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GFEP 24 | Sales Management

 

Many of us understand the value of sales in any company, but there has not been a lot of focus on sales management in the last decade. Sales management expert Jason Jordan saw the need to tap this area of sales and wrote the book, “Cracking the Sales Management Code,” which has since been a staple on the reader’s lists of MBA courses in major universities. Jason is a bestselling author and sales consultant who focuses on sales management best practices, sales metrics, pipeline management, CRM, leadership development and more. Joining Rob Cornilles in this episode, he shares the important realizations he had in his sales career that prompted him to write a book about sales management. He also sheds light on the critical role of frontline sales managers in ensuring smooth processes in all aspects of sales.

Watch the episode here:

Jason Jordan | Cracking The Sales Management Code 

I want to thank Jason Jordan for joining us on the show. Jason, it’s great to have an author and an educator like yourself to participate in these conversations. Welcome to our show.

Thanks, Rob. I’m glad you’re having me.

Jason, as you and I have spoken before I am a fan of yours, the books that you’ve published and the articles that you’ve written. You have a very interesting career path because most people either want to be an author from day one or want to get into business and then authorship comes down near retirement. In fact, I had a conversation with an executive, who’s nearing the end of his career. I asked him, “What’s the one thing you still want to do?” He says, “I want to write a book.” It’s not an easy thing to have a bestseller as you have and to be an influencer in the sales industry like you have been. Tell us a little bit about how that started. Did you intend to be a researcher and an author, or did you just discover things in the sales industry and recognize that you’ve got to share some insights and some discoveries with the rest of us?

Thank you for the compliments along the way. It was an interesting path. I don’t know that anyone has a path in their career, but I started out in sales right out of college with 100% commission, hardcore sales. I went to business school. It’s funny. This was before the dot-com boom. When I was coming out of business school, you went to banking or consulting. Those were your two choices and there was no idea of being an entrepreneur. I went into consulting.

In every management consulting firm I went to, I was the only person who had any sales experience. Anytime there were sales discussions, it’s like, “Go get Jason. He can talk about sales.” Most of my career was consulting. Anything you can do in a sales force, a comp design, territory design, process design and CRM implementation, all of it. I was going down that path and I had respect for authors. I didn’t necessarily have the intention to be one.

It was like my life’s thing, but when I was in sales, throughout my career, I was reading Neil Rackham. He was very influential. I got fortunate enough to work for him and consider him a friend now. The SPIN Selling and Rethinking the Sale are all legendary books. He is a great guy. Solution Selling, all the classics and Miller Heiman’s books. I respected people who could create content. What Neil told me one time about writing was very interesting. He said that, “Writing forces clarity of thought.” The best authors are good at presenting complex things in very simple ways. While most authors try to present simple things in complex ways to make it seem more than maybe it is.

The way the book came about and I’ll be brief with the story because I know we want to go on to other things. I was at American Express’ headquarters in Manhattan, and this has got to be several years ago. I don’t even remember what the project was but during break and coffee and stuff. One of the guys said, “I was in the room believe it or not with the global head of sales of American Express.” I’m sure he’s 1 of 500 people. The head of sales asks an interesting question. He said, “How do I know if my salesforce is any good?” He went on to say that, “If my European revenues are growing faster than North American, does that mean I’ll have a better salesforce in Europe?” “I don’t know. What are the regulatory environments? What’s the competition like? Give some more examples.”

He’s like, “How do you know if salesforce is any good?” As a sales consultant, I felt that I should have an answer. That’s one of those things that when you’re driving around by yourself and those moments where you reflected, I started thinking about it and I said, “Let’s look at some sales reports, some management reports.” If people are bothering to gather and report data, this must be what they think is the definition of good. Measuring ourselves against good. The book came out with this interest and understanding of how people were using CRM and what reports, what measurements they were using. I played with the concepts for a while. I put it into a presentation and some folks had hired me to go do roadshow stuff because they were interested in the industry.

I was giving a presentation at a random conference and a guy from McGraw-Hill came up and said, “I thought that was interesting. Here’s my card.” I thought it was a sales leader, trainer or something, but he was just looking for fresh content. He said, “Would you like to give a proposal?” I gave him a proposal, they accepted it and then I wrote a book. I avoided all of the writing a book and having to shop it and no agents were involved. I fell into it in all the right ways, but I did fall into it. It was a good experience. People ask me, “How it is to write a book?” My only response is, “It’s long.” I spent about a thousand hours just writing the book. Not counting all the stuff that went into it, but that was a good process. It was fun. It definitely clarified my thinking. That’s what my people have been drawn to the book or at least that’s the feedback I get is it’s approachable. It’s nothing engineering about it. It’s common words and common concepts. I’ve been very fortunate in that way.

In trying to implement change in sales processes, implementation success always comes down to the frontline sales manager. Click To Tweet

As I’ve told you before, Jason, I teach an MBA course at a major university and Cracking the Sales Management Code is on our reader’s list. It’s required reading within our course. My students have always benefited from it. It spurs conversation and a little bit of debate, but they walk away, grateful that it’s on that list. It’s one of the few books that focus at least that I have appreciated. It’s one of the few books that focus on management. We have a lot of sales, methodology books. I’m coming out with a book on sales methodology. Sales management is one that I think we’re all scratching our heads constantly trying to figure out. I’ve got to ask you a couple of questions about the origination of the book. The title itself, Cracking the Sales Management Code, it suggests something has been hidden from us. What was the thinking behind that? What did you discover that caused you to put that title on it?

There are a couple of things to talk about there. You’re right. There’s not been a lot of sales management-focus. At the time that book came out, it was late 2011. I went on to Amazon and looked for sales management books. They weren’t there. Since there’ve been several good sales management books that have been written, whether the time was right or maybe I spurred some interest in the area, but that may be a little overly ambitious and indulgent. Understanding my career, I was a management consultant. I came at all of these issues from a management’s perspective. I didn’t spend my entire career in sales.

I had a career in sales, but I didn’t go straight from being a salesperson to writing a book. I’ve been studying management issues. What I realized in trying to implement change and this is a truism that people have come to realize. If you’re trying to make any change in a Salesforce, whether it’s implementing a new training program, new process or implementing CRM, in my experience managing those projects, the implementation success always came down to the frontline sales manager. The frontline sales manager understood it and bought into it. It would at least get done 75%. If the sales manager didn’t understand that it wasn’t behind it, it became the third priority and it just never happened.

It’s a truism. That was the interest in particularly frontline sales management. The title, I have to give credit to my co-author, Michelle Vazzana. I live in Charlottesville, Virginia. I live on an old farm situation. In here, any property over 5 acres has outbuildings that have been converted into cottages or whatever. I have my cottage out behind our house with the guest cottage and that’s where I do my work. Michelle was down, she lived in the DC area, we had outlined the book and we put the poser together. We got to have a name, we need a name for it. I said, “The name is obvious. It’s Focused Sales Management because that’s what this is all about.”

The entire book in focusing sales management and salespeople on doing the right things. She said, “That’s stupid. No one is going to buy a book called Focused Sales Management, how about Cracking the Sales Management Code.” That’s where it came from. To your point, it did crack open some ideas. The standing idea that we manage outcomes. If you could manage quota, everyone would make their quota. It shifted the focus to the activities. Since I’ve had many people say, “We’ve been running our Salesforce like that for years. I can’t imagine running it any other way, focusing on the activities and what people are doing and what we’re providing by way of enablement.”

The last ten years have been transformative for the sales management discipline. I think that maybe the time is just right. Maybe people have gotten as far as they can with the existing training, methodologies, and all the stuff that they’ve poured at the sales team. Technology has definitely changed and has been a huge enabler and that’ll continue to change in the salesforce for a while, but the fundamentals of management and coaching are immutable.

I certainly would like to talk about that with you. Let me go back to the chicken and the egg question if I could, what does come first? Is it great management, a great sales leader or a great salesperson? What would you rather have if you had to pick one?

I take a great sales manager every time. Neil Rackham would say the same thing. He’d say, “If I had a choice between having ten rockstar salespeople or one rockstar sales manager every time because that gets replicated.” The scenario people describe is, “We take our best salespeople and we promote them into sales management.” We lost our best salesperson and we created a shitty manager. You have done double damage. The question is, “Can you take someone who’s not a great salesperson and make them a great sales manager?” My response to that has always been, you can’t take someone who’s incompetent at sales and make them a sales manager, because they don’t know what good looks like, or they can’t look at something and go, “This is wrong.”

