Fireside Friday with James Williams
Sales Assembly: Give us your quick background in sales.
James: I started my sales career in the late 1990s working for an internet banking service, moved into the application service provider space and have come full circle to extend SaaS product offerings for BenchPrep. Over the last two decades, my sales experience has taught me how to not only work with customers, but also to think through implementation and customer success, allowing me to evolve into a better sales leader who can look at a situation from both an internal and external perspective.
Sales Assembly: What's your biggest accomplishment in sales or sales leadership?
James: I’ve been able to pass on the fundamentals of sales to the next generation. In today’s sales world, people become dependent on social media and forget the basic building blocks of establishing interpersonal relationships and thinking through strategic tactics, which are both critically important to closing large enterprise deals. I’m able to bring the best out of salespeople by helping them develop strong soft skills that will drive their long-term success in sales.
Sales Assembly: What's the best piece of sales advice you ever got?
James: The best piece of sales advice I’ve received is to listen to understand, not to speak, what I like to call LTU. Where did I learn this? From a customer. Listening to understand helps me determine a customer’s true value proposition, the problems they’re trying to solve and the best solution to drive results. I’ve followed this advice throughout my career and have built so many successful relationships along the way as a result.
Sales Assembly: What's the biggest challenge facing a sales rep today, and how would you recommend they overcome it?
James: Becoming a true expert on a product is, in my opinion, the biggest challenge facing sales reps today. Without knowing a product inside and out, sales reps are often conflicted on where to start the process, who to target and lack the ability to create urgency for that audience. To overcome this challenge, I recommend consistent and proactive training to keep up with a product as it evolves, particularly for SaaS or technology products.
Sales Assembly: Do you currently have a sales mentor, or have you ever? If so, what did they teach you?
James: My customers are my mentors. If had to pick a single mentor, it would be my dad who didn’t have a college degree, but worked hard everyday to provide a better life for us. He taught me the value of hard work and common sense. “Don’t be average, strive to be great and better than I am!”
Sales Assembly: What's the best sales book you've ever read? What are you reading now?
James: The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy. This book discusses the inner game of selling and how to eliminate fear to build an unshakeable confidence. Sales is about being in the moment and the ability to control your thoughts, reactions or feelings so you can effectively listen to a customer, see the problem from their perspective and communicate the value of your product to enable them to achieve their goals.
Sales Assembly: Best sales or business related books, articles, podcasts or newsletters?
James: Having spent the past few years becoming a subject matter expert in the e-learning industry, I rely heavily on industry-specific resources to stay in touch with my audience. Currently, my daily reads include Chief Learning Officer Magazine, Sales Gravy Blog, Sales Solutions Blog, and Training Magazine.
Sales Assembly: What's the best advice you'd give to someone just starting a career in sales?
James: Before you start a sales career, you have to determine if you love sales. To love sales, you have to truly enjoy building and fostering relationships. You have to also be creative in order to solve unique business challenges and have the commitment and drive to never give up when the first solution isn’t the right one. Sales is the most fulfilling career I could have chosen and am excited to help pave the way for the next generation of sales professionals.
Sales Assembly: Do you see any interesting future trends as it pertains to sales?
James: Over the past several years, sales professionals have begun leveraging social media for transactional-type sales, but for higher-value enterprise sales, it hasn’t been proven successful. A trend toward the relationship model is making a comeback. I believe salespeople will return to their roots, establishing value and trust with customers through traditional face-to-face communication. Customers want to see our faces, not our Instagram.
Sales Assembly: What is your golden rule in sales?
James: Give your customers the ability to do what they can’t currently do, but would want to, if they only knew it was possible.