Josh Pheneger is the most recent business developer to join our team. We sat down with him to get an inside look at his background, how he approaches sales and his best tips for salespeople just starting out.
Here’s the interview transcript:
Question: How many years have you been in sales?
Josh Pheneger: I have been in sales for about three years now.
Question: What are some of your observations of sales in general?
Josh Pheneger: People think sales is easily hackable with different sets of ideas on how it should be done and best practices. This has shifted the focus from serving the client and the company in the best way, to a focus of doing whatever it takes to get a sale. Maybe that hasn’t always been the mentality, but I know that has been my biggest observation.
Question: What have you changed in your approach based on these observations?
Josh Pheneger: I try to communicate heavily with the people at my company to set expectations so that I know where the line is for an overpromise, and I try to be as transparent as possible with a prospect. If I don’t know a price, timeline, or process, I will be honest about not knowing something. And then I will go find the answers.
Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s less uncomfortable than a conversation that goes like this: “I know I said this, but it’s really going to be this.” My motto is: Under-promise, over-deliver. Treating prospects like humans is very helpful, too, so trying to build rapport with prospects and clients is something I focus on a lot now.
Question: So what are some things you do to build rapport?
Josh Pheneger: I try not to force a connection point, but I won’t ignore it if it’s there. I just want to do a good job for the prospect or client, so the best way I know how to build rapport is by trying to build trust. Connections will always come, but connection without trust is pointless.
Question: Is it difficult to uncover what a prospect or client expects from you or the company?
Josh Pheneger: Yes. Even though they are coming to us specifically for the services or products that we are offering, it’s difficult to know what they are looking to get out of the engagement specifically. However, I think some of the expectation-guessing is attributed to the prospect not being completely sure of what they need. They’re basically just looking at options. Pricing is the biggest hurdle.
Question: Do you have some kind of script that helps you with the first couple of calls to get the information you need?
Josh Pheneger: I truly hate scripts because when I have them in front of me, I’m tempted to robotically go through them question by question, which is a problem for me and my style of selling. I do see their value, and I try to go into each conversation prepared, knowing what information I need to get. This makes it easier for me, because I feel like I can ask the questions in a more organic way based on how the conversation is going.
Question: How can a salesperson engage with a sales process and use their own strengths to make that work?
Josh Pheneger: I think self-awareness is the ultimate skill for anyone doing anything, but especially in sales. For me, I am not very good at connecting right away, so I struggle with some of the beginning stages in the sales process. I enjoy talking strategy and execution, so the beginning stages of getting to know the needs of the company and getting to know the prospect is a challenge. And that is something I needed to give myself patience with to get better at. I adjusted my process by practicing how to have conversations, which sounds hilarious, and I didn’t try to force being good at it, so that I could show my strengths when it came time for the later stages in the process.
Question: Earlier you mentioned under-promising and over-delivering, how do you go about trying to do this?
Josh Pheneger: I try really hard to over-communicate with my company so that I understand all of their timelines and processes for projects. This helps me give informed estimates when talking to prospects about what they can expect. But I won’t rule out requests to do something we don’t typically do until I am told no from the people who make those decisions.
Question: What would be a tip you have for someone just starting out in sales?
Josh Pheneger: Don’t go in with everything figured out. It’s ok to mess up, and if you do, learn from it. I did this for way too long, and I definitely still struggle with it. But don’t shy away from the things that you aren’t good at or make you feel uncomfortable because leaning into these situations teaches you the most!