There’s also an issue of credibility to promote someone who is a peer who’s not respected into a management role. You can’t promote bad salespeople into management positions, but I think you can promote average and better than average people that have management capability. If I was given a choice between having ten great salespeople or two great sales managers, I’d take the sales managers every time because I feel that within 24 months, we have twenty great salespeople instead of ten. There’s a span of control of 10 to 1, which is maybe a little high, but not unrealistic.

GFEP 24 | Sales Management

Cracking the Sales Management Code: The Secrets to Measuring and Managing Sales Performance

In one of your articles, you talk about a 30,000% ROI. I love that article. It came out in 2017, 2018 if I’m not mistaken, I could be wrong. Could you talk about how a salesforce or an organization could get a 30,000% return?

You could still get that vantage points website if you look. You have a choice. You can train your entire salesforce of salespeople. Let’s say you have 100 salespeople and 10 sales managers. You can train your entire sales team of a hundred people and spend a bunch of money and maybe you’ll get some lift, or you can spend 1/10th of that train your sales managers. I believe you get an even greater lift because the research that vantage point has done over time has shown that sales managers are the leverage point for improving sales performance. It’s a simple observation and simple math that I’d rather train the ten sales managers before I trained a hundred salespeople every single time. That’s a dividend that is going to keep giving. As more salespeople rotate in, the sales managers are still there. It’s a much better and much more leveraged model of focusing on improving a sales team.

Excuse me for the fundamental nature of this question, but I want to make sure that our audience is following what you’re saying. When we talk about training sales managers, are we talking about making them better salespeople themselves? What do you mean exactly by training them? If I’m going to invest that money in 10%, where am I directing it specifically?

Let’s look at it this way. The sales managers are trying to change the behavior of the salespeople and the salespeople in turn are trying to change the behaviors of the customers to obviously buy from us. I’ve reversed-engineered the question. Plenty of people will say, “Here’s what we need to be doing in front of the customers. Therefore, here’s how we need to train the salespeople.” I don’t stop there. I say, “If this is what we want, the salespeople would be doing, and this is how we train the sales managers.” For instance, if we wanted the sales team to make better sales calls, and we even defined that. Asking better questions, or having a specific agenda beforehand, or maybe communicating that agenda before you get into the specific practices of what you want the salespeople would do.

You can train the salespeople to do that or you can train the sales managers to train daily. We reinforce that constantly, sit down and coach them to, “We’re going to sit down and plan this call and you write them an agenda. You’re going to email that before to the person you’re meeting with, and then we’re going to record it or I’ll join you.” That sales manager had that same conversation ten times. It’s more powerful than training the salespeople to do it because the sales manager takes ownership of it. They can oversee it. As I said, salespeople are coming and going, management is a little more stable than salespeople. That investment is a little stickier than another way. I always reverse-engineer it from the behaviors you want in the field. I don’t stop with a sales salesperson. I take it back a level to the sales manager because if the sales manager understands and motivated, the sales manager can make it happen.

Do you find in your experience then, Jason, that sales managers are as receptive to coaching as frontline salespeople?

I think more so even. They want it and they don’t get it. There have been times in my career when we train sales managers and then we train the sales manager’s manager to coach the manager. That’s an interesting thing. You’re a salesperson and you get coached. It’s an expectation, particularly the younger generation, the more they expect it. It’s part of the value proposition of working for you is that you’re investing in them and their development. It’s pretty common to think, “We coach the salespeople and the sales manager does that,” but it’s weird to think that once a person’s a sales manager, we don’t need coaching anymore. We need them to make the reports and do the stuff.

What we found is not only when you engage the coach’s coach, not only does the manager like it, because it’s an investment in them that they’re not typically getting. Oftentimes the coaches, the coach likes it as well. The VP of sales is like, “I haven’t coached anyone in fifteen years. This is pretty rewarding. I like this.” I had a real job of managing people. All the way to the CEO and the CEO has executive coaches. He or she has people that are working with them to keep them home. It’s a weird thing that we think once we take a great salesperson and promote them into a management position, then we’re done. Magic is going to happen.

Jason, you know Game Face, the company that I lead started in 1995 in the sports industry. Our clients were a lot of the teams right around your area in the DC Virginia area. When we began the notion that you would train or coach executives for a sports team was a head-scratcher to most organizations. It’s like, “Why do we need coaching?” Just put out a better product on the ice, the field, or the court and we’ll sell more, whatever it is, sponsorship, tickets or suites. This is several years ago, I had convinced sports teams as they train players the best in the world at what they do.

You can't take someone who's incompetent at sales and make them a sales manager, because they don't know what good looks like. Click To Tweet

They’ve probably should also devote resources to training their executive team. Now, thankfully, it’s just a given in our industry of sports. I don’t work entirely in sports anymore but it is still a large part of our business. That was just an expectation people like you said, young people expect it to be a part of the value proposition. Why they will say yes to a potential employer is because they get coaching from it. From that experience, that employment and more managers are asking us, “What about us?” It’s interesting. Some industries are way ahead of this and you probably have been a catalyst to that. In other industries, there’s still that same old view that as seasoned veterans, we don’t need the training and the coaching. Just help those young folks. That’s a sad commentary, but it’s still out there, maybe not so much with the large B2B enterprise companies that you work with. I still see that in a lot of small businesses. I don’t know if you have any opinion on that.

Someone once said or I once read that, “When you’re in your twenties, you learn the trade and in your 30s, you’ll learn the tricks of the trade. If you don’t keep learning, by the time you’re in your 40s and 50s, you’ll only have the tricks.” It resonated with me that at 35 or 40, you can’t know everything you’re going to need to know. Some people come to that with disposition. People just liked her and people are driven. They like to read. Now, the websites, YouTube and things that you can develop yourself. Other people get to 40 and they’re like, “We’re good.”

I think you’re right that larger companies are more focused on executive development. They’re focused on succession planning and things like that. Whereas in smaller companies, it’s not part of the game because it’s expensive bringing people in to deal with the executives and the time it takes and trying to find the right person because there’s a lot of personality stuff that goes on at the executive level. Finding the right person to train or coach. It’s time-consuming and resource-consuming to continue to develop people. It’s easy to get a sales training course for 1,000 salespeople.

You’ve noted in your writings that it’s even more expensive not to develop your people.

Yeah.

Let’s go back to Cracking the Sales Management Code. You did a lot of research. You pulled from your own experiences. I’m sure you pulled from your own mentors if you will and people that you learned from. In that research, as you were writing the book, was there anything about your findings or your conclusions that surprised you when it finally went to print? When you began writing it, you didn’t think you would have discovered this particular point or truth about sales management, but after concluding it, you had converted yourself almost.

I don’t think so. In that book, we’re on a quest for reality. We were trying to define what we saw around us. What are sales processes? Why do you measure and what do you measure? We were trying to find foundational components. It’s like discovering math like, “One plus one equals two.” That’s surprising. You’re like, “No, we just didn’t know one plus one equals two until we wrote a one, a plus sign, a one and an equal sign and a two.” Now, it’s obvious. That’s why some people gravitate toward the book and why it ends up in universities. I’ve used it when I teach at university and other professors use it as well that I know because I think it’s foundational. Other stuff that I’ve done, I’ve been surprised because I was on a quest but in this case, we were just trying to write it down.

A word that you’ve talked about a lot in your writings and one that is the core word in the work that I do is the word, results. You mentioned that a lot in your book and you make a very clear point that you have to be able to define the results you want in order to be a good sales manager. Do you find and have you found over the years that in your work with various organizations that it’s not clearly defined because it seems so basic? Do you have to start with the result in mind before you can go to activities and tactics, but do some not get that or do some get it backwards?

People understand the desired outcome clearly, which is to hit your quota and to hit your budget or your target, but that’s where a lot of people stop. I don’t think there’s any shortage of people knowing what the outcome is they want. It’s a shortage of people knowing how to get there. In reality in salesforce, you’re given the outcome. It’s called a quota and remarkably you’re often not guided on how to get there. That’s what the work we did at VantagePoint was all about it.

GFEP 24 | Sales Management

Sales Management: There is no shortage of people who know what outcome it is they want. There is a shortage of people who know how to get there.

 

You talk a lot about tools that sales managers must use. The one that’s become in vogue over the last many years is CRM. I like how you beat it up though. By that, I mean we assume that we need a customer relationship management system. You talk about how that’s wrong and we’ve let it get away from itself. Can you share with the audience how you view CRM and maybe where we’ve lost track of what its original intent was?

