EPISODE 029: Brian Beveridge Leverages Analytical and Engineering Acumen to Achieve Strategic Sales Success
After a 30-year career in various sales and marketing management positions across a multitude of commercial industry segments, Brian Beveridge launched a strategic consulting practice focused on optimizing revenue growth where sales and marketing leaders intersect. Immediately prior to that, Brian managed the GE account at SiriusDecisions, a leading global research, advisory and consulting firm, during GE’s historic transformation into a digital industrial company. He’s a trusted adviser to C-level executives.
Brian is passionate about applying sales and marketing best practices to deliver a value proposition aligned to a buyer’s needs in order to improve conversion, revenue outcomes, and the customer experience. Beveridge Consulting advises early-stage in midmarket business-to-business companies on how to best align and optimize sales and marketing strategies, resources, and execution in order to increase revenue through modern, repeatable, and measurable actions.
Find Brian on LinkedIn!
Fred Diamond: Brian, what do you sell today and what excites you about that?
Brian Beveridge: I advise sales and marketing leaders in the B2B space. I work with them to align and optimize their strategies around resources and execution. This helps them maximize their ROI in the investments that they’re making in those functional areas.
Fred Diamond: So how’d you get into sales as a career?
Brian Beveridge: When I got out of business school I was offered a position as a sales executive trainee at a manufacturing company. For three years I worked from the shipping dock to the front office learning every nuance of that business. Then they put me out on the street in sales after three years.
Fred Diamond: What kind of industry was that?
Brian Beveridge: That was in the printing industry.
Fred Diamond: What are some of the lessons you learned from some of your first few sales jobs?
Brian Beveridge: I think the lessons were quickly learned. I would say that becoming a subject-matter expert in my trade became one of the first top objectives of my career. The second thing was certainly understanding that there are two customers. You have an internal customer ,which is equally as important as your external customer. And I think that training, reading, observing, practicing, and repeating constantly, because things change, is important.
In addition to that I think you need to demonstrate to your co-workers that you’re dedicated to helping them succeed and you’re also dedicated to improving your skills to make the company better and to make yourself better.
Fred Diamond: Tell us what you’re an expert in. What is your specific area of brilliance?
Brian Beveridge: Fred, I would say that one of the things that I think defines who I am and how I go about business is that I’m a highly analytical person. I have a very engineering mindset and just love to solve problems. Just ask my wife: On any given day I’ve got four or five projects around the house that are in various stages of completion. Some are complex. Some are not. But truly understanding my landscape and doing the research necessary to finish up the problem and solve it is kind of a core component of mine that I bring to the table.
But I think most important is being able to take very complex problems and solve them and then translate them into the audience that needs to hear about them has been one of my strengths in my sales career.
Fred Diamond: Give us some examples on how you’ve translated that engineering mindset into the sales process.
Brian Beveridge: I think it’s important, going back to that internal and external customer piece, that no matter what I hear from a prospect or a customer, I need to translate that back into the language that we understand as a solution provider. By doing that I then get the attention from my internal resources to apply towards building that solution internally, because I’m not an expert in everything. I’ve got people inside to help me with that, but until I translate it into their language, I’m not really helping create a solution.
Fred Diamond: Tell us about an impactful sales career mentor and how they impacted your career.
Brian Beveridge: I think this goes back to the very first VP of sales position I had in my career. I was hired by two investment bankers, ex-Harvard gentlemen. They knew nothing about our industry and knew probably less about sales, but they knew a lot about business. They knew a lot about financing businesses and running the mechanics of a business. What was interesting was that they released me and allowed me to call all my shots. They put me on a very short rope—they had me reporting on a weekly basis, which was absurd in my world at that time. I was used to maybe a monthly or a quarterly reporting.
They put me on a weekly reporting status, and every decision I made had to align with their first 100-day plan for the organization. Those things taught me that aligning the sales strategy and objectives and goals with the business strategy was key to success down the road. That became a really huge part of how I looked at all sales objectives and goals in my career going forward.
