The CPSA is lucky to have many of the top Sales and Leadership experts as guest bloggers and supporters. One such well-known thought leader is Dave Stein.
Dave Stein is an sales coach, and consultant, who specialises in hiring top sales talent and winning large, competitive opportunities. Dave is also a successful writer and recently co-wrote a book titled Beyond the Sales Process: 12 Proven Strategies for a Customer-Driven World. His first book, How Winners Sell, was an Amazon #1 best-seller.
Let’s hear from Dave Stein.
CPSA: Tell us about yourself; your career path and expertise.
Answer 1: My first career was as a professional trumpet player in New York City. When I realized what a tough business that was, I went into computer programming. Sitting in front of a screen all day was boring, so I took a job selling. I sold, managed, got into general operations, international business development, sales training, and then left the corporate world and became a consultant. I’ve never regretted it for a second.
Question 2: You’re quite popular within the sales community, and you write some great content. Why did you start blogging?
Answer 2: Thanks! I had written two successful books. I love to write, and since I wasn’t up to a third book at that time (Beyond the Sales Process was recently launched), I needed an outlet. Plus, I had a mailing list of 40,000 or so followers all ready, willing, and able to read my stuff. Another point: without sounding arrogant, I was dismayed at how much wrong information was being published. I felt that there was sales advice from people who never sold, hiring advice from people who never hired and advice on winning big deals from people who never won a big deal. I felt I had to blog to provide what I believe was sound, strategic, and actionable awareness in the market.
Question 4: What factors go into a winning sales cycle?
Answer 4: Steve Andersen, my co-author, and I believe that it’s more than just winning the deal that brings long-term success to a sales professional, their team, manager, and company. We know that what they do before, during, and after the sale has a much greater impact on long-term success with that customer and in their careers. So we believe that engaging with a customer, winning an opportunity, and growing the account is the real answer. But to answer your question directly, the most important part of the second phase (winning) is a plan. That plan has to take into account four things: 1) discovering the customer’s drivers—what’s at stake for them, 2) aligning the teams – developing customer sponsors and supporters, 3) positioning the fit – competing for customer mindshare, and, 4) differentiating your value – creating customer preference. Of course, there is a fair amount of detail behind these strategies, but we think it’s pretty hard to win a deal without doing all four, in the right order.
Question 5: Leaders have lots of influence over a salesforce. If you can get them to help change one thing, what would it be?
Answer 5: Based on research I’ve done over the past ten years, I believe that 20% to 33% of salespeople aren’t suited for the positions they hold. That means that no matter how much training, technology, coaching, money, tools, process, or leads you give them, they aren’t going to succeed long term. So, getting the sales hiring thing right is most important. I’ve interviewed dozens and dozens of sales leaders who disclosed to me that only 25% to 35% of their salesforce were delivering 80% to 90% of their revenues. That’s an epidemic! That aside, the one thing a sales leader can do to impact the success of their team is to be sure there is a logical, executable plan to win every opportunity. So many salespeople (and their leaders) run their operations by the seat of their pants—no order, no plan, no strategy. Just tactics. That’s where I’d have them start.
Question 6: How does technology factor into a Sales rep's future success?
Answer 6: Technology is a medium to enable sales effectiveness. It would be very hard, in today’s world, for a salesperson to consistently win without technological support. That would include, of course, email, Google, and office applications. Layering in social platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter, for example), specialized research tools, and strategically implemented CRM systems will also help.
The problem develops when the rep or leader focuses on the next Bright Shiny Object and forgets that technology is supposed to support selling—it is not, unto itself, selling. And all of this technology-enabled selling will increase, never decrease going forward. So if a salesperson isn’t tech savvy, and doesn’t leverage solid tools to help them achieve their targets, they are going to fall by the wayside going forward.
Question 7: What’s the most difficult objection a salesperson could face? How would you respond to it?
Answer 7: Wow. I’ve faced a lot of objections on behalf of my hundreds of clients over the years. The biggest objection you can face is one you can’t change and are also unable to get the customer to see around that deficiency or gap. I’ve done sales consulting work with many dozens of smaller Irish companies. They are often in contention for a deal against a much, much larger international or global player. If the customer sees doing business with the small Irish company as a risk too big to overcome, they’ll likely never win the deal. That’s what early and ongoing qualification is critical. I instruct the CEOs of these Irish companies to have their salespeople find out quickly what history the customer has prior with doing business with smaller providers, how those have worked out, what risks they perceive, and how the customer has overcome them, if at all. I’d rather find out the customer isn’t going to buy from me a month into a six-month sales cycle than the day they announce a decision.
Question 8: What’s your greatest piece of advice you can give to salespeople?
Answer 8: Sales isn’t a team sport. It’s a business. As with any successful business, discipline, a sense urgency, seriousness, ongoing development, measurement, quality, and accountability are primary success factors. The most successful salespeople I’ve ever worked with operated that way and were leaders in their teams, their companies, and their industries.
About Dave Stein:
Dave Stein is a successful sales coach, and consultant. He focuses his attention on hiring of top sales professionals, development of corporate and selling strategies to overcome tough competitors, and more. Dave Stein is also a successful writer and recently co‐authored of Beyond the Sales Process: 12 Proven Strategies for a Customer‐Driven World.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author. CPSA does not endorse any of the companies, products and services mentioned within this article.