The Sales Hacker Podcast
The Sales Hacker Podcast

Episode 216 · 3 months ago

Finding the Perfect Fit - Managing and Hiring in the New Sales World


In this episode of the Sales Hacker Podcast, we have Mike Sadler, SVP Americas at Similarweb, the must-have platform for effective online marketing. Join us for a livelyconversation about managing, hiring, and beating the recession.

What You’ll Learn

  1. The biggest job in any sales organization is the frontline managers who do the training
  2. How you become a manager of managers
  3. Overcoming hiring challenges and doing great discovery
  4. Recession-proofing your reps

One, two, one, hey everybody. Sam Jacobs, welcome to the sales hacker podcast. Today on the show we've got Mike Web he's the S V P and GM of the Americas for a great company called similar web. They do a bunch of cool stuff just around helping you understand how your company or website is performing relative to the market, relative to competitors. Really important, critical information that you probably need, particularly in an economic environment such as the one that we're in. So it's a great conversation. Before we get there, we're gonna listen to a word from our sponsors and then we're gonna hear my interview with Mike Sadler. I hope you enjoy it. This episode of the Sales Hacker podcast is brought to you by outreach. outreaches the first and only engagement and intelligence platform built by revenue innovators for revenue innovators. Outreach allows you to commit to accurate sales forecasting, replace manual process with real time guidance and unlock actionable customer intelligence that guides you and your team to win more often, traditional tools don't work in a hybrid sales world. Find out why outreaches the right solution at Click Dott reach, dot io forward slash thirty MPC. That is click, dot outreach, dot io forward slash thirty MPC. This episode of the Sales Hacker podcast is sponsored by pavilion. Pavilion is the key to getting more out of your career. Our private membership connects you with a network of thousands of like minded peers and resources where you can tap into dozens of classes and training through Pavilion University. Make sure you take advantage of the pavilion for teams corporate membership and enroll your entire go to market team in one of our industry leading schools and courses, including marketing school, Sales School, Sales Development School and Revenue Operations School. Unlock your professional potential and your team's professional potential with a pavilion membership. GETS STARTED TODAY AT JOIN PAVILION DOT Com. Once again, that's joined PAVILION DOT COM. This episode of the sales soccer podcast is brought to you by verisnt. High Performing Revenue Organizations have a plan for growth. Get Yours with arrison. SET SMARTER goals and design territories to maximize your revenue potential. Create incentives that motivate the behave of years needed to achieve your goals. Use Ai driven insights to make better decisions and outdo previous performance. Learn how verisent can help you create a predictable growth engine at variant dot com forward slash sales hacker. Again, that is Veri Sin Dot com, forward slash sales hacker. Everybody, it's Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the sales hacker podcast. Today in the show we've got Mike Sadler. Mike's the s VP and GM America's at similar web and is responsible for leading and growing the Revenue Organization from North America and Latin America. Prior to a similar web, Mike held multiple go to market leadership positions at Everbridge and Gomez Inc, now doing businesses Dina Trace, during their growth phases from ten million and a R R startups to an IPO and successful acquisition respectively. Mike attended Colgate University of New York, where he graduated Kumlada with a bachelor's degree in sociology. He's been a pavilion members since it was still called revenue collective back in Mike, Welcome to the show. Thanks, I much appreciated it. Probably should be here we're excited to have you. So I gave an overview your responsibilities, but we do like to give you an opper tennery to picture business. So what is similar web? Tell us about the company. What do you all do? Sure the vision of similar is to be the digital measure of the Internet, which can mean a lot of different things, but if we break it down into what it means for our customers, our primary business, or our historical business, has really been focused on helping digital marketers and consumer insights teams to really understand what's happening outside of the black box they can see. So if you think about most companies these days use a google analytics or Adobie analytics to understand where their traffics coming from, how long people are sending on the site, what their bounce rates are. But looking at that in a competitive lens is very difficult right understanding how that compares relative to competitors or what best practices they're using. We really help shine a light on that, right. So, if you're give a quick example, think about during the pandemic of video conferencing service. They may look at their statistics see their traffics growing thirty percent year over year. and think they're doing great, but if they looked at their competitive set and saw that all their competitors are growing at two hundred or three percent year, they're actually losing market share and...

