This article is fromPedro Kazanjy, co-founder ofHalland TalentBin (acquired by Monster Worldwide in 2014). It is extracted fromsales mindset changes chapter for the first timein your book,fundamental sales,covering everything founders and budding salespeople need to know about building and scaling winning sales teams. Here, he takes on one of the most challenging yet overlooked steps in building a strong sales arsenal: getting into the right mindset.
I always like to joke with new team members that working in sales changes the neural pathways in their brains, but it's not really a joke. Many of the behaviors necessary for success in sales are a big departure from what you've probably valued in your career thus far (and, you know, those generally accepted by society). So they might feel uncomfortable with entry-level salespeople, but in fact, I've seen them work many times.
My goal is to expose a range of mindsets that you will encounter in sales. The more you can recognize, anticipate, and welcome these new ways of thinking, the more successful you will be. You shouldn't expect to adopt all of these behaviors right away, that would be unreasonable. It's about proactively driving toward them over time.
With that said, here are some of the mindset shifts that will help you go from being a founder or domain expert to a formidable sales professional.
We are all taught to save resources. Don't waste things. Stock up and stock up extra.
stop it now. You have to reject a scarcity mindset and therefore hoard and adopt an abundance mindset. Your thinking should be, "Even if this sale doesn't work out, there's a line of thousands behind this person I need to reach." If a business is stopped; if a customer does not have the budget at the moment; if an account doesn't seem like a perfect fit, great. Close it and move on to the next one.
Time is your scarcest resource when it comes to sales. To quote Brad Snider, one of TalentBin's top sales people, you need to make sure you have "good times with good opportunities". By extension, this means not wasting time on opportunities that are unlikely to materialize. There is an art and a science to judging whether an account is "worth it". But in many cases, old instinct points in the right direction.
You have to be relentless about cutting unproductive conversations with marginal opportunities.
If you don't, bad opportunities will derail your pipeline and obscure the golden prospects worth your investment. The good is easily hidden by the bad, reducing your ability to scale your efforts and eroding your efficiency. Even if you end up closing a marginal opportunity, a customer who is a bad target is likely to be a bad customer, straining your customer success resources, hurting your ROI, and eventually leaving anyway.
Spend good times with good opportunities. Let the others go, knowing you can win them over in the next round when they become more viable customers. Above all, continually remember that there areA lot ofopportunity out there.
Everyone is a fan of working "smarter not harder" these days. But you still have to grind. Sales, like recruiting, is all about activity and leverage. The input activity equals the output value. You can take steps to ensure your activity is of high quality; you can use technology to increase your impact. But to quote Joseph Stalin (I know, interesting choice), "quantity has its own quality.” In sales, internalizing this fact is critical.
More time on the phone. More demos. More proposals sent. More emails sent. More dials. More keys. This is all activity, and increasing this quotient is important.
Focusing on quantity can seem inversely correlated with quality of work. You want time to think deeply about a meeting, plan a call, or go over all the nuances of an email. You want to perfect every detail of your presentation. I understand you. But stop doing it.
Just as you need to shift from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset, the reality is that maximizing activity is the best way to close deals. Jump first and get ready in the air. Model all your communication. It will follow the unit's activity and output.
I'm not saying your work should be sloppy. Just that productivity should be the number one priority. Ask yourself: "How can I earn more than X (one entry in the trading process) in a given time period?" If you can find ways to automate this work to keep quality high, great. This is an exercise in recognizing the point of diminishing returns. In fact, getting an email right probably won't give you much more influence than launching a response immediately after a meeting, for example.
Always ask yourself, "Why am I not on the phone?" or "Why am I not sending an email right now?"
That's why sales managers hate it when the floor is quiet. A palpable lack of activity is always a bad sign. How does this look in practice?
Don't read your email communication history with a potential customer before calling. just call.
A review is all the email needs. Submit and move on.
Know what works in your demos and prepare them as you go into the next one.
Automate and create templates for anything you're doing more than twice.
Set the agenda for a meeting up front, not in a separate email ahead of time.
Do not think too much. Just act.
Society is based on polite obfuscation; minor disorientation; courtesy; formality. Think of all the small talk required at the start of most of your interactions. That doesn't work in sales.
Winning in sales is about getting straight to the point: Does she have the problem my company is trying to solve? Do you want to solve it? Are you willing to spend money to solve it?
To effectively attack an account, a sales professional must have full license to be direct and ask these types of questions. Better yet, tell your prospect directly with complete confidence that your solution and their problem are a perfect fit and that they should buy X amount of your product to help their business.
Asking for the sale is not optional. You need it to be second nature.
