Steven Rosen is the best-selling author of 52 Sales Management Tips: The Sales Manager’s Success Guide. In our conversation he shares his journey from an entry-level pharma sales rep to a successful corporate executive managing large groups of salespeople to being an entrepreneur who has coached hundreds of sales managers all over North America.
It’s time to Accelerate! Hi, I’m your host, Andy Paul. Join me as I host conversations with the leading experts in sales, marketing, sales automation, sales process, leadership, management, training, coaching, any resource that I believe to help you accelerate the growth of your sales, your business, and most importantly, you.
Welcome to the show. Today, my guest is Steven Rosen, author, speaker, sales management trainer, and I said an expert on actually training sales managers. And you can find Steven online at starresults.com. Good morning, Steven. How are you?
Morning, Andy. Great to be here and thank you for the invitation to be on your show.
My pleasure. So rather have me serve, recite standard biographical information you might have supplied to me. Take a minute and introduce yourself to the audience. What do you do? Who do you do it for?
Okay. Well, I’m Steven Rosen on based in Toronto, Canada. And what I do is I work with sales leaders as an executive coach. I also helped transform sales organizations through their management teams to become much more focused on coaching and people development, which is the key to driving sales performance.
And what type of companies you work with?
I do a lot of work in the pharmaceutical area but business to business, high tech. And I work across, obviously Canada, but U.S. and in Europe. We do let you south of the border.
Yes. Well, most of my work I do by phone, but definitely and I always like working in the U.S., especially with the exchange rates.
Let’s talk a little about you. How you got your start in sales?
Well, that’s an interesting question because as you know, most of us we don’t say we want to eat curry in sales. Right. But I’d worked at a pharmacy chain while I was going through school. And when I graduated with my MBA, I thought I’d go and be a financial guru. And in 1990, jobs were hard to come by. We were in bits of a recession. And I had a background from working in a pharmacy to work for a pharmaceutical company and took a job as a, what we call in the industry, probably the lowest of low in sales, which was a retail sales rep.
But I had a retail background in the company I worked for. Alcon did not have very much experience at the retail level, but did have a whole bunch of over-the-counter products and help bring them to a new level.
What was your day like as a retail sales rep for Alcon?
Retail sales were up. Well, back in the days we talk about, I used to visit pharmacies, do inventory counts, come up with suggested orders for replenishing stock, for making sure there were sufficient stock for ads?
Speaking of pharmacists about some of our products which were behind the counter and printing up your order at the end of the day.
You sold both over-the-counter as well as prescription pharmaceuticals. Correct. And so, you were like,I used to call My Detail Man or something. Didn’t they use to go through and yes, you’re checking each store and see what’s on the shelf for the over-the-counter things. And I mean, were you driving a truck?
I didn’t ship the orders as they jokes. Now everyone’s on scanners and POS and we’d count inventory or use an inventory card. Visit a clients for every four to six weeks and write up an order of the order shipped. Maybe create some in-store specials. Some man dial displays. And there was a portion of detailing which is in pharmaceuticals, is their term for selling. But there is also some good portion was transactional sales where selling product in and trying to move it out.
How many calls a day were you making? I mean, imagine you’re in your car constantly.
Yes. Yes. It was probably six to seven calls a day and six to seven orders a day, which in many cases, it wasn’t high level sales, but there certainly was a fun transactional component to it which no longer exists in the industry.
In working in that environment, did you have this aha moment where suddenly sales started making sense?
Well, I mean, the beauty in that area and again, that was a job that helped pay the rent. And that turned out to be a great job. But, I used to work on the opposite side when I was in the retail pharmacy area where I was a buyer. I had the beauty of not only understanding sales, but understanding where the buyer came from and doing their role. It made it very easy.
And what happened to your career path then?
Well, it’s interesting enough. Like yourself, Andy. It’s certainly that was an entry level job and was a great job, actually, probably tons of freedom. But within seven years of the company, I had seven different positions. Doing specialty pharmaceutical selling. And then I went into management as regional sales manager. And then I got promoted to be national sales manager. And then took over marketing and became a business unit manager.