It’s funny you say original intent. I was a consultant in the late ’90s and Siebel became a thing. In the early 2000s, when everyone had to have it, customer relationship management started out as exactly that it was like, “Marketing customer relationship management, software sales used it.” There was a piece in there’s a module in CRM called Sales Force Automation, SFA. Their SFA practices started popping up and we don’t talk about sales force automation. We don’t use those terms anymore, but it’s funny because I think that’s what has become, has never evolved far beyond that. If you look at the core of CRM the way most people use it, it’s a way to track opportunities and contacts.

We took Act! which is everyone’s favorite software who’s ever been in sales, who has been around since the ’80s and ’90s and it took Act! and put opportunities in it. That’s what we now have and we call CRM. Now we have marketing automation that does a lot. The terms are a little bit convoluted in the way that it’s evolved. What we have is sales force automation and the thing that we called it that it would be a little clearer exactly what the scope and reasonable expectations are for that software that is sales force automation. People treat it as a strategic advantage. It’s funny because we still hear people talk about, “What’s the ROI of CRM?” No one talks about what’s the ROI of email.

CRM is infrastructure. You don’t need to justify it anymore. You don’t need to talk about the ROI of your cell phone or the ROI of Outlook any more than you don’t need to talk about the ROI of Salesforce.com. It’s just there. The challenge is, now that everyone has it, how do we use it? The fundamental idea that it’s a tool there to support better selling is lost on a lot of executives. They see it as a pipeline and reporting tool. If I’m cynical, if it weren’t for forecasting, I don’t know that a lot of sales leaders would give a damn about CRM. We need a forecast, we need a pipeline because we have a pipeline, we need CRM and then that’s where a lot of it stops. It’s a shame because it’s the backbone. It is the plumbing of the Salesforce and it’s not a free-flowing.

If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like you to elaborate on that a little bit more. How are we using traditional CRM incorrectly in the sales world?

It’s a tool to enable salespeople. It’s not a tool to enable reporting. It’s viewed from the top-down, not from the bottom up. I’ve talked to people over time and they’ve said, “When we started putting activities into the system and tracking things that were correlated to productivity, then CRM became useful. Using it as a pipeline and reporting tool is not all that great. That’s why salespeople don’t like to use it. All I’m doing is giving this machine data, then the machine gives that data to someone else in a different form. Salespeople get some value out of reporting. It’s so funny, you don’t have to make people use Outlook. You don’t have to make people use their cell phone because it’s inherent to them what the value is.

You have to make people use CRM because it’s not inherent what the value is. That tells me that we haven’t valued engineered CRM or sales force automation in a way that says, “How could the users of this find it useful?” Also, I say that quickly, “That’s overly complicated.” I had some sales operations person said that as soon as he implements a new CRM tool, he envisions himself as the mechanic, under the hood of a car, just pulling out hoses and wires. They try to sell it so feature-rich and they sell that as the value proposition. Whereas I think, the value proposition should be there like four buttons and three reports and six things that you need to do in this, but they’re the important things. It’s grown beyond its usefulness, ironically, at the same time, it’s not proving itself to a user.

Thus, the lack of or the low number of adopters in most offices is it’s a constant struggle, a tug of war to get your salespeople to use the CRM. Because they don’t see an inherent value, how is it going to help them make a sale? As I’m understanding you describe it, they think it’s simply a mechanism to provide reports to the people upstairs, but for them, they have more important things to do. They got to make a commission and that means they got to get back on the streets or back on the phone, you get to interact with customers. They’re not seeing how CRM helps them get there. Is that a fair summary?

That’s very fair. It’s a database of records. That’s what CRM has become in most sales forces. I will say that this whole industry, particularly around Salesforce.com because they sell a very rudimentary product. It doesn’t have a lot of great reporting. They know they know this. They put the AppExchange in place and they want people to build all these extra capabilities around what is this simply defined CRM tool. There are many great tools out there that do add value. They’re expensive. If you mapped out what salespeople do and thought, “How could we enable this?” That’s where you started building CRM, you’d have a different CRM. We go in and go, “We need a forecast and new management reporting. Now, how do we get that?”

A CRM is a tool to enable salespeople, not a tool to enable reporting. Click To Tweet

That’s how you backed into CRM. It’s not, “Here’s the sales process.” If we have strategic account managers, what in there is helping them manage their accounts more strategically? Are their data feeds bringing in alerts to their strategic accounts where every morning when they log in, like, “Some new executive at this division over here. I need to call that person.” If it’s lead generation, you’re pursuing opportunities. If you log in to CRM, “Are there opportunities there? Are there leads? I’d log in to see that.” If we could just map out what salespeople do, identify the places they need to enable that, and enable that through CRM, then people would love CRM. That’s not the way, it’s an architect and that’s not cynical, but I’ve seen it many times in my mind it’s become reality, in a form. Maybe I’m being a little too pessimistic.

Another term that may get you up on your hind legs as well. We talk about it constantly. I want to get your reaction. When I use the two words, pipeline management, what does that mean? What should it mean in your experience?

Pipeline management is not what takes place, what takes place is data management in most cases. When we’ve all said in these meetings where there’s a salesperson and there’s a sales manager, and they’re going through the pipeline and what they’re doing is they’re updating close dates. They’re updating dollar amounts, they’re updating probabilities, that’s forecasting. They’re scrubbing the forecast. Pipeline management is when you’re doing something to improve the effectiveness and productivity of the sales pipeline. Good pipeline management looks like coaching. Pipeline management in most people’s minds is just keeping the data clean and making sure that as deals get at the later stage, they’re treated a little bit differently.

I would use pipeline management and coaching almost interchangeably. The pipeline is the nexus for almost everything in most sales forces. It’s where we keep the activity like, “What are people doing?” They’re working on these deals is where we keep the deals is where we generate the forecast. The pipeline is the centerpiece and most sales. When you see what meetings are taking place, salespeople and sales managers talking about stuff in the sales pipeline. The pipeline report is what they go through. It’s mostly viewed as a stage along the way, it creating a forecast. It’s seeing what deals are coming in the near term, which is another way of saying forecast. It should be a coaching tool.

With these best practices and perhaps some inherited worst practices, I’m interested to know if you’re able to share with us, who are some organizations that you admire for the way that they are managing their Salesforce and their sales system? Any companies that you can illustrate that they’re enabling people properly and exercising these principles on a day-in and day-out basis?

I see good practices in almost every salesforce. I’ve never seen a salesforce that I would hold up as perfect. I’ve worked with very large companies that are held up as operationally excellent companies and they are, but there’s always something. I’ve been in various small companies that were innovative and thought about things in the way that you probably should because they had probably 1 or 2 leaders. If those 1 or 2 leaders had a square head on their shoulders, then things went well. We’ll get into a big company and they’re pockets of things that are going very well. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one company that I said, “This is it,” but I’ve picked best and worst practices along the way. You probably had some experience I would guess.

A couple of more questions, if I could. If someone aspires to be in sales management, whether they’re young or middle of their career, what advice are you going to give them if you’re mentoring them? What should they be doing now so that when the opportunity is presented to them, they qualify and when they get the job, they excel?

There are two different things. To qualify, you to have to be a good salesperson. Probably demonstrate some interpersonal and some political skills. There’s a way you get to be promoted to sales manager, which is through success. If you wanted to think about, how do I become a good sales manager? I had the same advice I’d give to existing sales managers who want to become better sales managers. As a salesperson, I would ask myself the question, “What would a great sales manager do for me? How could a good sales manager make me better, more effective and successful at my job?”

If you think about it as like, “You spent some time helping me go through deals, but not just to scrub the data but to point out, to test me, to push me on how might I do this?” Perspective is what’s lost. People become sales managers and they think they need to be in this headspace of sales manager, but what they’re going to be is in the headspace of the salesperson and understanding what they need to succeed. If a sales manager got up every day and thought, “What can I do today to make Jason a better salesperson,” rather than get up and think, “How am I going to get to the quota?” I think they’d be more effective at their job. As a salesperson, thinking through how I send you to succeed, you get the opportunity and then you become the sales managers that you wanted to have that you never, ever get.

GFEP 24 | Sales Management

Sales Management: Over time, we’re just finding better ways to do the fundamental things that salespeople need to do.

 

Jason, as a thought leader within the sales space and as one who has obviously been a part of innovating good practices for sales management and the like, where do you think the industry is going in the next few years? I know that’s a loaded question because the economy is in an uncertain space and we’ve got pandemics. We’ve got some communities and industries that are a bit in unrest. If you were to put that thumb out there, where are you seeing us a year from now, five years from now and what should we be doing to prepare for the future as sales managers?

