Soft Solution’s Paul Leslie has been at the company for 16 years.
He says his role as BDM began in the days when that title meant what it said. Now he says the 'B' in BDM could also stand for Brand as well as Business. He’s a man who once worked as a Navy electronics engineer, but now finds that fine tuning his sales pitch is his main job.
What’s your best and worst experience of cold calling?
In my very first sales role I was placing contract programmers and did a hundred contact calls in one day. That was something I’m still pretty proud of. I can’t think of any worst experiences. I really have no memory of any of them going bad.
Do you have any tips for cold calling?
Enjoy it. Try to appreciate the other person’s point of view, so what you’re talking about has to be relevant for them.
How much does money play in your drive to succeed?
Money shouldn’t ever be the motivator for being successful. Money is the reward for being successful. I love doing business with people. For me it’s just the achievement and helping someone to make a good buying decision.
What tips can you give a struggling salesperson?
Integrity. Always treat everything with integrity and honesty and that comes through.
Is personality as important as the product you're selling?
I think it counts for a significant amount. People do business with people that they know and trust. So that’s a key part of it. Yes, it’s important to have good products and a strong company behind you but everyone's got to start somewhere, so first and foremost it’s about making sure that people want to do business with you.
Most sales people have some experience of other jobs, what’s yours?
Before getting into sales, I was a programmer and systems analyst. And prior to that I was an electronics engineer in the Navy.
Do you ever consider changing your career?
Yeah, every so often I think about it and there has been one occasion when I stepped outside the IT industry but the place where I went to I just had no synergy for it and didn’t enjoy it.
Does the pressure to hit your monthly or quarterly targets ever make you stressed?
Yeah, I don’t think anyone can say that they don’t feel some pressure to make those targets but not to the extent that it gives you sleepless nights.
How would you sum up the craft of sales in one sentence to an outsider?
Helping people make good buying decisions.
How long does it take you to assess how you should approach your sales pitch?
That’s a hard one because obviously for every product it varies, and sometimes the vendor provides it for us very succinctly and other times you’ve got to really search for it but I suppose it’s an on-going process, continually assessing and tuning and also adjusting it to the prospect.
Have you ever put your foot in it when talking to a client?
I’m sure I have. I can’t remember, but I’ll put money on it that I have.
How did you get past the point of struggling to make a sale to where you are today?
Well, it’s always a struggle. It goes up and down. But you really just hang in there I suppose. I’ve certainly had significant dry periods and I suppose the more desperate you get the harder it becomes. I remember one stage in my career I was struggling to get started and decided to take some programming work to get some money coming in. And the moment I took that pressure off myself the sales started.
Are you a persuasive person, and has that ever refelcted negatively on you?
Yeah, I do think I'm persuasive, but no I don’t think it's been negative. Everything we do in life is about negotiation and persuading others to see things from your point of view.
How do you balance product knowledge and training with generating leads or opportunities?
I struggle with that balance all the time. It’s important to have that product knowledge and training but if you spend all your time doing that and not getting out to your own leads and opportunities then it’s a waste of time. But at the same time if your spend all your time generating leads and opportunities but you can’t satisfy because you don’t know what you’re talking about, that’s a challenge. Typically I try to put quiet time aside after work to do the product training. These days most of that can be done online so it’s done during the quiet times.
What’s the best deal you have ever closed?
Trend Micro for Health Alliance was a large one.
Would you encourage your offspring to go into sales?
Certainly I would. I think it’s an honourable profession and I’m absolutely proud of being in sales.
What’s the best line of jargon you’ve invented?
I hope I haven’t invented any. I try to stay away from it as much as possible and stick to simple talk that people understand.
Has anyone ever made you feel intimidated?
Not that I can remember. Some people at a high level can come across as aloof.
How would you get over forgetting some vital information during a meeting?
Probably just apologies and say that I would have to get back with that info. It happens. I’m not the sort of person who carries a lot of info around in my head like pricing and things like that. I suppose one of the most vital pieces of information you can forget in a meeting is the person’s name. I like to keep the person’s business card in front of me for that reason.