The fast paced world of Information Technology employs skilled athletes that perform at an extremely high level. I call them athletes, because that’s essentially what they are. IT Athletes have years of experience and training, possess deep knowledge, face crisis head on and are transforming themselves as the world around them transforms as well. The IT world is a dynamic ecosystem with a variety of different roles and responsibilities. One role that continues to evolve and increase in its importance is the IT Sales Rep. That’s correct, the Sales Rep!
In today’s fast paced world, customers put the highest value on salespeople who challenge the status quo, who bring fresh concepts and ideas, who use creativity and their market knowledge to help their customers’ businesses adapt and grow. As the markets we serve continue to transform, customers are demanding more and more from their sales teams. They expect them to teach them things they don’t know and bring new perspective in solving their IT and business needs. Therefore, how you you sell has become just as important as what you sell.
Let’s spend some time with someone who’s had a history of success, helping her customers with their most pressing data management needs, enabling their business and accelerating their transformation. The sales representative I’m referring to is Lori Baker, Global Account Manager at Hitachi Data Systems.
Interview - Lori Baker
Hi Lori, thanks for taking the time. I wanted to first ask you, what do you see as the main objective of your role as an HDS professional sales person.
Early in my career a sales mentor gave me a piece of advice that really stuck with me. When you are in front of your customer you are an advocate for your company and your portfolio of services. However, before you articulate how your solution is competitively positioned, you must do your homework and truly gain and understanding of the customers’ business objectives, areas of focus that are driving those objectives and challenges that may be present in putting the business objectives at risk.
These facts don’t fall in your lap. Gaining a deep understanding of your customers’ requirements takes an investment and commitment on your part to research and gain insight, building your credibility before the campaign even begins.
Once you have this insight, you are able to align your solution as a critical aspect of the overall plan in meeting key requirements and/or solving business challenges.
What do you see as key challenges being an IT sales person in today’s environment?
The ability to sell in an environment where perception is often reality and hype can be mistaken for value. To understand that true value always comes down to business outcomes. Don’t get caught up in feature battles, or the latest trend. Rather focus on delivering measurable business value.
Now, that being said, typically your customer will have a longer term vision, balanced with shorter term requirements.
What’s crucial is that you clearly articulate that you understand their vision and map your company’s strategy to key aspects of that longer term vision; however, also stay focused on meeting their needs of today. This approach will build your credibility and relevance, showing a map to the future, but still getting the job done for today.
How do you keep your cool, when there’s a multi million dollar deal on the line?
Most large deals have mini wins along the way. For example; access to decision makers, PoCs, verbal approvals etc. You need to focus on each mile of the marathon and not the whole 26 up front. Also, recognize there will be challenges along the way and often times it is overcoming the challenges that makes a deal come together and gets you closer to yes.
How do you differentiate from your competition?
The goal is always to provide a differentiated sales experience. Products come and go and every vendor has their unique set of technology strengths. Sales teams that prepare, are active listeners and put as much effort into their presentation as the solution itself always provide the best sales experience. Finally, the effort you put into implementing the solution has to be equal to the effort you invested to win. The customers experience with your solution is critical for your ongoing success.
What advice would you give an aspiring sales person in today’s fast paced, ever changing environment?
Mike, I would make sure they focus on three key things;
- 1 Be an active listener; customers want to be heard and feel that the solution being proposed are defined specifically to meet their needs.
- 2 Build win teams; identify, motivate and support the resources around you. Larger account selling is a true team sport.
- 3 Balance urgency with patience; understand how to leverage compelling events and when it is better to walk away to fight another day.
Lori, as always is was great to talk with you. Practical advice that we all can learn from and apply in our daily lives as skilled professional sales athletes.
Stay tuned for more insight on selling and leadership strategies from some of the world’s leading sales leaders at Hitachi.
Do you think you can sell? If there’s a topic of interest, let us know.