As a community, it’s easy to gloss over the doers—those that do the work of relationship building and solutioning and selling day in and day out. It’s often more fun to talk about sales leaders and as a result, we often put them on a pedestal. But there’s a problem with that: sales leaders are nothing without their team of rock stars.
Melissa Gindling is one of those rock stars who just so happens to have led as a Vice President of Sales in prior roles, qualifying her to have a unique vantage point. She decidedly returned to the world of being a quota bearing individual contributor at Levementum, a full spectrum Salesforce.com partner, because she loves working directly with clients and helping them find the right solution so they can thrive.
In Costello’s newest blog series, “People > Processes”, we’ll be interviewing the unsung heroes like Melissa who have chosen to be sales professionals because they love people and enjoy building relationships, uncovering root issues, and ultimately gaining prospects’ respect and trust.
In our first article of the series, Melissa shares candid illustrations about how she thrives in her role as an individual contributor and provides advice for how other sales professionals can follow in her footsteps.
Maintain a Judgment Free Zone
Throughout her 12-year MarTech career, Melissa has walked into dozens of messy conversations where it would have been easy to make a judgment call about a prospect right off the bat. As she’s always worked with large enterprises, she often does a significant amount of homework before a first call. Sometimes, she’s quick to wonder why they’re using a particular process or conducting campaigns in a certain way. Early on, Melissa adopted the mindset that she must walk into every situation without judgment. To her, it’s important to understand the “why”, first and then remind herself that they’re bringing her in to help them solve a problem or identify a solution, which is the most vital first step a prospect can take. In her words:
“I challenge myself to always be ready to listen and understand my prospects. It’s my hope that I can gain their trust in a way that we can be candid with each other and exchange knowledge. This usually opens the door to me being able to share something beneficial that I’ve learned from other customers that can ultimately help my prospect achieve their goals in a meaningful way.”
Keep the Process Agile and Never Force It
There’s nothing a prospect picks up on faster than a sales professional who is so rigid that they cannot let the conversation flow naturally. In Melissa’s experience, many sales leaders construct intricate sales processes that feel forced and that don’t allow for the sales professional’s individuality. Sales professionals should respect the process by being agile and flexible with the conversation flow in order to guide the next steps by working alongside the prospect to gain their trust and confidence.
Melissa puts this into practice by helping her prospects by ensuring they have the right stakeholders involved on their end, respecting their internal processes, too, and answering their questions rather than always pulling the conversation back to an unnatural script.
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
No prospect looks forward to a discovery call in which they’re asked 75 probing questions. And, frankly, Melissa doesn’t necessarily look forward to those calls, either. That’s why she’s taken a lighter approach to the sales process and has fun with her prospects during their interactions. Jokes, funny stories, and light hearted banter are always present during her meetings, which helps take the pressure off of the prospect and makes the process more enjoyable for everyone involved. For other personality types, the jokes might be replaced with conversation about family, travel, or other natural conversation topics.
The key, according to Melissa, is to stay true to who you are, even during the sales process. Afterall, prospects are people at the end of the day and they will look forward to future interactions if the sales professional doesn’t take himself too seriously.
Prospect Needs Above Personal Gain
There have been many, many circumstances in which Melissa has had to sacrifice her quota in order to ensure stakeholders’ needs are met first. Her integrity and personal reputation is wildly important to her—so much, in fact, that in a previous existing business sales role, she took several very hard financial hits. For example, she knew that whenever she inherited a new client from a certain new business sales professional that she would need to undo some of the client’s purchases and then work very, very hard to grow the account with integrity. While these scenarios are not ideal, she chose to proactively tackle the tough conversations about removing users or downgrading accounts because the client over-purchased—each of which impacted her quota attainment and personal gains directly, but served the client in a very tangible way.
When Melissa attends an industry conference, she wants her former clients to remember her, respect her, and share good things about her with their peers. In the MarTech world (and in many other industries), reputation is fundamental as everyone knows each other or is connected to someone that does. At the end of the day, she’s become friends with many of her former clients, which goes back to her mantra: don’t take yourself too seriously and always create great experiences.
Melissa’s Advice: Learn the Product and Processes Intimately
The best sales process in the world can’t cover for a sales professional that doesn’t intimately understand the product or service. Similar to her advice about keeping the flow natural, Melissa shared that a prospect can immediately sense whether a sales professional is out of their realm. The best sales professionals will guide the conversation like a football quarterback, bringing in the right individuals, ensuring the right resources are aligned, and tackling the difficult objections head on.
Finally, Melissa believes that the most successful sales professionals respect the internal teams and resources that help them move their deals forward. Teams such as Finance, Services, and Marketing should be treated with utmost care. At the end of the day, no deal will get across the finish line if the sales professional doesn’t have a keen understanding of how each internal counterpart works together to ultimately help them reach the most important goal: helping prospects succeed.
Ready to Learn More?
For more information on best practices of great sales leaders, check out the Costello resources below. If you’d like to see Costello in action, request a personalized demo of our agile deal management platform.