I have what’s not a typical view for someone who’s supposed to lead thought and things. Change comes very incrementally in sales. We think the internet came and everything changed in a day and CRM came and everything changed in a day. The internet, the CRM or sales force automation was very rudimentary when it came. What we’re seeing is we’re just getting better and better at what we’ve always been doing. I had this idea that we have no new problems in sales. We just have unsolved problems in sales and the data point I like to use. It was a book called Birth of a Salesman. It was written by a Harvard professor years ago and it’s a great story.

It’s a little bit academic in the way that reads, but there’s a quote from a salesperson. It says, “My sales manager is gone about systematizing sales. Now, I spend all day chained in my desk doing reports.” It’s in 1927. I don’t think things have changed as much as we think they have changed. The internet and LinkedIn, but LinkedIn when it started wasn’t LinkedIn than it is now. What we’re doing overtime is we’re finding better and better ways to do the fundamental things that salespeople need to do, which identify opportunities, qualify them, demonstrate value through the sales process and shepherd the buyer across the finish line. If you’re managing accounts, the things that you do when you manage accounts.

I don’t think the sales motion has changed in 100 years. The tools we have and the way we viewed it has gotten sharper over that time. That’s going to be a trend that continues. I don’t see many revolutions. In fact, I’ll give you one final comment on the question. When the internet came about everyone said, “This is the death of the salesperson.” This is a cynical way. I can’t believe I’m saying it out loud because it’s so cynical. Like, “Why would someone interact with a salesperson if they didn’t need to?” That was the thing is, “Salespeople will be replaced by websites. We’ll never need to see a salesperson again.” People that I respect in the industry was like, “Half the salespeople will be gone in ten years.” That would be devastating to the sales career.

I did this several years ago, but I went back to 1999 and I looked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the United States and looked at how many salespeople there were. What percentage of the workforce was employed in sales? It was 2015 or ’14. Several years later, I went back and looked at the percentage of the workforce that was in sales. It was exactly the same. It was like 14.1 versus 14.3 or something. It was negligible distinction in the composition of the workforce. We need salespeople. Now, what has to happen, salespeople will evolve. The salesperson, of now is much more valuable than the salesperson fifteen years ago because they had this realization like, “My salespeople know as much about my products as I do because they can go to the website. They can read reviews.” The internet pushed salespeople into a different place but again, it’s been incremental. We’re getting better at our craft.

Can you give us any peek into what you’re writing next? What topic you’re particularly pursuing now or is that something we’ll just have to read about?

As you and I were chatting about, in fact, some of it. I wrote a book and I published it in 2017 under a pen name. This 2020, I republished it under my name. It’s called Sales Insanity. I don’t know if you’ve come across that one. It’s twenty stories of the stupidest stuff I ever saw in my career of sales. I love that book. I’m as proud of that book as I am of Cracking Sales Management Code but in a very different way. It was a lot of fun to write and people have been inspired but the topic that I’m intrigued with now is very timely is video conferencing.

Sales certainly, but any profession who uses video conferencing in the way that we are now. This is truly unprecedented with the amount of video conferencing is taking place for obvious reasons. I’ve got a couple of research instruments and surveys I’ve put out trying to understand, what are best practices, what we’re doing now, and how should a professional interact with the camera and the background. If you have an important meeting coming up with another executive or whatever, how do you orchestrate that? In the same way that Cracking Sales Management Code was driven by curiosity, I’m genuinely curious in this. This is different than we would have been doing before. There’s going to be some writing coming out of that. The research is coming in and I think it’s timely, but we’ll see what’s after that. We’ll see what other questions I can’t answer.

That particular question about video conferencing, it’s a wonderful area to pursue. I think it would be very valuable as you and I have discussed previous to this, I see a lot of bad examples of salespeople trying to sell through video conferencing and their intent is good. Their heart is in the right place, but their presentation, their professionalism is suspect.

We have no new problems in sales, only unsolved ones. Click To Tweet

I’m not on sales calls anymore in the way that I used to be. Every morning, I watch the financial news during the day. You see the folks reporting from their houses, their homes, and this is on national television, global television. I can’t believe this person thinks this is a good idea. There’s no reference point. Maybe I’m going to foundationally define the way you work with a video camera. We’ll see.

I know exactly what you’re referring to. I’ve said to you with someone who’s sitting underneath a ceiling fan and it looks like a helicopter is descending on their head or they’re they look like they’re in their hallway. Granted, I like the rawness and the authenticity that this has forced us to adopt and customers like it too. It’s fun to talk to a salesperson when they’re in their kitchen or when you can hear their kids playing in the background. It makes everything more human.

We’re trying to establish credibility, but I was talking to a professor who also teaches sales. He was saying, “That’s a fascinating idea. Do you mind if I take this idea and start putting together some research and do some academic research on this?” You’re not only there, how do you have a first interaction where you’re trying to build credibility and establish that you’re right? He said, “What about three months later at the end of the sales cycle, do people still have the same expectations? You probably wouldn’t be in the kitchen and your first call with your kids in the background. Maybe it’s endearing once you have a relationship to have that personal view.” This is such interesting idea. Until people started bringing their business into their homes like an earnest, these issues never popped up. That’s where my head is now just because of the nature of my life.

I encourage my audience to be following Jason Jordan, see what’s coming out next. Jason, how could someone find you if they wanted to pursue more, the things that you’re sharing with us?

LinkedIn is the best place to get in touch with me.

We’ll encourage everyone to do that. I’m sure I appreciate you spending the time with us. It’s fascinating, the work that you’ve done and the work that you’re going to be doing in the future. We at Game Face appreciate the relationship. We will encourage people to reach out to you then, as questions arise, not only in sales management but even this new topic that you’re now raising. We wish you the best of luck as you continue to provide great instruction to the sales world.

Thanks, Rob.

Take care.

Important Links:

About Jason Jordan

GFEP 24 | Sales ManagementSales management expert focused on developing sales leadership effectiveness in large B2B sales forces. Clients include GE, 3M, Tyco, TIAA, Essilor, Aon, FedEx, Sungard, Gates, and other global organizations.

Best-selling author of Cracking the Sales Management Code and Sales Insanity. Conducts ongoing research to advance the discipline of sales management.

Specialties: Sales Management Best Practices, Sales Metrics, Pipeline Management, Forecasting, CRM, Change Management, Leadership Development, and Coaching.

GFEP 6 | Women In Sales

 

Who do you trust more to sell you something – a man or a woman? Women are usually preferred. Then why has the sales industry been historically run and populated by men? In 2018 Lanette Richardson asked the same question and, without trying to create a battle of the sexes, launched Utah Women in Sales – now a growing national force. In this episode, she joins forces with Rob Cornilles to explore the unique and valuable attributes women innately – and through tireless tenacity – bring to any sales culture and experience. What have they learned from men, and what must men learn from women to make teams more complementary and complete? Listen in for more.

Watch the episode here:

Lanette Richardson | Women In Sales

I often like to ask audiences what they think of two specific words, salesman and salesperson. For a salesman, the reactions are universally negative, sleazy and slimy. For a salesperson, the reactions are more mixed. Some good and some not good. Why is that? Why would I use the word salesman? It’s almost always, “Back off,” but when I use the word salesperson, which could mean either sex. I get more temperate reactions. You’re about to find out in this episode, as I interviewed the Founder and President of Utah Women in Sales, here is Lanette Richardson.

I want to welcome you Lanette Richardson to the show. It is been a long time coming. I’ve wanted to have you on the show for some time because of the role that you play in sales and in the business community, especially in the State of Utah where Game Face resides. Welcome, we’re glad to have you here.

Thank you. It’s fun to be here and I’m excited to join you.

We’re going to talk about quite a few things related to sales and women in sales. Tell us, where in your career path the idea that then was hatched to begin Utah Women in Sales? It wasn’t that long ago, but perhaps the idea was festering for a number of months or years before that.

It’s always been a passion of mine to help and to get more women onto teams, to get more women into sales, to help break that barrier down on what women think sales are, and to show them how they can be successful in sales. They don’t have to be a typical stereotype of what people think a sales rep has to be. We started this years ago. We have a lot of friends that are women in different places. One of my friends, her name is Lori Richardson, no relation. She lives in Boston. She runs a women’s sales group up there and she called me. She said, “I’m coming down to Adobe Way to speak. Are you coming to my event?” I was like, “I had no idea there was an event there. I didn’t even know.”

She said, “It’s for women and sales. Women all over Utah that are in sales.” I was like, “I don’t even know how I didn’t know this, but I’m going to be there.” I got a couple of my coworkers at Lucid and I said, “Let’s go there. There are some great speakers. We should do this,” so we did. We went over there. There weren’t many people there and I thought, “Maybe it wasn’t advertised well because I certainly didn’t know about it, but it was great.” The content was great. It was engaging and the speakers were wonderful. We stayed afterward and we talked with a couple of speakers. We said, “There’s got to be a bigger need for women around here than this.”

