If you want to be successful in any job, even in life, you will have to learn how to sell. Why don’t you start early? For many working in sales is something dirty, it is something from out of a wall street movie however this is not reality.
Kristel Seymus, CEO and founder of planet talent joins the Sales Acceleration show to talk about her passion of sales. She shares a lot of advice for starting in sales but also for hiring sales talents.
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Working in sales is the right job for you
Michael Humblet: Welcome to the Sales Acceleration Show. My name is Michael Humblet, and I’m the founder of Chaomatic and today the big question is why is starting in sales the right job for you? I’ve invited a guest that knows everything about it. Kristel, could you for our-
Kristel Seymus: Hi Michael.
Michael Humblet: Thanks for joining. Could you for our viewers explain very shortly what you do?
Kristel Seymus: Yes. My company’s name Planet Talent, and what we do is we introduce young graduates into ambitious companies and we make both parties accelerate their growth.
Michael Humblet: So you are looking for sales and marketing talent because the companies are looking for that, and you guide them. So how does the system work?
Kristel Seymus: In fact, we recruit young talents among the students …
Michael Humblet: Straight from school.
Kristel Seymus: Straight from school, no experience at all. And then we help them make the bridge between being a student and being a sales professional.
Michael Humblet: I get a lot of questions of people saying, why should I do sales? It’s something dirty. It’s something bad. It’s something you see in the movies like The Wolf of Wall Street, and some, mainly guys want it because they want the watch or the car, but you said to me, “No, sales is a really good job,” which I believe. So what’s your opinion on this? Why should you start in sales?
Kristel Seymus: I think that there are good reasons to start in sales when you’re an ambition … when you’re ambitious because sales is the division or the job you have to do if you really want to make a career. I see a few CEOs that are not good in sales or have never been successful in sales. So either how, you’re going to have to learn to sell if you want to be successful. So why not start with it?
Michael Humblet: And does it match for everybody, or is there some people because you have natural social talkers let’s call it like that? I mean, because I’m one of, I’m just … I can’t shut up which is also bad for closing by the way. But do you look for certain profiles, or is it more like everybody can start, you guide them. How do you start? How do you do that?
Kristel Seymus: We look for sales talent, and we have a screening which is rather serious, and we look for a few things that has to be there. The first thing we are strict about is energy.
Michael Humblet: Yeah, because you can’t teach energy.
Kristel Seymus: You can’t teach energy, yes.
Michael Humblet: Yeah, that’s very good one.
Kristel Seymus: We pay a lot attention to that. And you can feel the energy of a person when you are in a one-to-one in a small room. But we also test the energy in the larger assessment, and we see how much energy is there left-
Michael Humblet: And you score, you score it or how do you?
Kristel Seymus: Yes. Yes.
Michael Humblet: So it’s like 1 to 10?
Kristel Seymus: Yes.
Michael Humblet: 10 is over the top. Ignore.
Kristel Seymus: Yes. 10 is not over the top. It has to be more than six.
Michael Humblet: More than six.
Kristel Seymus: So on the scale … goes, you have to be more than six to be a good sales.
Michael Humblet: What else?
Kristel Seymus: Mindset. You have to be resilient to be a sales.
Michael Humblet: Because sales is like swimming in a lake of rejection.
Kristel Seymus: It is.
Michael Humblet: How do you test that actually?
Kristel Seymus: We have an assessment to test it.
Michael Humblet: Really?
Kristel Seymus: And it’s also something that you see in the history of people, how is your mindset, how do you talk about-
Michael Humblet: Even if they come from school?
Kristel Seymus: Yes.
Michael Humblet: Because you’re looking for failures and overcoming them and actually getting back up-
Kristel Seymus: Yes, and how they talk about it, how they talk about it.
Michael Humblet: How they talk about it.
Kristel Seymus: Do they take ownership, do they see it as a learning event, or do they blame others. And is there something that discouraged, that they feel as discouraging or not, so that you can … We pay a lot attention to the positive mindset because it gives you resilience.
Michael Humblet: Yeah, I like the word. I’m making the short movie and it’s all about resilience, getting back up because it’s like know the whole long [inaudible 00:03:46]. What else? Energy, resilience?
Kristel Seymus: And then we also look at mental process, at the intelligence, and mostly the verbal aspects of that because when you are in sales, you have to be very quick to understand. You also have to talk, but you have to listen, and you have to capture. In a very short period of time, you have to capture the story of somebody else.
Michael Humblet: So how do you test that?
