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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the WOMEN IN SALES Webinar sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales and hosted by Gina Stracuzzi on November 10, 2020. It featured author of Beat the Bots Anita Nielsen.]
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EPISODE 299: Women in Sales: Anita Nielsen Discusses How Focusing on All Aspects of Your Life Can Improve Your Sales Performance
ANITA’S TIP FOR EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Give yourself some time to just ask yourself, “What could I be doing right now to help me be better at sales?” The one skill that I know that most high-performing sales professional have is they’re always good at is asking good discovery questions so that’s one that I’m constantly harping on, if you need an example. So say to yourself, “I need to get better at asking discovery questions so now I’ll go look online or look on LinkedIn for some ideas on how to do that.”
Gina Stracuzzi: I’m really excited about my guest, Anita Nielsen. She is a sales performance coach, she works with individuals and companies and she and I have been having some great conversations around what’s happening to our will to sell. We’re going to have a great conversation today, in the meantime, Anita why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself to the audience?
Anita Nielsen: Thank you, I’m excited to be here today. I have been in and around sales and sales support for just over 20 years and I like to caveat that would stop doing the math in your head. I’ve been just overjoyed to be able to have the privilege of working with sales professionals one on one as a sales performance coach but I also do sales enablement coaching which is more with sales teams, as an embedded coach I go with them on their customer calls. That’s what I’m focused on right now, I absolutely love what I do and I’m just happy to be here today.
Gina Stracuzzi: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what your coaching looks like? Then take us in normal time and then talk to us a little bit about how that has changed.
Anita Nielsen: On a regular basis I like to focus on the whole human, I don’t go in and just focus on sales strategy or sales performance or metrics and numbers, I like to go in and focus on a few different things. What can I do to help increase knowledge? What can I do to help them improve their skills? Last and most important, what you alluded to, what can I do about their will? Will basically means their desire, their motivation, what they need, confidence, those things that actually help them be successful at sales. Typically the ratio is 40 minutes on knowledge and scale, maybe 20 minutes tops on the will and that includes understanding what’s going on in their life and what the backdrop is to whatever their sales context is at that point in time. What’s happened since March, I would say, everyone has been going through a lot so my coaching sessions have shifted a little bit. Basically what we’re looking at now is rather than having this 40-20, I’ve got either a 30-30 or 40-20 the other way around because people do have so many things that they want to talk about. That’s what I’ve been working on and it’s interesting because everyone has been impacted by this pandemic and all the other things going on in our world, it’s just a matter of debris and I think that determines what I focus on with any of my given coaching clients.
Gina Stracuzzi: That leads me to a question, what brings people to you? Let’s talk about individuals for a moment and then we can talk about teams because the whole goal of this webcast is to help people think about how they can improve their sales game. I wanted to have a sales coach on for a really long time because I think sometimes drilling down on an individual basis as to what’s holding you back or what gets in your way, where you feel like you get tripped up all the time could be a really important gate to open. I wonder sometimes if people hesitate to reach out to a professional on their own, they might do it for their life and they might do it for their overall career but the idea of saying, “How can you help me up my game?”, what brings people to a sales coach’s door?
Anita Nielsen: I think it’s this self-awareness that before even the pandemic in modern sales we have to continuously improve. We’re competing with AI computers, bots, all these things so as sales professionals we have to stay sharp in our game and continue to hone our skills. I’m online a lot, I speak on LinkedIn, I do different speaking engagements, I think people hear those types of things and just see that, “This is someone who understands the discipline of sales but also maybe has a style that can help get the best out of me.” That’s what it boils down to, before I became a coach I just am a coach, it took a while for me to go through that journey but coaching is who I am.
When I meet someone I can see almost immediately the potential that they have that they may not even see, so then my goal becomes getting them to see that and figure out how they can improve skills and knowledge to get to the best they can, which we all know is going to change once they get there. To continually improve is the goal and self-awareness is what the trigger is. Once you recognize that there are things you could be doing better, that’s when I think you reach out for help. At least I can say for me when I was earlier on in my career, that’s what led me to get coaching because I knew that I was not having as much success Googling and watching different classes and stuff online. Having that discipline behind what I do to enrich my mind, my skills, that’s where a coach came in handy.
