Episode 320: From Ground Zero to Sales Hero with John Westman

Winning in sales today requires more than persuasive skills and product knowledge to succeed.

Experienced businesses have learned this the hard way.

But what if you're just at the beginning of your sales journey?

If you were to establish a sales organization from the ground up, what beliefs, mindset, and behaviors would create a customer-first culture and a highly successful selling motion?

To help us with this today, we have John Westman, VP of Project Management at Citius Pharmaceuticals. John is also an Instructor at the Harvard Division of Continuing Education, where he designed and now teaches Professional Selling and Sales Management. With years of experience at companies like Fresenius Medical Care, NxStage Medical, PharMetrics (acquired by IMSHealth), Decision Resources, UROMED, and Baxter Healthcare, John brings a wealth of knowledge to his students.

What Key Strategies Drive a Successful Sales Organization from the Ground Up?

Starting a sales organization from scratch involves a mix of neuroscience insights, best practices, and customer-centric strategies. First, understand what your buyers want and how they prefer to be engaged, which is often through warm referrals. Create a program focused on peer selling and community building, where customers learn from one another. Use the type of language that resonates with buyers, fostering a friendly and collaborative environment by replacing aggressive terms like "target" and "close" with more positive and relational terms like "potential future friend" and "open a financial relationship."

“I spent my career observing, learning about, learning from, and then trying to recreate top 1% sales performance and top 1% sales management performance and then in the role of an instructor to have an opportunity to keep fresh, an obligation to keep fresh on those things. So I think it starts with what your buyers want.”

John Westman, VP of Project Management at Citius Pharmaceuticals

Put Your Customer First

To truly embrace a customer-first approach, organizations should actively involve their customers in evaluating their behavior and needs. This means focusing on what each buyer wants rather than applying a one-size-fits-all strategy. Engage with your buyers as partners, guiding them through their purchasing process and helping them succeed. Build genuine relationships based on trust and mutual benefit. When customers see you as a friend, they are more likely to share valuable insights and refer you to others, enhancing your success and fostering a culture centered around making your customers' lives better.

“What's great about the sales function is you're the ambassador of your company, you get the chance to help make other people's lives better, and, oftentimes, it comes back tenfold to you.”

John Westman, VP of Project Management at Citius Pharmaceuticals

Embrace Curiosity and Positive Language

Words matter in sales. No one likes feeling sold, but everyone loves buying. Focus on helping customers make informed buying decisions, not tricking them into a sale. It's essential to be genuinely curious about their needs, using positive language to reduce stress and build trust. This creates a positive feedback loop, fostering a cooperative atmosphere. Balancing curiosity with clear steps to a better future helps customers see the value in change.

Ask Questions and Listen

Selling is about asking questions, not making statements. When you ask questions, you understand the needs and emotions of your customers and avoid causing conflict. Engaging in deep conversations about their experiences, needs, and the impact on other stakeholders, like colleagues or family, helps you connect better. Remember, unrequested advice can be seen as an insult, so listen fully and wait a few seconds after they finish speaking before you respond.

“When you're fully engaged in listening, then you can also look for what isn't being said.”

John Westman, VP of Project Management at Citius Pharmaceuticals

The Magic of Handwritten Notes

In any business setting, always take notes with a pen and paper. This shows respect and attention, making the speaker feel valued. Avoid using devices, as they create distractions and barriers. During video calls, mention that you're taking notes to reassure the other person. Handwritten notes, or clearly stating that you're typing notes, help maintain focus and build trust, allowing you to memorize the information better and showcase your commitment to the conversation.

“When you're really trying to serve someone to make their life even better, taking notes is absolutely required.”

John Westman, VP of Project Management at Citius Pharmaceuticals

Now that you have learned how to successfully build a sales organization from scratch, discover the full list of episodes at The B2B Revenue Executive Experience. If you enjoy the show, instructions to rate and review it are found here.

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