The Real Deal is a monthly series where sales professionals can get expert advice on literally anything related to their jobs—from asking for brutally honest feedback on an outreach email draft, to seeking specific advice on a path to your next promotion, or finding out if your compensation package is legit. We got you covered.
The Real Deal: It's Getting Hot in Here
Time for another edition of The Real Deal, where our sales expert David Graswick answers burning questions from Strategic Sales Network members. This time, he tackles everything from setting couches on fire (you read that right) to re-igniting your skillset in a tough economy.
Q: Weirdest question ever: Did burning couches in college influence your future career in sales? (You’ve gotta explain this.)
TL;DR: Even crazy experiences provide solid learning opportunities.
Okay, let’s start with some context. This was a tradition at WVU. After a big football win, people would go nuts and start burning couches. Not your fancy living room ones, mind you—we're talking about ratty, old porch couches. You'd see these celebratory bonfires popping up all over the place. Of course, they’ve long since banned this practice for obvious reasons. But it was a big thing back in my day.
I didn’t really think about it at the time, but looking back, I suppose those college antics did teach me some valuable lessons I still use today in sales. Things like thinking on my feet, making sound decisions, socializing and reading people—those are all skills that come in handy when you're working deals and building relationships with clients.
And for the record, I never burned any couches myself!
Q: What do you do when your own champions or sponsors throw up roadblocks instead of helping you reach the C-suite?
TL;DR: Put in the work to build trust and develop better champions.
Dealing with blockers can be a real challenge, but you've got to remember that a true champion wouldn't do that to you. A champion is someone who's not just concerned about their own area but also sees the bigger picture and helps you advance. As a seller, your goal should be to build strong relationships with champions who believe in your cause and want to take you higher.
How do you make that happen? By consistently offering value and earning their trust. And by ensuring that the people you’re working with share the same objectives as the executives you’re trying to engage. It's all about asking the right questions, understanding the company's priorities, and aligning your goals with theirs to create a win-win situation.
Ultimately, if you come across someone in the organization who isn't willing to support you, or who pushes you toward the wrong department, it's time to look for other potential stakeholders who might be more open to your efforts.
Q: The economy today is forcing a lot of big changes on sales teams. How can sellers maintain morale and tackle challenges associated with realignments or new methodologies?
TL;DR: The secret sauce to success during markets like this is having a positive mindset, being open to learning, and staying resilient.
It can be difficult to see when you’re in the thick of it, but tough times are temporary, and we can bounce back. Case in point: I’ve been doing this for about 21 years now, and dealing with past market disruptions like the dot-com bust and the credit crisis wasn't easy, but I always held on to the belief that things would eventually get better. And they did.
That doesn’t mean you just sit by and wait it out, of course. Adapt to changing circumstances by upleveling your skills. Stay on top of industry trends and best practices. For example, the current market demands that companies focus on building sustainable growth—not just on chasing revenue. That's where a value-over-volume approach comes in. Sales teams need to aim for higher-value deals and make sure their offerings address high-impact problems (HIPs) that matter to the C-suite and decision-makers. It's all about having meaningful conversations and qualifying prospects more efficiently. So make sure you’re trained in how to sell to these strategic priorities.
And finally, take care of yourself. This job is hard! Maintaining a work/life balance is imperative during stressful periods. Don't hesitate to seek support from colleagues and mentors, and remember that asking for help is okay.
Q: Last issue, you said preparation is everything—but when you have customers you’ve worked with for a long time, is cramming before every call really necessary?
Knowing a person well doesn't mean you skip preparation altogether. It might take less time after you’ve built a solid relationship, and with more experience, you develop a natural flow and talk track that becomes almost second nature, especially when you've been with the same organization for a long time. But it's still essential to brush up before every meeting. Here’s why:
- All meetings serve a purpose. Even informal conversations need a clear outcome in mind, so it’s always a good idea to check in on your plan before a call.
- Things change. Particularly in this economy! Consider how earnings results or organizational shifts could instantly divert your strategy. Doing some research beforehand can help keep you ahead of surprises. And don’t forget to check in on product usage for existing customers. Understanding any changes in user behavior is crucial to identifying expansion opportunities or renewal risks.
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