Todd Rychecky of Opengear: “I use many modes of communication with customers and prospects”

I use many modes of communication with customers and prospects. The person you are communicating with will like different formats. Therefore, it is best to know the recipient before you use a text message, video message, etc. I personally still prefer phone calls, video calls and emails as the most professional method of business communication. […]

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I use many modes of communication with customers and prospects. The person you are communicating with will like different formats. Therefore, it is best to know the recipient before you use a text message, video message, etc. I personally still prefer phone calls, video calls and emails as the most professional method of business communication.

As a part of my series about how to be great at closing sales without seeming pushy, obnoxious, or salesy, I had the pleasure of interviewing Todd Rychecky.

Todd Rychecky is VP of Sales, Americas for Opengear, responsible for developing and executing sales strategies, multiple business initiatives, hiring and talent development, setting performance goals and growing the business. He joined the company in 2008 and was the first sales and marketing hire. Rychecky earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Nebraska Wesleyan University.

Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this career path?

I was born and raised in Lincoln, NE and my original career path was pre-med. After five years of college and taking the MCAT, I was not accepted to medical school. The GSL loans were about to be due, and I had to make a career decision. I thought about graduate school but decided to interview for a sales position at a drug wholesaler in Dallas, TX instead. I got the job and called hospital and home health pharmacies to sell a new online order and inventory management solution called OTIS (order tracking inventory system). It was a great first sales job. I had a travel budget, laptop, cell phone, worked from home and met hundreds of great people in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

In 2008, I was the first sales and marketing hire at Opengear, which at that time was a start-up of less than 10 people. As the VP of Sales and Marketing, myself and the team grew the business organically, as we could afford to do it. In the first two years, I took on many roles to kick-start the company: outside sales, inside sales, website chat line, marketing, product marketing, tradeshows and events. I also answered the 800 number that came into my house. One day, a prospect called, and I sold him a couple of units. He said, “That was great, thanks for all your help! What is your name and title?” I told him I was the VP Sales and he said, “Wow, I can’t believe I am talking to the VP Sales at Opengear and you actually picked up the phone.” I thought to myself “Don’t get too excited, I’m the only one working here.” I worked very hard at customer service and making the company look bigger than it was at the time.

The take-away is that if you answer the phone, answer their questions and transact quickly, you can be successful in the business world. Your title does not matter.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My team and I have been working on an Opengear Certification Program to educate and train our partners. It is a great way to get wider, deeper and higher within the channel and extend your reach to create momentum.

The more our sellers know about Opengear and our products, the more we can sell.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve given a shout out to a few people over the years. One person who helped me grow and be successful is Bob Waldie, the founder of Opengear. I learned a lot from Bob. It was a five-person company when we started Opengear. He showed me how to bootstrap a startup with limited resources. I now know how to take any business idea, productize it, monetize it and quickly build a profitable business.

Bob lives in Brisbane, Australia and because of the time difference, we weren’t able to talk during operating hours in the USA. He gave me the freedom to use my instincts to grow the business. I really appreciate that about him as not many founders will do that. They often want to grab on and be involved in everything and tell you how to do it. However, he was more hands off while still providing real feedback on what’s working and what’s not. It was a very invaluable experience for me. So, I really appreciate everything that he’s done. He was a great mentor.

For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?

I helped take a company of five people and 700k in revenue in 2008 to 140 people and selling it for 140M in 2019. We have successfully achieved 13 consecutive years of YoY revenue growth, never a down year or a flat year. Our annual sales revenue chart looks like it came from Apple, Facebook, Google, or Salesforce, except they are in the billions of dollars, and we are in the tens of millions.

I have worked out of a home office for 30 years and most of my team works remote as well. During the past decade, I hired and trained a world-class team of 28 sales professionals who are the best in the business. They are superheroes! We all work from the same playbook, stay in our lanes and move with urgency. The entire team follows our 15-Minute Rule mantra, which means all customer emails, phone calls and texts messages are returned in 15 minutes or less.

Finally, my team has been recognized three consecutive years by Selling Power as one the 50 Best Companies to Sell For. This July was the third year of recognition and we were ranked #10. Opengear is a great company and has a great product to sell.

Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know, nearly any business a person will enter, will involve some form of sales. At the same time, most people have never received any formal education about how to be effective at selling. Why do you think our education system teaches nearly every other arcane subject, but sales, one of the most useful and versatile topics, is totally ignored?

Great question. As I mentioned earlier, I never intended to have a sales career. I had a roommate that talked about getting into sales all the time. I never understood why he wanted to be a salesperson. There are no classes you can take. There are no mentors. There are no real-world experiences. The closest thing to sales training in college is business school. It teaches you more how a business operates but doesn’t cover anything about how to sell so the business CAN operate.

For example, here’s some basic questions a 22-year-old needs answered, but won’t learn in a college classroom: How do you book a flight? When should you arrive, same day or day before? What should you wear? What should you say? How to take a customer to lunch or dinner? What do you leave for a tip? How do you rent a car? What do you do after the meeting?

I have taught engineering majors at the University of Colorado how to launch a business. They have great ideas but don’t know how to build a business plan or sell. I have helped several people recently with new businesses and some with established organizations who get stuck and want to scale even more.

