Stephen Milley, Group Manager, Sales, for Panasonic Connect’s Professional Imaging & Visual Systems Group on why sales teams need to differentiate between ”tactics” and ”strategies” to drive quicker business output:
Welcome to this SalesTechStar chat. We’d love to hear more about your sales journey over the years. What keeps you going when it comes to sales? Tell us more about your role at Panasonic Connect…
I’ve been in this industry my whole career. I was always interested in the film industry, so I went from film school to working in video production and live events. Then, in my late twenties, I recognized not only my love of the industry, but also a unique strength of building relationships. So, I transitioned to sales. Over the course of my career, I started out as a field-based sales person, I worked at an integrator firm and then I transitioned to Panasonic. There are so many moving parts in sales and, ultimately, I like to think that one of my strengths is seeing through the clutter. We can only craft well-communicated sales visions once we do that and boil things down to simpler concepts and themes that we see in our industries.
The thing that has motivated me to continue doing this is the customer experience. Many sales people are driven by commission and commission only. If you’re a sales person where money is the sole driver – that’s not the right philosophy in my opinion. You need something that drives you other than money and, for me, it’s the customer experience and the industry I love. Working with our customers and providing solutions that support their visual visions and seeing the end results in real time is super rewarding and gives me an overflowing sense of pride and prestige. I want the customer’s experience to be uniquely positive and we do that really well.
My career at Panasonic Connect has progressed really nicely. I’m currently the group manager for the Professional Imaging and Visual Systems group. I currently lead the outside sales, inside sales, and channel support teams, which gives me an opportunity to work with customers from many different vantage points. While we’re predominately a channel company, we work with both end users and our channel partners to educate them and truly be an extension of our sales force to engage and drive demand for incredible visual experiences. My team is engrained in the visual solutions business from start to finish and that strong visibility into the industry allows us to craft and implement sales strategies that achieves ultimate success for us, but also our customers.
When it comes to driving and boosting ROI in B2B sales, if someone were to ask you to share five base level best practices, what would your first thoughts be?
My sales philosophy is based on an endless cycle with five components from strategy, tactics, implementation, evaluation and then adjustment. Adjustment is critical here. In sales, we’re always evolving. However, it’s important to note that some portions of the cycle must evolve with more frequency than others – particularly adjustment and tactics. We must keep a flexible mindset so that we can meet our goals and strategies with new tactics or implementation methods as needed based on the current climate of the industry.
What are some of the biggest misses you see in sales strategies across B2B teams today?
One big miss I often see is sales professionals confusing strategy with tactics. A lot of companies think tactics are strategy and therefore jump into tactics without first thinking at a higher, more strategic level. From there, a huge miss is then when I see folks not believing in well-thought strategies and changing strategy too often.
Developing strategy takes time and collaboration to come up with a path forward for your sales force and customers. Tactics should support this strategy. However, I often find that people want to change their strategy too often and that leads to big misses. This can often happen when sales professionals aren’t putting the time in to really listen to their customers and get a deep understanding of the market they serve. If you don’t have this knowledge base, you’ll be very reactive and change frequently, which doesn’t lead to consistent success.
When it comes to the concept of enhancing customer and business relationships to drive sales experiences, what do you feel B2B sales leaders need to do more of?
Listen, learn and then act. It doesn’t mean you have to act on every whim of every customer, but if you demonstrate to your customers that you hear and believe them and act appropriately in support of your overall business, it speaks volumes to building relationships with the foundational element of trust. When customers can not only trust the products and solutions you provide them with, but also trust your ability to support them and their changing needs no matter the situation it can make a great impact on your relationship. More often than not, that service and high praise will get around as customers speak with each other. At Panasonic, we’re not only building the relationship at the customer level, but also at the industry level.
In what ways do you feel the B2B sales ecosystem and salestech segment is set to shape up in the next few years?
Over the past few years, technology has been adopted at one of the fastest rates I’ve seen in a long time. Given the newfound industry challenges brought on by the pandemic, there was a great sense of urgency not only from our customers, but also an urgency to change the way we connect with each other. This urgency created so much more collaboration in the visual IT space because they’re so intertwined. While Panasonic has a robust portfolio of offerings for our customers, we’ve also been forced – for the better – to collaborate with the entire ecosystem of industry partners and integrators to bring together a cohesive workflow. I think we’ll see a lot more collaboration across the industry in the future where sales teams are collaborating from organization to organization to create far enhanced customer experiences.
Any last thoughts or takeaways before we wrap up?
Through witnessing these relative technology shifts over the past few years, I’m excited for the future because I foresee a lot of innovation around the corner. Customers are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and it’s a really exciting opportunity to join along on this ride. We’re going to see massive changes over the next few years and that’s really exciting.
Stephen Milley is the the group manager for the Professional Imaging and Visual Systems group leading the outside sales, inside sales, and channel support teams giving him an opportunity to work with customers from many different vantage points to drive demand for incredible visual experiences.
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