Category: Company Culture

Company Culture

How to get Buy-In from Internal Executives

ScottLeese
Scott Leese

Everyone has ideas, including you. But how can you give your ideas the best chance of seeing the light of day—especially when you need buy-in from the C-suite and other senior management?

The good news is that if you’re in sales, you already should be familiar with a lot of the necessary skills. After all, pitching ideas and getting buy-in, is a form of sales and ultimately comes down to the principles of negotiation.

Here is a step-by-step breakdown to help you get an edge when seeking to transform your ideas into action, and get buy-in from executives. I call them the 4 P’s: Players, Package, Present, Persist.

Let’s start with the first P, Players.

Getting Buy-In: The Players

It’s important to understand who needs to hear about the idea and has the capacity to help make it happen. So the first step is to identify the relevant players. Need a new feature? You’ll want the product and engineering leadership in your corner. Think there’s a fresh market opportunity? Get the head of marketing involved. Need to spend money? (Hint: Of course you do.) You’d better be ready to articulate the monetary benefit and justify the costs to the CFO.

If you’re in sales, get your VP Sales (or equivalent) involved, but don’t expect them to do the work for you. First, turn them into a champion who can sponsor your idea with the executive team and make introductions. You’re not going to get your idea implemented by cornering the CEO in the elevator.

Next, you need to understand what these players care about. They’re all under extraordinary pressure to hit their targets, so they’ll have little patience for ideas that distract from their goals. Spend time digging deeper into what their current departmental goals and timelines are so you can speak to how your idea increases their chances of success. Sales 101.

Once you figure out who the players are, it’s time to move onto your second P, Package.

Crafting the Package for Internal Buy In

Everyone is busy, so when you ask for time to present an idea, you’re already starting your pitch. Whether you’re sending an email or discussing in person, it’s crucial to identify:

  1. A simple expression of your idea.
  2. What problem it solves.
  3. Why it’s important.
  4. Why it’s important to do now.
  5. Data that backs up your claims.
  6. How your idea solves the problem.

Distill each into a sentence or two that makes the point succinctly. If you confuse the players with the packaging, your idea will die on the vine before you even have a chance to execute it.

The point on data is critical and often overlooked. Maybe your idea originated with data, but if not and it’s based on a hunch or intuition, find real data to back it up or expect to be told to not come back until you do. You might find help obtaining data from your sales ops, engineering, or data science teams. Salespeople live in a world where for far too long, gut instinct has been the only measuring stick of whether or not something makes sense. You have to understand that executives in other departments do not think or make decisions the same way you do.

Package your pitch across a few different mediums tailored for different audiences. These might include a written document, slide deck, design mockups, and spreadsheets. This not only helps you present your idea in familiar formats to executives, it also helps you distill your idea and think about it from multiple angles.

This brings us to the third P, Present.

Tips to Present

You’re likely to present your idea in a meeting—perhaps multiple meetings, each time to a different audience of executives. It’s also highly likely that this will be the first time the attendees are hearing about your idea, so you must present as if they’ve never heard it before.

Don’t linger too long on details that apply only to one department—especially if that department is not in attendance. The details that matter will be addressed by questions, so be sure to anticipate questions and get ahead of objections with considered responses before the meeting begins. Being caught flat-footed won’t do you and your idea any favors.

Finally, you’ll need to Persist.

Keep it going and Persist

Here’s the rub: your idea may not get a hearing immediately. Some of the most popular excuses are “we don’t have time for that now”, “it’s too expensive”, and “this doesn’t fit into our team’s goals for the month/quarter/year.”

But you’re in sales and objections are life. You’re used to excuses, and these excuses are information that can tell you where you need to adjust your pitch. No time for your idea? You haven’t communicated the urgency of why your idea needs to be done now. Too expensive? You haven’t broken down the cost/benefit analysis sufficiently to justify the investment. Doesn’t fit into the goals? You haven’t adapted your idea or pitch to how it solves their problem.

Spend the time to gather more data and refine the idea. Pitch it to your peers and get their feedback. Build a grassroots coalition to socialize the idea within the organization so that when you do get a hearing, people will already be familiar with what you’re trying to achieve.

Lastly, be open to asking probing questions, seek new evidence, and be ready to abandon your idea if you become convinced that it isn’t the right one or that now isn’t the time to do it. You’ll learn from the process and will be better equipped when the next great idea strikes you. It always does.

 

ScottLeese
Scott Leese
Company Culture

Management 201: How To Build A Performance Based Culture

hooplaprod
hooplaprod

We face all sorts of challenges as managers.

Not only do we have our own benchmarks to hit, but we depend on the individuals in our teams to rise to that same standard—and if they don’t perform well, it’s a direct reflection on us.

Whether you’re the leader of a small, scrappy team, or the CEO of an S&P 500 company, you understand the pressures of performance—and the desire to foster a performance-based culture.

There’s no one-trick fix to changing your organizational culture overnight, but we’re here to tell you it’s possible. With the right tools, the right strategy, and a desire to get it done, you can (and we would dare to even say should) absolutely turn your team into a high-performing powerhouse.

What is a Performance Based culture? 

A performance based culture, is an organizational culture that focuses on making sure people are as effective as possible in their roles. These roles should support the overall goals of the organization. A performance based culture might be mislabeled as a culture that focuses on nothing but the bottom line- but that couldn’t be more further from the truth. 

