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E162 | How to Build an Effective Commercial Sales Team in the Information Age with Steve Schrier

If you’re wondering what you can do to improve your sales function, but you’re not a salesperson yourself, then don’t miss Steve Schrier on this episode of Mind Your F**king Business Podcast. 

Steve knows sales. He’s been a salesman, he’s run sales, he’s consulted on selling. His focus isn’t on transactional one off sales, he sees sales as more deal making, consultative selling, doing deals in negotiating. In particular, as the business world moves towards an annual or monthly recurring revenue model with longer customer life cycles, rather than one off deals, Steve decided to help people get their sales function in order to write a book about it. 

Build Your Sales Tribe is a step by step guide for non sales managers, i.e. not salespeople, who are looking for a commercial structure to take their business on a high growth path and need to know everything about building and managing a sales organisation.

In this conversation, Steve shares a little bit about his background, but the chat is mainly about the things he felt compelled to capture in the book, the things that non sales people wouldn’t know, but need to know to grow their business in the Information Age. 

This is a fantastic conversation with Steve, we’re sure you’ll enjoy it as much as we did. 

On today’s podcast:

  • Build your sales tribe
  • Developing B2B sales
  • The need for customer success
  • 3 different types of salespeople
  • The lack of sales management training
  • The issue with commission


How to Build an Commercial Sales Team with Steve Schrier

Having held multinational commercial roles for over 25 years. Steve Schrier, author of Build Your Sales Tribe, has run global sales teams for large and start-up companies. His journey has taken him from start-up to exit several times focusing on high growth through proven commercial engagement techniques. 

Steve knows sales. And he knows that the world of sales is undergoing a massive change. As the world is getting smaller and data is getting bigger and communication is easy, buyers are more empowered than ever. Meaning CEOs, investors, entrepreneurs, and business owners need to think about sales differently. And Steve’s book is designed to do just that. 

Because as the Information Age accelerates, many companies face serious challenges about how they’ll achieve success in their commercial approach, as the world around them continues to be disrupted. But Steve doesn’t see this as a problem, he sees this as a significant opportunity for success. 

Build your sales tribe

Steve wasn’t always a salesman, in the beginning, he didn’t know that was even an option. 

“I saw salespeople going out of the office and travelling the world and having a good time, and basically meeting customers and stuff. I didn’t even know that was an option. So I went towards that, and became a salesperson.”

Steve noticed that lots of people, particularly in the tech world were changing their business model towards a recurring revenue model, away from one off sales. This is now being replicated around the business world, with the buying model shifting towards repeat long term business. 

This model of selling is very different to any that’s been before. The type of companies operating at the top level have changed dramatically over the last 20 years, says Steve, and they’re driving change further down the line, meaning you need to understand your customers much more than you needed to before, because your success is based on their success.

But the key thing is, you still need to get money into your business – you still need to scale your business, you still need to sell more products and services, you still need to get people to buy more often, you still need to charge more money for what you’re selling. 

Businesses still need to know how to sell, they just need to know how to do it in the Information Age. 

Developing B2B sales

According to Steve, the B2B world is a whole other business, one he calls complex sales. 

“These are companies operating complex markets, and they’re changing at a really fast pace, they have sophisticated model products and services, etc. And that means more than one sales call, longer sales cycles, different business models, which is based around success, or licencing, etc.”

These used to be called enterprise sales, or consultative selling, where businesses don’t have commoditized products or services, and it’s now a much more common way to scale a business, with lots of service businesses based around it.

And it’s these businesses that Steve has written the book for. The people who really want to take this business model and make it the mainstay of their business. 

Even the biggest tech firms in the world need the simplest, strategic sales to operate. 

“There’s strategic alliances, lots of companies have strategic alliances to build their products. Lots of technology companies like Apple with the iPhone, they don’t actually build a lot of components for the iPhone, that’s all supplied by other businesses.”

The need for customer success

Customer success is vital for companies today. It used to be that you’d hand sales to an account management team, or you had a customer service team, but with the recurring revenue  model, customer success is essential – their success is your success. 

And this means selling isn’t about sales, it’s about delivering customer success. That means less pitching to customers and more listening about their issues.

“I see that all the time: a client is making widgets. And they say what we need to do to be successful is to sell our widgets. So we’re going to go and find some people who want to buy our widgets. And then they can’t find anyone to buy it. So they blame sales. And in fact, it’s just they’ve got it completely the wrong way around.”

What you should be doing is saying, ‘which customer’s problem are we going to be number one in the world solving?’

And the only way you’re going to find out these problems is by listening.  

3 different types of salespeople

According to Steve, there are 3 different types of salespeople:

  1. New business salesperson. These people are hunters. They can handle rejection. They can listen, they can take in lots of data and regurgitate it, but they have certain interests. They’re very interested in money, and they’re very interested in being successful. 
  2. Business development people. These are people looking for strategic relationships for your company. I.e. Lego aligning themselves with the Star Wars brand. These are longer term deals and you need separate people to make them. Business development people are similar to salespeople in that they’ll have a big network, but they’re motivated by different things, they want longer term success for the company rather than short term, immediate gains. 
  3. Account management customer success. These people are motivated by the success of the customer and long term success in that area, and problem solving. 

In smaller businesses, you might find one person doing all 3 roles, but you need to have a process in place to measure them separately, because they’re all slightly different. 

If you’re trying to grow your company and you’re not growing fast enough, work out how much time people are spending on new business sales, on actually doing new business sales. Because that’s normally the sticking point. It’s really hard to generate new business and it requires a different skill set to managing customer success and developing long term, strategic sales. 

The lack of sales management training

One of the big problems Steve sees is that sales isn’t a taught subject, and therefore sales management isn’t taught. People don’t know how to organise their sales function, which is where Steve’s book comes in very handy, as a playbook for managers running the sales function of their business. 

“You’ve got to develop it for yourselves and understand what your sales process is. And that is a lot of asking the questions, listening, de-risking, doing the business, demonstrating expertise, and having this headline value that you can bring in, and actually delivering value to the customer as part of that process.”

The other big part that’s missing is teaching people that ‘no’ is acceptable. Sales people are always incentivised to chase the yes, but if the product isn’t right for customers and you force it on them, it’s not going to create a long lasting meaningful relationship. 

Steve believes commission is a great tool to incentivise salespeople, as long as it’s designed and set up correctly. It needs to incentivize and reward people for delivering the right kind of deal, not just any deal. 

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