I wonder what would happen if women knew that there was an event like this happening. We thought, “Why don’t we try this out? Why don’t we put together a group and work on what to call it and what we would be doing for women?” We decided, “Let’s have an event. It was a few months after that, we reached out as much as we could on social media and people that we knew. We invited as many women as we could. We had our first kickoff event and we surprisingly had about 350 women show up. That’s when we knew there is a huge need.

It was one of the most fun evenings I’d ever had in meeting all of these women and finding out that all of the companies that they’re at. I was one of the speakers there and talked a lot about some of the struggles as a woman in sales. The women were coming up and like, “Me too. This is crazy. I thought I was not doing it right because they don’t do it like all the rest of the sales team.” It was interesting to hear all of the comments and feedback. It’s gone from there. That was our first event and we’ve grown for years.

Can you describe for us how the organization works, how one participates, how frequently you have events, forums or calls? If I was a member, what would it look like for me?

As a woman, you are perfect for sales. You're negotiating with your teenagers. That's harder than negotiating with the CEO half the time. Click To Tweet

Before COVID, it was a lot different. We had a lot of live events where we would go to different companies. Companies would sponsor us and it was a good way for women to get to know the companies, see the offices, and to get to know some of the people that work there and the companies. Since COVID happened, we’ve had to change and do everything more virtually, which has been a good thing because it’s been able to open us up to a bigger audience. We still want to get back to meeting in person and that will happen. I’m certain that it will happen soon, but not soon enough. Now, we’re starting to do webinars and we have started a podcast series. We’re going to start doing some skill-based training.

We’re doing a lot of personal development. We’re doing a lot of encouraging plus skill-based training. We’re also opening up to get moving type of thing because it’s hard with COVID to get out there and do things, but we want to extend this after COVID to where we’re doing Mindful Mondays and where we’re doing some yoga or some meditation. We hope to be able to get out and do some bike, not a race but ride for right as women for donations and for a good cause. Maybe 5Ks or golf tournaments or different things that we could do as a group of women, maybe even pickleball tournaments to be able to get together and be active.

There are a lot of different things and ways that women can join, participate and connect, everything from personal development to skills. That’s what it looks like now and it’s all virtual. Hopefully, not for long. I want to learn how to play pickleball. I’m hoping that that’s something we can do, but we do have an annual summit, which is our big activity. We may be virtual in 2020. We’ll have to see how things are still going later in the fall, but that’s a great all-day event for women to get together. We have a lot of breakout sessions, a lot of speakers, a lot of great training there.

A couple of observations from how you’re describing this. First, it seems like it’s a holistic approach to being a woman in business. Certainly, with sales as that common denominator, but any woman in business could participate in your activities. Also, someone’s level or position within a company is immaterial. They could be an entry-level or be a sales leader.

We have a mentorship program as well and we encourage the sales leaders to mix and mingle with those that are new. We have a lot of college students that come, women who were looking to return to the workforce and don’t know how they’re going to get a good career and how they can maybe take care of their kids. Some of them find themselves single. Having mentorship, the more senior women and of all levels together and mixing and mingling, it’s a good support network. That way, everybody’s in sales. If you think about it, some of us hold a quota and that’s why we’re in sales, but we’re all negotiating. We’re all dealing with difficult situations and people that are pushing back. A lot of these skills go beyond sales. It’s great for all women and men. We have a lot of men that attend our events too.

That’s what I was going to mention is that as you talked about your annual summit, I was able to attend either the 1st or the 2nd year. I may have been the second year, but I was surprised pleasantly. Yet, I’ll also be a little curious as to why many men were in attendance. I misinterpreted it when I signed up. I thought I might be an outlier confined to the back row and don’t say anything. This is for women. I learned it was quite the opposite. It was inclusive. Can you describe for us a little bit more about the mentality behind that, about incorporating men into your events? You have men who are doing speaking engagements with you, training, etc. Why isn’t it women only?

We’re certainly not about men are awful and women are great. It’s not that type of mentality. Our whole purpose is to enhance women, to let them know what they can do, where they win, and how they can win better. We also want to bridge the gap of how men and women can work together, how they can support each other, how we can build diversified sales teams and understand that there’s more than one way to sell. There’s more than one way to reach out to a client to close the deal. By having men included in our groups, we learn from each other. It helps the men to understand a little bit more about where women can be successful, what our true skills are and it helps women to understand that there are a lot of men out there that do care.

A lot of men out there that want to learn and bridge the gap as well. We find probably 20% of our attendees are men. We encourage that to be more. We had a webinar and it was on building ERG or Employee Resource Groups. We had a couple of men on there and they were messaging me. They were like, “I think I’m the only guy.” I was like, “You’re not the only guy. We want you here. In fact, we’d love to have you speak up and say something.” When we got to the end, we opened it up for comments. Some of the best back and forth comments came when the men spoke out. The women were in an open, supportive environment and great conversations and eyeopening for both sides. That’s how we win is together.

GFEP 6 | Women In Sales

Women In Sales: You can either work hard to get a 5% raise every year or you can go into sales and get paid for what you do and have that control.

 

I’ve got to commend you for building that culture early in the organization, that welcomeness and that sense of inclusiveness, even in your early days, I felt it. Nobody knew me. Our company Game Face relocated to the Utah community. We were getting to know people, but you did a fabulous job building that organization and I admire that. Frankly, I appreciate that. I want to ask you a little bit more about some of the differences and some of the commonalities between men and women in sales. Before that, I’m curious, what does the future of Utah Women in Sales look like? If we had a crystal ball and we’re looking in 20, 25, what might we see them?

We found that our group is helpful here in Utah. We have a lot of women outside of Utah that are looking for this type of support. We have a lot of companies that sponsor us that have women in Utah, but also women all over the country, some all over the world. Many of them have asked, “Can our women outside of Utah be included?” It’s hard in an in-person event and in these virtual events we’ve been able to include a lot more women. We’ve realized that Utah Women in Sales is going to be more of an actual type of organization where we’ll see groups. We’ve got groups in Colorado, California, New York, Boston, and Georgia that we’re working together with so that we can be one unified group and have women in sales groups. We’re all doing the same thing, but we’re also localized so that we can support more on a local level.

Another thing that we’re doing is helping women realize that they can be in sales. We’re working with some of the women that are in shelters. Some of the women that have maybe been in protective sheltering or women that are trying to get their life back and find out how they can take care of their kids and become independent. We’re already starting to work with those women and getting training, helping them build a resume, helping them understand interview skills, helping them understand what a sales skill looks like, and re-relating like, “You’re negotiating with your teenagers. That’s harder than negotiating with the CEO half the time. You’re good. You’ve got these skills.” We are getting those women into jobs because you have a lot of women that find themselves single that can’t support their kids.

We had one woman that came up to us in our last summit. She said, “When I first came here, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I found myself single and I have four kids. I was working a minimum wage job. I was like, ‘I didn’t even know how I was going to take care of my kids.’ You guys encouraged me to get into sales. I made $150,000 this year while taking care of my kids.” It was amazing to see the change and what she recognized she was capable of. Those are the things that you’ll see us being more of a national with a localized feel and also be supportive of women that are in the business. Women that are even maybe sales engineers, women that are marketing, and women that are related to sales being involved in and being a little bit more inclusive into bigger groups. Hopefully, we have a lot more men that join us and we work through building a better community for everyone.

Lanette, that story that you related to the woman who went from minimum wage to $150,000 in one year because of sales and her obvious skillset, I’m sure she had a lot of natural ability, probably peppered with some great skills training. That is such a story about how sales can lift you out of either poverty or out of what you might consider a dead-end job. I don’t know any other function within a company that can do it as fast as a sales position if you know how to be good at it. It is something all of us should be proud of who are in this industry.

It’s true. You can work hard to get a 5% raise every year or you can go into sales. You can get paid for what you do and have that control. It’s a great career for anybody.

“Paid for what you do, paid for what you’re worth.” You were talking about your mentors. I had probably 3 or 4 mentors. I know the people that you work with at Lucid who you report to have been supportive of your efforts in Women in Sales. Here’s a dichotomy. I want you to talk about and help us understand this a little bit from your perspective. Probably in your past, some of those mentors were male. Probably some of the people at Lucid that supports your efforts and bless your efforts in Women in Sales are men.

