In my first corporate sales job, I was selling copiers. This was back in the late ’90s, and it was a really tough job. I was pounding the pavement, dropping business cards off. I didn’t even have a mobile phone. But what was really hard was that people really didn’t get excited about copiers — they were kind of a “necessary evil.”
At Redbooth, things are completely different. We have a very sexy platform. People are excited to speak with us. We’re solving really critical — and common — business challenges that traditionally people haven’t realized there’s a solution for.
They’ve been living inside of email and spreadsheets, and they’ve been blind in a lot of cases to what’s been going on in their business. And now, all of a sudden, they’re speaking to us and they’re saying, “Holy cow! This can really save us a lot of time and help us be more productive.”
We’re really excited about our product and we love to talk about it. But customers aren’t calling to hear us talk and talk about how much we love the platform.
They’re calling to talk about their challenges — the business challenges that they’re trying to solve. If we listen closely and it turns out that our solution is a fit, fantastic. And if it’s not, that’s okay too. Either way, we want to bring real value to the conversation and to our customers, who are located all over the world.
With our Barcelona and Silicon Valley offices and expert consultants in several different countries, we bring an international perspective. And here in our Silicon Valley office, we have team members who are fluent in a variety of languages and have lived and worked across the globe.
Having lived and worked in Amsterdam for 6 years myself, I recognize the benefits of living and working abroad. It’s not just about understanding people’s words — it’s also about understanding their culture. And people from every part of the world appreciate being heard and understood.
So I was thrilled to be able to bring in Skip Miller — president of M3 Learning, author, and in-demand trainer at Google, Cisco, Oracle, and more — to lead a series of training sessions for our sales team on how to become better listeners and more effective communicators.
Learning How to Listen Better
The first time I went to one of Skip’s trainings, what I loved about it so much is that I felt like, “Yes! This is how I think. I get this guy. He’s talking my language.” It was very interesting because it was all about human nature. Basic human communication. And I believe that most salespeople that are successful are very good at communication.
In the training at Redbooth, Skip gave us all an experiment to try out over the weekend in a social situation, and it’s something that anyone can do.
He said to us, “When you’re talking to people this weekend, no matter what you do, make your interaction all about them. Ask questions.” I met up with someone over the weekend, so I focused on spending most of the time being truly authentically curious and learning about the person that I was speaking with.
I found myself talking very little, asking a lot of questions, and the conversation was very interesting. I could see Skip’s point. You learn more when you ask questions and listen than you do by telling.
So the training was about learning to be fully present with each customer and really hear what each one is saying. And Skip doesn’t just talk about listening and understanding. He actually practices what he preaches. So in the training, it wasn’t “do this, do that.” He engaged us and got the team involved.
Afterwards, everyone said, “This was unlike any sales training I’ve ever been to.” The team walked away knowing that Skip understood our process. He understood our challenges. The team felt heard — and we were invigorated and encouraged because we knew those solutions were right for us.
It’s very important to us to have every one of our customers feel the same way when they call us up. We want them to be able to say, “Redbooth understands me. They understand my business challenges. They really listen.”
Investing in a Strong Team
Investing in our team like this, with training to become better listeners and communicators, is a part of our culture here. Our salespeople are here to grow, and they’re here to develop a career and develop themselves.
They know that Redbooth is committed to investing in their future. They’re going to have bigger titles and bigger roles. In fact, seeing the people I’ve hired be successful in their careers is how I measure my own success.
Creating a special space where the sales team can meet — and keep talking about what we learned in the training — is another way that we invest in our team here. After a training, people are going to lose 95% of what they heard unless you reinforce it. So we’ll be meeting regularly in the sales den to talk about what we learned.
The sales den is the “living room” in the Redwood City Redbooth office. It’s where we have our Monday morning team meetings and our Friday happy hours. It’s where we hang out. We have a bar set up there. We’ve got couches and chairs set up and it’s much more relaxed.
I find that people are a little more open — they’re more direct — in that setting than in a traditional conference room. It just puts us in a different environment where we can listen and really hear each other.
So it’s the perfect place for us to meet and talk about how our conversations with customers are going, and how we can make those conversations even better for the customers going forward.
For us, becoming better listeners starts with being fully present and listening to each other. And that’s something we can bring to every discussion we have with our customers around the world.