Improv classes and no-phone time: 6 salespeople share tips for self improvement

by Liz Warren
August 15, 2018

Ambition and self motivation are at the core of every successful salesperson. Many are constantly searching for ways they can improve their listening skills, make more deals and maintain stronger relationships.

We caught up with some members of NYC tech’s sales teams to understand their strategies for self improvement, and they suggested quite a few innovative ways to stay sharp.

 

Compass
image via facebook

From professional development budgets to sales lessons over wine, real estate company Compass encourages employees to keep their skills sharp while still having a good time. Strategic Growth Manager Courtney Krulis discussed the ways her company supports her.

 

How does your company’s culture encourage employees to improve their skills?

We live in a dynamic and fast-changing world, and learning from reality and from others is one of the best things we can spend our time doing. As such, Compass provides a professional development budget to encourage employees to improve their skills through training courses. Our team also has continuous internal training on Wine Wednesdays where we learn from each other and collaborate over wine!

 

How do you work on your skills independently?

I love to read motivational books and attend talks. Some of my favorite books include “Never Split the Difference” and “Ninja Selling.”

 

What are your tips for being a better salesperson?

Be genuine. No one likes to be sold to. It's about building relationships and trust, and figuring out how to create value.

 

Custora
imag via custora

Marketing tech startup Custora prioritizes continued learning for its sales team — but not in the ways you would think. Enterprise Sales Director Mary Grace Tifft explained the importance of learning from other departments to improve your skills.

 

How does your company’s culture encourage employees to improve their skills?

Custora offers an incredibly open environment that encourages folks to cultivate skills and interests outside of their department. Within sales itself, we meet regularly with other groups to discuss new industry trends, interesting market observations and creative ways to solve the challenges our customers face. We also have a ton of opportunities to work on skills that are not typically associated with our job function. During Custorathon, our own creative take on a hackathon, we are tasked with devising and completing any Custora-focused project that speaks to us.

 

How do you work on your skills independently?

I've actually been looking into stand-up classes as both a cool parlor trick and a way to improve my presentation and improv skills.  

 

What are your tips for being a better salesperson?

Apart from confidence and negotiation tactics, I think the best salespeople are ones who completely understand the unique challenges their prospects face and can develop actionable solutions based on experiences with similar customers. I make an effort to talk to as many people in the industry as I can, regardless of whether or not they are actively buying Custora technology.

 

Sevenrooms
image via sevenrooms

Senior Manager of Business Development Alexa Parisella is the longest tenured sales representative at SevenRooms, which provides solutions for the hospitality industry. She noted that some of the best sales lessons are learned outside of the office.

 

How does your company’s culture encourage employees to improve their skills?

As a result of our full transparency across all aspects of our business, we are set up for success by being able to listen, learn and engage as our product changes and our company evolves. We believe in investing heavily in our people, from weekly learning sessions on industry and product-specific topics, to keeping the sales team on their toes with pitch tests and in-person trainings. Additionally, we shadow our clients’ host stands and back offices on a frequent basis, which allows all team members to see SevenRooms in action.

 

How do you work on your skills independently?

The best way I hone my skills, especially working in the hospitality industry, is by dining out frequently and paying attention to what's going on behind the scenes at a restaurant. You'd be amazed at how much you can pick up on just by seeing what's going on at the host stand, paying attention to pain points and witnessing how service is flowing on a busy night. Our platform is designed to streamline restaurant operations, so being on the guest side helps me formulate real-life examples to use in my pitches.

 

What are your tips for being a better salesperson?

My favorite saying is, "Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard." I truly believe the hallmark of being a good salesperson is consistency. While it’s true everyone goes through the occasional sales slump, it’s important to keep your work ethic. If you’re putting in the hours while staying passionate about your company’s mission and the product you're selling, you're going to be successful.

 

Simon Data
image via simon data

At Simon Data, mentorship is a top priority, and the company uses — you guessed it — data to find out what works for each individual. Head of Sales Dylan William Flye explains how the team continuously improves their skills.

 

How does your company’s culture encourage employees to improve their skills?

One of our core values at Simon Data is mentorship. At a rapid-growth startup where there's no playbook, I've always found mentorship to be incredibly valuable. We spend a great deal of time at Simon thinking critically about the opportunities and challenges affecting our growth, and we involve cross-functional groups in these conversations.

 

How do you work on your skills independently?

I try to spend time outside of my day-to-day speaking with leaders at other companies as well as folks in target demographic to understand how they view the world. One common challenge that plagues sales organizations is myopia accompanied by frustration as to why clients aren't buying a solution. It's hard to hone your pitch unless you understand how other businesses and other people view solving the same problem.

 

What are your tips for being a better salesperson?

When selling business-changing solutions to big businesses with long decision cycles that span multi functions, the biggest challenge is organizational inertia. The most effective salespeople I admire are able to effectively recruit mobilizers within the client's business who feel the benefits of the outcome as much as the salesperson. It takes a buying group to make a decision and these decisions generally happen in conversations to which the salesperson doesn't have access, so these relationships and consensus building are absolutely key.

 

Bizzabo
imagae via bizzabo

Account Executive Dan Flynn credits events platform Bizzabo for helping him help himself. The company provides books, speakers and internal mentorship for salespeople looking to improve their skills. He explained how he’s been able to take advantage of these offerings.

 

How does your company’s culture encourage employees to improve their skills?

The company brings in guest speakers to our quarterly off-sites and constantly provides us with amazing reading material. We also have a program called “Bizzaknowledge”, where the company closes the office 30 minutes early on a Friday to let a Bizzaboer educate the company on a topic they’re passionate about. Topics have included mindfulness meditation, improv, productivity hacks, voting registration and the benefits of positive thinking.

 

How do you work on your skills independently?

I've been trying to dedicate about 25 percent of my mindless "check my phone" time to reading a book or listening to a podcast. It's amazing how much time I waste scrolling through Instagram or Bleacher Report when I could take just take a part of it and pick up a few extra tips.

 

What are your tips for being a better salesperson?

My biggest piece of advice is to know your product and know your industry like the back of your hand. Use Owler to stay up-to-date on the competition and meet with other departments to know all facets of your company. You never know when that little bit of extra knowledge is going to be the thing that closes a deal.

 

Unacast
image via unacast

Big data company Unacast emphasizes the importance of ownership, and as such, employees feel a sense of responsibility to be the best they can be in their role. Senior Director of Sales Eric Fine discussed the ways he’s been able to improve his skills on his own and with the company’s help.

 

How does your company’s culture encourage employees to improve their skills?

Unacast has an incredibly encouraging and collaborative environment that inspires their employees to be open and support each other. Our “Be Your Own CEO” philosophy gives everybody the opportunity to be a leader — not just in your own department, but across the entire organization.  

 

How do you work on your skills independently?

I am always looking to grow, both professionally and personally. Every conversation is an opportunity to test ideas and get feedback. There is always a new biography to read, a sales workshop to learn from or a social event to attend.

 

What are your tips for being a better salesperson?

My best advice is to listen and really understand your prospect’s needs. Ask questions and do your homework. You can never be over prepared.

 

 

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