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In this episode of the CPSA Recruitment and Talent podcast we'll discuss the importance of developing leaders and bringing through the next generation of sales talent.
We’ll consider what the initial considerations for HR and sales managers to determine their enterprise bench strength and replacing turnover, and what other factors are critical when it comes to retaining top salespeople and ensuring the right candidates are in place for promotion or important lateral moves.
Our guest is Ashley Kirkland, Strategic Account Sales Manager.
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Read the edited transcription:
Kevin Grossman: Ashley, thank you so much for being on the CPSA Recruitment and Talent Podcast. Before we dive into the rest of the show, why don't you tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do today?
Ashley Kirkland: Awesome. Thanks, Kevin. Ashley Kirkland. I work for an organization called Sage People. We provide a full hire to retire solution built natively on the Salesforce platform to help manage talent for organizations. I've actually been in the HR technology space as a sales individual for the last 10 years, and have another, probably, 10 years prior to that selling other technology and solutions, not specifically to HR, but yes, very passionate about HR and all things that relate to it, and sales, because I'm a salesperson.
Kevin Grossman: Absolutely. No, that's awesome. What we're going to talk about in this brief podcast today is really all about success from planning when it comes to your sales teams. From your perspective, Ashley, and your experience, what are the initial considerations for HR and sales managers in determining their bench strength and replacing that turnover?
Ashley Kirkland: Yeah. I think probably the knee jerk reaction for companies that I've worked for in the past as an employee, and certainly folks that I talk to many times today, is that your top performing rep, by default, should probably take over a sales management role so they can try to replicate their success to other individuals, from both experience, personally, and professionally, working with other clients, that's really not always the case. Really, I found a lot of times, you're leading salespeople don't always make the best sales manager. What I feel like, and what I'd say is trending is you're looking for leadership qualities.
It's not just that an individual can sell the deal, that they can run a sales process. Of course, that's grossly important, but you really need to look for people that are team leaders in the role that they're on now. Are they reaching out to other reps, helping them with issues, helping develop, maybe, their sales development reps that are supporting lead gen? Are they really going above and beyond in trying to create success for the overall sales team and not just themselves?
Oftentimes, your top performers, and we need them, and we need them to be this way, they tend to be pretty singularly focused on their own success, so you need to find somebody that gets it, can really do the sales process thoroughly, build good rapport with customers so that can be developed in new folks, but they also have to be team players and really have a spirit of putting other people before themselves, like their time.
Kevin Grossman: Absolutely. In my experience, I found that usually, and this is not always the case because there's always exceptions to the rule in the world of work, but usually those who are the most top tier stellar salespeople are very much ... They're laser focused on what they do and that's closing deals, right?
Ashley Kirkland: Right … Maybe a hint of impatience, perhaps, sometimes.
Kevin Grossman: Oh, absolutely.
Ashley Kirkland: ... with their sense of urgency. You need that to be high to be an animal and close big deals, but you do need patience to manage people.
Kevin Grossman: You do, and there are those individuals that maybe have middle of the road performance. They can close deals. They make their numbers every quarter, potentially, but as you were pointing out, they do seem to have these inspirational skills of really getting the team pumped up and focused on closing their deals, and maybe it's helping, too. Another part of this equation, though, is that, and you know this because you work in greater teams. When you're focused on mid market and enterprise, not so much on the small business side, which I want to talk a little bit more about, too, that can be done more individually, but when you're focusing on more complex sales, even, even if it's a small organization but a more complex sales, like in the business that you are at Sage now, there are multiple individuals that are involved in that deal, correct?
Ashley Kirkland: Absolutely. Totally a team sport. Totally a team sport.
Kevin Grossman: Yeah.
Ashley Kirkland: So many people ... By the time we cross something at Sage and other companies that I'd worked with that are selling software in the mid market enterprise space, no short of 15, 20 folks that are on the thank you list when you actually get something across the finishing line, and everybody plays a critical role.
Kevin Grossman: It's probably going to vary, the size and the scope of the team, depending on who you're targeting and what industries that you focus on particular. Let's get back to reviewing and taking a look at your current, your individuals that you want to make sure that you have those individuals in place six, nine, 12 months down the road. When it comes to reviewing our folks, especially salespeople in this particular context, how often should these performance reviews be conducted and what should they entail? I'm asking you this because we both know, in this space, there's been a lot of talk for years now about doing away with the annual performance review and having more … process, and I'm on board with that. It sounds like you are too, so tell us what you think.