...we help them start to see that benchmark, that and then effectively understand the best practices that could help them win an unfair share of their market. That sounds incredibly valuable. How how big is the company? Is it the public company? Tell me more about your I P O and how large the organization is, and then where you are your revenue range? You don't have to give anything confidential, but it's probably also publicly available. So it is publicly available. In reveny ranges about a hundred and fifty, two hundred million, closing on two million. I've actually been at the company for four months, the I P O last year. It's about employees and growing strong, growing about fifty year over year. Wow, that's amazing. Let's dive into your background a little bit. How did you get to this point? What? How did you originally get into sales? What was your you know, I mentioned that in the Bio, that you went to Colgate and you've worked at a bunch of great companies, but walk us through your career journey over the last couple of decades. Yeah, it was a little bit by accident getting into sales, to be to be honest, it's a bit of a funny story. So I was always interested in human behavior or in psychology. I ended up taking a marketing role coming out of school and really enjoyed it for the first one of two and a half years. I think I got a thirty five percent raise my first year and a ten percent raise the second year and and just sort of started doing the math and figured hey, you know what, pretty pretty soon I'll being in good shape. And then my third year I was a little bit of an eye opening experience when I got a four percent raise. Went in to talk to my my VP, who just given me a great report, and and said Hey, I don't understand what I did wrong, and he said I don't know what you mean, that's the biggest raise in the group. And then I sort of quickly realized that those first couple of years was market catchups, market adjustments, because they'd underpaid me and we're really trying to avoid me just jumping ship. So at that point in my career I was running a lot of the trade shows is going a lot of sales calls and and had some experience and there was a couple of sales leaders that have been trying to convince me to go to the dark side, as they called it, for a couple of years and figured, you know what, if I'm gonna find out, I can't set the time to do it is when I don't have kids and don't have mortgages. So jump ship and I think I made two and a half times the amount of money made that that year. Was the rookie of the year. The next year was it inside sales, but it was the top performing percent of quota, so got the Rep of the year award. Um quickly moved into a team lead role. My my manager quit and then before I knew it, sort of two and a half years in, I was I was leading a sales team. So it's sort of same situation there. Right I figured if I wanted to learn that I was terrible at managing people, that I didn't want to do that when I had a bunch of mortgages and and kids running around either. So to some degree by accident, but was very fortunate to work for some good companies and some good leaders. What do you think the biggest mistake people make when they moved to from an individual contributor account executive role into sales leadership? What do you think made you successful, and what do you see other people do when they when they jam themselves up that makes them unsuccessful? What made me successful being having having some really good mentors and leaders to to go to and being sort of maniacal about learning from my mistakes and not repeating I'm I'm a big fan of that Albert Einstein quote around doing the same thing multiple times expecting different results is the definition of insanity. So I really tried to learn from that. I think the biggest mistake I've seen people make, and I'm definitely guilty of doing this when I first moved into the team lead role, was just trying to be a super rep right, basically just trying to do everything for your your team, instead of helping them and enabling them, which which works okay if you've got a small team. Right, you effectively, as a leader, turn your team into a bunch of bdrs and you do all the all the actual work, but that very quickly doesn't scale and it doesn't help your people progress so that's probably the biggest thing that I see people do is trying to take on too much and not allow their team to grow under them. You're running a group of dred and ten people. How does the role change at scale? You're helping your similar web get past two hundred million. You're on the approach to one trevillion. How... that different from some of the earlier stage experiences you might have had where you were working