Managing High Performance Sales Teams

Oyin Bamgbose is Head of Sales at ResponseTap, an intelligent call-tracking platform designed to integrate seamlessly with your existing suite of MarTech tools. Below is the adapted transcript from the Marketing Science Podcast.

High Performance Sales

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How has the salesperson evolved over the last five, 10 years? What skills do they now need?

Yeah, that's a very broad question but quite specific at the same time as well. When I think about it, the two main things that have changed the entire sales landscape. One is you've got salespeople today who are millennials, and these people are completely different beasts. They are the internet generation. The “I want it now” generation. And not just even, I want it now - these guys are the “can have it now” generation.

You're talking about the guys who Google any information they require. They swipe right to get dates now. It's that instant. They can click a button and then there's a delivery guy at the door the next day. So that instant gratification means that they have their own viewpoint of the way the world works.

But sales is still sales, right? It still requires huge amount of effort, and you may not even see a result at the end of it, or not for a period of time. I think sometimes that can leave today's salesperson feeling jaded quite quickly. So, I guess a modern sales team requires more considered style of management and personal development in order to get the best out of them.

Selling to more informed, online customers

I think something else that's changed, that we sales leaders have to recognize quite quickly, is that the sales landscape has changed from your typical boiler room to a more consultative model. And the main reason for that is the customer is a lot more informed than they ever were.

Before a prospect speaks to a salesperson, they've already done a significant amount of research, which means the salesperson is just there to act as a guide, to help them figure out the optimum solution. And that's much easier said than done.

So therefore, one of the key things required now of a modern salesperson is the ability to build trust quickly. A great book to read that subject is like Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, or Stephen Covey's Speed of Trust. All of that is very important for the modern salesperson.

As well as that you've got speed. The modern sales guy has to respond quickly, to always be on. It doesn't take us days now to reply to an email - we can have a conversation on email, then we move it to LinkedIn, then a bit of video, so speed is of the essence with modern salespeople.

They also have to be very good at effective questioning. And of course, in order to do this, you need to understand how your products truly helps customers in all situations -you need sales guys that are product and market experts. That business acumen is now more important than ever, because like I said, the buyer is so much more educated now, so you're there to act as a guide and help provide that optimum solution. So understanding the needs of a business thoroughly, submerging yourself in a sector, such as understanding, for example, how COVID-19 can be impacting business today - all of that is very relevant. And also, how your product can then help them solve some of these problems that they're experiencing, especially in this challenging time.

What tools and platforms are you finding most useful, particularly during COVID-19, that are allowing your team to function as normal by working from home?

Regarding tools, I guess there's so many tools, platforms and software that are out there at our disposal. For me personally, my focus is always to think strategically, and think about how I can sustain and scale the sales arm of the business. So when choosing the tools and platforms, they need to compliment that.

There are three pillars that I've built my business around:

  • Hiring and onboarding
  • Learning and development
  • Robust sales methodology

So it's important that any tools that I implement compliment me in those three pillars.

Hiring and Onboarding

So if we start off with hiring and onboarding, the hiring formula, what I did was I created a hiring formula that's competency-based. And what that does is it ensures that the questions and the role plays are all based on preset competencies, which relate to the skills that, sort of like those skills that we talked about earlier.

To give you a bit of an example - let's say I was hiring an SDR (Sales Development Rep) today. There are five main skills I test for. I won't go through all of them. I'll just mentioned a couple. One is adaptability to change.

So the reason why adaptability to change is valuable is because we need individuals now who welcome change, who aren't adverse to change. At ResponseTap, targets can change on a dime. Targets can change tomorrow, because we've launched a new product and we now have to try and increase its adoption to encourage success stories and figure out if we've got something.

And part of what you're also looking for is a level of resilience as well. With that adaptability to change, you're also looking for that level of resilience. So using the questions I ask and the roleplays around that, I'm testing for that quality. And that's very important, because you're trying to find the right people.

Another competency I look for as well is coachability. At ResponseTap, we've got a unique way of working, and when someone deviates from it, they never actually quite crack it. We've hired people from the big hitters, like Salesforce and Oracle, and these guys have come in with their preset notions of how sales should be or how things should work and haven't actually quite been successful.

And the reason for that is ResponseTap is a complex product, and we have a unique way of working. So it's important that we hire open-minded people who come into the business and are open-minded to our ways of working, who are ready to take on our approach, our sales methodology, and adopt that and then try and raise their game and elevate in that regard. So those are just a couple of the skills that I'm testing for.

And one of the tools I use is that hiring formula. It's not unique to me - it was formed by Mark Roberge from HubSpot, the guy who wrote The Sales Acceleration Formula. He’s an MIT engineering graduate, he took HubSpot from zero to a hundred million - so that hiring formula is something that I've adopted.