Gina Stracuzzi: What are some of the things that people come to you with? Do they say, “I just choke up on the phone” or, “I’m really not doing well on video”? What are the types of things that they say to you and how do you as a coach start to drill down on if their skill isn’t growing maybe because their will is a little defeated? I would think that that’s particularly true right now so the conversations we’ve had have been around that. When the will is suffering, the skill will suffer and then the sales will suffer so how do you start to unpack that? What are some of the questions that people might ask themselves if they think maybe their will is suffering or their skills are suffering or their sales are suffering? What might they ask themselves?
Anita Nielsen: What I like to ask them right off the bat is, “Tell me about your plight.” That’s a question that I actually coach sales professionals to use with their customers as well because you open it up to them just sharing what is going on with them. I don’t necessarily marrow in on what’s professionally happening, what’s personally happening, etcetera, I let them go through that exercise of, “What is my plight right now?” It’s amazing to me how people really don’t look at that until they ask the question so right off the bat we’re taking a look at the things that are a struggle for them and inevitably, especially right now because we are all in change, it has been the fact that they’re just anxious. There’s so much going on and they’re not confident with their customers right now because of the environment so any number of things.
Coaching as a rule goes back to how well you ask questions and I’m not going to lie, I think a lot of times the questions that we ask as coaches are very similar to what a psychologist would ask. As coaches, at least for me being someone who’s really focused on the whole human, it’s as important to understand the emotions of our clients as it is to understand their skills and what their day to day sales motion is. That’s where the will comes in so I have to ask the questions to see, “Is their will really being impacted by this or is it something different? Is it really that they just don’t have the knowledge for, for example, how to communicate on video? Is that it or is it a fear that communicating on video isn’t going to be enough?” It’s ascertaining the difference and then going back and continuing to ask questions to help them see it and then figure out how to work on it. It’s a process, you start off with this big question and you narrow down into what the root is of that issue or challenge that they indicated in their plight that I asked about.
Gina Stracuzzi: Is there any question that you might pose to the audience to get them to think about whether or not their will is struggling at this point?
Anita Nielsen: I think one other question is, “What am I doing different than what I normally do?” and that’s a really good place to start, that would be one. Ask yourself, “Am I doing anything different?” Inevitably as salespeople we’ve moved a lot more to virtual than we had in the past, a lot of people travel and do face-to-face meetings, it’s foundational to the way that we look at selling. That’s been a huge change so ask, “What am I doing differently?” and then work through that and say, “I’m doing this differently, am I doing it well? Could I be doing it better to align with what my sales context is right now?” That self-searching, that self-awareness is really important and I think unless we’re deliberate about it and have some discipline around it, it’s easy to get caught in the day to day but it’s when you pull back and ask those questions. “Am I where I need to be? What should I be learning? Where are my skills lacking?”
What’s interesting is when I ask one of my coaching clients, “Help me understand what some of your challenges are today.” Once they articulate them, it’s almost seen on video that they’re thinking through, “Okay, I can handle this, this is not insurmountable.” Whereas if you’re going through your day to day and you just feel this weight of all these challenges and issues, you don’t even know how big that monster is until you’ve actually sat down and identified it. I think that’s a pretty good place to start and I think sometimes people look at that monster much bigger than it actually is. Once you do get to what the reality is, I think you can work through it.
Gina Stracuzzi: Those are good questions to ask yourself. I would think this type of reflection, do it even if there’s not a pandemic raging around us to maybe on a quarterly basis say, “Has something changed?” or, “What needs to change and what am I doing right, what am I doing wrong?” and think about it that way. It might help you find your problems before they get too big.
