I’ve been fascinated by people for as long as I can remember. No wonder I ended up in sales. For me, sales is art, sales is a science, and sales is a way of life.
MY FIRST SALES JOB
After getting my business degree in the U.S., I couldn’t get a work permit. So I moved back to Switzerland and started my career selling photocopiers.
The Swiss put great value in training their employees. So my new employer did 3 things:
- They gave me an internal mentor who was a 70-year old salesman. Herr Durmuller smoked a pipe that fit neatly into the gap of his missing front tooth.
- They shipped me off to the Black Forest for a full month of formal, intensive sales training, where I learned all about “Hard Sales.”
- After my first year, they put me through training in Solution Sales.
I discovered that I love selling, it feels natural — and I’m good at it.
The KEY LESSONS that stuck with me from that early stage of my career:
- The best question to ask after giving a demo is “What did you like most about what you just saw”?
- Sales is a numbers game. An average sales rep can easily beat a genius rep through hard, persistent work and high activity levels.
- Having “a great network” is over-rated. The new rep who struts in with a book of contacts does well in the first 6 months, but once they’ve gone through all their contacts, they are totally beatable by a rep who works hard and smart.
- Age doesn’t matter if you’re good in sales. I was amazed at how 70-year old Herr Durmuller, with his pipe and toothless smile, charmed even the most badass, resistant person into signing a contract.
- It works well to have a mix of ages on the same team.
- Prospects love and respect creativity from a sales person. After a banker told me he didn’t want to come for a demo of my photocopier, I drove a friend’s construction truck in front of the banker’s opened window, raised the photocopier, two floors up and gave him a demo through the window! He bought it. And later the bank bought 20 more.
- People like to buy stuff that “others like them” have bought. So, after I got 3 architects to buy a photocopier, I made sure all the other 30 architects in Geneva knew about it. And got many orders (and made some dear friends as well).
- The most powerful way to give a presentation is to turn everything you say into a string of questions. Why not? What else could be more engaging than asking great questions — and getting your audience involved?
- I became really passionate about sales excellence. So in my free time, I took classes in acting (because business seems like an act), voice lessons (trying to better understand tone of voice and it’s impact on people), and presentation training. I learned that the most potent thing to do with a prospect is not “acting,” but to just be me.
FROM SALES PRO TO SALES LEADER
My sales career advanced. I got headhunted to lead sales for a U.S. financial news agency in Switzerland and began reporting into London.
- I got trained in SPIN Selling and deepened my appreciation of the art of asking great questions.
- My performance in my first years was strong. But the moment I really propelled myself to the front was when I discovered the Fear of Closing Syndrome. I realized that deep inside, I did have a hesitancy factor and learned how to recognize it and transcend it. That was very powerful for me. It reminded me of when I used to play club soccer in college and managed to get the ball right in front of the goal — and then flubbed the shot.
- I learned how to do big, complex deals and began appreciating the power of recurring revenues and “team selling.”
- I discovered that selling to criminals who are on Interpol’s Wanted List isn’t profitable and that background checks are a good idea.
- My funniest sales lesson? My boss taught me “How to fake a laugh”, which is a great thing to know when clients tell jokes I don’t get or don’t find funny.
FROM SALES LEADER TO GENERAL MANAGER
My results were stellar. I made global #1 sales rep for this Fortune 500 company. Got head-hunted to be a Sales Manager in London for another U.S. firm and was promoted to General Manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa. I suddenly held P&L responsibility and had to grow up fast.
After a few years, I began to work for a sophisticated Silicon Valley software firm, helping them grow the European market. Later I was relocated to world headquarters in Palo Alto to lead global sales training and sales development and managed their largest Global Accounts. In the process, I hired Miller-Heiman, Power Base Selling, Solution Selling…. and experienced training ad nauseum.
SALES AROUND THE WORLD
My passion for sales has helped me see the world. As I grew in my career, I coached teams in 40+ countries, and helped them develop sales strategies, launch new products and grow their businesses.
In the process, I got first-hand experience in different leadership styles, sales approaches, and negotiation techniques around the world.
I sat through way too many sales trainings. I learned the French way of selling, the German approach, the Latin approach, the Japanese approach, along with the main UK and US methodologies. I may be the world’s most-trained person in sales.
WHY I DISLIKE SALES TRAINING
Like most experienced sales pros, I always disliked standard, one-size-fits-all sales trainings where someone shoves their method, their opinions and their way of thinking at me. It may work well for them, but it’s not the way my brain is wired. Sitting in some conference room, far away from my real-life context, also made it hard to assimilate these lessons.
I often obsessed over the question “What IS the best way to develop sales talent?” but never found a satisfying conclusion.
BECOMING A PROFESSIONAL COACH
A few years ago, I decided to follow my long-held calling and become a professional coach. I started studying and became fluent in the leading coaching tools and peak performance methodologies. I’m now an ICF professional and certified coach and have coached hundreds of C-level executives.
REAL TRANSFORMATION AT LAST
One day, a company president asked me: “Could you coach one of my sales reps? Something’s up with her, but I’m not certain what it is.” “Sure”, I replied and started using my executive coaching skills with that sales rep …. and, WOW, the rest is history.
I witnessed THE BIGGEST TRANSFORMATION I HAVE EVER SEEN IN A SALES REP. It surprised her, it surprised her bosses, and it definitely surprised me!
What happened? And how?
It was gradual at first, starting with weekly calls, exercises, and visualizations. We tackled her challenges one by one, and she was diligent about doing the homework I assigned between sessions.
Suddenly, she had not only have a new vision of herself being successful, but also how she could be the most successful sales pro on her team. In fact, she became a top performer within just a few months.
Here is what she had to say: “I have been able to make a complete 180 in my career and become a more positive and influential employee in my organization.” and “I tripled my pipeline and doubled sales”.
Why is 1:1 Sales Performance Coaching so transformative?
- It’s personalized to each individual and how they’re wired — their style, personality, beliefs, attitude, and strengths.
- It’s real-time, in-context, and focused on a challenge or situation they have right now.
- It’s confidential, so we can work to unleash their inner game without fear of jeopardizing one’s job.
- It’s done by a professional coach, schooled in leading-edge coaching skills and techniques.
- It’s with someone who has walked in their shoes.
I have since coached many sales leaders and sales pros, and I’m thrilled at their transformations. They’re not only excelling at work and realizing their potential, but they’re also happier and less stressed.
By Katrin Windsor, President, Creating Thunder Inc, www.creatingthunder.com. Experts in Sales Performance Coaching, Sales Leadership Development, Global Sales and Strategy Coaching. Serving B2B clients with a focus on domestic and global growth. @katrinwindsor