at companies that were doing maybe ten million like? What changes as it gets big? I think you have to find ways to scale your coaching right. To me, the first line manager role, where the people that are actually working with the team, is one of the hardest but also, I think, the most the most important. It can be the most rewarding. One of the things that I try to do is still stay as involved as I can and that make sure I'm still getting on customer calls. But it is it is a little bit different. Right. You have you have to almost take the train, the trainer approach and make sure you've got really good first line leaders that are capable of taking those those principles, those concepts, those processes you have and coaching and training those teams so oftentimes, if you're in a smaller company, right you've got seven, eight, ten, twelve direct reports, you can spend a lot of time with them individually coaching. As you get a second or third level of leadership in there, you just get further and further removed. So you have to find ways to continue to effectively get that message down and work on that and it can be it can be tricky, for sure. How do you do it? What are your strategies? What are your tactics? Is it hiring? Is it like a training methodology? How do you think about setting up your your framework so that you're able to do that? I look for leaders that really like to roll up their sleeves and and get involved. Generally. I'm a big believer that all sales comes back to early in the process, discovery and qualification. So I look for people that are really strong there, because that's where I find sales teams need the most help in coaching. So I do look at it from a people in hiring perspective, trying to make sure we have the right the right people on the ship Um. But then I also like to do a lot of trainings right. So one of the first things I've done in my couple of months here is has gone around to the different teams and we've done some some training on discovery and qualification and setting up meetings to make sure that a meeting is not a meeting for meeting sake right and you actually are progressing something either in or out of the funnel when you do those meetings. So I still like to get down and meet with the team and are some of my experiences, some of the things I've done well, the things I've not done so well, to try to help them and I find I find that helps right. If you if you can set an example there, then I think that that gets picked up by your your leaders to right they start to continue that trend. Do you have a hiring profile that that you look for? You know, is it pretty standard in terms of like the types of people that you think will make great reps, are great managers? Any great interview questions? I ask because I just think hiring, particularly in sales, is probabilistic and sometimes people interview really well, but I almost feel like sometimes interviewing really well isn't quite the same thing as being great at discovery or great at closing. So I just wondering how you think about the hiring profile and the hiring process and building the team. Yeah, I think that's fairly insightful and I've definitely I've hired some great people and I've hired some some people that probably weren't the right fit. It seems like the one thing every salesperson can sell is them is themselves right, even if they can't sell sell your products. So I think you have to be really clever. I wish I had a better substitute for sort of teaching than than just time on on my side, but what I've really tried to do is come up with a set of questions I use consistently. That there may be a little bit tricky right now. I hesitate a little bit to share some of those questions, but to be honest, if people are listening to this, then they're probably doing the right level of preparations define hiring. There's a couple that I can I can share and then I'll give a shout out to I think a really strong sales leader us in the Boston area, Josh Allen, who I think you know, who shared with me a framework a couple of years ago that I plagiarized and used today, which is is really breaking down a set of hiring criterion in four into four areas your knowledge, your skills, your characteristics and your experience. So knowledge being things like industry knowledge or awareness at the market, skills being that, the skills that are specific to the role, experience being sort of track record of success, the things similar sized company, similar sized deal size, and then characteristics being those more intangibles, the great the curiosity, the intelligence that people look for. So really try to work with my leaders to map out what what works along those four quadrants and...