Learning and Development

In terms of my own personal sales methodology and process, for me, I've assembled all of that a la carte. So I don't use one methodology. In terms of hiring and onboarding, I use The Sales Acceleration Formula, but when it comes to learning and development, I take a totally different approach.

I've created a two week training program that's accessible remotely through this competency-based sales and coaching platform called e4enable.

It is important that learning, especially today, can be accessed anytime and anywhere, especially given the current climate. But I wanted to make sure that I implemented that prior to going into lockdown as well.

The onboarding is specific to Call Tracking. I've been in the Call Tracking world now for five years, I’ve done pretty much every sales role at ResponseTap, so I use that experience to create an onboarding program that's tailored to Call Tracking. So it's not generic sales training. It's specific to our industry, which means a team can then hit the ground running.

I also use e4enable to help with the learning and development as well, because all those competencies that I hire for, I ensure that we continually improve on those and build out on that, and e4enable allows me to do that. It acts as a sales repository tool, for all of the learning and training material, but also as that learning and developmental tool as well, for the team. So it's a beautiful tool, I recommend it.

Robust Sales Methodology

And then finally, of course, the sales methodology. Without going into too much detail, I bought a sales enablement platform, called Outreach, which allows me to create various playbooks for the team, which just ensures that we follow our sales process. We can track how many calls a sales rep is making, we can see emails being sent out, we can see the videos being sent out.

It's sort of like removed the ambiguity for the sales person, in terms of what they need to do when they receive a lead, what they need to do if they're working on an enterprise opportunity, what they need to do if they're working on an SMB opportunity, or, specifically from a particular industry, etc. All that ambiguity has been removed because we've playbooked pretty much every scenario, from start to finish. So Outreach allows us to implement that and maintain a level of consistency across the team.

How does that help your sales guys in terms of them keeping track of where they're up to in conversations, what stage they’re at? I presume that really helps in that regard?

100%. So what you're speaking about theirs is task management. So we use Salesforce as our CRM of course, but then in terms of Outreach, what that allows us to do is create those future tasks around, I need to send a video out to this customer, a video proposal, for example, to this customer. All of that is already set up in Outreach. So all you have to do is just simply follow that process.

So if you've got an enterprise lead, we have an enterprise end to end sales process. All of that's mapped out in Outreach and you're simply just following those steps.

There's a lot of flair involved, the guys aren't robots - but it allows them to ensure that they're ticking every box that you need to, to ensure that you stay consultative, but most importantly, that you're adding value to the customer at every stage.

It's so important now, that the modern salesperson, that we're adding value at every stage. We've got to ask ourselves that question every single time. Am I adding value?

Because today, I'm sure you've heard of the most recent stats, it's about 62% now of B2B buyers can buy a product without actually even speaking to anyone. They've got so much information at their fingertips, so they just need a salesperson to come in and just help them.

I think the viewpoint of today's B2B buyer is, “I know the data is out there, I just need someone to tell me why I need to pay attention to it”. So generally speaking, when they engage with a sales rep, they just need that sales rep to just add value and save them time. Just point them in the right direction. Of course that's easier said than done, but that's the name of the game.

How important is communication and the way the sales reps communicate with people? How useful are the video messages that you use, for example, and why is it important to differentiate and stand out from the crowd?

Today's MarTech (Marketing Technology) landscape is crowded - when I joined ResponseTap in 2015, there were about 1500 players. It's 2020, five years later, and there are over 5,000 players, everyone vying for that same marketing budget.

So standing out from the crowd, it kind of goes without saying. You have to be able to cut through the noise. And in order to do that, you have to be adding value from the onset.

From the moment we interact with the customer, we have to help them understand that we've done our research, we know they're a good fit, and also from the outside looking in, we know why they are a good fit. They should understand that from the moment we start reaching out to them. It shouldn't be, “let's have a chat to figure out whether or not this could work.” Who's got time for that, right?

So it's very important you're adding value from the onset, simply because there are so many players out there. And like I said, the buyer's educated as well, the buyer already has an idea of what their MarTech stack should look like. They have an awareness of some of the problems that they're facing and the issues they're facing. We're there to just help them solve those problems and we have to do that, articulate that message quite quickly.

So where do you stand on email length?

I don't send long emails.

In terms of emails, there are two processes I've got. I've got the four I's:

  • Introduction
  • Insight
  • Inspire
  • Invest

So that's a nice clean process to follow when you're thinking about your email. Before you click send, has your email covered those four points?

Have you introduced yourself? Have you provided some level of insight that shows you've done some research around that customer? Inspire covers how your solution or software solves that problem, and Invest is a call to action.

