In our first two People > Process posts, we featured Melissa Gindling, AE at Levementum, and Jonathan Sherman, SAE at Pluralsight. During these initial conversations, we began to uncover advice and learnings from frontline sales professionals who have earned prospect and customer trust by displaying integrity and by consistently putting relationships ahead of personal gain. It’s our goal throughout this series to debunk the common belief that those in sales are self-serving by sharing a firsthand look at how these individuals are prioritizing what matters more than a paycheck: people.
We continue in our People > Process series with our third article featuring Simon Mutlu, who works with Large Enterprise Accounts at Slack, the well known platform that connects teams with the apps, services, and resources they need to get work done. While Simon is currently an individual contributor at Slack who focuses on the large enterprise sector of the market, his experience is vast. From beginning his career as a branch sales manager with CUTCO to working in a startup setting to managing sales teams at WhatCounts and LiveClicker, Simon has perspectives to share from two unique angles: that of an individual contributor as well as that of a sales leader.
In our third article, Simon focuses in on how he’s adopted a consultative mindset and why he believes he shouldn’t simply be a product or company expert, but an industry expert that can guide his prospective customers while building immense trust along the way.
Become an Industry Guide—Not a Product Manual
In the nearly 20 years that Simon has been in sales, he’s learned that his prospects are often overwhelmed by industry options. Not only does a buyer have to navigate the complex landscape of options, she’s also likely evaluating solutions for multiple needs at any given time—on top of her primary role. To Simon, this is one way that he can set himself apart to his prospective customers:
“Rather than by simply reciting my company’s product capabilities and value proposition, I’ve realized that the best way I can set myself apart is to put myself in my customers’ shoes and become their guide to the industry as a whole.”
Simon explained this is especially critical in his current role at Slack as the market has become increasingly noisy, especially considering that his enterprise prospects most likely use a CRM combined with other collaboration tools and integrations already. He explained that his role at Slack is to be an expert in collaboration, to understand and articulate best practices, and to ultimately guide his prospects to the best solution for their needs.
Recently, Simon has put this ‘industry guide’ philosophy into practice by lobbying for a new group of collaboration leaders that Slack is calling “Slack Networks”. The first regional group is comprised of about 40 individuals from enterprise companies, with the intention of growing it into a large, thriving group—and ultimately adding many other geographies. While Slack hosts the network and provides speakers, the goal is to open up general discussion topics for all to participate and to focus on the industry as a whole, and not just Slack’s product offerings. Simon’s ultimate goal for these groups is to create a consortium of credible peers who are constantly sharing ideas and growing together.
Be the Antithesis of What Your Stakeholder Expects
When a buyer enters into a sales conversation with a solution provider, she often expects that she’ll have to work with a pushy, self-serving sales professional that’s trying to drive his personal agenda. While that perception is unfortunate, Simon believes it presents a huge opportunity: one to become the antithesis of what stakeholders expect. Often times, relationships are forged because the prospect has learned to respect and trust the sales professional with whom they’re working. Simon shared that he’s had the same customer 3 times during his sales career, each time while he was representing a different company. While each of the sales processes were still long and diligence was still important, he had earned enough trust that the prospect was willing to take his meeting.
Similarly, that same attitude is just as important to practice internally with those that support the sales organization. Simon shared the phrase, “don’t throw a bomb over the cubicle wall”, which resonates with him personally as he’s been on either side of the sales organization: both supporting it and being a member of it.
Simon’s Advice: When Building a Team, Focus on Candidates With Character
Finally, Simon shared some practical advice for sales leaders who are evaluating new team members. In his experience managing sales teams, he shared that it’s key to look for transferable skills and acumen in areas that aren’t just related to sales experience. For instance, Simon hired a woman who had just one year of sales experience but graduated Magna Cum Laude while playing Division 1 volleyball. Her ability to balance her dedication to academics while remaining disciplined to her athletic commitments proved to Simon that she was a highly motivated and capable candidate that could ultimately learn sales.
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.