Competing for Sales Talent in a Tight Labor Market – Soirée, San Francisco
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Dave Lichtman: Hello, everybody. My name is Dave Lichtman. I am the founder and CEO of a company called Enablematch. And basically what it is, it is a boutique recruiting firm that specializes in sales enablement professionals. So, helping people like you find jobs at cool companies. That’s what I do. My perspective on this labor market is very acute. I’m very near and dear to it. This is why I love the topic. I have strong opinions on this. But to kick things off, I’m going to have the panel kind of go down the line, introduce yourselves and maybe what company you’re with and we’ll start after that.
Laura Welch: Great. My name is Laura Welch and I work for HP Inc.
Gerry Praysman: My name is Gerry Praysman, I work for Brainshark.
Devon McDermott: My name is Devon McDermott. I’m the senior director of enablement at CM Group, which you may not know about yet. CM Group is a portfolio of marketing technology companies with brands like Sailthru Campaign Monitor, Live Clicker, and many more. Glad to talk more about that later.
Tanya Kunze: My name is Tanya. I’m the CEO of Swift Coaching and I was dubbed last night “the sales whisperer” by one of the CEOs of another company.
Leff Bonney: Good afternoon. My name is Leff Bonney, and on Mondays and Wednesdays I work for a company called VantagePoint Performance as one of their consultants and training designers. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’m a professor at Florida State University where we have a Sales Institute where we train about 400 students a year who are graduating with degrees in professional sales and come out and get jobs. I say all that just to say as a disclaimer. I’m the voice of the 22-year-old up here as we move through. So, most of my comments will be couched in new people, inexperienced people looking for jobs in sales.
DL: Very nice. If you’ve ever seen those movies where they’re at a really long table where people are having dinner from one end and there’s a far end of the table. I feel like that’s just like for this panel to see, so I’m kind of reaching down to see who’s down there.
For today, we want to structure this. The first part is we’ll do the panel discussion. We’ll leave a lot of time at the end for Q&A. We really want to get questions from the group, from the experts we have on the panel. So write down your questions, think about them as we go to kick things off.
Talent is everything, right? In the world that we live in, we are beholden to the success of our salespeople and our sales managers. And the right caliber people will make or break our companies a lot of ways. So, what we want to explore today is how do we as enablement practitioners affect that? What are the tools that we have? What are the things that we should be thinking about and how we can affect the talent in our own organization? It’s making sense so far.
I want to start things off so tiny, and this is way down to you. So, many companies today are struggling to attract top talent. Why do you think that is?
TK: I think a lot of times the sales industry is not really deemed as professional as it actually is. I’m loving the fact that there are now professional sales courses that are out there. If we start really looking at it as a serious career where people can really get enabled with that, I think you’re going to get the right caliber of person coming through. What companies need to start doing is putting out there what they’re really looking for in that person that’s coming in, looking at the personal side of it, what’s in it for me? What’s in it for you? Start really digging deep into that humanness and that aspect of that side of life.
DL: Humanness, what an interesting concept for hiring. Leff, when sales reps join an organization, what do you think they’re looking for? What’s in it for them?
LB: Yeah. I think we all battle this myth that salespeople are coin-operated organisms. I truly believe, obviously, I think there is a segment within your sales force that that’s true, but I think it’s the minority, not the majority. And so I think salespeople are looking for career opportunities, development opportunities. Is this going to be a challenging job for me?
At FSU, we track exit surveys of our students and what are they looking for in a job. And pay is number five, right? Ahead of that are things like, where can I go in this organization? Is it going to get me to my goals personally, as a person? So, I think we have to be careful with the “it’s all about the money” at our career fairs. The company that puts up the “make $55,000 in your first year,” they get the least amount of traffic from our students. And I think that’s because they really are looking for something beyond extrinsic rewards. This generation especially I think likes the challenge of where can I go personally and intrinsically more than the money.
DL: And can you speak to the one through four in the list? The others that were on that list, because I think that’s interesting for the group.
LB: Yeah. So, the first one is personal development and growth. Am I going to get where I want to go in the next five to 10 years out of this? Number two, interestingly, in our data is the financial stability of the firm I’m going to go work for, and you’ve got to think about at least 22-year-olds got to watch mom and dad struggle in 2008. So, I think that had a pretty lasting effect on them in terms of what they’re looking for there. The next one is the culture — the social interaction. Who am I going to be spending my time with? I’m struggling with the fourth one only because I just don’t have the data in front of me. I want to say it was things like the travel, day-in-the-life kinds of things, the autonomy of the job versus being stuck in a cubicle.
