The Sales Hacker Podcast
The Sales Hacker Podcast

Episode · 2 months ago

168. How to Take Risks and Fail Fast w/ George Donovan

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode, Sam talks with George Donovan, CRO at Allego.

One two one: three: three: everybody:it's sam jacobs, welcome to the sales hacker podcast today on the show wereexcited to bring you george donovan george is the chief revenue officer ofa lego, a really cool company coming out of massachusetts. That's buildingsales, engagement, technology and sales, enablement and learning technology forsales. People and george himself is a career sales person. He started offselling fax machines on the streets of boston and has since done a number ofreally interesting things. So it's a great conversation now before we getinto the conversation we want to. Thank our sponsors. We've got three sponsorsfor the show today and this week the first des out reach out. Creach hasbeen a long time sponsor. In fact, they've always been a sponsor of thispodcast and they just launched a new way to learn out reach on out reach isthe place to learn how outrage does outreach learn how the team follows upwith every lead and record time after virtual events and turns them intorevenue. You can see how out we run a count, as plays manages rubs in so muchmore, using their very own sales engagement platform head on over to outreach adao forward, slash on outreach to see what they've got going on.Podcast is also sponsored by pavilion. The community formerly known as revenuecollective pavilion is the key to getting more out of your career. Ourprivate membership connects you with the network of thousands of like mindedpeers and resources where you can tap into leadership, opportunities,training, mentorship and other services made for high growth leaders like youwith a pavilion membership, you'll build deep connections with peers toexpand your expertise and unlock growth access, a full suite of training andcertification programs like front mine manager, school for sales, marketing,customer success and unlock over one hundred different job opportunities.Every week shared between members in a trusted and private setting unlock yourprofessional potential with a pavilion membership now joined to day at joinpavilion com and finally linked in to day's virtual selling environmentdemands a new kind of approach, one that prioritizes the buyer above all,as as the world's largest professional network, with seven hundred twenty twomillion members, linkedin is the only place where buyers and sellers connectshare and drive success for each other...

...every single day find new ways toconnect with your buyers virtually with linked in sales navigator. You canlearn more or request a free demo at business at lindon com for sails, dashsolutions and without further duke less us. In my conversation with georgejonathan everybody at sam jacobs, welcome to the salestalk podcast day onthe show were excited to have george donovan george is the chief revenueofficer to lego responsible for achieving the company's customeracquisition and sales goals, he's a proven sales leader with over twentyyears of sales, marketing operations and management. Experience. George is asales enablement enthusiast who loves tools and systems that empower peopleover the past decade. He's worked with many of the world's top brands to helpthem achieve their selves and prophet goals. Prior to a lego, george servedas the chief sales officer of compete, the world's leading expert and helpingclients grow great brands. In this rule, george aided the exponential growth ofthe company from thirty million to a hundred and ten million. Previously hewas the principal owner of a sandler training, franchise and marble mass fornine years. He holds a b a in psychology from saint anselm college.He was also voted father of the year twenty times by his family in acontested election that many say was rigged with fraud. George welcome to the show thanks sami'm ontire, we're excited to have y, so we start with your baseball card, whichis really a way of giving you the opportunity to, in your word, to tellus a little bit about what a lego does. So i read a little bit about what theydo, but in your words, what does a lego? Do the company for which your cro, theformal definition, were sales learning an enablement platform so or a softwarecompany, but to simplify and put in layman's terms? What does that meanwe're a platform for sales people to go to to help them do their jobs so togain knowledge to collaborate to seek coaching anything, that's going toempower them to be more confident and more successful. That's a lego! That'sthe go to place wow. How long have you been at the company six years? Yeah, ohwow, awesome and then roughly i mean...

...again. Obviously, there's numbers thatare confidential never reveal anything, that's private, but how big is thecompany either from an employee perspective or a rough revenue range?You know where are you on your journey, we're about almost eight years old andwe're coming up on two hundred employees and as far as revenues, youknow just sub fifty awesome cool? Well, that's really interesting. I guess youknow to start off the place that i like to start personally is justunderstanding a little bit about your background and how you came to be a cro.Many of our listeners are earlier in their career and they're, alwaysthinking about career paths and what are the ways that they can navigatetheir career and make the right decisions about which job to take inorder to make it to the siro position. So what's your background? How did youget into sales? I mentioned that you graduated from saint anselm. Imentioned that you were a trainer at sandler, ran running your en franchise,but tell us in your words how you came to be the cro of a lego yeah, it'sprobably an interesting story, because it wasn't my path from a young age. Sampeople always told me the same thing was you have the ability to get peopleto open up and talk and say things that they don't necessarily say at otherpeople, and i had so many people tell me that throughout my youth, that in myhead, i thought i need to get into some sort of a career where i'm going totalk to people, so it was either maybe a bar tender or a psycologie right, andso i went down the psychologist path and i was an undergraduate inpsychology. I was going to get my ph d in psychology and at the last minute igot cold feet. I didn't want to keep going to school, so i decided i'm goingto go to work for a year and then see if the. If the psychology calling isstill there and i went into sales and un enounced to me- was just like okay,what am i going to do for a year? I could get a sales job, so i was selling facts machines and this was the earlydays of fax machines in downtown boston,...

