This month’s Featured Company Q&A is with Walt Zeglinski, CEO and Chief Client Advocate, for Integrity Solutions, who shares with us his focus for the coming year and strategies for sales success.
What do you enjoy most about working for Integrity Solutions?
I never get tired of hearing our clients say how the behaviors of Integrity’s employees is aligned with the positive values represented in our solutions.
What unique quality separates Integrity Solutions from your competitors?
There are many choices in the market if an organization hopes to improve their sales or service teams. But after working in five of these companies in our industry, I have come to believe that the best of these deliver on the promise to change individual behaviors so they can achieve predictable business results. Unfortunately, it almost never happens. I think it’s the “dirty little secret” in the training industry.
We are all coming off of a challenging year, how has Integrity Solutions handled it?
I think we have handled it as well as can be expected. Like most firms we have tied to hold down our costs while finding creative ways to expand our reach within the market.
One advantage we have in these turbulent economic times is the type of solutions we offer. With sagging revenue and customer loyalty, sales and service performance are two areas that get lots of attention.
What would you like salesjournal.com readers to know about Integrity Solutions?
We get results because we don’t take shortcuts. There is no magic pill for improving performance. Just like any other field of practice, sales, service and management behaviors take time to develop and only a disciplined process can insure results. For over 40 years we have engaged with our clients to develop customer-centric cultures through customized implementation strategies that insure they maximize the talents of their people.
What specific goals, including those related to your specific position within the company, have you established for 2010?
As a CEO I am ultimately responsible for our return on assets. This would include the typical success measures like operating profit and net income. Because of the uncertainty in the economy, we have been pretty conservative on revenue projections. The one unique goal I have set is that I am focusing on developing new alliance partners that can achieve $250K in sales by the end of the year.
What creative strategies have you used to encourage/influence your sales team?
I am not sure that we have been all that creative, but we meet more frequently than in the past and discuss best practices. We have always believed in providing lots of performance feedback and we have kicked it up a notch in 2010. We have also provided some alternative solutions as door openers for our sales people with clients that don’t have the budget for our more comprehensive solutions. It keeps our prospects engaged and helps our sales people to make progress and some commissions until the economy bounces back.
What is your favorite methodology in sales training and/or business enhancement?
I do believe that there are many very good sales methodologies. Unfortunately most of them are embedded in one or two day training programs that focus on cognitive understanding with a little skill practice thrown in. As you already know our solutions are based on a change process methodology that is implemented in six to nine weeks and works on the whole person – not only skills but also attitudes, values and beliefs.
Are there any books, sales related or leadership related, that you use as a guide and/or would recommend?
I try to keep up on what’s current. Recently we have developed the Integrity Selection process and I enjoyed read the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell as part of my development process. As for sales books, the one I go back to most is “Rethinking the Sales Force”, written by a former boss and mentor Neil Rackham, who is best known for creating SPIN Selling. After reading “Rethinking the Sales Force”, I began to look at sales through a totally different prism. It made me realize that the sole role of sales person was to create value for customers – not only through their products but also through their actions. In the era of the internet, with the proliferation of information, merely asking good questions and making benefit statements was not enough.
Do you have a mentor that you contribute your leadership success to? Do you feel it is important to have a mentor?
As I have shared Neil Rackham was one of my mentors in terms of “thought leadership”. However I think my leadership success is probably the by-product of learning a little bit from lots of individuals over the years. Probably the most impactful leader that I have known is my father, who never held a positive of authority in the business world. He always demanded personal accountability while openly remaining sensitivity to our individual needs.
I believe that mentors are critical to success but it’s interesting how few there are in each of our lives. In my speeches I will frequently ask groups to raise their hands if they have had a coach/mentor I their lives. Everyone seems to raise their hand. Then I ask who has two… three… and so on. There are few hands up by the time I hit five. It really is a shame that there aren’t more mentors in the world.
What sales advice do you have to offer our readers?
Work hard to create value in every customer interaction. One of the things I do to keep myself committed to this philosophy is to ask myself “how will I create value” before a sales call and “if the client would have paid for the call” after leaving it. It takes preparation and intellectual curiosity to consistently sell in this manner, but it makes the role of a sales professional so much more rewarding.
What characteristics do you look for in a sales professional?
I believe that the best sales people communicate with their prospects and customers the way they want to buy. They adopt an interpersonal style that works best for the behavior style of the individual. They know that there is no “one size fits all” approach to selling. It also helps if they have an innate intellectual curiosity as they seek to better understand not only the needs of their customers, but also their root cause. I have found that the best sales people have the ability to take fragments of information and integrate them into meaningful insights that help their customers to see their problems differently. This is how they create unique value in their sales process.
Do you feel a sales professional must have experience in the industry they are selling in order to be successful?
I think it depends on the sophistication of the new industry’s products and the uniqueness of how decisions get made. This doesn’t mean that they can’t learn over time but I have found that many organizations don’t have the patience to wait until a sales person adapts to these changes. However there is two important “red flags”. Sales people that sell transactional products find it difficult to deal with the longer selling cycles in a complex sales process. And sales people that have sold the “bells and whistles” of a physical product find it difficult to deal with the subtleties of a conceptual value proposition like consulting services. (selling extrinsic value vs. intrinsic value).
If an individual or the team as a whole is not meeting goals, what is your approach to nurture this?
The difficulty with assessing under performance is that its root cause can be the by-product of many things. But I think there is a sequence to what needs to be assessed. First, a manager must look in the mirror and determine if they have done the right things. This includes assessing how clearly they have set expectations and if the goals set are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) goals. Next a manager must determine if you have provided adequate resources and tools to achieve success and whether they have provided the coaching required to maximize performance. After a manager feels confident that they have done their part, they can look at the training and development needs of the individual and what personal challenges may be barriers to their success. If all this fails it may be best to move the individual into another role or help them to move on to a new opportunity elsewhere.
How much time do you need to know if a new sales hire will “make it”? What are some indicators/behaviors?
To me, this is less about the numbers than it is about doing the right things. We have all seen sales people struggle in a given month or quarter and bounce back to have a great year. Sales are subject to factors often beyond the control of a sales person so I look at their pipelines and their commitment to activities. The latter is critical because it is a leading indicator for failure. In my experience it is indicative of a misalignment in their view of selling, view of their sales abilities or even their values – all precursors to failure. It doesn’t matter how much talent an individual seems to have. If these issues prevent them from tapping into their achievement drive