DL: Got it. Nice. And Gerry, when you think about enablement, what role do you think enablement plays in the acquisition of talent?
GP: I think a very substantive one. I think, well, actually, let me ask the audience here. If you’re in enablement, raise your hand if you play an active role in the hiring process. Yeah. Good companies right there. Two, three, four. That’s a typical cross-section of any audience that I talk to. I think that’s actually kind of nuts because I feel like the people that are developing our talent can really inform the company about what type of talent we should be bringing into the company.
I think CSO Insights released a study last year that said 83% of sales managers are not confident that they have the team to succeed, which is terrible. Like, if I told you half of them, you’d be like, “wow, that’s crazy”. I’m speaking as a sales manager, so I can make fun of us, but we’re the ones that are charged with bringing these people in. You don’t even think about consulting sales enablement when in reality, you’re the ones who should be telling us what we should be looking for when we’re bringing in talent. The problem is we have to hire very quickly. It’s a tight labor market. We have to make very quick decisions so we don’t let people slip away. And sadly, we make a lot of those decisions based on feelings. We’ll never tell you that. But we do make decisions that way.
And yet, you folks can tell us how important process orientation is. Adaptability, change, right? I would never disagree with you that those are important things, but I never really thought about looking for those things until our own sales enablement team sat me down and said, “Hey buddy, you got to look at this stuff.” Now, they’re an integral part of our process. We have six touch points in our hiring process. Sales enablement is integral to at least three of them. It’s been an absolute change in terms of the type of talent we’re bringing in, but also keeping them.
LW: It’s funny, in the little networking group that we did over lunch, one of the questions that they had us answer was, what are the groups that you need to partner with as a sales enablement leader? Everybody around the table said HR is one of the groups you should partner with. And everybody around the table said, “yeah, no, we don’t do that, but we should do that.”
DL: Interesting. One thing that I want to do once we break into the Q&A, I actually wanted the people who raised your hands before, and I think they were mostly over there, who are involved in your recruiting process, I would love you to share how you’re involved, what specifically that means. So, later on when we pass the mics around, will you please share that? Is that fair? Cool.
I want to pivot now towards going from acquisition of talent to retaining of talent. And I think this is where I really want to spend the bulk of the time. So, how do we make our people successful? How do we keep them happy? How to keep them producing for us? We’ll go into that now and spend some time there. Devin, this one’s for you. We were talking a moment ago about HR, and one of their metrics is turnover, right? How fast are we losing people in the company? And I’m curious, why do you think it’s important for enablement to keep a finger on the pulse of turnover?
DM: It’s essential and it ties into what everyone on this panel has just mentioned, and even in the previous panel. My big thing is breaking down organizational silos. Silos are a terrible thing, and they exist in every single company. I work for CM Group, and we have seven different brands that all operate completely differently. I’m responsible for enabling all of those brands. So, I have to be incredibly tightly aligned with our leadership team, from HR to sales leadership, our chief operations officer, you name it. We all need to be on the same page to be able to execute efficiently, right? I’m very lucky in that I’ve been able to cultivate an incredible relationship with our head of HR. I actually just had a call about this exact topic about two hours before this panel. And I was like, “Oh my God, it’s so relevant.”
What we’ve been able to do is create this holistic view of the sales rep and of our employees. So we’re not just creating an onboarding program, we’re looking at what does this employee need to be successful here? How do we create an onboarding program and ever-boarding program and a path to nurture them in their career, to keep them within our organization, right? We know it’s better to hire from within. The way you keep people on board and empower them to move up, and in our case across and diagonally within our organization, is to create the right path for them to move through. So, that’s enablement, that’s sales ops, that’s HR, it’s everybody working together. It’s essential. Silos drive me crazy.
TK: What’s really interesting is in order to create that path, what a lot of people are not doing is the profiling. So, deeply understanding the profiling systems of each person that you have. The how that you all need to take home with you is figure out who you have, what their skill set is, how you can develop that skill set, so that when you choose the path and the trajectory of the people, you’re doing it appropriately. If you don’t go into the right representational system, that is how the person interacts with the world. And what happens is you get a stress environment and the person produces many hormones, the cortisol, and when you produce cortisol, what happens is you get inattentional blindness, which means you don’t see the opportunities and it disables the organization. When someone’s in a place of flow, because they’re actually centered and they’re in the right dynamic where that’s working for them, what you then are creating is an environment where people can actually work optimally and it’ll impact the bottom line.
