An Ongoing Series of Informational Entries to Make You THINK

“One of the sincerest forms of respect you can have for someone, is to actually listen to what they have to say.”​

When I first walked into what I believed was my dream managerial job, I knew that to be successful it was imperative that I took the time to listen.

There is a misconception that if one who has served in the military in some leadership capacity that all you do is spend the day barking orders and people just do what they're told, no matter what. This is one of the worse misconceptions about the men and women who served in leadership roles in the military.

Yes, I like many others served with distinction in the US Army, with over 30 jumps, two being night jumps with an operational unit that ended in an airborne assault. Earning Master Jump Wings, Ranger tab, and CIB. Significant as that was to my military career, only one thing I learned in the military prepared me to step into a civilian role and lead men and women in a sales driven organization. And that was my ability to listen. I cannot tell you how significant it is to listen to your team.

There are two intangibles in life and I must say in sales, in my opinion, one is Listening and the other is Attitude. One without the other, a person won't fair well.

When I meet with my boss I asked him to give me his perspective on the team I was inheriting. He informed me that it was important that I talk to the top salesperson first. And there were a few salespeople underperforming. But two stood out, the first being the top salesperson and the 2nd was a rep I was told couldn't sell their way out of a paper bag.

It just so happens the top sales person was in town and I invited him to lunch. and after our pleasantries, I asked him to honestly answer three questions from his perspective. “What are we doing right?”, “How can we improve?” and “What would you do first if you were in my shoes?”.

As he was talking all I did was take note and listen. I thanked him for his insight and honesty. But I wasn't listening for him to gripe about the organization. Rather I was more interested in the level of pride he had in his ability to overcome obstacles and continue to charge through difficulties. And his overall Attitude, because that to me is everything.

My second meeting with a salesperson, whom I mentioned above and I just came right out and told them, we have a perception problem. I'm sure it didn't sit well with them. The good news was I knew how to fix this and we did.

I asked them to schedule three face to face client presentations in their territory. In one, while they were presenting, I took out my iPhone and begin recording the meeting. Now they begin to get nervous, they later told me. But the good news is it didn't show to the clients. I praised them for how well they did, how they first sold themselves, secondly they sold the benefits of our solution and lastly price wasn't a factor in the meeting.

When I got back to the office, I was asked how well the salesperson did? I told my boss, I have a better idea I'd like to show you their presentation. I played the video from the meeting and then informed my boss and the naysayer "by the way, they closed the deal." The comment was never brought up again in my presence. Today, this person is one of the top salespeople in the organization. Meeting revenue targets quarter after quarter. Hitting KPI's. Before I left the company I remember giving them a bonus check for their efforts in growing their pipeline.

These two salespeople are an example of the importance of listening to your team.

Never forget this maxim, salespeople are the most important members of the team. Without what they do every day, no one has a job. The company doesn't exist if nothing is sold. If you're not doing so start giving your sales organization the respect they deserve, listen to their feedback. And don't be afraid to ask them, as your boss, "What am I doing right?" "What can I improve", and "What would you do if you were in my seat?" Don't be afraid to listen. Leave your ego at the door.

One Size Does Not Fit All In Selling

There is the assumption that what was implemented at one company will automatically translate into the model that should be implemented at another.

A lot of business executives I speak with amaze me how little background homework they've done when they are hired into a new organization. I had a consultant tell me once that "every hire is a 50/50 crap shoot". Although I understand what he meant. I believe it boils down to the candidate or executives asking the right question during and before the hiring process.

At a minimum if you're hired to lead a sales organization and drive incremental revenue there are five key questions to consider:

1. Does the product or service offering have name recognition and brand presence in the market?

2. Is it the type of product that's considered; "new concept", "disruptive tech". Are we selling into an established market that will quickly grasp the product or service differentiation?

3. Do you have a solid prospecting strategy?

4. Does the sales process involve a demo or "try before you buy" model?

5. What is the actual length of the sales cycle?

At the end of the day, it is vitally important that companies realize whichever channel strategy they’re looking to launch their products into that, no one wants to resell your product or service unless he or she can make money at it.