Making sure that employees have the support to achieve the results is key to getting the best performance for your company. 

Here are some of the ways you can get started:

Caution: Danger Ahead

One huge distinction that we often highlight here on the Hoopla blog is that not all practices are good practices. Just because a management style or concept gets talked about a lot, that doesn’t mean that every version of it is healthy.

Take competition for example. Countless studies have shown us that competition between employees can drive better results from everyone—but that’s healthy competition. Unhealthy competition can take that to an extreme that actually undermines the culture in your office—where employees start to see each other as threats rather than collaborators. 

So with that in mind, please heed this warning: not all high-performance cultures are good ones. If you don’t also take steps to create healthy habits for your high performers, you may very well be doing more harm than good. 

Prioritizing People Over Numbers

Put a little more concretely, an unhealthy performance-driven culture,Harvard Business Review’s Tony Schwartz points out, “often exacerbates people’s fears by creating up a zero-sum game in which people are either succeeding or failing and “winners” quickly get weeded out from “losers.” 

What Schwartz goes on to point out is that a healthy culture must promote growth hand-in-hand with performance: “in addition to rewarding success, [cultures that emphasize growth] also treat failures and shortcomings as critical opportunities for learning and improving, individually and collectively.”

If you lose sight of the individual, and are solely focused on the results produced, you’ll have lost at your own game. 

Culture Change Starts At The Top

When you’re talking about seriously overhauling your corporate culture, the answer is definitely not to just fire all of your “un-cultured” employees and start fresh. But admittedly, that can often seem like an easier, less daunting solution than creating change from the inside out. 

But if there’s any encouragement to found, it can be from an organization like the San Diego Zoo. After years of working under an archaic system, Tim Mulligan had to completely overhaul  the entire company’s HR system—everything from accountability to organizational goals. 

Tim was able to successfully pull it off, as Inc.’s Jacob Morganshares with us, and the lessons are easy to translate across any business: 

“The first step is to have senior buy-in and to get the CEO and other executives on board. Some leaders may be more enthusiastic, but others may need a business case backed up with numbers that a change is necessary. … 

But at the end of the day, it’s not just about having champions within the organization that will lead to long-term, structural change, Morgan points out. What matters most is finding something that works, and that only happens through open communication

“Employees around the organization should regularly give their feedback and opinions through methods like surveys and polls.”

Set Expectations, Hold To Them

If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you’ve undoubtedly run into conflict. And nine times out of ten, when you trace that conflict to its roots, it probably started with a hiccup in communication. 

From setting expectations to unspoken emotions, we can’t expect folks to read our minds. We have to communicate what we want—we have to set standards.  

In a study of over 30,000 employeesacross multiple industries, the employee engagement experts at Gallup found that the most crucial aspect to developing a high-performance culture came in the form of implementing an “effective performance management process.” 

What caught our attention were two of the building blocks they found that enabled successful companies to do so: “develop transparent reward systems,” and “articulate shared goals and objectives.” 

The thought of implementing a performance management process can make your average employee a little queasy: the implication might be, “hit these benchmarks or face the consequences.” But that’s only a mentality that comes when you’re developing an unhealthy performance culture. 

Instead, as Gallup highlights, performance management is a positive, rewards-based process, rather than a do-or-die one. 

First, you have a reward system set in place: if you can accomplish—or surpass—certain benchmarks, then you’re going to be rewarded. As we’ve talked about in the past, that can come in the form of financial rewards, or other incentivesthat don’t necessarily break the bank. 

Secondly, articulating shared goals and objectives brings a two-fold benefit for both the employer and the employee.

A Culture Of Shared Values

The primary benefit is that of transparency and clear communication. If you’ve laid out exactly what you expect from a high-performing employee, then it’s not so hard for an employee to attain that level of performance. It becomes a clear, actionable set of steps that empower your employees rather than scare them into better performance. 

Equally importantly, there’s that keyword “shared.” While every employee and member of your team is an individual, they are not an island. When you start to see higher numbers of disengaged employees in an office, you can be almost certain that one of the earliest causes had to do with their a) not understanding their role more broadly within the organization, and b) not feeling that their contributions to the company were meaningful—they what they were doing actually made a difference. 

When you’re clearly stating goals for your employees, and showing how those goals fold themselves into the broader goals of your team, you’re giving your employee the tools to be more engaged, and to have a much richer sense of how their performance affects everyone around them. It’s both profoundly inspiring and incredibly motivating for an all-around stronger performance. 

hooplaprod
hooplaprod
Communication Company Culture

How Glassdoor Re-Energized Their Sales Team To Beat Quotas

hooplaprod
hooplaprod

This article originally published on Predictable Revenue.

Aaron Ross, of the award-winning, bestselling book Predictable Revenue, has been teaching companies how to double or triple (or more) new sales since he helped Salesforce grow from $5m to $100m. Now he’s turned his attention to building the software platform that will power the next wave of Cold Calling 2.0 teams. Check out Aaron’s latest work on How Hyper-Growth Companies Create Predictable Revenue.

Has your sales manager ever gotten a standing ovation?

It’s more and more common to walk into a sales office these days, and see a bunch of big screen TVs around displaying live sales leaderboards. Sometimes they’re showing live monthly sales goals, sometimes live sales contests leaderboards.

Glassdoor is a free jobs & career community where employees post anonymous reviews of the companies where they work. Nick Boeka is a sales operations manager at Glassdoor. He wanted an easy way to better motivate and focus the sales team.