Anita Nielsen: Absolutely, I think that’s what it boils down to. People that sign up for coaching typically they’re every week, every other week depending on what the needs are. I would say if you’re not doing coaching, at a minimum, quarterly sit down and ask yourself, “Where did I grow over the past quarter? Where did I fall behind? What are things that I’m seeing other people around me are doing to great success yet I haven’t adopted?” Critically asking yourself these questions, “How can I do it better?” I’ll give you an example. One of the clients that I work with right now, their sales calls get recorded so I get a transcript of them, I’ve got them now going back and reading that transcript and looking at it with a critical eye and walking through it and saying, “What could I have done better?” The idea is that I come back and I read it and I give them my feedback. Inevitably they come back with far more that they thought they could improve on that I do and that’s the exercise. The fact that when you’re in it, you don’t realize that you’re making these little mistakes or these things that you could be doing better that would completely up your game. I think that’s the beautiful thing about the coaching relationship is you’ve gotten someone to nudge you through it so things that maybe you wouldn’t see, you’re going to be able to see much more clearly. Self-reflection is important.
Gina Stracuzzi: I think the difference in listening to you is there’s someone nurturing, helping you look at it whereas if you go back and look at a video or listen to a recording, all you’re going to do is be critical of yourself but not in a constructive fashion, necessarily and I think that’s probably the difference. It feels like you’ve got a friend at your side that wants to help you so I like that idea.
Anita Nielsen: That’s a trust relationship, I love the way that you just said that, I like to call myself an advocate for sales professionals whether that’s a sales professional that I work with or a team. My job is to figure out what can make them better and I’ll tell you, something for me when I became a coach that was really difficult was I just love people so I’m genuinely attracted to people and wanting to help them. Part of that is you want to be looked as the person that is helpful, you want to be liked in some way so early on in my coaching career I had to learn a lesson about how my need to be accepted and to be liked has to always take the back seat to the need to push one of my clients out of their own way.
I’ve come to call it tough love but sometimes they can do all the reflection in the world but if they’re not getting it, I’m going to jump in and say, “Listen, here’s what you’re not seeing, this is your blind spot. Go ruminate on it, be angry at me for a day or two and then come back.” Once I started to do that I found that when I did, those are the times when the clients that I work with came back and were more grateful for it than anything because no one else had shared that with them. I believe people genuinely do want to improve so when someone comes from a place of compassion and this desire to help you succeed, it’s a lot easier to take a look at that than it is if it’s on some performance report or something, it’s easier to write that off.
Gina Stracuzzi: It’s interesting too, the idea of tough love and our blind spots, nobody wants to see them yet if we’re honest with ourselves, we know they’re there. For myself I can say in all honesty I know what they are and I most days choose to believe that I’ve walked around that and risen above them but the truth is it’s probably not true at all. Let’s talk about that a little bit, when someone has a blind spot that is standing in the way of their success.
Anita Nielsen: Right now is a case in point, right now I think people are anxious and they don’t necessarily know what weight they’re carrying around and because of that, they’ve moved into this mode of, “I just need to survive every day, everything just needs to be fine for me to get through this” or tomorrow is just Groundhog’s Day and how I’m going to get through it. I think that’s a blind spot for people because I look at resilience which is something that I think is so important especially when you go through a crisis, first of all how much resilience you had going into it and how you build that resilience as you go through it. A lot of times when you think of resilience you get this image of the rubber band snapping back and I disagree. If we look today at what resilience looks like, no one’s going to snap back to exactly what they were before this crisis or pandemic, it’s just not possible because the world has changed. It then becomes a choice, “Do I continue on the way that I’ve been going and keep on dreaming about this world that’s never coming back or do I try to figure out how to step up and go through it?” I think that’s so important but I’m finding a lot of people aren’t so when I speak to my sales clients I give them plenty of space to talk about what their challenges are. If I start to see that they’re not talking about the things that are creating anxiety, I start asking questions about it.
I had a conversation with a client the other day and they were so anxious because they’re working at home, so is their significant other, they’ve got kids that are homeschooled and it takes a toll. Any of us listening that’s been through that knows what that looks like and they were just going on about that but they didn’t acknowledge that that was anything that was impacting their day to day in business. At some point after I let them speak about it I said, “If you think that is not impacting how you bring yourself to work and what you do during work every day, you are sorely mistaken.” We’ve talked enough over the past couple years about mindset but this is even more than that. When you have some level of anxiety which is absolutely the product of living in this type of chaos and crisis, it’s a lot more difficult to see clearly and to see your blind spots. What I think resilience is, is being able to step up and step into that crisis with this idea that, “Not only am I not going to let this break me, I’m going to make it help me be better. What am I going to learn through this?” I think it’s funny, I joke about it but when I say things like that I’m not trying to be Oprah, it is really true [laughs]. If you stop and say, “What am I going to do about this pandemic?” and you adopt this idea of, “I’ve got to grow, where are the nooks and crannies that I can look at right now whether it’s because I have more time or because I need to come up with more creative ways to engage with my customer?” Then go work on those things.
