Great Sales in Eight with Peter McLaughlin

Peter gives us his thoughts on sales innovation, common sales mistakes, and measuring sales performance.
Lina Eroh

Peter McLaughlin has been in sales for his entire career and is currently President of BTC Sales Development. His experience ranges from conventional employment with corporations to owning, growing and selling a company in the security industry. Peter leads sales trainings of the theoretical underpinnings and the practical techniques described in his book: Becoming the Customer, Empathy, Influence and Closing the Sale. We were excited to sit down with Peter and put him on the Sales Seesaw! For more sales tips and tricks from Peter, make sure you follow him on Twitter.

When did you realize you were a salesman?

It was when I was standing in front of 150 people in Singapore in the 1980s giving a presentation on a software package my company was selling. In that moment, I realized I could handle the questions and that I enjoyed being up there. The key was understanding that I could pass my own enthusiasm onto other people.

What’s your favorite sales hack?

Understanding that rapport and trust are absolutely vital to any sales interaction. People buy when they’re emotionally onboard. Essentially, we’re emotional creatures pretending to be rational. A salesperson who can communicate emotion is underrated but incredibly powerful. Rapport building can be taught and it can happen on purpose.

Tell me about a sale you really screwed up. What would you have done differently?

The ones I messed up, I probably didn’t even know. My biggest failure in sales has been holding myself back from approaching someone and engaging with them. Getting to that first connection–making that first step, picking up the phone, walking up to someone at a trade show–that’s my biggest weakness.

What is the most common mistake you see sales organizations making?

Most sales organizations are baffled by sales and how sales occur. They believe you just find someone who’s “good at sales” and you arm them with product information and you push them out on to the street and they make sales happen. But we call salespeople representatives for a reason. They represent a product or a service. Weaknesses within the product or service will directly impact a salesperson’s ability to sell, no matter how great he or she is. A legendary fighter pilot is nothing without a good plane and all the people who keep him and the plane running. Salespeople are the tip of spear for the larger organization. If a company is ignorant of that fact, sales will suffer as a result.

What’s the best invention or innovation for inside sales in the last decade?

Social listening. I can come to my desk in the morning, open up my computer, and see mentions of prospects and customers in social media and in the news. Then I can use that as a trigger to reach out. It’s probably underused right now, but it’s a staple for the future.

How often should sales training occur for maximum benefits?

My conception of sales training goes beyond a stand up twice a year. For me, coaching and group problem solving are forms of sales training that should never end. Every human being needs to feel like they’re mastering their subject, and that involves constantly learning new things. If that ever stops, what results is boredom and burnout. If you do do stand ups, make sure they involve realistic role playing. That’s how philosophies and strategies go from theoretical to practical.

What’s the most important metric sales organizations aren’t measuring?

Motivation and engagement of their people. There can be a reluctance to tell the truth, especially to a manager. Anonymity helps, but real interviews with a non-partial third party are best because there are all sorts of things that don’t arise in a questionnaire. Through these interviews, you realize there’s a lot of “sales intelligence” possessed by the sales group that’s not shared, routinely collected or acted upon. Organizations with a pulse on sales intelligence reiterate their product and marketing much more efficiently than those who don’t.

Sales seesaw! Which side do you fall on?

nature or nurture? both

quantity or quality? quality

wide or narrow? narrow

cold call or social? social

energy or experience? energy

talk or listen? listen

call or email? both

art or science? both, unequivocally

systematic or flexible? flexible

script or improv? improv

BONUS QUESTION: Should salespeople be able to sell inferior products?

This question should never be asked. It comes down to ethics. I wouldn’t feel good about selling you something inferior unless I really felt that it was going to work for your unique circumstance or it was a lot less expensive and you understood exactly what you were buying. Irrespective of their ability to sell, a salesperson shouldn’t do it if it hurts the prospect. In the end, it does nobody any good. A relentless focus on quarterly profits at all costs will torpedo that company down the line. Without trust, sales is an uphill battle.

Have other questions you’d like to ask Peter? Leave a comment and he’ll be sure to respond! Interested in being featured in an upcoming interview? Drop us a line at or leave a comment!