You want to sell? Then listen

You want to sell? Then listen

Judy Braniff says selling is about keeping an open ear, following-through, and fostering relationships with industry contacts

With around a decade of experience in the technology world, she has spent about half of it looking after IBM’s channel partners as a business partner manager.

This month, she enters a new stage in her career, joining Wellington-based services provider LANtech as an account executive. Her name is Judy Braniff and she is a Closer.

Braniff emphasises people skills in her trade. When asked what percentage of a success sale is due to personality compared to the product she sells or the brand she represents, she is decidedly on the side of personality.

"People buy from people, so maybe 90 percent," she says. "The company and product have to be the right solution. But sales is about confidence. You have to believe in your company and product, only then can you sell it."

Braniff has an IT pedigree. Before going into sales she started off working in the IT department for the Co-Operative Bank when it was known as PSIS.

"I have looked outside IT but nowhere else offers the fast and changing landscape at the level that IT does," Braniff says. " It’s a very exciting and challenging area to work. Another advantage to IT is the cool toys you get to play with, which helps you connect with your teenagers."

Have you ever cold-called?

The best cold experience I had was spending two hours calling and getting appointments from 80 percent of the contacts. Now that makes you feel good. But the worst was when I had just gotten into sales, I thought it would be a good idea to wing it. That is a huge mistake and it never goes well.

What’s your most successful tip for cold calling?

Lock yourself in a room away from all distractions and start calling. Make sure you have a script in front of you, covering off how you are going to start the call, with a few pointers for questions that might be asked. It saves you thinking on your feet and getting it wrong and you sound a lot more professional. It’s about getting the appointment, not telling your life story.

Do you ever stress over hitting targets?

Always, when things are tight, it is about changing your selling approach. Targets are part of sales, you have to accept it and learn how to deal with the stress.

How would you sum up your craft to an outsider?

Sales is about outcomes. When you get it right, everyone is happy, but when you get it wrong you are the one taking the blame. In other words, listen more than you talk and always follow up, do what you say you are going to do.

How long does it take to form a sales pitch?

Depends on circumstances. Experience teaches you to do this with confidence, which is normally the difference between time and preparation.

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

We all have. It’s an unpleasant experience that you cannot normally come back from. You have to learn from your mistakes and move on. And never do it again. However, people are very forgiving.

When did you go from struggling to make a sale to just doing it?

I learned to listen to what the customer wants. I also always make it a point of following up on whatever I said I would do.

How do you balance product training with pursuing leads?

This is a hard one. You cannot keep up with all the changes. My philosophy is to build your contacts in the industry so that you can have a high level broad knowledge but know the people who can deep dive when needed.

What advice would you give to a struggling salesperson?

Re-evaluate what you are doing. Sit with the most successful person in the company and see what you can do differently, and most important, don’t give up.

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