Russell Brown: Building Deeper Sales Relationships
Too often, sales professionals early in their careers approach their jobs with a service mindset: Their role, they believe, is to serve the customer (or, sometimes, themselves).
Success in sales, however, depends on more than mere service to the customer. According to Russell Brown, Vice President of Sales for Computacenter U.S., it’s about building deep, personal relationships–not just with customers, but with sales leaders, team members, and peers in other parts of the business.
Russell is unusual in that he has been in the same organization for over 20 years. He spoke recently on our Sales Lead Dog podcast to share his insights on how to achieve deep sales relationships.
Russell’s Career Story
Russell’s early career aspirations did not include sales: He wanted to be a professional rugby player, but soon found that he didn’t have the talent to make it as a pro. Coming out of university in the U.K., he was offered an opportunity in the business development program at Computacenter, a global IT services company.
Russell credits the business development program for giving him the overall business perspective needed to be successful in sales. He started in inside sales and grew into successive positions of greater responsibility in the sales organization. Most recently, he became a VP of sales for the southwestern U.S.
The factors that have driven his career longevity and success include:
- People: Developing relationships not only with mentors and others within the company, but also with customers. “Sales is a people business,” he says, “and nobody does it alone.”
- Curiosity: A natural mindset of personal growth, learning, and development.
- Planning and preparation: From the day-to-day development of account plans for customers to career planning.
One thing that Russell says took him a while to learn is that “the highs are never as high, and they don’t last; and the lows are never as low, and they don’t last.” It’s important to check your ego when you’re having success, remain humble, and learn from failure.
“That’s where you need the people,” he says. “Not just to give you the advice, but to pick you up once you haven’t listened to that advice.”
Thoughts on Leadership
Sales leadership was a natural transition for Russell, who was already leading large project teams to deliver complex solutions to major customers.
His promotion to leadership, however, didn’t come on the heels of a major win. In fact, it was shortly after he lost one of the company’s biggest customers. For Russell, the move was indicative of the company’s philosophy that it isn’t results that are rewarded, it’s the leadership behaviors. The lesson wasn’t lost on Russell, and he has made it a cornerstone of his sales leadership approach.
“We never win or lose,” Russell says. “We are continually evolving.” Leaders too often have a fixed mindset and a short-term outlook. Successful sales leaders have what Russell calls an “infinite mindset,” in which they focus on the core things they can either control or influence within the business. Doing so delivers continuous improvement, growth, and sustainability.
The Role of CRM
Russell sees CRM as an important tool for sales leaders in its ability to provide real-time metrics, analytics, and reports. However, it’s only effective if it’s adopted by the entire sales team. Sales leaders need to use it themselves and insist that the team realize the benefits of having a single version of the truth regarding their customers.
For more on Russell’s insights, listen to his interview on the Sales Lead Dog podcast.