Kristel Seymus: We have an assessment for that.
Michael Humblet: Like a proper test?
Kristel Seymus: Really exercise.
Michael Humblet: Really?
Kristel Seymus: Yeah.
Michael Humblet: I tell you a true story that really happened. One day, very young, very green, I got invited for an American software company. I’m sitting in this office, the old office of [inaudible 00:04:26] and this guy suddenly says, “Okay, Michael, you want to do sales?” “Yeah, I want to.” “You have to be able to calculate very fast.”
Michael Humblet: So he goes like, “Okay, keep up with me,” and he goes like, “Yeah, so my product is €10,000. I’m going to buy 10 of those. And then I’m going to give 20% margin. And then I’m going to deduct 200 and then I’m going to do it, I’m going to add another five. How much is it?” And I just looked at him and I said, “I think it’s $150,000.” And he says, “That’s completely wrong. That’s way too much.” I said, “No, no. I took margin.” He said, “You’re hired.”
Kristel Seymus: He hired you.
Michael Humblet: So I understand that you have to be very quick because you have to be very quick. Are there like disqualifying criteria, things that you really say that’s behavior, because sometimes sales are really over the top also. I see them, and I have to calm them down.
Kristel Seymus: Yes. But it’s easier to coach somebody to be, to calm down than to put energy in it.
Michael Humblet: Here’s the ball. Squeeze it.
Kristel Seymus: Yes.
Michael Humblet: I remember when I do assessments because I do a lot of … really, really seniors profiles, so I made like a little list with, and one of the things that I try to test is coachability because a lot of these guys, they know it all, they are better, and then I know, just forget it, you will be in trouble with the existing founders typically that’s a match. So you also test coachability and all of these things?
Kristel Seymus: Yes, yes. And that’s something that we pay a lot of attention on because they have to be confident on one side, but also have to … you have to keep them in the learning modus. That’s why we discuss it. We want confident people, but we tell them what we are going to teach them and they have to be really open for that. We kick them out of the program if we see that they are not willing to learn-
Michael Humblet: And you really then … So you have that assessment and then you basically guide them, you to give them training, cold calling? It is because there was a mix between your strategy and tactics, or you also do strategy or mainly in the beginning tactics? Because strategy is for the … Or how do you?
Kristel Seymus: In the beginning we teach them really operational tasks.
Michael Humblet: Operational.
Kristel Seymus: Yes, yes.
Michael Humblet: At the end. Do you also have a difference between inside sales say, do you make categories in?
Kristel Seymus: Yes.
Michael Humblet: Because if I look into the market, there is such a high demand for sales and especially inside sales at this moment. Then I’m wondering where do you start? I had the CEO once that told me, “Michael, somebody that starts in inside sales can never become a good sales guy.” What do you think about that? Do you agree or wouldn’t agree?
Kristel Seymus: I think that inside sales can be a very good learning job to become a good sales, but I think that when you want to recruit a good inside sales, I agree with …
Michael Humblet: Because you’re looking for a different …
Kristel Seymus: Because you’re looking for different things. But I think that when you take a good sales talent, you put them in inside sales for one year let’s say.
Michael Humblet: Like a start.
Kristel Seymus: Like a start. You teach them how to be on the phone. You teach them your business. You teach them your products. You teach them who your customers are.
Michael Humblet: So can I ask the question, how would you define inside sales? This question is coming back to me every single day. What is that for you? And what does that person need to be good in?
Kristel Seymus: I think there are different inside sales jobs. Sometimes inside sales is most focused on supporting the sales team. So in the pre-sales, that’s what they call inside sales. But sometimes also inside sales is purely in the after sales. So that’s what we call sometimes inside sales. So you have a customer, and when you have renewals or …
Michael Humblet: So that’s more the customer success side almost?
Kristel Seymus: Yes.
Michael Humblet: Of the …
Kristel Seymus: Also sales.
Michael Humblet: The up sell of the license.
Kristel Seymus: The up sells of the license, yes.
Michael Humblet: Funny, because I thought you would say I never thought of that one. I agree. I think there are two inside sales. If you look at the front, there is the … I call it the tactical one that’s making the lists and the email sequence of the sales, condenses all of that. And then you have the one which in SAS you find a lot, especially if you go lower end products, I mean cheaper products, that also does the demo and almost will close on the phone. And they are two different types for me.
Kristel Seymus: Yes.
