National Salesperson Day – A Few Interviews With Sales Professionals
Exceptional Sales Reps we met were kind to share their success tips.
Drop the cheat sheets – read the real-life stories of people like you who made it big in sales.
“What were the keys to your success as a B2B salesperson in this very tough profession?”
We asked the same question of many successful former and current sales reps and VPs, who made it multiple times into the Presidents’ Clubs, built and sold businesses, and consistently exceeded their goals. No boilerplate prompts, no cliché textbooks – just learn from their experience.
What they had to say is better than fiction and better than your company’s Sales Orientation Guide.
Masters of Selling – Successful Sales Reps and Leaders Share What it Takes to Be at the Top
Brian Karbel, 20+ years of BDR/ Sales Experience at Major High-Tech Vendors (Akamai, Monetate, Dynamic Yield, etc.)
Brian, for over 20 years, you have been a BDR/Sales Rep/ Sales Director – outperforming your goals, landing some big-name new logos (e.g. CVS, Monster.com). What were your keys to success in this tough profession?
When I just started as a BDR, it was my persistence, storytelling skills, aligning with the sales reps in my territory in order to understand various customer wins and using the narrative from the deal as the way to paint a success story to similar companies. I did spend a lot of time with my sales reps – I wanted to hear all customer stories.
Say, we sold to the clinical data trials company, I would put a lot of efforts into understanding why the company bought from us and find similar companies, find people with similar job titles to our buyer, and tell them same exact stories, in a short form. I did seminars for other BDRs about these techniques.
My other go-to method was to send personalized and targeted emails and leave voicemails based on compelling events relevant to the account that could be found in various sales intelligence tools or on the news. I would read company’s press releases about hires and promotions, subscribe to their marketing newsletter to see when they publish a new case study to get a glimpse at a potential entry point.
Zorian Rotenberg, CRO
Zorian, for many years you worked as a CRO / VP of Sales in SaaS/tech with a remarkably successful track record and at some well-known and successful companies. What do you see the best reps do that makes them stars in this tough profession of selling?
I’ve been very fortunate and honored to have led many exceptional people who have joined me in the past and trusted me to lead them. I think of them as “sales professionals” and not just sales reps. Let me name a couple well-known professionals whom others know and who come to mind:
My Best Reps
For example, Joe Caprio who is now VP of Sales and Chorus.ai. He was one of the best when I was VP of Sales & Marketing at InsightSquared because Joe had a unique ability to step in the customers’ shoes and see the world from their perspective. He wasn’t trying to convince or persuade and really practiced the fundamental principle of “seek to understand before being understood.”
When he gave product demos he did not just throw random features at the client hoping they would stick – Joe would first listen and understand what were the actual challenges and problems experienced by the prospect which revealed the root causes of and what was the solution they needed to solve their problems.
He focused on making the customer a hero or what I call “make the customer a Champ” because CHAMP is the sales system and methodology that I use and which also happens to be a better acronym than BANT – it stands for “CH-Challenges, A-Authority, M-Money, P-Prioritization/Process). Joe also had an exceptional hard-work ethic, and would be at the office at 7 am every day, he is very smart and he focused on mastering his craft, he was a President’s Club professional, an MVP, a true all-star player.
Here is another pro – Joe Knight who is now a top-performing rep at Fuze, a pre-IPO company here in Boston. He was actually a full-time football coach at Framingham State University. Joe wanted to get into SaaS sales but didn’t know anything about it. I hired him because I saw talent, he was unstoppable, was very smart and analytical and liked metrics and I believe intelligence is one of the key factors that correlate to people’s success.
He was relentless in his desire to become an expert at the craft and had a ton of passion. I could see he would be exceptional and the power of being really interested and passionate about your work far outweighs similar experience.
Actually, on a slightly tangential note, one of the reasons I don’t over-index on experience when hiring for sales teams because a ton of it is teachable but what’s not teachable is passion and this deep desire to learn and succeed (you can’t teach that – that is what I call an “unteachable”). I coached Joe to really understand the customer’s challenges and he worked hard, kept learning, and got to the top sales results on the team.
I could name more reps; not all of them are named Joe (laughing), but they all share a similar story. There are so many things that make a great rep, the list is long. But let me point out the top three must-haves because you see a pattern when you look at the best of the best like the two examples above.
#1 Must Have: Hard work ethic. You need that attitude that you have a job to do, you do it, and do it well. Sales is a contact sport – it’s hard work. “Massive effort” (as John Wooden calls it – the UCLA coach who took his team to 10 NCAA championships) is one of the foundations of success anywhere you look – business, sports, anywhere.
#2 Must Have: be coachable and have a desire to learn and become master of your craft, have a beginner’s mind and always be learning and continually improving but this requires also accepting feedback from your manager and applying it.
#3 Must Have: be customer-centric and obsess about delivering an exceptional customer experience. In my definition, sales in B2B SaaS/tech is about helping customers solve their critical problems and helping in a genuinely authentic way. The best sales professionals are just that – “true professionals” and they are passionate about helping customers and they focus on seeing the world from the customer’s perspective, not their own.
Mimi Evans, Seligence, High-Tech B2B Sales and Partnerships Sales Veteran of 30+ Years
Mimi, what would you say were the biggest discoveries that you made in your career about selling? What do you wish someone would have told you when you just started selling, but you had to pay with your own sweat and tears to learn the hard way?
Pretty much everything. A few things stick out though.
Focus on one thing in hand – you are calling to get to the next step, which is usually a meeting. Don’t try to sell the whole company, don’t try to check in many boxes.
Accept that you have zero relationships with the person, don’t pretend that you do.
Don’t talk too much, just say enough to make the prospect curious – curiosity is the leading reason why prospects will call you back. Tell them about the opportunity they miss, say you chatted with someone at their company and wanted to discuss what you heard [make sure these are all true facts]. You should offer enough interesting and intriguing benefits to just get a meeting.
Give a reason to call back, tempt them, make an appealing professional teaser.
And when you get them to return the call or pick up the phone: ask questions and listen very carefully. The prospect might mention something that you can use to build your case.
Ask questions and really listen more than talk.
Learn how to introduce yourself to those who don’t know you. Whether you sell security solutions, machinery, or smoke detectors – salesperson has to do it all day.
Big believer in sales calls. Still works.
Do you like the real stories we collected?
You can’t make them up – they are just better than fiction!
Send in Yours!
Each quarter we will publish the top 10 and the winner of the best story gets a $50 gift certificate.
Get some publicity! Or, if you are really shy (then you probably wouldn’t be in sales, but in case you are) – we can publish it anonymously, if you prefer.
Or, email your story to [email protected]