...and find the ones that are nice to have and non negotiables. And then we tried to design the interview questions based off of that. If I were to look at some of my favorite interview questions, sort of very tactically, one of the first things I like to do in an interview is asked a compound question right off the bat. So I'll actually ask something that is three questions all in one right or I'll set set an agenda for the interview where I tell them three things I'd like them to go through and I'll just look to see whether they take notes, whether they paraphrase it and repeat back and then whether they can actually effectively take that that question, break it into the component parts and answer them succinctly and effectively, or whether they sort of just ramble on through the first question, forget the next two and then either asked me to repeat the question or just don't remember it at all. So that's usually good. What's what's the question? Give us an example. So so I might just say something and say hey, Sam, we've got we've got forty five minutes today. Certainly I want to make a leave in time to ask you questions, but would love to hear a little bit about your background, right, how you got to where you are today. Um, would love to hear a little bit about your approach to selling right, what you consider the key pillars of what's made you successful, and a bit about what you're looking for right. What are the key things that you want to make sure exist in a company so that you know you can really excel and and invest time here? And so it's sort of three questions rolled into one and I like to see whether the person can actually parse that into those sections and answer them. I love that because your point, somebody, I bet a bunch of people just start talking and maybe they never stop and that the good people are like, all right, let me repeat this back to you, let me take some notes and then I'll tackle each to them in turn exactly. So the direct thing I get out of that is the actual answer to the questions, which I do care a lot about, but the indirect thing is whether they can actively listen and sort of break down a bigger problem into smaller parts and and solve it. It's sort of one of those things people know right. There's infinite Google Resources on what the interview questions who are likely to have come up or have so they're prepared for those. So you have to try to find some of the tricky ways to get to what you really are looking for. Another one I asked this is this is one of my favorites. I do sort of quick fire at the end where I'll ask people, on a scale one to tend, where would you rate your sales skill? And really what I'm looking for there is two things. One, the person not to answer ten right, because if they think they're a ten already, how much help am I going to be to them? and to write, nobody's ever a perfect salesperson. There's always things we can improve on. So I like to understand where they rate themselves. But then the second part of that question is okay, Great. If you said you're a seven, what are the top two or three things you need to work on to get to an eight or a nine, because it gives me a good indication of how self aware they are and how much they're looking for coaching or sort of an understanding of where they need coaching to be successful, because to me coach abilities are really important component of the types of people I like to have on teams. Yeah, absolutely. Let me ask you change the subject slightly. Maybe we're in a and maybe we're not, certainly indicators or that we're going to be. We are in a very, very different economic environment than we were six months ago or twelve months ago. How are you thinking about working with your teams to respond to this environment? What's your perspective on it? Yeah, it's it's interesting. We actually did a training a few weeks ago on selling in a bit of a tightener down economy with the group I generally Um, I remember reading an article a while back that's sort of the best sales people are recession proof, and I think I believe that generally, if you think about companies and companies that have good product market and go to market, fit they're offering is going to be aligned to one of the three things you can sell to right, improving revenue, reducing costs, reducing risk, and where I think that the people that can succeed in tough economic times. I think what they're they tend to be good at, is pivoting a message to really align well to one of those components. Right, people are still trying to improve revenue, still, people are still trying to reduce costs. And when everything's go and everything's green, the stock markets crazy, I think...

