Barbara Giamanco: Women in Sales Talk Productivity

In this series, we delve into the personal and professional dimension of female thought leaders from the world of high tech sales to explore their views on productivity and sales effectiveness.

Cien connected with Barbara Giamanco, CEO of Social Centered Selling, co-author of The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media and host of The Razor’s Edge and Conversations with Women in Sales podcasts, for the 7th installment on our Women in Sales Talk Productivity Series. Barbara is globally recognized as a leader in sales, being consistently featured in the Top 25 Influential Leaders in Sales, a Top 25 Sales Influencer on Twitter and recognized by Tenfold as one of the world’s Top 65 Women Business Influencers.


Barbara, where are you from, where do you live and what do you enjoying doing outside work?

I live in Atlanta, GA or the ATL as we like to call it. Outside of work, my passion is all things travel, art, music, food, cooking (I’m obsessed with cooking shows), reading, the outdoors and hanging out with my dog, Lily.


Why did you choose a career in sales and what is it that you like about sales?

I’ve been in sales for over 25 years. I don’t know if I chose sales or if sales chose me. I know that once I got into it, I loved it. I have never been an 8 to 5 kind of gal. I love the freedom and flexibility of being in sales. I love that no two days are ever the same. I learn something new every day, and I truly enjoy helping people come up with solutions to their business challenges. And, of course, the earning potential is a big positive. Working hard and putting in the extra effort meant that I could earn well beyond someone in a typical salaried role.


What was your first sales job?

My first B2B sales job in corporate America was as an inside sales rep for a company known at the time as Micro D. The company would later become Ingram Micro. That first role taught me a lot about listening and clear communication. When you do not have the benefit of visual clues, you must be present and pay attention to all sorts of buying cues. You need to pick up on what is not being said, as much as what is being said, and you can only do that if you let go of your agenda. If your focus is on what you will say next or how you will pitch what you sell, you will miss huge opportunities. That experience was a great starting point for me in selling.


What factors contributed to your success?

I was fortunate to have great managers throughout my corporate career. That’s important. If you don’t work for a manager that is supportive and helping your grow in your career, you may want to consider moving on.

Perhaps one of the biggest factors of my success is that I love people and genuinely care about helping them solve their business problems. Yes, we all have quotas to achieve but I never did – or do – anything just to hit quota. I’m a big believer in “doing no harm”. Buyers careers can be on the line when they are making buying decisions, especially when big bucks are being spent. That is something that I always keep in mind. I always strive to do right by people even if it meant I sometimes had to direct them to another company who had the solution they needed. Furthermore, the key is being a good listener and communicator. Personal attributes like being self-motivated, a constant learner, honest, operating with integrity, resilient, flexible and adaptable are also important.


Has sales changed in the last 5 years? If so, how?

Sales has absolutely changed in the past 5-years. One major change is in buyer behavior. They can, and do, easily block emails and phone calls from salespeople they don’t know. Buyers tune out the pitch, nor do they necessarily care about your demo at first, which is something a lot of salespeople and their managers still don’t seem to understand.

Back in the day, buyers had to rely on salespeople to educate them about available products and services that might help them solve their business challenges. Sellers became trained in the art of product pitches. These days, buyers can do a lot of self-education about what is available, which leads them to create short lists of companies and people they want to talk too. When they do engage with sellers, they want to work with salespeople who understand their business, bring fresh business insights to the table and deliver real quantifiable value. The gap, or opportunity, for the majority of salespeople today is to ditch the pitch and shift to a more consultative, problem solving type of salesperson. The reps who continue to lead with the pitch usually don’t get very far. That doesn’t mean you should assume the buyer knows everything they need to know about your product but you should not assume they are know nothing.

Another big thing to shake up sales is social media. It provides another opportunity for us to engage but that engagement must be done in such a way as to demonstrate to buyers that you are different from your competitors. If you try to use social media to pitch your products because email and phone calls are not working, you harm yourself in two ways. One, you will likely never get another chance to get that buyer to pay attention to you. And two, you may do harm to your personal brand and the brand of your company.


What are the advantages or disadvantages of being a woman in sales, if any?

One of the best things about being in sales is that numbers are the great equalizer. If you do your job well, build solid customer relationships and consistently outperform expectations, leadership takes notice. At least that was true for me in my corporate career, and I was working in the male dominated tech industry. Yes, I was in the minority but I didn’t let that concern me. I built great relationships with my male counterparts, I made sure my bosses never had to be concerned about the job getting done, I didn’t sit on the sidelines waiting to be asked for my opinion, I looked for opportunities to help improve the business, volunteered to take on special projects, and I did my job well. That worked for me.


In your opinion, how can sales teams increase their productivity and effectiveness?