DL: I’ll ask this question first of Leff and I’ll let everybody else chime in as you want to. Leff, what are the metrics that you think enablement should be measuring to be aware of the talent concerns, to understand what might be the risks of losing people?
LB: Yeah, a couple things. One is just coming right off of these comments around onboarding. I got asked the other day, “Hey, what makes a good onboarding program?” And I said, “the problem is the word program.” It should be programs with an “S” because if you have a one-size-fits-all onboarding program, it doesn’t make any sense. This idea that HR just collected a profile of somebody and they can show me what kind of person they are. But that information doesn’t travel with them into the onboarding program to help me understand that the path needs to be a little different for each of those profiles moving through. Now, that takes some data and some metrics to figure out over time, what is the ideal path based on the profile that we’re bringing in.
Another interesting aspect of this is employees don’t quit a company, they quit a manager. Why do we never account for the manager and the profile of people when we say we’re about to hire this type of salesperson, but we never account for the type of manager we’re about to put them with? And again, another metric would be to look at can we over time figure out that Manager A does not work well with rep profiles two and three? Let’s take that into consideration.
The last thing I’ll say is just now let’s get past onboarding. We have to segment the sales force because why people leave is not universal, right? We have segments within our sales organization. Some people are leaving because of pay. Other people are leaving because there’s no career opportunity. But if we segment, then I think we’ll see that the reason people leave is different within sub-segments of our sales population. I think too many people are trying to treat one big universal disease and that’s just not accurate in terms of why people are leaving the organization.
TK: To your point, what I’ve been doing in South Africa is that we have a profiling system where we’ve identified that there’s 48 different types of salespeople and therefore 48 different types of sales managers. What we do is we do a profiling of all the staff, and we do a profiling of all the managers, and we actually see where the connections are. And we also see that we teach the individual managers how to manage the individual staff appropriately. So, you may not be the perfect match, but if you understand how your sales team work individually, it works. And we’ve had incredible return on investment and proof of concept in the space. So, you’re absolutely on point.
LW: Yeah. And if I could just add, I think that sales enablement has some impact in how and why salespeople stay, but not all the impact. So, I think it’s important to do all of the profiling and all of that, but also to look as a sales enablement leader. What can I do to make sure my salespeople are happy? They feel appreciated, they feel heard and listened to. They feel like you’re investing in them. So, you’re investing in their coaching and their training and their wellbeing, and that you’ve matched them with the right manager, or you’re attempting to do that. And as sales enablement leaders, we have a huge impact on that part, and we can work with their managers and enable their managers in some way. So, I think it’s incumbent upon us to make sure that we are looking at the retention of our salespeople. Just as importantly, as we’re looking at how are we measuring our programs and are programs fun and are we matching it with the new product launches, and all that other stuff that we have to look at to be successful. Are our sales people happy?
Let me just say one more thing. At the Sales Enablement Society conference, I did this whole mathematical thing. Math is not my gift, but I did it anyway and figured out that if a company makes $4 billion in revenue and they have a certain number of salespeople, their salespeople are worth $2,000 an hour. Or maybe it was $1,800 an hour, whatever. Pick your number, is what you’re doing with them worth $1,800 an hour? What you put in front of your customers is so polished and it goes through agencies and it’s beautiful and it’s well done. What are you putting in front of your salespeople? Is it that good? And are you treating them like people that are worth $1,800 an hour? Is that how you’re interacting with them? If they say yes, that’s how my company treats me, I think they’re more likely to stay.
GP: Laura, to bridge off of that, I think in the spirit of what can sales enablement actually control in terms of measurement, there’s a book that was released a number of years ago called “Primed to Perform.” I don’t know if anybody’s ever read it, but what it tried to do is actually study all of the different things that go into motivating employees and making them successful and actually build out a set of metrics that actually can predict whether or not an employee will stay. And they tried to look at it at the elasticity of certain metrics. So, if I do a really great job at this, I have a super high percent chance that this person is going to stay. And if I do a bad job at the same thing, they’re going to leave.
