This is our interview with Erin Hallett, Director of Sales at SCTG. You can follow SCTG at @ServerCentral.
Sales Assembly: Give us your quick background in sales.
Erin: I have been in sales over ten years, five of which have been in direct management of sales teams. For most of my career, I have been in hardware sales focusing on enterprise, data center, SLED and utility markets. I have also specialized in channel sales and distribution, developing global partnerships, launching new channel programs and building channel sales organizations. Today, I lead both the account management and new business sales teams for an infrastructure and cloud managed services company, ServerCentral Turing Group (SCTG).
Sales Assembly: What's your biggest accomplishment in sales or sales leadership?
Erin: I’ve been very proud of the teams that I have built. On a team, a diversity of experience, perspective, personality and opinion can be a huge advantage. As a leader, it is best to have multiple solutions presented to you to tackle a problem or develop multiple growth strategies. I am most proud of a team that I built of channel managers at VIAVI Solutions. Not only did most of the channel managers exceed their annual goal, but also the team enjoyed working and collaborating with each other, every day. They were able to come up with many new, creative ideas that ultimately led to their success.
Sales Assembly: What's the best piece of sales advice you ever got?
Erin: Listen, and don’t be afraid of silence. One of my mentors at my first company (JDSU now VIAVI Solutions) taught me that. As salespeople, we tend to think that we need to say as many things as possible to make our pitch. Less is more. Simply listening and specifically addressing a customer’s needs is far more effective than listing 1,000 features and benefits. People will tend to fill a silence, so strategically pausing may encourage a response or new piece of information from a customer. This is also very important advice for managers when interacting with their team or other departments.
Sales Assembly: What's the biggest challenge facing a sales rep today, and how would you recommend they overcome it?
Erin: I do not think modern salespeople know how to prospect or network. We have so many fabulous tools due to the internet and more information about customers than could have been imagined even 10 years ago. However, salespeople lean on these tools too much. They will only use LinkedIn messaging or emails. They seem less likely to cold call or attend a networking event. To develop lasting relationships for your business now and in the future, you need to meet people. Make an effort to regularly attend networking events or conferences. Use your network and partner community to get introductions to customers.
Sales Assembly: Do you currently have a mentor when it comes to sales, or have you ever? If so, what did they teach you?
Erin: I have had several mentors throughout my career, and I still keep in touch with all of them. It is important to have outside leaders who can provide you with a variety of advice. My mentors include past managers, past leaders from other companies in the industry and colleagues who I have admired for their leadership, management and selling skills.
Sales Assembly: What's the best sales book you've ever read? What are you reading now?
Erin: My favorite sales book was recommended to me on day one of my first sales role. It is How to Become a Rainmaker by Jeffrey Fox. It is a short, easy read that reminds sales professionals how to put their best foot forward when interacting with customers and closing sales. I reread this book at least once per year to remind me of the basics.
While not specifically sales or business, I am currently reading The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. This book helps people better address issues to turn obstacles into opportunities.
Sales Assembly: Best sales or business related articles, podcasts or newsletters?
Erin: I recommend all salespeople follow their customers'/prospects' social media, and check it at least daily for insights into their business.
I love podcasts, and recommend several to business professionals:
•“Before Breakfast” – A short, daily podcast to help you create efficiencies in life
•“Business Unusual” – Stories and tips from Barbara Corcoran addressing sales, marketing and leadership
•“Freakonomics Radio” – Addressing social and economic issues to expand overall knowledge
•“Ask a Manager” – No longer running, but you can download old episodes
Sales Assembly: What's the best advice you'd give to someone just starting a career in sales?
Erin: •Be fearless. You only learn by doing and failing. Take the meeting, do the demo, cold call the executive, so that you can quickly grow.
•If you do not know the answer, say “I don’t know, but I’ll get you an answer by tomorrow.” Too many times, I hear salespeople say anything, because they are afraid to not know. They end up losing credibility. Customers appreciate that you can be honest. The key is following up in a timely manner to get the customer the right information.
•Follow-up with summary emails. After a meeting with a customer/prospect/partner, often information covered was misunderstood or forgotten. Do your customer a favor by recapping the meeting, action items and asking that they agree to the information. Not only does this help your customer, it will help you and your team stay organized. It will solidify you as a professional.
Sales Assembly: Do you see any interesting future trends as it pertains to sales?
Erin: Customers have access to an abundance of information. More than ever, the salesperson must become a trusted advisor to customers, or else it becomes a pricing race to the bottom. Customers are hungry to work with people/companies that can partner to help solve problems rather than simply provide quotes. That requires the salesperson to provide more value and/or be able to show how their product/company provides a special value.
Sales Assembly: What advice would you give to a salesperson to help them advance their career?
Erin: Know your business and your strategy. It is a cliché, but I have always advised my people to be able to describe their role, their performance and their strategy in 3-4 sentences that they could recite at the drop of a hat. If you find yourself the in the elevator with the CEO, can you succinctly tell him/her how you are/will be positively impacting their business? Could you leave an impression? OR, would they be confused about what you do here? Are you asking his/her advice?