Simplify your sales processes and the technologies that support them. Over the last few years, I think sales organizations have complicated things with too many pieces of software in their tech stack. How can any rep be effective using that many different pieces of software? They can’t. I think fewer pieces of technology combined with technology that reduces admin time for salespeople is critical. For example, I use Hubspot CRM, and I love that when a prospect schedules a meeting with me for the first time using my meeting link, a CRM record is automatically created for me. And since Hubspot is connected to my email, email communications are being automatically recorded. Using templates for specific aspects of my sales process allows me to scale communications and outreach quickly but in a personalized way. These are the sorts of things that give sellers back the time they need to be selling. That’s their job. Their job isn’t to be an admin or a slave to technology that may be slowing down the sales process.

Reps can be much more effective if they stop looking for short cuts or chasing anyone with a pulse. Be willing to get to a fast no, so you are not wasting time with prospects who will likely never buy from you. Timing is also key. Many reps are not as effective as they could be at moving opportunities along the buying continuum or getting them to close because they try to skip steps or push for commitments too soon in the process.


Where do sales leaders often fall short?

Right now, we still have many sales leaders who were successful selling as individual contributors before the internet and social networks became both prevalent and integral to how buyers consume information. As a result, reps keep defaulting to product pitches or doing demos when they get a buyer to meet with them. They are being trained to sell this way and that way is outdated.

Another BIG problem is that leadership too often defaults to telling reps to “do more” when numbers are not where they need to be. More activity that already isn’t working is not the answer to revenue and pipeline challenges. There is an opportunity step back and evaluate more carefully the quality of the activity. Are sellers focused on the right type of buyer, are they communicating the right kind of value message, do they have the right sales skills, etc.

The other area of opportunity is in onboarding, ongoing training and coaching. Many companies don’t have a solid sales onboarding program, and if they do, it simply focuses on teaching reps about the features and benefits of the product or how to do demo’s. Training must be thought of as a process not a one-time event. Checking off the box that you did a sales kick-off twice a year and gave reps some training doesn’t cut it. Coaching, daily, is also an area of opportunity. Though sales leaders know coaching is important, many also admit that they don’t make the time to do it.


How do you see artificial intelligence impacting the way sales teams work?

Everything from reducing admin cycles trying to schedule meetings or make more of the right phone calls to predicting what solutions to upsell/cross sell and surfacing insights about when the buyer is ready to move forward in the buying cycle are some of the benefits of AI. AI can also help surface the right kind of information from across the web that sellers can use in their early engagement efforts.

For sales managers, it will remove guesswork and optimism from the forecasting process. I believe AI will also be able to help managers surface coaching opportunities or skills improvement opportunities for their reps. Right now, when I’ve seen AI being implemented it is on some of the basic stuff like scheduling meetings but now I think it is time to be thinking about how AI can impact selling much more strategically. The possibilities are endless.


What advice would you offer to other women to be successful in B2B sales?

Be who you are. Even if you are in a male dominated industry, don’t focus on that being a disadvantage. Focus on being a consistent sales superstar and leadership will notice. Make sure you don’t just do a great job but also look for opportunities to be proactive in taking on special projects or making suggestions about how the business can improve. These are the sorts of things that lead to you advancing in your career. Finally, my motto is learn to earn. Always look for ways to improve your skills. Don’t wait for your employer to invest in you. Invest in your own success. Ongoing learning means you will always be ahead of the pack and remain relevant in your field.


What does your sales stack look like?

I use a combination of Hubspot (CRM), Office 365, LinkedIn and Twitter for most of my sales process. For content creation, I blog, write articles, contribute to ebooks, deliver webinars and run two podcasts – Conversations with Women in Sales and The Razor’s Edge. For keeping organized with projects, I’m a big fan of Trello.


If you weren’t in B2B sales, what would you be doing professionally?

I’d be traveling the world writing about travel and food. My side hobby is my website


What should the sales community look out for from you in 2018?

I’m doing more media work these days, which gives me the opportunity to be part of much bigger sales conversations. I do that through my podcasts and through corporate engagements when companies hire me to host their webinars. Being able to interview leaders from all over the world on current and future trends helps me continue to learn, expose all salespeople to new sales insights, be a voice, an evangelist and an advocate for our sales profession.


About Barbara Giamanco

Barbara Giamanco is CEO of Social Centered Selling. She is globally recognized as a leader in Sales. She’s the co-author of The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media, a keynote speaker, sales and social media coach, corporate webcast host to top technology companies and the host of the popular Razor’s Edge and Conversations with Women in Sales podcasts. Barbara is consistently a Top 25 Influential Leader in Sales, a Top 25 Sales Influencer on Twitter, one of Top Sales World’s Top 50 Sales and Marketing Influencers and recognized by Tenfold as one of the world’s Top 65 Women Business Influencers.


You can connect with Barbara on Linkedin and Twitter.


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