In episode 2 of Coach The Sale I'm discussing a hot sales topic - coaching versus managing, with Mary Grothe. Examining how individual mindset and motivation drives sales performance, and how by understanding your team's range of motivations you can drastically help them become better sales people.
Mary is the CEO of Sales BQ, a company specialising in helping CEOs and VPs of Sales understand and improve sales performance.
As Mary explains 'BQ' in Sales BQ stands for Behavioral Quotient, a term that is critical for understanding sales performance. We go on to look at some of the underlying motivational factors that hold people back and motivate them to improve.
If you have an interest in human psychology and human behaviour and how they impact your performance and that of your team, then this is the episode for you.
Matt: So Mary, welcome. Welcome to the show. How are you doing?
Mary: Having a good start to the morning, thanks.
Matt: Excellent, excellent. So Mary is the CEO of Sales BQ. For some people, they may not have heard of Sales BQ before. Why BQ? What does the BQ stand for and what's the story behind that?
Mary: BQ is the behavioral quotient of behavioral intelligence. It stemmed from some of the trends that we've been seeing in the sales training, sales consulting industry. There's a lot of focus in product training and skills training and technical training, which would be more on the IQ side, and we've seen over the last decade a surge in emotional intelligence training and becoming very aware of ourselves, our emotional self awareness, our buyers, emotional, their empathy, looking at how they're responding to you, are they getting triggered?
Mary: And I think that there's a lot of benefit to having strong EQ, but at the end of the day, it's your BQ that determines how you're gonna show up and actually do your job. So someone can be very high on IQ and very high on EQ, but they still have to show up and make a decision to work that day and have the right action executed in order to get profitable results. If you've seen a top performing sales rep, they may sell a million dollars a year pretty consistently, and then one year they could have a $600,000 year. And you look at, well, their EQ didn't change, their IQ didn't change, why did we have a $400,000 drop in that person? And it's really their decision on a daily basis to show up to that job and do the actions in order to get those profitable results.
Mary: Yes we talk about the technical skills training, we talk about the emotional intelligence part of the conversation, but most importantly we wanna make sure that we have high performing reps that have that strong will, desire and commitment to do what ever it takes ethically to show up at that job and execute. Really looking at grit, creating that culture where they can persevere and ... I know we're gonna get more into that today, but there's a strong focus on management and leadership and how they're creating a high performance culture where that rep feels welcome and heard and appreciated and listened to. They're able to go in and execute those highly profitable behaviors.
Matt: What are some of the factors that lead to that person, that high performer showing up or not? What is it that they're doing that people who aren't at elite level are not doing?
Mary: Well, one of the most important things that we look at is how they're motivated. We look at are they intrinsically motivated, extrinsically motivated, or altruistic. And we wanna make sure that the environment that they're showing up to every day feeds their internal motivators, or if its external or if it's altruistic. And we wanna make sure that the role that they're in is aligned to those.
Mary: But when we look at someone who's intrinsically motivated, this is somebody that feeds more off of recognition and hearing that they're doing a good job and being recognized for the hard work, being appreciated. Usually that's verbally, you can show the active appreciation for that person through an award ceremony. They're gonna wanna really compete for number one. I've seen sales environment where there's cutbacks and they don't do the big award ceremonies anymore, they're tired of cutting crystal and sending that out. And that person who's intrinsically motivated may stop performing at a higher level because they don't feel appreciated, and they're also feeling like, "Well, why? Why should I go the extra mile? No one cares. We've changed the way that we celebrate top performers, so what's the point?"
Mary: And so you might see that person's numbers fall off. But also it can happen when you have change in management, so if you go from having a sales manager that [inaudible 00:05:39] on that person and recognized them weekly in the staff meetings, and promotes all the great things that they're doing, and then all of a sudden that falls off, they're not inspired by their new leader, and so the performance changes. The behaviors change. And it really stems from internally it's the story that's going on in their head, the thoughts dictate the words that are gonna come out of their mouth, which is then formalizing how they really feel and view the situation, and then that's going to effect their action.
Mary: So someone who's extrinsically motivated, when you have a compensation change, which happens a lot, or territory change, something that a role change, if they interpret it in any way, shape or form that is going to effect their compensation negatively, you're going to see a negative response to that. And it's going to show up again, thoughts, words, and actions, it's gonna start in the story they're telling themselves in their head. It's going to then come out in their words and it's gonna show in their actions as well. So you could potentially see a performance drop there.
Mary: Someone who's altruistic honestly shouldn't be in sales, they should be in a customer success role. But if they are, they have those hands of service, and it's about supporting and serving others, it's not about themselves. If you do have an altruistic person that is performing well in a sales role it may be more of an account management type role where they get a lot of focus. But if you change their ability to sit and service those clients, it's gonna have a negative effect.