Nick found Hoopla, one of those apps that makes it easy to create contests and leaderboards to track and showcase rep performance on ESPN-like leaderboards on big screen TVs & computers around the office. Remote reps can view it all on their computers & mobile devices. Nick signed on with Hoopla, bought some HDTVs and had the application up and running the next day.

It integrates with Glassdoor’s salesforce.com system, streaming live sales updates as they happen straight from Salesforce to the TV screens. The televised challenges and leaderboards were an instant hit with the Glassdoor sales team.

“I’ve never gotten a standing ovation before, but that’s
what happened when we did the live presentation of Hoopla to the sales team,” says Nick.

Unlike the manual contests and updates Glassdoor used in the past, Nick found that broadcasting sales updates with an app had a much more powerful and immediate effect on the team’s performance.

Live leaderboards & contests helped increase the team’s sense of urgency + sales system adoption shot up

But putting in live leaderboards did more for Glassdoor than add some extra initial excitement. It helped push the company’s sales performance to new levels. For example:

Urgency:

    • Reps at Glassdoor went from hitting

85% of their goal of ‘appointments booked’ to hitting 125%

    • . “Reps who’ve been here awhile, who may have been getting complacent, are sparked again. I’ve heard them yell things like “John, I’m coming for you!” says Nick.

Engagement:

    • The “fun / live / visible” format doubled engagement. For example, Nick ran a “March Madness”-themed contest to track appointments set. With the new system, 100% of the team participated, compared to 50% of the team in the past.

Performance:

    • By focusing reps on key activities & goals, Glassdoor’s reps started consistently beating their quota; and even

newly ramping reps achieve 80% of quota

    • . “New reps immediately understand what they need to do to be successful, they can see it on the boards, which is very motivating,” Nick explains.

CRM Adoption:

    • Nick says Salesforce user adoption shot up. Why? If a rep doesn’t keep her stats current in Salesforce, he/she’ll soon lose her position on the leaderboards. As a result, the team went from tracking 70% to 100% of its key metrics in Salesforce.

(Whoa!)

 

hooplaprod
hooplaprod
Company Culture

Toxic Sales Culture Practices That Need to Change

ScottLeese
Scott Leese

Boiler rooms suck. Wall Street sucks. Chest pounding macho sales floors suck. It didn’t used to be perceived that way though. 

As we come around to a better understanding of creating inclusive sales floors and removing barriers to entry to allow for more diversity in the profession, we have to recognize a few relics of the past that need to change.

Obvious Toxic Sales Practices

Let’s start with practices that most folks in sales and leadership agree need to go right now. The hope here is that naming some of the most obvious and toxic sales practices still too common in the workforce will further expedite their extinction.

  1. Favoritism – We all know the one sales manager who always eats lunch with the same reps on their team every day. You know…the ones who seemingly get all the hottest leads. Even if you are not doing it on purpose or bending any rules, you still need to stop this practice. Pygmalion Effect any one?
  2. Unreasonable daily metrics – why are we forcing reps to make 100+ dials a day if the sale itself doesn’t call for that volume? Spray and pray is gone and we have to prospect with more strategy and personalization.
  3. Promoting top performing AEs into Sales Managers – not only that, but doing so without providing them specific and intensive training to help prepare them for the new role.
  4. Discounts as urgency – we must stop this. It hammers our credibility [and our paychecks].
  5. Silly and goofy emails to gimmick people back into the funnel – I’m not being chased by a rhino and I don’t care if this is your last attempt. Go ahead and break up with me. I’m too busy to deal with this right now.

Well tell me something I don’t already know. Can we push the envelope here and dig a bit deeper? What about some practices that we know exist – just “not at our org.” 

“Not at Our Org” Toxic Practices

Here are some “elephant in the room” sales practices. These are things that are commonplace wherever you go, but nobody is either willing to admit or accept that they too are part of the problem. These are the things “secretly” killing your sales org because leadership is the only area of the business NOT talking about them.

  1. Lack of Diversity in Leadership
    1. Loss of varying perspectives
    2. Culture of followers
    3. Limited upward mobility / glass ceiling damages moral and recruiting/retention
  2. Churn and Burn
    1. Blow through boatload of hiring, training, firing
    2. Morale killer / Culture killer
  3. Lack of Transparency around Equity
    1. Distrust breeds contempt
    2. Decreased buy-in to overall mission
    3. Enthusiasm for sale dissipates
  4. Messing with Salespeoples’ Money
    1. Rep churn
    2. Glassdoor will get ugly
  5. Mental Health Stigmas
    1. Distrust of HR and leadership
    2. Feeling no support, staff will struggle and performance can dwindle. 

Let’s dive deeper into each one of these.

Lack of Diversity in Leadership 

My good friend and sales leader Kevin Dorsey talks about what it’s like “being the only.” There are far too few POC in Sales leadership roles, as well as too few women in these roles. We find convenient excuses like “I can’t seem to find anybody” or “They need just a bit more experience first.” Cut the crap and give people a chance, and make decisions to have diversity and go make it happen.

Churn and Burn 

While dying off, these sales floors are not yet extinct. You must live with your company’s Glassdoor page and local reputation very publicly these days. Protect your reputation. People need the training, tools and time required to be successful in their roles. I can assure you, this is longer than two weeks. So invest in your team and set them up for success.

