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From Process to People: How to Build High-Performance Sales Teams

Summary Keywords

approach, business, clients, company, customer, empathy, goals, great, introvert, listening, people, place, problem, sales, salespeople, selling, service, started, today, walk

Speakers

Show Notes

In this episode of the Executive Connect Podcast, host Melissa Aarskaug interviewed Joe Sulima, an expert in building high-performance sales teams. Joe shared his insights on the critical elements necessary for developing successful sales teams, from establishing robust sales processes to finding and nurturing the right talent. He emphasized the importance of empathy, confidence, and continuous learning for sales professionals. Additionally, Joe discussed strategies for maintaining motivation, differentiating from competitors, providing exceptional customer service, and using technology to engage with clients effectively.

Key Takeaways:

0:00 – Introduction

1:53 – The Importance of a Sales Process

  • Before hiring, ensure a clear and effective sales process is in place.
  • Onboarding should integrate new hires into the system and clarify marketplace differentiation.

4:16 – Motivating Sales Teams

  • Establish a mission to inspire and keep the team motivated.
  • Regular check-ins help maintain motivation, especially in remote work environments.

7:46 – Customer Service and Differentiation

  • Exceptional customer service can significantly differentiate a business.
  • Listening to customers’ needs and providing tailored solutions builds long-term loyalty.

14:13 – Mentoring and Addressing Underperformance

  • Identify and address the root causes of underperformance, whether personal or skill-related.
  • Implement performance plans to help employees get back on track, emphasizing support over termination.

25:15 – Effective Communication and Relationship Building

  • Use social media and video to build relationships and engage with potential clients.
  • Establishing long-term relationships by providing value beyond immediate sales can lead to future opportunities.

Tune in to this episode for an in-depth discussion on the strategies and practices that build and sustain high-performing sales teams.

Guest Bio:

As a Fractional Sales Manager and Sales and Sales Management Coach, Joe Sulima transforms underperforming sales teams into high-achieving powerhouses. With a proven track record of building and nurturing top-tier sales teams, he helps companies unlock their full potential and achieve exceptional sales performance.

Personal LinkedInwww.linkedin.com/in/joe-sulima

About Melissa Aarskaug:

I’m an energetic executive with 15+ years of experience steering companies to new heights of growth and scale. An engineer at heart (I started my career as an engineering manager on one of the world’s largest concrete bridges), I’ve become a trusted leader and business builder in the technology and cybersecurity space.

Personal LinkedInwww.linkedin.com/in/melissa-aarskaug
Podcast LinkedInwww.linkedin.com/company/my-executive-connect
Websitewww.executiveconnectpodcast.com

Transcript

Joe Sulima 00:00
So there’s different ways to use social media to get in front of clients. And it’s not always, hey, I’m a local rep, I want your business. It may just be, you know, commenting on some things they’re doing. It’s a longer term approach. It’s, you know, commenting on a post that they made or noticing something about them on their profile or in their personal profile, even when making a comment about it. You’re not just you know, some stranger hitting them up like most people, Hey, I’m your new rep. And I’d like to do this or I saw you on LinkedIn. And you know, I thought we should have a connection. And for what you’re there’s no real reason behind it. Make it friendly. You know, you’re you’re reaching out to be friends with somebody, Hey, I noticed this about your company. Congratulations on this new award. You got our Hey, I see you just got promoted. That’s fantastic. Build a relationship online that way, is a great way to start to get your foot in the door.

Narrator 00:54
Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast, a show for the new generation of leaders. Join Melissa Aarskaug as she speaks to a wide variety of guests that bring new insights into leadership, prosperity, and personal growth. While no one has all the answers, by building a community of open minded engaged leaders, we hope to give you the tools you need to help you find your own path to success.

Melissa Aarskaug 01:25
Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast. I’m excited today to talk about one of my favorite subjects Sales. And we have Joe Sulima here to discuss his expertise in building high performance teams. Welcome, Joe.

Joe Sulima 01:41
Hey, thanks for having me on. Melissa, I’m excited to be here.

Melissa Aarskaug 01:45
What qualities when you’re starting from the ground up and building new teams do you look for in the people that you hire?

