THE SECRETS OF SALES SUCCESS
President and Owner
Maryland Sales Training & Management Development, Inc.
What does it take to be a good salesperson? For Steve Hall, president and owner of Maryland Sales Training & Management Development, Inc., the answer is all about communication — one person talking to another, and developing the trust that leads to a sale. In the following interview, Hall discusses ways to motivate your sales team, and why a longer-term training approach is better than a boot camp.
Q: How has your personal background prepared you to help others sell better?
Hall: My first career position was selling office products to businesses. I progressed to sales management, including becoming a sales vice president. In 25 years’ worth of experience, I recruited, hired, trained and managed more than 1,000 different salespeople. Working in hardware, software and services of a wide variety gave me a well-rounded set of experiences. In addition, I became CEO of a $20 million business with 60 employees and managed five acquisitions and two divestitures, so I have a uniquely qualified “been there, done that” background.
Q: Your approach includes training on communicating with people and understanding their motivations. How does that benefit your trainees?
Hall: Most salespeople only train in their features and benefits — not in communication and buyer psychology. That’s where I come in. Communications (listening and questioning strategies) is everything to ensure a great “sales interview” with a prospect or existing customer. I am certified as a DISC instructor and weave the communications behaviors into the sales interview to “match and mirror” what the prospect is seeking. The benefit to my clients is a much more natural and comfortable conversation that leads to the truth of the matter.
Q: You also offer management development. What skills do you help managers develop?
Hall: This is key and in fact is probably my greatest strength. I develop coaching skills, training skills and mentoring skills for my management clients. I help them with gap assessments in their team, and to realize that they need to focus on the middle 60 percent of their performers. They learn how to hire better, how to onboard new hires, how to coach them and how to develop their skills.
Q: What are some of the most compelling results your clients have seen as a result of your training?
Hall: It’s kind of funny and interesting. I will have my clients proudly profess that they have doubled or tripled their revenue or personal earnings — and I smile and apologize and let them know that others have received a 10x return on their investment and productivity. Very seriously, I don’t know of a single client who hasn’t gain real, measurable improvements from my training.
Q: Instead of offering a standard sales boot camp, your course takes place weekly and lasts a year. What is the benefit of this approach?
Hall: It’s just the way adults learn. Short-term training is good for one thing: short-term results. Repetitive weekly meetings cause a couple of very positive things to happen: First, you go from “knowing” to “owning” or, said another way, you form muscle memory on your selling so that it becomes easy and automatic. Second, you get to practice and role play with others. You refine your “talk tracks” and know where you are going with your prospects, and why. Just imagine if Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger hadn’t practiced over and over again in piloting his Airbus.
Q: Why should clients invest in this kind of longer training?
Hall: Maybe they shouldn’t! My clients are in it to win it. They want predictable results, realistic pipelines, less stress in selling so that they can enjoy their home or private life and not worry all the time with their results. We can all admit that when we see and feel success, it changes us. I am in the “people-changing” business — it’s what I love.
Q: What kinds of companies (and individuals) can benefit from your training?
Hall: Truly all kinds of companies and individuals benefit. The reason is that we all have something in common when we sell or generate revenue, with whatever profession we are in: There is a prospect, another person, involved — and they don’t want to be sold. They want to buy, and will do so with people they like and trust. That’s what I do for my clients.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you could give CEOs on motivating their sales team?
Hall: Provide an environment for “lifelong learning.” With no learning, sales teams become stale — they just keep recycling behavior and skills (both good and bad). Investing in your people (not just salespeople, but sales managers, customer service employees and all line managers) is the best thing you can do to build strength, lower costly turnover and grow your business.