There’s no shortage of sales advice for rookies. We can all talk about how to make a cold call or write the perfect prospecting email until we’re blue in the face. But we can do better than that. Sales Engine seeks to help salespeople sell more efficiently and effectively at all levels so we decided to launch a blog series that provides an insightful resource for salespeople early on in their career. The “My Start In Sales” series “tells it like it is” (namely, that we’ve all been there and done that — and that’s a good thing!). We will feature one veteran salesperson in a standard Q & A format every few weeks. We’re excited about sharing these successess and failures with you.
Current location: Westerville, Ohio
Current gig: Speaker, Author, Sales Leader
One word that best describes how you work: Deliberately
Current mobile device: iPhone 6+, iPad Air 2, and Macbook
Favorite to-do list manager: Omnifocus (These are my favorite productivity tools.)
Tell us a little bit about what you do now & whether or not you currently work as part of a sales function at your company.
I’m the President and Chief Sales Officer at SOLUTIONS Staffing, the Managing Director of B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, and an Adjunct Faculty Member of Capital University’s School of Management and Leadership. I write a daily blog on sales and sales effectiveness at The Sales Blog. I still play an active role in the family staffing business, as President and Chief Sales Officer. I am the chief sales officer for all of my other business interests!
How did you get your start in sales? What was your first sales role?
My first sales role was setting up Bike-a-thons for MDA. I had more than anyone on the floor. But I dialed more, too. I found the job by following an ad in the newspaper. I never pictured myself working as a salesperson before then. This is how I looked before I started selling…
What do you wish you had known before you started selling?
There are many things I wish I’d known before I started selling. It’s about creating value. I resisted selling early in my life because I believed salespeople took advantage of other people. I thought that they were sleazy, self-oriented, and manipulative. Only later did I learn that it was all about helping other people get the results they needed.
Do you have a story to share about a mistake you’ve made as a salesperson? What did you learn from this situation?
I was right in the middle of the process of winning what would have been a dream client. Then, one of the stakeholders left and new person took his place. I believed I had the consensus I needed to win the opportunity. That confidence caused me to underestimate the effect that a new stakeholder would have on the rest of a relatively large group of people. I didn’t spend enough time with him, believing I was okay. I wasn’t okay. I lost a deal I might have won had I respected the new stakeholder enough to go and discover his needs.
Have you ever encountered the “sleazy salesperson stereotype”? How do you respond to this?
Here’s a sample of a conversation I had with another salesperson a few years ago:
Bad Salesman: We have an A-rating on Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau. We are members of the National Association of Remodeling Industry. The law requires that we have $1,000,000 in liability insurance; we have $6,000,000 in liability insurance. Are we the kind of company you want to business with?
Me: I don’t know. I just met you.
This is one of the problem with tactics like tie-downs. Bad Salesman, and his cologne, had only been in my home for a few minutes and he was already trying to close me tactically. He revealed that his visit was about him and not me. Worse still, my wife had looked up Bad Salesman’s company on Angie’s List to discover they have a C-rating (2 A ratings, 2 F-ratings). Ouch! Never good to lie!
The full story is here. Essentially, There is no substitute for trust. There is no substitute for caring. Old school tactical shortcuts violate trust and prove you don’t care. Don’t be like Bad Salesman.
What is one tool or resource without which you would not be able to do your job?
A blank screen and a cursor.
What are you currently reading?
Sex, Ecology, Spirituality by Ken Wilber
Are you an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert?
Ambivert, for sure.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
If I were to give advice to those looking for their first sales job, I’d say this: It’s true that you can’t learn to sell by reading about sales or by attending classes. Competency, professionalism, and excellence in sales are only gained by actually selling (hence my strong aversion to those that write about sales without ever having carried a bag). But, if you are pursuing a career in sales, first class training and development will make the transition much easier and much faster.
Great sales organizations like IBM and Xerox were legendary for their training and development. Their training and development armed their salespeople with a super-strong foundation. You should seek the same advantage.
The time and resources devoted to your development will help you to succeed faster. It will also help by teaching you the fundamentals of effective selling.
What if the company you are going to work for doesn’t offer formal training and development? This is more often the case. When you can’t get the formal training and development, you can build your own training and development plan. There are countless great books, blogs, and resources that you can turn to for help.
S. Anthony Iannarino is the President and Chief Sales Officer at SOLUTIONS Staffing, the Managing Director of B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, and an Adjunct Faculty Member of Capital University’s School of Management and Leadership. He writes a daily blog on sales and sales effectiveness at The Sales Blog.