Today, Jim Benton was joined by Carole Mahoney, the Founder and Chief Sales Officer of Unbound Growth. They explored Chorus data around executive call participation and sales team productivity, and how leaders can help - and hurt - their long term sales growth by reactively jumping onto calls.
Here are the key takeaways:
- Don’t be afraid to text (once you’ve reached out a few times)
- When sales leaders join meetings, let the salesperson lead the call
- Coach ahead of time so you trust your team and don’t feel the need to rescue them
- Recharge your frontline managers. Or “Frontline Captains”
Working from home is the new normal, but it’s not for everybody
We have all adjusted - almost overnight - to working from home. It’s not been a seamless transition, but some are taking to it better than others.
Carole is used to working from home. “I’ve coached, trained, and worked from home so this is normal for me. I find that people are feeling the need to connect with people outside of Zoom. That’s been a lot of the challenge,” she said. “Even though I’ve been working from home for 13 years, I could go out when I wanted to but it’s different now.”
Being productive at home takes time to adjust to. And now that many companies are considering letting go of their office space - or have already - managers need to be able to adapt their management styles.
“I would say 60-70% of companies I’m talking to say that they are going to bounce back into it,” said Carole, sharing what she’s hearing from companies about returning to the office. “Then others are saying, ‘Why didn’t we do this years ago?’” Instead of spending a fortune on office space, and spending countless hours on a commute, companies can save all of that if they can successfully manage remote teams at scale.
The trouble is, not everyone is equipped for it.
“The new normal is working from home,” said Carole, “But only about 40-45% of salespeople are suited for working from home. Only so many have the skillset and discipline to work from home.”
What’s always driven me crazy was that sequences make a lot of assumptions. I hope we’ll get smarter with our sequences, making them more if-then oriented. Tailored to a person's responses.
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Quality over quantity of meetings
Even so, sales teams are staying busy. Overall meetings are up 7% week over week implying increased - or at least maintained - productivity.
And yet, like so many things, it’s not just the quantity of the meetings. It’s quality.
“I am seeing that meeting volume is going up,” said Carole. “But the meetings themselves aren’t as impactful as before because they're not ready to make decisions yet. They’re more about discovery.”
She expects it also has to do with the nature of the conversations themselves. “Salespeople aren’t as comfortable with what to say. They don’t want to offend. More meetings are being booked because they want to connect, but I want to see the quality increase too.”
Outbound has to be confident, consistent, and uncanned
Outbound teams are getting creative as they’re reaching out. People are no longer in their offices, so where do you contact them easiest? Carole says: Don’t be afraid to text.
“A lot of what I’m seeing is a text message to connect,” she said. “I see text messaging becoming a little more commonplace. Not necessarily cold, but if you’ve reached out before it can work.”
However you’re reaching out, it must be personalized.
Sequences changed over the past months. “We saw them start much shorter,” she said, “around 2-3 weeks. But we’ll see them spread out more. What’s always driven me crazy was that sequences make a lot of assumptions. I hope we’ll get smarter with our sequences, making them more if-then oriented. Tailored to a person's responses.”
The CFO needs to figure out not only how they can afford it, but also how it will impact business for the next quarter and the next year. They don’t want to spend money on anything, so they need to find the ROI now.
Lead and coach, don’t save
Chorus has reported that there has been a dramatic increase in executive presence on calls. Deals are under higher scrutiny and are facing more objections than even two months ago. Leadership support can go a long way to move a deal forward. But there are subtle mistakes that leaders can make on these calls that will hurt them in the long run, even if they walk away with a won deal.
Carole is passionate about the role of leadership in deals. While they can help, their intention for joining matters. They can cause long term harm if they come in just to “save” the deal.
Even with so much leadership in the room, there needs to be one person to connect all the dots. “When you have an enterprise sale, there can be multiple C-Level people in the room. Do a dry run go over every scenario,” she said. “Understand that the salesperson is the ringleader of it all,” said Carole.