The number one thing on that survey by far, I actually couldn’t have guessed it, was actually role design. So, does the person actually truly believe that they are in the right role for them? Does it match their inner story of who they believe they’re supposed to be? Who they are? And as sales enablement leaders, you can actually influence salespeople by training them, by supporting them, by encouraging them to feel like they are in the right role. I think we all know that, that even sales, no sales role is created equal. You have a bunch of different profiles, a bunch of different markets. So, actually looking at it very, very specifically to each individual sales role and each individual person going in is actually something that you can have an impact on and probably something that’s going to keep salespeople where they are if you do a good job at it.
DM: Yeah, and I think this came up earlier, but salespeople are people too. And what do people want? They want to feel nurtured. They want to know that they have a path forward. They want to know that there is momentum in their personal lives and in their career, and they want to know what the path is to success. By partnering with the right people across the organization like HR, we can actually create the appropriate path for them to see where they’re going.
So, a huge exercise that my team, the HR team, functional leaders across all of our brands have been working on is incredibly robust role responsibility and competency mapping along with areas of expertise. Learning paths so that people can see exactly what they need to do to either move up in the sales organization, move over to a customer success role, or perhaps even leave the business, and that’s okay. We’re preparing them for everything that they could possibly want to do. Now, we don’t run all that training in-house. We have manager training. We recommend vendors that our reps can go to, but we ensure that they are nourished in their soul, but also in the things that they need to do to be successful in their career as a salesperson.
I think that’s essential when we talk about retaining talent and curating an environment where people want to be there and they know they’re supported. That’s key. And people will say to me, “Devin, it’s not enablement. Why do you care so much about like competencies and where people are going in their career branch?” And I’m like, “it’s essential”. If I can get people excited about their possibility in this organization, they’re going to get excited about all this other cool stuff we’re doing, like badging and role-playing. So, it’s important to think about it holistically, and I think we lose sight of that, especially as enablers. We get very caught up in our day-to-day and in our metrics and our numbers, but we have to think about it. These are human beings and they want to be treated as such, and we want predictability and success.
DL: So, I have the hardest job. There are about 30 threads I wanna pull on right now, and we don’t have near enough time, but I want to pull on that thread for a moment if we can. You were saying before it was nurturing or feeding their soul, I think is how you said it. Give me an example of how you’ve done that in your organization. Like, what does that mean in a real tactical way?
DM: Yeah, so it started on my team because we are an enablement team of six people that support seven companies and eight different sales teams. My team is like, “Devin, we want to develop, we want to grow in our sales.” And I’m like, “ah, we don’t have development plans. I don’t have a role for you”. So, we made up a development plan and I had my team members map out their six month, 12 month, two-year plan, five-year plan, 10-year plan, 15-year plan, like all of their goals. And the first six to 12 months are very tactical role specific. But then we got real goofy. Like I put my crystals out to charge in the moon. We get real esoteric about it.
So, I said, “in 10 years, where do you want to be? What is your dream job? Let’s do this unicorn development plan.” Half of my team said, “we want your job.” And I was like, “okay, cool, I’m not scared”. But what that turned into was my responsibility was to grow those people into that role. I encouraged them to go to conferences. We take trainings together. I found mentors for them. I am a mentor to a couple of my team members. So, it’s finding interesting things that go beyond the day-to-day, something they can find in the company portal and unique ways to engage people so that they are growing their skills beyond their day-to-day. So yes, they have to complete their day-to-day tasks.
There was a debate on LinkedIn a couple of nights ago about like, is it our job to grow people’s skills outside of their job that they’ve been hired to do? Yes. But anyway, it’s about getting creative and thinking about ways to nourish people’s souls and their journey in ways that go beyond your company. So, we’re starting to roll out those development plans to other teams in the organization. Dream big. Think big. We can help you get maybe all the way there, maybe halfway there, but at least you know, we’re on your side and we’re coming up with unique ways to inspire you.
DL: That’s nice. I love it. And just the fact that you feel your company’s investing in you, I feel like that’s just half the battle. Just like they care, they’re investing, that says a lot.
LW: I had one thing that we did, and it was a selfish thing, but it ended up not being because we ended up learning something different. So, we wanted to get specific information from our salespeople. We decided to split our team. There’s five people on the team and everyone was going to call 10 people: 10 salespeople, five managers, five salespeople, and ask them specific questions. And we wanted to get qualitative and quantitative answers. We called 50 people. I think one person got sick, so it ended up being whatever, 40 people, 45 people.
