10 Oct 2017 | 11.38 am
Interview: Mark Hopkins, BT Ireland
Always have a plan B, even when things are going well
10 Oct 2017 | 11.38 am
Mark Hopkins, sales director for BT Ireland Business, assumed the position in 2016 after a previous role with responsibility for specialist sales and operational teams involved in IT product, data centre, training and global voice and data. At BT Belfast, he was sales manager for the healthcare sales team and, before that, Hopkins worked for seven years with Microsoft. Hopkins tells Conor Morris of The Sales Institute of Ireland who was his hero and who gave him the best advice
How did you end up working in sales?
I took good advice. At the end of school I got reasonable grades and knew that some sort of business career was my likely path. A friend of my Dad was a lecturer at the University of Ulster and suggested that a business plus technology angle would give me more options. Courses were just starting to be offered in this area so in 1995 I went to Newcastle upon Tyne and did a BSc in Business Information Technology. On completion, I got a job in CARA back in Ireland working in network pre-sales and marketing but within a year realised that sales was a better fit for me.
Who is your sales hero and why?
This is going to sound a bit corny but the answer is my wife. We met while both working in sales in Microsoft and she is one of the best relationship, people-based salespeople I have ever met. Albeit, I still wouldn’t cross her!
What is the best career advice anyone ever gave you and did you follow it?
Always have a plan B even when things are going well. I have always worked hard to ensure that I had good mentors and that counsel came from one of them. I haven’t always had a plan B, but at least making sure your network is strong and that you try not to burn any bridges has stood me in good stead to date.
What makes a good high performance sales person?
In the tech industry specifically I think it is the mix of skillsets that not only makes a high performer but also keeps it interesting. It’s important to get the basics rights (the ‘non-negotiables’ as my team will be bored of me saying), such as forecasting accuracy, professional approach to external and internal communication and follow-up, understanding the customer’s business and how you can either add value to what they do or solve a specific issue. Good sales people also take ownership when problems arise, make sure they develop and maintain positive relationships and have at least the ability for high level technical conversations.
What impact is digital acceleration having on your sales process?
Obviously this is an area where BT is very involved in helping our customers, and it has totally changed the selling process since I started my career. The changes span how we learn about our customers’ industry and them specifically, to how we communicate and follow up with them, and how we sell and service to our customers.
What advice do you have for other sales leaders?
The two bits of advice I wished I had taken earlier in my leadership career and didn’t (despite being told) was to trust your instincts but support them with fact where available. Act quickly — you won’t always get it right but it’s normally better than inaction.
Why are you a member of the Sales Institute?
The Chairman’s lunches. For us in BT it’s a great way to hear what’s going on in other industries and to share challenges and opportunities. Taking that insight and applying it to how we can provide a better service to our customers is the follow-up that is important.