Ashley Kirkland: Yeah, okay. You hit a sweet evangelical spot in my heart. I could not be a bigger advocate for, whether you're calling it ongoing performance and feedback, or agile is a bit of a buzzword that they borrowed from software development, but, particularly in sales I think it's super relevant. Here's why. Most sales organizations, if they're doing it right, are having weekly one on ones. Your manager's sitting down. You all are going through your pipeline, you're looking at your numbers, seeing how they can help.
I think there's another conversation that could be had that isn't always being had. That's, what does that individual need from the organization? What are their goals? What do they want to do? Future state, and how can we maybe even leverage technology ... for Sage People, but there's tons of solutions out there, but that can really be the centralized spot when we have those one on ones to make sure that we are understanding not only what's important and about, where are we at towards quote for the month or the quarter, but what are we doing to develop this individual into a role that they want to move into?
Understanding what they want and then maybe backing into what the gaps are between what they're trying to achieve and the skills that they have today, and then really starting to let that one on one be an ongoing, agile conversation that includes, how are we going to develop our next leaders, and what are we going to do? Who do we need to get them in contact with to really get them any skills that they don't have today or they need to refine, so when the time comes, they are completely prepared to take over the team.
Kevin Grossman: Do you have an example that you can share, and you don't have to name the customer name, but with the work that you are all doing at Sage, that kind of relates to this theme that you were just outlining, and why the importance of continuous feedback and ongoing improvement? Do you have an example you can share with us?
Ashley Kirkland: I absolutely do. I have tons of examples. They're not all sales, but I'll use ... Everything that I just said, that is not isolated to sales. I just need to say that. That really should be happening across every organization, every department. If they're doing it well, that is what we need for people to stay engaged and retained, period. You have to understand what they want, but a good use case for sales, yes. Several customers. We've got one individual. I don't think I should say their name. I haven't asked permission, but we've got one individual customer that they basically were doing the regular run of the mill weekly one on ones. We use Salesforce, so many organizations do, but whatever your CRM is, let's go in, let's look at your pipeline, let's try to figure out where you're at, are your close dates accurate? Clean it up. How's the ACBL of those things?
They started taking that data and migrating that directly into the performance management module of our solution and had that feed KPIs that are important, so you could be tracking against that, but then there's additional layers that they've added on for the individual person's goals, and then when it gets really sophisticated, this one particular client, then starts to tie things like learning management. If you see gaps, maybe there's a course that we can put them in.
Maybe there's a course we can assign them to and maybe the next time we check in, not on our one on one, but do a deeper dive into performance management next quarter. You gave the employee some takeaways that they could go do, maybe self service, maybe not. Maybe you assigned them action items like going and meeting with other individual sales leaders that you've identified, not only through sales but through performance management, that are doing a really good job, and how could that individual mentor the person that you have identified as a potential successor to move into leadership?
You can really house all of that data in a singular place, in a singular view, and understand how an individual is not only tacking from a sales basis, but their own development, and continue to foster and keep them engaged and keep them getting the things that they need so when it's time to turn the key, they can turn the key. This one organization, it took them several months, it was kind of a crawl, walk, run approach.
They didn't go full bore with everything, but they were kind of shocked. Everybody, I think, knows about the nine box. We kind of developed the nine box around, specifically for sales and doing a hybrid of not just performance and sales, but some of these leadership qualities and coaching abilities, and some other things that are important, like they do what they say they're going to do when they say they're going to do it. The people that started surfacing in the upper right hand corner weren't necessarily the people that HR or the leaders in sales thought they would be, and it was a really exciting thing to be a part of, and really helped them open their eyes about, "Oh, my gosh. I never thought that Bob was really, A, interested in even leading a sales team, or B, that he was doing all of these great things."
They were collecting feedback from other individuals and kind of funneling that into the assessment as well, so they were surveying his peers, colleagues on the sales team, but also outside. People with marketing, how well is he working with marketing? How well is he working with his sales development rep? Is he helping his sales development rep do things to develop into a sales role, because that's typically the path that those individuals want to go into. Once they started kind of combining all of this data, they were getting visibility that they didn't have before, and it's completely changed the game for them, completely.
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