Lack of Transparency Around Equity 

The lack of transparency that is often involved in these negotiations or pitches to recruit folks is rubbish. You have a responsibility as a leader to make sure your employees are educated. Do not assume anything is common sense or that they will research it on their own. There are many layers to this toxic onion. But the fact that most employees don’t realize they have 90 days to exercise if they leave before an exit [and most cannot afford to do so] is outrageous.

Messing with Salespeoples’ Money

 Do we need to change the comp plan 3-4x in year one? What about changing it 1x per year – is that really necessary? Stop squeezing every nickel you can find out of the paychecks of the folks putting dimes into your coffers. Clawbacks when it wasn’t a sales issue. Delayed commission checks due to payroll errors. Inaccurate commission checks that require reps to double check payroll’s work. You will lose a salesperson with Usain Bolt-like speed if you mess with their money.

Mental Health Stigmas 

These have to go. High stress jobs create highly stressed employees. Why not just allow ourselves to be vulnerable and open up and talk about this stuff.  Instead lets find new and creative ways to support conversations and employees. 

Failure to solve and actively address some of the antiquated sales practices is a surefire road to creating a sales culture nobody wants to work in. You will struggle with recruiting as word gets around town about what it’s like to work there. Morale will drop lower and lower as the team tunes out and loses motivation. You will have unhappy and unhealthy employees, pissed off at both the comp and the culture you have created. What comes next? You will have costly rep churn and performance will drop off a cliff. 

You don’t want that.

These old practices may have had their time and place, but sales has changed.  Not only do these antiquated practices not fit into the modern workplace, they have been replaced with techniques that deliver happier employees, and better results.  The modern worker is no longer willing to tolerate employers who treat staff this way, because time and again it is proven that engaging and treating employees with respect makes a company more successful.

What you do want is a sales environment that is:

  • Inclusive to everyone
  • Diverse in its makeup
  • Fair and transparent 
  • Training and development focused
  • Rewarding and motivating
  • Free of stigma from real life challenges everyone is dealing with

If you build that, not only will they come, but they will stay for a long time.

ScottLeese
Scott Leese
Company Culture

5 Signs Your Sales Culture Might Be Toxic

JoshBenedetto
Josh Benedetto

You’d be hard pressed to find a business where the founder intended to have a toxic culture. 

Nobody wants their culture to be toxic. Sometimes it just happens because we aren’t paying attention to the signs. 

It’s kind of like a bunch of bananas. You can bring them in green, or perfectly ripe, but if you leave them unattended for too long, they can quickly go bad. And before you know it, you’ve got a bad bunch on your hands. 

So with that in mind, we want to share with you some of the most common signs that you’re developing a toxic sales culture within your organization.  Because your employees aren’t bananas—and neither are you! You can keep them around for a long time without ever worrying about them spoiling. 

And the good news is, it’s never too late.  You can take those overripe bananas and make banana bread! It starts when you take a hard look in the mirror, see where your problems persist, and then spend some time picking at the rot. Your employees, and your future self, will be so grateful you did. 

Transparency Has Left The Building

Writing for Forbes, Liz Ryan tells us, “You know your culture is broken when you walk into a room where people are talking and suddenly they go silent. You know your culture is broken when your boss’s door is always closed.”

Don’t allow yourself to become a manager who’s afraid to face their employees. Instead, create rhythms where you’re regularly checking in with your team, understanding their goals, and helping them to catch your vision for success. The more transparent you can be about both your goals and your expectations, the more likely everyone is to succeed. 

Employees Are Playing By Their Own Rules

Over on the Close blog, Steli Efti puts it well that when you start to have lone-wolf employees who play by their own rules, things can get dicey—especially when those lone wolves are also your top performers. 

What ends up happening, Efti shows us, is that those top performers inadvertently teach everyone else that that bad behavior gets rewarded, and it will only encourage others to follow suit. 

“Instead of helping everyone succeed and setting a good example, top performers will look down on the rest. … The message you’re sending is that this behavior is okay and it’s the type of behavior that gets rewarded. What ultimately happens is that you’ll get a lot more of that behavior.” 

Managers Are Abusing Their Power

As our friends over at The Sales Coaching Institute remind us, it’s easy for power to go to any of our heads. But when one of your managers gets drunk on their power, it has devastating effects on your culture—and in turn, the organization as a whole. 

Instead, they go on to say, we need to make sure that our managers are gaining their employees’ trust, rather than walking around like supreme rulers. 

“Leading by example is a more effective way to gain the trust of your sales professionals instead of relying on fear to motivate them.”

High Turnover Becomes Common

People who like their jobs, their employers, and their coworkers don’t leave their jobs as often as people who dislike those things. That’s just simple logic. 

But have you considered the cost of high turnover? According to SHRM, high turnover from toxic workplaces cost the business world a quarter of a trillion dollars in the last five years alone. 

Here’s the bottom line: according to one Harvard study, the cost of even one toxic employee—who can cause severe rates of demotivation, decreased productivity, and a turnover rate of 12%(!)—can be massive. “ Avoiding a toxic hire,” they say “or letting one go quickly, delivers $12,500 in cost savings.”

If you’re having trouble holding on to employees, you may not simply have a hiring problem, it may be much deeper. 

Pressure Begins To Exceeds Motivation

We’ve talked about extrinsic and intrinsic motivators here on the blog before. In short, it’s important to have outside motivators, and also an internal sense of simply wanting to do our jobs—for personal goals, or simply for the fact that we enjoy doing it. 