I think that there’s a lot of people out there that tend to just take this chaos and let it diminish them in some way or give that chaos permission to make them less than what they typically are. That’s where my tough love absolutely kicks in because I want to say to them, “Acknowledge that you’re dealing with this, now figure out what you can do to not only cope with it, what can you do to flip it around so that when you come out the other end of this, you’re stronger and you will have learned something?” There’s something in psychology they call post-traumatic stress, I think most people have heard of that so once you go through a crisis after that you’re scarred. I think it should be post-traumatic growth and I feel like the people that go in with that thought process are going to come out on the other end much stronger and of course more resilient than those who are just day to day trying to go through it. I don’t know if that answered your question or not but this is something I’m so passionate about right now. There’ve been so many people wasting this opportunity to relook at how they are going through their day to day and how they process that.
Gina Stracuzzi: That was perfect because that’s the name of our discussion, it’s not just to go through it, it’s to grow through it. We have a question from Supriya, she wants to know, “What do individual coaching plan timelines look like and what are the modules being looked at?”
Anita Nielsen: That’s a great question. It’s individual but in general what I like to try to do is a six month, “What are your goals and objectives of the six month period?” when I start to work with someone. That’s enough of a time for them to see the impact of a coaching so I like to get their goals down and then check back at six months. Beyond that, the overall plan is the one year, three year and five year is what I try to look at and then I work backwards. If your goal today is that someday you want to start have your own startup and you’re in sales right now, one of the things that I need to do in the next five years is help you amp up your financial skills, help you figure out better how to lead operations. Those are the intervals that I find I’m most comfortable with but what I’ll tell you is that coaches vary vastly in this and it’s really fluid. The last thing you want to do as a coach is have someone put down an objective and have them not attain it. It takes very careful thought before you put those down, especially the three and the five year because that is so far into the future, but that’s how you do it. You create the objectives in the beginning and then you revisit them at least every six months to a year. You want to look out five years ahead, that’s been what I’ve found is the most comfortable.
Gina Stracuzzi: What you would discuss, let’s just say someone worked with you for six months and their one year goal was to start a company and their five year goal was to do X number of sales. What you would discuss over those six months are the steps that’s going to take to reach that goal?
Anita Nielsen: Yes, big steps. I don’t get into much of the tactical because it’s impossible to know what those tactical steps are that far out, but at a high level as I just mentioned, if you want to start a company then it’s much more than sales. I would look at it as business acumen so the knowledge aspect of it would be, “What does it look like as a business leader, as an entrepreneur?” Then I would go back and I would help to build the knowledge, I would help to build the skill and I would help them with their will. In this situation, the example that you gave, if it is to become somebody who’s going to have their own startup I would then try to figure out how I can help them build their knowledge. I would do some research and I would find some articles that I would share with them and then use to discuss during our sessions. It could be that I know someone who’s working in a startup incubator and I would set up a meeting with that coaching client so they can ask some questions and learn.
Those are the types of things that I’m looking at in terms of knowledge, how do I enrich their base of knowledge, what they need to learn? The second thing would be skill, what are the skills that they need to have in order to be able to be successful for that goal? As I mentioned before, operational efficiency, those types of things have to come into play and what I’ve found with experience is when you’ve got a sales-minded person and they start throwing business, finance and operations are two areas where there’s definitely room for improvement. I help shine a light on that and it’s not the only one so just for the sake of conversation, that’s one of the big ones in this scenario.