Michael Humblet: Right? Or not. I mean disagree with me if … Because sometimes I see the really good people that they do the calling but they don’t … They’re not good closers. I see the difference. And sometimes I see people that are really good in demos and they’re actually pretty good close. So if I look at some companies like Teamleader, they have, they made a bit of a difference there. But these are very large inside sales teams, right?
Kristel Seymus: Yes.
Michael Humblet: Most companies have one, two, three. Yeah, it’s hard to distinguish. So where would you put the cut-off, if at all we need a cut-off?
Kristel Seymus: I think that if you define inside sales like that, you come very close to marketing.
Michael Humblet: It is very close to marketing. I agree.
Kristel Seymus: And then you need people that are good in writing, that are creative, that are also good communicators.
Michael Humblet: So how would you measure them then, those people?
Kristel Seymus: Those people are … would be, when they are in our selection would be typical people that are, I would not say not so high on energy, but yes, I would call it not so high on energy because they have to be more thorough. Because in external sales they have to improvise. They don’t know what the situation they’re going to be in. But the inside sales like you define it, he has to be cautious, he has to think and rethink and think strategically.
Michael Humblet: So how do you deal with the fact because you really touched upon a nerve. Every sales guy I’ve met is bad with CRM. Not every, but most of them are. Let’s say it like that. So how do you train them? Or how do you advise them to actually CRM is there, one side, the biggest enemy because they are social and structured, going from left to right, chaotic. That’s why my company is called Chaomatic. So how do you teach them that, you explain that to them?
Michael Humblet: I think it’s an understanding they need to get and it’s a tough one. I still now when I hire guys, 40s, 50s, and they tell me, “CRM is not for me Michael,” and I know they’re really good sales guys. And I say, “Then you will get fired because it’s the only thing there is.”
Kristel Seymus: Yes. It’s easier to bring that story to young people because when they understand that they are willing to learn, they understand that they cannot start in the closing part of the job. We make them start in the beginning of the process, and we explain that if you cannot make a call and cannot get an appointment with a customer, you will never become a good salesman. We see that eventually they want to get rid of it.
Michael Humblet: And they you want to grow in the … Yeah, true.
Kristel Seymus: They want to grow. And what we advise our customers is to see those, the beginning of the process as the entry point for new sales, and let’s say, educate them in …
Michael Humblet: In how to …
Kristel Seymus: In how to sell.
Michael Humblet: So let’s-
Kristel Seymus: And teach them also the discipline in the what you need in the beginning of the sales cycle. You need a lot of discipline. You need resilience. You need to make these goals. You need to make sure that-
Michael Humblet: It’s the machine.
Kristel Seymus: It’s the machine.
Michael Humblet: And the machine eats every day again and again and again, again. I think the most successful companies actually do that. They really build a machine. They sometimes overdo the machine, but I think I really believe so.
Michael Humblet: Let’s jump. We looked at the students, people doing it. Let’s jump at the company. So what can they realistically expect? Aren’t their expectations sometimes too high or too low?
Kristel Seymus: We see different situations at our customers. We have customers that are more enterprise company that have let’s say we call it a mature sales team and they have a team of very experienced sales reps that work side-by-side. They don’t work together. They work side-by-side and they are …
Michael Humblet: In silos.
Kristel Seymus: Yes, like in silos. And they find it hard to find a next one or to replace a senior sales like that. That’s not the solution we provide with the junior sales. What we provide is somebody young that can focus on certain points in the sales process. Well, you do not need those senior competences. And it’s mostly in the prospecting phase or making [crosstalk 00:13:27]
Michael Humblet: Acquisition.
Kristel Seymus: Acquisition.
Michael Humblet: I agree.
Kristel Seymus: So that gives you value immediately because we see that those senior people, they are not so very fond of making those goals and doing this really acquisition efforts, so …
Michael Humblet: To speed up the engine I always advise the people. I said, “Okay, you have your senior guy that actually lives on a referral types of business. But you need to feed a bit with an inside sales. Also balance the team because senior guys are expensive.”
Kristel Seymus: Really, yes.
Michael Humblet: I always tell them, “Yeah, for one senior guy, you can have two, three inside sales. I know it doesn’t sound right, but actually that’s the way of the pyramid.”
Kristel Seymus: Yes, yes. So you build a pyramid and you create, you have value immediately because one of the complaints I heard from sales managers I work with is that they don’t think that there’s enough efforts in the acquisition of new customers. They see those senior sales people really moving on, I mean, the same customers in the same network and-
Michael Humblet: Drinking coffee with the same …
Kristel Seymus: Yeah.
Michael Humblet: Yeah, I agree. I agree. I agree.
