Real Face of Sales: Why LinkedIn’s Wade Morgan Wants to Change the Perception of B2B Selling
LinkedIn Account Executive Wade Morgan shares his thoughts on modern-day sales and how working on a sales team compares to playing college basketball.
October 25, 2017
At first glance, college basketball and B2B sales don’t seem like they should have much in common. But Wade Morgan has excelled at both, and he insists that there’s overlap in the skills you need to be successful in each discipline.
After graduating from Stanford, where he was a four-year member of the men’s basketball team, Morgan began his career in sales by entering LinkedIn’s Business Leadership Program, with an emphasis in Global Sales.
Today, Morgan works as an Account Executive for LinkedIn. We sat down with him to discuss the parallels between team sports and team sales, as well as what he thinks young people get wrong about building a career in sales.
LinkedIn: How does the reality of working in sales compare to the public perception of the sales profession?
Wade Morgan: I think when you generally think about sales, you’re usually thinking about somebody who is selling you something you don’t need. You don’t think about that person being a true consultant. You think about somebody really trying to be very pushy, even kind of sleazy.
Like most lines of work, there are some cases where that stereotype holds true. But it doesn’t describe good salespeople. The best salespeople are skilled at listening to you, asking you the right questions, and truly assessing if you need their help or not. If you need their help, they will tell you how. If you don’t, they will leave you alone.
LinkedIn: How would you describe the reality of working in sales, in terms of your interests and values?
WM: In my industry, in technology sales, a lot of it happens over the phone. You really have to be engaging. It’s hard to follow what somebody is saying if you aren’t with them in person. Even though it’s over the phone, you’re still giving them a presentation. But there’s a lot more to the process than just going in, saying you have something to sell and hoping that the person signs.
So there’s an entire discovery process, an entire demonstration process, a negotiation process that is a lot more intricate than what people probably imagine. A lot of it, like I said before, is really figuring out if you can help. If you can’t help, then you have to be honest with yourself.
LinkedIn: How do you define your role as a salesperson within an organization?
WM: I think the easiest way to describe the role of a salesperson is to keep the lights on. You’re responsible to the company for bringing the money in, but you also have obligations to your client as well, and for them, you’re responsible for solving their problems. So you really have to have a clear understanding of what their problems are in order to solve them effectively.
That’s why you have to spend a lot of time figuring out the real problem you’re trying to solve. Is it a big enough problem for you to solve? Why do people care, or why don’t they? Once you figure that stuff out, the sales process is a lot easier.
LinkedIn: You played college basketball at Stanford before starting a career in sales. What comparisons do you see between competing in sports and working on a sales team?
WM: There is definitely a big comparison between what I’m doing now and the culture that you experience within sports. In my experience playing college basketball, you get comfortable having tough conversations, you get comfortable being judged based on your results, you get comfortable with things like a stack ranking: My team is better than your team, I am better than you. You get comfortable with all that kind of stuff.
I think you develop an appreciation for performance, not just individually but also in the context of a team. At LinkedIn, I’m not the only salesperson here, but if the business isn’t doing well, then it means that potentially I’m not doing well. At the end of the day, if I had to summarize, I would say both sports and sales teach you to be accountable for fulfilling your role and doing your job, but they also train you to seek out improvements that serve the entire organization, and not just yourself.
LinkedIn: What do you enjoy most about working with a team?
WM: What I enjoy most about working with a good team is learning from the other people I’m working with. I’m the kind of person who loves learning. I try to be as transparent with myself and with other people as possible. I feel like when I do that well, I’m able to accelerate how quickly I can become an expert in whatever I’m trying to do. Doing so makes me better and makes the team better, so it’s a win-win all around.
LinkedIn: You’re 24 years old. What do you think people your age think of sales?
WM: I would say that people my age, I don’t know that we have an accurate view of what sales really is. I would say that depending on where you’re at and maybe your educational background, sales isn’t one of the top professions young people want to pursue. That’s especially true coming out of some of the top schools. I think people feel like it’s not very strategic. Overall, sales can be a black box for people my age.
LinkedIn: What do you mean by black box?
WM: By black box, I mean that their impression of sales is some guy wearing a suit and doing work that most people wouldn’t want to do. It’s kind of hard to show what sales is. You don’t get to look inside a company like LinkedIn and see what the best salespeople are doing on a day-to-day basis. It’s hard to really know exactly what that career entails, because you don’t really see what goes into it.
LinkedIn: What does that day-to-day activity look like, in terms of working style? Do you find that you’re at your desk most of your day, or do you have break out spaces or do you go to clients a lot?
WM: There are a couple different functions within sales, and each one dictates the kind of work you do. For me, as an Account Executive, I’m often at my desk on the phones, or sending emails to try to prospect into new accounts. Then there are relationship managers who oversee current accounts, and they might have a small account list so they’re able to visit them more and do some of that work in person, including relationship management and making sure the products are working well.
LinkedIn: What would you say is the biggest lesson you have learned on the job?
WM: The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is really to be compassionate to the people you’re speaking with, and to be honest with them. I think when you take the approach of trying to sell something to somebody, it has a very different effect than if you approach them like you’re truly seeking to understand their perspective and needs. I think the latter approach enables you to dig a little bit deeper and find the things that you need in order to have a successful relationship.
LinkedIn: Who do you turn to for advice? Is it strictly in the workplace, one of your colleagues, your boss?
WM: When I need help, I try to bucket it beforehand to figure out who can help. If it’s something more tactical in nature, I might go to some of my co-workers and colleagues and ask them little things here or there, maybe ask for some help on an email or something like that. If it’s something more strategic, then I feel like I can go to my manager with it.
Overall, I try to figure out, ‘At what level is this conversation?’ Then I go to the relevant people. The other thing I will add, though, is that I have the benefit of sitting not only next to my manager, but also next to his manager. This makes it easy to ask him a couple questions here and there. It’s great to have that kind of access.
LinkedIn: If you could change one thing about the modern-day role of the salesperson, what would it be, and why?
WM: I would say the perception - both my own perception going into the profession, as well as how other people might think of somebody in my role.
At the end of the day, selling is about asking the right questions and determining the best ways for you to solve problems. In general, people only buy things when the value they can derive from that thing is greater than the cost of obtaining it.