This latest installment of People > Processes follows the previous posts by featuring a sales leadership success story. Throughout the series, we’ve talked to nearly a dozen sales pros. The one thing they have in common: their key to winning is embracing empathy. In every conversation, we’ve heard stories about how understanding others is the first step toward building productive customer relationships.
But the road to success is rarely a straight line, and obstacles can slow growth. Those who can overcome obstacles and learn from them, however, become even stronger. Author Scott Leese is an example of breaking through barriers and leading with empathy. In his book Addicted to the Process, he details how getting healthy after addiction guided him toward his current career.
The Psychology of Sales
Scott came to sales leadership in a roundabout way, after doing graduate coursework in instructional technology. “I studied psychology, religion, and learning theory,” he said. “Then, I ended up getting sick for four years, and became seriously addicted to opioids. By the time I was healthy enough to join the workforce, I felt like all my studies were irrelevant—I literally picked sales to make up for lost time.”
His health struggles kept Scott from working, and after he began recovery he was eager to rejoin the workforce. While the decision to pursue sales might seem hasty, Scott explained it as returning to something familiar.
“Sales appealed to the competitor in me,” he said. “I’ve played sports entire life. I understand the concept of ‘do more, get more’.” He joined a startup as an individual contributor for about six months, then moved into sales management quickly thereafter, and hasn’t looked back since.
Scott connects his experience with addiction and recovery to the buyer’s journey, saying it’s the seller’s job to reveal pain points and solve them with value:
- Find the pain
- Build value
- Create urgency
- Discuss solutions
“Paint a picture for people that impacts the way that they look at their business and compels them to do something about it,” Scott said. He explained that the focus has to be on prioritizing which problem is the most important to fix, then preparing to solve it.
The Road to Leadership
Although he wasn’t an individual contributor for long, Scott did learn leadership lessons as a team member. He believes the top priority of a sales professional is to bring in revenue—but they should do it in a way that employs empathy with the prospective customer.
“In today’s day and age, everyone seems to have an aversion to selling and pretend they aren’t sales reps, but thankfully sales is evolving and becoming more human,” Scott said. “To be effective, sales professionals should focus on personalizing the story, displaying empathy, and adding value.”
It’s a lesson he’s carried forward as a sales leader. Now, Scott believes his role is to empathize with his team, make himself available as a resource, and enable them to close more deals.
“When things start to get difficult in sales cycles, I make myself available in any way that I can help,” he said. “Get me on the call, copy me on the email. Use me, include me—let me see what I can do.”
Building Trust With Buyers and Sellers
Scott’s success as a sales leader at real estate solution Qualia is built on trust and showing his team how to sell with integrity. “I spend time with them and try to remove problems in their path,” he said. “And I try to be as vulnerable and transparent as possible with what I’m going through personally, which helps my team feel safe.”
He carries that open-door policy through to dealing with prospective customers as well, with a focus on removing their obstacles. “The focus has to be on how are we really helping long-term—especially when we start dealing with big problems, complicated products, and expensive price points.”
Scott’s approach to building trust includes the following elements:
- Help people admit they have problems. Encourage them to tell their stories, then show them what’s at risk, and what they can stand to gain when they solve those problems.
- Nurture them through seeing their problem. Then, they’ll become compelled to do something about it.
- Take your time. Rushing through the process makes buyers uncomfortable. Make sure they are more in control.
- Listen better. Take better notes, listen for key phrases, and remove distractions.
Reflections on Building Confidence
Not even the most successful sales professional can close a deal without a receptive buyer. Rejection is one of the most difficult—and common—elements of sales, and can take a real toll on self-esteem. In his book, Scott explores how to push past rejection and learn from it.
“Sales professionals tend to have big, bold personalities,” he said. “But if you can work on what’s going on underneath and teach people to work on self-esteem and resilience, they’ll be better equipped to sell.”
Part of Scott’s job as a sales leader is to work with his team members to improve consistency and confidence. When searching for a new rep to join his team, Scott looks for hard-working people who are willing to learn.
“Anyone that tells you they have it nailed is flat out lying—a sales rep is one of the most difficult hires you can make,” he said. “When I hire, I want to know what a person has been through, where they’re active in other areas of their lives. ‘What else do you like to do outside of work?’”
Scott’s Advice: Focus on Developing Future Sales Leaders
Helping to shape the next generation of sales leaders is one of Scott’s passions, and the lessons he’s learned along his own path inform his advice. When he began his career, he had to build nearly all of his processes from scratch.
“When I first started selling and building a sales team, I had zero tools: no CRM, no phone system, no lead list,” he said. “Not only do today’s sales leaders have to get familiar with this influx of sales tools, they have to become proficient with them.” With technology becoming an integral part of sales, it’s more important than ever for sales leaders to identify which sales solutions deliver the most value.
But most important, Scott believes, is creating and maintaining connections to other sales professionals. Networking and communicating is the best way to become a better sales leader.
“There’s a need to continue to evolve and change. It’s not very hard as a sales leader to start developing,” he said. “But the other part is helping others around you. When other sales leaders reach out to you, reply or pick up the phone! Not giving them help or an answer is not pressing the industry forward. You’re not guarding some secret sauce. Be available and be helpful.”
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.