Joe Sulima 01:52
You know, that’s a great question. And before I even start to look at the people, I want to make sure there’s a sales process in place. Because if we don’t know what that process is going to look like, and we don’t have some of those other foundational pieces in place, we can’t really set up the sales team for success. So I always look at that first, what does that process need to look like? Is it dialed in? Do we have the right systems in place to help our people be successful? And then from there, once we know what that system looks like, what’s our onboarding look like? In meaning by that is, we just don’t want to hire a bunch of people and put them on the streets and start selling. We want to make sure they’re ingrained in our systems, you know, what is our protocol about? How do we fit into the marketplace? You know, what differentiates between everybody else out there? And once we have those in place, then we start looking for talent. And the first thing I’m always looking for is one, what kind of sales leader am I going to be? Or if I’m working with a client, what kind of sales leader are they going to be? Are they more of a very hands on approach, and they have, hey, I want it done my way? Or is it more so hey, here’s the system, just go and do it. And if you need help reach out to me, once I have those things in place, we know what the product is, we know what our sales system looks like, we know the kind of sales leader is now we start looking for the talent. First thing I look for is confidence. I want somebody that’s confident they can go out there, and they can take this product or service to market and really be great at it. And I’d say after confidence is empathy, you know, the ability to do to be in the shoes of the customer to understand what they’re going through and understand their frustrations, their pain points, and then be able to provide those solutions for them. You know, those are the things I’m looking for in a good sales rep.

Melissa Aarskaug 03:36
You don’t have processes in place and the people start it’s just they’re all running around trying to figure out how to get started and where to enter what CRM tools. And so I absolutely agree with that. So once you have the process in place, and you’ve hired the right people, and you’re growing the business, how do you continue to sustain growth and keeping your team motivated. So right out of the gate, most salespeople don’t have anything on their pipeline. And if you don’t get them selling quickly and making money, then they tend to become demotivated.

Joe Sulima 04:11
That’s a great point. One of the things that I always like to do, and this is one of the best practices is share with them what the mission is, you know, when it doesn’t matter what product or service you’re selling, or where you’re at, but there’s a mission to keep them motivated on. So it could be the mission as simple as, hey, we want to be the best office in the organization. You know, maybe you’re in a company that has 10 different offices and you want to be the best and in that particular company, or maybe you just want to really dominate your marketplace. So start with what is the mission, you know, get the team excited about the mission because once they’re excited about their mission, and they truly believe in that, then you can do anything at that point in time then you can keep them motivated. So want to get that mission out there. Let them know what we’re standing for, why we’re doing this, who we’re helping, what kind of results our clients are going to get, and when you get them bought into that mission, there’s the motivation to get them started from there, then it’s, you know, their salespeople, right. So they do need to have that self motivation to an extent to get out there. But you also want to fuel that fire, you know, what else can you do to keep them going? I find effective is daily check ins with the team, you know, whether it’s a 15 or 30 minute conversation, the beginning of the day, or at the end of the day, but I always like to have those check ins and get people motivated, especially now that everybody’s working remotely. And that’s changed the selling environment for so many people. You don’t necessarily have an office to go to, or maybe you only do two or three days a week and you’re working remotely, or maybe like yourself have a remote territory, and you’re known have those close colleagues. So how do you keep that going. So I find that having those weekly, or those daily check ins, is a great way to keep people motivated as well and be part of the team. And always am every one of those calls with the mission, hey, we’re here to change lives today, we’re here to help them with whatever it is we do, we’re here to give them the best, you know, office furniture, they can think of whatever it is that mission that you’re trying to accomplish. And by doing that, it keeps the team motivated and keeps them going to the next level.

Melissa Aarskaug 06:11
That’s great. touch points every day is super important. I absolutely agree with that, I think, you know, letting people just run out and start selling and say, Hey, call me if you need anything, it’s probably not the best way to keep employees around for a long period of time if you don’t talk to him much. So I absolutely agree with that. And you know, in sales, there’s so much competition, no matter what industry you’re in, whether you’re in technology, or healthcare, or retail, there’s so much competition in most of the markets today. And everything is moving so, so fast. And a lot of times in my sales experience, I’ll I’ll be on with a customer, you know, nine o’clock in the morning, and they need it yesterday and everything done tomorrow. And so one of the things I know that I have to do a lot is manage client expectations, right? Not only internally, like internal processes and our you know, running our process and but also the client side of the street. So as you’re sustaining and you’re growing, and you’re getting your people motivated. How do you continue to differentiate yourself? So customers continue to buy from you. So once you find who you are and what differentiates you? How do you continue to make them do that as you grow and develop your people?