And then vice president of sales and marketing, I guess of our own OTC division. And not that it’s a long, lengthy list, but every area that wasn’t performing well sort of came over to me. I then ran the pharmaceutical plus the OTC, started the sales force to go to primary care physicians.
Was that a reward or punishment?
Well, how it is in life that sometimes there is go-to people? Right. And you keep going to them until they drop the ball. Or I think at some point I stopped asking for it because certainly I love the opportunities to take on new challenges. I mean, the reality was that I wasn’t trained for any of these roles. I never actually get a marketing role, but became V.P. of Marketing. But I guess at the end of the day, if you make things happen. That’s one of the learnings that people will go to you, because in many cases, most people don’t make things happen in corporations. So I became the go-to guy. And even when I stopped asking, the ball kept coming.
What is it that you did to make things happen? I mean, what was it that you were doing that others weren’t, that’s creating success that was attracting these additional responsibilities?
That’s a great question. And some of those tips are in my book, and they’re not complicated tips. But when you’re in the midst of things, you don’t really think of what you’re doing. But when you take a step back, several years later, there was a couple of walkways that I realized that helped. I wasn’t trained. That was really given much guidance. Divisions came over and most cases were a mess. And one of my key factors for success was focus. And when I tried to do in every role, was clearly understand or define the two or three key things that we did do extremely well to be successful.
And someone was asking, the people in the business, sales managers, the marketers. But be very clear on what those key factors were really focusing on them. And my belief is business gets very complicated. The whole key is simplifying and doing what you had to do really well and figuring out on how to do it really well. To me is one of the keys to success that how I was able to walk in, quickly figure out what needs to be done and do it, as opposed to doing 200 things. It was much more focused on two or three things. And I coach my clients on that.
I really do believe that say a really simple yet situated to be successful. And I think many cases people just overcomplicate what they do.
I agree, 100%. I’d preface my new book of a couple chapters on how to simplify your selling along the same lines. I love it.
Let’s talk about this. In the case of, you’ve got a sales manager and as a small business owner today, they’re stuck. They’re down in the weeds, right? Yes. What are the tips and what do they do to start elevating themselves to be able to be in a position to have some perspective about what’s going on and to find those two or three things they should be focusing on?
Well, I guess it comes over time. I’ve been in business for I think it’s 13 or 14 years now. And of course, one of the key things is continually reinventing yourself, which I know you’ve done. You’ve added books, you’ve added training on. As a small business, I am a small business because I, myself, I’ve got some internal support as well. Sometimes I’ll use outsourcing. But for me, I guess one of the tips that I that I share with clients I believe helps is taking your focus.
And finally, two or three key things that I just said, but I’ve got a big whiteboard on the wall in our corporate head office. I’m just kidding about that. But yes, you’re speaking from it today. Right. I am. But one of the things is it’s nice to stay being focused.
But one of the things I do is I’ve got a whiteboard. It’s probably four feet by three feet. And I’ve got my three key areas that I’m focusing on. One of them is personal, which is better health, which he must need to focus on. Right. And I’ve got sort of one, two or three key points that I’m doing along each area, whether it’s building my coaching business, developing products for my customers and for the marketplace.
I have those listed in front of me. Every day when I’m sitting at my desk, I can at least glance over and say, Okay, what am I doing? I’ve got a list of initiatives that I’d like to do. And as we realize as entrepreneurs, there’s a portion of our time spent on on sales. There’s a portion of time spent on marketing. There’s a portion of time where we spent actually executing billable hours. Working with clients. The reality is I can only do so much. And so, I have a list of five key initiatives and probably the goal is to execute one or two in a year, whether it be writing a book, whether it be improving one of our programs, whether it be doing webinars.
I really try to stay true to the concept of focus because it’s very easy to get distracted. There’s always, as my coach used to say, there’s always shiny fish that you want to chase. Right. And I do that continually. But I really try to bring myself back to the core. Remember what’s going to help my business long term as well as short term and really stay focused on those areas. As a small business man or someone who’s looking at coming out of the corporate world and starting their own consulting, coaching, training, practice, it takes a lot of discipline. And I really do believe it takes a lot of focus to be able to effectively do a few things really well.