...spaghetti selling can actually work right and unfortunately you get into situations where bad behavior is rewarded. If someone's doing proper discovery and really trying to understand how can I help my customer achieve a better business outcome, to reduce costs, to drive revenue, they're still gonna want to do that in a recession. So a lot of the focus becomes, I guess laser focus becomes around making sure that we understand why now, what's the impact of doing nothing? All that stuff that is truly sales one on one, but so few sales reps actually get to right, actually have the discipline to drill down to and be able to have the response when a when a customer comes back and says we've decided to hold off for six months. They can come back and say, Sam, I appreciate the response, just help me understand. Right, we had had this conversation around this cost and this cost. How are you going to live with that for another six months? And may seem oversimplified, but I really believe that if you, if you can get to that point of understanding truly what the cost of the problem is for a customer, or the recession or no recession, you still got a fighting chance of winning business. Yeah, you're right, and I think so many reps here, Hey, we've decided to hold off for a few months, and they read the newspapers too and they say okay, and then they non conducive bicycle. Right, I think is the psychological term. If it's what you would do with your own money, then it's acceptable for prospects to do and it's a hard thing to overcome. Do you think selling has changed over the last twenty years? We've got so many new tools, we've got so many new platforms. It feels like getting people's attention as hard. Do you feel like selling as a skill, as a craft, is different or still the same stuff that you need to do? Is still need to do proper discovery? I think certainly tactics. Tactics change. I don't think there's ever going to be a point where good selling gets away from discovery. The bigger fundamental shift was probably a little a little bit longer ago, right with with the advent of the Internet and B Two B websites where people there. There was a point in time. was having a station with an str the other day about this. I realized there was a point in time where you couldn't just go on the Internet and find out of everything you need to know. You had to call a salesperson to to find out information about a product. I think that obviously was a titanic shift in in selling. But my entire selling career B two B websites, I've always been in B two B says. They've they've existed, there's been product information there Um. So I definitely think there's productivity tools, there's technologies out there that have made things um or provided the possibility to make it more efficient. But to me the core fundamentals are still around discovery and qualification and I haven't found a software that replaces good discovery and good qualification at this point. That makes sense. You've mentioned before that you think product models, product knowledge is chronically misused by sales people to their detriment. Tell us what you mean by that. What I mean by that is I think product knowledge is absolutely critical, but I think it's critical for people to be able to identify opportunities for where their products and so this is can have value for customers. where I think it's misused by sales reps is that they very quickly try to get to product and show product and hope that there's some magic bullet that the customer is gonna see, that's gonna it's gonna flip them over, and I think honestly, some of it comes out of that. When you ask most reps in an interview what's their Thirtlan, almost all of them have some form of I'm gonna find the best rep in the company and I'm going to shadow what they do, and inevitably that rep has been there for like five or six years. Those the product inside now and they use that product knowledge effectively. Right. They use it to drive good discovery because they know the capabilities, the pain points. That solves and they're actually having a conversation around pain and business challenges. The new rep that's coming on board doesn't see that, doesn't get that nuance, sees the product, tries to learn the product and then tries to replicate the thing they're doing by showing product and it ends up being more of a product training right. Or they'll do some cursory discovery...

