Kevin Strange, VP Sales Enablement in the Tech Industry
Recently, we had an opportunity to connect with Kevin Strange, VP Sales Enablement in the Tech Industry, 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:
- Top Performers Listen and Learn
- Build Relationships for Tangible and Intangible Reasons
- It Takes Practice to Consistently Build Relationships
Early in the interview, Kevin said something that really framed the rest of our conversation,
“You have to know your audience, listen to your audience, and feed off of what they’re telling you.”
Top Performers Listen and Learn
When asked to elaborate on what best practices are in terms of listening to potential partners, Kevin responded with,
“Top performers listen and understand key buying factors by asking leading questions. They engage with buyers to make connections that will open up their true pain point areas; and they correlate technology options that will absolve that pain.”
This focus on careful listening, combined with the ability to ask insightful questions that lead the conversation in an advantageous direction has been a common theme among the majority of the top performing organizations we have worked with and studied over the years. These best practices don’t just occur randomly though, it requires understanding the client, and a desire to match tailored solutions with their individual problems, as Kevin put it the following quotes,
“The sales professionals that have discussion-based sales approaches are much more successful than those who just go in selling a widget, and do not connect with the customer. Top sellers leverage customer success that is tailored to their customer’s situation. They spend time preparing beforehand and combine technology resources to align with their pain points. “
Build Relationships for Tangible and Intangible Reasons
We instinctively understand the importance of listening for the specifics of someone’s problem and providing them with a personalized solution, but often times things don’t play out this way. In many instances, this is a result of a missing connection, which in the modern world is further exacerbated by the conveniences of technology, Kevin put a fine edge on that point when he initiated this part of our conversation,
“LinkedIn or text messaging should not replace human connection. People buy from people. The seller has to be someone who understands connection, because people need to feel they are buying from a person not from an entity.“
This is an important point that often gets lost in the mix of spreadsheets and to do lists. People want to buy from other people that they trust and believe can help solve their problems. They want to know who to go to when they need advice, and who will take the initiative to correct mistakes made along the way. Buyers need to know that they are a priority, and not just because they are a temporary dollar sign. Kevin explained the importance of the human connection in this way,
“Sellers should not treat buyers as a prospect or revenue. Buyers know that, but they don’t want to feel it. So if they feel it they will disconnect, fear dishonesty, and turn away.”
It Takes Practice to Consistently Build Relationships
Knowing the value of human connections in sales is much different than being able to consistently create those connections. Often times, we have a small window to create the connection as well. The harsh truth of that was top of mind when Kevin said,
“We only get one or possibly two shots at winning the customer over. The only way we can do that is by practicing. Don’t practice in front of your customer. Practice at home. Professional teams don’t just come out on the day of the Super Bowl and say ‘oh well, we’ll see how this goes’. They have been practicing and practicing to the point where it is muscle memory. Sales is a profession where you need to practice to be good.”
This preparation focus is aligned with what we have seen studying top performers across all industries, and the practice element is something our clients keep reaffirming as the key to their success in those pivotal interactions. So how do managers support their teams and ensure they are able to perform in those situations? Kevin has found that connecting with and investing in his salespeople is the most effective way to accomplish this, saying,
“Sales managers need to be invested in their coaching; not invested as professional revenue watchers. Our top sales manager connects with his salespeople, coaches them, and helps turn their heads to various ideas. He doesn’t allow them to get bored, but to have sales become a part of who they are.”
This hands on style of coaching focused on continual growth while avoiding stagnation and boredom has proven to be effective for most businesses who have consciously adopted a growth mindset, and Kevin provided us with some valuable insights on what it takes to create that in an organization.
Thanks to Kevin 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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