Mary: I've actually had a little bit of this myself when I was selling a few years ago for a big company, I would do whatever it took for my clients to be happy, and it would affect my performance. So when there were operational issues and there were troubles with implementation, I have a bit of that hands of service and I would stop selling and go take on that customer support role because my client's satisfaction was so important, but it effected my number.
Mary: So you just have to look, number one, from a behavioral intelligence standpoint, how are they motivated? Because that's how you should be shaping the entire sales culture, and you can effectively have multiple different types of motivation on your team and structure a single culture around those three different types and supporting them. But that's where I look first.
Mary: The second place I would look is their responsibility, which is their willingness to own the problem. You've got a lot of reps that can perform really well when the market is hot, when the pricing or their company just rolled out new features and a product set that puts them above the competition so they're first to market. They can sell well in that type of environment. But as soon as you've got a down economy or the competition has a step ahead of them, they don't own that, and it's not their fault and it's everyone else's fault around them, and you're gonna see a decline in the numbers.
Mary: So if they'd have had that responsibility conversation, that's a big coaching conversation, to determine how much of it are they really gonna own and getting ahead of some of those market events that might happen, so that they can still be a top performer. But you know what? It's not even just what's happening in a market, it could be internally, it could be a new operations person who doesn't own it, it could be a new sales manager. So we've gotta work with those people to make sure that they own that responsibility. But there are a lot of traits of behavioral intelligence, but those are the most critical.
Matt: If you're a sales manager aspiring to be a sales leader, what are some of the characteristics, what are some of the traits the person should be looking out for amongst their team that may identify the person as having that intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation?
Mary: Sit down and have a conversation outside of the numbers. Find out why they get up in the morning. Find out how they prioritize their day. Find out the whys behind them doing the job the way that they're doing it, whether they're doing it well or they're doing it not well.
Mary: I would carve out every single task and responsibility that you've asked that person to do in the role. So I'm looking at the core mechanics of the role, what they're expected to do from a research and profiling and prospecting standpoint, how you expect them to be running a sales conversation, do they have a scripted needs analysis, do they have a form that they have to fill out and report back that they got all the fields covered? Is there a demo step, are they bringing in the sales engineer, and how are they closing, how are they doing proposals? How do they set expectations with their prospects about buying, how do they manage their time, how do they utilize the CRM, and how are they with self reporting numbers?
Mary: But I would look at every single piece of the required tasks that they have in order to do their job effectively, and I would sit down and have a conversation with each rep and learn do they like it? Do they not like it? Are they good at it? Are they not good at it? And rate that out. And oftentimes what we'll find, I had a coaching call yesterday with a rep and he's a top performer, but he's a bull in a china shop. He's so disorganized and he's a disruptor, he's a great hunter and a conversation starter, but his ability to follow through on anything is deplorable. But the guy is opening up so many qualified sales conversations, if we just carved out the area that is consistently bringing him down and gave that to someone else, and he was solely a hunter, he could drive so much revenue for this company. But he's not converting that revenue because he's terrible at follow up.
Mary: So what a great sales manager can do is intimately know his people, talk through that conversation, dissecting those tasks, but also being able to understand, when you ask them those questions you're starting to find out what makes them tick and what drives them. But you can ask that question point blank. So after you get through all of the tasks and duties, do they like it, not like it, are they good at or are they not good it, looking at what really motivated them and getting the why behind it.
Mary: From there you need to, as a sales manager, take a look in the mirror. Is the way that you are running this team conducive to a high performing environment? Do you have an option to carve out the tasks that they don't like doing or they're not good at doing? Which means they're not getting done, or if they are getting done they're not getting done well, so it's slowing down the productivity of your team. Do you have an option as a manager to carve out those tasks and put them with someone else who can effectively do them, or adjust and shift the roles of your people so that you've got a hunter and you've got a closer etc? Putting them where their strengths are. And then as a manger, how do you shift your communication? How you shift and change the conversations that are happening in your one on one meetings to empower each of those individuals?
Mary: If they're extrinsic make that meeting about how to break that [inaudible 00:12:20], make the meeting about how to we cut out all the noise and get you to the highest performing [inaudible 00:12:25] so you can make the money that you're here to make. If it's intrinsic, how do we get you to be number one? And it's planting the seed. You're teetering between number one and two, I need you to get to this level. What do we need to do? Let's talk about what's in the pipeline. What can I help you progressing that so we can get you up the ranks? It's the exact same conversation, you said it completely two different ways, and each of those reps is going to hear that differently, and they're gonna feel valued and they're gonna feel heard.
Matt: How does a manager or a sales leader who has identified those traits amongst their sales team, how do they then pivot towards actually moving away from managing the day to day to actually coaching and extracting the very best from the team?
