Tayo Sowole is a seasoned sales professional with more than a decade of experience in building and scaling revenue teams across multiple industries, including e-commerce, HRTech, and Edtech.
He is a former Nigeria international cricket player and outside of work Sowole runs a non-profit that uses the game of cricket as a tool for social impact in Africa. In this interview, Tayo Sowole advises sales professionals on how to get the best from their past experiences.
How did you come to be a sales coach?
Like most people, I got into sales by chance. One of the things that I think set me up for success is that I always had people by my side who walked the walk and showed me the ropes. I can confidently say that the difference between failure and success early in my career was the quality of coaches I had in my corner. I became a sales coach to be able to be part of the reason other sales professionals have a better shot at success.
Over the years, I have honed my skills and built a strong understanding of best practices in sales, which I now use to help individuals and teams reach their full potential. Whether it’s through one-on-one coaching, group training sessions, or customized programs, I am committed to empowering sales professionals to achieve their goals and drive growth for their organizations.
As a sales coach, what are some of the most difficult moments you have ever faced?
Every interaction is unique and most people who hire a sales coach have at least a vague idea of what their goals are. It can become tricky at times when people who have not quite decided whether or not sales is for them try to hire a sales coach to figure this out.
In your view, what is the difference between leading, managing, coaching and mentoring?
Leading, managing, coaching, and mentoring are all related, yet distinct, concepts in the world of work. A leader sets the vision, strategy, and objectives, and motivates and guides their team to achieve these goals.
Managing speaks more to the day-to-day activities of a leader. It involves organizing and coordinating people and other resources to achieve specific goals.
The focus of coaching is to help an individual or a team achieve their personal and professional growth through a series of periodic interactions that help the coachee build knowledge, confidence and skills. It is typically focused on specific, measurable outcomes that may have been set wholly by the individual or together with the coach.
Mentoring and Coaching are very similar. In my opinion, the major difference is that while coaching focuses more on improving technical skills, mentoring is more focused on the bigger picture, focusing on life skills like decision-making for people who are already close to the top of their technical abilities.
What kind of sales leader are you? How would you describe your leadership style?
I like to think of myself as a Doer. A roll up your sleeves and get involved in the work kind of person and I certainly bring that into my interactions with my colleagues and teammates.
I think that one of the best ways to teach, especially something practical like sales is for you to show people what is possible and how it can be achieved while also allowing them to adopt and adapt parts of it that suit their own working style.
I like to build teams that are very ambitious, aggressive in a good way, communicate freely and honestly and continue to put the success of the customer first. That is the kind of sales leader I continue to work towards being
We have a lot of technology, business, and sales-enabling tools emerging, what’s your view on this development?
Technology is a good thing. The right technology in the hands of the best people is maybe the best feeling in the world from the point of view of any business leader. It helps you and your team become exponentially more efficient. I will always be pro-Technology to the point where it enables rather than replaces the human touch in our interactions
Tell us about uLesson
I think that uLesson is one of the most important companies being built in Nigeria today.
By providing high-quality, curriculum-relevant educational video lessons, assessments and quizzes and making them accessible to millions of learners across the continent, uLesson is making sure that the next generation of African learners do not get marginalized.
Today, because of uLesson, all learners from Grades 1 to 12 (Primary 1 to SSS 3) can achieve their academic goals more easily than was previously possible.
How have you managed to navigate through these harsh economic times?
We have a culture of laser focusing on the customer and their needs. By putting the customer first, we have continued to see astonishing levels of adoption. I think that this is one of the biggest reasons for our continued success
Is there anything unique about selling SaaS that is different from other sales environments?
Yes, there are a number of things that make selling SaaS products a unique experience
First is the recurring nature of the business model. Even during the initial sales process, you must think about the future of the customer you are trying to close. You must be selling to them now knowing that in a year or sometimes less, you need them to make another purchase and do it over and over. That changes the way you would sell if it was a one-off sale.
The point above means that your value proposition must go beyond solving their problem temporarily. It also means that you must be fully invested in the overall amount of satisfaction that the customer gets from using your product.
The length of the sales cycle especially for B2B SaaS is also something that many people who are new to the space find surprising.
SaaS sales cycles are typically long not just because of the value of some of these deals but also the number of stakeholders that need to be convinced that this is the right product for their business.
I guess the biggest difference is the need to be laser-focused on defining your Ideal Customer Profile and deciding whether the prospects or leads you are currently talking to are a good match.
Despite all these, good, adaptable salespeople will typically do well across industries.
What do you think is the most important trait of a successful salesperson?
The most important trait for a salesperson is the will to win. Everything else stems from this.
There are a number of skills, both soft and technical that you need to acquire and hone continuously from the start till the end of your career. You will have bad days, weeks and even months. You have to continue to pick yourself up. Most of the other things can be taught but the will to win is what keeps you in the game.
Diverse myths surround salespeople, can you describe how your personal values have impacted your work?
There used to be a general feeling that salespeople are dishonest and would say or do anything to get the sale. I get the feeling that people now have a better understanding of sales and sales professionals now and this feeling is maybe disappearing gradually.
As a cricketer, one of the things that you are taught is to always be honourable in your conduct. I always apply that to my work. By telling a customer that my product won’t work for them and walking away from the sale, I have gained their trust and respect which is oftentimes useful for future interactions
What is the most critical factor in maintaining long-term business relationships with customers?
Delivering the value you promised them is by far the most important thing to customers.
The key is to promise what you can deliver and then go above that promise. Salespeople need to earn trust by being honest and clarifying the limit to which their product can solve the problems customers have. The software will never do 100% of what customers want so there is absolutely no reason to lie. Things will break, take responsibility, communicate clearly, fix it and continue to be helpful to the customer
How do you think sales strategy should evolve as the business grows?
This varies and is dependent on many different factors but flexibility and adaptability are the keywords here. As a business grows, its sales strategy should evolve to ensure continued success and growth.
I like to take a data-driven approach to these things. By measuring the impact of different initiatives, businesses can see which ones to double down on and which initiatives to pull the plug on.
Some of it may be as simple as increasing the number of salespeople to match the increasing volume of leads or simply fine-tuning your sales process to make your people more efficient and productive or they could be mildly complex like segmenting your customers and differentiating your customers to match the different customer segments.
As your business matures and you gain more confidence in your product market fit, you may find that advertising heavily is now a profitable strategy.
So far, what period can you tag as the most groundbreaking era in your career?
I have enjoyed every stage of my career. Today I am able to draw from my experience building a chain of physical stores at EzWash, going from a fresh-faced sales person to leading my own team at Dealdey, building out the sales operations at Bento and selling to some of the biggest consulting firms at SeamlessHR
My current role at uLesson has allowed me to deploy all of my experience. I have had to grow from just a sales leader to a business leader with responsibilities spanning across Sales, Marketing, Customer Success and Retention, Product, Profit and Loss and more and I continue to learn on the job.
One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is helping people get better at their craft and seeing them make significant and impactful contributions. I absolutely love it.