Here’s the continuation of our interview with ServiceNow’s sales development leader Ralph Barsi. You can read part one here.
Boston VC David Skok estimates that it takes almost two years to get your hiring investment back for sales reps. How do you make sure you see ROI way before that?
Ralph Barsi: Food for thought: More SaaS companies need to know that stat. Too many of them put reps on performance plans between 12 and 18 months, before the true value (or return) is shown.
Hiring managers must understand where “the breakeven point” is. Michael C. Watkins talks about this in his book The First 90. It’s different for everyone but reps are first consumers of value. When they reach the breakeven point, they become contributors of value.
The way to address it is through onboarding and ongoing training and coaching.
- Teach new hires about your buyer first. There’s plenty of time to teach about your company’s history, your product line, and everything else about you and not your marketplace.
- Talk in-depth about critical business issues, industry trends and challenges, use cases, case studies, customer success stories.
- Introduce new hires to Customer Success teams, and do it early. CSMs will share customer experiences, how customers have gone from x to y with your offering, and what it will take to ensure renewals, upsells and cross-sells, repeated business, and referrals happen.
- Teach the narrative(s). New hires need to articulate why, how, then what (The Golden Circle); and say it differently to call points vs board members vs their friends and family.
- Assign reading! Not just sales books like The Challenger Sale, Solution Selling, and The Sales Development Playbook, but LIFE books like How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Secret, and The 10X Rule.
- This should occur at least 1x a year. WHAT you choose to train reps on is important (forecasting, qualifying, networking, negotiating, questioning, challenging, deal mechanics, branding, adoption and usage, legal / redlining, sales methodologies, scoping, discovery).
- Ideally, hire a training person or organization that leaves behind learning modules. The modules end up in a portal that reinforces the training (it should also map to your CRM), and even future hires can learn from it.
- What’s measured gets managed. Decide what you want to see continuous improvement in most.
- 1:1’s: WideAngle or WorkTango
- Conversations / Phone Activity: ExecVision, ConnectAndSell
- Lunch n Learns, Power Hours
Develop repeatable, scalable onboarding, training, and coaching cadences and reps will hit the breakeven point much faster, and you will see faster return on your investment.
What motivates reps to succeed, other than money?
Ralph Barsi: Whatever’s their “trigger.” It’s what US Navy SEALs use as the image for pulling them through the darkest, most life-threatening times.
Your trigger could be your spouse and children, your pet(s), your ailing parents, your desire to get married or buy your first (or fifth) home. It’s WHY you want the money.
How do you inspire sales reps?
Ralph Barsi: YOU need to first be inspired. That’s half the battle. The other half is to hire people who care. You can’t inspire or coach people who don’t care.
- Conduct 1:1’s outside. Shut the laptops and breathe the outside air.
- Show reps an inspiring career path.
- Get to know each person in your organization. You need people to bring the best versions of themselves every day. You must trust the outcome will take care of itself if each player focuses on the little things, the details, and embraces the daily grind and processes.
- Lead by example. That inspires people. Be a guest speaker on a webinar. The team sees it and develops a sense of pride.
- Remind your team of the difference between being on a team and being a team.
- Encourage music to be played (at reasonable volume levels, of course). Music is the medicine.
- Foster an environment where people are celebrated, not tolerated. Team meetings, team outings, food and beverages, and laughter (mostly from self-deprecation).
What kinds of team collaboration techniques do you employ so that the reps’ development isn’t entirely dependent on the sales manager?
- Team Leads (or managers) audit each other’s work
- There should be a shop steward that hears from, speaks to you, and represents the team
- Mentors and buddies: Mentors provide a glimpse of what’s to come and what’s possible. Buddies are peers and ensure training is enforced, conversation flow is on point, and schedules are managed.
What tools do reps realistically need to be able to be competitive today?
Ralph Barsi: Anything to enable accessibility and urgency!
For more insights from Ralph Barsi and other top sales leaders, check out our free eBook 31 Expert Sales Hiring and Coaching Tips