Interviewed By: Eric Jones
1)This is an amazing and complex book about how the sales world is changing and how to rethink the business model in order to change with it. It's interesting to see such a book released during our current economic slump. How do you see the world of sales changing relative to our current economic course, and how does "A Seat at the Table" address that?
The economic malaise is actually good timing if the goal is to make the sales force into something that is more customer relevant – it forces sales leaders to make changes faster around the role of salespeople. You know, never waste a good crisis, and here we have one that should force many sales teams to step up, learn to become drivers of their customers businesses, add insight – versus being just great at managing single-dimensional opportunities. What’s the choice? If the sales force doesn’t change, the company cannot sustain – so the current economic times are forcing these type questions to be asked – and answered - quickly.
2) The book absolutely blew my mind, and I'll tell you why. I come from a world of English literature and from the theater, so I decided to approach "A Seat..." in that way. It didn't take me long to discover that this mode of thinking would only take me so far. Before Chapter 3 I was thinking like sales strategist. I was thinking, "Yes, value! That's what we should be marketing!" Which leads me to the question of who exactly is this book written for? The Upper level management arm of a company or the ground level guy working the sales floor?
Well, my publisher told me that there are a lot more salespeople than sales managers, so I should definitely write for salespeople. But I think the answer is both. Salespeople have to execute on strategy, but sales leadership needs to understand what broad changes need made around how their salespeople face themarket.Otherwise, what you get is very organized disorganization – a bunch of salespeople who simply execute on an individual bias of what they think a good sales call should look like. Won’t work for the organization – they won’t be able to sustain their business with this type market facing – and it won’t work for customers either who have bad experiences seeing product-myopic sellers. So, Senior Management needs to set a high bar, train the sales team, and hold them accountable to a higher role – something very, very difficult to do in the past, but not that difficult to do today due to new technology.
3)Tell me a little bit about your fascination with Velcro.
Well, I hate doing chores around the house – I am the opposite of the handyman who loves his toolset. So, Velcro occasionally gives me some quick fixes, and that is nice. But, this unique material represents an excellent visual example of how salespeople need to connect to prospects and customers – especially when selling divergent opportunities that require the customer to change behavior to implement. A customer has many strategies, and hooking into as many of these as possible – especially the differentiation strategies of a client – is especially crucial if one is to gain “stickiness” for a new concept. The Velcro material is a nice visual representation of that reality – although maybe I do have OCVD (Obsessive Compulsive Velcro Disorder).
4)What is Sogistics?The word Sogistics means the logistics of selling. Of course, there are so many different types of selling – but our roadmaps usually reflect a B2B complex sale environment where salespeople must call at higher executive levels to sell broader relationships that drive broader, systemic results. Creating demand for new innovations or total solutions is the toughest task for any seller – and this is the sandbox weplay inbest.
5)I worked at Radio Shack for about a year, just long enough to discover that I wasn't a salesman. But I went to a couple of sales seminars with our regional manager to teach us a few techniques and I was really disgusted by the whole presentation. This guy was absolutely dirty. He wanted us to tease the customers with higher end products, to continually add on peripherals, and so on. I felt awful about being a salesman after that. It really ended it for me. Reading your book, on the other hand, instilled in me an entirely opposite feeling. I felt like a contributor to people's lives. It actually made me wish that I had my old job back so that I could practice some of these principles. Tell me a little bit about your own sales experience growing up, and what lead you so some of the conclusions that formed Sogistics.
I think I had similar experiences early on – this turns off EVERYONE to sales. I’m probably a bit sensitive to any sales process that is heavy handed, manipulative, or disingenuous. Your sales training experience is why college students want nothing to do with selling – such a shame. What helped me early on was reading authors who had a different philosophical bent – people like Neil Rackham. So, on a good day when I am on purpose, I am just trying to focus on helping prospects and customers – not sell them anything. Of course, this helping mindset is not something buyers are used to – so early on, there is usually a lot of cynicism. But, people are really, really good at quickly picking up on someone who is authentic, and that’s when it all clicks for both parties. Got to get the baggage out of the way – all the terrible interactions a buyer has experienced in the past – before one can start with a blank sheet of paper and co-create some solutions that can move the needle. The ideal end game for a salesperson ANDcustomerhappen when the buyer says they’d like to consult the salesperson again on important, more strategic, matters. They verbalize this in a number of ways – but the essence is that you’ve given them deeper, new insight into their situation. They want more of that, to do business with people who think and behave this way. This idea of helping by giving others insight is really the value customers are looking for these days – things are so complex today, and insight is rare to find. A lot of times this insight has nothing to do with the offerings one is selling – that part is really key. Let go of what you’re selling, focus on helping the customer – and really good things happen.
6)I've peeked around on your web site long enough to learn that your company is forging ahead with new ideas to help companies implement these wonderful new ideas. One such innovation is the SmartPen. Can you tell me a little more about it and how it can be used in conjunction with the book?
I am so excited about the Smartpen – it changes everything for sales teams. It helps salespeople in a number of ways: learn better in training, execute better on business process methodology, and capture customer conversations in the field to make sure absolutely nothing is missed. The technology will transform the profession from salespeople into businesspeople who sell. It is inexpensive, requires zero behavior change, and customers are totally on board with salespeople using it in sales calls. Nothing makes me happier than to see salespeople embrace and learn intelligent note-taking as a means to have radically better customer conversations – it is really disruptive technology in all the right ways.
7)Finally, what's on the horizon for Marc Miller and Sogistics? Are there any new books or technologies forthcoming?
Well, I’ve begun a new technology company calledSmartpenz Technologies (www.smartpenz.com) – that is keeping me pretty busy right now. Books are always fun – I’m sure I’ll write another – maybe a bit shorter in length. Maybe this book will talk – the Smarpten technology enables the creation of interactive paper documents that are audio enabled – so that might be fun. It is a great time to be in sales – talented young people please take note. The profession actually has the tools now to transform, a first. Customers need SO much help – and these new type salespeople are the ones positioned to architect new solutions and connect their company to customers in new, more impactful ways. So it’s a bit like the wild west – it’s early, there’s a lot of wide open spaces – but change (good change) is coming fast & furious. I am enjoying being on the forefront right now – all these smart, technology enabled young people are forcing me upstream, and it’s a fun ride!
Marc Miller is the founder and president of Sogistics Corporation, a sales productivity improvement firm dedicated to providing organizations with ideas, products, and services that help transform salespeople into businesspeople who sell.
Marc is the author of two best-selling books that have been translated into multiple languages. His first book, Selling is Dead is considered by many as one of the best books ever written on selling complex, total solutions (foreword by Neil Rackham, and endorsed by G.E., Siemens, and Marriot). His latest work, A Seat at the Table, breaks new ground in helping market-facing teams to radically improve sales productivity by better understanding how to connect and add value to customer strategy.
The wide appeal of Miller's strategic sales models have generated a diverse mix of consulting, training, and speaking clients, including Fortune 500 corporations and organizations who have achieved leadership positions in their industries.
Marc is an author, speaker, business owner, executive, and investor. He has led the sales efforts and owned complex sales companies in various industries including healthcare, graphic arts, packaging, finishing, and OEM.