Then will, this is the hardest one because I have to ascertain from them, are they putting this goal out there because they truly believe they can achieve it or are they putting it out there because it’s this tie in the sky, it’s nice to have but they haven’t built inside of them yet the confidence to go achieve that goal? I’ll tell you, it’s way more times than I would like it to be is when people maybe think they have a goal but they – I hate to say self-sabotage, but they kind of get in their own way along the way. That’s where the real digging on the coach’s part comes in to figure out, “Where is it that’s making them second-guess themselves?” and work on that. The last part of this all is empowerment, you want to make sure that you’re doing everything you can as a coach to encourage them and empower them and that’s how you address the three areas of knowledge, skill and will. You want to educate them, you want to enable them and you want to empower them, those are the three things that I like to focus on. There’s an honorable mention for things like tools, but I try to stay away from that just because I’m not very good at tools and technology but that’s another area that I would help them figure out if they needed to. It’s a simple framework.
Gina Stracuzzi: We got on the idea of someone starting their own business but what if it was a salesperson whose one year goal was to blow everybody out of the water and be the top salesman but their two-year goal, five-year goal was to get into sales leadership and maybe take a senior VP level? What would you talk to them about?
Anita Nielsen: Going back to the framework, what are the gaps in their knowledge, what are the gaps in their skill and what are the gaps in their will? This is a conversation so I can’t just in one or two sessions understand these things but working with them I get a feel for where their gaps are. For example, a lot of times you have sales professionals that grow into this role of sales leader yet they’ve never really had the ability or the desire to coach people. They’ve been super successful as a salesperson, they’ve knocked out of the park hundreds and thousands of times but they’ve never had to have that one on one impact with a person. Right off the bat I know that their skill set around coaching is something that I’m going to have to help them get at least a foundation for. Otherwise, when they do get to that point they’re going to struggle very quickly in the beginning.
The other thing is knowledge, one other thing that I found that salespeople just do not love is spreadsheets, doing presentations internally about metrics and numbers. Easing them into that thought process that when you take on a role as a sales leader, your world changes, you’re not an individual contributor anymore, you’re measured on how well your team does. That includes you literally measuring how your team is doing and learning from that data and getting insights that then help you coach and grow them. That’s the kind of thing that would have to happen in order to get to that role. Because that’s something that’s within my industry and I understand, it’s very easy for me to block out the steps of knowledge, skill and will that are needed. If it’s not, I’ll do some research, I’ll bring in somebody else that can help and in this situation, they have to see what their gaps are so part of my job then is, “How do I make this sales professional see that they aren’t necessarily somebody who’s focused on being a good coach throughout?” I make it sound direr than it is but you’ve got to have them see that because when you go in, if you’ve been a great salesperson you have this confidence and this invincibility. In order for that not to be shattered once you go into more of a leadership role, I try to prepare them for, “These are the types of things” and start that mindset shift before that role ever even comes. Then there’s the tactical things like in between now and then what are the specific pieces of knowledge that you need? Is there a book that I think that they should read beforehand? Is there a webinar that I think they should check out? Because I’m a voracious reader and I’m always looking out to learn more things that are valuable potentially to my clients, at any given point in time I’ve got something that I can give to them that’ll help them with that skill or the knowledge.
The will part is the nurturing component of it so once they do see that there’s their gap in their skill, they have to feel that it’s a safe environment. I’m not judging them, my job again is to be devoted to their success and that’s based on what they’ve outlined. It’s a lot easier to try to improve yourself when you feel comfortable sharing your shortcomings and this is why often times as a sales leader it is really hard to be a good coach because your sales professional or your team may not be as open with you as they would potentially be with an outside coach. That will part which is essentially the go or no-go aspect of any goal that you have in this realm, that’s something that I think requires that additional, like you said, the friend that’s with you, the angel on your shoulder – or the devil in some cases, they tell me. In any case, that’s what the coaching creates value with.
Gina Stracuzzi: Amy S. wants to know how you would know if you would be a good leader, and you work with people on that.
Anita Nielsen: I love this question, there are a few different ways that I would approach that. Luckily, people have their own gifts and one of mine is that I’m able to see leadership skill in people even if they’re not seeing it themselves and I’ve been – knock on a lot of wood here – very successful with that. Part of it is that intuition and that experience that helps you see those characteristics but then there’s also a very deliberate way to go about it and discipline around it like what are the characteristics that you know a leadership position requires? I walk through those with that individual.