They’ve been supportive, helpful and encouraging. They see your worth and value and they want to make sure more people have access to it. At the same time, we have perhaps a system that’s redundant, but we have a system that perhaps feels like it suppresses women from achieving their full potential and giving all that they can to business and other ventures. How should we interpret that dichotomy? You have some male mentors who’ve been impactful, but you’ve got a system that’s largely run by males that seems to be suppressive. How do you weigh that in your mind?

That’s the question of the day, how do you deal with that? It is hard because it still feels this way. For example, if you’re in a meeting with a client and you’ve got 3 or 4 men and a woman, the men are entitled to be there and the woman has to earn the respect and the right to be there. She doesn’t earn that right until she speaks to prove her ability, where the men are naturally assumed to be the ones that are in charge. They’re running it. I’ve been in a lot of meetings where I am leading the meeting and I have my team there, which could be customer support, sales engineers and people don’t even realize this. It’s an unconscious bias.

Listening isn't always silence. Listening is understanding. Click To Tweet

We hear that a lot these days, but men naturally go to the man thinking and assuming that they’re the ones that are in charge. It’s just the way it is. We find that even in leadership. A lot of times, because we have many men that are leading, there’s a little bit of, “Do I dare trust a woman?” If she stands up, she’s classified as either too much or not enough. There’s just not this, “We are entitled to be there as much as a man.” There’s a lot of proving yourself as a woman to get to that point where it becomes difficult. It’s hard because then men are also judging you on how does this woman fit into what is success and success for years has been measured off of what men do.

This is what makes it a successful executive and it’s these skills and these talents. Unfortunately, women have different skills and talents that don’t always measure up to that. I think there’s a lot of reason there why women don’t get selected for these leadership positions. If you did a blind interview, you looked at the skills and you didn’t know if it was a man or a woman, the tendency is a lot higher for women to be selected. There are some unconscious biases that we all have to realize that we have and work to get over.

I think it’s getting better, but I still think that a woman wants to be there because she’s qualified, not because she’s a woman. She wants to be picked because she is the right fit, but it is a little hard when you don’t have women in leadership making those choices. It’s an uphill battle, but it’s getting better. It will continue to get better, but the more men are becoming aware of it, the more men are supportive. A lot of my mentors have been men and when they become aware of the situation, it’s surprising to them as well. It’s timing. I think continuing to work together and try to bridge that gap. Hopefully, we can get more women into leadership soon.

Lanette, I appreciate that your tone and your temperament is not accusatory. It’s not a human stink. You’re keeping us down, but rather you understand that there may be a huge blind spot that men have when it comes to women in a business setting. When I was a young salesperson, I went to a large privately held company that was started by a man and wife team. By the time I visited them, the company was nearly 50 years old. They were the patriarch and the matriarch of this private company. They had about 1,500 employees. They were a worldwide brand in their particular space. I was able to make a sales call to both of them. I was able to bypass the president and the CEO of the company and go to them because they were basically co-chairs of the board, etc.

As a young salesperson, I’d heard all these stories about how the man had invented this product in his garage back in the 1960s. It took off and that’s what launched their business. Naturally, I thought he must be the final say in this business. As I’m sitting in their office together, the three of us, I’m primarily pointing all of my comments and my glances his way. I then finally went to ask, “Let’s do business.” As soon as my presentation was completed, they’re sitting next to each other. He didn’t say a word. He just pointed to his wife and looked at me like, “You don’t get it. You don’t understand. She is one you need to be talking to.” What I later learned is that when it comes to business affairs and business decisions, it was all her. She was the sales and marketing brains behind this beam of the company within their space. He was on the technical side. He was on the operation side.

What I bring to the table is more on the sales and marketing, the service that we provide. I feel stupid, but I was corrected in a very nice way. She, like you, was gentle with me. She could have beat me up, but she didn’t do that. She helped me understand that in their business, it’s different than what the preconception I came in with. I learned a lesson that day. Hopefully, I continue to remind myself of that because you make a great point. It’s because you walked into a room, if you’re the outsider and there are 3 or 4 members of a team from the same organization and one of them is female, to assume that she’s not the decision-maker is a deadly mistake. You’ve got to chastise me any further or did I beat myself up?

I think about where she would have been and that probably has happened to her multiple times every day. It’s great that she was gracious about that. We have to understand that it’s the way things are, but we don’t have to continue to have them be that way. When you have moments like that and you realize, “We all go through those moments at some point in our career.” When you can do, embrace, learn, and grow from that and then realize, “I have to think of this a little different.” That’s a huge moment. I’m glad you went through that. Congratulations and you did well.

I told my audience what a doofus I was, but I also appreciate another attribute that you and she both shared is humility. In order to accept my flaws and not beat me up over them, you have to have a sense of humility and compassion and you use the word gracious. Those are great descriptors of successful women in business. At least the ones that I like to do business with and I’d say the same thing about men. Speaking of that, why are women good in sales?

GFEP 6 | Women In Sales

Women In Sales: Men are successful in sales. They’ve been doing it for years. But women have a higher percentage of closing and they close faster.

 

Over the years, I’ve thought and we’ve talked about it a lot. There are a couple of attributes that make women good and natural for a sales position. A lot of men have the same talents and everything. I’m not saying that men and women have different talents, but there are some that women have maybe a little bit more innately that make them different, but yet still feel successful. One of them is the ability to listen. That’s a key factor. One of the things that we do in sales is to go through discovery. It isn’t just to get from point A to B and find out a couple of things. Discovery is to listen and understand your customer.

If you’re listening so that you can get to the next comment that you’re going to make or you’re listening because you’re like, “I’m waiting for you to stop talking so I can talk,” you’re not listening to anything they’re saying. Sometimes, you’ll hear 1 or 2 things and you think that that’s the answer. It’s like, “I’ve got my answer. I know what it is.” You’ve scratched the surface. Listening to understand where someone’s coming from is when you get into the deeper part of the real need. That’s how you find where you can be helpful for a company and an individual. It is intrinsic. Listening is deep listening. It’s listening to understand. Everybody’s got this trust bubble around them and sales reps come in all the time, they bounce right off that trust bubble, but when you show someone that you care and your intent is sincere and you do want to help them, you get inside that trust level. That all comes from active listening. That’s one thing.

I want to challenge you a little bit on that. Not because I think you’re wrong, but because I’m trying to better understand. When I observe a group of women in a social setting, I know that’s different than doing business, it seems to me like sometimes they’re constantly talking over each other. They might say, “We’re finishing each other’s sentences because we understand each other. That’s our way of expressing, understanding, and empathy.” Usually, on the opposite side, when I’m looking at a group of men in a social setting, I don’t see that interruption as much.

Yet, in a business setting, almost the opposite happens and that women, to your point, are good listeners when you’re sitting across the desk of the conference table from them. Whereas men may be quiet while the other person is talking, but men are already coming up with their solution. They already know, “I am going to pitch this to you. You go keep dogging for the next minutes and I know what I’m going to say to you when you’re done.” Would you agree with me though, that sometimes in a social setting women are overlapping each other? It seems like they are listening, but it is not taking place.

Yes and I’m glad you brought that up because listening isn’t always silence. Listening is understanding. Sometimes, when women do that and they’re chattering like that, it’s because that’s when you’re connecting and you then hear them talking and finishing each other sentences, but that is validating. That is like, “I get it.” The other women are like, “She gets it.” When I say listening, it is not always with the ears, it’s with the heart. It is with understanding. Sometimes that is talking because you’re listening. “When I’m talking, that doesn’t mean I’m not listening. It means I am intrigued and I want to learn more, tell me more.”

That’s helpful. What other traits or attributes to women have that make them good in sales?

Another one I always say is emotional intelligence. That’s something that I’ve had in my back pocket for years. It’s finally got a name to it, which is emotional intelligence. When you’re talking with someone, a lot of times it’s been called woman’s intuition, a mother’s instinct. I read a study one time where it said it was between 7% to 10% of verbal communication. When a message that someone is giving to you, if someone’s telling you something, 7% to 10% of those messages are verbal and the other percentage is in actions, the way they’re looking, their body language and their pauses and intonations in their voice. An easy way to see what I’m saying there is let’s say I have two kids.

They can tell me the same exact sentence like, “I want to go over to my friends. I wanted to do this and this and this, whatever it is.” They can say the exact same words and one will be like, “That sounds great.” The other one is like, “What’s going on here? Tell me more about this.” Yet, they said the exact same words, but because you’re watching the actual part of the language and the emotions and what’s happening, there’s more behind the story. Emotional intelligence is to be able to pick up on those cues to be able to know, “Am I boring to this person? Is this person rattling off something to get to the end of this conversation so we can be done? Is this person not wanting to dig into it because they think I’m going to get this one answer and then be gone and they’re not sure that I’m sincere enough to want to help them?”