We found out a lot of information, but the most memorable thing was every person we talked to was so happy. We called them. They’re like, “you want to know this about me? You want to know my opinion about this? You want to know my opinion about how often am I coached and is it effective? Let me tell you.” And they would talk. Not one of them said, “why are you calling me? I don’t want to talk to you. I’m busy.” Not one of them. Why? Because these are salespeople that are out in the field. They’re all by themselves. They have a ton of pressure, a ton of stress. They’re talking to new people. They’re putting themselves out there. They’re trying out new messaging that you’ve created in your little bubble in your office and you think is going to be awesome. They’re speaking it and they’re hoping it lands well. Right? It’s very scary. And to have someone call and want to spend 30 minutes with them and say, “tell me about how you feel about this, this, and this”, and say, “hold on, I’m writing this down”, and they can hear you typing and they can hear you taking notes, was very rewarding for me, but it was very impactful for them.
DL: The power of being heard. I’m going back to a thread from before. Gerry, this is for you. You were talking about tools a few minutes ago, and I oftentimes think tools don’t matter, it’s not about tools, but I think sometimes tools do play a role and they have an impact on people’s satisfaction. So, can you maybe speak to what you think about the impact of tools on company, on employee satisfaction?
GP: Yeah. Tools are very important. They’re incredibly important. Millennials have permeated the workforce. Gen Z is right behind, and there is an incredible demand to have technology and support to help you do your job. I will say that doesn’t mean you have to go tool heavy. Right? But I think from a sales management point of view, I think it’s very difficult to be successful as a seller without some kind of CRM. I think it’s very difficult to do it without having some kind of answer for data, right? Because salespeople are not data cleaners. But going back to that role design thing, am I here to sell or am I here to look through data? I think technologies like SalesLoft and Outreach that help you connect and dialing, engage with your customers in a meaningful way. They are becoming slowly must-haves.
The answer depends, I know it’s never fun to hear on a panel, but you really do need to analyze your organization and your selling process to understand what’s critical in helping your sellers do the bare minimum and be successful. Because then on the periphery of that are things like onboarding and enablement solutions. There are things like these call analysis solutions. Then it goes so on and so on. What I would just caution is that there is such a thing as too many tools, right? And I think that’s probably where that sentiment of tools don’t necessarily help with everything because the more you add, the more complexity you add. And I think everybody can agree that increased complexity yields decreased satisfaction. You said you have to find that happy medium. But I think that organizations that are technology averse are really, really, really putting themselves at a massive disadvantage.
DL: I’ll add to that point. I feel like the personal angst and dissatisfaction I’ve felt when I’ve been at 10:30 at night trying to enter an expense report and the system, the tool is so hard to use, right? But it’s a silly thing and the expense a small part of your job, but it weighs on you. It takes everything. It sucks your soul when they’re hard to use. I feel like there are tools to make your life easier. Tools that make your job harder, you’re like, “I have a job to do. I can’t spend two hours doing expense reports.” This is a silly example, but I think it’s emblematic of things that make your job harder and add to the admin part of your job.
Tanya, this is one way down to you there. We touched on earlier about onboarding, and I want to go deeper on that one as well. About the idea of how does good onboarding, set a salesperson up for success, and long-term success, versus not so good onboarding? How does that affect the trajectory of that rep?
TK: I have a wonderful example and a story to share with everybody. So, I’m working with a company and they’ve got 6,000 staff in total. There are listed companies there. They’re a real player in the marketplace. We’ve gone up 67% measurable in turnover. So, they’ve had a $2.5 billion growth in the last year. What they do in their onboarding process is they’ve realized the power of soft skills. What they do is I do a five-day onboarding workshop with every single new person that comes on board and in a group. We do a group of 25 people, and before they actually are allowed to interact or even go to the stage of training, they have to go through an onboarding, which is all about the soft skills. It’s who are we? How do we operate? What are our real values? Not the values on the business plan. How do we operate? How do we communicate? What is our communication strategy within the organization?
That onboarding process of who, what, when, why, how in our organization with our people, that it’s not just hearsay, it’s real implementation. It’s forget and uninstall all the other programs from before and re-install what we are about. Who are we? How do we work? We dismiss the talking behind people’s backs. We bring in aspects of real communication. How do I bring things to people’s attention if it’s not working for me? What is gratitude to me? What is success to me? What is gratitude to the company, what’s success to the company?
We make it very, very tangible, very, very real. It’s showing in the bottom line and bringing in those soft skills that is critical, but so is passion. So is vulnerability. So is purpose. And if people have motivation because they are purposefully there, because it’s something that is so intrinsic to them, they will strive for success and you won’t need to manage them as hard as you would if they weren’t engaged.
