Welcome to Episode 14 of the Sales Influencer Series, where we interview leaders on the cutting edge of sales and marketing. In today's episode, Ambition Director of Sales Ops Dan Nice interviews Mike Weinberg, an expert sales consultant and Top Sales Influencer endorsed by Forbes, OpenView Labs and InsideView, among others. 

Mike is the author of two acclaimed books on sales: New Sales. Simplified., which helps sales professionals understand and optimize the landscape of new business development, and Sales Management. Simplified., a must-read for modern sales leaders looking to optimize their team culture, processes and people.  Mike's website newsalescoach.com is another great resource worth checking out.

In this 3-part interview, Mike and Dan discuss the keys to developing a world-class sales culture, managing a team and tools effectively and creating a healthy, successful approach to running sales meetings.

Ep. 14.1: Building a Healthy Sales Culture

Interview Topics 

1. Introductions and Backgrounds. 0:00 - 1:12.

Synopsis: Mike Weinberg is a retired sales hunter, author of several well-received books on sales, and his favorite thing in business is helping companies acquire more new clients.

Mike focuses on two areas in particular - new business development and sales leadership. Dan highly recommends Mike's first book, New Sales. Simplified., for insights on business development.

The focus of today's interviews will be on topics pertinent to Mike's second book, Sales Management. Simplified., and will be geared towards building better sales leadership and sales culture.

2. Indicators of an Unhealthy Sales Culture. 1:12 - 5:52.

Synopsis: Often, in Mike's experience, it's the Executive over sales that creates a culture where it's impossible to win. Before you point your finger at your sales team, look at how you're leading and the culture you're creating.

Things that kill sales culture: Entrepreneurs or Senior Executives with high egos and a tendency to micro-manage, which is highly deflating to reps.

Other indicators include: Frustrated sales people, reps who openly rebel against/mock leadership, CEOs more concerned with level of activity than results. 

3. How to Balance Emphasis on Activity vs End Goals. 5:52 - 10:07.

Synopsis: You can't get around activity. Quantity is pivotal. The problem is when managers lead by focusing on activity, rather than prioritizing goals first, then activity.

On the flip side, it's equally bad when sales orgs don't drive accountability, aren't transparent with sales reports and so forth. Healthy culture isn't soft -- you should be hard on reps, but focus should be top-down. 

Other examples of unhealthy culture: A tendency to pick on the sales team, that is, give credit to marketing, operations and so forth when things are going well, but lay blame on sales when things are going poorly. The incentive structure must also be appropriate.

4. Establishing proper incentives. 10:07 - 17:20.

Synopsis: Making the incentive structure appropriate is critical, since that's one of the key drivers of culture and accountability. Compensation plans must make sense in terms of driving the desired behaviors the company wants.

And a lot of sales culture problems can be solved by fixing compensation -- should be the first place you look. "Compensation and complacency start with the same 4 letters."

A common mistake: Making the compensation structure too flat. Makes top performers feel underappreciated and bottom performers feel too comfortable.

Another mistake: Failing to account for type of sales (example: hunting vs. signing a renewal). While you don't want to discount keeping existing business, that's frankly a different role -- needs to be different incentives for hunters vs. account managers.

Most hunters don't make good account managers, and vice versa. Having a one size fits all model on your sales team ignores the fact that most people aren't wired to be good at all these different sales roles.

5. How to Create Healthy Culture Between Sales and Non-Sales 15:45 - 20:00.

Synopsis: Balancing the egos and well-being of your non-salespeople with those of your salespeople can be difficult, but remember, they don't have to be mutually exclusive.

Neither side should feel diminished. You should be open, honest and supportive with everyone, and most importantly, let people focus on their primary job. Let your salespeople focus on going out and hunting.

Example: In one of the best sales culture Mike ever saw, the SVP of Sales brought the COO coffee every morning and they discussed the main things on their agenda that day. 

They had great camaraderie and that trickled down to the troops under them. Another example: Take a member from another team on the road with you so they can see how gritty, difficult and stressful sales is - so there's a mutual respect.

Ep. 14.2: Balancing Team, Tools and Data

In Part 2 of their interview, Mike and Dan discuss the keys to finding the right balance in managing their sales team, technology and information. 

Interview Topics 

1. Effective Ways to Change Culture. 0:00 - 4:00.

Synopsis: A difficult truth about culture change: It's very hard to change culture unless you change some people.

In most cases, assuming you have good people, it's a matter of how sales leaders choose to spend their time. The 3 highest value activities to improve culture are:

  1. One-on-one sales meetings with pipeline review and coaching.
  2. Sales team meetings where you share vision, equip, align and inspire the team.
  3. Work with your people - get out of your office, get in the bullpen and observe, coach, model and mentor.

Not only will you change culture, you'll have a huge impact on results.

2. Finding the Right Balance with Sales Tool Usage. 4:00 - 10:33.

Synopsis: This is a very hard challenge. In a lot of companies, it feels more like the salespeople work for the CRM than the CRM working for the salespeople. You need accurate information and transparency, but you don't want to turn your reps into desk jockeys - the trick is finding that balance.

Top people always are the most transparent, because they're confident, and they're often the most cooperative with tools as long as the tool shows ROI. That means you have to put teeth into your tools -- you have to invest in ancillary tools to make sure you have full functionality, support and streamlined usage for your sales tools.

