Driving the Deal

George Mienie of Auto Trader offers his sales advice.

Vital Stats

  • Name: George Mienie, 37
  • Designation: Managing Director, Auto Trader
  • Sales Team: 80 staff in three offices with a national footprint.
  • Offering: Offline and online media publishing across five magazines and a website.
  • Career: George started his career in finance. After finishing Articles he got involved in commercial finance, before being appointed Head of Finance at Auto Trader in 2004. In 2008 he was promoted to Managing Director.

Auto Trader already dominates the market in its sector, so what are your sales goals or challenges for the year ahead?

Being in a market dominant position definitely begs the question, “Where to from here?”. We have the biggest automotive audience in SA but the challenge is to communicate the value of this strong consumer engagement to our advertisers.

I think the trick, as always in sales, is to unpack the value inherent in your offering in such a way that the customer can see how it benefits their business.

It’s not enough to tell a customer that, for example, Auto Trader generates on average 20 000 leads a week or has over 550 000 unique visitors to its website. We need to make that more relevant to the customer’s business and link it back to how those facts will help them meet their goals specifically.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about sales?

From a customer perspective, it’s what I was just referring to – think about your customer’s business and how your offering is going to help them and their objectives from their perspective. Don’t just sell a list of features and benefits – sell the value that will make his business better.

He’s thinking about his business, not about your product offering, so put yourself in his shoes. From an employee perspective I think the most important thing I’ve learned is the importance of managing the activity of my sales team and knowing what they are doing and what they are talking about to the customer.

When you keep in touch with what they are doing, you’ll know who they’re seeing, how often and what kinds of conversations they’re having, and whether this aligns to the customer’s business objectives.

This, in turn, will get you to the essence of where the areas for improvement for that particular sales person lie. It will let you know where your sales team needs training, whether your product knowledge is what it should be and whether they are seeing enough of the right people often enough to retain and drive business deals.

What’s the most effective motivator when it comes to sales?

I can tell you what doesn’t motivate them – money. The lack of money can be demotivating but this doesn’t mean that throwing money at people has the opposite effect and will motivate them. I believe that motivation really differs from one person to another.

Getting the best out of your people means understanding them as individuals, recognising the things that drive them and responding to these things. I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all ‘motivation recipe’, however, always try and hire intrinsically motivated sales people; they are a lot easier to lead than moaners.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I don’t really think I have a set leadership style. I see my role as one of adaptive behaviour and to reiterate my previous point about motivation, I think that if you want to influence people’s behaviour you need to adapt your leadership style to a way that resonates with them, it’s not about you.

Some people thrive under a supportive leadership style while others produce their best work under a more controlling leadership style. The key is to be able to shift your leadership style. This is not to say that you need to change your values or who you are, but you do need to respond to what individuals need. You also need to communicate your vision clearly and build credibility and trust.

What’s your key to closing the deal?

Keep your close short. You need to leave people with something impactful and this is best achieved in fewer words.

What do you believe are some of the mistakes to be avoided when leading a sales team?

People often make the mistake of stereotyping sales people and I think this is an error.

It’s important to remember that sales people are individuals, not some homogenous group that you can treat with a one-size-fits-all approach. Look at the individual, find out what moves them and drives them, discover their strengths and then use them in a role best suited to them.