Conversation with Christopher Perego – Regional Sales, BASF
This month we reached out to Christopher Perego, a 20-year veteran of BASF, for his take on how Marketing and Sales work together, and his insights into the power of Sales Culture. His experience is rich in Sales and Marketing, having just returned to the field after nearly 12 years in various Marketing assignments.
Carlos: You invested a large portion of your career in Marketing. When you hear the words Marketing / Sales Alignment, what comes to mind?
Christopher: I love Marketing and specifically, Strategic Marketing. Yet sales allows us to be closer to the customer. It allows us to learn what the customer’s hopes, dreams and aspirations are, often better than Marketing. When it comes to alignment, I see Marketing and Sales as a continuum. Marketing and Sales share the same objective: Serve the Customer. We may focus on different tactics and different KPIs, but the BIG idea remains the same – exceed the expectations of the customer. In every case we should be winning and losing together.
Carlos: What does Marketing have to do to truly be connected with the Sales Organization?
Christopher: To be truly connected, Marketing must have frequent communication with the field. A marketer cannot be fully effective if s/he works from the home office only. They must build relationships with the sales team, in person and in the field. When I was in Marketing, I made it a point to call 6-8 salespeople each week to solicit their thoughts and their impressions of marketing initiatives as well as their outlook on what they are seeing in the field. The more I connected with them, the better the relationship and the greater the trust that followed. Sales and Marketing are tough jobs and it is important to stay connected to what is happening in the market and what the sales force is experiencing daily. Sales also needs to recognize that decisions in Marketing are often made six to more months in advance due to the areas we focus on.
Carlos: You say in your LinkedIn profile that one of the biggest roles in Marketing is preparing the right messaging. What in your opinion should salespeople do to craft the right message, e.g. craft their story?
Christopher: Unfortunately, many in marketing and sales focus on their own company. We make ourselves, as the manufacturer, the center of the story. The real story is the customer’s story and for many salespeople that still remains a big gap. Salespeople must put their whole effort in understanding what the customer is trying to accomplish, and then shape their messaging to reflect their genuine interest in improving the customer’s business. They also should seek to connect their messages to the customer emotionally; to help the customer succeed personally as well as professionally. The better you are able to connect emotionally with a customer, the more likely you will retain your position in the account. I am a big fan of two tools, the Value Proposition Canvas by Strategyzer, and Don Miller’s, Building a Story Brand – a great book for your readers to consider.
Carlos: Thank you, Christopher. Let’s change the subject a bit. Prospecting – and the desire to pick up the phone – is becoming rare. What is your opinion about prospecting and what do you do with your team to develop a prospecting mindset?
Christopher: Certainly, there are many ways to prospect and you are right, many salespeople do not make it a priority. I believe that prospecting is primarily about Mindset. Strong salespeople prospect every single day and they make it part of their daily routine. They need to be intentional about prospecting. Some salespeople set up prospecting time blocks every day on their calendar so it is not forgotten. For some, due to the nature of their territories or customer base, prospecting may not be as high of a priority; however, they still need to do it. In all cases, while emails can be a good tool to prospect, there is nothing better than seeing people in person or calling directly by phone. So much is lost in digital messaging these days. If you are not being deliberate about prospecting, you are cheating yourself.
Carlos: And now, a few questions about high-performing sales organizations. Sales Culture is a term that many of us are challenged to describe. Many say that culture is primarily about BEHAVIORS. What do you believe are the most important behaviors in building a high-performance SALES culture?
Christopher: Here are four behaviors that I focus on with my team:
- Be Accountable – DWYSYWD – Do what you say you will do, period. Nothing works better in building trust and relationships with a customer.
- Own the Results – Don’t blame others or other things for your performance. Manage and work on what you can control.
- Clear Communications – Strive to be clear in what you say. Words matter. The clearer you are the better. Work on your messaging to ensure it communicates what you intended to say.
- Assume everyone is acting with the best of intentions – If you assume the best of people and that they act with good will, most of the time, you will drive the results you wish to get. People feel and sense your good intentions and will give you the benefit of the doubt.
Carlos: We shared with you in writing a list of 10 ingredients of a High-Performance Sales Organization. All of them are important. Which of them would you rank as the top 3? Why?
Christopher: You are right. They are all important. My top three choices would be People, Customer Experience and Mindsets. Let me share why:
- People – It all starts here. You really do prosper with your people. They are the face of your company.
- Customer Experience – Everyone is responsible for the Customer Experience. It is what we are all trying to deliver – memorable Customer Experiences.
- Mindsets – How you think drives what you do. Mindsets is about deciding what you are going to do and being deliberate about it. One of the mindsets I look for when interviewing is GRIT. What does the candidate do when things are not going well; how do they persevere and dig deep to accomplish what they set out to do?
Carlos: Studies have shown that the best sales organizations have ‘rituals’ – Rituals are practices that occur repeatedly to the point that they become habits. These are things that happen throughout the week, month or year. What are the rituals that you ascribe to that are part of ‘how you do things’?
Christopher: I don’t formally use the term ‘rituals,’ but based on your definition, there are probably three things I seek to do consistently. These things reflect the rhythms and cadence of our business and our industry. The first is to have a coaching mindset, to coach in the moment as well as during Monthly 1:1s. The second is a commitment to Continuous Improvement. And the third is having an Annual Planning process that occurs in the 3rd quarter of each year.
Carlos: OK. Thank you for your insights, Christopher. One final question. Many leaders suggest that Values are the most important elements of sales leadership, that values are a major source of continuity and consistency in a sales force. What are the VALUES you and your team embrace that guide decisions when challenging circumstances surface?
Christopher: Trust and Honesty are #1 – I want my team to be completely candid with each other, to be transparent and coachable, as that is what allows improvement to happen. 2nd, I encourage the value of Accountability, as our job is to own what we commit to. 3rd is Learn to love Practice. The game is won or lost during practice. We must commit to practice our craft. We can learn a lot from athletes who practice all the time to perform at game time. In sales, we don’t focus on practicing often enough and one of my goals with my team is to have a commitment to Practice, to improving all aspects of our sales skills. If you are in sales, learn to love practicing. Finally, I cannot leave out Integrity as an important value. Some people may take this for granted, but it is our job to always do the right thing.
Carlos: Thank you for your experience and wisdom, Christopher! It is clear that you are a devoted student of sales and marketing and your team will benefit from your insights and practical thinking!
Christopher: You are welcome! It was fun doing it.
Note: The ideas and opinions shared above are Christopher Perego’s own and are not to be construed as what BASF officially condones or endorses.