Sales makes the world go around. There should be a degree in college for it.

This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesy”, is making an assumption that seeming salesy or pushy is something to be avoided. Do you agree with this assumption? Whether yes, or no, can you articulate why you feel the way you do?

The more you say, the less you sell. Sales is about listening.

I had a sales rep tell me they wanted to change the title on their business card from “sales executive” to “account manager.” I asked them why and they said, “because people don’t like salespeople and don’t like to be sold to.” I laughed and told them “It’s the greatest profession in the world. Why would you not be proud to tell people about it?”

Personally, I’m not a pushy salesperson. I’m aggressive and want to help the customer win. If your marketing and website is effective and highlighting the right messages, customers and prospects are already 60% of the way to their decision. They are looking for a trusted advisor to help make their final decision, so they can move on to their next project. As an expert on the product and industry, you can share ideas and experiences with them and help them make the right decision for their company, so they stay ahead of their competition.

The seven stages of a sales cycle are usually broken down to versions of Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Handling objections, Closing, and Follow-up. Which stage do you feel that you are best at? What is your unique approach, your “secret sauce”, to that particular skill? Can you explain or give a story?

I can do all of those seven stages well; however, I think one thing I do better than all of them is Preparation. It really is the key for me. When you have tools like LinkedIn, Sales Navigator and Twitter, it makes it easy to prepare for a meeting. The Preparation then takes on a new form of selling and allows the customer to know you understand them and their business. It makes them feel good that you have taken the time to make the meeting productive versus trying to figure out who they are and what they do on the fly during the meeting. It’s a time burn for them. For example, why would you ask them their role or title when it’s on the internet and they took the time to update their profile on LinkedIn?

I always have my dirty dozen questions written down, so I can understand their current environment and their future needs. After this, I can go into my presentation and cover the things that are most important to them and skip the slides that are not. Many junior and senior salespeople will rip through a whole slide deck and then ask afterwards “how does all that sound?” Yikes!

Lead generation, or prospecting, is one of the basic steps of the sales cycle. Obviously every industry will be different, but can you share some of the fundamental strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

The best leads I have found come from a few sources. The best is an existing customer who is a champion of Opengear, who introduces me to other business units in the organization that could benefit from my product. We call that going #WDH (wider, deeper, higher). Secondly, LinkedIn helps me connect with the right people to propose a meeting; we also call this social selling. Thirdly, select tradeshows, in our case Cisco Live, is a great place to meet face-to-face and talk about products and solutions.

In my experience, I think the final stages of Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-up, are the most difficult parts for many people. Why do you think ‘Handling Objections’ is so hard for people? What would you recommend for one to do, to be better at ‘Handling Objections’?

I think handling objections is important because we need to understand them and get past the objection to move forward. I believe a few objections are critical and healthy, so we get in front of what they really want and are looking for. If the customer has some objections, that tells you they are listening and want to do business with you, but they also want you to be their trusted advisor to help with their final decision.

‘Closing’ is of course the proverbial Holy Grail. Can you suggest 5 things one can do to successfully close a sale without being perceived as pushy? If you can, please share a story or example, ideally from your experience, for each.

I always knew I had a successful meeting and trip if I received a call, email, evaluation request or an order in 24 hours after I got home. It’s a good outcome and has happened many times for me. These are the 5 questions I ask to close a sale without being perceived as pushy:

  • Is this project/requirement budgeted for this year or is it for next year?
  • Would you like a quote for the products we discussed today? Which ones?
  • Do you have what you need to get a quote from your reseller?
  • Will you be placing an order for the item this week?
  • What are your thoughts on what we discussed today? Does it meet all your needs?

Finally, what are your thoughts about ‘Follow up’? Many businesses get leads who might be interested but things never seem to close. What are some good tips for a business leader to successfully follow up and bring things to a conclusion, without appearing overly pushy or overeager?

Follow up is good customer service and it makes the customer feel good about you and your company. It must be prompt and immediate. buyer has many projects they are working on, so when you have their attention, you have momentum. You need to grab ahold of it and hang on to it as long as you can.

As you know there are so many modes of communication today. For example, In-person, phone calls, video calls, emails, and text messages. In your opinion, which of these communication methods should be avoided when attempting to close a sale or follow up? Which are the best ones? Can you explain or give a story?

I use many modes of communication with customers and prospects. The person you are communicating with will like different formats. Therefore, it is best to know the recipient before you use a text message, video message, etc. I personally still prefer phone calls, video calls and emails as the most professional method of business communication.

I closed a large deal with a Fortune 10 in 2018. They did not want to meet in person and were not responding to phone calls. There were only a few items to finish before finalizing the deal. I asked the customer, “Would you like to get this done on Tuesday over phone or a video call?” They said, “Let’s do a video call,” so I didn’t have to guess their preference because I gave them the option to tell me their choice.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I am passionate in leading a real movement to make education available and affordable to people all over the world. Education could help eliminate hunger, poverty and homelessness. If all people could get educated, all people would have an opportunity to get a good job and contribute to helping make the world an even better place.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter. Also, you can follow the Opengear team on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook.

Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!

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