Sam Hillestad
Product Marketing at SetSail
Table of contents:

Join Joe Bley, Enterprise Sales Manager at Listrack, to learn why you should “talk less, ask more questions,” and the value of “self-coaching.”

The following transcript has been roughly edited for clarity. Please excuse any errors.

Peter: Hi, everybody. This is Peter Mollins with SetSail here on The Hot Seat. I'm joined by Joe Bley, who's joining us from Listrak. Joe, welcome to The Hot Seat.

Joe: Thank you. It's great to be here. 

P: Terrific. Well, you know, I first off, want to start with a little bit about your background. I mean, that's what jumped out to me when I was looking you up on LinkedIn. So maybe you could tell me a bit about how you got into sales.

J: Yeah, sure thing. So I would say I don't come from a traditional sales background. I started my career for the first ten or so years in consulting, and that's how it moved up the ranks in the management consulting world. I found that I actually had to get more and more involved in selling. And quite frankly, I had no clue what I was doing. And so part of my goal at that time was to figure out the science and art of selling and not just rely on my instincts and guts and actually hired a sales coach who helped me. I mean, it was a huge, huge influence on me. Spent over a year working with this person and selling as well as individual one on one sessions. And then essentially he sort of helped me figure out that I can do this and that there is an opportunity for me and that the best part, again, was that we built a process and gave me something to follow and not just sort of relying on how, you know, what am I supposed to do? I don't know. I'll just make it up as I go. That sort of got me started and then that's kind of snowballed from there.

P: That's terrific. So how did you find the sales coach? The right match for you?

J: Well, I mean, that was just luck in a way. I started doing some networking, attending some networking events in the area I lived in at the time and met a gentleman who it turned out actually was his father who was a coach. And so I was working on him as a prospect and he sort of became a friend as well. And he introduced me to his father and who was starting up this program, and that took off from there.

P: That's great. So now, you know, it's just a really big topic for a lot of people these days is getting that kind of mentorship. So if there's someone out there that's, you know, starting their career or maybe an inflection point in their career and they were looking for a mentor, what do you think you would recommend? Like what kind of attributes would you recommend to someone that's looking for a mentor?

J: Well, I mean, as we just talked about, coaching is definitely a big plus. There is an art and a science to sales. Right. My opinion I've taken is to focus on how do I build the process and practice on that. And that makes you a lot more confident as if I were to mentor someone. And actually I'm kind of in that position at the moment, because I am working with an associate sales manager trying to help him from up the ranks. sales manager trying to help him from up the ranks. You know, the easy number one thing, if you want to go into sales, let's face it, you better be comfortable with rejection. You know, whether you're an SDR making phone calls, whether you're a sales manager, or an individual salesperson, you're going to get rejected a lot. So get comfortable with that. But regardless, I think one of the key things that I've learned and this comes from my days as a consultant, as well as the sales process is to learn to talk less, ask questions more, what your prospect or customer focuses on, what they care about, what they're interested in. Everyone wants to be heard and feel like their people understand what their problems are. And so to me, that's kind of a key for anybody new in this field. You know, most people jump in and like to tell and pitch all their features and benefits. Instead, focus on what actually matters to the other person and let them tell you. And then probably the last piece of that, I say there is a process, as we've talked about, and the key to me is to really do the work. So even Michael Jordan, I'm from Chicago, he had a coach practice. So practicing means you put your time and prospecting, and put your time into orchestrating deals. You don't just play around on the Internet, don't just sit and wait for something to happen, actually work at it. So that's whether you're actually working on real deals or practicing and focusing on coming up, being better for the next deal. Those are the things I would recommend doing.

P: Yeah, that's great advice. Yeah. When I think about the the idea of, of listening more, it seems like such a simple piece of advice and yet you know I think we're taught aren't we to be always presenting like you you feel like you're up in a like a public speaker when you're in a sales role and you want to fill in that space. But

J: But it's hard not to talk. I want to right now it's it's I think it's innate for most people there, especially a lot of salespeople focus on understanding their product really well and what they have to offer. And so they want to make sure to tell everyone that right. Of course that's important. But at the end of the day, what people I think really care about is being heard themselves and feeling like solving a problem. And if they are able to talk about it, it's just like a bit of therapy. Let's face it, if you get to share your problems, that usually makes you feel a little bit better and you feel like the person understands your problems, that's going to give you a bit more of an affinity to that person and hopefully build some trust. And ideally over time, that's going to be what ends up happening.

P: Right. Yeah. You often hear in some sales enablements, experts will concentrate all their sales enablement training on a product, in learning what the product does and how it works. And here's the demo. But yeah, if you focus on that too much, then you will end up, you know, what goes into a salesperson's training is what's going to come out in a sales call and they're just going to start spouting features, aren't they.

