A Q&A with Anna Hanson from Bytespeed
Anna Hanson spent 11 years as a sales associate for ByteSpeed before moving into a sales leadership role in 2016. Because of her experience working on both sides of management, she has a unique perspective on sales and a lot to say.
The first thing she is very adamant about is that sales is a great line of work to be in. According to Hanson, there is a stigma around sales. When she recently when to speak to a class at Minnesota State University Moorhead and asked if any of the students wanted to work in sales in the future, she hardly got a response.
“There’s a stigma around sales that makes people not want to be in sales. Being a salesperson isn’t about getting people solutions they don’t need and it’s not about forcing your ideas on people,” said Hanson. “It’s about listening to the issues that people are dealing with and helping them solve problems.”
Once she explained that a career in sales could be about helping people (while having the chance to earn a lot of money) the class seemed to perk up a bit.
“I have hired a lot of salespeople over the years that have told me, I’m not a salesperson,” said Hanson. “That’s perfect. I don’t want them to be. I just want them to become experts in the solutions that we have.”
That might be found foreign to some, but according to Hanson, that truly is the best way to sell.
“I don’t feel like I’ve ever been a salesman a day in my life,” said Hanson. “It’s really important to help your clients find solutions. Take the recent supply chain shortage for example. We’ve been having a lot of issues with people calling and asking for a certain laptop. I might have to tell them that we won’t have what they want in until February. What a horrible thing to have to say to somebody. But, we always try to make sure we let them know what other options we have that can fit their needs. That way the customer is still being helped and their need is being met. If at the end of the day, somebody feels like you help them and you get to feel like you did help them, then you won that sale.”
“I do think that there’s a real push in the market for that relationship-based selling. Everything else is automated. If you’re a salesperson, and you’re just totally focused on automation and process, you will be replaced,” said Hanson. “I like the convenience of Amazon, but I don’t have a relationship with them. There’s a reason I go to SCHEELS, everybody there is really nice to me. I feel like I have a relationship with them. They’re good company. They do great things for the community. It’s personal. And I could buy all that stuff on Amazon. I could buy it online. But the relationships are not there.”
And so there’s a process in the way that I stagger my follow-ups. And there’s a process in the way that I structure my day. And part of it is that I’m not naturally really organized. And I think most salespeople were not like the most organized, people were running all over and having all these fantastic conversations. And if you don’t build some sort of process and structure into your day, you may forge.
What are your top sales tips? Are there any tricks you have picked up along the way?
What is that old saying, you have two ears and one mouth? Listen, don’t talk. Don’t pitch people, let them tell you what their challenges are in your specific area of expertise and look for ways to resolve them. All of your potential customers are different, and what matters to one person may not matter to another. It sounds cliché, but treat people the way you want to be treated.
Do you have any advice for building a relationship with a customer?
Be sincere. You are talking to a real person with real-life ups and downs. People have good days and bad days. Sometimes there are sick kids, family losses, tough bosses, divorces and all of the messy things that life throws at a person. If someone doesn’t want to talk or does not get back to you right away, it’s not personal. Be patient, be kind, and don’t make it about you.
Always keep honesty and integrity at the front of your decision-making process. In any sales job, there will be times where you have to share news with someone that you feel they might not like. Maybe the lead times are super long or one of the features they want isn’t available with the solution you are offering. Be very upfront about any possible issues and you will build trust. Everyone wants to make informed decisions. Give the people you want to work with the opportunity to do that and you will build lifelong relationships on solid foundations.
Make sure you are working for an organization that you believe in that offers a product you have confidence in.
If either of those things are missing, you should find another place to represent. You can’t be successful in sales if either of those things are not there.
I get the impression that you see some soft skills missing with salespeople today. What are some things you see missing? How do you think those things can be improved?
n my experience, empathy is one of the most important characteristics of a good salesperson. I feel that good salespeople don’t make relationships about moving their own agendas forward. Successful relationships are built on mutual benefit.
Why is sales a good job to be in?
Sales is one of the most important positions for most companies. You are the face of the organization and key to its success. If you love meeting people, making friends and having a good salary, I don’t think there is a better career out there! My team will tell you that they love the ability to be creative every day as they try to find the perfect solution for what their customers need.
I can’t seem to get past the cold call phase, do you have any advice to help me take the next step and get some meetings?
Absolutely! If you are calling to be a resource and provide value, you should never feel guilty picking up the phone. Find a way to introduce value right away in the conversation and qualify that a meeting is a good fit for the benefit of both of you. Time is a valuable commodity for you and the customer. I know a lot of people are afraid to call because they believe someone will ask a question they do not know the answer to. The truth is, no one expects you to know every answer. All you have to do is find the answer and you are the hero, even if it is just connecting someone with another brilliant resource. Just jump in, what is the worst thing that can happen? If everyone is saying yes to you, you aren’t asking enough. Getting told no is a very normal part of the process and you should expect it, not fear it.
How do you qualify prospects and decide how to reach out to them?
At ByteSpeed we have an idea of what sort of an organization we would be a good fit for defined and we focus hard on engaging with that set of people. I think it is really important for organizations to define that for their sales staff. There are prospects you are a great fit for, but there will always be prospects that are not right, and knowing who not to call is just as important as knowing who to call.
Do you have any tips for follow-ups?
Be consistent and ask people you are working with how and how often they want you to follow up with them. If you wait for someone to get back to you, you might be waiting a very long time. Good salespeople make it easy for people to buy from them. You are not bugging people when you follow up on a proposal.
Do you have any thoughts on sequencing and automated emails?
I think marketing emails should be just that–marketing. I think it is a valuable tool every company should engage in using. When it comes to sequencing and automated emails, they can also be a very useful tool when done correctly, but I have always preferred a more personal approach.
Do you have any recommendations on CRM’s?
We use Microsoft Dynamics and have been happy with it. I know there are a ton of great tools out there. I would just recommend that whatever you use, be diligent about keeping your records organized and up to date!
How do you get past the gatekeeper?
I try to keep in mind that a gatekeeper is just a person doing their job. Kill them with kindness and don’t treat them like a hurdle you are trying to overcome. Remember their name. They can be very positive influencers if you build a good relationship.