Believe in yourself but believe in your brand, too

The Closer

Renilda Saguil is the wireless sales manager at Ruckus in New Zealand. She has an MBA in Electronic Communications Engineering and has worked in senior channel sales positions with Globe Telecom and Bayan Telecommunications in the Philippines, as well as Alcatel-Lucent.She has also been an account director for Gen-i and Telecom in New Zealand.

Saguil says that half of being a successful salesperson comes from one's personality. The rest is the connection you have with your brand.

"You need to believe in yourself as well as truly believing you have the best product for your customer’s current problem or need," she tells Reseller News."I wouldn't join a company unless I genuinely believed in its products and management team."

This seems to be something she picked up on during her telco years.

"Before joining the vendor world, I was working for a telecom service provider where I received excellent advice," she says.

The CEO of a major telecom provider servicing 50 million mobile consumers told her: "You have to ensure that you offer solutions that you believe in and that you are truly proud of."

What's your worst experience cold-calling?

I can’t really say I’ve had cold calling angst ever. After graduating from university, I was employed by one of the biggest telos in Asia Pacific, who invested in their sales people. We were trained and developed to become trusted consultants, as we were selling into banks, manufacturing and retail. It was the start of the data communications era. The heyday of X25, VPNs, the year banks went online and ATMs were invented. Before calling a potential customer, I already knew who I was talking with, what his or her business problems were and we would also have at least one person we knew in common.

So, what tips do you have for other sales people on a cold call?

Rather than a tip, it’s common sense. Know the company, know as much as you can about their business and when you finally speak with the right person, spend time in understanding what their needs are and how you can help add value. This actually means that, ideally, you don't cold call, especially if you are in the telecom and IT solution side of the business. Background research includes finding someone in LinkedIn that can connect you (you might have a common connection) and, today, definitely leveraging social media.

Is money the biggest motivator for you to succeed?

Not at all. For me, and I believe for most sales guys. That would be second or third down the list. For me it is the thrill of genuinely identifying a solution for a customer and, linked to that, winning the deal. The journey of finding an opportunity, meeting people and creating great relationships is all part of it. Having a great mentor is also a big motivator.

What’s the most useful tip you can give to a struggling salesperson?

Read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Peopleby Stephen Covey. That is like a Bible to me. Especially his fifth habit: "Seek first to understand, then be understood". It’s not about the hard-sell at all. The first thing is to understand the needs and requirements of your customer. What keeps him or her awake at night and how you can add value. Once you validate this need or problem with your client, then you can formulate your solution. Therefore, qualifying the opportunity is a major factor in your success.

Most sales people have some experience of other jobs, what’s yours?

My first job was as a party host at McDonalds while I was at uni. It was all about making kids’ parties exciting and memorable. I was also involved in the food industry when I was younger. At the end of the day, it was all about sales.

Do you ever consider changing your career?

Sometimes, I think of moving to the fashion industry. I love fashion! Many years ago, I did actually move into a strategic marketing role. But I felt frustrated being so distant from the buzz of the business world. I missed my customers and the people who shake and move the industry. So I moved back into the front line.

Does the pressure to hit your monthly or quarterly targets ever make you stressed?

Yes, sometimes. But I put a good deal of effort into early planning and creating my market sales strategy – both long term and short term. If you understand your market, have a plan and you execute your plan accordingly, you will be successful.

How would you sum up the craft of sales in one sentence to an outsider?

Sales is the art of listening to and understanding the market, your customer and how best to address your customers’ needs.

How long does it take you to assess how you should approach your sales pitch?

It depends how complex the solution requirements are and how big the budget is. For smaller deals it should only be a day or two. In complex opportunities it will take several days or a week.

Have you ever put your foot in it when talking to a client?

I have to say ‘yes’. I was probably too keen to provide the solution rather than absorbing it all. There is a subtle and considered way of communicating with the customer. You need to ask questions that will create an atmosphere where your client feels that he/she will be making a big mistake if he/she doesn't listen to you.

How did you get past the point of struggling to make a sale to where you are today?

I have been very lucky to have been employed by great companies that believed in educating and training sales people. From the start of my career, I have had extraordinary sales training. In my previous job at Alcatel-Lucent, I was part of the High Performing Programme and was rewarded with two years of training - both online and attending executive business programmes in New Zealand, Australia and France. With Ruckus, I receive ongoing training, but above all outstanding support.

Do you consider yourself a persuasive person?

Persuasive means winning approval or support for your beliefs, swaying opinions your way. In the sales world, persuasion is not the key to bringing your customers with you. It’s about listening, research, knowledge, patience and follow-up. But when you enjoy the trust of the customer, it is often interpreted as the result of being a persuasive person.

Has that quality ever reflected on you in a negative way?

I would say yes. At the start of my sales career, I would say I was extremely persuasive – bordering on aggressive. I was fortunate to get the feedback I needed as well as be involved in mentoring programmes to change and be more of a listener - a work in progress! You learn in sales every day and, if you don’t, you're not doing your job.

What’s the best deal you have ever closed?

A 30 million euro deal for a broadband network in my previous role in the Philippines. It was literally a strategy shift. Everyone was blown away!

Has anyone ever made you feel intimidated?

Once. A male colleague bullied me. My boss, who was the CEO of a major telecommunications company in Asia Pacific, told me, “If someone is talking to you inappropriately, simply walk away. Respect is a boomerang. It will come back to you.”

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