Joe Sulima 07:33
That’s a great question. One of the things is really I find is great customer service. I mean, it’s horrible. The customer service you get in the world today, it really is there’s a few companies that are good at it. But one, you just have to be a little better from a customer service standpoint. And it’ll take you so much further than your competition, because most people don’t do any kind of follow up. It’s, hey, we got the sale. And that’s all we care about. If there’s any issues on the back end, if there’s any complaints, they’re not handled the right way. So the best thing to do is you want to keep a customer long term, kill them with service, give them the best possible service they can ever get. And they will come back to you. So that’s one of the first things is customer service. First, we have to take care of the customers because it’s so much easier to get business from an existing customer than it is to go and look for new business all the time. So definitely have that customer centric approach that I got to take care of the customer. That’s one of the first things we want to do that really stand out. And second, I’d say is just really be good listener and understand what the customer’s needs are. So many salespeople go in with the approach of they’re just pushing their products or services, this is what we do. This is how we can help this is all XYZ features and benefits my product, but they don’t sit back and say well, Mr. Customer, what are some of the problems you’re running into? You know, what do you really need help with? What kind of impact is that having on your, on your, your business? If we can help you with that? What would that mean for you? I mean, some of it is just basic, but it’s missing today, you know, and when you put those kinds of things in place, understand what the customer’s real needs are and how it’s impacting them and then provide them with the right solution and then give them great follow up and great service definitely going to stand out from the competition because it’s just not being done today.

Melissa Aarskaug 09:20
Oh such such good advice customer service. It seems so so so basic, but it is is so true that you know get getting the sale and passing it over and forgetting about the customer is not the best way to get more business out of a customer and you know, I always uh, my father used to tell me Melissa you have two ears and one mouth use them proportionately. So listening is such an important thing. And I, I feel in my experience in sales and I don’t know if you have had this happen for you, Joe, a lot of times when I’m selling the client thinks they need X and really they need Y and Z and A. And what we originally started the discussion with is not really their pain point and what they actually needed something completely different than what we originally started to discuss.

Joe Sulima 10:13
You know, that’s, that’s a valid point, a lot of times you need to push back on the customer. And so you know what, that’s really not what you need right now. Or they’re, if they’re about to go into a certain direction on things to say, you know, that’s not in your best interest right now. You know, it’s okay to even walk away from opportunities and say, you know, what, based on where you are, and what you’re looking for, I know, I can sell you my product or service today. But it’s really not in your best interest, you know, I’d rather keep you as a long term customer and do something in the future, maybe you’ll refer other people to me, but, you know, this is a better option for you right now. Or sometimes they want to go in a direction and says, you know, it’s, it’s a dumb idea. And it’s okay to say, you know, what, that’s gonna backfire on you. Obviously, you have to have some reports and expertise in place, and make sure they have that, you know, credibility factor with them. But that happens a lot. It’s okay to push back to a customer and some of them are going to respect them. So you know what, you’re right. I respect that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had those experiences with customers, especially with a team when they’re going in one direction. And then we have another meeting and something else comes up. It’s like, you know, what this is really is a bad idea for you to do this. It doesn’t matter if you do business with us, or who you do business with, this is a bad idea for your business, it’s not going to help you it’s not going to serve you. And I’d rather walk away this opportunity, then sell you something that you’re not going to be happy with, and putting a little pushback on the customers now, does it work all the time? No, of course not. But I’d say most of the time, the customers are going to appreciate that you’re willing to walk away and you’re just not there for commission check.

Melissa Aarskaug 11:48
Yeah, made me users rockin it made me think about years ago, I’ll never forget, I had a situation with a client where they basically told me they wanted me to use buy my products and service. And I told them, Well, no, I’m not the right fit. And they all looked at me like I had, you know, you know, two heads. And I said, You guys are all fighting internally, and I’m the wrong fit for what you’re trying to do. And I, I walked away from that, that that business and their senior leadership team and other people came back around and said, Why did you walk away and I said, I was I don’t know, if you notice, but everybody in the room had a different agenda and a different end goal. And none of you guys agreed and me as the vendor has to walk in. And I have seven people to to keep happy. And you all have different agendas. And it’s interesting. Three years later, this client did not have a vendor that they had selected yet three years later. And so it’s sort of sometimes it’s okay to walk away from business too, right? And, and not just, you know, like you said, push back on the customer. But there are times when you’re not the best fit for the client, and they’re not the best fit for you as a company. And I think those, like you were saying at the beginning customer service, you can’t provide really exceptional customer service. If they’re not happy with you, right? And if it starts right out of the gate, it makes it really difficult to recover from that.

Joe Sulima 13:21
Absolutely. It’s sometimes it’s better to walk away than get a customer, you’re not going to be happy with either. It’s best thing for both of you.

Melissa Aarskaug 13:28
Right? Yeah. I want to talk a little bit about what you originally saying about, you know, you build teams, you talk to him every day, check in with them. What and what if you have a one of your team members is when your sales professionals are not achieving their quota. They’re not hitting their goals. How do you how do you really mentor them in a way where they can start achieving some of their goals?

