iST Connect Interview Series – Britt Willingham, Legal Accounts Manager

Last week’s installment of our iST Connect series featured practical and actionable advice from a successful Senior Account Manager.  Valuable insights such as utilizing role playing, writing Thank You cards, and prioritizing quick problem resolution were just a few takeaways that can have major impact on successful sales professionals. 

Today’s installment introduces some great best-practices and advice for those focused on new business development and/or new customer acquisition.  Our interviewee is Britt Willingham, a 12-year sales veteran focused on providing software solutions and services into the legal industry.  Britt’s reputation of mentoring his fellow team members, exceeding monthly quotas, and consistently delivering value to customers has enabled him to become among the most respected sales professionals in the legal software industry. 

What was the best piece of advice or coaching that you’ve received in your sales career?  The best sales advice I’ve ever received was from one of my first mentors, although I didn’t realize how amazing this advice is until a few years down the line – “Don’t try to make a sale, try to make a difference.”  Though meeting sales targets can be stressful and quotas are always looming, in my experience when you are able to make a positive difference for your customer, be it financial or otherwise, the sales will come naturally and those quotas will be blown to bits!

Regarding customer acquisition, tell us some of the common themes and trends you anticipate as we head into 2020 and beyond.  With all the information readily available on the internet, we are now dealing with the most informed customer in history of selling.  I constantly receive RFPs with little to no background information on the project or customer, which is a very quick path to commoditization and the dreaded race to the bottom.  For a salesperson to succeed, they need to understand the ‘Why” of their customers and not just the ‘What’.  Look for opportunities to add value in ways that will help your customer achieve their end goals, and you will always beat your competition.

What sales book do you find yourself most often recommending to peers and colleagues?   Actually, the book I recommend most of all wasn’t even intended to be a sales book.  It’s more of a psychology-focused read that dives deeply into mentality of working with people.  Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the best books on the market.  Even though our sales landscape changes rapidly, Dale’s principles will undoubtedly withstand the test of time.    

If you go back and have a 30-minute conversation with your 22-year old self, what would you say and what topics would you want to discuss?   At age 20 I was an aggressive fellow!  I was ready to take on the world and sell anything to anyone…there was no sale I couldn’t close, no quota that could stand in my way!  Now that I’ve matured a bit, I would explain to my 22-year old self that not every customer is right for you.  Creating an ideal customer profile and aggressively targeting leads that meet that criteria is a much more effective use of a salesperson’s time than trying to cast the widest net possible.  Also, don’t be afraid to shut down sales processes with customers that fail to meet that criteria.  Sometimes your services/products are not the right fit, and people ALWAYS appreciate when you put their needs over your desire to sell them something – and your reputation will thank you as well.