Yes, I agree. And I love this idea about the whiteboard because it’s such a low tech tool.
It’s actually very empowering at times. But it is very empowering because it’s sitting there staring at you. I think one thing with to do apps on your computer or a phone, is when you turned this off this thing will go away. You don’t see him unless you call them up. But a whiteboard that’s just there, you’re looking at it every day. And there’s nothing wrong with resorting to a low tech but extremely effective methods of reminding yourself what you need to be doing.
It’s true. We should make a whiteboard app, right? That displays on your wall. That’s true.
But again, even when you’re crossing things off, sitting down and there’s numerous things to do, I think it helps. And again, even when you’re in the corporate world, the level of things that are coming at you and I coach many executives and the overwhelm factor really begins to set in or you’ve got highly capable people, yet there’s just too much minutiae coming at them. Right.
I think we all face that, whether it be, the folks who get 200 emails a day and are basically, incredibly bright people who can impact their business, the world. But are tied down to trying to answer those two hundred a day. And then, of course, another two hundred come the next day. And we all know why people in the post office go postal because it just keeps coming and coming and coming. And sometimes, some folks who, as I said, are incredibly bright, great leaders equate them their value to how they clear up their inbox.
Oh, yes, that’s right. Right?
And if they’re not clearing their inbox, they’re not doing a good job. And that’s sort of my negative side to technology. I mean without a computer, I’d be dead. But there are some low tech things that I think work. And I think one of the things with the whiteboard is, there is a power of putting pen to paper. When you actually write, there are lots of things that bounce around in our heads that we want to do that we’re thinking of doing. Please put it to paper. It’s one step closer to making it a reality.
Yes, I agree. I agree. Absolutely. So, a question for you is we had all these management positions working your way up to the chain. What was the single biggest sales management mistake you made?
I don’t know. I mean, interestingly enough, on one of the biggest mistakes I made really in my career was I opened my big mouth in front of the president of the company. Early on and criticizing a few things that were wrong.
You’re saying honesty is not always valued?
Well, I mean, the interesting thing was. Well, yes. Honesty is not always valued. But what I do find is in many cases, our biggest strength is our biggest weakness. And my ability to verbalize and vocalize things helped me move forward in life. But sometimes you’ve got to pick and choose your spots.
Sometimes you just gotta keep your damn mouth closed. And I still make that mistake. Yes.
Part of what I think I’m paid for is to give people honest feedback and a coaching relationship. And it’s how we do it, I guess, which is key. And there’s a relationship of trust. But I don’t think clients would continue to come back if I wasn’t honest with them. Right. Absolutely. In some cases, I better do a little dancing to get out of situations or spending more time speaking if it doesn’t come out right. But in many cases, you get a lot of yes people in organizations. And I don’t think that’s good. You get a lot of negative people in organizations, I don’t think that’s good either. But the ability to put up logical arguments and have good discussion and being honest. I look at as a strength. But sometimes, of course, it’s a mistake.
Yes. Sometimes it’s not fair, right? Yes. Well, I mean in sales, obviously you’re trying to become a but honest broker, that trusted adviser. Yes. 100%. Yes.
And that’s a key lesson for people, I think to keep in mind, is that you might’ve perceived it as a mistake at the time, but you were being authentic to yourself. As a salesperson, you have to find that style that works for you or as a business owner that works for you with your customers. And that’s true to yourself.
And you’re not going to please everybody. Right. And that’s the reality. But I agree with you and I think the end of the day. As yourself, you’re building a personal brand. And it’s going to stand for something and you want to be consistent in terms of who you are and how you communicate and what you stand for. It’s definitely a mistake at the time. It hurt me from moving forward even faster. But when I moved into senior roles that skillset or that mistake that I made was not a mistake. It was actually appreciated.
Yes, right as a virtue at that point. Right. It’s a life is. Right. Yes.
