Gus Vonderheide, Vice President of Global Sales, Hyatt Hotels
Recently, we had an opportunity to connect with Gus Vonderheide, Vice President of Global Sales at Hyatt Hotels 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:
- Trust is a Huge Factor When It Comes to Relationship Building
- Not Everybody Can Be a Sales Leader
- Good Salespeople Are A Lot Like Strong Athletes
- Sharing Best Practices is Essential for Success
Early in the interview, Gus said something that really framed the rest of our conversation,
“If you can be so strategically aligned with another company that you can’t imagine doing business without each other that’s a true strategic partner. Not that you are ever going to necessarily get there, but if you have that mindset every time that you enter into a conversation with somebody and you’re trying to build to that level, that’s a pretty strong message.”
No doubt, what Gus is describing is the ultimate relationship a salesperson should strive to create. It’s about bringing so much added value through insight, ideas and inside knowledge about the buyer’s business problems, that the buyer can’t conceive of doing business with a competitor. Approaching sales interactions with this mentality, as Gus points out, can change the focus and impact of your sales messaging.
Trust is a Huge Factor When It Comes to Relationship Building
We asked Gus what he feels is the biggest factor in forming this type of relationship with clients and he explained,
“Trust is the biggest factor when it comes to building the right kind of relationship in a sales interaction. Clients need to feel that you are on their side and that you are looking out for their best interest. When that is not the case you have a problem on your hands.”
This is an area where top performers pull ahead of the rest of the pack. As Gus points out, top-performing salespeople show the client feels they are acting in their best interest. This is frequently what allows top performers to sell through resistance and overcome objections. Trust is built when the decision maker is certain you are recommending solutions that are truly the best possible go forward option.
We asked Gus why he feels some salespeople struggle to build relationships with their clients and he pointed out,
“I remind folks all the time that we have two ears and one mouth and there’s a reason for that. Salespeople tend to want to solve problems before they even know what the problem is.”
The desire to jump in immediately with a solution and start selling before you’ve built a relationship with your client is an area of opportunity for many salespeople. This often results in frustration for the client and the salesperson. The client does not feel acknowledged or understood and the salesperson doesn’t understand why the client is objecting to moving the sale forward. The best salespeople grasp the importance of seeking first to understand and then to be understood.
Not Everybody Can Be a Sales Leader
Frequently we hear sales organizations describe themselves as meritocracies where incentives and promotions are based on the skills and abilities of the salesperson instead of something like tenure, for example. This creates an interesting challenge in selecting the people you want leading your sales teams. Gus explained it this way,
“Many times we’ll take a real great salesperson and we’ll think, ‘they’re so good they must be a good leader.’ Come to find out that they were well placed. They want to sell, that’s what they do well. We need good sellers.”
The ability to recognize the strengths of your salespeople and place them in a well-suited role is one that many companies find challenging. Many sales managers have found themselves promoted based on their sales skills only to find that sales management is a separate skillset altogether. Fortunately, many new sales managers can apply their top-performing mentality, thirst for knowledge, and competitive nature to becoming good at their new role, but someone needs to coach the coaches.
Good Salespeople Are A Lot Like Strong Athletes
Next, we asked Gus what he feels makes a “good seller” and he explained,
“I kind of compare a good salesperson with the strong athlete, not in terms of being athletically fit, but having a goal to cross the finish line. Training, preparing and being able to get across the finish line are all traits of a good athlete. These are exactly the traits that I look for in a salesperson.”
Gus’ insight into the parallels between sales and athletics stood out to us. Thinking of good salespeople as strong athletes can help sales managers to understand what it takes to train, coach, and develop them. If you approach training your salespeople as a coach and take time to run drills, practice, and rehearse with your salespeople, you’ll be well on the road to building a stronger team and making a real impact on their skills and abilities.
Sharing Best Practices is Essential for Success
As our interview came to a close we asked Gus what he thinks is essential to building stronger sales teams and he offered a key insight,
“Sharing best practices is essential and I rely heavily on sharing success stories. We do that quite often. If something goes well for us or the opposite, if something has been a disaster, we should talk about that too because others, at some point, may be faced with the same situation.”
The knowledge base built by your top performers over hundreds of interactions with potential clients is often one of the greatest untapped resources in an organization. Some of the best sales leaders ensure they have a strategy in place to capture this knowledge and share it with the rest of the team. As Gus calls out, this can accelerate the learning and results of newer salespeople as they learn what’s been tried, what strategies work, and what it takes to succeed from the old guard.
Thanks to Gus 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.
Get expert sales knowledge with our FREE newsletter
Sign up for our monthly newsletter to access top sales training techniques.