Kristel Seymus: So you solve in fact two problems.
Michael Humblet: Yeah, I agree. We very quickly in this topic we’ll get to marketing because if you speak about acquisition, growing the business, well you need to solve the biggest problem which is nobody knows you in a certain area, so you need to go. So do you also do marketeers or you stick to sales?
Kristel Seymus: Our program like it is now is focused on sales skills, but we feel the urge to …
Michael Humblet: Cross the …
Kristel Seymus: Cross the border towards more marketing of profiles, which are different people. In selection, you see you have to look for other motivators.
Michael Humblet: A bit more creative ideas.
Kristel Seymus: Yes. Yes, that’s it.
Michael Humblet: And you have something which I believe is extremely useful, it’s I call it a technical marketeer. And that’s something you don’t see in a lot of companies yet, but it’s the one that actually helps. It’s a bit of growth hacking mixed with sales, it’s somewhere in the middle. They do do the automation and they do the funnels and all of that, and then people need to execute. It’s extremely valuable.
Michael Humblet: I see also marketing companies that they’re in that space. But that’s I say to a lot of companies, that’s the kind of person you need to hire. But they’re tough because sometimes they’re just an engineer that likes to play with this team, but they don’t want to do any phone call. So how much do you pay them and how do you commission them? It’s a very different [inaudible 00:15:59]. But I think that’s for me the next, as tools evolve, as everything evolves, that’s going to be a function that is going to grow very rapidly.
Kristel Seymus: Yes, I see that. In my own company we have a marketing machine and we say that they spread the word towards everybody. And once we come to talking one-on-one or specific conversation, there is our sales that is taking over.
Michael Humblet: So that’s your cadence actually. You reach out. Somebody comes in the funnel. You qualify and then you start giving them. So you don’t have, yourself you’re not using inside sales to do the closing or to do the phone call?
Kristel Seymus: Yes, our sales people, they are … they target people through their network. They look at LinkedIn sales navigator and they target a certain person. And they use their creativity.
Michael Humblet: Oh, it’s like that. So you don’t use inside sales. It’s the sales doing it and they also go-
Kristel Seymus: Yes, because they are junior sales. So that’s what they do. And then we have senior …
Michael Humblet: I have to say-
Kristel Seymus: Sales people also.
Michael Humblet: I have to say I’ve seen one of the best sales persons in the last year, I’ve seen working at your company.
Kristel Seymus: Thank you.
Michael Humblet: I was completely, utterly impressed. Carolyn, you know it. So that’s, I was impressed. So if you teach that to all of them, oh boy, oh boy, scary, scary.
Michael Humblet: Okay. So let’s take one step back. If you think about sales, what would be your advice to a student or somebody studying or looking into it? When I was a student, I was working in bars, classic patron because I couldn’t talk. And then for some reason in the weekend I started selling. I went to this … They sold suits. So I was getting bored standing there, like five customers a day, selling them suits. Every suit fitted great by the way whatever size. So by nature I started being pulled into sales. I believe a lot of these people will have that. So what would your advice be when … I mean, I was 21 thinking of this. What would be your advice?
Kristel Seymus: You mean by looking for a first job?
Michael Humblet: Yeah.
Kristel Seymus: I think that it’s important that you see sales not as a first step only but that you really have to want to become very good at it. I think that’s crucial. And being that your main motivation, you have to look for a company that gives you the opportunity to learn. And that is very important who will I be learning how to sell.
Michael Humblet: So you need a good coach actually.
Kristel Seymus: So I would look for that, yes.
Michael Humblet: Look for a really … Then would you go more structured or unstructured, like a big machine or a small one?
Kristel Seymus: Depending on who you are.
Michael Humblet: That’s a good answer.
Kristel Seymus: Depending on who you are. Some people like to work in a bigger machine, but others like more, they want to be more creative, they want to have more autonomy, and then you have to choose a smaller company.
Michael Humblet: Yeah, we always have some rapid-fire questions so I’m taking my black bible with all the difficult questions. The first one is, where do you get inspired? What do you read or where do you go to websites to learn more or to get inspired actually?
Kristel Seymus: You inspire me.
Michael Humblet: Oh, it’s fantastic.
Kristel Seymus: I read a lot. One of the books I read about sales which I liked a lot is Give And Take. I don’t remember-
Michael Humblet: Give and Take-
Kristel Seymus: … who wrote it.
Michael Humblet: We will put it down in the description, because I haven’t read it either, so I’m going to read it.