The balance of saving and supporting is something that needs to be dealt with carefully.
“Sales leaders join, and then they take over. This downgrades the salesperson role,” she said. To prevent this, she recommends preparation. “Train and coach your team. If you’ve done that, then you trust them to execute on this deal. But if you haven’t trained them, you may feel that you have to step in because you can’t afford to lose this deal.”
“Executives feel they need to rescue the deal because they don’t trust their team,” she added. “If you don’t coach them, this perpetuates the cycle of inefficiency. Don’t practice on your prospects, practice in role-play.”
There’s a careful balance for leadership to truly be effective and not just a placeholder bandaid to rip off later.
The balance can be struck by practicing roles with the salesperson ahead of time. Encourage the salesperson to take the lead, ask where they need you most. The salesperson should be the ringleader. If a C-Level person needs to speak to another C-Level, that can be an incredibly efficient meeting, but the salesperson should be the one to pull it all together.
Carole refers back to her initial advice: Practice. For a salesperson: “Start collaborating on an agenda before you ever step into the meeting. Ask each person what they need to get out of the meeting.
Having collaborated before the meeting helps the salesperson connect all the dots ahead of time. They can then start the meeting by saying, ‘I know this is important to you, and this to you. Is there anything else we should be covering?’ That makes for a powerful call.”
When buying-side leadership joins the calls, as we’re seeing happen more frequently now, prepare answers to the questions you know they’re most focused on sorting out.
“I just had a situation yesterday,” said Carole, “where the CFO was getting involved in the meeting. I think the reason this is happening is that they need to make decisions faster.” Rather than playing telephone, they want crystal clear communication. “The CFO needs to figure out not only how they can afford it, but also how it will impact business for the next quarter and the next year. They don’t want to spend money on anything, so they need to find the ROI now.”
Jim mentioned that there has been a resurgence of ROI calculators and that there have been new iterations of them coming out.
Carole agreed. “I’ve seen them in the forms of complicated excel spreadsheets. I’ve also seen companies that are collaborating on business and use cases before even getting into the deal. Before deciding if they should continue to talk, they will sit down to figure out the ROI and the business case right off the start.
“For good or for bad,” she said, “I think that’s what we’ll continue to see.”
To all the managers watching this: How well you take care of yourself - taking the breaks, getting exercise - those may feel like nice to have, but they’re critical so that you’re able to show up for your team.
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Self-care trickles down, Essential for “Frontline Captains”
As teams move remotely, it’s not likely that everyone transitions easily. Carole mentioned above that many aren’t yet equipped. Keeping teams and managers motivated to enter each day with gusto is a new challenge that teams everywhere are creatively addressing.
One way to motivate and stay connected is the daily huddle. “It’s a quick meeting about what they’re working on and where they’re getting stuck,” she said. “And having daily coaching sessions with your team.
But it’s not just about the tasks. It’s about how they feel about doing them.
“Find out how they are feeling today,” said Carole. “Not just how they’re doing. How are they feeling?”
Establishing rapport with your team is just as important as establishing rapport with a prospect. “If you can get your team member to smile and be goofy for a moment, they’re going to be more open to coaching,” Carole advised.
“Too often,” she said, “managers don’t know what is personally motivating to their team. It’s important to remind them about that or ask them about that.” Direct encouragement of what motivates them is key and creates a ripple effect.
Opening up and reminding them about what motivates them is essential for your frontline managers as well.
“That role has changed a lot,” said Jim. “Frontline managers will need the biggest recharge right now. They’re being taxed like they’ve never been tasked before. And they're playing a huge role right now keeping our teams engaged.”
Carole couldn’t agree more. “They’re the frontline captains. They’re the most important role.”
She left us with one last piece of advice: “To all the managers watching this: How well you take care of yourself - taking the breaks, getting exercise - those may feel like nice to have, but they’re critical so that you’re able to show up for your team.”