LB: Yeah. Can I jump in real quick? I’d just like to say that another thing that I think is important about onboarding, that bugs me as a professor watching the real world out there, is how we define onboarding by dates on a calendar. And that’s ridiculous. Like, within 90 days onboarding’s over. And what it should be is can they do what we need them to do within a certain amount of time? And if they can’t, they need to keep going in the onboarding program.
You look at elite organizations like Navy Seals. Once they get into the training program of Navy Seals, if there’s some aspect of their skill set that they’re not good at, they go back and do the training again until they can. So, quit defining onboarding by dates. Define it by can they do what we need them to do at that stage of their careers. And so anyway, pet peeve.
DL: Yeah. I think that’s a very good one. I think especially for us, for salespeople where they have to be productive fast and start making money to want to stick around, and that disillusionment of like, “I got here, I’m not making money, maybe I made a wrong decision, maybe I’ll go back to my last company.”That feeling, that sense of like, “I’m going to make it here, I can make money here” and feeling that as part of the incoming of the organization, it’s just so critical for success.
I want to do one more question. I know we’re on time. One more question, then we’re going to do a rapid fire for that, and this one’s for you. I want to talk about manager coaching. We touched on it before, but I’m the biggest believer, everything with enablement comes down to managers and how they interact with their reps. I guess I’m curious, what can we do to coach managers to help their reps have higher levels of satisfaction and be better at their jobs?
LW: So, first of all, I listen to this political comedy guy and he says, “I don’t know this for sure, but I know it for sure.” You know, this is one of the things I don’t know for sure, but I know for sure. And that is in most organizations, you become a sales manager by having been a good sales rep. I don’t know this for sure. I don’t have data, but I know that for sure. Obviously, the problem that we all know is they weren’t managers, they were really good individual contributors, and now you’ve thrown them in your role where they have to make other people successful. And a lot of them fail.
So, first of all, putting together a training program for your managers is critical in a couple of different ways. One, it sets your sales people up for success because the people that are managing them are learning how to manage. But it also shows the salespeople in your organization that if I want to grow into being a manager, I’m going to be taken care of. I’m going to be shown how to do it. I don’t have to know exactly how to do everything. The company’s going to invest in me and train in me. So, that’s one thing.
Second is when you have a manager coaching program that is effective, it’s a feedback loop for you as a sales enablement organization. So, you are training the managers and you’re telling them, it could be something super simple. Ask these three questions of all of your salespeople during their one-on-one. Where did you fail this week that you need my coaching on? And then shut up and let them listen, right? And then get that feedback from them. What did they say? That’ll help you. Ask your salespeople, if you had five things that you could be coached on, what would they be? Take the answers. Pick the top three. Let everybody know you did that. Salespeople then feel like they’re part of the process. Managers feel like they have questions and engagement activities that are going to make a difference, because it came from the salespeople. So, creating that program, it doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be highly technologically savvy, although it could be. There’s some great technologies for that.
Your feedback loop is the glue that sticks your salespeople to you, and then by default to product marketing and to marketing and to product management and to HR, because you have that feedback loop. Without it, you’re flying blind and you run the risk of the managers undermining you and saying, “look, I don’t want to talk about that. Just tell me where you are in the pipeline. Hmm. I don’t want to, I don’t wanna talk about that soft skill crap. I want to talk about the challenge of crap that we heard. I don’t want to talk about that.” Tell me why you lost this deal and what were you thinking? Which by the way, is a horrible question to ask anybody. So, they will undermine you if you don’t take care of them and manage them. And like I said, it’s super easy. Tanya probably has some great examples of this, but it doesn’t have to be hard.
DL: That’s a great answer. I want to go to Q&A, but before we do, I want to go down and do a one quick rapid fire thing. Everybody is given say 10, 15, 20 seconds max. Tell one big takeaway for the folks in the audience that you would want them to take back home to the organizations on this whole concept of talent, retaining them, enabling them. I’ll start down there.
LB: Mine is a think outside the box. I mean, to me, we keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. For example, why do we move somebody into management and then determine can they do the job, right? Why don’t we train them to be managers and then select the best ones to actually move into the job, right? That’s the way elite groups do it. That’s an innovative way. We’ve got to think differently about how we’ve been doing stuff.
