secrets to scale

Secrets To Scale Podcast
044 – Coaching Your Existing Sales Reps For Higher Levels Of Performance With Mike Poledna (Part 3 of 3)

044 – Coaching Your Existing Sales Reps For Higher Levels Of Performance With Mike Poledna (Part 3 of 3)

Secrets To Scale is a marketing and entrepreneurship podcast that revolves around hearing the stories of successful entrepreneurs and uncovering their secrets to scaling their businesses. Music for every episode of this podcast was written and produced by Treycen Clausse.

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Tanner:

This week is the third episode of our three episode series with Mike Poledna from SalesLab Consulting in this series, we’re going to cover something that almost every business owner struggles with and that’s sales in the first part of the series we covered when you should actually hire your first sales rep. And then the second part of the series, we covered how to hire the right sales rep. If you haven’t checked out the last two parts of the series, I strongly recommend that you do, but to wrap things up, we’re going to cover how to coach your existing sales reps for higher levels of performance.

Tanner:

All right, Mike, moving to part three now, which is coaching your existing sales reps for higher levels of performance. So as your business matures, and you have a stable sales team now, what are some ways that business owners can make sure they’re getting the best performance out of them and how can they coach them to achieve higher levels of performance?

Mike:

Yeah, I think this is one of the things that as a business owner, you’re often very competitive. You’re very driven, generally have a more of a dominating personality and it’s hard to sit back and let others just be themselves. It’s a real challenge, especially when you’re a small business owner and you and I have talked about the fact that we’re, you know, we’re self-employed for a reason it’s because we don’t deal with bureaucratic BS that happens in a lot of larger organizations. The bottom line is each rep is going to be motivated in their own way. So it’s important to understand what drives them personally and professionally, you know, personal motivation, you know, at a high level is intrinsic extrinsic and even altruistic. But professional motivation. That’s what gives us energy in our jobs every day. So some people love prospecting while other people, you know, they really love closing deals and certainly vice versa.

But the truth is, you know, these two areas, they’re driven by personal traits and characteristics. It’s how we’re hardwired as individuals. So when you, as a CEO or hiring a rep, it’s key that you have a process for uncovering these natural traits and characteristics so that you can understand what drives that person every day and help align their work to that. There’s things that, you know, Tanner you do every day that you probably don’t like doing. I certainly today probably fought off two hours worth of work that I really didn’t want to do because it doesn’t give me energy and it doesn’t motivate me. But, if I know that about myself, then I can address that. And if we know that about the reps we’re hiring or the employees that we’re hiring, we can be aware of where they get energy and then how to motivate them.

What drove them to that higher level of performance took getting to know them personally.

Tanner:

Yeah. You know, I think it just comes down to being a good manager and understanding your team members, what makes them tick how to make them successful. I liked that you touched on getting to know them on a deep level personally, because all too often managers just treat everyone the same, just because they’re all doing the same job, but you know, if you really want each individual person be successful, then you need to change your approach. Right. Yeah.

Mike:

I know for me personally, that was a big downfall when I was managing teams. I mean my largest team at one point I had four direct reports in 23 salespeople that rolled up to those four direct reports. And thankfully I had a director of sales operations who was so good on the people side that all I had to do is visit with that individual and say, Hey, we’ve got a problem over on this team or on the, on your team or you know, can you go address that? Can you dig in and understand why that individuals struggling and fix that? And I was so grateful for having someone that was so good at connecting with people on a personal level, because, you know, if I’m being honest with myself and I didn’t really fully understand it until probably the last third of my managing time managing, I didn’t really understand that about myself, that was really an area I struggled in. I just was not good at getting to really understand what motivated people on a personal level. I knew what motivated them from a compensation and sales performance level, but you know, what drove them to that higher level of performance took getting to know them personally. And I just, I didn’t do that well.

Tanner:

Well, I think kudos to you for being able to identify weaknesses that you’ve had and your past positions and trying to address them and improve, you know, I think that’s a big part of what finding success is and what being an entrepreneur is just learning every single day and constantly evolving, right?

Mike:

Oh, absolutely. The things I wished I had known then.

Tanner:

Speaking of motivation, what are some really good ways to motivate your sales team?

