From the Sales Trenches: Q&A with Steve Hampton


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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 a sample of previous interviews here, here and here). Steve Hampton is Director of Business Development for LoopFuse, where he manages direct sales, channel development, and demand generation activities. LoopFuse is a marketing automation platform that enables companies to dramatically increase quality sales leads, drive revenue growth, and easily manage & measure effectiveness of cross-channel campaigns (email, social, search, web content, etc).

How did you get started in sales?
I started in sales during my first year of college. One of my neighbors growing up was a long-time sales veteran, and he convinced me to go into sales so I could make the most money. It’s the hardest job out there, but I wanted to make as much money as I could, and control my own destiny. I stuck with it because I enjoyed it and was having success, and eventually worked my way up through a larger company earlier in my career. I’ve been doing it now for 10 years.

What does it mean to you, when you say that sales is a hard job?
You have to have thick skin, be able to take no for an answer a lot, be very persistent and be consistent. And you have to do that day after day. When I started, there was more prospecting involved, far more cold calls. I was selling copiers and printers literally knocking on doors in office buildings and making a lot of phone calls every day. Today, it seems like you get more leads vs. having to source all of them on your own. Even if your company isn’t doing a lot of lead generation for the sales team, people still find you via the web and call with questions. It’s still hard, even if you’re getting leads, you have to pick yourself up every day and generate prospects on your own.

What’s the difference between doing sales at a big company vs. a startup?
When you’re working in a large organization, typically you’re given very regimented training, often outdated training, and you learn all the traditional closing methods, overcoming objections, etc. Whether that’s right or wrong, a lot of it I think is irrelevant these days. It used to be easier to learn successful sales at a big company, but now I actually think it’s harder.

With a start-up, you’re wearing multiple hats, doing other things outside of sales every day, pitching in on other things to generate revenue. You generally have a wider range of customers you’re working with. It’s more challenging, but also a crucible for doing what’s right and learning quickly how to make your customer successful.

Is it harder to focus and be disciplined at a smaller company?
In a larger company, you have more access to resources, sure. But it’s also easier to get lazy and take your eye off the ball at a big company. Bigger companies too often have more people than they need, making it easy to take a day off or minimally check out and not be held accountable.

When you’re at a start-up, you can’t ever let up. You can’t do less than 100%, or it will affect your customers and your team. Everybody has to be on board to make it work. Which is why I love startups!

How has social media changed how you sell?
I think it’s changing how you find and identify new opportunities. You may have a marketing team that has a person dedicated to that, but to just uncover opportunities for engagement, there are now tools out there to find those conversations about your product or industry.

I think social media is more valuable to qualify opportunities. You can look on LinkedIn, for example, to learn more about them, their job history, to see if they’re the right person to deal with. You can also get a sense for their personality and what they’re interested in.

How has the buyer changed in your 10 years of selling?
The game has changed, and the buyer is more empowered than ever. With the internet and blogs, buyers have the ability to really fully research your company, your competitors, your industry, even you the salesperson. They come to you when they’ve done their homework and they know (or they think they know) exactly what they need.

As a salesperson, it’s really up to you to help them filter through all that information, which I refer to as noise. What do they really want and really need? Does that align with what you’re selling? Oftentimes they’re misguided, have focused on some bells and whistles they’ve seen competitors offer but aren’t really that important in terms of generating revenue or making their job easier. Those bells & whistles don’t always end up solving their problems. An effective salesperson still has to help them go back a few steps to figure out what they really need.

Are there tools you rely on?
I rely on for CRM, tracking opportunities from a management standpoint, getting dashboards to see our pipeline as a whole. Loopfuse, obviously, we use extensively for tracking those prospects. It tells me if they’re on our Web site, opening our emails, and if they’re really interested and ready or not.

I’m a big fan of Rapportive now too. It’s a social look-up feature for Google Mail. Hover over someone’s email address and you’ll see their social profiles where you can then connect to them right away. GoToMeeting is also critical for online meetings and presentations.

What will be different about selling in 5-10 years?
Prospects will continue to be more educated and empowered, getting more valuable information in terms of online content, much of it provided by marketers. By the time they talk to sales, they’ll be farther along in their buying process. There’s risk there for sales, as we don’t want our subsequent conversations to focus just on a price or feature comparison. We still need to back up and align with buyer needs.

I also believe sales cycles everywhere will get faster, especially as more complex purchases allow for online purchasing and trials. Early stage “exploratory” phone calls with sales reps will be replaced by online self-education. This doesn’t mean that salespeople are going away, but more aspects of the sales process will be done online.

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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