TK: I think we need to focus on mitigating stress. We know that the sales environment is an incredibly stressful environment. The more stressed we get, the more cortisol we produced, the more inattentional blindness we have, the more we fail. So we need to start looking at how do we motivate, inspire, grow, and develop our salespeople and move them outside of that stress realm where they can actually start seeing the opportunities out there and finding ways to motivate and encourage rather than de-motivate and micromanage.
DM: And I would say stop operating in silos. Work cross-functionally to drive meaningful change across your business. It’s essential. Also, sales reps are people too.
GP: I would say something similar to that. Continue to broaden what your role is, right? You guys are not just trainers or content enablers. You’re critical business components. So, building better relationships with operations and product and marketing and seeing yourselves as true consultants, not just for your salespeople, but for your business, is going to help you do some pretty remarkable things. Stretching out to getting skill sets to people that aren’t necessarily related to their role or working to upskill managers, you need to be more involved with the rest of the business. And don’t be afraid to push against people like myself or other people in the organization because what you do is a lot bigger than training and content, if you will.
LW: I would say find one thing that you are going to be accomplishing in the next quarter. Maybe you’re doing a sales kickoff, maybe your initiating a new program. Find three to five questions around that and then call your salespeople and talk to them and ask them those questions. It’ll give you the information you need to be successful and it will make them feel appreciated and valued. It’s a double win. It’s super easy to do, divided among your team. Everybody calls 10 people. You have two weeks to do it, figure it out, and it’ll be fun.
DL: Cool. I’ll give one piece of advice too. As sales enablement leaders, if you’re not part of your sales leaders’ Monday meeting that they have with the direct reports, get part of that meeting, whatever it takes, like bang down the door, invite yourself, find a way into that meeting and be part of the weekly staff meeting. If you’re not part of that, there’s a disconnect and you want to minimize that as best as you can.
LW: I have one more thing. Join the Sales Enablement Society in your city. Do that. People have amazing ideas and they’re doing amazing things, and every time you go to one of those meetings, you’ll walk away with a valuable tactical thing that you can go apply in your job the next day. That’s my advice.
DL: Yeah. Alright. So, first thing, can we first give a huge round of applause for this panel here? How amazing they were. We’re not done. So, questions from the audience. I think there’s a microphone.
Audience 1: My question is about diversity and inclusion. So, I work in tech sales and there’s kind of an issue there in that department, and it feels like there’s a chicken and egg problem where if you already have an issue in that area, when you’re trying to recruit to solve for that and to improve that, you run into the issue of if a person’s going to be interviewing with people that don’t look like them. How would you recommend solving for that issue, just creative ideas for that?
LW: Well, it’s kind of an HR question, but from a sales enablement standpoint, you can talk to your HR team and you can actively recruit diverse people. You can actively go out and do that by going to different job fairs that are in different parts of the city or the country. I mean, there’s a lot of ways, there’s probably books written about how you can include diversity. But as a sales enablement person, if you’re going to the sales meeting and you see that it’s 90% white dudes and you see that and the HR people aren’t going, so they don’t see that, then it’s on you to go to them and say, “Hey, I really think we have an opportunity to make a difference in our community by doing this.”
DL: I’ll piggyback on that and say, from my capacity as recruiting firm, I’m getting more often than before, people who are saying, “please give me a person who’s not a white dude.” Like, they’re actually asking. And oftentimes it’s white guys who are saying, “please give me some diversity.” So, I think there is a recognition and I’m hearing steps being taken because they’re saying to me, your marching orders are, find me somebody who’s not. And so I think there is something happening there. Tactically, how you do it, I think I agree with what Laura was saying.
LW: One thing I’ll just say really quick that. At HP what we did is had 60 high school students, girls from underserved communities, come to HP for a day. And they went through all the different divisions of HP, all around this big three story building. They got to take apart computers, got to play with virtual reality. They got to design stuff. They got to look at our sustainability program. They talked to salespeople. I’m telling you, out of those 60 girls, I would not be surprised if 20 of them signed up to be interns next. So, that kind of thing, that kind of community involvement. I got involved because I was passionate about the kind of people that work for our company. So, as a sales enablement leader, the benefit is you’re kind of in the middle of the globe of the company. You touch everything, and so you can touch things that maybe somebody is sitting in their cube that’s working in QA doesn’t feel like they have the ability to do up here.
