Jim McNally is presently a sales consultant with Home Depot Installation Services. His specialty is exterior building products in the residential division. Jim has held sales positions of increasing responsibility throughout the U.S. with Pfizer and Cisco Systems. Prior to his current role with Home Depot, Jim launched a brew pub in a revitalization district in Hillsboro, Oregon. He was fortunate to have sold that business prior to the pandemic. 

How do you use sales process to consistently perform at a high level?  

 My organization’s sales interactions occur in a customer’s home presenting the solution and financial options for closing an opportunity after a lead has been entered into our CRM tool. Asking key discovery questions, and listening are the most important steps to understanding the homeowner’s motivation for the initial consultation. Something as simple as asking a prospect “what prompted you to contact us today”? Our process begins with training retail associates to engage with customers, ask open ended questions about their home improvement project, and entering a qualified lead into the CRM tool. During the initial consultation, discipline and self-control are critically important skills in allowing the customer to respond without immediately launching into a scripted value message or an opening benefit statement based on the customer’s initial responses. Additionally, having the self-control to restrain your passion & enthusiasm for your product or service, and permit the customer to effectively describe their needs & challenges. Slow down, and follow the steps.  

How do you build and reinforce sales skills development?   

Short answer is “avoid taking short cuts”! I find the most effective skills development is continuously practicing both pre & post call planning. Taking the necessary time prior to the initial discussion to research the lead, and understand the customer’s business objectives and potential obstacles. After the consultation, identifying what could have been more effective and asking myself, “did I skip or overlook critical steps in my consultation”?  

Please describe a recent success where you applied the techniques you have refined over the years.

My largest sales success took place last month when a homeowner shockingly did not qualify for credit on the purchase. Once the sales contract was signed, we applied for customer financing. Much to the embarrassment of the seated customer and a small group of assembled colleagues, the bank proceeded to explain over speakerphone the reasons for the denial. This was a very awkward and uncomfortable moment for any conversation. My natural sales response would have been to apologize and prevent further embarrassment by politely excusing us from their home, and request rescheduling. However; I let the silence and tension linger and much to my surprise the customer developed a financing solution of their own design. Imagine that! A customer solving my sales problem with their own solution! This was atypical sales behavior for me and quite likely for many other sales professionals too. Silence and tension are uncomfortable during the sales process, but when applied appropriately can lead to positive results. Having the discipline & self-control to “say nothing” at key times during the closing process was the learning lesson for me.  

What advice would you give to other sales leaders?   

Always seek improvement! As a youngster, my mother once took me to a retirement party for one of her elementary school teachers. After congratulating the teacher on her many years of teaching my mother asked the teacher, “what did she plan to do in her retirement”? The teacher responded that it was her goal to “go back to school because you can never stop learning or improving”. Keep learning, don’t take shortcuts! 

John shares his insights with of Selling Power Magazine. He has been voted by Selling Power as one of the Leading Sales Trainers.

 

Bill Otten specializes in relationship sales of complex outsourcing agreements. He has held positions of increasing responsibility with Chrysler Financial, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, InterLink Capital, ADP and now Executive Vice President of Sales at HealthEquity.

1. Describe how your customer facing teams use your organization’s sales process.  

Most of our sales come through indirect channels (partners) so my sales teams spend most of their time educating and supporting, our partners who are trusted advisors to our end customers. We track leads, opportunities, proposals, finalist meetings, and closing as our sales process in our CRM. In our business we have better visibility into activity levels than we do decisions since those generally happen with the partner in the SMB space. In the large Enterprise space we do have more visibility on decisions.  

2.     What is your Management’s approach to Coaching sales reps?  

We have a formal, one hour, training for the entire sales team every Friday. This tends to focus on more tactical issues the team needs to do their job. My sales leaders focus on field sales skills and are very active with their team members. We recently completed a diagnostic to identify leader burden, those things that keep them from doing field coaching, and we are developing an action plan to reduce the burden. 

3.     How do you reinforce sales skill development for sales reps?  

Over the past 12 months we have begun using certifications to make sure the team is getting the training they need. After each training session all team members are required to take a skill assessment and a minimum score of 80 is required to move forward. Outside of the certifications we have our field sales leaders perform regular assessments on their team members. We use these to guide additional training needed. We also survey our sales rep’s and ask them what they need. 

4.       What advice would you give to other sales leaders ?  

We have all heard the quote “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Strategy is important but creating a culture where sales people feel they are on the right team is more important. Teams can achieve amazing results when they believe in what they are doing. Also helps with attracting, and retaining, the best talent.  

Nika Allahverdi
Global Marketing and Engagement Manager at Nimdzi Insights

Do you know many kids who dream of a career in sales? Maybe you do, but I wouldn’t bet on it. The idea never crossed my mind. Which may explain why I did not go into sales. But it would have been unquestionably rude if I didn’t open the door when Sales finally came knocking with a few words of wisdom about learning to ask the right questions and listening. Lessons we can all learn from.

As a marketer, I know that there will be crossover and collaboration with my colleagues working on deals with other organizations. As a company, we want to make sure people in need of our services can find and work with us. In order to do my job, I have to ask myself the same questions that you would hopefully hear in a sales call. And questions about challenges are challenging. For me, the change in perspective came through a Flannery Sales Systems workshop where a wee little question had a colossal effect on how I approach my marketing work. It was a paradigm shifter:

What are you looking to achieve?

It all starts here – the salesperson looking to see what a potential client identifies as a need and pinpointing a concrete business objective. You would be surprised at how often people are focused on a single puzzle piece without seeing the whole picture. Salespeople, on the other hand, not only map how products or services fill gaps but also shine a light on gaps the client may have completely missed. In a sense, the salesperson is the link between prospects identifying what they really need and actually getting it. It would not be ridiculous to say that the word “salesperson” doesn’t cover the work salespeople do, work that goes beyond “selling” and encompasses listening, understanding, and truly connecting the dots. 

The paradigm-shifting question above moves us away from voraciously closing deals and towards a hunger of truly understanding someone’s business challenges. Closing a deal prematurely and neglecting to understand a client’s business objective is a gateway for future misunderstandings. Losing a client down the line may not be the result of bad account management but rather the incomplete identification of what your client was looking to achieve in the beginning. Which is why I prefer “matchmaker” to “salesperson.”

What are you looking to achieve? I repeat the question to myself like a mantra in both business conversations and outside of work. You cannot fill a gap without knowing anything about it or why it was there in the first place. When your product is a service like market research, consulting, or custom workshops, as is the case for us at Nimdzi, it becomes more critical that early conversations have truly identified a concrete need the potential client has. I know my colleagues make it a priority before even mentioning what we can offer. And of course, the paradigm-shifter is only a part of the conversation. Flannery covered much more than asking an opening question and listening for concrete needs. Our team walked away calibrated and equipped with a framework that helps us serve our clients. 

If you’re a marketing manager not in direct sales, you could greatly benefit from understanding the sales process. This is because it will equip you with a new acuteness for identifying needs, listening for challenges, and orienting yourself. What are you looking to achieve?

Nika Allahverdi is the Global Marketing and Engagement Manager at Nimdzi Insights, an international market research and consulting firm. She drives the marketing efforts at Nimdzi and works with various departments to conceptualize campaigns and strategize to implement them. She is also Nimdzi’s marketing consultant for localization business professionals.