Pulse IT’s sales and marketing manager Erica Locke takes the hot seat for this issue’s quick fire question and answer session. She joined the company eight months ago from ICONZ where she was regional manager. Locke has also worked for HP and was sales manager at Outsource IT for eight years.
She says it is tricky to attribute how much of someone's success in her field is the saleswoman's personality, and how much is the product or the company.
"You need a great product and company to succeed, although personality obviously contributes, too," she says. "Perhaps it is an even split."
Locke adds that other jobs she's held in her career, including project management and training, can give you a wealth of experience that can be useful as a salesperson.
She does consider changing careers, from time-to-time, and if she were to recommend to her offspring sales as an occupation, she would emphasise a well-rounded education first.
"If that was the career they wanted to pursue then yes, I would encourage them," says Locke. "Although I would add that training and qualifications prior to a career in sales would be recommended."
What’s your best and worst experience of cold calling?
Cold calling always has its highs and lows. It is at its best when you discover a genuine opportunity with a decision maker on your initial call or visit. The worst is when just can’t make it past the client’s PA, no matter how hard you try. If it is phone-based, develop a base script when starting out so that if you lose your way during conversation you can prompt yourself back on track. And practice so that you are very comfortable conversing about your product or service.
Is money your prime motivator for success?
I hope not. I am motivated by seeing our clients benefit from the solutions we have implemented and the support we provide. The IT industry is very competitive and clients make a choice to partner with you. I am always reminding myself of this.
What’s the most useful tip you can give to a struggling salesperson?
Listen. I hear so many sales people dominate meetings with their sales pitch or consultation. Get to know your client, look at ways in which you can offer value in your regular meetings. If you are having a bad day seek advice from a successful experienced sales person in your team.
Does the pressure to hit your monthly or quarterly targets ever make you stressed?
Yes. I am sure every salesperson feels it from time to time, you just need to develop your coping mechanisms and take a break from time to time.
How long does it take you to assess how you should approach your sales pitch?
As you gain experience you become quite good at adapting your sales approach (I don’t use a pitch) to meet your audience although be careful to never assume or skip doing your homework prior to a meeting.
Have you ever put your foot in it when talking to a client?
Yes I think we have all experienced saying something foolish. Sometimes you have to laugh at yourself, admit the error of your ways and if you have dug yourself a mighty great hole, apologise!
How do you balance time spent between product knowledge training with generating leads or opportunities?
That can be tricky to achieve and both are pretty important although lead generation is typically the priority in sales. You need to be good with your time management, allocate a portion of your week to tackle lead generation and follow up (recording the results) and part to training (it can be handy to create a list and a rough time you would anticipate it would take to complete).
What’s the best deal you have ever closed?
I can say that it certainly is the best feeling to succeed when you and your colleagues have put in a considerable amount of effort to win the business.
Has anyone ever made you feel intimidated?
Yes many years ago I would find the occasional senior manager intimidating but with experience you learn to overcome it.
How would you get over forgetting some vital information during a meeting?
Well you have to be pretty resilient to be in sales and able to genuinely apologise from time to time as you will make mistakes. Just ensure you fix it pretty quickly!