One of the mistakes I see a lot of salespeople make is they believe that the Invest, the call to action, should always be asking for time. And if sales were that easy, we wouldn't need salespeople, right? It's not that easy. The call to action, in most cases, especially initially when you're just reaching out to a customer, should be something like “read this”. It should be, “watch this video”.

It shouldn't be asking for time, because you should have demonstrated what you know about the customer earlier on in the email. Explain to them what you did because of what you know.

What you know about the customer could be persona based, or it could be personal. A personal thing could be, “I read your blog post”. And if its persona based, you articulate a problem that digital marketers in that sector face, day to day. So that's your “I know that about you, Mr. Customer.”

And then, what did you do as a result? I either went on your website as a result and researched this, or I found this article which is useful for you, and here's the impact of that. And then on the back of that, you have a little bit of a brief in terms of what you do as a business, and then your call to action at the end of it.

And also, in terms of emails as well, you want to make them visually appealing and easy to read. So when someone receives an email from you, you don't want long paragraphs. They should just see that email and it should be easy to read. Start off with 500 characters or less, so that it can fit onto a phone screen - most people are reading email on their phones now. So bite sized chunks rather than a feast, and no long emails.

And then as I was saying, make it visually appealing, so highlighting key sentences or important words, and then using bullet points to space out your messaging. So if you want to say your product provides three bits of value to this customer, list them out in bullet points and highlight some key points there. So as soon as you read the email, you want it to be visually appealing so that someone actually wants to read it.

What do you look for as a buyer, when you're looking at a tool? So when you were looking at e4enable or Outreach that you mentioned, what was your process? How did you educate yourself first?

So I personally knew I had that problem, and wanted to solve that problem. With Outreach, which is a very good example - I had already realized very quickly that I wanted the team to work at least 60% in a similar fashion, the other 40% I leave to the salesperson to add their own influence and flair to the process.

So for example, something as simple as sending out a proposal. We don't send out proposals. We have a call with the customer first to take them through the proposal initially, and then we don't even just send out the PDF proposal, we send out a video proposal.

So on video, you're there talking them through the proposal so that the understand, it's quite simple. So of course, I want everyone doing that. How they come across in the videos, the language they use, I leave that up to the salesperson. I trust them to be able to articulate the message accordingly.

But something as simple as that, not sending out proposals blindly, but taking a customer through it and then following up with a video proposal - knowing that I had that problem around wanting the team to work a uniform fashion, I knew I needed something that could allow us to execute that.

And then that's where my research began. Initially, I built out a playbook for the different scenarios that we had, the common ones that we had. And the guys were actually doing task management in Salesforce. I give them so much credit for this, where after every call and process, we were literally task managing this stuff in Salesforce manually. And these guys are working however many deals a day, so having to do that... I have no idea how I even convinced them to do that. But the fact that they went ahead and did that for me, its mind blowing now, when I look back on it.

Anyway, Outreach has automated a good chunk of that. At least 40% of that now, is automated by Outreach. Or actually about 30%. The other 70% is there for all the personalization. So a lot of the task management, the guys don't have to manually create tasks, label them and then close those tasks and then create a future task. All of that sort of mundane admin is out the window. Outreach has allowed us to just automate that.

So I realized I had the problem, I went out and did the research. If the question is why did I choose Outreach instead of maybe one of their competitors, like SalesLoft, etc. - I found the tools quite similar at the time, two years ago when I was looking into this.

Interestingly enough, it was the sales guy. I'll never forget the guy. He basically wholeheartedly understood my pain points. It was clear. And because I already knew I had that pain, the questions he was asking meant he was just drawing out the pain. He helped me understand exactly why we needed Outreach.

And then he also used this tool to draw out my current process and then what the process would be once we bought Outreach. He went ahead and did that work, so it was very easy for me to then take that, add it to the business proposal that I used internally, for when I was pitching it back to our CRO and the CEO to say, look, we need this tool. I actually used that diagram that he'd created of a workflow. That made my job easier, in terms of getting the budget approved for it.

So that was very helpful, whereas the guy at SalesLoft was just very straightforward. He just gave me the proposal, sent it over to me. He understood where I was coming from, but you could just tell he didn't go over and beyond. I guess maybe our business was too small for him. Maybe we weren’t like a big fish for him, who knows. But anyway, the guy at Outreach put in a bit more effort and really helped me. He just made my job easier, in terms of going back. And I found the tool similar as well, so the trump card could easily be just a sales guy.

What sort of tools are you using to monitor employee engagement and the wellness of your employees while working from home? What sort of stuff or what insight have you got for us there?

Yeah, so that's an interesting one, particularly in a sales environment that's high pressure and targeted.

