Planwell Technology’s Robin Hagen has more than a mouthful of a job title.
He’s the account manager in the service management (BMC products) and identity management (Oracle products) and security space.
With over 30 years experience in technology, Hagen has the experience to match a hefty title. According to his LinkedIn profile, he started out as a computer engineer, developed software for a manufacturer, and in short, has built a career combining technical knowledge and salesmanship with consulting and managerial skills. That includes managing three successful startups.
His career has seen its ups and downs, and even today, Hagen feels as if the difficult market forces him to struggle. But the job satisfies him, and he wouldn't exchange his role for a C-level experience under current circumstances.
Hagen admits to putting his "foot in it" when talking to a client "probably more often than I think".
He wouldn't get into detail, perhaps because he is ex-military. But Reseller News managed to get him to divulge other selling secrets with a minimum of aggressive interrogation techniques.
Cold calling can be a scary prospect. Any tips for young salespeople?
A good cold calling day [in my experience] was with the entire team going for it on the phone. That was a great fun experience. The worst was a government security organisation. The meeting had limited dialogue and long uncomfortable pauses, as I was not yet sponsored for clearance. But generally don’t make excuses to yourself for not going through with the call. Just do it.
How about tips for getting through a rough patch?
Go back to the fundamentals, get help, make changes, and most importantly be honest about what is going wrong. In my role the pressure to hit targets stresses my managers more than it does me, although they do their best to make me feel it.
So is personality more important to success than product or brand?
In the corporate and government space where I work, the effect of personality is minimised through process, but I still think personality accounts for maybe 20 percent.
Do you ever think of changing careers?
I have thought of going back into IT management, but in Wellington it looks way too hard. CIOs seem to have a higher burn-out rate than sales people. Uncovering the customer needs or pain, and addressing these in an accurate and timely way through a shared vision, that's how I'd sum up the sales role to an outsider. As for money, money to me is just a by-product of success. I try to eliminate it from my thinking and focus on the client.
How long does it take you to develop your approach to a sales pitch?
Although I do a lot of research and planning, I do it as I go. Over-preparing is just another way of avoiding a call, really.
Do you consider yourself to be a persuasive person?
People persuade themselves, really. But I do my best to give them the basis for a decision.
Has that quality ever reflected on you in a negative way?
Sometimes people who have a view of sales people find me pushy when I tell myself I am being committed, passionate and persistent. They could, of course, be right.
What’s the best deal you have ever closed?
A multi-million dollar database site licence at a customer that was under threat, and where the US based application vendor had to be persuaded to continue support. The deal had wins for all stakeholders, the customer, the applications vendor, and my company.
Would you encourage your offspring to go into sales?
I tell my kids it is the most rewarding and accountable job you can have but I have two criminologists and one accountant/economist/public policy daughters. The two youngest persuaded me to buy horses and the entire supporting infrastructure against my better judgement, so they do have useful skills as well.