The following post is an interview with Base’s VP of Sales Mike Logan. Mike joined Base in September and brings over 27 years of experience to the team. Check out what he had to share about building a career in sales, how to select a CRM and much more.
How did you first get started in sales?
I first got started in sales because I was a marketing support assistant at IBM. I was basically supposed to go around and do meter readings of copiers and make sure that the customers were happy. When I told my supervising rep that I would like the opportunity to try to sell something, he gave me a list of hard-head accounts that he thought would never buy anything.
I ended up running across this client who was unwilling to upgrade because they thought we were trying to drive their maintenance up and make them buy a new copier. By explaining to the guy that there were real reasons that our maintenance was more expensive for older copiers, I was able to disarm him and I sold him two copiers. And I remember coming home and feeling like I had conquered the world by influencing someone to buy something. I was hooked! But it wasn’t until I was onboard with Kodak that I had my first official sales job selling network imaging.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the course of your sales career?
There’s a few, but I think the most important one is that you have to have enough opportunities to work. You can only go so far with one account. You have to have a willing participant – you have to have a buyer and be in the right deal with somebody who has a need. You have to find a champion with economic buying power, and the climate has to be right to actually make a purchase.
What that translates to is a bit of a numbers game. You have to have a very robust funnel if you want to succeed quarter after quarter. Being proactive with your funnel is really what makes you look good. Because sometimes you don’t get every deal, but you end up having strong backfill for the deals that don’t make it.
What’s your advice for effectively defining and measuring a sales process?
First off you have to have phases in the sales process that make sense for your business and that you can use to engage the customer in a buyer journey that makes sense for them too. It has to align on both sides. That process needs to be embedded in your daily work and your CRM. And you need to measure conversions from each phase. By measuring conversions within each phase, you can gain a predictable model for your forecast, and make adjustments based on that.
And within each phase of the process is enablement: where are bottlenecks, what kind of content do we need, what tools can we provide the sales people, etc. You need to think about what each phase consists of, what the rep activities are there and how you can make them better in each phase to increase conversions. You should break enablement down based on those process chunks. So it’s not just this esoteric fuzzy sales process; it’s actually a list of tasks within each phase that you can then mentor around.
What have you found to be the most informative and influential sales metric?
By far, the most important sales metric is qualified pipeline. This typically starts in the validation phase of the sales process, when you’re aligning the vision of your company and your prospect around your product offering, their needs and how they want to buy. It means the prospect agrees to your product features, recognizes that you add value and knows that you’re different. That becomes qualified pipe. And if that qualified pipeline is healthy, you should get 30-50% conversion in-quarter.
What do you think is the most common stumbling block among sales leaders today, and how can they overcome it?
It’s trust. If you can gain the trust of your team, you can coach them and talk to them about metrics, improvements and better ways to sell, and even have them lead certain efforts. All of this is based on trust, because if they trust you they will follow you and disclose accurate data and information to you. You don’t want people massaging data and information out of fear. Trust and a positive culture of winning trumps a fear and intimidation culture. You get distorted behavior if you don’t have trust. You want transparency and to take action on that transparency. You can’t beat people up when they come to you with transparency.
What type of features and functionality do you typically look for when it comes to selecting a CRM or sales platform?
The majority of business intelligence is focused on getting your data accurate and normalized. You can go and shop for the best reporting tool on the planet but if your salespeople aren’t using their sales platform, you’re not going to get good data. So to me, it goes back to providing your reps with a sales productivity tool that they love and makes their jobs easier. That way, the reps aren’t putting the data in to serve their managers; they’re doing it because it helps them run their business better. By solving for the rep first I get my data as a byproduct.
Having something that’s user and mobile-friendly is also important, so that reps can spend less time in the solution and more time in the field. To the degree that we can go from 5 clicks to 1 click times 100 reps times 100 times a day, that’s a great thing. I also want something that’s integrated with what reps are already using. I want them to use their email and calendar – whatever they’re used to – but I want it all to integrate into a single solution.
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