Sales Innovation & Tech Fest brings together the best sales thought-leaders from around the world. Brian Keller, Director of Sales Training and Development, McKesson Medical-Surgical (USA) is one of them, and we are lucky to have him presenting on the conference stage later this year.
Brian is responsible for the training needs of over 1500 account managers and sales managers in the Medical-Surgical business of McKesson Corporation, a Fortune 5 company. We chatted to Brian about his journey in the industry, as well as his top tips for sales leaders in today’s selling environment.
Brian, we are looking forward to having you in Australia for Sales Innovation & Tech Fest this year. What motivated you to make the trip for this event?
I was thrilled to be asked! After understanding what you put together, I’m very excited to share some of our successes at McKesson while learning what others are doing in the same field. Of course, making the trip to Australia is a bonus – it’s been on my bucket list for years!
Markets and customers are constantly changing – and faster than ever before. For sales professionals however, it can be tempting to continue doing what you’ve always done when the behaviour has been successful. This change chasm between sales teams and their customers can be frustrating to sales leaders, marketing groups, product managers, and senior leadership.
What have you done at McKesson to bridge this gap?
It’s interesting to me that sales people, the smart ones anyway, will always adjust and adapt to their customers because, if they don’t, the customers will leave them; they vote with their feet if their salesperson is not doing right by them. With this group of salespeople, we strive to provide the tools they need to satisfy these customers as needs arise and change.
The cutting-edge salespeople are those who lead their customers where they’re already heading and make their customers feel it was their idea. We learn a lot about our customers from this group of salespeople, and often develop the tools we provide as a result of this pioneering work.
Some sales people remain stuck in one spot, victims of their own inertia. I find they often gravitate to like-minded customers, those that aren’t moving to the future unless it’s forced upon them, either. The sales people reinforce the customer behaviour and vice versa. With this group, we constantly urge them to change but it’s slow going! I’ve pointed out many times that my team can easily train “can’t do” but we can’t do anything with “won’t do!”
How do you tackle the different training needs of multiple generations within one organisation?
It’s certainly not a one size fits all world! We currently have 4 generations represented on our sales teams. Instead of attempting to fit the training mode to the generation, we work to fit the training mode to the topic to be learned. If behavior changes are truly called for, we still like classroom training when we can manage it.
For application training, we rely a great deal on webinars, especially if the app is planned with a lot of upgrades. Traditional eLearning modules are effective if the app is mature as edits are costly and time consuming.
Sales professionals operate at or near information-overload so we’ve begun working in smaller bits of training – I refer to them as microbursts of learning – whenever we can. We’re experimenting with audio and video clips (less than 60 seconds), short, bullet pointed checklists, and single slides with screenshots.
It’s an exciting time to be in sales training. My team and I are enjoying the experimentation aspect of it, learning every day.
What are your top tips for sales leaders in today’s selling environment?
I believe high performing sales leaders do these four things really well:
- Approach every selling situation from the customers’ perspective and represent that to your sales team. Sure, you want to sell your product/service/application. But if you aren’t looking at it from your buyer’s point of view, you’re all working much too hard to make the sale. Your customer pays you based on your efforts. Shouldn’t you be listening to them?
- Communicate your expectations to your team – I mean behaviors, not just numbers. I know that you have a goal or quota and you must set that bar with your team. But you’ll get more frequent success from your sales people if you focus on the how and the why. This is good source material for coaching opportunities after you’ve been side by side with them in front of a customer.
- Evangelise the joy of learning how to be more effective in selling. I’ve been selling for over 40 years, and training sales people for over 25. It’s a rare day that I don’t learn something new, sometimes from people who are brand new to selling! If sales leaders share that kind of mindset with their teams, it can be contagious and soon everyone is sharing ideas and improving their skills.
- Provide excellence and expect excellence. Be fully engaged when working with your team and prepare better than everyone else. Be early for every appointment and meeting. Have a better attitude than everyone else in any room. Always be “on.” When you set a level like that for yourself, you’re more likely to bring out the best in everyone. That’s the kind of sales leader for whom we all want to work!
Tell us a bit about your journey in the world of sales. What do you love most about your job?
Those who know me well, know I’ve been selling my entire adult life. My mom would argue that I’ve been selling since I was old enough to talk. I sold greeting cards door to door, newspaper subscriptions, my lawn care service; I was selling something from the age of 8 or 9. As an adult, I sold B2C in the areas of life and health insurance, fine clothing, consumer electronics, mechanics tools, woodworking power tools, and finally medical supplies.
When I moved into Training some years ago, I realised I was selling harder than ever! When you’re face to face with a group of high performing sales people, all of whom have more than twenty years’ experience, you’re selling them on the idea of change. And change is not something they’re interested in trying because they’ve become very successful doing things one way. Why would they even think about changing?
And that’s probably what I love most about my job. When someone does make a change, even a little one, and experiences new success as a result, they’ll call me about it to celebrate. It’s just the best feeling! I’m fortunate enough to lead a team of eight sales trainers, eight of the most talented in the business, and we all talk about that rush when it happens.
How does a company with $200 billion revenue, 70,000 employees and an ageing workforce maintain effective sales strategy whilst embracing innovation?
In the US, I think nearly all companies face this situation. At McKesson, we spend a great deal of time communicating with the entire organisation about our goals and strategy, constantly reinforcing the message through our regular business unit town hall meetings, leadership meetings and emails. Personal goals of managers and employees are aligned to these corporate goals to ensure we’re all pulling in the same direction. This all sounds a lot easier than it actually is, by the way.
On the topic of innovation, we are always working to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the best ways of doing things. All our processes go through regular review to understand where we can make improvements. It’s really become part of our DNA.
About the Speaker
Brian Keller is the Director of Sales Training and Development at McKesson Medical-Surgical (USA).