Hiring Game Changers… Mike Silverstein Interviews Greg Miller, Former SVP Sales & Mktg Medicity

Greg Miller, formerly with Medicity and now the Principal of Storyleaders, shares how he redefines success and offers words of advice for sales professionals in Healthcare IT.

(Mike) Tell me about yourself and the company:

(Greg) For the last 28 years, I’ve been on a journey through a career in sales and marketing. For years, I’d try to demystify what the most influential and successful salespeople and leaders were doing that was so much different than anyone else. Along this journey, I began challenging my own beliefs about what makes great salespeople great. Until I paused to reflect, my definition of successful selling was based on the belief that the decision to “buy” is like problem solving – logical and rational. I taught salespeople for years to ask buyers a series of logic-oriented questions designed to lead the buyer to conclude that my product was the logical, right answer.

I discovered along my journey that many of my basic assumptions were wrong. People are not logical and rational when making a decision to buy. And asking buyers questions was not an effective means of connection or persuasion and often proved to be counterproductive.

What I really learned is that I misinterpreted what the most influential salespeople were actually doing. They weren’t just asking buyers questions; they were establishing emotional connections. They were inspiring other people to follow their beliefs. They were influencing people to change. They were doing things that weren’t being taught in sales training classes and they weren’t doing the things I was preaching and teaching – diagnose the problem and prescribe the solution. This was an especially hard pill for me to swallow, because I invested so much time, money and energy in these logical, process oriented methods over many years. But, I did this because everyone else was doing it and I didn’t know there was a better way, until I literally stumbled upon Storyleaders.

I’ve come out the other end of this journey with a profoundly new understanding of sales effectiveness and have joined Storyleaders to help others transform the way people sell, influence change, develop deeper relationships with customers and find greater meaning in selling.

(Mike) What are the biggest challenges you have experienced in recruiting talent?

(Greg) Let’s be candid – recruiting sales talent is hard! At the end of the day, it’s a crapshoot whether a new hire will be wildly successful or woefully disappointing. Nearly every candidate’s resume cites they have been way over quota every year in previous positions, gone to this “club” or that, received special awards, etc. Sure, they were successful in a previous life, but how would I know if they would really be successful in my organization? As a hiring manager, I never knew and I don’t think anyone does, unless they have some new-age crystal ball (the batteries ran out on my crystal ball years ago!). So, I would do my best to assimilate a candidate’s experience and combine that with my gut-feel about the individual.

Often, a candidate’s direct and specific experience in the exact market lost out to the character of the person. In my most recent experience at Medicity, some of our top performers were those that had no healthcare or IT experience whatsoever. So, I learned to ignore the resume and get to know the person within – their true, authentic self.

(Mike) What is the most important characteristic a sales person needs to have to be successful?

(Greg) I’ve found that the most important characteristics of a successful salesperson or sales leader are those that most people can’t put a name to – they just know it when they see it. But if you close your eyes and think about who the best salesperson or the most influential and inspiring person is that you know, characteristics come to mind like authentic, passionate, transparent, trustworthy, vulnerable, caring, empathic, a great listener and perhaps most importantly, they possess an unwavering belief in why they do what they do.

Many might call those characteristics “touchy feely” but here’s what I know:
-People decide whom to buy from as much as what to buy
-People prefer to do business with people like themselves
-Selling is a social endeavor involving interpersonal relationships
-A person’s effectiveness as a communicator has a direct impact on his or her selling effectiveness
-The best salespeople communicate in a way that gets people to share information about themselves; fosters openness to new ideas; and inspires others to take action (to buy).

People make purchasing decisions for emotional reasons, not logical reasons. People use logic (e.g. features and functions) to rationalize their emotional decision. A salesperson’s ability to make an emotional connection with a buyer is the difference between a sale made and a sale lost.

(Mike) What are the biggest pitfalls sales people fall into?

(Greg) History doesn’t always repeat itself! What I mean is that every company has its own culture, products and methods of doing business. Just because something worked in the past doesn’t mean it will lend itself to success in a new or different company. Being open to new ideas and being flexible are great ways to avoid pitfalls such as this.

(Mike) What are the biggest pitfalls organizations fall into regarding areas of sales and new business developments?

