Fireside Friday with Mike Zoller
Sales Assembly: Give us your quick background in sales.
Mike: I actually was a journalist right out of college, and I think that’s where I developed a lot of my sales skills. As a journalist, you have to convince people to talk to you in sometimes terrible situations and sell yourself as a trustworthy person.
My actual sales career started at Apple in its flagship store in Chicago. From there, I sold season tickets for Northwestern University football and men’s basketball. After four seasons at Northwestern, I came to Sprout Social as an account executive and have moved up in the organization from AE to Sr. AE, SMB Manager and Sr. SMB Manager to my current role today as the Mid-Market Manager.
Sales Assembly: What's your biggest accomplishment in sales or sales leadership?
Mike: I’m most proud of promoting six of my individual contributors to the next level of sales here at Sprout Social over the last two years. It’s rewarding to see their hard work, and yours, pay off, and they get to advance in their sales career.
Sales Assembly: What's the best piece of sales advice you ever got?
Mike: Selling begins at no. When someone comes to you and already wants whatever you're selling, that’s easy. It’s on you not to lose that sale rather than win it. I find that the best reps hear a ‘no’ or an objection and are able to get back into a conversation with the prospect and ultimately turn that ‘no’ into a sale.
Sales Assembly: What's the biggest challenge facing a sales rep today, and how would you recommend they overcome it?
Mike: Prospects who are hesitant to get on a call and simply website shop you and your competitors. Salespeople have a negative connotation that even if someone is truly interested in your product, they might not engage with your rep because of past experiences with a salesperson or just assuming it won’t be a good experience.
Sales Assembly: Do you currently have a mentor when it comes to sales, or have you ever? If so, what did they teach you?
Mike: I don’t have just one mentor. As Sprout has grown over the years, we’ve brought in some really talented sales individuals, and every day I’m learning something new and continuing to get better at my job.
Sales Assembly: What's the best sales book you've ever read? What are you reading now?
Mike: One of my favorite coaching books is Leading with the Heart: Coach K's Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business, and Life. I’m a big fan of Mike Krzyzewski, head coach of the Duke basketball team, and what he’s accomplished during his tenure there.
I just got Julie Zhou’s new book, The Making of a Manager.
Sales Assembly: Best sales or business related articles, podcasts or newsletters?
Mike: The Salesman Podcast with Will Barron. While not every episode applies to my business, I find myself sharing best practices and tips I hear on episodes in my team meetings.
Sales Assembly: What's the best advice you'd give to someone just starting a career in sales?
Mike: Be curious and ask follow-up questions. When talking to a prospect, you want to always be curious and learn as much as you can. When you get that initial pain, you go deeper. If you take the first thing you hear from a prospect and move onto the next, you don’t have anywhere near the amount of information you need to be a trusted consultant and make a recommendation on your product later in the sales cycle.
Sales Assembly: Do you see any interesting future trends as it pertains to sales?
Mike: Using video in the sales process. If you can’t get on-site right away or at all, using video to humanize yourself to a prospect is important, and I see it being used more and more. Even if they don’t want to share their camera, just seeing you on screen makes you more than an email or a voice on a phone.
Sales Assembly: What’s been the best tool to help you coach and manage?
Mike: We implemented a call recording and data analysis tool called Gong in the middle part of 2018 that has been the single most impactful piece of tech I’ve used as a manager. We know that we can’t be on every single call our reps have, but with technology that records and analyzes every call they do make, you can quickly pinpoint coaching opportunities and share best in class standards. The data that those tools provide is incredibly valuable.