If you’ve not proved you are making money at it, you will have a hard time convincing a top-tier sales person to invest precious time building the channel for a product that you've not proven can be sold in the market.

Some companies make the mistake of thinking that if they just hire the top sales-person all their worries will be over. Actually, your troubles will just be beginning.

Have a clear selling strategy in place before you hire him or her to join your team. If you need help on how to build out a winning go to market strategy. Connect with me and I will share with you proven tips that will help you make your number in 2018.

The Story You're About To Read Is True

Once upon a time, I went to visit one of my top accounts in Houston, TX. While sitting in his lobby waiting to see him. He storms out the door bellowing, about how sick and tired he was that his residence and the guest were damaging his property entry gates.

Now, me being the on point sales professional I am, I said, "Can I ask you a question?" "What would it be worth to you, if I could help you track the folks who were damaging your gates?" He looked at me and said, "Sam, if you can do that, man I believe I could give you a lot more of my business".

Now that's music to a salesman's ears, right? I phoned my boss and explained the situation and the potential business we might get if he'd only approve me getting some IP Cameras and equipment.

He approved, I phoned my client, and I told him I'd be back in a week and could he have all the stakeholders in the conference room.

I meet with not only my client but his boss, head of property security and the IT Director. In total, 23 people were in the meeting. Being an ATM toastmaster at the time, I explained to them why we were all here, and what we wanted to accomplish.

I opened the presentation sharing with them a lot about how I came to work with their boss and how over time we've solved a lot of problems for his organization. I explained my company and our ability to install and manage every step in the process from planning to installation and concluding the closeout to track their satisfaction.

I was asked a lot of questions, some technical, more about how this solution would benefit the communities and build a sense of safety amongst their residents.

A few days later we begin the install, it took us a couple of days to complete the install. I called my project assistant who was sitting in my client's office, and asked him if they were ready? "Ok, let's light the candle". They were able to see the property and me standing at the gate in real time.

A couple of weeks I called him and asked him how was it working out. He informed me that they were able to capture three incidents, that resulted in more than $15,000 in damages to his properties.

A week after that I get a fax asking me to quote and additional 10 properties. All total we sold into 26 of his communities. At years end, I sold, $1.6 million in cameras and equipment.

The "Twilight Zone"

Fast forward to a few weeks ago I applied for a position that I learned was open from a sales rep at the company we bought our cameras from. Sam, "its a slam dump", you know our equipment, you understand the vertical and you're connected with the clients we want to capture

Friday I got an email from the company, "Although, we are impressed with your background and sales experience; we don't think at this time you are a good fit for this position". "We will keep your resume on file and should a position we feel better suits you, we will be in touch. Thank you for applying at."

Dada, the Twilight Zone! To add to that, I get a call from the owner of another company I applied to, "Sam, I know I didn't hire you, but I've been following you on LinkedIn and you have a lot of knowledge, do you mind sharing with the guy we hired?" I spent 45 MINUTES sharing what I believe would help him in his role. At the end of the call he said, "Man, I should be working for you."

I write all this to say one simple thing, we need to help each other when we can. Our customers should trust us to solve problems, find solutions. As Gerry Layo says, "It takes guts, intelligence, persistence, faith, commitment, attitude, skills, and action to do what we do every day." Being a former infantry officer I have been taught to be results driven. Don't leave anyone behind. So many salespeople need help, they're so busy trying to sell that they're not investing in their skills. This hurts them professionally and their companies growth.

I recently reached out to my former client in Houston and told him I was applying for a position at the camera company I sold to him, but I was wondering, "why did you buy from me?" He paused on the call and said; "Sam it's simple, you never tried to sell me anything. You allowed me to buy. You earned my trust, you tried to fix a problem that was costing me thousands of dollars.

That's the key, it wasn't about the cameras it was about me solving his problem. Putting myself in his shoes. To take him out of the Twilight Zone.

As Anthony Iannarino says in his book "The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need" 1. Be a student of people, 2. Imagine yourself in the customer's position, 3. Listen to and accept the customer's interpretation, 4. Make caring an action, 5. Remember the little things.