(Greg) Companies and salespeople in these companies, especially those in the IT space, love to talk about their products and all the whiz-bang features, functions, bells and whistles. But, as I mentioned above, the product capabilities aren’t what inspire people to buy. One of the people I find to be most inspiring is Simon Sinek, who in his TED talk reminds me that “people buy why you do things, not what and how you do it.” The product features and functions are the “what’s” and “how’s” and most companies and salespeople never tell the prospect or customer why they do what they do or what they believe. It’s absolutely essential for a company and a salesperson to clearly communicate why they do what they do and what they believe. This will invoke the emotional response and connection they are after and if other people believe what you believe, they’ll buy whatever you’re selling.

Let’s look at Dr. Martin Luther King as an example. How is it possible that he inspired 250,000 people to join him on the Mall in Washington DC to hear his “I have a dream” speech? Well, as Simon Sinek would say, they didn’t come because he said “I have a 12 point plan” and displayed it on a PowerPoint slide.
And more recently, did you see what happened to Research in Motion on the much anticipated day a few weeks ago, when the CEO launched the new Blackberry 10 to the world? Well, let’s just say the market wasn’t impressed with all the new “how’s” and “what’s” and the stock closed down 12% that day and has yet to recover.

If you believe in what you do, tell the world why and those who believe what you believe will buy.

(Mike) How do you build a client’s trust?

(Greg) I believe the old adage “people buy from those they trust” is absolutely true. Many sales leaders reinforce this with their team, but never tell them how to build trust. As salespeople and leaders, we go through lots of sales “process” training – Solution Selling, Conceptual Selling, Mastering the Complex Sale, Customer Centric Selling, SPIN Selling, 9-Boxes, etc. – I’ve had them all! When have you ever gone to the class on how to build trust? Better yet, if we know that being trustworthy is a key characteristic of being successful, what about all the other characteristics that go along with trust like empathy, vulnerability and authenticity? When was the last time you were offered a class on empathy, vulnerability or authenticity? Truth is, never.

And here’s what I know – trust doesn’t just happen and you can’t just tell someone to “go build trust.” For a buyer, it’s an acquired taste. Building trust requires a real, honest, human connection at an emotional level with an individual person – not a company, or a committee. As Brene Brown talks about quite eloquently, the key to building trust is vulnerability. So, if we agree that building trust is key to making a sale, then we need to teach people how to build trust, not tell them to just do it. And, in corporate America, we need to take off our masks and our Superman getup and give our people permission to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is the key to building trust and it is more powerful than Kryptonite.

(Mike) What is one strategy you would recommend to improve the effectiveness of a company’s sales force?

(Greg) The one best strategy I’d recommend to improve sales effectiveness is to forget about all the sales process stuff and to remember that it is not about the “how’s” and the “what’s” of the products. Instead, teach salespeople how to make meaningful connections with buyers. The sales process training du jour has led us to the status quo, where the “80/20 rule” applies in sales. We have taught salespeople how to “diagnose” a prospect’s problem and propose a “solution.” I wish things were that easy because I’d then have a recipe for how to be successful in all aspects of life – here’s my pain, there’s the solution. But, that’s not really how we live our lives or makes decisions.

Empower salespeople with the tools and knowledge about how to make real, authentic, meaningful connections with buyers and amazing things can happen inside and outside your company.

(Mike) What are the unique ways your services can satisfy customer needs?

(Greg) At Storyleaders, we are all about transforming how people sell. In essence, we help our clients teach salespeople what the very best salespeople do and authentically embody the characteristics of the best I described above.

Through years of research, we’ve developed a profoundly new understanding of sales effectiveness: how people get other people to change minds and influence buying decisions. And we’re sharing this understanding in our Storyleaders™ workshops for companies like Oracle, Salesforce.com, Aetna, Medicity, ActiveHealth Management, iTriage and many others inside and outside Healthcare IT.

By demystifying what great salespeople do, we believe we ourselves have learned to better influence change, develop deeper relationships with our customers, and find greater meaning in selling.

To contact Greg Miller:

435-225-3057 (Cell)
435-214-7691 (Office)
Twitter: @StoryLeader_GEM