...knocking on doors trying to convincepeople to buy this magic box that, by the way, i was enormous back when faxmachines first came out and they were two thousand dollars a piece and youput this magic piece of paper into one end. You know, let's say in boston,into this machine in boston and new york. The paper would come out on theother end, so it was like something black magic, a little bit to people,and it was tough, a lot of lessons learned there in rejection andendurance and just waking up in the morning with the right attitude so thatthat actually hoped me on sales. I fell in love with the game and never lookback at going into the psychology field from there went on to sell softwarehardware and software and had a great career as a sales person and then arelatively young age. I think i was twenty nine or thirty. I've got myfirst opportunity at management. It was during the com bubble and the company i was withraised a hundred million dollars from soft bang and we were doing all sortsof cut and back then that was there there's that name again, soft bankthey've been there throughout. I guess they have been yeah and a hundredmillion back then right late s was probably like a half a billion today.So that was a lot of money and as a first time manager, i was given fortyor forty five head count and empowered to go start a new division within ourexisting company and that's how i get into management leadership. Coachingand my first endeavors. There made a ton of mistakes, and then we had anexit which afforded me the ability to start my own business, which was thesailor franchise that you mentioned, and i had three young children at thetime and was on a lot of planes, trains and automobiles. So i had a nice lifestyle business with owning my own business, for, like you, said justunder a decade, wow. Let's pick through that, a little bit you mentionedbecause it's it does. It is an...

...interesting story when you were sellingfax machines door to door just having decided to get into this. After youknow abandoning your psychology degree, it must have been a shock to hear somuch rejection, or maybe it wasn't a shock. Maybe it was to be expected, butwhat were the key lessons and principles that you taught yourself andtold yourself in order to kind of move from a probably like a loss of version,s negative mindset to a more gain seeking growth mindset where you'relooking forward to the day, because you mentioned that you loved it. So whatwas it about it that you love so much yeah? It was bothered me out fast. Itwas the first time i learned the lesson of fail fast today. That is one of ouroperating principles at a lego that we teach every employee who joins thecompany to fail fast and make a lot of mistakes and take rests because, assooner you do that you gain more confidence, because you bought tom outyou've experienced so many things early that then you feel like you can't goany lower. It sounds funny right, but i remember the day vividly i got hit overthe head with a booklet in a law firm by a office manager through it threw meout of the office hit me with a head with a stack of books and i get on thesubway home and started to cry. I had hit rock bottom in my sales career. Iwasn't doing well at the time and now i've been assaulted. How could it getany worse, but that was the day i decided. Okay, this is the bottom ihave nowhere to go but up and that empowered me and gave me some strangesense of confidence, which i think was the most valuable lesson i ever learnedas a young seller, that's amazing, and how about this, because you droppedsome some really interesting nuggets. You mentioned that you were at the youknow the start up in the in late may, a ninety eight and ninety nine and l.They gave you forty five people to manage the first time you re managertell us about that journey. That sounds really interesting, and what did youlearn and what were some of the ke mistakes that you made that you thatyou're teaching people not to make now that you've got some experience? Yeah e first one was so obvious, but ihad two goals. One was make a number...

