From The Sales Trenches: Q&A with Sam Wheeler


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This is the first in a new, ongoing series of interviews with front-line B2B salespeople, featuring quota-carrying sales reps as well as their managers and leaders. Sam Wheeler has been in sales since 1990, pioneering Web services sales and building an online sales team for the Wall Street Journal before spending twelve years in sales and business development roles at Amazon. Today, Wheeler manages business development for Kabbage, a start-up that provides financial services, including financing, to merchants that sell products and services online.

Why are you in sales? What do you like about it?
My move to sales was very intentional. My wife’s father was a very successful sales guy, and early on I had a conversation with him and he explained that it’s the best paying but hardest job, and that good salespeople always have jobs. Great salespeople are always employable.

The definition of what a good salesperson is has changed dramatically over time. It used to be a numbers game, knock on doors, show the product. The concept of a numbers game is still true, but the way you go about achieving numbers is completely different.

If all you’re doing is smiling and dialing, you won’t be nearly as successful as those who use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as part of their sales tactics. Even this interview is a sales tactic, because people will read and do their research before they choose to buy. Every time you have a conversation and leave a digital marker, it increases the chances that people will find you.

How has sales changed since you started your career?
It used to be you could spend the first 15-20 minutes of a sales call to get to know the company and understand their needs. Lazy salespeople still do that. Great salespeople know what the problem is before they arrive because they’ve read the blog, press releases, financial reports, and they understand what the competition is doing. Our access to information is so great. Buyers are super busy, they expect you to know what you’re doing.

How has sales management changed since you started managing?
Ten years ago, I was managing a numbers-oriented program in a call center – certain # of phone calls, etc. Today, that kind of micro-management doesn’t work for me anymore. I’ve become much more sophisticated in my recruitment process. I spend a lot more time finding the right hires and then giving them an environment where they can succeed, which includes training.

If 50 percent of your sales hires fail, your business will be in terrible shape. The old-school mentality of “hit numbers or you’re fired” is pathetic, because really great salespeople take some time to get up to speed, and if you’re going to make that investment you need to give it time to reap the rewards.

What do you look for in a good rep? How much does actual sales experience play into it?
Curiosity is really important. Unless you’re interested in what the other party (your prospect) is trying to accomplish, you’ll never be a good salesperson. Buyers today are able to read through the bullshit of the dumb sales guy. I get calls all the time from sales people trying to sell me something, and unless they have done their research I blow them off. Did you research who I am and what we do? You’ll see in three minutes the basics on LinkedIn. If you don’t do that, it’s a good sign that you won’t cut it as a successful salesperson today.

My interview process is based on a book called Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. In that book, they talk about interviews where you take a methodical approach to the hiring process. They take every single job and ask the same five questions, and by doing that you hear themes about people’s capabilities and where they may have faults. I found this approach to be more effective than the process I used at Amazon that was based on interviewing for key capabilities. When I changed to this model, I spent more time weeding out candidate earlier and less time replacing a bad-hiring decision.

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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