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SalesPOP! Top Contributor Spotlight: Meridith Elliott Powell

On what she loves about SalesPOP and sales itself, why sales managers must collaborate with salespeople on quotas, selling in today’s (very different) economy, her own favorite buying experience, and her top selling lesson for 2018.

Meridith loves her status as a SalesPOP! top contributor for a multitude of reasons, including how SalesPOP! is put together. “SalesPOP! is a smart, cutting-edge and highly useful multi-media channel that in my opinion is the ‘go to’ place to get top-notch and highly valuable information about sales,” she says.

“I love being a contributor for so many reasons, including the fact that it keeps me on my toes. Because the articles and interviews you find at SalesPOP! are thought-provoking and extremely pragmatic, I find as a contributor this calls me to a higher level of personal performance when I am contributing content. I have to stay on the leading edge of sales.”

Through SalesPOP! Meridith has also been able to collaborate with others in her league. “I love the opportunities the team at SalesPop create for collaboration with other top sales professionals,” she comments. “I find myself on panels and sharing time with people I both admire, and whose work I actually follow.

“Lastly, it is fun! The team at SalesPop is just fantastic–smart, funny and so easy to work with. As a contributor, I feel like I am part of a team providing truly valuable information to professionals worldwide. Not sure it gets much better than that!”

Love of Sales

As one might guess from the success of her career, Meridith has a deep passion for sales–but it wasn’t always that way. She says, “I do think sales is the most important and most valuable skill that any professional can have. However, like a lot of professionals I came to this idea slowly, and kicking and screaming. I spent the first five years of my professional life trying to get out of selling.

“I just had a bad impression of what I thought sales was–pushy, aggressive and overly goal-focused. It was not until I found myself in a position where I needed to make more money and sales was my only option that I gave it a shot.”

When she finally did dive into sales, Meridith realized she had come home. “That was it! Once I figured out that sales was the ‘perfect storm,’ I was hooked. I discovered that as a sales professional I am able to build relationships, learn about businesses and organizations, and use my creative problem-solving skills to help customers reach their goals. And oh yeah, I got paid–well–to do it!

“I not only became passionate about sales for my own career, but I also started my own campaign to get others to learn to love to sell. If you can sell, and sell well, you will always have a job. You will have so much more control over your career, and you will have opportunity after opportunity to make a difference.

“In today’s marketplace, everyone needs to be in sales. The better you are at sales, the more security you will have, the more value you can contribute to your company, and the stronger relationships you will build with customers. Again, sales is the ‘perfect storm!’”

Quota Collaboration

In her work as a leading business strategist, Meridith places a lot of focus on the need for collaboration on sales quotas between salespeople and sales managers. We asked her why this is so important.

“This question almost makes me laugh out loud, because I think that in all the years that I was in corporate sales we never had quota collaboration,” she answers. “Sales management told us as sales professionals what our quotas were, and when we needed to achieve them. And every year it was a struggle, and every year we rarely, if ever, achieved them.”

With quotas, it’s a matter of creation, Meridith says. “People support what they help create–period. Sales managers have a much better chance of achieving their goals and quotas if they work with sales reps when setting individual and team goals.

“I have found in my career as a sales manager that the more trust and and faith I put in my sales reps, the higher production I get. Collaboration ensures sales rep have a voice and are listened to, and with that sales managers will get sales teams who takes ownership and responsibility for achieving their quotas.”

Economic Changes Affect Today’s Selling

The selling landscape today has changed radically from that of a decade ago, and Meridith details why that is.

“Selling has changed so much in the last ten years, and in fact I think it is just about ten years ago that these major shifts started to happen,” she relates. “Prior to 2008, we were still living in an economy that just seemed to get better and just keep improving. Then everything began to shift when Lehman Brothers collapsed in September of that year. Lehman Brothers was ‘the shot heard round the world’ that created not only shifts in our economy, but shifts in consumer spending, and trust in organizations and leaders.

“Everything about today’s economy has changed, and this has created a very different environment for today’s sales professionals. We have experienced radical advancements in technology, increased and very different types of competition, and customers who are now in control of the buying cycles.”

Because of these changes, Meridith spells out why salespeople need to change, too. “This is a very different type of sales marketplace, and as a sales professional you need to understand and embrace that,” she explains. “When you do, you will be perfectly positioned to take advantage of one of the best economies in which to be a sales professional.

