Richard Harris needs no introduction to anyone with even a passing interest in sales. A seasoned SaaS sales leader, writer, and inside sales trainer, he is an advisor with 20+ years of experience and counts among his clients Google, Visa, Zoom, and Salesforce. The founder of The Harris Consulting Group, Richard also has his podcast series – Surf and Sales – where he shares sales best practices from his real-world life and job experiences.
In our conversation with Richard as part of Hippo’s Limitless Sales and Marketing podcast series, we dive into the modern-day skills that every salesperson should have for a successful career in sales.
Q: How would you say the sales landscape has changed from, say, five years ago to now? What changes have you been seeing in the sales landscape?
Richard: There are a couple of things.
Technology continues to be growing and helping. Whether it is ZoomInfo, Sales Loft, or Hippo Video, all those things you guys do are changing and helping. It also means that the sales rep has to be a little more tech-savvy in some worlds. It doesn’t mean that the veteran salesperson who has been doing it for 25 years has to change everything that they’ve been doing. But it does mean the new people coming in need to have a better understanding.
I also think, social has changed, and I don’t mean going out and tweeting and all that stuff. It means that every rep should have their own brand. Meaning you should be promoting yourself in different ways. I focus primarily on Twitter and LinkedIn. Some people have moved to TikTok and Instagram and those kinds of places.
But you are your brand, and it makes you more desirable as a candidate for when you promote or when you apply to roles. It also makes you more desirable as someone to work with when you’re using that to reach out to prospects, and they do their research. I think those are the primary ones off the top of my head.
Q: Trust is one of the most essential factors in building prospect relationships. What are some of the ways salespeople can build this trust in the initial conversations?
Richard: So, I teach a thing called a ‘respect contract’ where I encourage people to just sort of say, “Hey, I’ve got us down for 30 minutes. Does that still work?” And they’ll say yes. Great. And then I tell people to say hey, by the way, in 25 minutes, I’m going to call a timeout so we can see where we are. There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of the meeting and someone going, “Oh yeah. We’re at the end of the meeting. Yeah. Email me next week. I’ll give you an answer.” It’s never going to h appen.
And then being able to say to them, “Look, I think we’re both here for the same reasons. You know, you’re going to ask me questions, I’m going to ask you questions, and we’re going to figure out if this is a fit and if this works great. If it’s not, tell me, and likewise, I’ll tell you if I can’t do it, and I’ll even point you in the right direction.
So being willing to tell them where else they should go is vital in my mind. The key piece is to then transition out of this into…so what made you want to take this call today? This is a tactic I call the respect contract because it’s not about forcing them into any kind of conversation.
It’s about me respecting myself and my time and theirs and putting us both on an even playing field and allowing me to take total control without being a “general,” without being a jerk about it. And obviously, they have time to ask me questions and take it where they want, but I will make sure I maintain control of my process. So, to me, that’s the high level. It’s called the respect contract. That’s what I teach.
Q: What does the future of sales and salespeople look like? In today’s uncertain climate, do you think it’s going to stay the same, or is it going to evolve into something else?
Richard: You’re going to need to get rid of the “maybes” in your pipeline. I’ve been teaching this forever, but I think particularly now. Nothing will exhaust the spirit and will of a salesperson more than chasing maybes. If you have any deal in your pipeline that’s more than two times the average sales cycle, you should just kill it.
Stop using your pipeline as a lead list. It’s not; it’s your pipeline. Now people get nervous because they’re going to be like, oh my God. Then I’m only going to have four deals in my pipeline, and my management’s going to see it. Believe me, management already knows it; don’t kid yourself. So, clean it out. Now, part of that is it also relieves you of a lot of pressure. Okay, these four deals are the ones I’m working on. I need to go get more deals, and you don’t have to keep looking at the negativity in your pipeline. And that’s the challenge.
So, a lot of people don’t do that. They don’t see it that way. They don’t like to use the technology in that way, but that’s what we should do. It’s no different now than it was before, but I think it’s more important now because people need to know what the accuracy of the forecast is. I think forecast accuracy is going to continue to be a big piece. We’ve seen that growth in the last five years from different tools out there.
I think that the differentiation in how you do business is going to matter as much as what you do. I need people to fall in trust with me. How I conduct myself during the conversation matters and will get me shortlisted. It doesn’t mean I’m going to win more, but I’m going to get shortlisted. And then, I do end up winning more, but I need to get to the shortlist first. People will choose you not only because of the solutions and the pains you solve but also because of how you conduct business — not just what you do for your business, but how you conduct your business. I win so many business deals that way.
Q: What are some books and podcasts you would recommend to aspiring sales leaders?
Richard: Keep educating yourself, keep reading something, and keep listening to something. Whether it’s a podcast or a book, or just a blog, or an article, try to educate yourself at least two times a week on something.
So for me, I’m obviously a big fan of the Surf and Sales podcast that I do with Scott. I’m a fan of your podcast. John Barrows, I think, puts out great content. And Morgan Ingram puts out great content, as does Keenan.
I’m cautious about what I read and listen to these days because I’m working on my book, and I don’t want to accidentally appropriate something from somebody else!For more unique insights on the importance of personalization in communication, virtual selling, and more, listen to the entire podcast here.