The key for any sales person is uncovering enough business pain to be actionable. Rather than chasing a buyer, he advises, indeed teaches, growing sales teams systems and processes to “qualify hard and close easy.”
Having met initially at a Greater North Fulton County Chamber of Commerce event, we agreed to compare notes on sales and marketing at the Sandler office in Alpharetta at a later time. He also graciously agreed to answer a few follow-up questions by email for the Off Script interviews series on these pages.
Here’s what Mr. Pitchford had to say about sales, process, the “buyer’s system” and the continuous effort for sales and marketing alignment.
1. Tell us a little bit about Sandler and your presence in the greater Atlanta area.
“Sandler Training is the world’s largest training company, with over 270 franchisees worldwide. The Sandler Selling System was developed by David H. Sandler starting in the early 1960s and has grown into a phenomenal business that has changed the lives of clients for years. Here in Atlanta, our principle, Mark McGraw, has been a franchise for close to 10 years and is considered one of the very best in our business.”
2. What is your background and why did you join Sandler?
“I started with Sandler as a client when I was the National Director of Sales with a company that had grown from 50 sales professionals to close to 650 sales professionals. We needed to standardize our process and the Sandler Selling System was perfect to have a reliable, proven, transferable system to scale throughout a large organization.”
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3. What are the biggest sales mistakes you and Sandler see growing companies make with respect to sales organization and process?
“The biggest mistake is not having a system at all. This results in a sales person moving into the buyer’s system, which he or she is often be misled:
a) to begin ‘we’re happy’ and gives up information or ‘unpaid consulting’
b) then get no commitment ‘this looks good, let me run it up the flagpole’
c) and finally, end up in follow-up chase mode ‘voicemail and email for days on end’”
4. What do companies with an effective sales process have that other companies do not?
“Everyone has a process, whether that process is effective comes down to knowing what went right and what went wrong. No selling system will allow a salesperson to close them all, but when it doesn’t work, a proven selling system such as Sandler will allow the salesperson to know where it went wrong and be able to improve and keep their self-esteem at a good level to make the next sales call.”
See these related interviews:
The Blurry Edges of PR; Off Script #11: Kevin Hartman of LTPR
PR, Twitter, and a Navy Master Chief; Off Script #5: John Barnett
Quiet Professionalism in PR; Off Script #3: Ian Lipner
5. Sales and marketing alignment are often cited as pivotal in B2B circles – what tips do you have for aligning these two functions?
“Realizing there is a common goal – profit. Sales people can certainly help those in marketing by passing along what customers and prospects are saying they want and what issues they are facing. Marketing can use that information to give a more targeted message to certainly prospect groups to create more qualified leads. More qualified leads goes back to the goal – PROFIT!”
6. Marketing and sales sometimes disagree on what constituted a “lead.” How do you recommend leaders from both shops go about reconciling the differences to benefit the business?
“I believe the difference in opinion is using the word ‘qualified’ in front of the word ‘lead.’ Marketing often focuses on creating lead numbers, that is the easiest way to show results from investment. Meanwhile, profit is the true indicator of success. Marketing may be producing many leads, but the quality and ability for sales to qualify leads will lead to the profit that is the true measure of success.”
7. What advice do you have for the young sales person just beginning his or her career?
“Young or old – you MUST have a system. If you don’t have your own system, you will be forced to spend the sales process in the buyer’s system. The buyer’s system is built to resist decisions and built on guesswork, so without a system such as Sandler Selling System, you are doing a disservice to your prospects.”
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