From mentor to mentee- 10 tips to be successful in the sales game.

Just had the pleasure of mentoring a 23-year-old newly appointed sales rep.  1 year post college, all the energy and hustle in the world, full of charm and charisma.   He asked for my advice on how to be successful in sales.  Here’s what I told em:

1.  Make sure you know about the person you’re meeting and their business.   What they do, how their performance is measured, and how you can help them.  Look for commonalities.
2.  Know what you want to get out of your meeting before you meet.  ie- the goal of this meeting is to have another meeting.
3.  Give more than you get and don’t ask for anything in return.  Essentially, “earn the right” to be in the room.
4.  Find a way to be more intrinsically motivated than extrinsically motivated
5.  Unofficially, seek out mentors both personal mentors and professional mentors.
6.  Don’t try to persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded that’s called manipulation.
7.  Ask hard questions up front- ie- why are you purchasing? What are your expectations?  What’s your procurement process look like?  Are funds readily available for this purchase?  How do you find Return on Investment?
8.  Be a good story teller.  Make people laugh.
9.  Be vulnerable- it helps grow trust.
10.  Be passionate about what you sell.  If you’re not, find a fast exit.
Upon reflection, this appears to be all common sense.  Hmmm… I’m wondering if I served this kid any good?  I guess we’ll wait and see.  Good luck buddy- you know who you are.  The world is your oyster!

Want to make an impact in your work environment? Read these publications

A couple marquee books that I’ve enjoyed over the years: 
Taking People with you, by David Novak- CEO Yum Brands  Discusses Novak’s feelings about team and mission building.  Excellent read to gather ideas for team/mission unity.
Power Questions  Keep this book on your desk and reference it frequently.  Want to know how to crack through the surface and show people you really care?  Here’s your book.
What great sales people do  A great book that goes against popular belief that sales reps have to be hardasses.  Also lays the groundwork for “how” to tell a story and motivate others to take action.  Backed up with data and statistics, this book is excellent.
Built to Last Yeah I know, it’s an oldie but a goodie!  Principals were applicable in the past and will remain true indefinitely.  
Hackers & Painters  Written by Paul Graham.  Talks about the future of our world and how technology impacts our society.  I just started it, but am really enjoying its content thus far.

Intrinsic Motivation

I must be getting old, because I’ve come to fully appreciate “motivation.”  Awhile ago, I read Daniel Pink’s book; Drive.  Pink goes on to decipher the differences between “extrinsic” vs “intrinsic” motivation.  Extrinsic Motivation is a reward or something of monetary/statutory value.  Intrinsic Motivation on the other-hand, comes from within.  It is the genuine sense of motivation not driven by reward.  An example of Intrinsic Motivation would be finding purpose that moves you to action on somethings behalf, other than yourself.

Here’s a blob from Ben Horowitz’s book, “The Hard Thing about Hard Things.”  Horowitz is describing a time when his asked his employees to double down on their workload to essentially keep the company afloat.  The Head of Engineering, Ted Crossman, responds with this classic example of Intrinsic Motivation.

“Of all the times I think of at Loudcloud and Opsware, the Darwin Project was the most fun and the most hard. I worked seven days a week 8 a.m.–10 p.m. for six months straight. It was full on. Once a week I had a date night with my wife where I gave her my undivided attention from 6 p.m. until midnight. And the next day, even if it was Saturday, I’d be back in the office at 8 a.m. and stay through dinner. I would come home between 10–11 p.m. Every night. And it wasn’t just me. It was everybody in the office.
The technical things asked of us were great. We had to brainstorm how to do things and translate those things into an actual product.
It was hard, but fun. I don’t remember losing anyone during that time. It was like, “Hey, we gotta get this done, or we will not be here, we’ll have to get another job.” It was a tight-knit group of people. A lot of the really junior people really stepped up. It was a great growing experience for them to be thrown into the middle of the ocean and told “Okay, swim.” Six months later we suddenly started winning proofs of concepts we hadn’t before. Ben did a great job, he’d give us feedback, and pat people on the back when we were done.”

Excerpt From: Ben Horowitz. “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.” iBooks.



Comparison of the LA vs. San Francisco Tech worker

Oddly enough, I’ve always wanted to know these stats…..


The SINGLE best thing a sales rep can do to WIN

Sales reps have a lot of pressure.  Pressure to get meetings, pressure to put on stellar customer preso’s, pressure to attain their revenue goals, pressure to be consistent.  What separates good reps from bad?  Many time reps get lucky- the inbound channel passes them a lucrative lead, or a partner sends them a lead that has a > 70% closing chance.  But the reps that get out there and hustle- the reps with the “ownership” mentality- these reps possess ONE single trait that others don’t.  You ready for this one?

They work on behalf of the customer.

That’s it- working on behalf of the customer.  Simple right?  Maybe/maybe not depending on the rep.  Let me explain…

When you work on behalf of the customer, you do what is right for them, according to their timelines and processes.  When you work on behalf of the customer, you work according to their agenda…not your own.  Good reps don’t have to put pressure on customers to buy. They simply understand why a customer desires to buy and gives them a path to buy.  If a customer doesn’t have a proven/repeatable procurement process, the good rep helps them create one.  If the customer doesn’t have a critical matter in which they must buy, the good rep explores the pros/cons of a purchase and empowers the customer to move forward on their terms.  If it’s not right for the customer- the good rep walks away with his head high, knowing he probably just earned the trust of the customer and separated himself from the pack of other reps having the same conversations.

