It's been an eye-opening decade but I'm just getting started
Thirty-six years old is still quite young, but I've already dedicated over a decade of my career to the safety and industrial world- that's 1/3 of my life! That's a long time, but most of my colleagues have spent a lifetime in this industry already. The warm-up is over—it's time to start the race!
I landed in this industry accidentally back in 2006, and I didn't show up here with any particular skills. No sales background, no management experience, no client-facing abilities, and no clue what the safety industry was. One skill I did have was the ability to listen well.
People want to be heard.
If you can listen to their needs you will have happy customers who are more likely to return. So, in the beginning, my job success was based on my customers' happiness and retention. I took pride knowing that I could communicate, adapt and empathize with just about anyone. I was particularly skilled in dealing with the customers that no one else could work with. I think that's a result of being comfortable in my own skin. I try to stay as real as possible. My close friend Roy gave me a compliment once that I will always appreciate.
He says, "Brady, people trust you because you're a good dude!"
I'd like to believe he is right! When you genuinely care about your clients, and if you can earn trusted adviser status, those clients will be your advocates for a long time. You could say I was the unofficial solutions provider for Safety Marketing Services! It might have taken a long time, but I feel the last 10 years of relationship building has set the foundation for my career today.
Matt Johnson, the CMO and Managing Partner of SMS, approached me in March of 2017 and said, “I want you to be full-time Sales & New Business Development.”
I was very excited. My knowledge of the industry had grown, my clients trust and respect me, and I truly feel ready for the biggest challenge of my career. Plus, I know Matt, he wouldn’t throw me in the deep end without a flotation device. In fact, he would probably throw one, then 5 minutes later throw another and ask me to switch. Why? Because he had just read a blog about it. (If you know Matt, you will get that.)
When I accepted this new role, I was under no illusion it would be easy. I knew it would require sacrifices for myself (and also for my team). But just like muscles in the body, your ability to grow and improve is almost impossible without consistent hard work. I don't believe in luck when it comes to skill. Thankfully, there are endless resources to help you harness your skills.
Resources I Use to Grow My Sales Role at SMS:
- HubSpot Academy Courses – We are a HubSpot partner, so it made sense to start here and utilize their partner resources. See all their courses HERE.
- Linkedin Learning - We encourage weekly training among our entire team. So, we purchased a Linkedin Learning package for the company. They have thousands of courses HERE.
- Podcasts - I spend hours every week listening to podcasts on various topics that fascinate me. Check out Soundcloud HERE, this is one of my favorites. FREE!
- Books / Blogs / Videos – Endless amount of great books, blogs, YouTube videos and more that cover just about any topic you can dream up. Blogs and videos are usually FREE!
Boss: “Hey, so I signed you up for a Sales Bootcamp!”
Me: “Wait, what…?!”
That was Matt’s version of a lifeline after throwing me into my new role. All of the training opportunities so far have been valuable. But, the most significant opportunity so far this year for me was a 10 week Hubspot Sales Bootcamp. I was lucky enough to attend this course with Matt Johnson and a small group of Marketing Agency partners from around the US. This Bootcamp was led by David Weinhaus, Partner Sales Enablement at Hubspot. David’s role is to help companies and agencies grow using Inbound approaches. This perfectly aligns with our own company mission, so we jumped at the opportunity to learn more.
Bootcamp Day 1 was very humbling for me. I had no upfront expectations for the bootcamp, but I never considered that I might be the ROOKIE in the room. Here I am, only 6 months into a Sales Role, standing in a room with Sales Professionals who have been practicing their trade for decades. No pressure, right!? I didn’t let the fear stop me though. Week after week, I continued to learn and absorb as much as possible from the group.
Pro Tip: When you are in a room full of experts, pay attention!
I guarantee that I took more notes than anyone in that room. As we progressed through the camp, I noticed my confidence was growing. I became more engaged in all of our discussions. That initial fear of being picked changed to an eagerness to be chosen and an excitement to share my thoughts.