I had one coaching client who wanted to move into a leadership role yet I knew that they struggled with being able to communicate in a manner that didn’t make the other person feel like a dummy, I’m just giving a very honest example. I had to work with them to teach them how to communicate and to soften the edge of their communication so that when they approach their team members or whoever they would lead, they’re doing it from a place of compassion and not assuming that everyone understands what they understand. It’s a technical sales leader that I was working with and he was brilliant but he didn’t recognize that everyone around him wasn’t at his level, so that was a process, being able to recognize that you have to meet your people where they’re at. It’s a very powerful leadership skill to have and that’s the kind of thing that we would work on. There are assessments out there that help you determine where you’re at on that leadership scale and I’ll be honest, I don’t love assessments that much just because I feel like there’s room for error and people can game the system a little bit. That is something that I will reach for if I feel like I’m not getting as much input that I need from just that interaction with my client which typically is never an issue.
Gina Stracuzzi: Amy says thank you. Talk to us a little bit more about people, let’s say that they’re hesitant to work with a coach right now or maybe it’s just not in the cards for them. Are there self-coaching tools that they can use to sit themselves in front of a mirror and walk through some thought processes?
Anita Nielsen: Yes, and the good news is we live in the world of Google so there’s 8,000 different things you could look at for self-improvement out there. What I would say is even if you’re not going to work with a coach, take a look on LinkedIn, for example. See some coaches that are out there talking about what’s going on and what they think is important for sales professionals and then go read it. I’m always on LinkedIn talking about, “This book was really good” or, “You better follow this person” so look for that type of information and then just do it at your own pace. What I will say – this is the hardest part – is a lot of times, part of the thing with coaching and especially with salespeople is the accountability piece of it. I found that salespeople will always put their customer’s need or the need of their job before they’ll put the need of their own development so that always gets put on the back burner.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I give one of my clients homework and they come back and they say they didn’t do it. I can promise you, 95% of them never do that again because they had to come in and say, “I failed at what I committed to do.” That is so powerful, it’s a lot easier to talk yourself out of getting something done than it is to walk up to a coach and say, “I made a commitment and I didn’t complete it.” It’s a very effective way to get your goals. That said, there’s a lot of ways that you can look into that will help you do the same thing, you just have to make sure that you’re really good at holding yourself accountable and don’t back-burner the things that you’re looking at to grow.
Gina Stracuzzi: For women, I think it’s even more so true. We’re already on the back burner when it comes to our own needs so if you add continually educating yourself and adding reflection periods, it’s probably a long list of things that are getting shoved to the back.
Anita Nielsen: That’s right, but it takes a proactive mindset. You have to be able to take a step back and say, “I’m playing the long game here.” The day to day fires obviously I have to get through, but if I don’t invest a little bit of time each day or each week then I’m going to lose at the long game. If I’m not developing right now, six months to a year from now the world will have changed, will I be left behind? I think that’s one of my biggest fears on behalf of my sales professionals today, that’s what my book is about. There’s so much technology out there that’s rendering salespeople obsolete if they’re doing very transactional type sales so it becomes so much more about differentiating yourself on a more human-to-human level. That is something that you need to be learning how to do right now, some people call it soft skills, emotional intelligence, those are the types of things that you have to be looking at right now because in a year, two years, five years you’re going to need those. The only thing that differentiates you from robots is the things that make you uniquely human so you have to look at the long game. I think that takes self-awareness and I think it takes a commitment to do that, that’s where I think coaches are really helpful. When you’re not self-aware, they help you get there. I think that’s why it’s beneficial.
Gina Stracuzzi: Two things come to mind. One, tell me about your book and I was going to ask you about working with sales teams and the sales enablement piece.