...around technical challenges. They'll skip over the business challenges and they'll just show the product, hope that something clicks and send a quote and then it's into witness protection. Right for the for the prospect. Most of the time, I think where it becomes really, really powerful is if you can take the product knowledge and extract that back to how that product feature and capability Um what what that means in terms of value to the business. That makes a lot of sense. Do you see things changing over the course of, you know, the next couple of years product led growth? Do you see that changing the role of sales people, or does it just make it even more important? Like how do you think about low cost acquisition models as it relates to building out a large B two B sales team. Yeah, it's it's interesting right, product like growth is. Obviously it's been around for a while, but it's really gotten a lot more at tension, I would say, in the last couple of years. If you can do it, I think it's it's a great source of of leads. I do think it's really important to have the discipline within those sales teams that try to convert those maybe inbound leads or sort of self sign ups into larger customers, that they are discovery focused and I think that gets missed a lot of times. People assume an SMB sale is a transactional sale and not a complex sale and having led both inside and enterprise teams right I can tell you that for for some products that SMB sale is is just as complex as as it is at the at the enterprise level. So I think it's a good strategy, if you've got a strong enough product to do it, to build top of the funnel. I don't think it's a fit for every company and I think it's important that especially the startup founders really have a hard look at that and say, do we really have a model is supported by product led growth or read more of a traditional enterprise cell, because if you make that decision wrong, I think it could be disastrous. I think you're right, Mike. WELLMOS, at the end of our time together, what we like to do towards the end to sort of pay it forward a little bit and talk about some of the people, books, content, trainers, founders, investors that have had a big impact on you that you think we should know about. You already mentioned our mutual friend Josh Allen, but who else comes to mind when you think about people that we should know about? Maybe people that we should have his guests on the sales sycer podcast. Yeah, so I think a good guest would be a guy by the name of Mike Myers from Saindlery Institute. He he had a franchise focuses almost exclusively on SAS companies right and did really well. It was actually interesting his his original partner was Mike Myers and Bill Murray, neither of them the actor, but I was really, really fortunate early in my career to have him come in and do some training for us of using a bunch of times. He actually his franchise got ended up getting acquired by sailor because they were doing such a good job winning all the SAS business. But he's a he's awesome, so I definitely recommend him. If you haven't, if you haven't already spoken to him, that sounds awesome. Last fresh and after thanks, Mike. If folks are interested in getting in touch with you, what's what's the best way? Mike, Dan M'm I'm like to see only social media tool I use, embarrassingly enough, but that's probably the best, the best way. I feel you in the same way. Mike. Thanks so much for being our guest on the show this week. We're going to talk to you on Friday for Friday fundamentals. Appreciate thing. Thanks so much. Hey, everybody. Sam Jacob Sam's corner. Really like that conversation with Mike Sadler, classic northeastern Boston sales leader in the vein of exactly the guy that he mentioned, Josh Allen, which is, don't be fooled, not that you would be fooled, but clearly just a ton of intelligence, a ton of insight around how to build an effective team. He wouldn't have had the outcomes that he's had if he wasn't great at his job but still sort of approachable and not somebody that's sort of pie in this guy sitting in an ivory tower, but somebody that's really capable of both leading from the front and, you know, closing big deals, but also empowering and training the trainer, so to speak. You know, when he mentioned that the single biggest job in any large sales organization is the frontline sales manager, is the person that is training the actual raps on a daily basis. And so the trick is and the challenge as you grow and as you become a larger organization and..., how do you influence the trainers? How do you influence the managers to become a great manager of managers? And some part of it is process and some part of it is inspiration and vision and some part of it is making sure you've got, you know, the right people on the bus, that you've hired the right people. And I love the insights that he had around interviewing where he mentioned that he asks a three part compound question and he's evaluating not just the answers to the question, but he's evaluating the process by which a seller is listening, active listening, breaking down the question, taking some notes and then tackling it one by one. Right. And the thing that you don't want to do, if you're ever interviewing with Mike, you don't want to just start talking and rambling. That's not what we're looking for. As Mike mentioned, all of this is really effectively around this concept of great discovery. Right. How do you ask great questions? How do you listen intently? How do you develop and demonstrate empathy, and how do you really put yourself in the shoes of the seller, particularly in a recession, particularly when every else is on their back heels? How do you lean forward, be on your front heels? How do you say? What's your response when they say, Hey, now is not the right time, call me in six months? How do you have the information to to rebut that the way that you have the information to rebut that is by quantifying the problem they have in their current state and then articulate, hey, why is this okay now? What's going to change? Are you comfortable with living with sales reps aren't being trained properly for the next six months because you said that that was costing you your ability to ramp them, your ability to hit quota and target your ability to develop them professionally so that you don't have lower attrition. So if you're don't want to buy pavilion for teams now, what are you waiting for? Obviously I'm talking my own book, as I usually do. I usually do that I am the host of the sales axor podcast, but I'm also the CEO of a wonderful company called Pavilion. But you can apply the idea that I just gave you to your company too. It doesn't really it's not specific to our corporate membership pavilion for teams, which trains entire go to market teams. So anyway, Mike, have it did a great job. You're listening to this in August. I hope you're enjoying yourself. I hope you're listening to this on a little bit of vacation because the fall is going to be intense. So thanks for listening. We'll talk to you next time. There's a parting word from our sponsors and then you'll hear from us on Friday for Friday fundamentals. This episode of the Sales Hacker podcast had three amazing sponsors. The first is outreach. Outreach, the first and only engagement and intelligence platform built by revenue innovators for revenue innovators. Go to click, dot outreach, dot Io, forward slash thirty MPC. We're also brought to you by pavilion, the key to getting more out of your career in role in sales school, Sales Development School, marketing school and our upcoming recession education pack including selling through an economic downturn, marketing through an economic downturn and leadership through an economic downturn. LEARN MORE AT JOINT PAVILION DOT COM and, of course, veriscent. High Performing Revenue Organizations have a game plan for growth. Learn how varrissent can help you create a predictable growth engine at varison dot com, forward slash sales hacker.

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