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Bill Parry of Aspen Technology talks about the qualities of sales professionals and what you can do to improve the performance of your salespeople. Read on to find out more.

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In this article:

  1. How to Distinguish a Sales Professional: Characteristics of a Good Sales Representative
  2. Look for Salespeople with a Desire to Learn
  3. How an Effective Training for Salespeople Looks Like
  4. How to Help Improve Salespeople’s Performance
  5. How to Create a Training Program for Sales Professionals
  6. What Salespeople Can Do to Help Themselves
  7. Advice for the Reader

What Great Salespeople Do: Best Practices for Hiring and Training

Bill Parry is a Sales Enablement Manager from Aspen Technology. His main role is to build and establish their sales and enablement program.

Aspen Technology is a software company in the processing industry. Prior to joining them, Parry spent 12 years in the U.S. Coast Guard where he gained skills in training, training development, and process improvement.

He began a career in outside sales with Nextel. During this time, he learned how to make 50 to 80 calls a day, sold door to door, and learned how to handle customer rejection.

As Parry himself said, he’s gone back and forth between sales and training. Most recently, he decided to plant himself in training because of the excitement and fulfillment the job gives him.

How to Distinguish a Sales Professional: Characteristics of a Good Sales Representative

Parry started off by sharing his experience as a sales trainer and how he distinguishes a sales professional.

His training style is to share a concept with the sellers, then give them resource materials for reference. Parry will instruct his trainees to read a book, visit a website, or attend a webinar so they can get more information.

His suggestions are often met with enthusiasm. Yet when he checks back on the sellers and asks them if they were able to do what he suggested, oftentimes they’ll say they didn’t have the time to do so.

Parry said that this kind of response is indicative of the person’s lack of desire to get better at what they do.

There are two kinds of salespeople, he said.

One is someone in sales, who shows up at 9AM and leaves at 5PM; sometimes they meet their quota and sometimes they don’t.

Another one is a sales professional. This is the kind of person who shows up early and has professional curiosity.

They’re constantly striving to learn, asking questions, looking for a mentor, and attending valuable webinars. They don’t give reasons or excuses — they figure out how to get things done.

This, Parry said, is the kind of salesperson you’d want to hire. This is who you’d want to coach, teach, and train.

Look for Salespeople with a Desire to Learn

As Parry said, the desire to learn is often innate. To get an idea if someone has this, he advised sales managers and recruiters to casually ask candidates these questions:

  • What books are you reading lately?
  • What does your self-improvement program look like?

If they give you a blank stare, you’ll know they may not be the right person to hire. If they engage you in a conversation about it, you’ll know they’re someone you can work with.

It shows they’re hungry to learn.

Parry also shared his “Yeah, but” rule. When he coaches someone, he gives them tested and effective tips.

If the person responds with, “Yeah, but I do it this way,” it’s a red flag for him. If the person does that twice, he will stop coaching them.

To Parry, this means their cup is full and he can’t teach them anything new yet.

When they struggle and come back to him, he asks them if they’re ready to learn. Then, they begin coaching.

How an Effective Training for Salespeople Looks Like

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Using effective training to improve sales representatives

Parry also recognizes that there are salespeople who don’t know how to get on the level of a sales professional.

When he was a kid, Parry shared, he learned how to “look things up” on his own. Little did he know that this is actually a training methodology.

Most of the training events sellers participate in involves “push training,” where people talk at them. Yet retention is ridiculously low because they’re all over the place and not paying attention.

What you can do instead is to send people to find the information. That way, when you have a conversation about it, they’re more likely to retain it.

Parry shared the steps he makes his trainees undergo:

  1. Learn a piece of resource material.
  2. Find the three pains that the solution they offer solves.
  3. Find a customer success story.
  4. Tie everything together (with Parry’s assistance).

This kind of training prepares them to face customer rejection. Then eventually, they’ll be able to redirect the conversation to where they want to go.

How to Help Improve Salespeople’s Performance

A lot of sales managers ask for “more activity” from their salespeople. As Parry said, you don’t need more activity — you need more productivity out of your salesperson.

What you should look for is productive activity. Your salespeople can be on the phone all day long, but if they’re not doing their job correctly, their numbers will still be bad.

If the manager can coach their sales rep on salesperson skills and how to exhibit the correct behavior, then they’ll get their desired results.

With any lesson he presents, Parry makes it a point to provide backup resources and information. This is so his trainees have the opportunity to learn more.

He runs the topic through with his trainees, then he gives them resource materials they can practice with. Afterward, he follows up on that assignment.

RELATED: How Do You Differentiate in Sales? w/Lee Salz @Sales Architects

How to Create a Training Program for Sales Professionals

Parry emphasized the importance of having a training program in place. You need something you can go back to and improve so you can get better results.

When creating a training program, think about the skills of a salesperson. Ask yourself: What do you need your salespeople to be able to do or know so they can do their job well?

The problem is, most managers look at things from a macro perspective. They think that salespeople need to know everything.

While that is the end goal, you have to break things down first. At the end of the first week, what do your salespeople need to know?

Then, you can start adding on to their knowledge and skills. For instance, in order to close a deal, what are the things they need to know?

Once you figure this out, you can begin planning what they need to learn first. In a sense, you need to start your training program with the end in mind.

Those are the basic elements of a learning objective when you’re creating a training program. When you have your program in place, you can start coaching your sellers on the right salesperson skills and knowledge.

Parry shared that one of the biggest challenges he has with new hires is getting them to slow down. It’s important for salespeople to be willing to go slow at first so they can get faster later on.

What Salespeople Can Do to Help Themselves

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Training effective salespeople that want to be sales professionals

Now, the question is, what can sales representatives do to help themselves?

As the saying goes, any “why” can overcome any “how.” If your “why” is big enough, you’ll figure out how to achieve your goals.

Sellers who want to sell will figure out how to get really good, and those who don’t, won’t.

Parry said that the manager has to be able to recognize that. They have to tie behavior and monetary achievement not with quota, but with what the person really wants and why they want it.

We’re often all about making the number and reaching the quota. Parry suggested that, as a sales manager, you take the time to talk to your sellers.

Ask them why they’re in the sales industry and what they really want to achieve. Then, figure out together what you each need to do so the seller can achieve their goal and meet business objectives.

Be as specific as you can on the steps the seller needs to take. When you coach them on that, you’ll get a salesperson who’s fired up.

Advice for the Reader

Parry’s parting advice is to “make a decision,” and he gave four steps to practice:

  1. Decide what it is you want to do.
  2. Define it clearly and specifically.
  3. Write it down.
  4. Go get it.

If sales will lead you to your goal, go for it. If something else will, pursue that instead.

Yet whatever it is you do, be passionate about it and become an expert at it. To do that, you have to dive right into it and learn its ins and outs.

Frustration comes when people don’t have a passion or they don’t know what their passion is. It may take you years to find your passion, but as Parry said, keep looking and don’t stop.

If you want to learn more from Bill Parry, you can connect with him on LinkedIn.

Not everyone has innate salesperson skills, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to be a good salesperson. With the right kind of training and an intentional effort to learn, salespeople can become the best version of themselves.

The first step is to ask yourself, are you a sales professional, or not?

What do you think are the characteristics of a good representative? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

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