You can tell when you have that emotional intelligence. Men have this too, but women strongly lean on this in their interactions and connecting with people. It’s being able to understand what’s behind the words and the messaging. It helps you to know more about where you can be helpful in what you can do and we need to be aware. Sometimes, if a customer goes quiet and silent, if you’ve been talking with them, you may know what’s going on because you’re like, “This is not going the right direction.” Sometimes if you’re not paying attention to that, you’re like, “I don’t get it. He’s not answering my calls.” I think that’s a big thing that women bring to the table that makes them successful.

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Does that mean that we need a meeting with a woman in a sales situation that I should be concerned that she’s reading right through me?

You should be concerned about that anytime. I think that men have it too. There’s been a lot of great sales coaches and trainers that talk about that. It’s a viable thing. Women have it a little bit, maybe more naturally because men are focused on different things than women are focused on. Women are a little bit more emotional and more in touch with those emotions, which a lot of times have been perceived as a weakness and it’s not. That is probably one of our strongest powers is our emotion. Men have sometimes a little hard time being in touch with those emotions if they have them and when they can open up and become more in touch with that part of them, they have that same ability. That’s different. We are more emotional than men are and we express that a little bit more open. It’s a little more natural for us. I hate to say that for one way or the other, but it’s the way it is.

Beyond what you’ve shared with us, is there anything else in your observation through your career that you think men definitely should learn from women when they are in the sales or any executive position? Is there something that if we would get this one thing, we, as men, could be more successful and more influential?

The biggest thing that I coach men on whenever I get the opportunity to work with them, specifically in sales, is to understand more, to be more in touch with your customer. There’s so much training in this. Find out what the problem is, three levels of why. Dig down where’s their pain. Those are a lot of words unless there’s feeling behind that and an actual sincere desire to do that. If you’re doing it because you want to find these keywords, you’re not connecting with your customer. You’ll get the job done. Men are successful in sales. They’ve been doing it for years, but women close higher. They have a higher percentage of closing and they close faster. There are many times where we’ll get to the end of a quarter and there’s a deal that’s not coming through and a man will reach out. It’s a little different where most of the time, I have one of the high C-level people’s cell phone and I’ll text them because we’ve built that connection out of sincerity.

I want to know where your pain is because I want to help, not so that I can go back and say, “Here’s my solution to that. Here’s what I do.” You have this canned message and everybody has to see through what everybody else is trying to say. When you have that sincere connection with people and they feel it, and that trust is built, you can go a long way. That’s one of the main factors that could help men if you’re going to try and be a little bit more like a woman.

This question may sound like I’m being too strategic. By the way, we should pause and admit that we all tend to overgeneralize like, “Men are this way. Women are that way.” I’m not saying you’re guilty of this. I’m saying generally speaking, especially when we have these conversations, it’s easy to categorize. We hope that our audience knows that that’s not your intent. That’s not my intent, but with the little time that we have here, we can’t dissect every single individual that we’ve ever talked to, worked with or sold to. We’re speaking in some generalities, but one of those generalities that I’m curious about is if I have on my team, where in the sales process, is she going to be my ringer? I’ve got a team of six. I’ve got sales, service, client success, a developer, more on the technical side and the list of team members go on. If you have to assign each of them one task, speaking in generalities, “This is where you should assign them?”

If you were going to assign a woman and you were only going to give her one task, I believe that would be building that strong relationship with customers. That’s the best strength. When you have that strong relationship, closing and maintaining a customer is easier. All the other steps are easier once you have that. Men and women are both equally good at this. You need men and women in all stages, but that’s probably one where if I had a multimillion-dollar deal and I had to pick four people and it could only do one thing, I’d probably put the woman in a relationship.

It’s an unfair question, but you gave a fair answer.

GFEP 6 | Women In Sales

Women In Sales: Women don’t tend to be as vocal or speak out. That’s something they can learn from men.

 

It’s hard. I agree with you on the biases and stuff. I don’t want to come across like, “Men do this and women do this.” I’ve been trying to speak in generalities because I don’t believe that at all. I believe we’re all equally good. We do some things differently and they’re both right. There’s nothing wrong or right. It’s different.

I want to talk about the difference between a transactional sale and an enterprise sale. I’m using those terms for my sake. A transactional is maybe an inside salesperson. They receive inbound inquiries and they’re expected after 10 to 15 minutes to get the order. Literally, it’s a fifteen-minute sales cycle on enterprise sales or SaaS you sold throughout your career. It could be an 8, 12, 15, or 16-month period, maybe longer. What are some of the characteristics that generally speaking, you’re finding that women have that make them effective in each of those two types of sales, the transactional and the longer-term enterprise sale?

In the transactional sale, women are going to lean on their teaching ability to take a complicated process. Make it simple and understandable because you don’t have a lot of time. You can’t spend months on this, but someone needs to get this fast. Women have a strong ability to take a complicated process, simplify it and make it understandable. That’s where women can win in transactional type sales. When customers get it, they buy it. It’s simple. In the long process of sales, women cannot only build the relationship but also expand that relationship out to many people in the organization. When you’re working on an enterprise deal, there are a lot of people involved in that, not just the one person you’re talking to across different divisions, in the company, people that are above and below this person you’re working with.

You have multiple people that you’re going to be needing to pull in and build a relationship with, build that trust with, and help them to understand. Your teaching and talents go well there but paint the picture upfront early so that we all know where we’re not doing this 8 to 12-month process so that we can hang out, be buddies at the end, and we’re going to close a deal. That’s going to help you and to guide them and continually keep on top of that, keep that forefront in their minds, and bring everybody in together. You have a group of people. This is a team. There’s a whole bunch of you from your side. There are a few of us from our side. We’re doing this as a team and we’re going to make this happen. They rally the troops type of thing and clear vision. Those are some of the things that women do well at the enterprise level.

Let’s turn the tables a little bit. What should women learn from men about selling?

Everything we learn about sales starts from men because they’ve been doing it successfully and the majority of the sales reps are men. We’ve learned a lot from men. I think what women can learn from men more is maybe not even so much in sales, but in the office. When you’re working with your sales team, we’ll be in groups where there are few of us and men are never afraid to speak out, say their mind, and throw their opinion out. They don’t care. If you say that’s a dumb idea, women feel like, “I have already seen as not enough. I’m weaker. If I say something stupid, then they’re going to think I’m bad.”

Women don’t tend to be as vocal or speak out. We can learn that from men. We need to speak up. We need to let our voices be heard and our opinions matter. We need to be part of that conversation, be part of the team, and be more vocal. That’s something that we can learn from and a lot, especially in the workplace. I hate to say this, but because I don’t know how to explain it in a short period of time, maybe understanding our emotions a little bit more. Our emotions aren’t weaknesses. Our emotions are our strengths, but there are times when you get frustrated and angry. Sometimes, even to the point of almost raged in the office and men will handle that with maybe some aggression or some yelling, and that’s not always something to do, but women then end up getting emotional. I’ve cried in the office and I’ll admit it.

I get mad at myself afterward. It’s like, “Why can’t I control that?” There’s a happy medium where we all learned to handle our emotions a little bit better in the office. Maybe you realize taking a lesson from men that it’s not a personal attack. Maybe sometimes, it always feels that way a little bit. That’s probably letting things roll off your back a little bit more. This is generalized, but what brings me to that point where I cry? It is because that’s the worst thing I do in the office and it’s rare. I’ve never cried with a difficult negotiation with the customer ever, but it’s more because I have an emotional connection with my coworkers and my bosses. I’m passionate about my job. When something comes at me that’s wrong, offensive, or not fair, it pushes that emotion and the emotional trigger for a man and a woman are different. How can I address that in an earlier stage so that I don’t get to that point? How do men let that roll off their back? That is something that would be nice to learn. I think we could learn that from them a little bit.

That is such a fascinating topic that probably requires a whole new interview over that. However, if women believe by showing emotion, they’re showing weakness, that’s not the way I view it as a man. I don’t see it as a weakness. In fact, sometimes, if I’m a “typical man,” I might think that the woman is showing emotion. At home, when a woman shows emotion, the man might think, “This conversation is over. She wins. I’m going to walk away.” When a man sees that in the office, he might think the same thing. This is the last chip that she’s playing to win this argument. I’m supposed to throw my hands up in the air and say that she’s right, but I don’t think that’s what the woman’s intent is. It’s not to win an argument. As you have said, she’s vested in the relationship. She may be frustrated that she doesn’t know how to communicate what she’s thinking or because she feels the other person is not listening.

