Salespeople are one of the most diverse groups of people in terms of professional backgrounds.
I've had the pleasure of working with and knowing sales leaders who have been scientists, entrepreneurs, doctors, naval officers, and just about every other profession you can think of. But it's not every day that you get to meet a sales leader with such an interesting and varied background as Russell Sachs.
Sachs is the Chief Revenue Officer at BetterCloud, a leader in user lifecycle management, data discovery, and IT and security automation for SaaS applications. He's also led sales teams and managed sales processes for Work Market and Dell, but before becoming a sales leader, he had also been an entrepreneur and a commercial litigator.
Given Sachs' unique experiences and reputation with other sales leaders in the space, I wanted to learn his insights on how salespeople and their managers can be more effective.
Here's what I learned from him:
1. Treat Sales Like a Sport
Along with many other sales leaders, Sachs sees tremendous similarities between sales and sports, because both require constant practice, determination, and self-improvement to win. And like any good coach, he stresses the importance of getting your hands dirty and constantly focusing on the fundamentals first: "Someone can tell you how best to swing at a baseball, but until you swing at a baseball yourself, it's all theory."
2. Think Like a Litigator
In his past career as a litigator, Sachs had to learn to ask great questions to uncover 'the real issues and facts', and he constantly applies those skills to sales.
There are many parallels between legal discovery and sales discovery calls, so don't be afraid to ask questions to better understand the opportunity and likelihood that you can help, like: "What is the pain that you're trying to address?" "Why haven't you addressed it as of yet?" and "What factors need to be considered, and who needs to be involved?"
3. Never Stop Growing and Evolving
Sachs credits much of his success to never "getting stuck or too attached to a specific sales process." He continues to stay involved in every aspect of the pipeline and the evolution of sales throughout his career, giving him a much broader perspective.
"Ten years ago, SDRs, Customer Success Managers, Sales Executives, they weren't necessarily delineated roles. However, software sales models and strategies have changed, so you need to adapt to stay relevant." He also says that to avoid getting stale as a sales leader, "you constantly have to live and breathe what you do and lead by example, including getting out in front of the customer instead of sitting behind spreadsheets and CRM systems."
4. Solve Real Problems
Many sales dilemmas can be fixed by answering the question: "Am I solving the customer's problem?"
Once you truly understand the real issues a prospective customer wants to tackle, and you believe you have a solution to that problem, selling becomes so much simpler.
Rather than trying to aggressively close your prospects, you should be more focused on educating them. Sachs says, "You need to listen to them and ensure that you understand their symptoms before you can diagnose. Once you do, it's the job of your team to make them understand how you can solve their problem. Focus on the customer's problems first, and it becomes much easier to tell the right story for your product or service."
5. Learn to Roll with the Punches
Near the peak of the dot-com bubble, Sachs co-founded his first technology company in 2000. As the bubble burst, he learned what it was like to fail. At the time, he had almost 100 employees and his company was having a hard time making payroll. This was one of many times in Sachs' career where he was challenged and forced to rely on "determination and grit" to keep going.
When Sachs took the lead sales role in his next venture--MessageOne, which he also co-founded--he learned that his experiences with failure had created an emotional foundation for leadership and the challenges of running a sophisticated sales operation. That's because sales is among the most unforgiving of professional disciplines, and if a sales leader is to be trusted by his reports, he cannot lead without earning the team's trust and respect.
Dealing with the pressures of a quota, building and managing a pipeline, and working tirelessly to sign up new customers is the reality of a sales rep, and Sachs insists that to be a great sales leader, "you have to have walked in the shoes of your reps, to really understand and appreciate what they are up against day-to-day."
Are you a sales leader that would like to share your advice with young salespeople? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences.