Each week The Sales Way will be interviewing a thought leader from The Sales Enablement industry on how they recommend organisations deliver more effective sales and business development results. This week, The Sales Way speaks to Elinor Stutz from Smooth Sale on her views and predictions for the Sales Enablement industry.
As part of The Sales Way’s interview series with influential thought leaders in the Sales Enablement space, this week we will be interviewing Elinor Stutz from SmoothSale.net. With a background in community service work and an international bestselling book in her portfolio, Elinor’s story is an incredible one and her views on sales enablement are enlightening.
Please can you tell us a little bit about how you came to work in the world of sales enablement, and what makes sales enablement such a special sector to work in?
This answer is lengthy and highly unusual but made all the difference in my outlook toward life as well as sales enablement.
The power of belief plus sales skills literally saved my life. For ten years, I suffered terrible neck pain from having my car slammed into from behind at a red light. But the doctors did not want to be responsible for surgery. My lucky day came on a rainy night when our car slowly skidded into a lamp pole; ironically on the same street.
I was admitted to Stanford Hospital. That night a halo (metal rod) was hammered into my forehead and secured with screws and bolts. Five pounds of weight were added to my spine to help straighten it out, but it wasn’t enough. A brain surgeon made a surprise visit to the hospital and came to my bedside. He asked if he could perform an experiment on me.
Knowing calculated risk is sometimes a necessity, I agreed. Instantly, relief was felt. Later, he brought in a team of students to learn of his experiment. Trained in reading facial expressions, I could see their eyes just about pop out of their head, upon being told, that instead of the normal 5 pounds being attached to my spine, he attached sixty!
Sales Enablement Vision
That night, prior to surgery, my mind wandered. Suddenly, two visions appeared before me. The first was a picture of my life report card. On the left hand side, I had very high marks, but the right hand side was completely blank. To my complete embarrassment, it was entitled “Community Service”. Up until then, I had been completely occupied raising a family and working to help pay for college. My time had come. I made a solemn pledge, to myself, and the Great Beyond, that should I be able to walk out of the hospital, I would begin giving back to communities far and wide.
Upon providing the oath, the first vision faded away. A second popped up that appeared to be a leader speaking to audiences. My conversation with the Great Beyond continued. From my first experience of public speaking, I had always held a deep desire to become a known speaker. I equivocated saying I would “try” to become that person. A deep stern voice came back to ask, “Do you believe that figure is you?” I waivered saying, “Yes, but the figure appears more male like.”
The voice returned even sterner than before. I was warned this was my last chance upon being asked, “Do you believe you will rise to become that speaker and help communities worldwide?” With every ounce of energy I could gather on that hospital bed, I replied, “YES! I will rise to become that leader and help others the best I may.” In that moment, I knew I would recover.
Medication was administered the next morning, and I was advised I would have 90 seconds to meet the surgeon before falling asleep. I was excited about the experiences of the night before, and couldn’t wait to hear words of encouragement from the surgeon. But to my horror, I instead heard, “Mrs. Stutz, when you wake up you will most likely be paralyzed.” (I learned later that paralysis was my best-case predicted outcome; the other was not making it at all.)
With no time to spare, recalling the two visions and my pledge, I used the sales technique of mirroring. I completely copied the surgeon’s tone of voice, vocabulary, and facial expression. Again, with every ounce of energy remaining in me, I shot back, “Doctor, when I wake up, I fully expect to be well.” The last thing I remember, prior to the medication taking hold, is that of the surgeon literally jumping backwards.
Hours later, the surgeon stood over me to say I am a “walking miracle”. Four days later, I walked out of the hospital. It took six months to fully recover. During that time, I created my first sales training program and then forged toward making good on my solemn oath.
Smooth Sale, a sales training company was born. I had always been a corporate top sales producer, and it was now my turn to teach sales teams and entrepreneurs alike how to achieve improved results. But specific community service became that of teaching job seekers how to use sales techniques to sell themselves on interviews. Years later, the notes of gratitude motivated the writing of the best-selling book, HIRED! How to Use Sales Techniques to Sell Yourself On Interviews.
As far as becoming the speaker, it slowly began with sales training, coaching, and event speaking. Sales enablement proceeded to writing candidly about the steep obstacles I had to overcome in corporate sales. That book became an international best-selling book, Nice Girls DO Get the Sale. Over time, audiences expanded through the writing of a blog, and articles distributed by other outlets. I was an early adapter of social media upon seeing the potential it held. Today I have 40,000 followers on Twitter.
Most importantly, I brushed up speaking skills to become an inspirational speaker, and one who receives standing ovations. I spoke at a conference in Paris, have a seminar filmed for Eduson.TV headquartered in Moscow, and am slated to speak at a Worldwide Conference in 2016.
What has sales enablement produced for me?