“However, you have to understand that the aggressive sales tactics of the past do not work in this environment. Consumers are in control, and if they feel pushed or uncomfortable they will do business somewhere else. You have to be highly skilled at relationship building, listening and problem solving. People buy from you–not for your product or service but because they know you, they like you and they trust you. And you have to understand the power of value and how to proactively add it to the customer experience. Selling in this economy is about caring for your existing customers.”

There are other skills that are totally required today. “In addition, selling today involves the ability to communicate online and in-person, creating an easy and very seamless customer experience, and radical attention to your reputation in the marketplace. I could do an entire article on how selling has changed in today’s marketplace versus a decade ago. In fact, I think I will for my next piece for SalesPop!”

Lesson for 2018: Sell to Your Existing Customer Base

Another major factor Meridith focuses on in her strategic consulting is for companies to continue selling to their existing customer bases. In fact she thinks it’s the most important lesson for the new year. “I think it’s most important lesson for 2018–selling to your existing customer base,” she says. “The level to which you take care of your existing customers will determine your ability to attract new customers.

“Consumers today make decisions based on what they hear about you in the marketplace, your reputation, and the experience they have when the interact with you and every member of your team. So the fastest way to attract new business is by taking care of and consistently adding value to your existing customers.

“In addition, as a sales professional it is the easiest sale you can have, and the one with the highest margin. Customers who already have a relationship with you–they know you, they like you and they trust you–are the ones that are ready to buy more from you again and again.”

Word of mouth is the most valuable lead source for a company–and Meridith puts this source front and center as the reason to sell to existing customers. “The most important reason to sell to existing customers however–and I think the one we need to understand as sales people–is word of mouth,” she says. “Before new customers buy from us, they will ask our existing customers what it is like to do business with us. Sales growth happens today form the inside out. The more we take care of our existing customers, the more new customers we will attract.”

Meridith’s Most Amazing Buying Experience

A great question to ask any sales expert is about their greatest experience as a buyer–mainly because the reasons they consider it their greatest buying experience are often fantastic lessons in sales. In this regard, Meridith is no exception.

“What a great question, and in fact it is a story that I just love to tell,” she answered. “About a year ago I made the decision to buy my office building. I just decided to pull the trigger–interest rates were low, the market was hot, I figured then was the time. The only problem was that my longtime banker Fred had retired, and I had never established a relationship with anyone else. So I did what is a salesperson’s worst nightmare–I decided to shop it around.

“I called two banks, told them what I was looking for and set up meetings for Monday morning. First thing, banker number one, Kevin, walks through the door. He has perfect hair, a Brooks Brothers suit, and wingtip shoes. Kevin is everything I think a banker should be, and he was a little cocky, too! Once I looked at his deal, I got it. He had every right to be cocky. His deal was sweet! The interest rate was low, he waived my closing costs, and cut my appraisal fee in half. He gave the deal away and I was chomping at the bit to buy. By the time we were done, I was ready to sign on the dotted line–so much so that I wanted to cancel my meeting with banker number two.

“However, Yvette (banker two) was already in my lobby. She wore a St. John suit, Jimmy Choos and flawless makeup–Yvette was elegant. She kind of sashayed into my office and floated into the chair. Before I could open my mouth, she started to ask me questions all about myself, and I found the more we talked about me the more I liked Yvette.

“Then as smoothly as she floated into my chair, she transitioned to business. She said, ‘Mrs. Powell, I am just going to tell you that my deal and my products are not going to be the least expensive. However, if you give me fifteen minutes I will share with you why doing business with me will be the best decision you ever make.’

“At the close of that conversation I signed with Yvette, and for the last year she has been my banker. I have paid more for her products and services, and have never questioned my decision to do so one time. The sales strategies and techniques she uses, and how she engages me as a client, take price out of the equation and create a level of value that makes me feel I am getting the deal of a lifetime.”

And therein lies the lesson that Meridith takes from this experience, and passes on to the rest of us. “A great sales experience is about adding value,” she concludes. “It is a myth in this economy that people will not pay more–but you need to know how to sell and how to position value.

“And to do so, you need to be actively engaging with SalesPop!” she adds.

Find out more about Meridith Elliott Powell.

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