Mike:

You know, motivating a sales team really can depend the sales environment and the related responsibilities. So, you know, teams can be motivated by competition individually and in small groups, you know, some teams are best motivated when they’re challenged, solely on their individual performance and then how it rolls up and supports the team or the company overall, it really comes down to the makeup of your team, the individuals on that team and how the environment you’re operating in plays into that. I guess speaking to a sales position that I had in my mid-twenties was my first real sales position was with a company called Travel X, a foreign currency exchange company. And we sold foreign currency services to corporations who were moving money around the world. And there was, gosh, I think there’s 14 or 15 of us that covered the U S but we all did exactly the same thing.

We all had geographies that were split up and their motivation on us was stack ranking us and having the results public every day. But other sales environments where you may have the same 14 or 15 people, they have maybe have a slightly different way of operating or driving revenue or their responsibility for driving revenue is a little bit different and you can’t stack rank them because they’re not operating the same and they all know it, and they’re going to call BS on you. So I think that’s an example of where, you know, you can, you can motivate people in groups or even just, Hey, you know, Tanner your goal for this quarter everybody’s goal is to hit 20% growth over their previous quarters. You know, growth number, well, Tanner your growth number could be, you know, different than mine, but if percent to goal is what we’re all shooting for and we’re ranked on that. Well, then I feel like I’ve got a chance to win. I’ve got a chance to get that recognition. And so I think, again, it just comes down to the environment you’re operating in what you have, what your team makeup looks like and the individuals on your team.

You have to be okay with letting people move on or find different places for them in the organization.

Tanner:

Yeah. I think that’s, that’s really good stuff, Mike. So I think it’s important to mention at this point, your original first sales hire is probably no longer working for you. Can you kind of walk us through what that transition looks like from going from your first initial sales hire, maybe a couple additional teammates to, you know, a stable sales team?

Mike:

Yeah. I mean, it’s like when you’re the CEO, you’re the owner and early on, there’s a lot of gray area you’re operating in. You have to figure things out on your own and that takes a certain skill set. That’s why not everybody is self-employed, that’s why not everyone is successful in running a small business. While others, you know, are very good at what they do, they do it in a very process oriented environment. And I think that’s the way to think about your organization and your sales hires as your company grows, you go from working in a gray area to more, much more known. It becomes much more black and white. And the people who were very skilled and operating in that gray area will become disenchanted with the new environment that is now processing rules oriented or driven.

And I think one of the things that, you know, I think generally people want to do right by other people. And you may feel bad about hiring somebody and having to move them into a different role or let them go altogether down the road. But that’s just the reality. That’s as a business owner, as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to face the fact that what you need today, isn’t what you’re going to need tomorrow. And tomorrow could be six months from now. It could be 12 months from now. It could be two years from now, but what you need today, as you’re just forming is going to be different than, than what you’re gonna need down the road. And you have to be okay with letting people move on or find different places for them in the organization.

Tanner:

Yeah. I mean, absolutely. As a business evolves and becomes more a process, if you will, there’s always going to be people that don’t like that, but there’s plenty of people out there that thrive in an environment like that. Like you mentioned so many employees out there want to know exactly what the step-by-step process is. They want, they don’t want any gray area question marks, right. And at the end of the day, that’s how you become efficient and let’s make scale. Right? You have to standardize everything. Yeah.

Mike:

And it sounds crazy, but sales is no different than any other role in the organization to what you just said. You know, some people are oriented that way. They thrive on that. They perform well. That goes back to what we were talking about, what motivates them. Some people are motivated by knowing what they’re going to do every day. Some people are motivated by the fact that they can go to their boss every 10 minutes and make sure that what they’re doing is okay, while other environments, you know, you don’t want that as an as a rep, as an employee. You don’t want somebody that needs your approval every 10 minutes or every other day, you know, whatever that happens to be. And that certainly is not going to motivate an individual to have to check in with their managers. So, you know, not only as your company changes and goes through its life cycle but the people that are along with you for that ride are going to change as well.

It’s stunning to me when companies are under-investing in their tech stack.

Tanner:

Yeah, absolutely. So let’s talk about sales tools for a minute. I’m interested in what sales tools that you recommend, and I’m also interested in whether not that changes from the first sales hire to maybe a small sales team out. Of course, I’m sure some enterprise software is probably really great. Let’s leave that out.

Mike:

Yeah. Well, you know, it’s funny, my response to that is different today than it would have been 12 months ago. I mean you know from previous conversations we’ve had that, you know, I used to be a HubSpot solutions partner and I sold my agency back in December, 2020. And so probably up to November and the three years prior I would have said anything, HubSpot is what you need, and then that’s your tech stack, but you know, I’ve since changed my tune. Not totally, but mostly, for me personally as I moved away from the HubSpot agency world and have rebuilt my organization for where it’s going in the next few years, you know, my tech stack consists of tools that I wasn’t even familiar with six months ago, or certainly a year ago. I use Textline for two way SMS. For people who want to engage and ask me quick questions, I have an app on my phone and on my desktop that I can engage in two-way SMS and I can set up auto responders to automatically send them a link for information they’re looking for.