Audience 2: I’ve got a question about competency models. One of the companies I came in to help just had a debacle around competency models they had rolled out before I came in there. This extensive list of all the capabilities they expected their reps to have, and these were, if you looked at it, they’re half-million-dollar people, and they’re paying them much less. When they rolled this out and did all the evaluations, most everybody failed. Half the people were so disillusioned, they left.
I’ve seen HR people want to come in and build this whole brilliant model in a vacuum that seems like great people, or try to build a competency model based on what do we actually want them to do. What do they need to learn? So, I’ve seen this all different ways. And we’re getting ready at the corporate level to build another one of these massive competency models that they hope they can test everybody on in this massive test and then figure out by a computer what’s their optimal role and have everything, I’ll computerize the travel idea, but how do we come up with the right kind of competency models that match really what we want for a 22-year-old new sales rep who’s coming in, they’re going to just do new business and match it in a way that allows them to grow into it. That’s not overly ambitious.
GP: I can share an example of something that we did. First of all, I think the simpler you make it, the better. Right? I get that you want your salespeople to be able to thread the needle on every single part of the sales process. I mean, I want my guys to do that. I get it. But I would really focus on the big challenges and specifically the endemic ones. Discovery was a weakness for us, right? And our organization looked at it in a number of different ways. We went through a big transformation years ago and we brought in a lot of new salespeople that we thought had a lot better and different skills. And we found that actually that’s not effective because a lot of this is endemic to the industry. So, pick one thing and hyper-focus on it, you know?
So, my team is actually an inside selling team. We’re actually mostly BDRs and SDRs. These are actually kids that are coming right out of school that on paper don’t have the business acumen, right? Don’t necessarily have this intuitive ability to dig deep. And yet we just hyper-focused on this one thing with them. And the best part is because they’re new and fresh, they didn’t believe that they couldn’t do it. The only people who didn’t believe that they couldn’t do it were people that were older and couldn’t do it themselves.
Obviously, you need excellent managers, right? It doesn’t just fall on sales enablement, but we have 22-23-year-olds that can have executive level conversations at Fortune 100 companies and spit out to a closing AE a dossier of business information. But it takes time and you have to have a lot of executive buy-in and corporate buy-in around what you’re doing. I don’t even know what was in those competency models, but I know right away I wouldn’t even attempt whatever you were just talking about. So, I would say keep it simple and just focus on one or two really big things.
Audience 3: Hi. Thank you for all of the great wisdom. I’m Sally. I just had a question back to the topic of manager coaching and in that realm we touched on diversity and how it relates to obviously employee satisfaction as well. More so on the surface level topics around diversity. I’m more specifically curious on everyone’s take on diversity of thought, right? So often first time managers, when we’ve been sales reps, the classic mistake we all know about is like, why can’t they think like me? And why can’t you do exactly what I do? And I’m going to coach to exactly what I think is the way that I’ve gotten success. But then what I’ve seen time and time again is there’s such a diverse pool of reps that make up a region or a team. But the managers are so one-track-minded on the way that they found success, that they lose talent or they really disengage the folks who think differently. I’d love any tips on how to actually engage in a pool of really diverse, not just in terms of their profiling and etc., but thought that comes in that?
TK: A lot of it at the time it’s bolted together. There was a study done where they took a hundred desks and 50 of them were delivered not built, and 50 of them were delivered built. The people that actually had to assemble the desks, when they were reapproached to please buy the desks back, the 50 that built the desks either charged more or wouldn’t part with them, and the ones who received the ready-built desks were quite happy to part of them at the same price, if for a price at all.
And I’ve worked in areas where I’ve gone into what we call the townships in South Africa, where we’ve got people that for a living move boxes. I’ve taught them how to sell and they’ve outsold the head office that had been very privileged before. When you engage with them, I didn’t give them the information. They gave me the information, I enabled them. I gave them the power. I went in and I said, “I need you to go and tell me what a close ratio is”. And these guys didn’t even have computers. And I enabled them how to find the information and they had to extrapolate that information and give that information back to me, and they own that information so they could then apply it. I think a lot of that process is go in, and absolutely enable and empower people to do it themselves. And then they’ve got it. I don’t know if that helps what you’re looking for.
LW: I would say you can teach people to be diverse thinkers. You can do that. You can give your sales managers specific questions and conversations to have with their people, and then they’ll see, “Oh, when I engage with them in that way, they’re successful, and then it’ll be like a little loop that kind of goes on”. They won’t do it on their own, because like you said, they can’t see what they can’t see. But you can do that.