Studies In Selling: One On One With Scott Gruher

I spoke to Scott Gruher, Chief Revenue Officer of Sales Benchmark Index, about his best sales advice

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Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your best sales advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. How did you get here?

Scott: I went to an average state school.  Worked in a sleepy, fairly boring, commoditized industry for 8 years in various sales roles and learned some great fundamentals.  Then I found SBI. My learning trajectory was incredibly steep when I joined SBI. Working across over a dozen industries, with top Executives and PE firms in some of the world’s top companies forces you to evolve and quickly.  I have become addicted to learning and the big meeting. The main way I “got here” was by learning from great people, following the right people, and seeking situations that were new and uncomfortable.

Adam: ​What is the single biggest sales mistake you have ever made and what did you learn from it?

Scott: Trying to push people to buy.  Early in my career, I did transactional sales.  In professional services, you don’t sell. You facilitate buying and much of the decision is emotional.  It is all pull and no push.

Adam: In your experience, what are the key pitfalls to succeeding in sales and how can you overcome them?

Scott: Treating sales as an art and not a science-  With the amount of data, best practices, social media, sales is no longer mainly an art.  You have to leverage what is available to give yourself an unfair advantage.

Trying to be too salesy – Nobody wants to be sold.  People want to buy on their terms and timeline. Let them.  Make it easy for them. Make if fun for them. Be incredibly honest and put the buyer’s interests ahead of your own.  

Getting single threaded- I still see too many sales people relying on the “Decision Maker” to get a deal.  Their rarely is a decision maker. It is team that makes the decision even if not apparent.

Adam: ​What are your three best tips when it comes to selling?


  • Say what you are thinking- be extremely honest and objective.  We call this being unapologetically authentic
  • Give the client actions throughout the process to test if they are in the boat with you
  • Surface risk early and often.  You gain trust by not saying that you can do everything and you’re your solution always works perfectly.  

Adam: Describe your sales methodology. Have you found that different types of prospects are responsive to different to types of styles, and if so, do you adapt your style to the type customer you are selling to?

Scott: It is all about gaining emotional trust and helping Sr. Executives make the best decision for their business.  Sometimes we aren’t the best route and we are fine admitting so. Yes- different people respond differently. You have to appeal to the individual motives of each person.

Adam: What sets your approach apart from others in your industry? Describe your industry and your best tips specific to selling within it.

Scott: I/we sell by not selling.  We provide a ton of free content. We tell people who we compete with.  We surface risk. We are unapologetically authentic. We sell consulting to Sr. Executives like the CEO, CRO, and CMO.  They get sold to all the time and typically don’t have budget sitting around for consulting. We sell by framing their situation in a new and insightful way and helping them see a simple path to success.

Adam: What do you believe is the hardest step in the sales process and how can it best be navigated?

Scott: Gaining evidence of a problem, quantifying it, and gaining buy-in it is worth taking action on.  People don’t like to change. It is hard to displace inertia.

Adam: What are your best tips for improving your close rate?

Scott: Work the right opportunities- look for reasons not to work an opportunity.

Repetition with a defined process- practice still works

Get really good at gaining consensus- there are a lot of people involved in decisions making

Understand how to position your offering vis a vi all competitive options (not just your direct competitors).  i.e.- Do nothing, internal resources, local competitors, national competitors, global competitors, indirect competitors that may take your budget

Adam: What is your best advice around making the ask?

Scott: Make asks throughout the process, starting during the first interaction.  But the ask shouldn’t be self-less, not selfish. Ask how you can help them solve the problem without getting paid.  Ask if you can introduce them to a peer or potential customer. Ask is you can help their brand by promoting them with some content.

Adam: Language is obviously very important throughout the sales process. What are key phrases or words you have found have helped or hurt your chances of success?

Scott: Maybe now isn’t the right time to do this

What is your investment appetite?

Why don’t I take a look at some data and start working on this for you?

Are you sure this is the right time to do this?  Seems like it isn’t a priority to you.

Adam: On a scale of 1-10, how important are ethics to succeeding in sales? Explain.

Scott: 10.  Word travels fast these days and if you are unethical, you will be found out quickly.  

Adam: What is your best advice on how to best manage and stay on top of leads?

Scott: Only work qualified leads.  Don’t manage leads. Have a nurture program and work very closely with marketing.

Adam: What is the single best piece of sales advice you have ever received?

Scott: Always put the client’s needs ahead of your own

Adam: What sale are you proudest of? Walk through how you made it happen and its significance.

Scott: I was a new Sales Manager in my former company.  I took over the second to last performing team in the company.  The year before I took over we were 181st out of 182 sales teams.  Morale was poor, turnover was high.  It was a disaster of a situation. After trying to improve the team in year 1, I was starting to wonder if it was possible.  We moved from 181st to 155th out of 182 teams.  Still bad. One of my best sales people stuck with me while many others left.  He said he believed we could do this together. We pushed each other hard. He was able to get an appointment with the VP of Facilities for a large restaurant chain.  I took the lead on the sales campaign and we were able to secure the deal. It was big enough to propel him to Diamond Level which was the highest honor for a rep. My sales team was in the top 10 in the nation due to this deal and an overall performance boost.  And the team was officially turned around. We were one of the top teams the following 2 years as well.

Adam: ​What is one thing everyone can do tomorrow to become better at selling?

Scott: Know your buyer’s emotional needs better than anyone else and appeal to them.

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