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