1. How should account executives target prospects in this new economy?
Kym Hills, director of sales for PRMconnect
Most companies are still working with reduced budgets, and account executives must take this into consideration when looking at potential customers. Be familiar with how the various industries are faring these days. For instance, the construction industry is still struggling, while health care is strong. That doesn’t mean you can’t successfully sell to a construction company, but it does mean that the sale may take longer and be smaller than in prior years.
2. What do you believe is the number one trait necessary to succeed as an account executive?
The ability to intelligently interact with clients and prospects in an approachable manner, a trait often referred to as “EQ,” or emotional intelligence. People want to feel that they’re doing business with someone who understands their needs and who they can talk to. Clients want to feel comfortable around the people they’re doing business with. That doesn’t mean going overboard with friendliness, but it does mean being pleasant and well-informed.
3. What are the biggest challenges facing sales professionals today?
Budgets today are tighter and more closely examined than ever before. While it once may have been enough to exhibit at a show merely to have a presence at the show, that’s probably not going to fly today. Sales professionals have to be able to demonstrate measurable value. Another challenge is just being able to connect with customers. The demands on everyone’s time have risen even as staff levels have fallen. A sales pro must understand that her clients and prospects are usually stretched very thin. You have to make the contact you have with your clients and prospects count.
4. What advice can you offer to an individual that wants to pursue a career as an account executive?
Be prepared to put in extra hours. Work at being a well-rounded person. It helps if you can have a conversation about something other than your product. Study not only sales strategies, but also general business best practices. Be aware of the way the Internet and technology are changing the way people do business and network.
5. What is your greatest accomplishment?
In a depressed economy, in a city hit hard by the economic downturn, I’ve helped build a small business and been able to offer people jobs. When I consider the effects this economy has had on businesses and individuals, especially in Las Vegas, I’m incredibly grateful for the success PRMconnect has had.
6. What personal attributes, outside of pure sales ability, are important to building of book of business for the long term?
Competence is utmost: Make sure that you can do what you say you will. Under-promise and over-deliver, not the other way around. Be dependable. No one has time for people who are flaky. Learn to speak and present yourself well. If you have trouble speaking in front of a group, take the time to learn how. As a sales person, you’ve got to be able to give convincing presentations both in a one-on-one setting and to groups of people—sometimes in person, sometimes on the phone, and sometimes on Web-based presentations. If you can’t talk smoothly and persuasively about the product you’re selling, who’s going to listen to you?
7. What should veteran account executives be aware of in order to survive and thrive in the industry?
Technology is changing the way we do business, and we’re no longer in the era when “order taking” sales is the norm. Consultative sales means you have to collaborate with customers to work with them for successful and repeat business. Social networking, as it’s done today on the Internet, is foreign to many veterans, but it’s becoming more and more prevalent. Even if you don’t want to have a Facebook page or LinkedIn profile, you should know what those are and why most businesses have them.
8. What keeps you motivated and focused?
I enjoy meeting people. I believe whole-heartedly in my product, and I enjoy the sales process. I’m a people person, so I truly enjoy getting to know my customers and understand what their needs are. I totally believe that our product, Leadature, gives businesses a valuable, innovative service that simply isn’t offered anywhere else. While I realize I’m a little biased on this topic, I truly believe that I’m selling a service that makes a difference for companies.
9. Did you have a mentor?
In college I read Stanley Marcus’ book, “Minding the Store,” and that’s when I decided I wanted to work for Nieman Marcus. When I went to work for the company, Stanley was retired, but he still came into the store for Saturday morning meetings. I’ve used his teachings throughout my career. It’s hard to pin down just one piece of advice he gave me. I think the man himself set an example that inspired others, and that alone is a lasting lesson. Stanley’s techniques and approach still hold relevance for me. His emphasis on excellent customer service and continuous innovation is important to businesses in all industries.
10. Is there anything we left out?
One of the things I tell my team constantly is, “It’s all about the conversation.” The conversations and communication we have with our teams, our customers, and our prospective customers are critical for success. A successful sales person in a technology-oriented business must put extra effort into being clear, being able to explain the product, and being approachable. Technology can feel complex and intimidating, and it’s our job to overcome that perception.
Since 2004, PRMconnect has been defining lead capture and qualification, e-literature and measurement. PRMconnect is powering technology for the convention industry including Leadature™, LeadatureExpress™ and Event Evaluator.