First and foremost, knowing I have helped many people achieve success is the greatest reward of all. Secondarily, recognition arrived that would otherwise never have been attained, and confirmation that my vision of sales enablement was and is 100% on target.
- “Top Sales Experts to Follow”, Inc.com, April 2015
- Featured on the Cover of Sales and Service Excellence Magazine, March 2015
- “One of the brightest sales minds to follow on Twitter”
– CEO World Magazine, 2015 and 2014
- 30+ Top Sales Enablement Thought Leaders – Knowledgetree.com
- “Top 100 Most Innovative Sales Blogs”, 2015 – Nowi.SeeIt.com
- Contributed to three Microsoft e-books on social selling; the first:
ABC’s of Social Selling 2015:
- “2015 Best of Business Award” – Small Business Community Assn. 2015
- “Top 25 Sales Influencer” – AllBusiness.com 2014
- “Top 25 Sales Influencer” – Open View Labs 2012
How do you think sales enablement (and industry approaches to sales enablement, training and techniques) has changed over the past twenty years?
It is my belief that social media is a game-changer. It has turned the sales process upside down. Instead of the pursuit, it is easy to now attract the right clientele simply by sharing insights others may put to immediate action. I also believe companies that limit social media usage should rethink that strategy. Instead, they should seriously consider having a team devoted to implementing the better strategies for getting the company brand known, and encourage them working together with the sales division.
Eliminating the competitive mentality to instead work as a team on incorporating social media strategy will significantly increase sales. The tools available for effectively sharing online, includes analyzing which insights are most sought after and re-posted. This provides direction as to what potential clients truly want and what to create next.
Technology has greatly changed the possibilities for sales enablement as well. The first change was to host webinars and include chat features. Today we have Twitter chats that provide tremendous amounts of useful information at enormously high speed. Video is an excellent method for hosting training across continents as well as for coaching clients. The ability to see our clients allows for observing facial expressions to deepen the conversation. Today we each have available the ability to host a radio show, distribute articles to online news sources, and publish blogs that are distributed among corporations and entrepreneurs alike. The evolvement of technology has contributed to free flowing sales enablement.
With so many apps and software tools being created to aid sales people in their selling efforts, what real impact do you think these tools and apps will have on how sales people sell?
The apps and software tools are specifically designed to help sales professionals be better organized and far more efficient. The responsibility is on the salesperson for determining where time is best spent and which tools work to their advantage. For example, Twitter is a great starting point for me to quickly recognize which companies and people are of most interest. The app for the platform allows me to work that system while having to wait either in line or for another to arrive for a meeting. Time is money and apps and tools of this nature contribute to improving the bottom line.
Many industry analysts are talking about the ‘decline of the salesperson’. What role do you think sales people will have in the future, in order to stay relevant?
While it is true that social media brought about attraction sales vs. the traditional sales pursuit, there is a way in which top performing salespeople communicate. This is why it is more important than ever for companies to dissuade the competitive mentality to instead encourage the team effort. Coordinating the goals of each team plus combined training of sales and marketing can only improve results. Sales representatives will still be needed for business development purposes as well as for working towards building a returning and referring clientele.
What key piece of advice would you give to sales managers who are looking to improve their team’s sales results or set up a sales enablement program. Where should they start?
Sales and team enablement both begin with questions, understanding the meaning of replies received, and developing suitable plans to everyone’s satisfaction. Open discussion should take place during team meetings where everyone has an equal voice. Given everyone has a different genetic make-up, each person will hold a different perspective. By gaining the collective wisdom, the sales team as a whole will have a far better chance of becoming successful. For example, readjusting admonishments for poor performance into the inquiry of “How may we help you to achieve improved results?” will be far better received. When the sales manager performs as a team coach, more people dig in to make the sales experience work well.
A similar philosophy is to be held by the sales trainer you consider hiring to help improve the skill set of the team. They should also serve to motivate and inspire the team to do a better job. Before hiring, speak to the trainer as if they are selling to you. Ask questions of them to determine whether they mirror your philosophy for selling to your own clients. When you recognize a match, hire that trainer.
Note from The Sales Way
Elinor obviously has an incredible story about what led her into the world of Sales Enablement, and her point about how there is a special “way in which top performing salespeople communicate” really stood out for us. Whilst it can often be very difficult to pinpoint what makes a good salesperson and what doesn’t, you recognise it instantly when talking to one, by how they communicate.
Also, Elinor’s point about how technology has unleashed sales enablement practices by enabling training and knowledge sharing to be delivered via Twitter chats, video and blogs is something that larger organisations can learn from when thinking about how to reinvent the traditional sales content portal. Instead, why not have a central blog that sales teams can share customer success stories and useful tips on rather than relying solely on company published content?
Find out more about Elinor at http://www.smoothsale.net/