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All these other things could be happening, but I would not mind it if a woman is emotional. I think it would be also appropriate and helpful if she explained to me, “I’m not getting emotional because I’m trying to win through tears. I’m simply getting emotional because it’s the way I made. I know that my emotion and my strong feelings about this issue are no greater than yours. It’s that this is how it comes out. In you, it might come out by yelling or pounding your fist on the desk. With me, it happens to come out through my eyeballs.” It’s just an honest expression. If I heard that, I would not think that she’s trying to manipulate me. I would understand that we’re made differently. Am I understanding this?

You’re right because when a woman gets to that point, she is heavily invested that it’s not time to quit. It’s time to maybe realize it, “We need to take this down or not so we can finish talking about this.” It’s not becoming such a hot emotional topic and it becomes more of a, “Let’s bring this back down, but we need to continue talking through this because there’s nothing worse than just walking away.” Now she’s like, “He doesn’t even think of me as a reasonable person. I’m this idiot that cried in the office.” If you ask women what’s the worst thing to do in the office, you probably hear that more than anything is crying in the office.

That’s the thing that we hate the most, but if a man picked something up and threw it across a wall, you would know how emotionally invested he is in this and how we need to bring this down, but we need to continue to talk to. I’m not saying that women are doing that, but it’s a real strong reaction, an emotional reaction because we’re so invested in what we’re talking about at the moment. We do need to continue that conversation. Maybe take a drink and calm it back down, but then continue the conversation. Maybe that’s something that we’ll work through. I don’t know what the answer is on that one, but we can certainly learn a little bit more about resolving things inside the office that way.

It feels to me, it’s about communicating. It’s about helping the other person understand what the genesis of that emotion is. As a man to do the same thing, he throws a temper tantrum if he starts eating, smashing things. We’ve all had that stereotype of a man boss, who you don’t want to go into his office and have him shut the door. Once you start to hear him yelling, you’re in trouble and we’re all going to have a bad day that day. That’s his way of expressing emotions, but not the right way of doing it. If both men and women could be more communicative about what’s behind the emotion. I would say to you, take it for what it’s worth. I’m one guy, but I do not see crying in the office as a weakness. I see it as a strength because of that connection that that person has to our common goal.

They feel passionate about it and they’re serious about it. She may need to remind her boss of that point. Let me ask you out a related question. We may have some women, young women in particular, who are troubled by the environment in their office now or they have a boss, a manager that they don’t feel they’re connecting with. Let’s say the chances are that boss is a man. What is the best way for a young female professional to approach an older male manager when you have that dynamic going on?

That is a hard one. I’ve had many of those situations myself and it is a difficult one to know how to do, but the best thing to do is to say, “I would like to have some time to talk. If you could get me on your schedule, let’s go somewhere where we can talk privately. You don’t want to have it on the floor. You don’t want to have it in front of a bunch of people.” Whether he’s open to it or not, you need to tell him, “When you do this, or when you say this, it makes me feel this way. It takes away from my ability to do what I do best. It stops me from performing at 100%. I would like to talk about how we could work through this because you want me to be at my best and I want to be at my best. This type of interaction between us shuts me down. I want you to know that I do want to succeed. Can we talk about ways that we could work through some of this?”

It’s hard, especially if you’re junior and the man is senior, but I honestly believe that the majority of men would realize like, “I didn’t realize it. You’re right.” The guys that they talk to, oftentimes, aren’t as emotional. Even though they are still hurt and they’re still beat down, maybe it’s not as obvious. They’ll go home and have that time where they’re like, “I’m the worst. I’m terrible. I can’t believe it,” but a woman is going to feel that a little bit more at the moment. Having that conversation not only benefits the women on the team, but also the men because that type of personality is doing it to everyone. Making them aware and maybe working together to get through this is great.

If you’re dealing with someone that is not accepting this, sometimes in those situations, you need to go to an advocate inside the company. There’s got to be someone else that is maybe in management or oftentimes, I hate to run to HR because I don’t want to always be thinking all the first thing you do is run to HR. You try to work things out. You try to understand where you can support each other and work together. There are those times when you’ll get a boss that’s not receptive to that at all. At that point in time, you do have to find another advocate within the company. People quit their bosses most of the time, not their jobs. It’s important for bosses to remember that we need to work together and support the different personality types, different lifestyles, different people, emotions, thoughts, feelings and recognize that we want to be supportive, not destructive.

Lanette, that’s great and wise advice. Is it any different in your advice if the scenario was a female junior executive with a female senior executive that they’re not connecting with? Is it the same advice that you would give in that scenario?

GFEP 6 | Women In Sales

Women In Sales: It’s important for bosses to remember that we need to work together and recognize that we want to be supportive, not destructive.

 

It is the same advice. It isn’t a man or a woman being in that position. If the man or the woman on the receiving end of that, but it’s a personality type in there and a management style. Whether it’s a man or a woman, you still have that same conversation. It makes you stronger and better, especially as a woman to take the lead in the speakers. This is where you step up and you become a leader. It’s scary and it’s hard, but these are the steps that you take that make you grow and make it better for everybody else.

Women don’t think about stuff sometimes so as men. It’s not all the women managers are great and all the men are terrible. You have great managers that are both men and women. There are times when you have conflict and then you also need to maybe ask what else you could do to help improve, what are your recommendations, but you have to be open to those things and address it. Don’t let it go on, fester and get worse because what’s going to happen is you’re going to quit or you’re going to get fired. If you address it early, it’s better for everybody.

What I’m hearing in this conversation is the idea that has been proven that for a team to be successful, you need to have diverse opinions, skills, backgrounds, and personalities. It’s true in sports. In basketball, we have the starting five. Each of them has a distinct role. In a sales team, it’s the same way. If you have a bunch of clones of the boss, you’re probably going to miss a large part of your market because not everyone is going to relate to the boss and his or her style. Populating your team with that diversity of thought, background, temperament and skillset, sounds like the way to go. I’m pleading with those who are in positions of responsibility, who make these hiring decisions.

When we talk about diversity, it’s not to be a politically correct term and to say that we can check our corporate social responsibility box, but it’s because it makes us better. It makes us a more well-rounded team. Hearing you speak, I hope that more people see that we need to get women in sales because it’s good for them. It’s good for their families. It’s good for our customers and clients. It’s good for our own organization. I’m going to give you the final word on that. Do you have any last thoughts or advice you would give us?

I believe in what you’re saying. Don’t try to get a diverse team because they’re diverse. Open up and realize that there’s a lot of skill and talent that doesn’t do cookie-cutter as you do. There are a lot of different ways to be successful. There’s not just one right and one wrong. There are some proven solid facts that do resonate consistently. There are some true sales skills and talents that have to be there. There are many different things and many ways of doing things and you’re not going to get that unless you open up and realize that having different people with different thoughts, ideas and backgrounds brings more. It makes all of us grow when we learn from each other.

I don’t want to keep talking with someone that thinks exactly the way I do, that gets boring. I want to learn from people that have different thoughts and then bouncing them around together is how we learn and we pick up, “I like what she said. I like what he thought. Maybe I’ll put these together and this becomes some of my best power.” You only learn that by being around people that are different from you and that’s how we grow. That’s how we become stronger. How we become the best company and the best team is when we are open to that. I’m going to say it over and over again, don’t hire a woman just to hire a woman. We don’t want that. Hire us because we’re the best candidate. That’s why you hire us. You need to look at the women and look for that talent. You need to look outside of people that look like you, think like you, and act like you, whoever you are. There’s more out there and be accepting to all people in all forms of success.

You remind me of this in your last comment about when I received or was hired into my first full-time sales job. Eventually, the boss told me the reason why he hired me is that I was different than everybody else on the team. He thought he was taking a big risk with me and he was. I didn’t know much about this, but because I was bringing something different to the table, it apparently enriched the team and made us better. You’ve opened up my mind a lot with your advice, your counsel and your experience. You have great insights. You’ve also reaffirmed things that I have that I tried to think and live throughout my career. I thank you for that.

We wish you in your role at Lucid Software tremendous success as you continue to build your career, which is as sterling as it is. Also with Women in Sales, the organization that you lead, thank you for having the vision to organize this group. Thank you for being so and congratulations on the influence that you’re having in the local community and nationally. I look forward to associating with you and the organization and all of your members. Thank you, Lanette, for your time.

Thanks for having me. It’s been great and I love having these conversations. Hopefully, anybody that has questions, feel free to reach out to me. I’m always open to meet new people and hear new ideas.

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