Q&A with
John Ruggles, Senior Vice President, Global Sales and Client Value Enhancement, Frost & Sullivan

Recently, we posed a few questions about selling in the digital age to John Ruggles, who brings a large constellation of skills including Program Management, Executive Management, Go-to Market Strategy, Competitive Analysis, Sales Operations and much more to the discussion table. Beyond underscoring the fact that many sales fundamentals have not changed, he shared timely take-aways like the following: “Customers no longer buy our products or services. They buy into our approach to solving their problems.” Read on for further insights.

1. Can you share some key lessons learned from your 25+ years in B2B sales? Are there some things that haven’t really changed?

In any sales position, you have to build a relationship with your client, understand their internal and external challenges and always stay relevantly useful to them. Your chances of keeping a long term client are very high when you are continuing to give them information they need to make better strategic decisions or it is information they didn’t think they needed to know but you showed them the value of why they need this information (this falls under the concept of you don’t know what you don’t know)

Here are some golden rules that haven’t really changed:

• The early bird gets the worm
• Working the phones, emails, events, client visits, social media (the fundamentals) hard pays off. However, there are clear ways to work smarter and not harder. This comes with advanced skills, understanding and experience. This can be taught and accelerated
• Being customer-centric is critical
• The relationships that you build are lifelong relationships
• We are not selling to the company… we are selling to the person
• It has been stated that one of the most successful attributes of top sales reps is actually navigating the internal organization of their own company and being able to garner/deliver the most effective company resources to support their client and opportunity

2. Fast forward to today. How do you sell to prospects and customers who are more empowered than ever? How do you navigate the customer journey to be more successful?

• A big difference that has been noted today is that “customers no longer buy our products or services. They buy into our approach to solving their problems”
• Holiday gifts and/or customer appreciation tactics are an old technique, but one that really works even today. It creates significant loyalty in my opinion, and shows customer appreciation
• The sales process now is focused more on multiple products and solutions that have a long-term effect. I very rarely sell 1 item to a client so the process is longer but we are able to sell multiple products because of this

3. Are there any particular digital tools you recommend? For instance, social selling is very big right now. Can you share your thoughts about having a social media selling strategy? How best for B2Bers to implement?

Social Media is very important and you should constantly be on it posting about relevant information about how the world is digitally transforming. If you are really brave, start blogging about topics that you are passionate and well informed about.

4. Frost and Sullivan has salespeople located all over the world. Can you provide any insights or strategies for sales teams selling in a global marketplace?

Collaboration and communication, clear rules of engagement but incentivize teamwork – to work together where everyone gets rewarded for working together evenly.

5. Your tips for partnering/aligning with marketing in the digital age—an age old challenge/goal.

As mentioned above, this is an age old challenge. Simply put, this has to start at the highest levels of marketing and sales leadership. Collaboration and communication are key for this to work at the company level, Too many times I have heard that marketing and sales do not work together and in some cases work against one another. In the digital age, this has not changed in my mind. Once the leadership is on the same page, then it is up to them to listen to what the key drivers and challenges are from the sales organization and support them in these areas for success.

6. Can you identify some of your key sales leadership challenges? Particularly when it comes to managing a global sales force?

One key that helps out is video conferencing. Being able to see your team face to face certainly allows for a more personal feel to discussions when you do not see them that often. Breaking down any silos is also a key to success … One Team/One Vision. Finally, ensuring that all standards are global and not regional

7. What makes a successful salesperson today?

There are a few characteristics and qualities that a successful salesperson possesses today:

• Listening: They have to be able to listen carefully and really understand what the client is saying. Actively listening and following up with good questions helps the client feel like they are respected and that you really understand their challenges or pain points.
• Communication: The way you communicate with a client, meaning your voice, tone and pace will help to build rapport with the client. You need to have effective communication so that you are to the point and it is understandable to the client. Let your passion for what you do and your personality shine through your voice when on the phone
• Ability to Adapt to Change and Positive Attitude: You need to be able to change directions at a moment’s notice while always keeping a positive attitude. You attitude can become infectious to people around you. Stay motivated and motivate others to continue wanting to succeed in sales. Understand how your client would like to be communicated with on a regular basis … leverage social selling.
• Persistence: Do not let the word “no” scare you because you will come across a lot of them. Be confident and continue moving forward
• Being a Consultant, understanding the industry – challenges – problems your client is facing in their business life. Have solutions, be Johnny on the Spot, save their day!

John Ruggles has over 25 years of operational, business development, and customer experience expertise, assisting companies with the development and implementation of their growth strategies. His specific areas of expertise include creating action oriented sales processes, providing sales leadership and mentorship, strategic planning, lead generation and client management.

Throughout his career, John has covered sectors including aerospace, automotive, industrial automation, building technologies and energy and environment. In addition to being a polished presenter, he brings results driven leadership across multiple channels and regions.