J: Yeah, I mean I work for.. we sell marketing platform software. You know, there's a lot of competitors out there. And at a high level, if you look at it, we're all very similar. There's not much to distinguish us at the end of the day, talking about all the products and the benefits and features and all that kind of stuff is going to sound very similar to them at the next competitor and why buy ours versus theirs. And so part of it is building trust and rapport with someone. Obviously there's more to it than that, and you still have to know your product enough to be able to solve the need. But at the end of the day, you really distinguish yourself. I think it's about helping your customer feel that they're heard and their problem is going to be solved.

P: Right now, actually, that's it brings up an interesting point about your background because, you know, as you said, you're selling to marketers and I've seen that you actually have a certification in marketing. So you yourself, it sounds like you were trying to learn to understand the challenges of your buyer, weren't you?

J: I think that kind of goes back to the consulting piece I talk about. I had to go onsite work side by side with my customer and actually learn their business and build their trust. That way. And if I walk in the door and don't know anything about what they're talking about and just assume I know everything, it goes pretty poorly. But I feel like that's exactly the same job here. It's, you know, sales is a different type of role, but at the end of the day, I need to understand what my customers are doing, what their challenges are, what they need, and then help them figure out how to overcome that in a way that works for the business. For instance, in marketing, I can say: Hey, you want to sell more coupons out there, right? Yeah, Well, 15% to 20% off. But at the end of the day, some marketers don't want to use discounts. That's not their strategy. So I have to understand what they're trying to accomplish, how they're going about it, and then be able to help them by advising. Right. It's not about necessarily, again, features and benefits selling, but the more I know about their business and their challenges and what they're trying to accomplish, the better I should be able to do it and advise them and help them match. Hey, let's try and do this and let me help.

P: Right, Yeah. And I imagine that it's helpful for you to understand because then you can ask more intelligent questions to really probe them because and I got to imagine that your consulting background plays a big role there, too. So you combine that subject matter expertise of the marketer plus the consulting background means you can probably ask really smart questions that get to the heart of their challenges.

J: I hope so. That’s the goal. 

P: Yeah, that's great. Now, you mentioned this. There's a couple times you've mentioned this, this split between the art and the science of selling. So how do you think about that? Like, what is art? What science? How do you balance that?

J: Well, I used to have a quote and I'm not going to butcher it here, but I'm not going to try to totally butcher it. All right. But the point being there, the art of this is to me is something that's innate within people. And I don't know how you can teach your art, but you can definitely teach science and you can build process, help you get more comfortable. We all know that there are steps in a sales process. There is discovery doing a demo and walking through pain points and objections and negotiations and all that kind of stuff. So each one of those steps we can learn and do a better job and find things that work in different situations and so to me, if you want to get better at it again, the example, Michael Jordan, the guy clearly is an artist who has phenomenal talent, but at the end of the day, you've still got to practice making those jump shots over and over and over again until you know. Right. You're ready to go when the time comes, you're ready to draw from. So that's how I answer the question real well, but that's.

P: Yeah, no, that's great. Well, just thinking about the example with Michael Jordan. You know, we're big believers as well in the idea of, you know, looking back at the tape, as they say, you know, being able to say here are the call transcripts, here the emails that have happened so that you can learn, you know, what you're asking and what your what your prospects are saying so that you can, you know, improve yourself and improve your pitch.

J: Yeah, 100% agree. And what I was saying was that nowadays everything is recorded. We've got Zoom calls that you can watch again, you can look at the transcript, you can look back at your emails, even people, other people's emails and Zoom calls potentially. So it's really helpful. And technology is a real big help you push forward and be able to get better so you don't even if you don't have your own coach, you at least can look back on your calls and see how you've done it and get some ideas from what you could have done differently.

P: That's great. Well, you know, this has been a really terrific conversation. But I do want to circle back to one thing, if you don't mind. And this one, the mentorship. You know, I think that it would be fantastic if there were more people like yourself, Joe, that were doing that kind of mentorship. So, you know, you've offered your advice to, you know, what you should be or how you should be mentoring folks and what you should be looking for a mentor. What would you say to others out there that maybe had some experience or, you know, have the will or the desire to mentor? What would you say to them?

J: I mean, I absolutely think it's a wonderful thing. It's obviously helped me in my career. I think it can help a lot of other people. So it's a great way to give back as a sales person. And selfishly, it's also going to help you because you're going to sort of talk through things, practice things that you forgot about, you know, simple examples. I have a sixteen year old daughter who learned to drive recently and I realized there's all the personal things that I do automatically. I don't think about them. And as I started talking about them, I realized that there's a lot more complexity to it than it sounds like. So it helped me remember a lot of the basics just because they're sort of automatic. And I think that's the same with sales. So I think I do encourage people to mentor and give back as much as they can. I think it'll help them as well. And for me personally, it's helped me build a nice relationship with this person and also, honestly, it's been helping me remember some of the things I've forgotten that I should be doing better. That's great.

P: Well, thank you very much, Joe Bley with Listrak. Really great to chat with you. Really appreciate hearing your perspective.

J: My pleasure. Nice to meet you, Peter. Thank you for your time. 

P: Absolutely. Thank you.