The recipe is simple by the way, you just have to rise to the occasion. I am acutely aware of what I'm good at and what I'm not. But, I'm always ready to try. Although I am very competitive, I am not always looking for the win! For me, the true victory is what you can take away from the experience.
I could talk for days about what was covered in this course, but here are my three favorite takeaways.
1.) Ask questions, then ask more, then ask some more...More often than not, the prospect has some idea of what they want. But, it's not always anchored to the root of their issues. This might seem like a simple tip. But, how often do you ask a prospect just one question before you start vomiting your services all over them? Hold back your products or services until you get that awkward silence from your prospect. That is a clue that you’ve uncovered a measurable and/or significant pain point in the organization that must be resolved.
I whole-heartedly agree with Gary Vanyerchuk when he says, “be willing to give 51%, and only take 49%.” We are giving more by asking the right questions. Only when we have uncovered the issues do we provide the solutions.
2.) Uncovering the Gap
The gap between situations and goals can be as wide as the Grand Canyon for clients. Far too often, clients ask for solutions without fully understanding their own goals. A common question that I get these days is, “How do I get more leads?”
I could talk for days about the services we offer that are capable of producing leads. Instead, a better question might be, “Why are more leads important to your business?”
Imagine how different my approach would be if the client said, “If I don’t increase more leads or sales by end of year, we will be forced to shut down our business.” Be naturally curious with your questions and don’t settle without uncovering a problem tied to a specific goal or need.
3.) The formula for a good exploratory call
I personally feel that the exploratory phase is the most important part of a good sales process. This is an opportunity to learn as much as possible about the prospect. And how you can help them. It's also an opportunity to give before you receive.
Here is an 11-step formula and my thoughts on what each means to me:
- Building Rapport – People typically buy from people they like, so spend time upfront building an adviser status. Don’t be afraid to mix in personal interests, location specific topics, and pull from previous conversations to be sincere and interested.
- Recap Prior Conversation – If you’ve already had correspondence with a prospect, take time to recap where you last left off. Pulling up past issues will show that you've paid attention and are committed to client needs.
- Set an Agenda – leverage what you know about the buyers, what you have discovered and set an agenda that aligns with their needs.
- Challenges – Any buyer looking for your help is overcoming a challenge, so start with that first and it will help you lead into goals.
- Goals – If you uncovered these challenges properly, you should be able to set some measurable goals for the buyer. Get them to consider the value that reaching these could mean for their business.
- Plans – Before you provide solutions, it’s important to uncover what plans they have already tried and what those results were. This helps you share more efficient ways to reach those outlined goals.
- Timeline – It's critical to understand the client's timeline and urgency. How long do you have to achieve this goal, and/or how long have you dealt with this problem?
- Consequences – What happens to the buyer if they do nothing? How important is this challenge to their company’s success?
- Implications – What does success look like when they finally achieve their goal? Walk them through the visualization of seeing this through to the end.
- Authority – After you have a good understanding of goals, challenges and plans, there is another step. Now it's time to start understanding who needs to be involved to make a decision within the company.
- Budget – It's very important to have a budget conversation and consider both financial investments, as well as time investments for the client.
Stay Inspired, Stay Authentic
If you ask me what I want to do in life, I'm honestly still not really sure. With that said, I'm highly motivated by my new Business Development Role and I have all the resources that I need to #levelup in 2018. I have a lot of work to do yet, but success is inevitable with our team and this great company.
I would like to keep it real with a quote from Gary Vaynerchuk. He inspires me to stay focused, stay passionate, stay grateful and, above all, stay authentic!
"In the end, no matter what obstacles a company faces in the Thank You Economy, the solution will always be the same. Competitors are bigger? Outcare them. They’re cheaper? Outcare them. They’ve got celebrity status and you don’t? Outcare them." -Gary Vaynerchuk