In late 2010, Sean Ellis forever changed the marketing industry when he coined the term “Growth Hacking.” Since then, “Marketing Stacks” have exploded with new capabilities available every day, from web-scraping applications to instant landing pages to automation tools. Growth hackers have now become a standard part of the Silicon Valley startup team.
Now, the sales industry is starting to tip in the same direction. Sales Hacker made some pretty bold predictions for 2015, and many which are coming true. With the rise of sales automation and acceleration technology, the modern “Sales Stacks” are giving reps an unfair advantage over their competition.
If you want to survive, you have to keep up!
I sat down with Miles Austin, a grizzled sales veteran, to get this thoughts on sales. He writes regularly at FillTheFunnel.com and you can follow him on twitter @MilesAustin. In our interview, Miles talked about how sales has changed in the last 25+ years, the current state of the industry, and the future of sales. Most importantly, he shares how you can keep up and have a long, thriving career in sales.
Without further ado, enjoy my conversation with the one and only Miles Austin.
Brandon at PersistIQ: What is sales to you?
Miles Austin: The opportunity to help someone else come to a decision about something they want to buy.
Brandon at PersistIQ: How did you get started in sales in the first place?
Miles: I couldn’t get a real job and someone tricked me into it. Someone told me, “You’re not going to make it buddy so get into sales now.”
All joking aside, in college I had a scholarship for running and I blew out a hamstring, so I had to figure out what I was going to do. I was a waiter at the time, and I watched all these people come into the restaurant driving fancy cars, wearing a three-piece suit and always wining and dining. They were primarily salespeople in the real estate business. I said, “That’s the lifestyle, that’s the way I want my days to look like.” I set out to learn what they were trying to do and then how I could help them accomplish that. So, I got into sales about 30 years ago in real estate.
Then I got introduced accidentally to a computer terminal and I was blown away by the power. You have to remember this is way back in the day before PCs. I started to learn to run reports and figured how it could help me in my real estate business. The short answer is it exploded in my career. I was young, probably 24 or 25, and went from a good sales guy to literally blowing up. I started my own sales company; I became president of the board of realtors; etc. etc. all because I was using the computer terminal that was brand-new.
I knew this stuff was going to change the world, and so I started learning more. Over the next few years I was playing with the early computers, even before the Apple 2. I knew I could help people in business with this new technology.
There’s always something new every day. You cannot learn tech and say, “Got it,” and move on to something else. You got to commit to it, use it, learn it and explore new capabilities. I always wanted to be a coach because I wanted to help people learn and achieve their goals. And in my opinion that’s really what sales is all about. I win if I can help them achieve what their goals are.
I realized it was one of the very few professions that I have ever come across all my life where I could literally go compete on my own and generate income with no limit.
I realized the value of being a lifelong learner, and using technology as the accelerator is key (click to tweet this).
Brandon at PersistIQ: It sounds like you’ve seen a lot change over the years. What are some of the principles of sales that will always be the same?
Miles: Absolutely. In fact I am working on a new book called New Tools, Old Rules. I believe very strongly that the old rules that have been around forever are still applicable.
One of those rules revolves around relationships. Relationships matter. Character matters. I don’t care if you’re inbound or outbound sales, online or off, people value relationships (click to tweet this). It doesn’t have to be face-to-face, even though a lot of my career is based on face-to-face. It’s an ability and willingness to listen. Having empathy for your customer. Understand what they need. With your tools and knowledge, now you go and help them. I believe that selling has always been a matter of convincing, not manipulating. I am going to help that customer come to a decision.
No one loves going and shopping for a new car every day. No one loves buying new computers every day. But when they have a need, a good salesperson will help them understand their choices, and understand the options, and guide them to the right decision for them. Then they have done their job.
Brandon at PersistIQ: what is the role of technology and automation in sales today? Can you automate selling while retaining the human element?