I use Mailshake for for my outbound cold email campaigns. And everybody’s heard of seamless or most everybody has. I use seamless AI and Lead Fuse for contact data. And I use Octopus CRM to help manage LinkedIn messaging at scale. And oddly enough, the only thing I use HubSpot for, and I don’t even pay them for it, is their free CRM. I don’t really use HubSpot anymore. But I think, you know, the question really around as your organization grows and changes the needs you’re going to have on your tech stack and your tech stack spends are going to change. You know, you may not be able to afford as much early on. So I think the baseline things you have to have for your team is for your revenue machine, not just your salespeople, but you know, if you have marketing focus, I think you’ve got to have a reasonable CRM.

You’ve got to have a marketing automation tool to support. You’re probably gonna need some contact data tools. And I would say some you know, either a Slack or something else that is an instant messaging tool. I think that’s your baseline, but just like, anybody who hears this conversation, there’s plenty of data out there on compensation plans. There’s actually plenty of data on what the average tech stack spend is based on your revenue and head count. And so as a business owner, if you’re like, oh my gosh, my team keeps coming me and asking for these tools as seems like it’s getting ridiculous. There is data out there that will support your decision-making process.

Tanner:

And there, there can never be enough tools that you have to pay for. Right? There’s always more.

Mike:

Oh, there’s a lot of people willing to charge you $9.95 a month. I know I got pulled in by Canva years ago.

Tanner:

Yeah. I mean, I can’t even tell you how many things I’m subscribed to, but at the end of the day, it saves you a ton of time and you use it a lot it’s worth a few cents.

Mike:

Yeah. I think it’s stunning to me when companies are under-investing in their tech stack. And I think even before your first hire, you’ve got to leverage technology. I just don’t know that there’s any way around it anymore. I really don’t. I mean, gosh, I’m in my mid-forties and I’ve been in real selling jobs since I was in my early twenties. And the changes are just, it’s amazing. It’s amazing to think back how I operated 20 years ago versus how I operate today. I can’t imagine doing it without the tools that are available.

Tanner:

Oh yeah. I can’t imagine either. No way, but I would even argue that you should be over invested in tools, you know, as long as you can afford it. Because our time is our most valuable asset. And especially as a founder, you know, if I can spend a hundred bucks a month and save myself four hours a week, I mean, that’s a no brainer.

Mike:

 Yeah. You know, Tanner, I think there’s another one out there that I think people should really spend a little bit more time giving thought to or investigating and that’s virtual assistance.

It may seem scary for some people who haven’t done it at first, but man, there’s platforms out there that make it really easy to find a virtual assistant. And even if that means it’s somebody who’s working for you four hours a week, you’d be surprised how many people around the world that would love to work for you for four hours a week at 10 bucks an hour. And they will do a great job. I personally think I’ve been able to keep my past organizations and my current one, the size they are because I’m leveraging technology and I’m definitely leveraging outsourced folks and virtual assistants there. I just don’t think I could do what I’m doing today without them.

Tanner:

Well, that’s an interesting thing. And we might need to do another interview in the future about VA’s because that’s really interesting topic to me.

Mike:

Yeah, absolutely. I’ve learned a lot more about it over the last year and a half. I think that’s a conversation well worth having.

It’s technology, it’s strategy and it’s people.

Tanner:

Absolutely. So, Mike, what would you say your secrets to scale are?

Mike:

Secrets? My secrets to scale, they’re three things. It’s technology, it’s strategy and it’s people. These are critical, especially for me as I think about everything through a sales lens first these are critical sales foundations, and they’re going to be different for everybody. You know, what your strategy looks like is going to be different than mine. Technology needs are gonna be different than mine. And even the people aspect of it is going to be different than mine, but they are important for everyone. And I really don’t believe there are any shortcuts, I think, as a successful business. If you want to scale, you have to address your strategy, your technology and your people.

Tanner:

Absolutely. That’s a really good answer. I love asking that question because let’s be honest, there’s no secret. It’s just hard work and focusing them in the right areas. Of course. But I think the only thing that I would add to your list of three is processes.

If you want to grow, you want to get going, you’ve got to nail some of these processes.