Kristel Seymus: Okay. You really have to read it. In that book, they have, they really investigated what brings you the forest. You start giving or you …
Michael Humblet: You take.
Kristel Seymus: You take. Yes. It’s a really interesting book for everybody-
Michael Humblet: And science based proper data.
Kristel Seymus: Science based, yes.
Michael Humblet: I like that.
Kristel Seymus: One of the latest book I read is Cy Wakeman wrote the book on, it’s called No Ego, and it’s something that for salespeople can be a challenge.
Michael Humblet: It’s an important, yeah.
Kristel Seymus: To put aside the ego-
Michael Humblet: It’s really nicely phrased, yeah.
Kristel Seymus: And she wrote a book about it, about company drama and how to avoid it. And it’s really-
Michael Humblet: Company drama-
Kristel Seymus: … a very interesting book. Yes. She also is-
Michael Humblet: I think a lot of CEOs should read it too also actually.
Kristel Seymus: Yes, not only CEOs because it’s an eye opener for when you’re in a leadership position. But also for everybody in the workplace can be inspired.
Michael Humblet: That’s good one.
Kristel Seymus: I’m also a fan of Arianna Huffington.
Michael Humblet: I check, yeah.
Kristel Seymus: I admire that woman and I follow also her blog Thrive. Very interesting free content. In Planet Talent we use as our company bible we use Stephen Covey’s work The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Michael Humblet: Of course, you do. Everybody comes in, read it.
Kristel Seymus: Yes, yes. We in fact we designed two bootcamps around his seven habits because we believe that if you apply them, you cannot help being successful and happy.
Michael Humblet: And happy, that’s great. I know there’s a lot of moving parts in your business. So how do you say no? How do you do it? Because I, for sales, it’s the most difficult thing to say because you pay sales. I’ve been trained for 20 years to say yes on everything, which is really bad because really good sales guys say no. So how do you say no? How do you make the decision and how do you say it actually?
Kristel Seymus: I don’t say the word no often, especially not in sales.
Michael Humblet: You suggest it.
Kristel Seymus: I say yes, and then I explain the circumstances under which I am willing to say yes.
Michael Humblet: So you still say yes.
Kristel Seymus: Yes, but for instance if a customer asked me for a discount, I explain what the …
Michael Humblet: The consequence.
Kristel Seymus: The requisites are for getting a volume content. So I explain to him how we are going together get the most value out of our collaboration.
Michael Humblet: It’s like tai-chi. You’re not fighting it. You’re just flowing. Say yes, but flow the right way to the sea.
Kristel Seymus: Yes.
Michael Humblet: So how do you focus then?
Kristel Seymus: Generally?
Michael Humblet: How do you know what to … Yeah.
Kristel Seymus: I have a morning routine. I wake up early and I meditate.
Michael Humblet: Really?
Kristel Seymus: Yes. Yes, it helps me a lot. And then I make breakfast. And then before I leave the office, I always go over my day and I think about what I want this day to bring me, what I want to establish. And that helps me to start with the focus.
Michael Humblet: It’s very good one. What has been the biggest failure up till now where you said I should have done this differently?
Kristel Seymus: I made a lot of mistakes of course and still do, but what I would certainly do differently if I could start over, is I would start sooner in building a sales team. I think that I spent too long being the only sales woman in the company, and I think that’s …
Michael Humblet: Building a team, less operational, let others …
Kristel Seymus: Yes, that.
Michael Humblet: Grow and shine.
Kristel Seymus: And also when you want to teach others how to sell your product, you have to think differently about your product because when you’re an entrepreneur you sell your product because you love it so much.
Michael Humblet: That’s the problem with founders to scale because they think the company needs them all the time, which is a flaw. I mean, it should not be the case.
Kristel Seymus: It should not be the case.
Michael Humblet: So you need to build the product properly.
Kristel Seymus: Yes. And it helps you become your product and your company, and the way you sell it much more mature. So you shouldn’t wait too long.
Michael Humblet: You’re giving me advice now, right? As a last one, where can people learn more you or your company? What should they follow? The website?
Kristel Seymus: Yes, we have a website, but we are also active on social media, LinkedIn and Facebook, also Instagram.
Michael Humblet: And the website is?
Kristel Seymus: The website is planettalent.com.
Michael Humblet: I want to thank you for coming to Joe.
Kristel Seymus: Thank you.
Michael Humblet: I love the topic. If you want to see a lot more shows, subscribe, and if you like what you’ve seen, give it a thumbs up. I see you next time.