All right. We’re going to take a break in a minute here. So before the break, though, Steven Rosen, to give him a question to think about it. Actually, you sort of alluded to it earlier interest and sounds like you knew my questions ahead of time. So here’s a hypothetical scenario. You’re a new manager coming into a company that haven’t worked before and you have one week to make a difference with a new sales team. What two things would you do that would have the biggest impact?
And we’ll talk about that after the break. Stay with us. After the break. As Steven Rosen is going to share with us some of his tips for driving approved sales through better sales management. We’ll be right back.
Welcome back. My guest today is Steven Rosen. Catch Steven online at Starresults.com. Before you get to the big question I asked you before the break. Let’s talk about your business for a little bit. You wrote a great book, 52 Sales Management Tips: The Sales Managers’ Success Guide. And you clearly wrote it, to be absorbed in small bites. Give us some of the best tips you had in there, of your 52.
Okay. Just to give you some context. My belief is reflecting on myself. It is most sales leaders, sales executives, sales managers suffer from what I call functional ADD. Right. And that’s why they’re successful, because their minds work fast. When I wrote the book, it was basically delivering things in short tidbits, which is a different style of writing. But these were tips that I continually share with my clients. And the funny thing is that every time I share one, there’s like the greatest thing since sliced bread.
You just thought of that?
And I usually have a story behind each one of them. Right. In terms of what I did and people understand what stories. I put that into a book. It’s supposed to be fun. Quick read. And I think for the target audience that I go out, which is sales managers. These are the tips that are helpful. The book continues to sell well. And of the low, I will not claim it’s a novel. It is not. But again, short tips. It’s one of them that I share on a frequent basis.
And if you’ll indulge me, I’ll tell you a bit about the story. I mean there’s a couple, one I won’t tell you about.
I always say where there’s smoke, there is an F in Inferno. Which is one of my tips in my book. If there’s problems going on with the rep. And you think there’s small problems, it’s usually actually an inferno going on, but one of the tips that I find that really help people and clients and folks I chat with is about being proactive.
And I just wrote an article recently about, what happens when the first half of the year is done and your sales are not where they need to be? And I had that actually my second year with the company I work for as vice president of sales. It was March. We were in the pharmaceutical area. SARS was hitting in Canada, if you remember, back in 1992, sales were off. There’s not a lot of things you can do as V.P. of sales to actually turn sales around.
And it was early in the year. But what I used to have is the person we had sales come in from a third party. There’s different measurements of sales. I always see sales before anyone else in the organization, before the CFO, before the general manager.
When I looked, large sales are in and we were off. And I thought, shit. What can I do? In most cases, people were going to hide under their covers and think, Oh my God, let’s hope nobody finds it. I sat back and I’ll get what can I really do? What levers can I pull? And I thought, Okay,
I’m going to simply do three things. Number one, I’m going to cancel all training. Number two, I’m going to add several trainers, I’m going to have them out in the field working with the salespeople, helping coach them, helping improve them. And three, we’re having challenges accessing clients. So, it’s going to create a program to reward reps for finding creative ways to see their doctors to get into hospitals.
What I did is I marched down, they put me in the far corner of the office, and I marched down to the general manager’s office dnd my boss, I guess at the time, they said, look, I’m concerned about sales. And I’m going to do three things. Number one, I’m canceling all training. Number two, the trainers should be going to in the field. Number three, we’re going to create a contest to reward reps for finding access to clients. And I left.
And I had a tough ass boss who was a driver, but he always wants to know the details. Yes, you can just get by with your wonderful personality. In disk profiling, he was a D.C., which is one of the toughest profiles to manage. But in essence, what would have happened if I didn’t do anything? I’d get a call the next day saying, what’s going on with sales? Or you come down to my office. What’s going on with sales? And in most cases, you don’t really know the answer.
Right, you got to find the answer. For me when I call that is the preemptive strike. Right. People want to know two things. Bosses always worry, right? Number one, that they worry, if there is an issue. If they find an issue and you haven’t said anything, which then they wonder, are you on top of your business? Exactly. Two, if you identify an issue by not doing anything about it, they wonder what the hell is he doing? My simple preemptive strike is, hey, if there’s a problem, identify it.
