Robert Jeppsen is the Senior Vice President of Commercial Sales at Zions First National Bank in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, and is the Chair of the final judging committee of the Sales Individual categories of the 2013 Stevie® Awards for Sales & Customer Service, the world's top business awards for contact center, customer service, business development, and sales professionals. (January 15 is the last day that late entries will be accepted for the 2013 edition. All organizations and individuals worldwide are eligible to submit entries for sales awards, contact center awards, and customer service awards. If you haven't yet done so, you can request your entry kit here and it will be emailed to you right away.) Here Rob shares some useful tips on beating the competition.
As one of the top sales executives for a growing financial institution, what top 3 tips would you give to sales individuals seeking to make their mark in sales?
- Understand that HOW you sell is far more important than WHAT you sell. Products are copied almost immediately, especially in financial services. While products will be copied, experiences can’t be. Making the client experience your priority, from the initial sales process on, is the most sustainable competitive advantage you can have.
- Discover the process that works in your marketplace. With the right process you can do things that would otherwise be impossible. Process gives you predictability in sales, which may be the most desirable thing a business can have. This is particularly important in complex sales environments like financial services. For example, in commercial banking, studies show that it takes a minimum of 6-8 calls to a potential client before they actually get serious about considering the new banker as a viable option. Here’s the problem: Most bankers quit calling on a prospect after 2-3 calls, the perspective being that there is no opportunity. In reality, at this point a banker is only 25-30% of the way to the stage of being seriously considered. Process allows you to have indicators that not only help to win more business, but also provide confidence about where you are in each transaction. Once you discover it, the right process can be a huge and ongoing competitive advantage: less than 10% of salespeople currently use a milestone-based process as part of their regular approach to winning and retaining business.
- Products don’t matter. My first law of sales is simple: “Products have no value. Products only derive value.” Rather than have your call preparation be about product knowledge and product fluency, my suggestion is to learn the breadth of problems a product can solve and why those problems matter. Nobody likes a “Press Play” salesman who just switches on a product pitch. If you can be fluent and comfortable in having conversations about the impact—preferably a dollarized impact—of solving a business problem, you will find that your sales cycle time shrinks and your win rate will rise pretty quickly. One of the most important skills a salesperson can have is fluency and confidence in deriving value. The better you are at this, the more successful you will be.
What item of news recently caught your eye and why?
The most important news topic to me right now is U.S. fiscal policy. New tax laws will have a huge impact on business owners and will create significant changes in our business environment. With change there is always opportunity, and I want to be sure to be close to the changes that are inevitably coming in the short term. We saw a lot of business owners move into “hunker down” mode as the election drew near. The jury is still out on the impact to business owners and their ability to grow. As a financial institution that has been the #1 SBA lender in the Western United States, the economic environment for business owners is the most significant issue right now. A lot of clients are asking us for insights into what the implications will be for them, and I want our team to be able to provide meaningful advice.
What is your favorite app?
Like many sales leaders, I am on the road a lot and not able to attend many events back home with my family. I miss a lot of the games that my kids play in, so an app that has been a real difference maker for me is GameChanger. It allows an absentee Dad to “watch” a game by posting play-by-play updates, and for a Coach, it provides instant stats and match-up/coaching suggestions. (And as a sports fan, another app I don’t know what I would do without is ESPN ScoreCenter, which provides scores and news of sports leagues around the world.)
If you could choose another profession, what would it be?
I would be a basketball coach. The most fun I’ve had came when I was a volunteer coach for a local high school’s varsity basketball team. It was in a less-affluent part of our area and many of the boys had never had the experience of learning the relationship of preparation and success. They hadn’t had a winning season since 1972. But we had a winning season that year, and qualified for the state tournament…a quick turnaround. I am in sales because I love the competitive element. It gives me that thrill of competition I used to have as an athlete. But as much fun as it has been to achieve my own success, I have found the most fulfillment when I guide a team to a point where the collective group wins instead of just me. A much larger challenge is a much more fulfilling one. Coaching a NCAA D1 team would be about as good as it gets!
As someone at the top of your profession, what keeps you inspired or makes you hit the ground running in the morning?
I love winning. At Zions, we have a big team and big challenges. Last year, every single one of our 10 regions hit goal. We had 31% growth in a down economy, and we beat our 2007 production numbers with fewer people.
There are big challenges in our industry right now that require big plans and big execution. I like taking the NOT out of CANNOT and helping people realize they can do things that others simply don’t think is possible. I like to go out and do things that are just too inconvenient for my competitors. It is a ton of fun and it makes everything worthwhile.
About Robert Jeppsen:
Rob Jeppsen is the SVP of Commercial Sales for Zions Bank. With over 16 years of direct sales and sales leadership experience, Jeppsen has worked in publicly-traded organizations, privately-held organizations, and has successfully led sales teams in the technology, pharmaceutical, and financial services sectors.
Jeppsen is a regular speaker at conferences nationwide and at universities in the Western United States. He is the creator of the Zions Bank Business Performance Series, a tool offered to Zions' clients interested in building a world-class sales system. The course was taken by over 500 businesses in the 2010-2012 period.
About Zions First National Bank:
Zions First National Bank is a subsidiary of Zions Bancorporation, which operates more than 500 offices and 600 ATMs in 10 Western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington. As a full-service bank, Zions offers commercial, installment and mortgage loans; trust services; foreign banking services; electronic and online banking services; automatic deposit and nationwide banking and transfer services; as well as the more familiar checking and savings programs. For more information, go to https://www.zionsbank.com