For those of you who have been following my blog for some time, you’ve probably noticed that I often shine a critical light on sales professionals because I unfortunately receive a number of complaints from friends, colleagues and business partners about their encounters with salespersons. But why do I blog about that? Because I am on a mission to elevate the reputation of sales and its practitioners. Sales people are often the first introduction to a company and wise leaders choose them carefully. Smart companies also support their sales staff with training and guidance and they provide an environment where sales professionals feel comfortable with a consultative sales approach.
Spotlight on Doug Kushla
Well, today, I want to put somebody in the spotlight who left a positive impression on one of my business associates. A sales person who truly embraces solution-selling. His name is Doug Kushla and he is a Senior Sales Manager at Travelzoo.
According to their website Travelzoo (NASDAQ: TZOO) is, and I quote, “the most trusted publisher of travel, entertainment and local deals. Our team researches, evaluates and tests thousands of deals to find those with true value. We recommend only deals whose accuracy and availability we can confirm. With over 25 million subscribers, we are the largest publisher of deals on the Internet.”
Well, that’s quite a bold statement, but apparently they not only Walk the Walk, they also Talk the Talk as my friend Jane Coloccia experienced. Jane is the president of JC Communications LLC, (www.jccommunicationsllc.com) an award-winning marketing communications consultancy and is one of the people who shares sales stories with me. Many of them poor examples of sales people just trying to convince rather than listening to her needs. Jane is a very accomplished woman and is a type A personality with no tolerance for BS. She provides outstanding work and expects the same from people around her. Her tolerance for sales pitches is low. She just can’t understand why sales people think they need to be pushy. Neither can I, quite frankly.
Even Jane was pleasantly surprised
A couple of weeks ago, Jane sent me an e-mail with the following content:
Just had to tell you….you know how I “LOVE” salespeople, but I’ve had to talk to a bunch lately because I am putting together a marketing plan for a potential client that involves advertising, … I just got off the phone with a guy from Travelzoo who was truly amazing. I guess it is the consultative sales model — he asked about what I was trying to accomplish, I told him which of their products I was interested in, and he walked me through how it worked from start to finish…. When I asked him questions he gave me honest answers — even if it didn’t shed the most positive light on results, etc. Wow it was like a breath of fresh air in terms of dealing with a salesperson. He was charming, informative, funny, and incredibly helpful. And it’s sad that he really stood out from the crowd. Then again, it wasn’t a cold call — I called the company ….. But (it was) really a very positive educational experience. He never hard sold me — just left it for my decision…
Well, I was intrigued. It’s so easy to be critical, but we should really take the time to acknowledge good service, whether it’s during the sales process or in customer service. So Jane’s e-mail triggered an idea to write a column in which I ask sales people and managers about “their world”. Hopefully, this will provide some fun and interesting insights, stories for us to learn from but also some food for thought.
He’s been in sales since 2003. Here are some of the questions I asked and his responses.
Tell us a little bit about your sales world. What do you sell, who are your audiences?
“I work for Travelzoo and my vertical is the non hotel business. Travelzoo is a travel brand that speaks to travel audiences. I came from Budget Travel Magazine, so my background is in publishing. On a day to day basis, I talk to the “Janes” of the world. She was pitching a client for South American content. Travelzoo has a sales rep and a producer who talk to clients about their goals. This helps because we do the research first and it really works for the client. Really truly a solution sale. It’s a great way to vet our clients to we can determine if it really is a fit.”
What is your favorite thing about being in sales?
“It’s the fact that I can get out of the office and visit with clients. I just wouldn’t want to be at a desk all day.”
What do you dislike the most about sales?
(Laughing) “The quarterly crunch. The constant question whether I will make my commission.”
As you know, sales is very much about overcoming objections. Do you remember a time where you were successful in overcoming an obstacle?
“Yes. Our theme is to work with the client to determine their campaign’s objective before we sign the paperwork. Sometimes we can’t predict the future. Sometimes clients understand that, but sometimes they don’t. We had a client who didn’t perform that well. The client was disappointed in the campaign outcome that we designed. The client was complaining because there weren’t a lot of leads, and there were no sales. Here’s the thing. Our clients need to convert the leads into bookings, and that part is out of my control. This particular client claimed that they didn’t receive 200 leads, but only 20. A claim that I couldn’t disprove, but my attempt was to shift the conversation and to make the client think about conversion of leads, rather than number of leads. So I suggested that we work with the number 20, but let’s focus on the bookings. My question to the client was why they didn’t have any bookings. When we designed the campaign, the client had assured me that they usually convert 35% of the leads into bookings. So, I was trying to shift the spotlight so the client would understand that this is a partnership and while we can provide leads, we cannot guarantee bookings because we don’t have control over the conversion. My gentle suggestion was that maybe the problem might be lying somewhere else. That maybe, and just maybe there is an operational issue that causes no bookings in spite of leads. Here is the thing, all of our leads are price point driven. We qualify a consumer every step of the way. By the time the consumer gets to the client we have a very qualified lead on our hands. So we provide quality leads, but the conversion is up to them.”
Do you think that sales people should be pushy? If no, why not?
“Absolutely not. I started at Starcom Worldwide, an agency in Chicago, so I have a different perspective because I was on the other side of the spectrum. It’s the used car sales feeling, nobody wants to go through that experience. There needs to be a dialogue. I just feel that sales people being pushy happens when management pushes too much. While you want to be in control of a meeting or call, that doesn’t mean you should be pushy.”
Why do you think sales people have a bad reputation at times ?
“It really does boil down to sales people not knowing the other side of sales, people who have always been in sales and hardly were on the receiving end of sales probably don’t know what it feels like. So many sales reps are not reading their clients right, or are not understanding projections. So many sales people overpromise to management because they don’t know the sales cycle so they think the probability of closing is higher than it actually is. This then creates a skewed pipeline and the pressure is on.”
What is the one lesson you learned during your sales career?
“Manage your management, but also manage yourself well. Do I understand my own pipeline? Am I setting myself up for failure? Managing expectations is key to sales.
Consultative Selling in a Nutshell
In closing, I just want to say that Doug touched on all the areas that I usually address. He knows that he has to manage expectations. Not only with the prospect but also with his management.
He is personable, easy to talk to, he listens, asks question and he understands that not every promising prospect will turn into closed business. In the case of my friend, Jane, he won’t be able to close a sale as her client decided to choose a different route. But to Doug it doesn’t matter, because he understands that sometimes it’s just not a fit, just as he mentioned in the interview. Rather than trying to pursue, where there is nothing to purse he did what all good sales people should do. He left a good impression and helped elevate the reputation of sales and its practitioners.
Consultative Sales Academy, MD Business Solutions, LLC, & Monika D’Agostino are not affiliated with, nor endorse Travelzoo. The Travelzoo logo is property of Travelzoo, Inc, which holds all copyrights and trademark rights.Tags: consultative sales, consultative sales approach, consultative selling, Travelzoo