Mike:

Yeah. Yes. Talk more about that. What do you see, you know, when, when you visit with other businesses how do you think about that?

Tanner:

Well, I’ve been employed by companies that had zero process. Everyone did things their own way and some of the managers would say, do it this way. Now the managers, they do it this way. So everyone was butting heads all the time. As a lower and employee, I had no idea what to do all the time. And I mean, we’re talking lot on projects. I never knew what to do. I was constantly asking questions. I mean, do the same thing over and over on these projects. But by the time he came back to starting on a new one and starting from the beginning, I had no idea what to do. There was, it was just chaos, nothing was documented. It was impossible to be efficient.

Mike:

Yeah. I think we can all relate to that experience. I think, you know, from our side, from my side of what I do every day and for what you do every day when you work with a client or a company that has nailed down their processes it just makes things so much more efficient. And again, not just for your employees, but even folks outside your company you’re working with, if you want to grow, you want to get going, you’ve got to nail some of these processes.

Tanner:

And that’s something that’s not talked about a lot. I know I’ve talked about it on LinkedIn before, but you should be designing your processes for internal efficiency and external efficiency. If your onboarding process doesn’t take the client into consideration or your project process and how it’s going to go, and what’s required of the client and a lot of stuff, if it’s not making it easier for the client and it’s not a good experience for them, then you’re not going to grow.

Mike:

I think in the last few minutes here, we’ve hit on two more topics: External and Internal, and VA. I think those are two worthwhile conversations for any small business.

The companies that win are the ones that are going to assemble teams that can be productive in the new environment that they’re operating in.

Tanner:

Yeah, absolutely. It seems like we’ve got a rabbit hole of topics here. So, Mike, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to do this a three-part episode. Is there anything that I have not asked you that you think might benefit the audience?

Mike:

You know, I think this is probably it’s not so much that you haven’t asked me. I think it, it’s just something that that’s been on my mind a lot lately and could even be a third topic for us at some point. But I think right now, as we enter this new normal in the world we have these work from home issues. These bring people back to the office issues, these working, you know, hybrid working environment issues. I think as we, you know, as we’ve talked about understanding people and what motivates them, I think this is another area that’s going to be really important for companies to dig into. And that’s going to be understanding your people. And let’s just keep it to reps, understanding your sales reps. If you’re a company that’s switching to a work from home and you were previously in office, or you’re making some change as an organization, your culture is making a shift in how you work.

It is going to be incredibly important that you understand the natural traits and character characteristics of the people you’re hiring, because how well you compete is going to come down to how productive of a hire you make. Is this person going to operate in your new, you know, we talked about it to culture, but let’s talk about it from a work environment perspective. You’re going to win. If you’re hiring people who can be productive in how your company now works. And some people, you know, we’ve, people change when, when life events occur. And typically we think about that, like a death, a birth, a divorce, you know something of that nature, but you know what? We have all just gone through a life change and some people are coming out the other end of this with different perspectives and it’s impacted who we are and how we want to work. And I think, again, you know, I said it before. I think the companies that win are the ones that are going to assemble teams that can be productive in the new environment that they’re operating in.

Tanner:

Absolutely. And I would argue that the companies that are going to be the most successful in the immediate future are offering hybrid work. Right?

Mike:

I agree. I agree. I personally can’t imagine going back into an office.

Tanner:

See, I have this conflict, like, do I want to keep working from home? Don’t want to go get a coworking office. I don’t know, like there’s pros and to me, but I think as an employee, if I ever become an employee again, I would like the option. You know, I’d like the flexibility to choose where I want to work and that should be okay.

Mike:

Yeah. I’m similar to you. I fight that. I’ve had offices. I’ve worked from home. I currently work from home because I moved to a city five and a half months ago that has no coworking places in it. There’s one, I mean, we’re a coastal city and it’s a very different lifestyle, but we’re moving soon here in the next couple of weeks. And one of the major benefits is going to be I have a couple extra bedrooms and I have one that’s opposite side of the house from where all the activity happens and I’m hopeful that that’s going to be a successful office for me. Otherwise, I’m going to have to figure something out.

Tanner:

Well, that’s awesome, man. I wish you the best of luck, Mike. What’s a great way for anyone listening to get in contact with you?

Mike:

Yeah, they there’s a couple of different ways. You can head over to my website, which is saleslabus.com. Or you can just reach me directly at [email protected]

Tanner:

Awesome man. Well, we’ll make sure to link that up in the show notes and thank you again.

Mike:

All right. Thanks Tanner. Appreciate it.

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