You also shouldn't penalize people for not updating the system - at that point, you're frustrating your people and taking away their time to sell. The biggest inhibitor Dan has seen in terms of CRM adoption is the lack of understanding as to how it helps reps move their prospects along their sales funnel and overcome roadblocks.

3. How to Maintain a "Big Picture" Mentality and Stick to Fundamentals. 10:33 - 13:51.

Synopsis: For Mike, the biggest inhibitor to developing new business he's seen is that people aren't spending enough time developing new business. 

There's no silver bullet to finding the right balance for your organization - but the key is to avoid a nightmare scenario where the information being put in the CRM is inaccurate and/or requires additional data logging from reps.

Ninety percent of the problems that most sales orgs are facing come down to fundamental things that people have forgotten over the years -- they get lured into the weeds by "sales hacks" or new, unproven tactics. Dan's bottom line: Make your tools fit your process and not the other way around.

Ep. 14.3: Maximizing Sales Team Meetings

In the final segment of this three-part interview, Mike and Dan discuss the keys to running successful sales team meetings.

Interview Topics 

1. What Makes a Great Sales Team Meeting. 0 - 1:50.

Synopsis: The litmus test for evaluating the effectiveness of a sales team meeting is to discern whether the sales manager and sales reps leave a sales team meeting with more energy than when they walked in.

In Dan and Mike's experience, that's pretty rare. Oftentimes, the sales meeting isn't a sales meeting.

It's an operations meeting or a bitch session or a free-for-all, and it's not training reps, it's not motivating reps, it's not increasing accountability and visibility. It's just a ritual.

2. Worst Practices of Sales Team Meetings. 1:50 - 3:49.

Synopsis: The proper rhythm for holding meetings differs by organization.

One of the biggest causes of pathetic sales meetings is that the sales manager is already overburdened, so the sales meeting isn't a priority, and then they end up doing all of the work, creating all of the content and running the whole meeting, effectively.

Mike recommends involving other people in the meeting since it disperses the burden and increases accountability. And sometimes, it's better off just not to have a meeting, if it's not necessary.

In Dan's experience, ineffective sales meetings often turn into a big pipeline review.

Which is a waste since a) most people will inflate their actual pipeline to save face in front of the team and b) managers don't have the ability to deep dive into what the opportunities actually are. 

3. A Template for Sales Team Meetings. 3:49 - 9:53.

Synopsis: One of the keys to having a good meeting is having a menu of, say, 12 potential agenda topics. If you have a meeting each week, then you pick 4 of those 12 items so you create some variety in your meeting.

Sales meetings also tend to go better when sales people are given some content or topics to share, bring and present.

Example: You can pick someone who is excellent at demos and have them come do a demo and explain their philosophy behind it.

Another proven tactic: Bring in an outside guest. Bring the CFO into the sales meeting and let him or her do a presentation on something they're working on that relates back to the sales team.

There's lots of different types of agenda topics that can engage everyone's mind. Dan sees the role of the manager as maintaining control and focus over the meeting and ensuring it stays on topic.

Best practice: If you bring in a guest speaker, flesh out the topic to cover ahead of time.

Every once in a while, someone might flop, but it's better to mix things up -- even if it's asking reps to pick 3 of their favorite, most useful sales blog posts to bring to the next meeting and discuss. 

At the same time, you still need to put up the sales report, celebrate wins and review performance to maintain accountability and focus on results.

4. Final Thoughts. 9:53 - 12:20.

Synopsis: Mike's closing piece of advice: Keep it simple.

A lot of sales issues are nowhere near as complicated as the people in the business are making them.

Do we have the people in the right roles? Does our compensation plan drive the behaviors and results we want? Do our sales people spend more time selling or doing other things? Do we have legitimate accountability?

You'd be amazed by the lift you could get on your sales team just by focusing on the basics.

There's a difference between "short-term sales hacks" and the fundamental sales foundation, which is the most important driver of your sales team's success.

The Sales Influencer Series Library

To check out further episodes and see why CloserIQ has ranked the Sales Influencer Series as one of the very best sales podcasts of 2016, just click on the links below. 

Episode 1. John Barrows

Episode 2. Lori Richardson

Episode 3. Max Altschuler

Episode 4. Matt Heinz

Episode 5. Mark Leslie

Episode 6. Kyle Porter

Episode 7. Jon Bradford

Episode 8. Eks Anderson

Episode 9. Matt Hottle

Episode 10. Heather Morgan

Episode 11. Ilan Ferdman

​Episode 12. Ryan Jenkins

Episode 13. Tamara Schenk​

Episode 14. Mike Weinberg

Episode 15. Scott Britton

Episode 16. Mark Kosoglow

Episode 17. Dionne Mischler

Episode 18. Ken Barton

Episode 19. Kevin Karner

Episode 20. Jill Rowley

Episode 21. Brandon Redlinger

Episode 22. Will Wickey

Episode 23. Drew Woodcock

Episode 24. Dail Wilson

Episode 25. Nathan Sexton

Episode 26. Tucker Max

Episode 27. Bruce Tulgan

Episode 28. Dallas Hogensen

Episode 29. Morgan J. Ingram

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