LOANDO PODCAST #6 – Are you a natural born salesperson?
The next edition of Loando Podcast featured Marcin Sikora – LOANDO Group Chief Sales Officer. We talked with Marcin about the skills of a good salesperson, the most common mistakes in sales and the work of a CSO in the dynamically changing fintech industry.
You have been working at LOANDO Group for several years now. Can you tell us briefly what you were responsible for before becoming Chief Sales Officer. What did your development look like in the past years, what you have learned?
There were only 30 employees at the time I joined Loando. We were a really small team and we were active only on the Polish market. Currently, the company employs over 100 people, we are dynamically operating on foreign markets and we create a global ecosystem of various companies dealing with fintech, new technologies and digital marketing.
Although I am professionally active for 17 years now, it was only at LOANDO that I noticed a significant development. It was here that I learned how to manage multiple projects at the same time, how to specify tasks, how to correctly distribute the work between various departments and how to manage sales in an international company. I am extremely grateful for this experience.
How has your role in the company changed since you took over as a CSO?
My role in the company after I took up my CSO duties has not significantly changed compared to what I was doing here before. My main task in the new position was reshaping the entire management at LOANDO, which consisted primarily of structural changes and the re-creation of all areas within the company.
The employees reacted calmly to the changes because we explained to them what they were caused by and what our long-term goal was. This was necessary because we wanted to take a step forward and develop even further. After some time, it turned out that the changes produced many positive results.
What do you think is the most difficult part of a sales manager’s job?
In my work, I do not allow myself to think that something can be difficult because I like challenges and I want to meet them at all costs. I always tell myself that nothing is impossible, so it is easier for me to reach my goal.
The only disturbing situation for me was, for example, when we were finalising an important project and some people could not cope with stress, which caused chaos and some unwanted behaviour. Such cases require a quick reaction, unfortunately it’s not that simple and it took some time before I learned it.
I am interested in what the model cooperation of the sales department with other dynamically operating departments in the company should look like. Can you explain this briefly?
At LOANDO we have introduced structural changes, managed to divide all areas and appoint people to be responsible for them. Thanks to this change, all departments work together in a more communicative, faster and, most importantly, more effective way.
An important aspect of good cooperation between the different areas of LOANDO is that we often meet outside of work, get to know each other and have a good time. Integration events have a significant influence on the good functioning of the employees.
What goals will you focus on in the near future?
I always set the bar high for myself, so I plan to face a few challenges. First of all, we focus on the development of 6 markets, but in the near future, at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, we are planning to conquer further new markets.
Apart from international development, we want to improve the processes of responding to changes, which are normal in such a dynamic industry as fintech. In addition, we will certainly be involved in even more interesting projects.
For most of our podcast listeners, the sales world may be a little bit incomprehensible, so I would like to make a few points now. The first is the techniques that salespeople use to effectively sell their products or services. Could you list a few of these methods and indicate which are the best?
I think I’ll be able to answer that question. Some people say that a salesperson has to be born and I think they are right. Of course, that is my personal opinion.
First of all, anyone who is involved in sales should be communicative, because sales usually take place at various meetings where you talk to customers. Without this trait, no salesperson will be able to achieve even the slightest efficiency.
Surely you also need to be systematic, determined and goal-oriented, because you often hear the word “NO” in sales. Patience, which unfortunately is not something young salespeople have, is also important. This is a good trait that is very useful in the ever-changing times.
A common mistake that salespeople make is to question and not listen to the contractor. I have to admit that for a long time I had exactly the same problem, but in the end I found a way to get rid of it. Now I don’t run an endless monologue during meetings with my clients, I divide my speech into several parts, and each of them ends with the word “period”. Using this method really helped me!
You have already mentioned a few sales techniques and skills, but I would like to ask you what else a good salesperson should have?
It seems to me that everyone who is involved in sales should constantly explore the knowledge from many fields. Why? Thanks to that they will always be able to conduct many interesting conversations with customers, which then usually bring many benefits in the form of effective sales. It will also allow to gain new business acquaintances.
