TALKING SALES 144: “The best advice for new salespeople”

new-salesperson3   “Number 1 tip for new salespeople – develop commercial conversation skills” – Discussion with John Smibert.

TB Pic 300x300 Sept 2015Most people new to sales assume their role is to promote their great products and services to their customers.  The result is they are inclined to talk about their product and the benefits and try to convince the customer they would be better off if they implemented the product.

In this discussion, sales thought leader and top trainer, Tony Bonanno, agrees with me that this is diametrically the wrong approach.

So I asked Tony what people new to sales need to keep top of mind.

I felt his answer was spot on. Tony provided some gems that, if you adopt them, will fast track your sales career. View or read the interview below for the answer.  


Tony Bonanno is a thought leader in sales management, sales growth and behavioural change

See more of the ‘TALKING SALES’ series here


John: Hello, I’ve got Tony Bonanno with me again – welcome back, Tony!

Tony: Thank you, John!

John: Tony, you’re a wise old sales guy, and there’s a lot of new salespeople coming in that need to learn. Every year we’ve got a good crop of young salespeople coming into the various industries that sell B2B, and I thought it would be great to ask you for advice for a young, new salesperson. What are the key things they need to think about?

Tony: That’s a good question. In recent years I’ve done quite a bit of work with graduates who are going into graduate programmes and into sales programmes as a result, and so I’m fairly familiar with the way some of the younger and newer salespeople think and act.

John: Right.

Tony: They were probably hired because they had the ability to communicate well.

new-salesperson4John: The gift of the gab.

Tony: Yes, that’s what we used to call it, the gift of the gab. Unfortunately, gift of the gab isn’t the essence of what makes a good salesperson, but it is an important component, and we often find newer salespeople being so passionate about their product or their service that they get out there and they talk to people about it – and they talk to people about it – and they talk some more, and they talk some more, and they talk some more.

John: “Enough, enough!” [laughs]

Tony: “Stop!” exactly. So, for those people who are newer in the sales environment, I would counsel them to remember if they were good a communicator, it was probably because they were a good listener, and in the sales world the ability to listen, particularly when you ask a great question, the ability to listen is paramount, because there’s no point in asking a great question if you’re not going to listen to the response.

John: And the answer to one question leads to another question and it leads to another question; it doesn’t lead to an answer and “Let me tell you about something.” then.

Tony: Precisely. It’s not ‘tit for tat’, it’s very simply follow a process that helps you engage with your customer carefully, methodically and purposefully. And on that word “purposefully”, the first thing that they should be looking to understand from their potential client is to understand the purpose that they are trying to achieve. It may be that they’re trying to solve some pain; whatever it is, it’s fundamentally about purpose.

John: They might be looking for opportunities to grow their business, whatever it is.

Tony: Exactly. And when you understand the purpose, then I would say you need to do three things to do it.

  1. You need to find out how important that particular issue is,
  2. You need to understand the consequences, both plus and minus consequences, what happens if this particular issue was solved or not solved, and
  3. You have to quantify it, you have to put some value and some measurables on it.

new-salesperson5John: Right.

Tony: So, having a discussion which allows you to identify those things about every purpose or piece of pain that you uncover puts some depth, and it switches the conversation from one where you are talking about your product or service to one where you are exploring how your product or service might best apply, and when you’ve gone through that process, then you’re in a better place to make a decision about, “What will I recommend, how will I recommend it, and how can I show return for that?”

John: I remember in one of our earlier discussions I asked you the question what is the one key thing that salespeople should develop as a key skill, and you said ‘discovery’. So really, this is related in that, you need to work with a customer to ‘discover’, and that needs having great listening skills, bringing insight to the table, and then using that insight to draw the customer out and to really understand the customer in-depth.

Tony: Yes. The simplest way I can put it, John is ask great questions, shut up, listen.

John: Yes. And when you’ve listened, the next thing you say is another question in most cases.

Tony: Precisely, precisely.

John: Okay. I think that’s great advice – look forward to the next time we have a discussion!

Tony: Thanks, John!


More interviews with Tony Bonanno:


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John leads three related organisations, Custell, Strategic Selling Group and Sales Masterminds APAC. These help B2B selling organisations, who recognise the need to transform their sales capability, to respond to the tsunami of change that is starting to wash over us all. He works with people who recognise that to survive they must more strategically support their customer in their buying journey - and understand that they must become specialists in the customer's domain in order to be of value to them. He also helps sales teams build differentiated personal brands and leverage the digital and social worlds to engage to create trust and value.

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