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Building Successful Sales Teams w. Eric van Antwerpen

Explore Eric van Antwerpen's unique approach to redefining success in sales teams. Learn how collaboration beats competition every time

In the dynamic world of sales and account management, the blueprint for success is often drawn from a blend of experience, strategy, and a dash of innovation. This conversation with Eric van Antwerpen, a seasoned sales veteran with over 25 years in the game, shed light on this intricate balance.

The Accidental Salesman

Eric’s entry into the world of sales was as unexpected as it was fateful. Reflecting on his beginnings, he shared, “I’m not sure if it was a conscious choice. My first role was in an international electronics manufacturing company.” This role placed him at the intersection of client needs and organizational capabilities.

That meant navigating the complex dynamics of product management, logistics, and manufacturing to ensure client satisfaction.

Eric described his early experience as being “a bit ‘spider in the web’ between research and development, product management, but also logistics, manufacturing, et cetera.”

This multifaceted exposure laid the groundwork for his comprehensive understanding of sales as a holistic process that extends beyond quotas.

Winning Isn't Just About the Trophy

In sales, the notion of winning often conjures images of closed deals, ringing bells and President’s Clubs.

However, Eric offers a broader and more impactful definition. “I’d be lying if I did not mention the word winning because I think that it’s just great to win. And not just win in the sense of seeing results or closing a deal, but also win in moving business from one level of profitability or one level of growth to the next,” he explains.

This perspective resonates with me because it views success through the lens of growth, impact, and the long-term relationships built along the way.

Crafting the Sales "Machinery"

Eric’s analogy of building “machinery” in sales highlights the importance of creating a well-oiled system that optimizes team efforts and strategies.

He stresses the balance between structure and flexibility, stating, “You need a minimum of quality, process, governance… But with a minimum viable level of bureaucracy; you actually create flexibility.”

This reflects my own belief in the power of flexible frameworks that allow teams to innovate and respond to the dynamic sales landscape effectively. Build guardrails, not boxes.

I'm a strong believer in my responsibility to help people be their best. It's not just focusing on why you didn’t meet target.

The Power of Teamwork

A recurring theme in our conversation was the critical role of collaboration in fostering successful sales teams.

Eric passionately advocates for breaking down silos and fostering an environment where open communication and teamwork are paramount. “Create virtual teams, create communities and I, as a leader, really want to build those bridges within the organization and bring people across those bridges,” he shared.

This approach not only enhances efficiency and client experiences but also cultivates a culture of shared success and collective achievement.

A Common Mistake in Sales and Account Management

One of the most thought-provoking aspects of our discussion was Eric’s challenge to the conventional “farming” versus “hunting” narrative in sales.

He argues for a more integrated approach, where maintaining relationships and seeking new opportunities are complementary, not mutually exclusive, skills. 

“I’ve never fully understood the difference between farming and hunting…why can’t they be united in one person or within one client context?”

Why indeed. This perspective encourages a rethinking of role definitions within sales teams, advocating for versatility in addressing client needs and market opportunities.

Key Takeaways for Aspiring Sales Leaders

If you’re looking to lead a sales team to glory, here’s the playbook according to Eric (and a bit of my own seasoning):

  • Embrace a holistic view of sales: Success in sales involves more than just meeting targets; it’s about creating a sustainable system that fosters growth and client satisfaction.
  • Foster collaboration and flexibility: Building a culture of feedback and collaboration within and across departments can enhance efficiency and improve outcomes.
  • Challenge conventional roles: The lines between “farming” and “hunting” are not as rigid as traditionally thought. Encouraging teams to embrace both roles can lead to more dynamic and successful client engagements.

Reflections

Reflecting on our discussion, a few quotes from Eric stand out as encapsulating the essence of our shared insights:

  1. On Winning: “I think that it’s just great to win. And not just win in the sense of seeing results or closing a deal, but also win in moving business from one level of profitability or one level of growth to the next.”

  2. On Building Machinery: “You need some hooks that you can hang your hat on, but you need to work with the people and explain your philosophy and get them on board and leverage their skills and input to make this machinery work.”

  3. On Collaboration: “Create virtual teams, create communities and I as a leader really want to build those bridges within the organization and bring people across those bridges. And then you see that things are happening, people talk to each other, exchange information, visit clients together et cetera. And that’s very powerful approach in today’s world where you need something like that.”

  4. On Learning and Growth: “I’m a strong believer in my responsibility to help people be their best. It’s not just focusing on why you didn’t meet target.”

Eric ‘s parting advice for anyone looking to excel in sales or any professional endeavor: keep an open mind, listen intently, and build on small successes.

These principles, coupled with a focus on team collaboration and client experience, form the cornerstone of building successful sales teams.

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