Fred Diamond: That’s very impactful, understanding the process and understanding everything that’s related to sales. It’s not just about the close; it’s about providing value, understanding what to do through the process. All the great sales game changers that we’ve interviewed, they all talk about viewing holistically… viewing the entire process, how you are providing value through the entire process. What are two of the biggest challenges you see today that you are facing as a sales leader?
Brian Beveridge: One of them is that there’s a constant year-over-year-growth expectation in all organizations today, and the time-to-market expectations are just overwhelming for these leaders. And so one of the things that they focus on is how do they get this done and still meet quota. They’re always constantly thinking about what’s the retraining I need to do, how do I attract and how do I keep the best people in the game while also trying to meet these high-pressure demands.
Fred Diamond: I want to go back a second or two. In the introduction, we talked about how, when you were at SiriusDecisions, you worked with GE in one of the greatest digital transformations, if you will. Talk a little bit about that sales process. What were some of the things that you had to do along the way to help GE become more successful, taking this behemoth of a company that had to transform itself? Can you give us a little more of that story?
Brian Beveridge: Sure, I’d love to, Fred. Being in such a large organization, having responsibility across all of their business units and their P&Ls, what I found was that some of their business units were more advanced than others. And so, where we were helping somebody at a certain stage of adoption on technologies or techniques or interactive digitalization and whatever you want to call it, we found that there were other people to the right and to the left. We would take some of these outcomes and these outputs and bring it into the other dimension of the other business unit, and we would say, “Here’s what we were able to do at the healthcare division, and here’s what you might want to be trying in industrial solutions or in critical power or power and water.”
The good news was that as we were moving through we could go through the proof of concept and show that a pilot worked and show that we had actually launched a full-blown adoption of a particular strategy or a technology. Then we’d apply it somewhere else in the organization in a different business unit, in a different marketplace or industry segment.
Fred Diamond: I want to ask you another question. It’s a little bit off the list here. But you talk about how you worked with organizations to help marketing and sales apply best practices. In 2004, there was a famous article, “We Need to End the War Between Sales and Marketing.” Where are we with that, and what are some of the things that you’re doing to help bring sales and marketing together?
Brian Beveridge: I think that there is a considerable room for improvement.. The technology industry is pretty far advanced with a lot of sales and marketing alignment. They’ve been doing it the longest. They’ve had the technology in place more than anyone. They do a pretty good job of it.
I think what you find today is that there are slow adopters. The maturity of competency in this area and sales and marketing guys being good friends on business perspective varies quite a bit. As we get into industrial companies, manufacturing companies, these are the slowest adopters, but they are coming on fast. It may have taken a technology company 10 years to make that transition to a really good aligned sales and marketing strategy. The new guys are doing it in 18 months. It’s flourishing in the midmarkets right now. I think it’s a great place for everyone to be, but there’s always room for improvement.
Fred Diamond: A lot of the sales game changers we’ve spoken to talk about how sales professionals need to be better at marketing. Do you see it? Has it really gotten closer? Are we going to get ever to the point where it’s no longer a problem or does it need to be done internally and driven elsewhere?
Brian Beveridge: I think that it’s steadily improving, but I don’t think there’s ever going to be a perfect marriage, only because there are different objectives on both sides of that aisle, so to speak. But it’s interesting. I held positions back in the day where I was a VP of sales and marketing. It was always “and marketing.” I had the marketing department underneath me, and I ran both. I think the day is going to come where maybe those two functions are merged a little bit differently and they become one and the same.
Some organizations have tried that term you used, “smarketing,” which I think is pretty clever. I wish I had come up with it. It’s kind of clever because it allows people to think about what would it be like if we were in fact connected at the hip and we were one function within an organization acting as one. I think that could be a game changer for some types of organizations. Some are way too big for it, but others might be the right size that would fit for them.
Fred Diamond: What’s the number-one specific sales success or win from your career that you’re most proud of?
Brian Beveridge: I was hired to be a VP of sales for a specific product solution in a financial data-analytics company. I was there only a few months when they promoted me to an SVP with P&L responsibility over the division. All of a sudden, my responsibilities changed exponentially, but also I had the ability to now put on a product-management hat. Not only was I in charge of and keeping order for sales expectations, I now was developing a product. I also had the technology folks underneath me. It was the most exciting time because we were forging a new software in an industry where we were truly meeting an unmet need… It has to have been the most exciting time of my career.