Joe Sulima 14:00
Yeah, great question. That happens occasionally, right? Unfortunately, you have some people that just aren’t doing what they need to do to be successful. So there’s a couple of things. First is obviously is let’s identify what the problem is, you know, why aren’t they succeeding? If they have a history of succeeding, and something’s going on now that we need to address maybe it’s a personal issue, you know, we need to dive into that is something going on within the region? You know, maybe there’s geographical things going on, if it’s a territorial thing within the territory that’s changing competitor came in? So I always like to take a look at well, let’s take a look at the history. If it’s a one time thing, or you know what’s going on, or if it’s a new person. And then once we identify it, is it a skill problem? Or is there something else if it’s a skill problem, then we can work on the skill problem and we can put things in place? If it’s just they don’t want to do the work anymore, or they’re not putting the effort in? They need to, then it’s time to put perform some plans in place. Okay, what do we need to do to get you back on track? You know, our goal isn’t to just start getting rid of people, but how do we get them back on track? You know, what are the things that we can do to help them get where they need to be? comes down to, you know, what the pipeline looks like? How many prospecting calls are they doing? You know, what kind of network are they doing, and start from there. But it’s really identification, you know, what’s really the problem, and then what is the plan to help you get on back on track, and then, you know, part of it is up to them. You mean, they have to take responsibility, we can put the expectations in place, we can hold them accountable. But the sales, they still have to do the work, and it’s up to them to do that work. And then, of course, unfortunately, is times if they’re not willing to do the work, then you need to make those tough choices. And you know, either put them in a different position of the company or let them know, it’s probably best to part ways. And that’s the the ways I found to be more successful. However, if you’ve really identified with the problem is 80% of the time, you can probably help that person, once you identify what the real problem is. Most managers don’t do that. They just say, look at the numbers, you’re not doing a good enough job, you got 90 days to get your act together, or you’re out of here. And well guess what happens in those cases are usually gone within 30 days, because they find jobs on their own. So it’s best to really identify what the issue is, and then help them get over that.

Melissa Aarskaug 16:21
Yeah, that’s a really good point, not assuming, you know, what the why that they’re not performing. I think a lot of times, we make a lot of assumptions as humans, that may or may not be correct. And you know, we really don’t know what’s going on in other people’s lives if they’ve had problems with their children or their spouse or their caretaking their parents or what other life responsibilities they have. And I think I love what you said, just sitting down with them. And really figuring out the metrics, figuring out how you can support and then really attacking it with them to write is is, you know, maybe you have to do one on one calls with them. Or you have to do one on one site visits with them or, and sometimes I find that salespeople don’t necessarily know like that right when their boss is going out on the road or attending sales calls with them. But I always think, you know, everybody has their own unique way of selling, right. And I think that getting feedback and examples from multiple people that are pitching to clients make you that much better as a salesperson, because over time, you could really craft it to what is most comfortable for you. I know a lot of times, you know, my sales approach is is you know, I’m high energy. I’m bubbly. I tell jokes. And a lot of times people are like, What is she doing, but it just really depends on the client. Some of my clients love that and other clients. I know I have to be serious to the point and two sentences quick. And I think it comes into knowing your customer and knowing who you’re talking to. And and your people as well. So you can train them, right.

Joe Sulima 18:06
Yeah, you know who you’re talking to. And if you’re an extrovert, you’re outgoing person like yourself, you need to use that as your strength. Right? You don’t hide that. And yes, some customers may not be great about it, maybe they’re turned off about it, but that’s okay. It works for you, and you just do what works for you. The other side, if you’re an introvert, don’t try to be an extrovert. Own your introversion you be an introvert, “I’m an introvert has not stopped me from being extremely successful as a salesperson” and crawl, climb, you know, going up the corporate ladder. So use what you have. And people respect that. And if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, just use it for what you are. But you need to understand how it works, and understand your customers. But using that to your advantage is going to take you much more further than trying to use somebody else’s sales approach because, hey, I’m gonna go to the number one guy in the company and model what he does, probably not going to work, right, you got to model what’s gonna work for you find out what works for you, and then just do more of that. And then you’ll be more successful than the number one guy because you’ve owned your process.

Melissa Aarskaug 19:10
Yeah, spot on. I think people can can sense phony behavior, right? They can sense that. Maybe you’re not an energetic person or not of this person. And they can sense it. So if it comes natural, it’s going to be authentic, and people will respect you more for that if you’re not a bubbly person and you try to be bubbly. It just fits sometimes it just looks very awkward, right? And so and I love that you said that you’re an introverted person too, because a lot of times I’ll hear that, oh, you’re extroverted, you’re just better at sales. And that’s not necessarily always the DNA for salespeople is being extroverts. I always joke, Joe, I’m a I’m a recovering introvert. You know, I started my career in engineering and I would say I was the most introverted person And, and so so we can change as people. And, you know, just because you’re introverted doesn’t make you a fantastic salesperson. So I love that you mentioned that.