Mary: The easiest way to think about the difference between managing and coaching. Managing, you're telling them what to do. But a great sales manager brings in the coaching conversation, and they ask questions rather than tell. And it's a conversation where we can get the salesperson to have the words come out of their mouth, whether their high performing, not high performing, they're hitting their number, they're not missing their number, and they can tell us, then they have the buy in because they said the words.
Mary: So example, a sales meeting debrief. This is where I see so many sales managers miss an opportunity with their sales rep. They will just debrief that sales meeting, they tell them how it is. "Here's what you did right, here's what you missed, here's what you need to do next time. Good, good. Okay, bye." Rather than simply just asking the question, "What went well in that meeting?" And don't stop there. When they say, "Well, I feel like I said a really great opening statement. I felt like we were completely aligned, it was a really good agenda". Okay, great. "So then how do you think that helped you when the prospect told you they only had 20 minutes because they had a fire coming up? How did that help set you up because you had that communication?"
Mary: It's them then expanding on the conversation and it's giving them an opportunity to reiterate all of the learnings that you've given them to this point, and how they're really absorbing it and adapting it. And it's creating the conversation, what didn't go well? What could have been done better? What was missed? And then [inaudible 00:14:43] they give you a response and then they completely miss something that happened, say, "Well, what about the prospect asked this question? Do you think that's what they really meant? Do you think there was maybe more behind that question? Tell me how you heard that question? What did you hear when they asked that?"
Mary: If we pose a question that way rather than saying, "Oh, one thing I noticed was that when the prospect asked this question, I don't think you heard it right, because you went down this path, and I what I heard was this. What did you hear? Help me understand why you went the route that you did?" Now all of a sudden that rep is having a conversation with you and the words coming out of their mouth, that's where the awareness is, "Oh, I totally missed that didn't I?" But now they own that.
Matt: Do you think as well there's part of this which is also about encouraging the rep to think about every sales interaction as a parallel process, keeping aware of what's happening in that conversation whilst it's taking place?
Mary: Exactly. A lot of coaching conversations are met by a very defensive salesperson, and if you can't have an opportunity for them to be in agreement with what you're saying, they're not hearing you.
Mary: In a phone conversation or a sales conversation that can be recorded, giving them an opportunity to hear a playback, there's no arguing. They hear it! There's no way that they can say that didn't happen, and-
Matt: Go on, sorry.
Mary: Embedding those types of tools are very critical in the coaching conversation as well, and creating that awareness when the coachable moment happens in the playback of a recorded call is key, because then they can really pause, they can listen back to it, they can read the feedback, they can look at it simultaneously, and I feel like there's a lot of alignment in that coaching conversation. They can't disagree with you, it's on the tape.
Matt: How critical is it for you that those conversations are recorded, where possible?
Mary: We require on 100% of our clients on 100% of the calls. It's not optional. Sometimes we're met with a little opposition when we say we wanna do it, and I think there's a little bit of fear that goes into, "I'm gonna be held accountable to every single word that comes out of my mouth".
Mary: And I feel that after we get through that first call, the reps realize how much power is in that conversation. And if you really have somebody that wants to be great in their role, it usually takes about one call and they realize, "Okay, this is gonna be the tool that's gonna help me reach my desired future". And when we're coaching them, we're using those recorded calls. What I appreciate specifically about the Refract tools, there's the conversation insights piece, and it runs the analytics for us as well, and I feel like it's a quick cheat sheet for the rep.
Mary: It has some benchmarks where they can say, "Okay, if at a minimum I can compare myself against the calls and look at the progression". I can look at these four or five key areas. How many questions they're asking, what their amount of talk time is, acknowledging their filler words, the meaningful switches, and engaging that prospect in the conversation. At a minimum, they can look at those benchmarks and say, "Okay". Without even getting completely granular in every single word that was said and the quality and effectiveness of the conversation, and the pivots and quality of questions asked, we can look at those minimum benchmarks.
Mary: By pulling those out and having that conversation, we're able to see effectiveness increase in the quality of the sales call just by those pieces alone, not necessarily really getting granular into the quality of questions etc. That's phase two for us, because those take longer to work on and to coach with the rep.
Mary: But for us, recording the calls, it's non-negotiable and it's changed the name of the game in our practice. We have sales reps that we recruit and hire and bring on for our clients that are selling deals in their first week, second week, first month. They're hitting the ramp, but it's because we don't give them that 90 day or six month excuse to just go "figure it out". Or they're walking with them side by side. We cut through that ramp so quickly with the ability to record the calls and hear themselves on that playback. And the self awareness that it's created creates a lot of driving motivation within themselves to not sound like that anymore.