...okay. The second goal was build thisteam as fast as you can, so your audience is probably laughingbecause they're they're competing goals. If you're going to try to build a teamtoo fast you're going to make mistakes you're going to hire the wrong peopleyou're going to put the wrong people in the wrong roles, so i was actually paidto build the team quickly because we wanted to get a fast start, but thatreally incenter me to make a whole lot of mistakes which conflicted with theother goal of making a number, so that looking back was a huge mistake fromday one. The other was just not really paying attention to. We were selling inpods back then, okay, putting three people in a unit in a sales pod and notpaying attention to people's individual strengths and weaknesses and styles andtrying to you know, complement one another in these pods. Instead, justhaphazardly throwing three people into a group which is not the right way toapproach it right, you really need to have some consideration for the varyingdegrees and styles and personalities of the people in a war group. So that wasanother mistake and then, of course, there was all sorts of mistakes aroundhiring the wrong people, bad incentive plans. In the beginning, you name it. Ithink i made it. What do you think the keys to great leadership and managementare but let's put leadership beside when you're coaching first time,managers? What are you specifically focused on teaching them in order toenable their success? The first thing you teach them is to be selfless andthat's hard because a lot of first time managers are coming from individualcontributor and as an individual contributor. It's often about yourselfand your goal. Yeah. Of course you care about your teammates, but now, as youstep in the leadership you are. Second, your team is first, your team takespriority, your needs go to the back...

...seat and that's a hard transition tomake for a lot of people and not put themselves first and to check the egoat the door. The other is take off the superhero cape you've probably heardthis or seeing this before, but you've got great sellers who then becomemanagers, and they continue to want to be greatsellers and they want to swoop in with their cape on and better their salespeople and sell for their sales people so they're, not teaching the salespeople and coaching the sales people how to sell better they're, actuallydoing it for them. You have to do the little bit of that, but i see that as ahuge mistake for first first time, leaders first time, managers is thatyou know selling for people instead of empowering them to sell if you're, in aone on one or talking to somebody- and they say george i'd love to be able todo that, but exactly to the conflict that you just articulated as a firsttime manager. I'm being asked to hit a number- and you know, i'm scared. If idon't hit the number i'm more, i i'll get fired or that i'll be seen as afailure as a manager, and so i just feel compelled to come in and help myrap close the deal, even though in my heart i know i want to let them fail. Ijust can't let that money go when i see that it's possible, we might get it ifi help and and and likely to lose it. If i don't yeah good, it's a good one.I think there are point in times where we all have to jump in and bail out acellar right as managers as leaders, but it happens way too often, so it allcomes back sam to company culture and the type of organization you want torun and teaching people to play the long game and not being looking forthat. Quick sugar high, not thinking myopically, about making each month'snumber but really building a team for the long run and ingraining that intopeople from day one so that they understand that it's okay to fail, it'sokay, to make mistakes! You are playing...

...the long game if you miss a month aquarter or two, it's okay, so long as we're building for the long term.That's a big part of our culture in a lego, and i think that helps alleviatethat problem that you were talking about. I love it so a question i have,i mean you've been doing this quite a while and you've even taught salesmethodology as a franchise e for sandler. Do you think sales has changedsince you started doing it? Do you think? What's your point of view, and,and certainly i guess, relatedly you're, both selling software for sales people,but also just the proliferation of tools like sales engagement, softwarelike outread, yourselves, loft, coaching software or revenue,intelligence, software like gong or chorus so much technology has enteredthe sales space, has the core elements or have the core elements of sellingevolved or shifted, and if so, how? What have you seen change over the last?You know twenty five thirty years yeah. This is very interesting and deepquestion. I do we have an hour. No i'm just kidding. The answer is yes,especially in the last twenty four months and i'll give you some examples.I would say that the pace of a chain injor last twenty years was very slow selling, didn't changedynamically, but the last twenty four months has, he mentioned a whole bunchof great technologies. Right. A lego, i believe, is one of them and we'reseeing this consolidation of technologies that empower sells peopleright around sales, learning, sales, enablement and there's lots of them andthere's lots of great technologies out there and they are helping people. Butwhat we're really going to capitalize on now sam is virtual selling thepandemic helped to magnify this and the way that sales is changing and it hasprompted organizations to do studies around how do people want to buy nowtheir virtual selling is more provident. How effective are sales people atselling in a virtual sales environment,...

...and all the studies are showing thatbuyers matter of fact, there was just that there's a new study op by bayne incompany. I think it the title. Something like is virtual selling hereto stay, or is it now just selling right? Is that just the norm? In otherwords, and the first data point they had in the study? I might get thiswrong, but something like ninety two or ninety three percent of buyers prefervirtual buying, rather than live interactions with sales people so rightthere. That tells you something right. They have woken up and said. Okay, i like this. I like the new virtualaspects of buying the other stat. That's interesting is that buyers aredoing sixty to seventy percent of their research before they ever talk to asales person, and i'm talking be to be selling here right, vdc is even worse,the the numbers are even higher, but for be to be seventy percent of theresearch done before they ever talked to a sales person. So this is reallymagnifying the importance of having strong, capable sales people, becausethe time you get face to face with a customer or prospect is so linden. Nowthat you've got to capitalize on it and you have to add value, or else you'redone, so it is definitely changing and i could now i could go on for a longtime about virtual selling methodologies and we're buildingsomething called digital sales rooms where buyers and sellers can engage in,interact, digitally so really cool stuff on the horizon. Sam and i thinkit's it will never go back, we'll never goback to normal selling. The way we do it. Well, what skills are you know?There's always these shifts, and i was just reading a book about a guy fromyour neck of the woods, guying paul english that started kayak. It was thiswhole section about how when computers came around it sort of you know, it wasan evolutionary shift in the sense that...