Come to your boss the plan of action. The emphatic and do this and do that and make it happen. In most cases, then they’ll say. Then the little marketing as opposed to sales saying, what’s going on in marketing? They’re always going to worry about something. If you can properly manage your boss, in times, when times are good.
When you’re off on sales, whether you’re a sales rep, sales manager, it’s always about having a plan. People want to know that you’re doing something about your issues, one that you know them and two that you’re doing something about them. If you notice you’re off, you’re much better to disclose it and say, this is what I’m going to do about it as opposed to someone coming to you.
Yes, I think it’s a great approach. Too often when you hear the term managing upwards, managing your boss. There’s a slight implication in there that you’re trying to massage things, right? Yes. And it’s really the opposite. You’re coming clean and you’re being forthright, but you’re coming with a plan and you’re just as you said, you’re doing it preemptively.
And I think that’s the key to success. One of the keys to success is it’s not the only given. The fact is, if you’re being proactive, then people say, hey, the impression is you’re on top of your business.
Well, I think that’s a lesson for salespeople as well. Not just our sales managers. I mean salespeople. If you’re behind the eight ball, so to speak, know it’s March or April and your prospect list looks slim. What’s the plan? Don’t wait for your boss to come to you.
Yes, and if you come up with the plan, the fact is what they’re going to do is they’re going to go elsewhere like they’re going to do if they have concerns. The concern is not with you. It’s going to be someone else. Potentially, right. And in your plan that you give them, you’re going to give them checkpoints that you want them to come back and check with you. Now, come check with me every Friday. See how I’m doing every Tuesday and Friday, how I’m doing, because you’re on to make sure you have that level of accountability back to yourself.
And in fact, that the better thing is to preemptively tell them what’s going on. Right. Exactly. I said I was going to do this. This is what’s going on. As I think in most cases, people worry. Right. That what’s going on here, what’s going on there? They’re overwhelmed. So, I mean, if you’re on top of your business, people don’t worry about you. They let you manage your business.
Exactly right. If not, then they’re always sticking their nose into micromanaging you. One of the tips or one of the best lessons that I share with folks and it is really of being proactive and being on top of your business. And if you do that, in most cases, there’s always going to be issues in business and sales and management.
But if you’re on top of them and you have a plan in place, people will allow you to, don’t power you to run your business. If you don’t, then all of a sudden you’re perceived as not being on top of your business, which means you’re the problem.
Exactly. So good tips from Steven Rosen’s book, 52 Sales Management Tips: The Sales Managers’ Success Guide. Check it out on Amazon.com. And back to the question I asked you before.
You’re a new manager to accompanying. You’ve been brought into have an impact. You have one week to make a difference with a new sales team. What two things would you do first that would have the biggest impact?
Okay. Well, that’s an interesting question because it’s hard to have an impact in the first week. But what we have meant, what I have managers do in the first week is meet with each of their sales people, get to know them. Don’t talk about business. There’s going to be plenty of time to talk about business. My belief is, is you want to build a foundation of trust.
Okay? And one of the ways to do that is actually to get to know people. Get to know them, get to know their families, get to know their hobbies, get to know what turns them on, what motivates them, where they add in their career. And actually one of my good buddies who I worked with, once said to me, people don’t care what you know until they know you care.
For me, the first step for any manager is number one. Get out there, meet your people, get to know them as people as a first step. It may not drive sales immediately, but it builds a foundation for trust in going forward.
And number 2 is probably to get clarity with your boss. As in terms of what are the expectations, even better if you want to spend the time developing a plan, what you’re going to do your first, second week, month, your first two months, your first three months and running that by your boss. So you have a 30, 60, 90 day plan of action, which manages upward saying this is what I’m going to do. Again, it’s all about the plan and being proactive.
And, from a people perspective, I really think it’s critical that before you start to manage people, you get to know them from a personal side. Again, forming that or building that solid foundation of trust, because you can’t coach, you can’t manage if there is interest in place.