Also, good reps have “intrinsic” pleasure of knowing they’re helping a customer.  It makes the rep happy to have a business conversation with the customer and help them relate how a solution can help remove challenges or accelerate goals.  Working on behalf of the customer spurs this “intrinsic” feeling.

And lastly, good reps demonstrate how the return of the customer spend outweighs the total cost of solution ownership.  Good reps empower.  Good reps work on behalf of their customer.

Thanks for reading!

The Art of Story Telling

We all know people who can blow your hair back with the stories they tell.  I’ve come to realize that story telling is a part of life.  Whether you’re in a social setting with friends, or in the midst of a competitive deal trying to get the person on the other side of the table to change his opinion and take action.   Coming to this realization made me study “the art” behind the story.  Through research, I’ve realized there are 5 points to a good story.  Here they are;

1. The Point. What’s the point of your story?  Begin your story by telling the end result.  Example- “They realized a 45% lift in year over year sales.”

2.  Setting.  Next you’ll speak to the setting of the story.  This is your beginning point where the story unfolds. Include the time-frame and subjects.  “I first started working with ABC company in 2003, right when the economy started to pick-up after the dot-com crash.”

3.  Challenge.  This is where you’ll speak to the obstacles your story subjects were facing.  You’ll want to focus on the “tension of a conflict.”  Example: “ABC company realized they had 7 months of run-rate left to keep the company afloat.  The understood if they didn’t take action and fast, they soon would be forced to layoff employees and potentially go out of business.”

4.  Action.  Speak to the action taken that addresses the challenge.  “ABC Company doubled down in their networking technology and made a substantial investment in Internet Protocol Hardware.”

5.  Resolution.  This is what happens as a result Action.  The resolution bleeds into the point of your story.  “As a result of their investment, ABC Company merged 3 call centers into 1, refurbished their legacy hardware, sold their real-estate, reduced taxes owed, and re-positioned staff members.”

Remember, story telling works best if you appeal to your audience’s emotions. Here’s a few resources to help:

What good sales people do.

Ted Talks on Story Telling 

If I gave you Job creation, 40% reduction to OPEX, & process consolidation- would you thank me?

This title makes me a laugh a bit.  Awhile back I brokered a deal that merited just that: 2 new jobs, a > than 40% reduction in marketing expenses, and 3 broken processes melted down into 1.  In an earlier post I promised a story a of jump-starting growth in a clients marginalized business.   Well, here it is….

Disclaimer- this was super rewarding to source this project and actually land it.  From day 1, the client and I shared the same vision for his company.

Let’s jump in. Some time ago, one of my Google alerts informed me a prospect had scored a new VP of Marketing.  Jumping to the clients website, I researched the VP’s background and bio, scoured his social profiles, double checked the company news and reviewed the success stories I had with similar clients.  I decided to pick up the phone and give him a call. I thought for sure I’d be getting voice-mail.  WRONG.  The phone didn’t even ring and he picked up.  To make a long introductory paragraph short, my prospect picked up, I introduced myself and congratulated him on his newly appointed position.  I then went on to ask about his departmental priorities.   I told him I figured as a new VP, he’d be sourcing methods to cut costs and grow marketing revenue.  He said by golly- that’s exactly what he planned to do.  I then proceeded to inform how one of his competitors used my software to increase customer order value and reduce the time to customer repurchase.  He liked what he heard, and we agreed to meet.

During that first meeting we talked at length about challenges his organization faced.  As I learned, his company was family ran and doing business one way for a very long time.  He was brought into the organization because sales were stagnant. The Board realized that if the company didn’t act differently, their run rate would dry up, layoffs would happen, product lines would have to divested, etc etc.  So they decided to bring in a marketing guru to help accelerate growth.

Turns out, they outsourced their marketing services and spent a boatload of money doing so.  Together, we determined if they brought services in-house, they would save a significant amount of budgeted capital.  They could reinvest opex savings into new technology and to support the growth mission.  And that’s exactly what they did.  The company took this initiative to RFP, but because my company approached him first and helped generate the in-house strategy, we essentially earned his trust and ultimately his investment.  As a result- my prospect reduced his OPEX by $415K annually, hired 2 new people, merged 3 processes into 1.  Today they operate leaner and more efficient that in the past.  They’ve also recognized close to a 20% uplift in sales.  And to add a cherry, 10 months after deployment, the cost of my software and the salaried employees who operate it, has been paid for via the uptick in sales revenue.

Like I previously mentioned, a good sales rep will figure how his solution makes an impact in the strategy & direction of his prospects business.  He may even go as far as to make assumptions how his solution will impact his client’s internal KPI’s.  As us in sales know, not all sales will be like the one outlined here, but we certainly can influence similarity.

Next topics: proactive vs reactive sales reps and difference between sales & busdev.  Stay tuned.