Mary: Ramping in a role is very difficult, learning a new product or industry is extremely difficult, [inaudible 00:19:07] a sales role. And when they get to hear themselves on the playback, I feel like they have the self awareness to say, "Okay, I know what my blind spots are. I know what I need to work on. I gotta rehearse and work on that value [inaudible 00:19:19], or this type of statement, or these set of objections". And seeing them be relentless in their practicing, so that they can cut through that ramp, really the employer is benefiting because they're getting return on their sales rep very quickly. But I would say that's because we're recording the calls and holding them accountable.
Matt: What do you think is holding people back that's preventing them from embracing coaching? There could be lots of factors, but in your experience, what are some of those key factors that are holding people back?
Mary: Well, has anyone ever taught them what a coaching conversation is? Where is the development for our sales managers? It is lacking greatly. There is so much training out there for salespeople, for increasing the quality and effectiveness of sales conversations, for getting more sales conversations, sales enablement tools, closing the deal. Where are we supporting sales managers? Where are we coaching them? Where are we telling them how to get to the next level?
Mary: It's unbelievable selling sales training services. A CEO or VP of sales will buy sales rep coaching and training all day long, and they'll spend thousands and thousands of dollars on it, and the moment that you say, "Critically important, we need to talk about developing your sales managers," it's like, "Well, I'd rather put the budget towards the producers". So step number one, are we even teaching what a coaching conversation is? Critically important.
Mary: Number two, are we holding them accountable? Are we recording their coaching sessions? Are we monitoring the feedback that they're giving in a Refract type system? So from a VP of sales level or a CEO level, are we looking at how they're coaching? And if they're not being held accountable to effective coaching, how are they ever gonna know if what they're doing is right? So there's a huge gap internally in organizations and how we're developing our sales managers.
Mary: I've seen in every opportunity that we've had to work at the sales manager level that they're completely underdeveloped, they're almost forgotten. And what's challenging for the sales manager is at the end of the day, they need to report numbers, and they're held accountable to reporting profitable numbers. And the mentality is, you need to do whatever it takes. So if the way they're being spoken to and the way they're being managed and asked for data is always in that number driven aspect, and people doing the right thing and showing up every day, and they're just looking at metrics, then that's how they're going to mange their team.
Mary: And so I think we need to see that change happen all the way from above, and a commitment to developing our people. And if the CEO and VP of sales don't have the skills set or the time, then they need to be open to spending the money on a consultant or a trainer or a coach that can work at the sales management level to help them develop. But we can't expect someone to give something that they don't have, and we can't expect someone to do something that we haven't set the expectation and gained agreement on what they should be doing.
Matt: What can you suggest to that aspirational sales manager, they've got one eye on becoming a sales leader, maybe they're working in an environment where the culture doesn't necessarily support coaching per se, are there any pieces of advice or tips that you can give that sort of person to help them start to change the direction of the culture? Anything from your experience, quick wins or top tips that you might give somebody in that situation?
Mary: First and foremost, find a mentor or find a coach. Don't wait around for your organization to develop you. The recommendation is, if you do have a VP of sales or a CRO or somebody that you can study under then start driving that conversation.
Mary: Ask to sit in those meetings with finance and operations. Ask to have a seat at the boardroom. Ask to help them carve up the number that they get annually from the finance department and distribute it amongst the territories. Ask to be a part of the sales kick off planning. Ask to be a part of the recruiting strategy. Ask to be a part of what's happening in the market and having those future "what's our new emerging market" conversation. But put yourself at the table. And you have to ask consistently. Just because they let you in one time, don't have the expectation that they're then going to invite you to every other subsequent conversation. Make yourself present, ask for it, be a part of it, show the determination that you want to be a part of those conversations.
Mary: If you don't have that role within the company, if it's a smaller corporation and it's still falling underneath the CEOs [inaudible 00:23:54] have the conversation with the CEO, but get a mentor and get a coach outside. Find someone else, potentially in your industry, outside of your industry who's VP of sales with a firm and ask them, "Look, can you give me this over the next six months? I don't have the development internally and I'm looking for a mentor".
Mary: I feel like we're in that day and age, we're in a society today that we're seeing mentorship driven conversations, we're seeing the give back society. Do not be afraid to ask. Go find a prominent sales leader in your community, study under them, but also get a coach. And get somebody that can get granular with you and help you in the day to day conversations. But go sit in those meetings. Don't wait for somebody to proactively come to you and ask if you want to be developed. Go after it and find it yourself.
Matt: Excellent. That's a great way to end the interview. And effectively what we're saying is demonstrate the behavior that you want your reps to exhibit. So I think that's a really nice way to round things off.
Matt: Mary, how can people find out more about you and the work that you do over there at Sales BQ?
Mary: You can learn more about us at salesbq.com and I'd love for you to connect with me on Linkedin. I'm very active on the platform and would love to have you as a follower and engage in your content as well.
Matt: Super. Thank you very much for your time, Mary. All the best.
Mary: Thank you.