All right. Perfect. Okay. We’re going to get to the last segment here. Get some rapid-fire questions for you. One word answers be great or you can elaborate a little bit if you want to, no problem.
What’s the most powerful sales tool in your arsenal?
Name the one sales tool used today for sales management that you can’t live without. Besides your whiteboard.
That’s a great question. Pass. No, there isn’t a lot of great software. I’m looking at a great software piece for management. I don’t want to say what it is. But from a management perspective is a lack of good apps to support coaching and managing people. There’s one that I’m looking at now. I won’t say it. I mean, from a sales perspective, maybe having a CRM like Salesforce is a help.
Yes. Who’s your sales role model?
Well, I love Anthony Robbins so much RV’s, a sales role model, but certainly an inspirational guy.
What’s the one book that every salesperson should read?
I think it’s called Zero Time Selling.
Yes. I’m not fishing for compliments there. Right. It is a great book.
I think it’s a great book. So you know that there’s lots of really good sales books out there. I think you’ve put together a high quality book. So I have no issue recommending it. And I know I wasn’t asked to do this. I also like, Jill Konrath has a book that I use, Snap Selling, Selling to Crazy Busy Executives. Yes, I think that’s my challenge. So those are my two books.
Your favorite music to listen, to psych yourself up for a sales call.
I’m an old guy from the 70s, so I like listening to Queen.
First sales activity you do every day.
Well, I’m embarrassed to say, but I read my emails every day. But hoping that there’s some leads that have come in. But for sales activities, picking up the phone and calling clients and potential clients doing business development first thing in the morning.
One thing managers can do to accelerate the pace of sales.
Really implementing the accountability principle. Keeping people accountable to do what they say they’re going to do.
What do you do to keep fit and healthy?
I walk. I walk my dog every day, sometimes in the morning, sometimes at night. That’s the one thing I do.
The one question you get asked most frequently by salespeople.
How can I generate more sales?
What’s the one thing you do every day, either in work or in life to get better?
Excellent. Love it. What do you read?
Well, I set up for a lot of newsletters. Focus on areas like business development, like lead generation, like how to create better webinars. Anytime I mention a specific area of improving, I’ll use Google, see what’s out there. There are many bright people who, in my area of expertise, who I can learn, whether I’m developing online training, how to be better projecting on videos, content. Whatever sort of the area of interest for me at the time is. I’ll go onto Google and see what’s out there.
Obviously, books I get books to read, but I do like the shorter content on articles on how tos and how to do it better. So again, I’m one of the things I think I mentioned early on in your own business. You need to be continually reinventing yourself and building your brand. Exactly. And it takes skills that you don’t always know, as a one person show. And sometimes there’s opportunity to outsource expertise. Sometimes it’s expensive to do that.
So in weighing those factors, whether it be, how to build a great website, or how to drive SEO, or business development, any of those areas, I’ll certainly use Google as probably my number one tool for anything I do in terms of locking into experts and seeing what other people are saying or doing successfully.
Perfect. I want to thank tonight’s guest, Steven Rosen. Steven, thanks for joining us, sharing your journey and your wisdom with us today. Can you tell people how they can get in touch with you?
Yes, if they want to call me. My number is 905-7374548. I’m on LinkedIn. My Website is www.starresults.com. And I’m across all social media, whether it be Twitter, Steven a Rosen and feel free to reach out, ask questions. I write a blog called The Sales Management Blog and pump out a monthly newsletter within sites called These Sales Management Newsletter. So feel free to reach out and chat with me. I’m open and love when people pick up the phone and call and just want to talk.
Great. Again, I really appreciate your spending time with us today. It’s been a great show. Remember, if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re in sales and if you’re in sales, you’re an entrepreneur. Make it a part of your day, every day, as Steven said, to learn something new to help you amp up your sales. So until next time, this is Andy Paul. Good selling, everyone.
Thanks for listening to the show. If you like what you heard and want to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming episodes, please subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.com. For more information about today’s guest, visit my website at Andypaul.com.