As the famous character Alec Baldwin explained inGlengarry Glen Ross, "A man does not walk on the lot not to want to buy." People go to singles bars with a specific goal in mind. No potential customer would talk to you on the phone or watch your demo if they had no intention of buying.
Don't think it's rude. Everyone in the interaction knows the dynamic. Consider respecting their time and yours to get to the heart of the matter.
For the entry-level sales professional, the scale of person-to-person interaction is a great fit. Think about how many people you usually talk to in a week. If you're like most professionals, you're probably a constellation of one or two people with whom you have frequent and ongoing interactions over time. These relationships grew over time. You have a substantial story.
With sales, you aim for the opposite. If you're doing it right, you'll have dozens of new interactions on the network per week and maintain a pipeline of a few dozen to hundreds of concurrent conversations.
This is a big change of pace and it can be extremely stressful to build and maintain a quick rapport with new contacts while dealing with business information. The sales professional has the responsibility of remembering relevant details about many people, their organizations, their pain points, and even their personal interests at the same time. This is not possible for the normal human brain. It's exhausting. That's why it's so important to keep an armored CRM. You can use it to store and retrieve anything from where someone is in your sales process, what sports team they support.
More than that, however, it requires a willingness to have and participate in superficial relationships. It's not that they are fake or not valuable or meaningful. They just require a different way of talking to people than you're probably used to. To make the most of these connections and manage them well requires a major shift in your social mindset.
Approach each conversation with the conviction that the prospect will inevitably be a customer. If you've evaluated an account, your mindset might be something like this: “This is going to happen. It makes sense to you. This solution is the future and will make you more successful. So we can do it now or later, but it will happen, either with me or with my competitor.”
This mindset is useful for several reasons:
Frame the conversation in terms of “when” a deal will happen, not “if” it will happen. Adopting this attitude makes you a more helpful advisor to your prospect and more focused on their business needs and issues.
Boost confidence. Sales professionals must be fearless specialists. It's hard to embody these qualities when you feel like you're asking or depending on something.
It lays the groundwork for an ongoing relationship with the prospect. Even if you fail to close them this time, they will be ready for the next pass.
This strengthens your record keeping process as you are more likely to document and take notes on conversations that you think will convert. Your future self will thank you.
It might seem strange to be presumptuous on purpose. And I am in no way suggesting that you should be overbearing or defensive if someone doesn't accept the sale. But tackling each interaction is sure to generate far more success than otherwise.
If you work outside of sales, you're probably used to achieving most of your goals at work. You write a list of things you want to do and end up ticking off most of them. You probably wouldn't be at your job if that weren't the case.
The selling experience is very different. You will be shot most of the time. People don't convert for many reasons: they don't have money, it's not the right time, they're satisfied with current tools, they opt for a competitor. Prospects disappear. It happens.
If you're trying to sell a new and innovative solution, a 20-30% win rate is solid. That means you're wasting 70-80% of the time, and that's a lot.
To deal with losing so much, you have to have two opposing ideas in your head at the same time. First, you must project complete confidence that you will win the deal. But you can't be bothered when you don't. Not bothering with rejection, not internalizing it as a negative reflection of yourself or your product, is absolutely vital to maintaining the momentum and energy needed to close with other customers.
Of course you must learn from your losses. Record the reason for loss every time to help with product iteration. Reference what to focus on the next time you interact with a customer. Be intellectually honest about the loss. Were you beaten by your competitor because you didn't follow up properly? Or did the product have a feature deficit? Even if it's the first one, make sure the answer is shared so they don't have to learn the same hard lesson.
Once you've done all that, let go of the loss and move on. Don't worry about what this means about your performance. Don't be nervous about making the same mistake. Don't stop investigating what happened over and over again. He must still hope to win the next one.
To maintain high activity with a lot of potential customers at the same time, you'll need to keep really solid records. Along with good communication skills, good note-taking is one of the most important talents you can have as a sales professional. You can't rely on your own memory to figure out what to do next or what you last said to someone. It just won't work.
As you review and resurrect previously closed opportunities, you'll be able to look back weekly, monthly, and quarterly. And you'll need to anticipate what information you want to have when you have it. What knowledge or data do you think you'll need at your fingertips to close a potential client in the future? Write now in the present tense. Make the ephemeral permanent.
While your CRM is the primary repository for this information, you'll need a number of other tactics as well. For example, at TalentBin, all of our sales professionals had a lab notebook to jot down their thoughts during calls, including opportunity size, qualification details, etc., to transfer to the CRM later. You don't have to transcribe what a prospect says verbatim, but you do need to have a mindset of persistently researching and verifying key information that you know will be useful in the future.
Once you and your team have that mindset, you can start looking for tools and tricks (email capture, call recording, templates) to collect and organize this information automatically. First, you need to convert it to a value.