But when those motivators turn into fear-based pressure and a kill-or-be-killed type culture, you know you’ve got a problem. 

One employee of Wells Fargo described a similar toxic sales culture to NPR: “It was multiple occasions where I saw my co-workers were cracking under the pressure,” Erik says. ‘Tears, crying, constantly getting pulled into the back room having one-on-ones for coaching sessions.’ … He says this wasn’t really ‘coaching.’ Managers called it that, but it was just leaning on employees to sell more solutions.”

Rather than scaring your employees into their best performance, try to motivate them in positive, growth-based ways. 

Creating Consistency at All Times

At the end of the day, it’s up to you as the head of your team or organization to root out the rot of toxicity in a bad sales culture. Hire the right people, create a system that works for everyone, and then reward those who succeed within it—and keep coaching the ones who struggle to do so. 

In our current environment, of remote work, high stress and lots of distractions,  we continue to see employees looking to their employers as their support system. And that makes it all the more important that you ensure your organization is one that promotes consistency and a culture that puts its employees wellbeing first. And the sooner that you do that hard work of cleaning up the “toxic spills,” the more quickly you’ll find a group of people who are truly equipped to thrive.

JoshBenedetto
Josh Benedetto
Company Culture

How To End The Year Strong – And Start The New One Even Stronger

hooplaprod
hooplaprod

For marathon runners, they call it the final 6.2.  It’s those final miles of the race—the difference between your crazy fit friend who “ran 20 miles today,” and being counted among those that have run the most famous race in human history.  Interestingly enough, when you’re training for a marathon, most people never run those final 6.2 miles. Instead, they save them for the day of the race. And with enough mental toughness and proper training, those are the miles that make or break you.  We have now entered our final 6.2: what those of us in the world of business call “Q4.” 

For some of us, we’ve been waiting for this push all year. But for most of us, it feels like an opportunity to slow down. Clients are in the office less, deadlines are being punted to “next year,” and everyone’s a little more focused on the office holiday party versus their team’s numbers.  But not you. Because you know that “next year” is actually just a few weeks away. And the best way to get started on a strong year ahead is to absolutely crush the little bit of this year that you have left.  Here’s how you do it. 

Recalibrate Goals

We talk about goals on here plenty. You’d think that our readers would have had enough of it by now!   But as Imagine LLC’s David Fletcher points out, nearly half of salespeople aren’t actually hitting their goals. And we can talk about how that might be the salesperson’s fault, but too often we forget to also see where there may be problems with the goals themselves. 

Fletcher goes on: “The key here is to look into where opportunities have been lost in the sales process and begin to build a sales training program around those issues. … Far too often, sales teams are focused on meeting numbers that may not be the true driver of positive results.” So rather than focus on setting goals in the fourth quarter, we want to take stock of the goals that we’ve already been tackling.  Which goals are you closest to reaching? Which goals at this point are unreachable? Do you feel that some have proven to be more valuable than others? Have you hit certain goals that don’t seem to be affecting growth in a positive way?  As you continue to strive toward a strong finish, take stock of what’s worked for you this year. If it doesn’t fit into that category, it might be worth throwing out as you set goals for next year. 

Don’t Go Dark

As managers, and even employees, it can be easy to let things sort of “shut down” in December. You figure that people are going to be away, that things will inevitably slip through the cracks, or that folks simply aren’t interested in “new” topics when closing out the year.  But the data shows that that’s far from true. Let’s take sales, for example. HubSpot’s Aja Frost reminds us that for many, December is a month to make the most of use it or lose it budgets: “companies often review last year’s spend to figure out how much to allocate for the coming year. Suppose a senior manager only uses $600,000 of her $700,000 budget in 2016. She’ll probably get $600,000 in 2017. That manager will probably jump at the chance to spend her remaining $100,000 on a valuable solution while securing her budget for next year.”

So what does Frost recommend you do to see where that budget is at in December? “Ask.” But even if you’re not in sales—or even an external facing part of your company, for that matter—communication at the end of the year remains a deeply important part of finishing strong, keeping our employees engaged, and starting off the new year on the right foot. 

The companies that post the strongest year-over-year numbers aren’t the ones that get things started on January 1. They’re the companies that are already in motion by then. That means that before everyone goes off for the holidays, you’ve got the perfect opportunity as a manager to communicate your hopes for the new year, and get your employees focused on how they can kick things off with a bang.  Whether it’s taking the time to have meaningful reviews, opening your doors for a chat about ways to improve—both at the employee level and at the organizational level—or taking some time to outline KPIs, don’t mistake the end of the year as a time to go dark.  Instead, make it a chance to spread a message of motivation on top of all that holiday cheer. 

Make The Rest Count

It’s important for us to pause and talk about what a slam dunk pun this one is. Because it’s not just about making the rest of your year count, but making your—and just as importantly your employees’—time off feel like it’s actually time off.  Yes, we’re talking about taking a break from work. Some call it “vacation.” As our friends over at the PayScale blog point out, in addition to seeing increased productivity, “Employees who take time off from work report feeling less stress, less anxiety, and fewer instances of depression. … They’re also less likely to seek another job, and they cost less to employ thanks to higher attendance and fewer health insurance claims.” 

