If you’ve been following along with our People > Processes series, you know by now that we’re always up for a conversation with a sales professional who is viewed with respect and integrity by peers, prospects, and customers. A few of our latest conversations have included the likes of Ally Brettnacher, Senior Account Executive at Sigstr, Adam Weber, VP of Sales at Emplify, and Jonathan Sherman, SAE at Pluralsight. These sales rockstars (and several others that we’ve been fortunate enough to interview) have consistently debunked the myth that sales reps are in it for the money and for the so-called glamorous lifestyle. And while a career in sales can certainly come with its perks, these sales professionals see those benefits as a positive bonus for doing their jobs well by going above and beyond to serve their prospects and customers.
We continue along in our People > Processes series with our ninth article featuring Antony Rhine, Sr. Strategic Account Executive at Conga, an intelligent document automation solutions. Like many that we’ve interviewed, Anthony didn’t start his career in enterprise software sales. In fact, after Antony graduated college, his first job was with a commercial and residential roofing installer where he sold shingles after hail storms. Fortunately for Antony, one of his roofing clients owned a recruiting company and saw his potential for sales. Soon after, Antony began working at the company and eventually went on to co-found his own recruiting company which he and his partner later broke apart and exited. It was around that time that Antony met a group of tech-minded sales professionals who saw his potential for software sales and offered him a job at Tinderbox (later to become Octiv and now Conga). After just 5 years, Antony has worked his way up from a free-for-all sales role to team lead, and finally to his current role as a senior strategic account executive where he manages a handful of existing and new business accounts that are paramount to the company’s success.
Antony cuts right to the chase and offers up tangible advice for sales professionals just starting out—and real-world lessons for those hungry to grow.
Sales Is A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Antony has a customer that absolutely hates sales reps—and she’s not shy about telling him, either. That’s why Antony believes that sales is ultimately a self-fulfilling prophecy that is dependent on a deep understanding of the prospect and her needs. He explains that there are actually two types of buyers:
- Buyers who come enabled with data and information
- Buyers who want help identifying their problems
Antony explained that with the first group of buyers, sales professionals often try to force those prospects into a sales process that only serves to irritate them. On the other hand, the second group of buyers actually want to become change agents and look to the sales professional for advice and assistance. Failing to understand the buyer and their predispositions will—no matter what—result in a self-fulfilling prophecy that either seeks to serve the prospect or self.
Because of the need to constantly read prospects and adjust the sales process accordingly, Antony is a big believer in adaptability. He explained that buyers have a different set of problems today than they did last month or last year, and that gap is only widening, which means that sales professionals have to rapidly digest needs and adjust accordingly. To Antony, this means constantly improving in two very specific areas that ironically aren’t taught in sales training:
- Learn how to learn
- Learn how to react and navigate
Listening And Follow-Through Are Fundamental
Antony also earns the respect of his prospects by listening to them intently and by following through on everything that he says he’ll do. He’ll even set specific deliverable or action item timelines down to the minute, and he’ll do whatever he needs to do in order to deliver on time. Fortunately, because Antony works with just a handful of strategic accounts at any given time (but with tens of stakeholders at each company), most of his meetings are face-to-face or with contacts that he’s worked with for a long period of time. The strategic nature of his deals carries with it an intense need to deliver above and beyond, and to build deep relationships. He’s found that his ability to listen and to follow-through with any commitment made is key to a successful partnership.
Create a “Give and Get List” For Every Touchpoint
Antony goes into every single touchpoint with the same agenda—to give three things and to get two things in return. Prior to each call, he’ll actually write down the contact’s name and draw three arrows (the three “gives”) as well as two bullet points (the two “gets”). What are the gives and gets? He shared that a give might be an update about a product feature or an action item or how a recent customer agreement will help them achieve their goals, etc. A get, on the other hand, might be more insight into other decision makers or influencers that should be involved or transparent feedback about the product, and so on.
Thanks to his give and get lists, Antony is always conscious of how he’s helping his prospects and customers move forward and also is aware of what else his stakeholders can do to positively affect the deal.
Antony’s Advice: Check Your Ego and Prioritize Your Team
If Antony is talking to a young sales professional who is concerned about building a strong reputation, his first instinct is to wonder if their reputation is damaged in the first place. He also advises against thinking about a reputation as it should be natural and unforced.
Instead of focusing on reputation, Antony advises to practice prioritization (team > customer > company > self) and always give others involved with the deal (whether marketing, finance, solutions consultants, and so on) the credit they deserve first and foremost.
“When my team is my first focus, I know that their own goals are focused on helping the customer succeed. Remove yourself from the process and allow each internal constituent to shine before you do each and every time. You may not feel like you get enough credit, but the rewards are substantially better when you prioritize others who will, in turn, prioritize the customer,” said Antony.
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 real-time sales playbook software.