...there were certain people that werejust predisposition to be great software engineers, and maybe theyhadn't had an opportunity to utilize these skills a hundred years ago. Butnow because of the rise of software, this group of people was all of asudden shifted into the lime light. Similarly, i am sure that, over thelast twenty four months, with the rise of virtual selling, there's a group ofpeople that were in the prime of their environment and face to faceconversations flying on planes and now maybe the balance power has shifted toa different kind of personality, type or a different kind of mentality. Whatkinds of people do you think are thriving in this world and what are theskills that people need to develop in order to be effective, virtual sellerswow? Another deep question, i would say: there's always going to be some portionof sales jobs that you've got to be face to face right, they're, justthey're just will be, but especially in technology virtual is more and moreimportant, and the shift in skill set is i'm saying that the people who aremore organized more analytical are excelling in the virtual selling world?Okay, what i mean by that is, you mentioned a whole bunch of greattechnologies right and people who engage in those technologies master.Those technologies take advantage of them and they also are watching howbuyers behave and meaning call recording conversational intelligenceis here right. A lego has a you mentioned, gonal, we're learning somuch from analyzing call recordings and live. I call it game film game film,where customers are talking to sales people and we're learning so much abouthow they respond to each other. What words are resonating, what words aren'tresonating? How many filler words can you get away with when to talk aboutprice? How many questions to ask when to ask the questions? What's the switchrate between the conversations there's...

...so much to learn here, it's incredibleand the people who are really diving into it and learning these news tostatistics and capitalizing on it are the ones that are excelling. Anotherfact is it through these digital sales rooms that, like i mentioned a lego andsome other firms have you can put assess that you're sharing with thecustomer into these digital cells forms, so it might be an introductory video ofme introducing myself to you sam then we have our live, meaning that i giveyou a recording of that live meeting that i share in this virtual sales room.My proposal to you and a copy, the power point that we went through and asa seller. I can now see you as a buyer engaging in that virtual sales room. Soare you looking at these assets if you are? Which ones are you looking at? Howmuch time are you spending on them? Are you sharing them with other people inyour organization and the good sales people are the ones who understandthese statistics and are watching the trends, so they know. What's hot withcustomers and what's not and they're, doubling down on what's hot and they'rebacking off on? What's not so it takes more analytical skills and moreattention to detail. So that's what i'm saying yeah makes a tremendous amountof sense. Do you feel, like you know, i hate to sound, like you know thestereotypical kind of old person here, but you know lamenting lamenting thefuture, but does some part of you lament the loss of kind of humaninteraction? You know it just feels like. If this is, i guess, we'veshifted to an extreme because of the pandemic. Where we're all you know, inour bedrooms and in our personal spaces and selling and business itself used tobe the act of interacting with other humans in the same physical space, andnow it is less and less so. Is that a good thing, a bad thing or just it justis what it is and we all have to adjust to it. I think it is what it is. I meanme personally, i'm an extra red. I, like people, i've been in the officelately and more and more people coming in and i love it, but i firmly believethat virtual selling is here to stay in most industries and it's only going togo more and more in this direction and...

...we got to get used to it. We've got tolearn these technologies we've to capitalize in these technologies, andwe will it's going to happen. It might force some people out of selling, butthe one thing i keep coming back to is the time you get face to face withbuyers is less and less every year. Studies keep showing it and that trendsgoing to continue. So what does that mean? You've got to be super. Sharpyou've got to add value. You have to know your shit when you're in a live engagement with acustomer, because you cannot blow it. It might be fifteen minutes, it mightbe thirty minutes, but we're not getting two hours sit down face tofaces anymore, we're not even getting an hour, so you've got to be sharp.Absolutely couldn't. I couldn't have said it better. George, were almost atthe end of our time. Together i have two more questions were the first isyou know we send around a kind of an interview questionnaire to our guestsand one of the things that you wrote in terms of one of your guiding principles,as you wrote, small lies become big lies. I'm super curious. Tell us whatyou mean by that yeah. This is more of a dead thing truthfully, but i alsoplay it in the workplace. So when my i have three daughters, they're now,eighteen to twenty five, but from the time they were a little. I always hadthis mantra with them. That was, you know little kids. They do somethingwrong and they tell this little white lie and most people think o there'snothing wrong with that they're just trying to get out of stealing thecookie or whatever it was right. But my line to them was hey. That's a littlelie. I know people say it's. A little white lie. It's okay, but it's notbecause little eyes turned to big lies. Big lies turned to stealing something, then stealing something bigger and thenstealing turns to jail, jail turns to prison, and it was kind of if you takethat cookie you're going to jail, yeah you're going to prison,...