And if all that wasn’t enough, they go on to point out, “when employees take time away, they actually report that difficult tasks seem easier when they return.” The proof is in the pudding: time off is good for your employees. And since it lines up with school holiday vacations, the end of December is often the perfect time to encourage your employees to take a few well-deserved days away from the office to truly reset.  At the end of the day (or year, really), what finishing well and starting strong comes down to is respect: respect for each others’ time, our work, and our goals both in the present and the future. Give yourself and your team the respect we all deserve, and you’ll be amazed at what a productive time December can truly be.   

hooplaprod
hooplaprod
Company Culture

Sales Team Retention: How to Keep Your Top Performers?

ScottLeese
Scott Leese

Every sales organization on the planet has dealt with, and continues to deal with, the issue of rep retention. Nobody wants to lose their top performer, let alone for preventable reasons.

This post could go into how to build and maintain sales teams, and keep great employees from jumping ship. It might also go into factors beyond your control and when it’s best to let someone move on.

But that’s not where it should go. 

I’m going to go right to the heart of the matter, with real feedback from folks on the front lines every day.

I’ve spent nearly two decades trying to tackle this problem. I’ve failed as many times as I’ve been successful, and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. I’ve pushed too hard. I’ve been too unavailable. I’ve made plenty of mistakes. It took me a long time to realize the whole thing stems from asking the wrong question! Instead of asking “how to keep top performers?”, we should be asking “how can I help everybody on my team get what they want and go where they want to go?”

You don’t keep top performers. They choose to stay. And the reasons are so much less complicated than we think they might be. They choose to stay because:

  1. They are paid at or above market, and have achievable goals.
  2. They feel valued, heard and appreciated.
  3. They are treated like adults with outside interests and responsibilities and it’s ok.
  4. They feel like they’re making a difference – in the lives of customers, and at the company.
  5. They are doing fun, challenging and rewarding work; but believe the opportunity for growth and advancement is real.

Sure I could add a bunch of other reasons to this list, but why? It’s pretty simple really.

As a Sales Leader, you must do your part to facilitate the things I just mentioned above. You will need to fight for a solid compensation package on your teams behalf. As a shock to virtually no one, there will be those above you who prefer to pay as little as possible for sales talent. Fight this battle hard. 

You must work hard to create a culture in the sales org where your team members feel valued and your leadership skills can make or break this. Create a regular feedback cadence where you have consistent ample opportunity to praise and give constructive criticism. Share customer wins and company milestones regularly so the sales team understands the impact they’re having. You want to upset your top performers and get them thinking about leaving?

  1. Mess with their money. 
  2. Ignore their ideas and feedback.
  3. Provide limited [if any] flexibility.
  4. Fail to be transparent about the impact of their work.
  5. Dangle the carrot of advancement but never let them take a bite.

Here is the reality of the situation though…and leaders should listen closely to this. If you are coaching your team members properly, and they continue to perform at the highest levels, it’s possible your company might not be able to keep up and provide the next role for them.

AND THAT’S OK. You will have done your job. Like I said before, you don’t retain people. You create an environment where they choose to stay. That’s the best you can do. Trust me, that employee will have nothing but good things to say about you as a boss and a leader; and is likely to have similar positive feelings towards the company in general. 

Remember, your job is to help people get where they want to go.  Sometimes, the right thing to do is to help people move on.

ScottLeese
Scott Leese
Company Culture

4 Reasons You’re Not Hitting Your Goals

hooplaprod
hooplaprod

When was the last time you heard of a championship-winning soccer team that never scored any goals? 

Never. It’s never happened. 

In the world of sports, you don’t need much context to understand that as a straightforward rule: goals equal success. But it’s not as different as you may think in the world of business. 

Wandering aimlessly isn’t going to get you where you need to go. 

That’s why we spend so much time on this blog talk about the importance of the setting the right goals

But for many, the idea of the “right” goals can feel elusive—there isn’t necessarily a master list of goals out there for all of us to check off. But how lovely that would be. 

The good news is that you don’t need a master list to know what the right goals are. The easiest way to start is to identify why the goals you have right now aren’t working. 

And out of the goodness of our hearts, we’ve outlined just why that may be below. So let’s get started:

You Don’t Believe In The Ones You Have

This may seem like a bit of a lofty topic for one blog post, but it’s profoundly important that we believe in the goals that we have for ourselves at work. 

For starters, one reason you may not believe in your goals is that you’re simply disengaged at work, and that’s certainly something that you need to be listening to. But that’s a whole ‘nother conversation for a different time

Whether or not you see yourself as an engaged employee, believing in your goals is about having goals that you think are achievable. 

Let’s try that again: you don’t believe in your goals because you don’t think they’re actually possible. 

Dropbox’s Ben Taylor puts it well: “Can you begin to picture a tangible series of calls, deals, or strategic changes that will help your team hit the new number? Great. Is it more of a general aspiration to “do better” as a team? Consider trying again.”

For goals to be “believable” they have to be grounded in reality, which often means grounding them in concrete numbers. For example, if you’re an inside sales rep, your goal should be oriented around making X number of calls per week versus “getting more prospects to pick up their phone.” 

From there, you can dial it in even more specifically.

They’re Too Big

Once you’ve got your mind wrapped around believing in your goals, you can focus on making sure they’re goals you can actually accomplish. 

Sure believing in yourself is one thing, but all the self confidence in the world isn’t going to mean that you, a human person, are now blessed with the gift of flight. 

We have to make sure that our goals are not only concrete, but attainable. 

