“Be as educated as possible.” With Mitch Russo & Raúl Perdigão

Some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned were both from the best and worst managers. Sometimes it takes a bad manager to understand what you don’t want to do in the future. Luckily, I’ve predominantly had excellent managers that paved the way for me to become the best salesperson and manager I could be. As […]

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Some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned were both from the best and worst managers. Sometimes it takes a bad manager to understand what you don’t want to do in the future. Luckily, I’ve predominantly had excellent managers that paved the way for me to become the best salesperson and manager I could be.

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 Raúl Perdigão. Raúl is Global Head of Inside Sales at Pipedrive. He has a Master’s Degree in Marketing Management and has over ten years’ experience in SaaS, subscriptions and CRM industries.

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?

Ican recall two stories. One is an awkward moment; the other is a funny distraction.

The awkward moment was during a big sales meeting at a conference table to close a deal. I walked in the room and to my surprise, my sister’s ex-boyfriend was at the other end of the table. Without stumbling and bumbling, I was able to close the sale. The lesson here is the importance of keeping your cool in awkward, unexpected moments. You never know who will be at the other end of the table or camera in a video meeting.

The funny distraction was working next to a salesperson who would loudly cheer each time a big deal was closed. The loud ‘whooping’ would bellow through the phone during other reps’ conversations. You have to go with the flow and use these moments to your advantage. Simply saying “Sorry for the noise; we just closed another huge deal” can lighten the mood with your prospect on the other end of the line and incentivize them to be the next huge deal.

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

We announced our first acquisition of the email marketing firm Mailigen. Besides our constant flow of new products and features, it is incredibly exciting.

Great salespeople are actually perpetual students. And as the sales leader, I am in charge or training sales reps to be ready for all of the changes. How can the sales rep digest the important information from the product team and break it down to the reality of the customer: how it will be used in the real world; how it can be best set up to be enticing; how to best show customers how it will work for them personally. It’s up to the salesperson to tailor features of each product so that it’s applicable to each individual use case in each industry and to highlight the exciting features about the new products. At the end of the day, a prospect should walk away thinking that this new product is a must have because the sales rep has explained it that way and really highlighted the value that it will bring them.

But, the ironic and most exciting thing is when you teach, you learn. Every time we train and teach our team, I am the most excited student in the room.

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?

Some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned were both from the best and worst managers. Sometimes it takes a bad manager to understand what you don’t want to do in the future. Luckily, I’ve predominantly had excellent managers that paved the way for me to become the best salesperson and manager I could be.

One example is my former manager Tara Bryant who led by example. She held a ‘help me help you’ attitude and was willing to be managed up. Tara provided guidance and direction but gave me the space to make my own decisions. She also taught me the importance of empowering the people you work with. I apply that learning to my own team to this day — I make sure they understand their value and that their considerations and opinions are taken into the decision-making process. Tara always listened to what I had to say, even if the decision ended up going the other way. She made sure to take the time to explain exactly why a final decision was made so that I could learn for the future. This empowers your team members to identify the biggest issues and find a solution themselves, using your guidance. Good managers provide the framework but give you the power to execute on your own, which is the best way to grow.

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

think I answered it earlier by the fact that I am a perpetual student. Do we ever become experts, or do we keep honing our expertise? I think we are always honing our expertise and growing into better people and better professionals. Will we ever reach perfection? My answer is, “no.” But, the journey of learning is the joy of work and life.

Ok. Thanks for all that. 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?

I think about this a lot — when you first get into sales, the first thing you find out is that you really do not know how to sell. That is the first lesson that sets you on the path of perpetual learning and countless strategies and tactics to consider. So, it is perplexing to me that there are not many formal sales programs in formal education. I think one of the main reasons is the negative stereotypes associated with the sales industry: that it’s for those without degrees or without other options, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The other problem is that sales changes drastically across organizations, across managers, across products — and coming up with a cohesive line on how to teach it through all of these different lenses is a challenge. There are certainly many strategies that will apply across the board, including elements of the sales process: opening, engaging, dealing with objections, closing, following up, reselling. There are so many aspects to digest and dig into. I had to be curious myself about what I wanted to learn, what type of sales I wanted to be involved in, and how to grow to become a better salesperson. It’s a really personal journey; you have to want it and chase after it.

