Death of the Self-Obsessed Salesman

“I think salespeople think about themselves too much,” says Ralph Barsi, who leads ServiceNow‘s worldwide sales development organization. “They don’t think about the buyer. They don’t think about this as the start of a potentially long business relationship. I think that’s a big, big problem.”

Barsi has spent 22 years in sales, both as an individual contributor and as a sales leader. According to him, the ideal salesperson is a trusted advisor who can provide answers to critical business questions that their prospects are encountering.

Barsi trains Sales Development Reps (SDRs) to become that advisor. “Let’s stop focusing on ourselves so much and start facing outward and thinking about the customers,” says Barsi.

SDRs to advisors

Barsi tells new SDRs that they need a minimum of two years in the role to learn the ropes. That’s not a lot of time time to master the art of sales and they will have to work hard to do it. “They are going to be spinning a lot of plates,” he says. “They’re like air traffic control managers managing planes coming in, planes going out, planes in holding patterns.”

When you start out as an SDR, or any new employee, you are a consumer of value rather than a contributor of value. The faster you can get to the break even point, the better for everyone. “So instead of taking this coming weekend to watch TV and touch up on the Golden State Warriors, “ says Barsi. “you might want to read the Challenger Sale.”

To become that trusted advisor, you need to get up to speed on verticals, titles, industry trends and conversation starters. Think about the marketplace. Think about what resonates with a potential buyer or, just as importantly, someone who’s not choosing to invest in your offering now.

Following sales process is important, but you need to personalize it for your prospects. “A lot of organizations are so focused on themselves and their sales process that they’re completely removing buyers’ thoughts and buying patterns coming down the pike,” says Barsi.

Instead of only making the number of touches required by your sales process, look for compelling events in your market which affect your prospects. Has there been a leadership change, a stock price rise or an acquisition which could make this the right time to have a conversation?

The people pipeline

While the revenue pipeline is crucial for every sales organization, for Barsi what he calls the people pipeline is even more important. “People starting out in their sales career, or just in their career in general, need to understand that they’re not going to work just to do things, they’re going to work to become something. Why am I coming in here? How am I contributing value versus consuming value? Is this in line with the purpose that I have for getting out of bed every day?”

Ultimately becoming a great salesperson comes down to practice. “You have to be Michael Jordan, shooting free throw after free throw in his backyard in the dark with no one watching, “ says Barsi. “When it is time for Michael Jordan to perform, he is the very best because of all those times in the quiet darkness he was mastering his craft. Same applies to young sales people.”

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