Fred Diamond: Did you ever question being in sales? Was there ever a moment, Brian Beveridge, when you said to yourself “It’s too hard” or “It’s just not for me”?
Brian Beveridge: Fred, every time my paycheck dipped below the previous month, it was a time to reflect. I truly don’t believe in luck. I know that people are in the right place at the right time, but they can’t necessarily repeat that and they become like one-hit wonders. I didn’t want to have to deal with that, so I decided I would build foundations of things that I would do every day, every week, every month in order to constantly remind myself that training is a professional sport in itself, no matter if you’re in sales or you’re out on a tennis court. I think that sales is a “turtle versus hare” type of game.
I believe that there are plenty of turtles out there and there are plenty of rabbits out there, and all of them can have success. But over the long term I think you’re going to find that the turtle will outperform the hare. If you’re a quick-fix-win guy, you may have a rabbit mentality, but I would tell you that setting up foundations and figuring out a way to ride through the inconsistencies in sales is going to help your career.
Fred Diamond: Brian, what’s the most important thing you want to get across to junior selling professionals to help them improve their careers?
Brian Beveridge: I wish it was just one thing. I think it’s many things. I’m going to share with you a couple of the many things that I think really make a person successful in sales.
I think the first thing is that it’s all about relationships. No matter what anyone tells you, you can have all the technology and all the connectivity you want, but it’s the relationship, the human-to-human that will make a difference. I think the other piece of that is learning and teaching yourself to become a trusted adviser to your customers. If you become a trusted adviser, your sales will increase. They will have you engage in a way that your sales will increase.
The other thing is to pay very close attention to your activities, core versus noncore sales activities. It crushes people. People who focus on noncore selling activities for 75% of their day don’t hit quota. They don’t survive. So make sure you take the noncore activities and you do them before work, after work. Noncore belongs in nonbusiness hours. That’s something I learned a long time ago.
The other piece of this is customer service and customer experience, as we call it today. Remember that every single time you interact with a client, you want them to be potentially a customer for life. You have no idea where you’re going to be later in life, in your career, and no idea where they’re going to be. You can run across these people again, and they can make a huge difference and an impact in your career as well as theirs, so keep that in mind, and make sure you deliver all the way through and make it a great customer experience.
Find a sales mentor. No matter where you end up, go to and find the best salespeople. Ask them what differentiates them from their competitors and also figure out what they do in order to get ready for the game, where do they spend their time in order to upscale themselves.
And then, overprepare. I can’t tell you enough about overpreparing. I believe in it. Research, research, research. Seek to understand the customer’s business and then their needs. Understanding their needs doesn’t do you any good unless you have context to what is their business. Make sure you spend the time there. Also, understand the customer’s role and their MBOs, because you’re not just dealing with the problem they’re solving for their company. You’re also dealing with maybe something that they want to do from a career perspective, and they’re going to drive a decision based upon where they’re headed with their career. Be cognizant of that. That’s important.
I think bringing something of value is important. I think you’ve probably heard this from a lot of people. That’s critical if you want to be a valuable and trusted adviser. Bring something of value to the table.
Here’s something I learned probably in the later years of my career: role-play. Role-playing, I think, is an underused strategy and tactic for salespeople to get better and better at dealing with interaction with prospects and customers, especially prospects. I think that if you can find some other salespeople and do role-playing, you don’t [have to] do the postmortem; you’re going to have it right there. You’re going to be able to solve all of the problems that come up during those interactions, so do a lot of that.
Always be networking. Never go to sleep on that, no matter what. If you’re fishing, the guy in the boat next to you could be the CEO of a company, so keep that in mind.
Stay put. I see a lot of people jumping around in sales today. They spend one year, one and a half years somewhere, and then they get frustrated and they go, “I’m not going to hit my number.” You’re going to have to push through this at some point in your career. Push through it where it makes sense. Understand that there are going to be challenges. There is no greener grass everywhere. Grass gets brown in the winter. Grass is not always green. Keep that in mind.