This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesey”, 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?

I do agree. You don’t have to be pushy to make a sale. In fact, I have found that being pushy pushes the sale away. Being pushy does not equate to good quality. The best salespeople understand that they aren’t selling as much as solving a problem. The goal is to help prospects understand why the product or service you’re selling is something that will make their life better — and from there, the sale makes itself. You want to be most helpful to the prospect. That is accomplished by listening closely to what they’re looking for and connecting the dots to demonstrate how your product will fill their needs. If you go in with a super specific pitch, don’t listen, and aren’t willing to be flexible to pivot to meet your prospects’ objectives, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You have to be able to adjust in real time to make it work for the customer — that’s what makes someone great at sales.

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 am best at handling objections, which for many, is the stage they try to avoid. I like to be tested and this stage gives me the greatest challenge. A good salesperson likes to study and knows the ins and outs of what they’re selling. With all of that knowledge in my back pocket, this stage allows me to earn trust. After objections are revealed, I know the specific factors to come back to that will solve that problem. This has often given my prospects complete trust in my ability and commitment to provide what they need. Navigating and succeeding through objections makes me a stronger salesperson.

One example of this was when I was working with a customer who was looking for a solution for a multitude of users at their large corporation. Needless to say, the average number of users for our customers is less which of course led to objections over how our product could support their entire team. It was up to me to relentlessly chase whoever I could internally to make it happen — product, legal, support, the executive team. Either I would succeed and convert the sale, or I could give up and say we can’t make it work. I was upfront from the beginning — this is a massive deal but let me try my best to put something together for you. And sure enough, we were able to create a solution to close the sale. This helped our business grow as we have been able to meet the needs of any enterprise at any scale.

‘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 want to approach this differently than I think others will. The five things are really on how to prepare for the close, not the close itself. The preparation and education will make you a successful closer. Typical advice such as ‘creating a sense of urgency’ are connected to pushy sales and won’t give you the desired results

  1. Be as educated as possible. Know the product inside and out; learn what questions are typically asked and prepare answers for each.
  2. Practice makes perfect. If you are aiming not to be pushy, be ready, study hard, and train with practice calls until you are completely confident. Identify the top performer on your team and shadow them to learn from their successes. A successful close will be a result of preparation.
  3. You must be able to handle objections. I’ve found it helpful to reverse engineer the close. Understand all possible objectives you may encounter and prepare points to combat each one by one. One great way to do this is by opening meetings with a very open question — what are you looking to solve? Write down what the prospect says and note every specific point they make. Check off every problem that your product or service addresses. If you can achieve every pain point, there is nothing else stopping the sale.
  4. After listening, listen again. This is making sure all objections are handled. It is also making sure that the prospects understands how the solution will work. This is offering assurance.
  5. Ask for the order — or better yet, the prospect will ask, “how do we begin?”

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?

From my experience, using a CRM is the most powerful tool in a salesperson’s arsenal. Automatic reminders and activities allow you to focus on performance. A built-in reminder each quarter to check in will help with customer retention. These business reviews are crucial for feedback — understanding how the product is working for your customer and if it is still meeting their needs. All of these features are built into a good CRM and will make a huge difference in your day-to-day tasks.

But, one more tip — remember follow up never stops. I like to say, “once a sale is made, the selling begins.”

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?

A personal human connection is still important today. In light of COVID-19, this can still be achieved by prioritizing video calls. We ask our reps to keep the camera on for Zoom calls. This allows customers and prospects to become familiar with you, to know your face and understand how you communicate. Real connections can still be achieved even through video calls.

When using email, it’s important to consider the basics. Make sure you have a good signature, that your writing is communicated clearly, that all of the links are in the right spot and work. A lot of people stray away from these best practices that are so important.

Text should only be used in certain situations. It’s not commonplace for business conversations to take place via text. I only use text if I’ve called a customer that hasn’t answered. A quick text will allow you to let them know that it was you who just called them and allow them to call you back at their convenience.

Ok, we are nearly done. Here is our final “meaty” question. 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. 🙂

Today, I would have to say a vaccine for COVID-19.

How can our readers follow you online?

Follow me on LinkedIn.

Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!

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