Modern sales are not about selling snake oil to a "brand". Instead, sales professionals are the fat of the market. Good sales professionals look for market inefficiencies in the form of qualified leads who have pain points that your solution addresses. They seek to fix the things that keep industries from being efficient.
That's why you need to have experience in the vertical you're selling. You should be a student of the game you're playing, and ideally, even more knowledgeable than your potential customers. This means absorbing as much information as possible about the field, the business processes within it, the common organizational players, and the solutions that already exist.
This experience will make you fearless. The confidence you gain will increase your activity, save you time you might be wasting by overprepping, and allow you to be more direct. Demonstrating authority will help you quickly build rapport with prospects and promote that all-important certainty that the deal will close.
It takes time to build that level of expertise. You can start to feel brave even sooner. It's all about knowing that you have "enough" experience to start a conversation. I've found that sales professionals who work to build courage actually find it easier to engage in conversations with strangers in their real lives because they know they can handle whatever comes next.
You'll start to see this mindset shift come about organically, but you might as well put in the effort. Start conversations with grocery store clerks, strangers at parties, people in line in front of you without any introductory context. In fact, you will be exercising your fearless muscles.
The level of transparency in a complete sales organization is a game changer for most people. Profit and loss notes, closing rates, leaderboards - it's all there to show how you're doing your job for all to see.
The best sales teams record every email, presentation, and call. You should be fine with your teammates jumping into these logs and asking why a call when this way or that way. Creating this transparent data is critical to the success of any organization. It's what will lead to a better product, more market traction, more revenue.
On the other hand, transparency makes low levels of activity clear and inevitable. If a sales rep is down for a day for any reason, everyone knows about it. If the CRM is doing its job, it will be clear by the hours that the rep was late. It will also be easy to see which accounts are not getting the attention they need, which are at risk due to slack. By tracking activity at this granularity, you'll be able to see the strategy that generated your biggest gains. For every missed opportunity, you'll be able to see what went wrong. This is why transparency is so necessary.
To most professionals, this might sound like a Big Brother nightmare. The right mindset recognizes how beneficial this is. Transparency creates an environment of shared responsibility and learning that generates positive feedback and self-reinforcement. There's no excuse for not working on high priority items because everyone will know what they are. Glitches and glitches are socialized so the rest of the team doesn't get crushed against the same rocks. Not everything is fear.
Transparency helps people realize that failure is part of the game and not to be feared.
Failure to take the tusks fosters a culture of action bias rather than loss aversion. Fear of failure is one of the biggest obstacles to activity. Eliminating this fear helps your sales team transition to a whole new team.
Document all of your team's activities and everyone can do their best without worrying about what information is available to which people, because the answer will be everything to everyone.
When people think of how to succeed in sales, they jump to many “right brain” skills: storytelling, persuasion, relationship building, etc. Good salespeople need to socialize, drink and dine, shoot and make up as they go. But that ignores all the metrics, math, and reporting that really form the foundation of a winning strategy.
All that recording we just talked about cannot exist in a vacuum. It needs to be monitored and analyzed. Wondering how many emails and leads it takes to set up a demo? You need relevant Salesforce reports for this. Want to know how many opportunities it takes to close a deal and how much each of those opportunities is worth? You must ensure that your earnings are reported completely. Can you hire a sales development rep to keep your meeting portfolio complete? You need to know the average value of your contract. Which of your sales reps is best at driving conversions? You'll need to look at the win revenue per rep.
In addition to ensuring that all of this information is recorded in real-time at all times, you also need to know Salesforce reports and Excel pivot tables well enough to make this data actionable for your business. That's the only way to scale a high velocity sales team.
These are the mindset shifts that I think are most crucial when a founder goes into sales. The best of them? They are complementary and multiplicative to each other. As you achieve a mindset, that success will spawn the next change.
For example, if you start rigorously recording everything, you're more likely to see how many opportunities there are and miss scarcity. You'll be freed to leave imperfect opportunities behind, knowing you'll be able to come back to them because you've taken good notes for future appointments. All this will increase your activity levels and efficiency.
If you expect to win, have accumulated experience, and don't mind rejection, it will be much easier to see deals as inevitable. You'll enter conversations as a fearless authority, allowing you to be more consultative and close more customers.
Finally, if you can maintain many superficial relationships, you'll be prepared to be more direct, learn more about your customers, and ask for the sale sooner.
The permutations go on and on.
While some of these changes are easier than others, the real lesson is that the universe of sales has its own "physics," so to speak. You are subject to a new set of rules. Now that you know what they are, you can proactively pursue them and shorten your learning curve.