Kerry Bowden speaks with sales leaders at InMoment, Hippo and Harmon.ie to learn whether top sales reps are the product of careful mentorship, or are just born to do it!
Do top software sales reps owe it all to their managers, or can natural talent win out against the odds, even without formal training, support team or a mentor to follow?
To gather some expert opinions on the impact that sales management can truly have on the success of its reps, I spoke with Erich Dietz (VP of Worldwide Strategic Accounts at CXM vendor InMoment), Stefan Schinkel, (EVP at WXM solutions company Hippo) and Yaacov Cohen (CEO of collaboration software company Harmon.ie).
Software sales success exists when three things come together: innate sales skills, strong products and product knowledge, and the right team.
Depending on the sales environment at a company, the ratio of importance of how these threes work together varies.
For example, in a start-up environment individual contributors must be self-starters because they won’t always have the same support of an inside sales team or strong sales engineers by their sides.
In the reverse, the large vendors have more systematic product knowledge sessions and organized training.
Erich Dietz, VP of Worldwide Strategic Accounts at InMoment, believes strongly in ‘nature’. He doesn’t have his own “success stories” of management, and claims the rep owns their own success.
“We are good managers, but we are just enablers,” Dietz said. “If I look at our top folks, they came in with some core business acumen. They had the right underlying motivators. Inherit curiosity, related to business, and they are very much coin operated. We just help refine it all.”
A healthy sales organization beings from the top down and leading by example, but hiring is where the process of assessing innate sales skills begins, of course.
Assessing these skills and a candidate’s ability to learn the product quickly are key for Account Executive, Sales Engineering or Inside Sales Associate hiring.
Dietz believes in hiring sales professionals who are service oriented people by nature. “I always remind my team, even the seasoned reps, to focus on the client’s business first and your solutions second,” he said.
Another buzz word that takes root in the software sales word, and almost all of my hiring managers look for in hires, is having pure “passion”.
“Curiosity is hugely important for sales hires,” said Stefan Schinkel, EVP at Hippo. “If you’re not curious, you’re not adapting.”
The second ingredient everyone agreed on for sales success is having a vested interest product knowledge and learning.
At Hippo, Schinkel’s team success does much to support the ‘nurture’ school of thought – they do a “Lunch and Learn” every two weeks. Everyone in the team picks a topic, and does a short presentation for 30 minutes. Transferring and sharing knowledge past training is what makes a successful team.
“The first six months, no deals close. If you do it, that’s great but it really does take time. You need to adapt,” said Schinkel. “If you come from a competitor, same industry, it still takes time. You need to invest in training.”
The CEO of harmon.ie, Yaacov Cohen stressed the importance of not only product-specific knowledge but knowledge about the importance of technology on a grander scale and its impact improving client’s business efficiency.
The third and final element is the right leadership – a portion of the conversation that these three interviewees in particular were very humble about!
Cohen believes sales mentorship begins with patience, since confidence must be learned. He also emphasized the fact that negotiating – whether you are junior or senior – in any new role is a delicate process.
“Sales mentorship is beyond conversation, though,” said Cohen. “It is about delivering on the growth path.”
Feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn for a networking conversation.
Tel: (760) 284-3369
E-Mail: kerry.bowden (at) adaptive-ca.com
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