Anita Nielsen: The book is really about what I just said, it’s called Beat the Bots and basically it’s about how your humanity can future-proof your sales career. What I go into is a lot of basic psychological concepts, I go into soft skills like how do you show empathy, how do you build rapport, how do you create trust? How do you look at your customer as a whole human being and not someone who’s going to wield the pen that signs your deal? Those types of things are covered in the book and it’s really important because what’s in that book are things that robots cannot do yet. I use robot as the hyperbole and it’s funny, Beat the Bots, but the reality is it could be anything. It could be your competitor, it could be changes in the industry, what’s out there that you need to stay ahead of? That’s what this book talks about and in the environment we’re in right now, I joke about it saying this is an idea that’s time has come. Because people are doing so much more virtually, everyone’s feeling a little bit isolated better now than it was earlier on but people crave connection, it’s human, it’s how we’re wired. You cannot minimize the power of that so what are you doing now in this virtual world to ensure that you’re building that connection? That’s the theme of the book.
Gina Stracuzzi: Cindy asks where she can get this.
Anita Nielsen: The book is on Amazon, it’s called Beat the Bots and you can just do Anita Nielsen and it’ll pop up, thank you.
On working with sales teams, to your other question, Gina is I go and I work with a sales leader and a lot of times, sales leaders will have their own gaps in their skill set and their knowledge. That manifests itself directly within the sales team so part of what I do is interesting how it ends up working out but it’s twofold. One is helping them determine the gaps in their sales team and then developing the education and the enablement and the empowerment programs to help get them there. In the meantime, I’m astute enough to know that the reason that those gaps are there is because there’s something missing at the leadership level so I also can coach that sales leader sometimes completely unbeknownst to them, I will admit.
It becomes a really powerful relationship because they can see that I’m in their corner and their salespeople’s corner. I think that’s one of those places where I really thrive and I’ve found that sometimes even after my sales team work is done, that project is done, I’ll continue on with sales leaders and I’ll work with them regardless of where the go. They’ve figured out that it’s a safe place where I can help them grow and then show them the results in their team without it being judgy or in a way that isn’t going to resonate well with them or make them uncomfortable. Again, back to the safe space and that compassion.
Gina Stracuzzi: Can you leave the audience with one or two tips to really charge up their will and by extension their skills in the coming days of this week?
Anita Nielsen: Just this week, give yourself some time. Maybe it’s at one morning having your cup of coffee, turn off all the devices and just ask yourself, “What could I be doing right now to help me be better when I come out the other end?” And all the things that we’ve talked about would be helpful. One that I’ll tell you that’s really powerful in general from a sales standpoint, I found that the high performing sales professionals, the one skill that I know that they’re almost always good at is asking good discovery questions so that’s one that I’m constantly harping on. Maybe that’s it, if you need an example. That’s your example of, “I need to get better at asking discovery questions so now I’ll go look online, look on LinkedIn for some ideas on how to do that.” I guarantee there’s hundreds of eBooks out there, one that I’ve even done on discovery questions. Just take a look at that and make it part of your discipline.
The other thing is if you can’t do something like that, I found that there’s apps like Blinkist, for example which gives you bite-size pieces of different books and gets the key main ideas, that’s very easy to be able to listen to when you’re getting ready in the morning and brushing your teeth, etcetera. That’s something that’s really small but can have a much bigger impact because it is growing your knowledge. That’s one thing to do this week and the other thing is maybe sit down and give yourself a plan with some real goals even for just the six months knowing that we’re still going through this. Where do I need to be from a skill or knowledge or will standpoint in six months to ensure that I continue to be successful? It’s evolution and I’ll tell you right now, women especially, we are famous for helping our children, our significant others, our husbands, wives, customers thrive and grow but we are crap at doing it for ourselves [laughs] and I am absolutely guilty of that as well. You can be a coach but you’re still a human so you need to sit down and say, “Take a step back, what do I need?” then work from there.
It’s tough to give you a real solid tip because it is so dependent on who you are in your context but like almost everything else in sales, it starts with just asking those really good questions. Where am I today? Am I going in a direction? Am I getting close to a direction? What do I want to be and how do I let what’s going on right now make me better? Some salespeople have taken classes on how to be better on video, how to be more articulate, conference calls are happening via video and that’s something that they’ve grown. That’s a skill set they never had before and actually probably never thought they would want before but they’ve done it. Those types of questions, what are some things that I’m having to do right now that I can get much better at? Then next time god forbid something happens, I’m ready and I don’t have to go through that again.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo