We’re back with another great expert interview; this time we chatted with Mike Leeds, Founder Pro Sales Coaching. He gave us some great insights on his company, why people should leverage outside resources for sales management, and where he sees the industry going in the future.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into this industry
I’m a proud Arizona native that grew up in a small family-owned business. After graduating from ASU, I went to work for AT&T. I was there for over 17 years in several sales and sales management positions before accepting an early retirement offer. My next corporate gig was with Grainger Industrial Supply. During my time in the corporate world, I was also coaching my children’s sports teams. I found a lot of commonality between coaching athletics and coaching sales people. There is tremendous value with focusing on mastering the basic skills, as well as spending time on specific “game-like” scenarios and how to prepare & respond. After some promotions and travel increases with Grainger, I found myself moving further away from my passion of coaching sales people in the field (where the rubber meets the road). I left Grainger after 3 years and launched Pro Sales Coaching where I could leverage my experiences with both small business and larger corporations to increasing sales results for my clients.
When did you start Pro Sales Coaching?
I started the company in 2002. While things have changed over the last 16 years, the need for good sales resources has not.
Why would people want a service like this?
Sales people are competitive, and the good ones like to constantly focus on improve their game. My clients have ranged from sales “rookies” just starting their careers, to seasoned sales “veterans” who’ve been selling longer than me. I like to say that even the world’s greatest athletes have coaches to enhance their performance. Sales is also a very black & white process – you’re either making your sales goals, or you’re not (so it’s relatively easy to measure). However, many people and companies are not using an effective repeatable sales process to achieve these sales goals. So, in addition to increasing revenue opportunities they can save time (to reinvest in more sales activities) by developing and executing an effective sales process.
What’s one of the best success stories you’ve had with Pro Sale Coaching?
One of my best business successes comes from very early in my business – it’s an oldie but a goodie. I met with a company president whose Sales Manager was going to be taking a maternity leave of absence. She was very skeptical of me, and thought I wanted to take her job. I met with her a couple of times, and finally convinced her I didn’t want her job (I just wanted to assist during her leave). I wouldn’t accept the contract until she was totally comfortable with it. Her team was doing very well at the time. As I met with them, we instituted some sales process modifications and ended up bring their sales up an additional 18%. To this day, this Sales Manager brings me in her company a couple of times a year to work with her team in parallel with her efforts. She views me as a partner with her (and her team’s success) – not as a threat.
Why can’t people just handle their sales efforts on their own?
I constantly hear clients and prospects say they value an outside opinion. Sometimes inside an organization, people can be too close to a situation and can’t see the opportunities and challenges ahead of them. As I mainly work with smaller businesses, many of my client managers are responsible for several different departments within their company and are not dedicated just to sales. I assist by giving a totally focused approach to helping their sales efforts. This allows my client managers to focus on other important areas of their business knowing a skilled professional is supporting their sales team.
Where do you see the future of sales going?
For the future of sales, I see companies needing to determine if their product or service is providing a value-added benefit or is it a commodity. If it’s a commodity, then the product or service will be evaluated by price, and it can be sold online (reducing the human connection and associated overhead expenses). Special note here – if you’re just a commodity, you better be the least expensive (since there is no differentiating factor). If your product or service includes value-added benefits, and has a unique value proposition, the personal touch of sales professionals will still be very relevant. This creates a win-win by educating customers and potentially increasing sales results. It’s all about the benefits the end customer will receive, and how it will positively impact their business. If you can’t differentiate your product or service from others, you will be perceived as a commodity.