From the Sales Trenches: Q&A with Doug Slotkin


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This continues our series of front-line sales interviews, featuring quota-carrying sales reps as well as their managers and leaders (see previous interviews here, here and here). Doug Slotkin runs Zillow’s local ad sales organization and is responsible for the growth and development of the inside sales team at Zillow. Prior to joining Zillow, Doug worked for Market Leader (formerly HouseValues) where he held various sales and sales leadership roles.

How (and why) did you get into sales?

My career has really had two phases. I was an international sales manager for a waterski company for nine years, and at that point I didn’t want to be a lifer in the waterski business. I really found my niche at HouseValues, where my skills were honed in terms of using the phone to close business in a short sales cycle. I connected well with real estate agents and other entrepreneurs because I already had business acumen from my waterski days.

How did the waterski experience help you with real estate agents?

My job was international sales, and I worked with people in 80 different countries. I learned to listen carefully, speak very clearly and a notch less quickly than normal, so people from other countries could understand as much as possible, without slang and noise. That really helped my communication skills. I know about building a business, knew what it took to be successful in terms of the type of follow-up you need to do, and I think I learned a lot as I was selling at HouseValues as well. I was put among people who were good sellers. I sat right next to Debra Gravelle and picked up nuggets daily. I was open to learning, picking up bits and pieces that fit my style and I thought I could deliver, and made my own style.

When I told people I could help them grow, I sounded credible.

What’s changed in sales since you started doing it?

More has stayed the same in terms of what it takes to be successful. There’s no replacement for strong activity and energy on the phone. No replacement for taking feedback and implementing it in your execution.

The biggest change is prospecting. You have a lot more tools with which to prospect than you did before – social media, prospect web sites, more access to information thus more access to finding good prospects. Nothing replaces doing the work.

Some reps will way over-analyze this stuff before they call. You don’t always need to find the perfect prospect or do all of the prep. A lot of it is, just get on the phone, have a lot of good conversations, and that “perfect prospect” may never buy but someone else on the surface who doesn’t look as qualified may be the perfect fit for your product. The only way to find out is to call them.

You can spin your wheels doing too much analysis.

How has sales management changed?

My job is to get our team excited about the opportunity at hand. Sometimes that’s with a contest, other times it’s me showing passion in front of the group in terms of how much we’re helping the clients. It’s objection-handling in front of the group, this is how you do it, this is where we should be focused, etc.

I still cold call from time to time, and I still have our team listen to me cold call. I want them to know that 1) I’m not above them in terms of my willingness to do it, and I do really enjoy it, and 2) I want them to hear me in action. When they hear me and see I’m willing to do it and make a sale in front of them, they see this isn’t a theoretical leader, he’s a practical leader. When he gives us guidance, we know it’s good because he showed us directly. Some leaders are too distant from the sale, and that distance between them and the reps on the floor has a negative impact.

I can’t do it every day, but I do it enough to stay sharp and so that people take my leadership and advice to heart.

There’s no replacement for real passion for what you’re doing. My goal is to communicate that passion, for how great you feel when you sign up a successful agent, to get someone turned around whose business was floundering. It’s about the satisfaction of helping someone’s business and not making it just about the commission and getting a fish in the boat. It’s about more than that.

Earning commissions is important, but what keeps people here and satisfied is that they feel good about what they’re selling and they appreciate the consultative approach, and can see the results.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Heinz
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.


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