One thing I'm very proud of is as a business, we're committed to providing a supportive and collaborative environment and culture. So one of the initiatives that we're doing to ensure well-being is to have a feedback culture – we have this web-based employee engagement platform, that conducts surveys and feedback to measure not just employee satisfaction, but employee wellness.

So it's actually quite granular. It provides feedback on various aspects like relationship with their manager, recognition, the relationship with their peers, etc. So all of that allows me to keep a pulse on how the team is feeling, and act accordingly.

Some of the other stuff we do is walking PDRs (Personal Development Reviews), but that particular tool really does help us get an idea of the mental state and the wellness of each individual in the team as well. And that's something that's very important to us.

What sort of initiatives have you brought in in reaction to the surveys?

So there is a very recent thing that's just happened, Friday last week, where the wellness score in the team dropped off quite significantly recently. And obviously, straight away I was alarmed by it, so I called a meeting to talk about it. The wellness score was basically just about work life balance, where I think the team felt overwhelmed with the situation that we were in.

Everyone was now working from home, they were missing the team, the physical camaraderie, all of that sort of stuff. As well as the fact that we had to do maybe double the work to keep things going, so it was a tough time for the team, with a lot of pressure on them. So the wellness dropped as a result.

I tried to understand what we could do to improve that, and improve the score. So, I called a meeting and allowed everyone to just provide me feedback, in terms of what they're thinking, any suggestions that they had. And quite a few suggestions came out of that meeting. There was finish early on a Friday.

We do that in the summer. We work on a rota so that most people can finish early, but there are still some people available. It’s fantastic for morale – Fun in the Sun Fridays, it’s called.

I like it. That's good to know as well. We had pizza Fridays come out of that meeting as well. But there were lots of ideas, and some really popular ones.

But anyway, what we're now doing is a proof of concept over the next couple of months where we're going to trial some of these initiatives to see which one actually works well for the team, as a whole, rather than certain individuals. So, it's an exciting time in that regard.

But already just having that conversation with the team, I can tell it has already improved morale. And the team is also proving to me that they've got the maturity as well, to take on some of these extra responsibilities that we provided to them, as a result of making some of these changes. So far, it's been good.

How would you say that the modern sales professional is motivated beyond money? Are there other factors at play nowadays?

When I think about motivation, it comes from within, and I don't even mean that to sound preachy or anything, but it really does come from within. For the modern sales person, a lot of people feel like motivation is listening to a motivational podcast or motivational speech. But as we know, that's a short term motivation. It only lasts you for like a week. You need another dose of that. You need another speech to get you going through the next week!

But if you can help the modern salesperson, if you can remove ambiguity from the modern salesperson and the way in which they work, if you can help them understand exactly what their role entails, the value their role adds to the business, get them excited about that, and also the long-term goal, the trajectory, where they're going, what their careers can look like -  the earlier you can paint that vision for a modern salesperson, the more motivated they're going to be.

Because what is not sustainable, is constant motivational speeches every day. That just doesn't work, it doesn't help anybody. What you want is for them to be motivated themselves, you want that internal motivation. They have to see it for themselves. They have to understand the value of the work that they're doing, and what their lives can be and what their careers can look like, in a year, two or three, etc.

The less ambiguity you have around that, if you can get them excited about that, bought into that vision, wow! For modern sales leaders, I think that's where we want to focus as opposed to learning how to give powerful speeches.

What about yourself? What gets you out of bed in the morning?

For me, when it's all said and done, I do want to be a thought leader in this space. I think I want to potentially write a book on some of my experiences, that sort of thing. I'd love to be able to just add value to the people I work with.

It's also great as well with our team, because they all have certain traits, like high work ethic, they are all agile as a group – they’ve got that passion as well, and desire to succeed. So, because we've all got these traits running through the team, it's so easy to work with these guys. They make my job so much easier. They are always coming up with ideas and clever ways to do this, and try that.

And because we've got that process in place, it's very easy for them to then try and iterate things or evolve something. And they come with suggestions - some are strange, but then some are pretty cool, and I action them immediately.

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Posted by Frank Barker

Having spent his younger years playing Rugby in the sunny climes of Spain and Australia, Frank graduated from Loughborough University with a BSc in International Business before settling back in rainy Manchester. Frank has helped numerous Science, Engineering and Healthcare companies to create marketing strategies that engage with niche audiences. Having started his career in Sales, he now runs the Marketing department for AZoNetwork. He specialises in data management for sales teams, equipping them with the most actionable, real-time marketing insights from the first touch point through to revenue generating opportunity. A sportsman at heart, Frank still enjoys lacing up the boots for his beloved Macclesfield 1st XV Rugby or pulling on the whites to represent the more serious Macclesfield 3rd XI Cricket team.    

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