Joe Sulima 20:12
Yeah, be you who you are, and you’ll find your way.

Melissa Aarskaug 20:16
So true. So true. I want to touch a little bit more on. You know, let’s say this performing this person that wasn’t performing in the sales role. You’ve given them as much support, you’ve given them as much leeway to make the changes after the pep, and you have to let them go. How do you go after you, you know, you let someone go you’re rehiring when you’re interviewing. You know, how do you find the right fit? During the interview process? What are you looking for in salespeople?

Joe Sulima 20:53
Well, there’s a couple of things I’m looking for. One, you know, I start with, what kind of person do I need for the role? You know, do I need somebody that’s just a great salesperson? Or do we need somebody that’s technical and has experience in this particular product or service. So once I really have that define your one I like people that are going to be confident in their sales approach, you know, that they know they can go in there that game somewhat command the attention, they have a presence about them that, hey, this is somebody that you want to listen to, I always look for people that have empathy, you know, that can understand what customers are going through and really dive into that and dig deep into the sales process and understand the pain points. It doesn’t really matter if they’re extroverts or introverts, or you know, they have great networking skills, or some of those other things. But those are the things I liked the most. And I’d say the third thing that I’m looking for, I’m always going to ask somebody, what’s the last sales book you read? I mean, if you’re a sales professional, and this is what you do for a living, it’s just like any other skill, you need to constantly get better at it. So what are you learning? What new books have you read? What new training programs have you gone through? So that’s always what I’m looking for, is tell me about the education that you made on your own, not from the company, but any kind of investment on your own, whether it’s books, whether it’s, you know, local trade journals that are based on selling or sales, management, you know, whatever training programs you’ve gone through, those are the kinds of things I’m looking for somebody that’s educating themselves to be better and better at sales.

Melissa Aarskaug 22:24
Yeah, I always, I always think leaders are readers, make sure you’re reading, learning. You know, and I think another thing too, is attitude. Right, you don’t have to be the best salesperson or the best at your job. But really the right attitude trump’s a lot of things I see coming in. And, you know, you don’t have to know everything about sales and all the sales books, but having the right attitude, where you’re coachable to learn how to do it. And when when you come up against a crossroad, and you can’t figure things out, try to figure it out for yourself. And then, and then asked for support but being our own problem solvers, because the more problems you solve, and the more times you make mistakes, the more you learn, and the more you can become better at sales in and you know, there’s times I’ve made mistakes presenting, or I’ve mixed slides up, and, you know, I’ve no, they were accidents, and I just joke with the customer, like oops, and they laugh with me. And I think people are very forgiving of that when you admit that you’ve made a mistake. And, you know, let me fix it and go and fix it for them. Because we’re all just humans. And so I think I love attitude as well.

Joe Sulima 23:43
Having that positive attitude is a great trait to have having that kind of approach that, you know, mistakes happen. You know, no matter what kind of technology comes out, no matter how many new AI tools come on the market. In most industries, you’re still dealing with people, right? People are buying from people, you know, tools will never take that away, you still want to have a person that you interact with, you still want to have somebody that you like to talk to and work with. If you have an issue and it needs to get resolved, a machine isn’t going to do that for you, right, a person is going to do it for you. So it’s important to have that, you know, can do attitude as well, and have that positive attitude that if they you know, to your point, if they don’t know something, they can go and figure out because they’ve got that, you know, everything’s figured-outable attitude, and be able to do that. And if you can show with a case that, you know, that’s certainly going to help you in your career as well as a sales professional.

Melissa Aarskaug 24:35
Yeah, I love it. So getting more back into the customer. So let’s say you’re, you find the right salesperson, they’re well trained, they’re ready to hit the ground running and they email a customer call a customer they can’t get the customer on the phone. What are some of the top strategies that you have used to set up meetings with clients and customers?

Joe Sulima 25:01
You know, that’s, that’s a great question. And that kind of goes back to some of the new technologies out there. There’s all kinds of ways you can now engage with your customers where before it was, you know, I’ve been doing this a long time, either knocked on the door, walked in, and tried to get a face to face meeting, or it was a phone call. Now, with social media, you can reach out to people on their profiles, you know, whether it’s LinkedIn, whether it’s Instagram, whether it’s Facebook, so there’s different ways to use social media to get in front of clients. And it’s not always, hey, I’m a local rep, I want your business, it may just be, you know, commenting on some things they’re doing, it’s a longer term approach, it’s, you know, commenting on a post that they made or noticing something about them on their profile, or in their personal profile even and making a comment about it. So using that kind of approach, and, you know, there’s more of a friend now, you’re not just, you know, some stranger hitting them up, like most people, Hey, I’m your new rep. And I’d like to do this or I saw you on LinkedIn. And, you know, I thought we should have a connection in for what your there’s no real reason behind it. But you know, make it friendly, you know, you’re you’re reaching out to be friends with somebody, Hey, I noticed this about your company, congratulations on this new award, you got our Hey, I see you just got promoted, that’s fantastic. Build a relationship online that way, is a great way to start to get your foot in the door. The second I say is video, I think when the pandemic started, one of the biggest tools that I saw people use salespeople start to use is sending videos out to people, instead of just the email or a phone call, which a lot of people aren’t getting anymore. And those days are even open to them. Send an email with a video, you know, there’s so many different tools out there where you can have an automated video of holding the sign up saying hey, Millis, I’d like to have a conversation with you, and waving to him, you know, an automated video. And then when they click on it, it’s a personalized video, hey, just want to say hello. You know, we haven’t had a chance to opportunity to talk yet, but am your new account rep. Or maybe it’s Hey, I just noticed this about you, you know, we’ve been trying to communicate, but for whatever reason, we’re not gonna connect. Using video has been a huge, huge benefit for a lot of people to get in front of people and get them to know and like you on a different level. Because now they see your face to hear your voice. It’s a little different than just, you know, hearing your, you know, getting your email or listen to your voicemail. Now they actually have a connection there. And if you do that on a consistent basis and add value, I haven’t seen anybody who hasn’t gotten can get through the door as long as you’re willing to put in the time and be persistent.

Melissa Aarskaug 27:29
Yeah, 100% Persistent is the word right being very, not annoying, right, persistent. And I think people understand, you know, the difference between being helpful and persistent or annoying and obnoxious. I’ve seen some really, you know, interesting sales strategies where people stay touched one for this touch two, for that, and people are like what.. and so I think just like you mentioned, I think videos are a great idea, you know, commenting on things that are important to them, like if they’re part of a nonprofit, or they have children. You know, not sales is not just transactional, I think a lot of time and some of the salespeople I’ve seen not do so great is they treat it like a transaction. It’s a relationship. It’s a long term. I like to think with the people that I work with that it’s a long term relationship. We might not talk every day, but it is a long term relationship. So I don’t just make a connections to never talk to them again, I want to continue to grow that relationship and build it and nurture it long term. And if they have a problem, I want them to think of me for that problem. And so in the least high pressure annoying way possible. And so I do like that idea of videos.

Joe Sulima 28:54
Yeah, one of the other thing that I like to point out that I think is extremely helpful, especially if you’re trying to get in large companies, and you and a large companies, they’re pretty open, you can do some research on what the biggest struggles are in their particular industry or even in their company. And if you know of a resource that you can help them with, and share that with them without expecting anything back, they’re going to remember that you recently I was working with somebody that wasn’t a good fit for the for the company that you know, I was helping at the time. But they were having a real problem with hiring talent, you know, what was the best way to hire talent for their specific industry. And I just happen to know a recruiter that had some resources of exactly how to do that. Took the resources, put the two together, and help with a an outcome for them. Now, there is no immediate benefit for me. But chances are in the future when that person does need my, my services, they’re going to remember that I wasn’t just another salesperson trying to pitch them I was a resource. I helped them solve a problem in their business that had nothing to do with what I did. But it was a resource for them. And I made that connection. And that’s to your point. It’s long term really relationships. And that’s kind of what we want to do, when we’re starting there, especially if you’re building relationships with a new company, this, that’s one of the best ways to go out there and do that.

Melissa Aarskaug 30:09
Yeah, absolutely. And you know, and even if you’re not in sales for a living, and you’re not, you know, that’s not what you do for a living, we’re all in sales as far in our life, whether you’re in sales to find a spouse, or to network in a community, we’re all in sales. And so what I would say is, if you want to have good relationships, and all facets of your life, you got to pour into them, and you got a really, you know, give and take, and not just always take, and so I think that’s a really good point is nurture, right? Nurture your relationships and, and then ask, you know, when, when the time is, right, when you’ve put enough kind of coins into that relationship, if you will ask you like, Hey, I’m looking for this, can you help me and people always always, you know, are willing to help and, or vice versa, if you’re on a sales call with somebody and ask him what top problems you trying to solve today. And it may not be something that I can do. You know, I had a recent call recently, where one of my clients was having some family problems with their child. And so I was able to connect them, had nothing to do with my job, and then everything to do with empathy, like you mentioned. And just trying to help people and meet them where they are at that moment. So we can’t get to the business, if all they’re thinking about is my kid, my kid, my kid. They don’t have time for anything until they can solve the problem with your child. So yeah, I love the empathy. I love the give and take any other top sales tips and tricks that you want to share with our listeners?

Joe Sulima 32:00
You know, I’d say that the the listening is probably one of the top ones that I see most sales reps make mistakes on. They’re just not listening to what their clients are really saying they’re going in, they’re so ingrained into wanting to talk about their product and service and why they’re better than everybody else, and how they stand out. They’re not sitting there really understanding Well, what are the problems you have? And how is it affecting your business? And really digging down to it? And what other areas is this affecting within your business? They’re just so focused on the product or service. And they go in and talk about, well, this is who we are, this is what we do, instead of taking a step back and saying, Well, you know, before I even start about who I am or what I’m doing, tell me about the challenges or the obstacles are having in this category, or better. What are your goals? What is it you’re trying to accomplish in this area that you haven’t gotten to yet, and we can talk about that, and how we might be able to help you get there, then it’s a different conversation, then it’s not me presenting about my product or service or your product or service, they’re almost selling themselves to me at that point, because you’re repositioning to an extent, they’re talking about what they need, and then it’s like, oh, okay, then it makes a lot more easier. So it’s a complete different approach to the sales process. But I found that to be one of the most effective, especially today, because nobody’s using things like this are still, I mean, sales has not really changed that much in probably 50 years. Sorry to say, by using these kinds of different tactics, I see it’s very, very effective. And such a small percentage of salespeople are doing it. So I’d say that’s probably one of the things I’d leave you with is using that kind of approach and going in with a Tell me a little bit about more your business and what you want to accomplish obstacles or goals. And then we can showcase exactly what we do catered around what you’re looking for, instead of what I want to sell you today. And I’d say start with that, you’ll see a huge difference in the amount of business you’ll generate.

Melissa Aarskaug 33:58
Spot on, I think there’s I’ve I’ve been part of meetings before, not ones that I scheduled where I was shadowing somebody, and they weren’t prepared at all for the person in the meeting. So we showed up to a sales meeting, they knew nothing about the client, nothing about the customer. You know, they were just pulling up their sales brochure and said, Hey, we have this and this and this and this, which one do you want? And the clients you know, the clients energy and response wasn’t really great. And so you know, I that taught me something years and years ago, and a lot of times what clients need is not on a menu, you might not offer that service at your company. But could you to acquire another customer? I know a lot of different things that I sell now we weren’t doing years ago, and we are now and it started with one customer asking a question which led further down the road and now we’re doing it and so I think just being open to, like you said at the beginning, listening and understanding your customers and not kind of shoving things they don’t need down their throat. Right?

Joe Sulima 35:12
Absolutely.

Melissa Aarskaug 35:15
That I really appreciate you being here today. Joe, you are a wealth of knowledge. And I love love to talk about sales and sales strategies. So, thank you so much for being here today on the Executive Connect Podcast.

Joe Sulima 35:31
It was great, Melissa, thanks very much for having me today.

Narrator 35:36
You’ve been listening to the Executive Connect Podcast. If you have questions or ideas on how to bring leadership to the next level, email us at executiveconnectpodcast@gmail.com And don’t forget to subscribe so you can catch every new episode. Until next time.

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Bryan Hancock Headshot — Founder of Integrity Development

Bryan Hancock

Founder of Integrity Development

Integrity Development

Executive Biography

Bryan Hancock has been managing real estate investments—and overseeing development and construction projects—for nearly two decades. He has deep roots in Austin, Texas, and comprehensive knowledge of the opportunities and challenges in this fast-growing market.

Through his development and syndication companies, which he built from the ground up, Bryan has developed 50+ urban infill projects and managed $25M in real estate sales with approximately 35% return on investment at the project level. He also co-founded two private equity funds.

Bryan brings in-depth industry awareness, sharp business acumen, and extensive in-the-trenches experience to his work as co-founder and principal of Integrity Development. He partners with a team of professionals and industry experts (many have been involved in Austin real estate for 40+ years) to identify value-added and opportunistic investments that protect capital and reduce risk for lenders—while delivering outsized returns for investors.

Earlier, Bryan founded and directed Inner 10 Development, a residential development firm focused on Austin’s top zip codes and surrounding communities, and H2i, LLC, a real estate syndication company. He steered these organizations for 17+ years, overseeing the acquisition, buildout, and sale of single-family and multifamily properties, including a 350-unit urban infill joint-venture project.

Bryan was successful in delivering strong returns while minimizing risk for bankers and investors by taking a targeted, data-driven approach to opportunity analysis, due diligence, and strategic decision-making. He zeroed in on potential risks and developed proactive mitigation strategies to protect and grow investments.

Concurrent with his work at Inner 10 Development and H2i, Bryan established Gentry Lending Group, a private-equity debt fund. He also served on the board of Bullseye Capital Real Property Opportunity Fund. These experiences provided Bryan with a grasp of both investor and banker viewpoints, including an understanding of risk and liability on the lending side. This aspect of his background continues to shape his real estate decisions to this day.

There is another unique aspect to Bryan’s career—a corporate history that differentiates him from other investors and developers in this field. Bryan has built organizations, controlled multimillion-dollar projects, and supported billion-dollar programs for some of the world’s largest companies: Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Dell, CACI, and Charles Schwab. He managed teams and vendors in the US, China, France, and India, and often balanced up to 10 projects at a time. He was trusted with a Top Secret Security Clearance from the United States government.

A business-savvy leader and lifelong learner, Bryan holds an MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurship from Texas Christian University and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

Bryan founded the Wealth Investment Network, co-founded RealStarter (a crowdfunding platform for real estate investors), and was a member of the Urban Land Institute and Central Texas Angel Network. He has been a guest speaker at 20+ national events, including conferences and meetups through the Information Management Network (IMN), SXSW, Rice University, Bay Area Real Estate Summit, Soho Loft Conference, Texas Entrepreneur Network, and many others.

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Melissa Aarskaug Headshot — Founder of Executive Connect

Melissa Aarskaug

Founder of Executive Connect

Senior Executive, Board Member & Advisor

Vice President of Business Development
Bulletproof, a GLI company

Executive Biography

Melissa Aarskaug is a global executive and business leader at the forefront of the technology/cybersecurity industry. She shapes strategy, leads teams, and partners with Fortune 500 companies and other enterprise clients to protect their organizations from risk and noncompliance—while improving operations and accelerating growth.

For 15+ years, Melissa has taken the reins to propel organizations to the next level of performance. By combining business acumen and revenue optimization with the sharp mind of an engineer, she uncovers and seizes opportunities for profitable growth in the US and around the world.

Melissa has established a distinguished career with Gaming Laboratories International (GLI), where she is a key member of the senior executive team. Throughout her tenure, she has assembled teams, developed new markets, and influenced P&L impact, ultimately positioning GLI as the #1 provider of testing, certification, and cybersecurity services to the global gaming and lottery space.

After achieving this feat—a big win for GLI and game-changer for clients worldwide—Melissa steered both GLI and Bulletproof (acquired by GLI in 2016) into untapped verticals: finance, government, healthcare, higher education, hospitality, and retail. An enthusiastic, knowledgeable growth driver who cultivates partnerships and rallies teams, she led GLI/Bulletproof to dominate these markets as well.

Before joining GLI, Melissa shaped and executed strategy as Vice President of Business Operations for LV Investments, where she built and optimized a portfolio of commercial and industrial properties. Earlier, in a very different role as Project Engineering Manager for Fisher Industries, she directed and mobilized a team of 550 employees and contractors to develop the world’s largest concrete bridge. Previously, she headed a major engineering project for Pacific Mechanical Corporation.

A curious, lifelong learner, Melissa holds dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering with minors including Business and Mathematics. She is a Karrass Master Negotiator and C4 Executive Coach who actively pursues ongoing education and inspiration as a member of Chief, Austin Technology Council, Austin Women in Technology, and Toastmasters International. In addition to her own personal and professional development, Melissa is committed to helping other people thrive both inside and outside of the workplace. She actively mentors and empowers team members at GLI/Bulletproof, and is an executive leader and coach for Global Gaming Women. She founded Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) Austin and is a current or past board member of many organizations, including Emerging Leaders in Gaming, Ballet Austin, Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired, the Society of Women Engineers, and the American Society of Civil Engineers. She has been a Junior League volunteer in Austin, Las Vegas, and Reno for 15+ years.

Throughout her career, Melissa has inspired individuals, teams, and entire organizations to think differently about innovation, cybersecurity, leadership, and business development. She was honored as one of the “Emerging Leaders in Gaming: 40 Under 40” and she continues to share her ideas and expertise through publications, podcasts, webinars, and presentations.

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This is the Executive Connect

A show for the new generation of leaders. Join us as we discover unconventional leadership strategies not traditionally associated with executive roles. Our guests include upper-level C-Suite executives charting new ways to grow their organizations, successful entrepreneurs changing the way the world does business, and experts and thought leaders from fields outside of Corporate America that can bring new insights into leadership, prosperity, and personal growth – all while connecting on a human level. No one has all the answers – but by building a community of open-minded and engaged leaders we hope to give you the tools you need to help you find your own path to success.