That’s why we often emphasize the importance of realistic, actionable, attainable, short-term goals. These are things week in and week out that you can accomplish to help you feel like you’re on a path toward success. 

Taylor also outlines this well in that same post: “When setting a goal, it’s important to look closely at past performance, and to think through what specific adjustments might help you achieve a better result.”

Take some time this week to go back through the last week, month, quarter, or even year. Look at your weekly behaviors and have a really honest conversation with yourself: What worked? What didn’t work? And what were the leading contributing factors to the weeks where you felt most successful? 

Most often, you’ll discover that success was directly tied to specific actions. Map those out on a weekly basis to see how you can repeat that same success. Suddenly, you’ve got goals that are taking you exactly where you want to go. 

They’re Too Small

Now these headings are starting to sound a little contradictory, aren’t they?

Small goals aren’t bad. We just made a pretty outstanding case to back that up. But sometimes when all we focus on are the small goals, that’s when things can start to get a little mucky. 

Let’s put it this way: sometimes work sucks. Sometimes filling out expense reports sounds worse than just about anything you can imagine. That’s okay. We’ve all been there. 

But that’s where big, long-term goals come into play. 

Think about your life outside of work. What kind of lifestyle do you want for yourself? And how can your job—and being successful at it—feed into that lifestyle? Whether it’s working on more philanthropic goals, saving for a big purchase, or just being able to provide for your family—or even moving on up in your current career—long-term goals help us to look beyond the tough days and remember why it is that we work so hard. 

Allow yourself to dream a little bit about those big goals, and they’ll make the small goals all the easier to accomplish. 

They’re Not A Part Of Your Job

Here’s the cold hard truth: sometimes we get a little lost in our own work. 

You may feel like you have a ton of great goals for yourself, but for some reason you’re still not seeing success in your day-to-day—and you know what, neither is your boss. 

That can be deeply frustrating, and totally demoralizing. We’ve seen it time and time again. 

But the good news is there’s an explanation, and a way out: 

For one, you may simply not be orienting your goals to the needs of the job you’ve been assigned. And if you’re not sure what those needs are, set some time this week with your boss to discuss KPIs, and then restructure your goals around those. 

And the other reasons is simply that you may not want to be in the role you’re in, and you’re trying to work towards the goals of a different job altogether—consciously or without even trying to! 

And you know what? All of that is OK. What it means is that you need to listen to that nag—pursue the things you love. And the first step to doing that is realigning your goals to get you where you want to be. It may in fact all be as simple as that.

hooplaprod
hooplaprod
Company Culture

Micromanagement: Why is it so Prevalent? What can be done about it?

ScottLeese
Scott Leese

We all want to help. We all [whether we want to admit it or not] want to be helped. So why do we get it wrong so often in our attempts to help or accept help? Did a bit of research a few weeks ago on sales orgs in different potential verticals; and micromanagement from leadership kept coming up as reasons why people left or were unhappy. 

So why is it so prevalent?

  1. It exists because so few leaders [and execs] have been in leadership roles before and have not been trained to know better.
  2. It exists because managers and leaders feel like they care more than their team members do about hitting goals/targets.
  3. It exists when there is a lack of trust and transparency when it comes to KPIs/pipeline/deals.
  4. Power trips are real. Wish they weren’t but they are.

How can we avoid it?

How can we avoid micromanagement as leaders and avoid driving off great people with micromanagement?

  1. Invest in your leadership. Give your leaders mgmt training.
  2. Work together with your team members and help remove obstacles in front of them and discuss their goals and targets regularly.
  3. Track and communicate regularly when it comes to pipeline growth, deal timelines and KPI activities. Everybody should know where they stand at all times.
  4. Recognize you are in leadership to serve and help others, not to rule them.

It’s pretty easy to point out flaws in leadership that make you cringe. How about we stop and think about what we might be doing that makes a leader feel like they need to micromanage you. Why are we so resistant to somebody reminding us of our duties and goals and expectations on a regular basis? Can it not be re-framed as that tough coach pushing you to swim one more lap, or do one more set on the weight bench?

Perhaps we know we are not giving it our all. Maybe we are scared of giving 100% and failing and so we use this as an “out” to protect our fragile egos. I think many of us are overly defensive and sensitive to management techniques [even those applied wrong but with best intentions] and it makes the problem worse. You recoil from leadership and the leaders don’t get the feedback or response they are looking for and the lack of trust compounds and the problem gets worse.

So let’s try to come together and solve this problem. How can we help and allow ourselves to be helped? Let’s define “help” here first. In this context “help” means finding ways for leaders to avoid micromanagement in its negative connotation and replace it with consistent and welcomed feedback and coaching. It also means bringing down your defensive walls and humbling yourself so that you recognize leaders are trying to help get the most out of you and are not purposely doing things to frustrate or cause your performance to suffer.

Here are a few specific things you can do:

  1. Admit this is a problem. The first step is recognizing that micromanagement is a problem and does in fact drive good people away, so you should make sure your leadership knows the difference between holding people accountable and creating “walking on eggshells” fear-based environment.
  2. Change the narrative. Perhaps those being led can realize that in most cases, their boss is trying to push them to higher and higher levels of success and are not in fact trying to make their lives miserable. There is no world where it truly benefits a leader to upset their team members.
  3. Improve communication. How about everybody communicates and we actually listen to each other and adjust how we give and receive feedback. I think we would all be better for it if we did just that. Tell your leader how you like to get coached and receive feedback. This could be time of day, method of delivery and even tone of messaging.
  4.  Schedule Time for Feedback. Make sure you have scheduled blocks of time to get coaching/give feedback. It’s so easy to skip a session because you have a call/demo or were traveling for work. Takes commitment on your part to make sure you’re getting/giving the right amount of coaching and in a way that works for you/your team members to be most open to receiving it.