The other piece I’d say is know your database. Understand how to segment your customers and your prospects like nobody else. Do not rely on anyone else to do that for you necessarily. Take some input from marketing and from your sales ops people, but you need to be an expert at that.
Fred Diamond: A lot of great tips there. It comes down to taking your career more seriously and really viewing this as a profession. Earlier you mentioned you’re a big tennis fan and that Federer is your favorite tennis player. Before he even got on the court he had practiced hundreds of thousands of hours; a lot of times, sales professionals wing it. They practice in front of the customer. The idea of the role-play, the idea of practice, the idea of think through what you’re trying to achieve with the customer, keeps coming through time and time again in all the interviews we’ve done with the sales game changers. Thanks for those bits of advice. Brian Beveridge, what are some of the things you do to stay fresh and to sharpen your saw?
Brian Beveridge: Fred, I truly believe in continuous improvement. It’s not been easy at times. When things are going well, you think you don’t need to improve. I would tell you the same goes in my tennis game. When I’m winning all the time, I feel like I don’t need to practice, but it’s actually not true at all, because before long you’ll find yourself in a place where you’d need to be adapting new technology, the new tools. That goes on or off the court and the boardroom, so continue to improve, continue to learn. Look for opportunities to be the best at utilizing the technology that’s put in front of you by your organization.
I also think that social media feeds and reading all about other successful people in your industry or thought leaders is an important way to stay connected and understand evolution. Evolution today is like 10 times what it was 5, 10 years ago, so keep in mind that if you were to go on a vacation for a month, when you come back there could be huge changes in your industry segment. I mean that. I believe that’s happening.
Fred Diamond: What’s a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success?
Brian Beveridge: Fred, one of my biggest initiatives right now is certifications. It’s probably because so many are now available online. It’s not like you have to go and sit in a classroom for two or three days to get certified in something. I’m spending a lot of time in the tools of my trade. I’m getting certified in sales and marketing automation tools and technologies, and I’m going to continue to do that because they continue to evolve. The better I am at understanding how people are deploying that to the marketplace, the better I am able to help them in my consulting practice, and I think it works well for salespeople as well.
Fred Diamond: Brian, sales is hard. People don’t return your calls or your emails. Why have you continued? What is it about sales as a career that keeps you going?
Brian Beveridge: Fred, I think in the beginning of my career when people asked me what motivates me, if you didn’t say money you weren’t going to get hired into a sales position. They want guys that are hungry. They want guys—or women for that matter, pardon me—they want people who are focused on obtaining material items through compensation. That makes for a passionate salesperson. That’s okay. But I think it’s more than that. I get bored easy. Sales is the promise of constant change. Every day you wake up there’s something different in front of you. I told you earlier I love to solve problems. Well, that’s what a salesperson is doing. Every single day, everything I do is solving someone else’s problems—sometimes my own but most of the time it’s my clients. I think it’s uncapped income potential, and if that’s not attractive enough to you, then certainly solving problems could work. Those things together really make for a nice objective and are why I continued to stay in the field. I’m also extremely competitive. I’m passionate about winning, and I also hate to lose.
Fred Diamond: Give us one final thought for the sales game changers on how they can take their careers in sales to the next level.
Brian Beveridge: I started thinking about this some time ago, and I said, “Sales is like training for combat.” It’s grueling, and it’s hard work, and it’s not for everyone. You’re trained in order to accomplish your objectives and truly to avoid being killed. That’s combat training—figuratively speaking, of course. But take the same approach and enter into every conversation with the appropriate training and research and reconnaissance that they do in the military. That’s necessary to succeed and that will set up a foundation for you. That’s pretty important.
Now, the other piece of this is there’s a mindset that will go a long way in delivering success in your career. I try to leave little to chance. As I said earlier, I don’t believe in luck, but early in my career there was a sales manager who said to me, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” I believe in that definition. I’ve used that as, Okay, that’s what’s going to drive me to be prepared, so when there’s an opportunity I can take advantage of it and I can drive it home to a success.