In my opinion, it is also important simply be yourself when you want to succeed in sales, because then you are more reliable and customers immediately trust you. I think it doesn’t make any sense to be artificial in meetings with contractors and it has a negative impact on sales.
Many employers hire salespeople on the basis of their competences, experience and skills. Other companies ask candidates during interviews to play the role of a salesperson in a staged scenario that aims to show how they will behave in a stressful situation with a customer, what ideas they will present and how they will use sales techniques. What is the best way to find real talent in this industry?
It seems to me that there is no golden rule for this, because people for direct sales are recruited differently that a telemarketer for telephone calls or a person for a retail, business or small company customer service department.
To be honest, I am not a fan of playing different scenes during job interviews, because I believe that the candidate will always begave in an artificial way, which does not at all reflect their ability to sell.
In the Internet age, everyone can quickly find information about the staged scenes that are played out during many stages of the recruitment process. If a candidate for a salesperson prepares well, then he or she should easily gain the trust of the employer. In fact, such a person is usually not a good salesperson.
Well, I think that role-playing such a scene is for the employer only a kind of confirmation of the competences, skills and characteristics that were entered by the candidate in the CV. What do you think about it?
For me, the most important are references, verification of the person in the market and, of course, the competences that were put in the CV by the person applying for the position in the sales department.
At LOANDO we like to give a chance to interesting people who have an idea and want to develop the company in many ways.
I know that over the years you have certainly attended many sales training courses. To what extent do such events influence the development of a salesperson?
Surely without the sales training I wouldn’t be where I am right now. Not only do I participate in such events, but I also run them, because I graduated from a coaching school. I have less time for this lately due to more responsibilities and challenges.
However, I would like to stress that every training gives a lot of knowledge and every salesperson who wants to further develop should actively participate in such training.
What are the most common mistakes made in sales?
Although nowadays we mostly buy things on the Internet, we still participate to a greater or lesser extent in direct sales, where unfortunately there are still a lot of people who do not have the ability to listen. I often specify exactly what I want to buy and I get an offer to buy something else.
More and more often I am also struck by the fact that a salesperson does not believe in the product they are supposed to sell to others. Often they also do not understand it and do not know what it is intended for and what its advantages are.
Now I would like to talk to you about the fintech industry, where you are currently operating. What distinguishes this market?
Fintech is primarily the future, its goal is to offer innovative solutions for the financial industry.
In fintech, on the one hand, we help our customers to finance their needs, and on the other, our goal is to reach more and more people and educate them, which is connected with taking out loans or credits. We do not want borrowers to make ill-considered decisions under the influence of emotions. Apart from sales, we focus on consumer education.
Could you explain briefly what your work in this area looks like?
In addition to the education I mentioned earlier, I also improve the process of researching customer needs, take part in testing new products and services and check whether they will meet the expectations of even the most demanding consumers. In the sales department, we also discuss how we can still help this industry and how we can develop it.
Changes in this industry are certainly happening quite quickly, how does it affect the functioning of the sales department?
It took some time before we learned how to react quickly to changes in the fintech industry. Now the employees are prepared for every possible scenario and know what to do. On the one hand, it is very demanding. On the other hand, it gives a large dose of adrenaline, which motivates to work and fights routine.
Coming back to the sales errors for a moment, one of the most important is to fall into a routine. Fortunately, it’s still happening in fintech!
Many experts claim that fintech has already revolutionised the financial market in Poland. What is your opinion on this subject?
I come from a traditional market and for a few years I had the opportunity to do ordinary sales in banking, among other things, so I know it quite well. I have been working in fintech for 7 years and over the years I have had the opportunity to observe how this industry has gradually revolutionised the financial market in Poland and abroad.
However, I have to admit that the traditional market still has a strong position, because customers are still willing to use the services of stationary branches of financial institutions or insurance companies.