At The Harris Consulting Group we believe that it is important to spend time reviewing the success and pains of a growing business. While we work with companies daily to identify their pains and success, we were recently asked by Dashtab to look at our own growth and be interviewed for their article on Confessions of a Sales Though Leader.
In the article we discuss which leaders helped influence my sales process and sales growth while also answering how I deal with the hardest part of my day.
Perhaps this will help you also take an introspective look at your company and onboarding process. For further Sales Training insight go to Sales Training.
Confessions Of A Sales Thought Leader
Sales is hard. So is running a sales team. That’s why companies hire professionals.
Richard Harris is one of those professional sales team superheroes.
He is a sales consultant and industry thought leader (recently awarded by the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) as one of the top 25 most influential sales thought leaders). He runs The Harris Consulting Group, successfully training many of the leading companies in the market today.
We met with Richard to hear his sales confessions.
What Is The Hardest Part About Your Day?
The hardest part is staying disciplined and adhering to my own structure.
In sales, it is easy to get distracted by things you think are important, but they really aren’t. Learning how to tell what is important, what is urgent, and then deciding what is both urgent and important is critical. Those things need to go to the top of the list.
How Do You Decide What Is Both Urgent And Important?
What’s going to move the needle.
You need to have short term and long term goals. Each of those goals will have things that will help move the needle. You have to look at your strategy as a whole and determine what’s going to move the needle the best. And in some cases which needle you need to move.
Blogging for example isn’t short term for me, its long term, but it needs to happen in order to stay relevant. That being said, if my pipeline is light, prospecting moves to the top of the list and I delay blogging for a day.
I also look at every decision I make as ‘how is this going to impact revenue, short term or long term’.
When I am coaching other leaders, my advice is that you always have 5 minutes to quickly review your” to do’s” and (re)arrange priorities. Often times people get so caught up trying to do it all they do not stop and just check themselves.
What we have discovered is that the people who take 5 minutes at the beginning of the day to prioritize actually end up getting more done and get it done with greater efficiency and less stress.
Stop and think, bring it to your consciousness; “Is this urgent? Is is important? Is it both?”
What Is The Most Common Problems Sales Teams Have?
There’s a couple of them.
- Over-hiring sales reps and under hiring SDRs. That is very expensive and forces closers to do a part of the job they hate doing and wastes their true talent. Ratio should be at minimum 1:1 or 2:1 SDR to AE ratio.
- Not taking advantage of technology. They want to hire 5 SDRs when they could invest in 2 and put the extra money towards technology to make them run faster.
- Leaders who think it’s possible to make 100 calls per day, log it all in the CRM but do it without the properly technology the support the effort.
- Not understanding how to prioritize around Better, Faster, and Cheaper. So many executives think that faster and cheaper is better when it’s not even close. Sometimes you can only get 2 of the 3, sometimes you can get all 3. But to continually sacrifice better for faster and cheaper is a huge problem I see all the time.
- I see a lot of organizations talking the talk about sales training and coaching, but they don’t walk the walk. They don’t understand what it takes to make that investment.
- Managers and executives who take months to prioritize sales training and don’t realize the hard and soft costs of waiting means they are paying real money to maintain mediocrity.
What Role Does Ego Play In Sales?
Ego is a huge part of sales. It’s part of the game. It shows sales rep’s passion. The real challenge in sales is understanding both your own ego as a sales rep and your prospects’ / clients’ egos. We do a whole training session around egos and how they enter into the buyer’s’ journey and the entire sales process.
The goal is to make sure that neither party’s ego takes over the sales cycle and that everyone is on the same level. Nobody is on a pedestal and nobody can speak condescending to someone.
I recently had a client call me to help them with a collection issue. Their customer had been with them a long time but had some challenges paying the bill. We walked through the right way to be both firm and empathetic to their client. We worked hard to make sure the client knew they were still a valuable customer but that there were some real expectations around payments that needed to happen.
While this scenario is after the sale, it still shows you are always really “selling” even in post sales activities but egos are always involved.
What Is The Most Absurd Problem You’ve Had To Solve For A Team?
I once had a CEO tell me he was having trouble getting his reps to update their CRM. I asked him how often the reps use their own dashboards to drive their business? He said, “What dashboards?”
I had to explain that if there is no value for the sales rep to input information into the system why would you expect them to do it.
I see stuff like this all the time. CEOs and executives who have no clue or have forgotten what it means to truly be a sales rep. They start treating the sales team as “inexpensive market research” which is just silly.
Is There A Worst Part Of Your Job?
Losing a deal. I hate losing just like everybody else.
When Is A Time You Have Messed Up?
My biggest mess ups are when I don’t double check an email before I send it.
Slowing down and taking that extra three seconds to make sure you have the right name of the prospect and company pays off.
What Is The Best Way To Motivate A Sales Team?
There must be the right balance between ‘Cash is King’ and awesome experiences. The cash will go quickly but the memories will last a lifetime.
I am also a big believer in rewards that help increase knowledge. For SDR roles it is great to have contests. If the rep hits a goal, then they get to attend Dreamforce, some other conference, or something beyond a cash bonus.
Finally, I would say empathy. It’s tough in the start-up world to slow down and show you care. But when push comes to shove, sales reps leave bad leaders, not bad jobs. This is going to be very, very important in the next 5 years as the shortage of good sales reps continue to hurt companies. I am actually seeing this issue now to be frank.
Which Other Sales Thought Leaders Have Influenced You?
- John Barrows – he’s the one who encouraged me to be a consultant.
- Trish Bertuzzi – she has the experience and wisdom everyone seeks and provided some guidance on a series of posts I have been doing about Women in Sales.
- Steve Richard and Craig Rosenberg are also awesome thought leaders and I really admire what they’ve each built to support the sales community.
- Kevin Gaither – he’s very knowledgeable and really knows how to build a successful sales organization.
- Max Altshuler – love what he’s done in such a short period of time with the SalesHacker Community.
- Jorge Soto – love his energy, his creativity and willingness to take risks.
If I Were To Become A Sales Consultant Tomorrow, What’s One Thing I Would Need To Know To Prepare Myself?
Honestly, the best advice I can give you is to just go for it. The journey is as much fun as the success IMO
More specific advice:
- Be prepared to work harder than ever and the rewards will be better than ever.
- Do not overthink or over-engineer things.
- Be altruistic and helpful, the karma pays off 10x.
Honestly it’s all I’ve known, first job I ever had at 16 was working for The Gap. I loved the friendly competitive nature of our sales team as well as the fact I could wear jeans and a t-shirt to work.
What Do You Think About Dashtab?
I think it’s going to be epic, a game changer that can increase efficiency out the wazoo.
Anything Else You’d Like To Confess?
Yeah, I’d like to confess that I probably should have listened to my mother more often…
It was around (1994-1995) I was working in Denver selling little classified ads in the back of the cool weekly newspaper, Westword. My mom, who is a stockbroker called me. She suggested I move to California and work for this new company she’d heard about. She said it seems like they are making money selling something like classified ads. The company was… Yahoo. And for the record they went public in 1996.
Hindsight is 20/20 and we’ve all had at least one time when we wish we had listened to our moms.
Thank you so very much to Richard Harris for taking the time to speak with us.
So what are your sales confessions?