Hopefully you can begin the process of addressing micromanagement in your working situation by focusing on the issue and attacking it dead on. This is true for leaders as well as frontline team members. We’re all on the same team here, often with the same goals…so let’s act like it a little more often.

ScottLeese
Scott Leese
Communication Company Culture

Not Talking To Your Salespeople? You Should Be. Here’s How To Fix It.

hooplaprod
hooplaprod

We need to talk. 

Well, we don’t. But you do. 

If you’re a sales manager or VP, and you’re not making an effort to regularly communicate with those folks in the field and on the phones—the engines that are in fact powering your sales force—then you’re making one of the most critical mistakes you can make in your managerial career.

Shawna Suckow, who speaks around the world on marketing and sales ideas, shared a startling revelation in one of her LinkedIn posts: “Almost without fail, when I speak to an audience of salespeople, I get the same feedback: ‘My boss doesn’t get it.’” And you know what? The truth is that you may in, actually, in fact, get it. But if your employees don’t feel like they’re being heard and understood, then your own self-knowledge isn’t going to be enough to keep them engaged and thriving within your organization. 

Why Bad Communication Is Deadly

We don’t always like to boil things down to brass tax. It can seem crude, or harsh—or maybe just an oversimplification. 

But the truth is, bad communication is a surefire way to drive revenue into the ground.  Bad communication leads to disengaged employees. And disengaged employees are at a much higher risk of leaving your organization than engaged ones. 

Sabrina Son, writing for TinyPulse, puts it plainly: “In many instances, even when a member of the sales team jumps ship, you’re still expected to meet your revenue goals and help grow your organization. Unfortunately, your existing team is probably already stretched pretty thin, so you may face some difficulty if you expect them to pinch hit for the departing colleague.”

In other words, by the time an employee has disengaged and left your organization, it’s already too late. You have to nip the problem in the bud before it becomes an issue that affects your entire team’s performance.

Why Good Communication Matters

And that’s why it’s not just about avoiding bad communication, but rather practicing—and even mastering—good communication. James Meincke over at CloserIQ reminds us that a VP’s job isn’t to be omniscient, rather it’s to be an advocate for the salespeople that you oversee: “You may not know everything all the time, but by actively fostering a working relationship based on open communication and trust with your team, you won’t need to.”

Meincke goes on to say the benefit of opening communication and being able to listen to those boots-on-the-ground folks is that you “can learn what problems plague the department and address them so that the team can sell.” In short, good communication between VPs, managers, and their sales staff is crucial because it empowers sales teams to, well, sell. And here’s how you can do that really well. 

Keep An Open Line

A lot of times, we fall into the trap of thinking that good communication starts and stops with setting some meetings at the start of our new tenure—and then running with that information for the next year or so, until review time comes around again.  But that’s exactly the problem. No, we’re not knocking the idea of an annual checking, but rather the idea of just stopping there. 

Having a formal time each year to talk about an employee’s job is in fact a great opportunity to talk about long-term goals, and realigning on various objectives—even simply setting expectations.  But along the way, employees will run into new problems, they’ll encounter new challenges both in and out of the office, and life will find a way of throwing those curveballs that it always seems to throw. 

If you’re not regularly checking in with your employees, you’re going to assume that the goals they laid out in January are the same goals they have in June. But maybe there’s a new home on the market, a new baby on the way, or a new meeting they had that’s caused them to see things with a new vision. 

Keep that line open, and those things all become challenges that you and your employees can work through together

Simplify It

Nobody likes meetings. Okay, there. We said it.  ATD’s Alexa Lemly says it best: “Don’t crowd their day with unnecessary demands such as bureaucratic issues or unnecessary meetings. Make sure your communication with your sales team is timely, simple and streamlined to allow them to focus on what’s most important to sales.

Sometimes when we hear “more communication” it translates to “more stuff that has communication in it.”  That undoubtedly leads to lots of email blasts, the aforementioned unnecessary meetings, and all sorts of other horrifying workday activities that merely “check the box” on communication, rather than provide a proper outlet for it. 

Instead, find ways to streamline your communication with your employees into their day—or in ways that can even improve their day!  One such example might be taking them out for lunch. They have to eat anyway—why not do it on the company dime, and get a chance to sit down one-on-one in a less stiff environment. It really can be that simple! 

When In Doubt, Do

At the end of the day, communication is a dance. We know that in our personal relationships—it takes practice, and work, and a lot of patience. So why would it be any different around the office (although, notedly, we hope that the content of your personal and work-related communication is quite different). 

And so our encouragement is to not be shy about communicating with your employees. Stop by their desk and have a quick check-in chat. If someone on your team is doing a great job—just tell them!  We here at Hoopla are no strangers to some good old fashioned recognition. So whether you’re broadcasting an employee’s big win or simply nodding at some nice work, take a page out of the sunshine band’s playbook: celebrate good times. Come on! 

The point is, give it a go. As we’ve made the case above, the time to start communicating well with your employees is now. So get out there and make it happen!

hooplaprod
hooplaprod