Miles: I think so. I think there is a lot of tedious work that we do in sales. A lot of repetitive work that we do over and over again. Tracking, prospecting, developing my territory. All of those things that are repetitive can be automated. I think the ability though to articulate and understand what it is that they really need-that cannot be automated.
I’ll give you an example. All of us in sales know that you need to follow up, and follow up quickly and consistently. People don’t usually do it very consistently though. There’s always something else going on: A phone call comes in, a LinkedIn message, more emails etc. so were not as responsive and consistent as we should be. That’s where sales and automation (like PersistIQ) can help. One thing can trigger lots of other activities behind the scenes.
There’s a phrase I use called “polluting the pool.” What I mean by that is technology in the hands of someone untrained and doesn’t know how to use the tools appropriately can screw up the sale faster than they could have before. If you’re rude, sloppy, or aggressive, anything uncomfortable to the customer, you can piss off 200 customers in the matter of months or even days (click to tweet this).
Brandon at PersistIQ: Where do you see the future of sales in the next 10 or more years?
Miles: That’s a tough question. I can say this-if you have a commodity product, I could see those sales roles going away. If you have a more complex product there is more of an opportunity. If I need to buy a new Studio microphone and everyone says go buy a yeti, my first step is go to Amazon.com. I type that in, find one priced at $199, buy it from them for $120 and have it in two days. I hit “Order” and I’m done. I don’t need a sales person for that.
But there will always be a need for salespeople. When you look at an industry to create a perceived advantage that’s where the personalization comes in that you cannot automate. I like the example of Harry’s, the men’s razor brand. It should be the biggest commodity of all time. They’re doing millions of dollars of sales and growing like a rocket ship because they’re giving personalized customer service. You enjoy interacting with them. It’s fun. You can’t just go to Costco and buy a 50 pack.
Brandon at PersistIQ: What kind of advice would you give to someone who is just breaking into sales?
Miles: A few things. First find some mentors. They don’t even have to be in your industry. Find some people who are successfully running their career in sales. They need to challenge you, tell you when you’re doing things right, tell you when you’re doing things wrong. It should be a formal structure.
The next thing is they have to be a lifelong learner. You can never stop training, reading, learning, going to seminars, attending webinars, going to events, etc. I think it’s a critical piece because I know many people who have stopped learning, then died on the vine. You have to keep up with the trends and the capabilities of your industry to survive and thrive (click to tweet this).
The third piece is you have got to make a commitment to who you are as a person. You have to maintain the integrity. You have to be honest and make that an unchangeable position in your career. If you do that you are going to be doing really well.
Brandon at PersistIQ: How do you continue your learning? Who else do you follow?
Miles: I have about 40 different blogs I regularly follow and read. For starters, I’ll give you 6 off the top of my head.
- Anthony Iannarino at TheSalesBlog.com
- Mike Weinberg at TheNewSalesCoach.com
- Mark Hunter at TheSalesHunter.com
- John Spence at JohnSpence.com
- Jill Konrath at JillKonrath.com
- Jeb Blount at JebBlount.com
There you have it- wisdom from a wise sales sage. We’ve been stressing the importance of personalization while automating the tedious tasks since our inception. Miles confirms it. Who are we to argue?
In his book The Sales Acceleration Formula, Mark Roberge, Chief Revenue at Hubspot, says, “Technology represents an enormous opportunity for sales acceleration.” He goes on to say modern sales technology enables two opportunities: to sell faster by eliminating mundane tasks and to sell better by capturing context and engaging buyers with the most helpful information at the most helpful time.
It’s a great time to be in sales. The new sales tools are empowering us to work more effectively and get more done. In order to compete, you need to keep up.
Stay tuned for more of the latest in outbound sales best practices and methods.
This post was brought to you by PersistIQ. Our software empowers salespeople to easily convert prospects into a qualified pipeline and create personalized outbound campaigns at scale. See how PersistIQ can help you make your own sales efforts more effective today.