Welcome to Episode 31 of the Sales Influencer Series, a podcast featuring the brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing.

Welcome back. In today's episode, we welcome Emily Mikailli, Head of HR at Signifyd. Emily joins us to discuss the most important ways that B2B sales organizations can align sales culture with the rest of their organization, recruit new sales talent, and create a goal-driven workforce.

Ep. 31: Building a Millennial-Friendly Sales Culture.


Interview Topics 

Introductions. 0:00 - 5:40. 

Emily started her career in the legal profession, working as a legal recruiter for Robert Half and Google before joining SurveyMonkey as the head of recruiting for their front office teams. Since then, she has joined Signifyd, where she is implementing a goal-driven, proactive HR strategy across their entire workforce. Emily's experience is primarily with companies who are in high growth mode and looking to hire talent that can help them scale.

Mistakes in B2B Sales Hiring. 5:40 - 11:52. (Jump Here)

Consistently, sales leaders operate with the misconception that their product is so complex, it requires super-seasoned, well-pedigreed sales team members. It becomes tunnel vision. So they hire top-heavy, experienced, expensive sales leaders who won't be happy selling that product long term. If you're a startup with a 20 person sales organization, someone who comes in from Salesforce might be miserable, because there is no well-oiled machine or processes in place. You have to be self-aware about the state of your sales organization.

Another interesting thing in sales is the concept of hiring through networks and referrals - Emily sees an overreliance on that. Sales is still an individual sport, in many ways. A lot of sales referrals are based on referral incentives. So while you shouldn't shy away from referrals, you should still fully vet referral candidates just like they're any other candidate.

Finally, Emily sees mistakes in the approach to the overall candidate experience. A lot of sales leaders seem to think, oh, we don't need to let this person down easy (or tell them at all). People are ten times more likely to tell people about a bad experience versus a good experience. It's important that leadership take the time to treat non-hires respectfully and retain a good relationship. Word travels fast, particularly within the sales community.

Performance Management. 11:52 - 19:30 (Jump Here)

Emily came into Signifyd when the company had 100 people, a critical growth point for the company. They are looking for repeatable processes and things that will drive growth and engagement. The company has come to the conclusion that performance management is extremely critical to the future of the company. The idea is that performance management and reviews should be an ongoing conversation. The outcome of those conversations should never be a surprise. They're conversations that should be occurring quickly and in a timely manner.

Signifyd is adopting something called OKR (objectives and key results) and utilizing a platform that lets people check in frequently on progress towards goals, and assess whether it's time to adjust the goals or the process towards achieving them. The flipside of that is, in sales, it can be a lot more difficult to get buy in on that. In a large sales organization with a well-oiled machine, there may not be a whole lot outside of key metrics that is focused on by the organization. But at a smaller organization, there are many other things that can go into employee success in a sales role. But it is challenging, because the traditional idea in sales is - everyone can see their numbers, we don't need to add these additional goals.  

Tracking Progress. 19:30 - 21:44. (Jump here)

Emily is a huge believer in the importance of tracking and visualizing employee progress. Millennials are very achievement-oriented. Systems that let people see how they're progressing not just against they're numbers, but against personal and professional goals, add an additional layer of engagement and let them see how they're moving the needle.

Attracting B2B Sales Pros. 21:44 - 28:55. (Jump here)

People are looking for opportunity for advancement. They are looking to move up quickly. That is a big hook for candidates coming from bigger sales organizations. If you can convince them they can advance quickly in your smaller organization, that's your big hook: a fast-track growth trajectory. That's how SurveyMonkey got people from Google, Salesforce, and so forth to make the move to SurveyMonkey. Because we offered the opportunity to move up the ladder quickly.

The other key thing is that people want to be recognized and rewarded for good performance. Overall, I believe that the pay-for-performance model works. Allowing people to see gain for exceptional performance is big and something I've seen resonate with the millennial workforce in particular. If they're working long hours and making big impact, they expect to be rewarded handsomely. The threshold of tolerating not doing so is lower than ever.

The sooner you can codify how progression works and create a transparent structure and framework around advancement, the better. That doesn't solve everything, but it lets people know what to expect. There's no magic formula. It's a lot of work. That aside, I think promoting peer-to-peer recognition is big. The engagement that peer-driven recognition drives is big, especially when it's tied into the company's key values. That really helps drive salesperson motivation and builds bridges between teams - a salesperson thanking a marketing professional who made a white paper for them, for example. 

The Role of HR in Sales. 28:55 - 33:00. (Jump here)

Sales compensation is very difficult to understand a difficult thing to get value from with HR. With that said, it's important to involve HR from the beginning in understanding hiring, growth and compensation strategies for sales. At the end of the day, it's all about communication - the more involved HR is, the better they can be about being proactive communicators to the sales team.

Salespeople might hear their compensation plans are changing, but know nothing about it.  HR can be of help by offering to socialize changes in compensation or organizational structure and ensure things remain transparent. HR can add value by serving as a temperature check - salespeople will say things to HR they won't say to sales leadership - HR can be a great group to lean on with that. 

Traits: Great Sales Culture. 33:00 - 36:15. (Jump here)

The defining things that characterize great sales culture, from Emily's experience, are transparency and accountability. It's difficult to build good culture without those in place. Both go up and down from the Executive, VP and Management level down to the rep level. After talking to so many sales candidates and hearing the most common gripes, lack of transparency and accountability stand out as common themes. "The leadership team didn't let us know what was going on." Or, "the leadership team didn't take ownership over our performance." Those aspects, plus conversations about performance - making it a regular thing as opposed to a taboo thing - are where top performing sales organizations are going.

Signing Off. 36:15 - 37:16 (Jump here)

Check out Signifyd at signifyd.com. Connect with Emily on LinkedIn - she'd be happy to discuss opportunities with Signifyd or general career advance. 

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

Episode 30. J. Ryan Williams

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