...but like a terrifying childhood, iwasn't that strict, but it was my life. It was just my motto with them and atthe time i didn't realize how impactful it was. But i could pull my twenty fiveyear old in here today and she could recite that for batum, and she stillsays she thinks about in decisions that she has to make. You know oncesometimes when you come across challenges in life, and it might beeasy to tell that little white lie and they they don't. I like to think thatthey don't for the most part. Because of that lesson i love it, and- and also it's sort ofpart of the point that you're making is your daily habits are, who you are andthat there isn't some other part of your, that you can sort of ascribemeaning to it's. What you do every day, it's how you treat people in the moment,it's how you treat the waiter and anyway i resonate with with that yeahthanks and i think it you know, obviously extends on into sales as well.Teaching self fills people not to tell those little white lies because it justgets you in trouble. I makes sense so we're almost at the end of our timetogether, george and what we like to do in this last little bit, this sort ofpay it forward figure out who are the people that you think are inspirationalor that we should do a little bit of googling on or linked in research onpeople that have had a big impact on you, people that you think we shouldknow about people that that you just like when i phrase it that way whocomes to mind, i would say a couple: people one is dave: cancel dave is thefounder and ceo of drift company in boston, dudes booming, doing reallywell i've known dave for a long long time, but he found it performablebefore drift and sold that tob spot. He founded compete, which was a companythat i had worked for previously sold that to tns. So he's just he's one ofthose rare visionaries who also is one of the kindest people and you'd love tohave a beer with and just sit down and talk about life with. So i wouldencourage people to meet dave all on their journeys and then my currence aswell. You tuney infamous for two things:...

...super bright human being he built andbuilt unica and took a public and sold it for half a billion, but prior tothat he was on the mit card, counting team for six years and every weekend went to vegas and made alot of money. Doing that learned a lot of life, lessons doing that so he's avery unique and interesting person that people can learn from. I love it.That's awesome, george. If folks are listening and they want to reach out toyou- maybe they want to work for a lego. Maybe they want to just talk more learnabout sand, learn, learn about sales methodologies. Are you open to themreaching out? And if so, what's your preferred method for for communication?Yes, i am absolutely open linked in is great or che dunovan at lego com. Awesome,george thanks! So much for being our guest on the sales hacker podcast andwe'll talk to you on friday for friday fundamentals. My pleasure sam, thankyou. Thank you. Everybody, sam jacobs, at sam's corneranother really good conversation. We've only had great conversations here onthe sales hacker podcast george is a career sales person and i just lovedhearing about his journey ditching his psychology degree back in the day andgoing door to door selling, fax machines and hearing about you knowinside all great sales people. All great leaders is a sense ofdetermination and commitment that just powers you through and i think, coupledwith a mindset shift. You know there are people that are just inevitablyfocused on the negative focused on all of the bad things that have happened tothem or could happen to them, and there are people that reframe the narrativein their minds towards a positive outcome and and to those people,sometimes from jection, is only the fuel that lights their fire, thatpushes them to move forward and george sounds like one of those kinds ofpeople. We also talked a lot about the changes in selling and how digitaltools and virtual selling is now just...

...selling. In fact, he rattled off areally interesting statistic. Ninety two percent of buyers prefer virtualselling and it makes sense to a certain degree if you're sitting in your livingroom or your home office. Do you want to do that? Or do you want a strangerto come into your room or maybe into your work office? Some people reallyreally want to meet people in person, but many people, don't many people,don't there's a lot of introverts out there. There's just a lot of peoplethat want to mitigate and manage their interaction is one of the things that'sgreat about virtual selling is inevitably the meeting always ends ontime. Everybody's got back to back meetings and there's no opportunity fordowling or lingering, and so you can kind of regiment your schedule in amuch more discipline way and frankly, building time for yourself in an easierway than when every one all of selling was was in person. And so the point is:are you working on the tools that are going to help you get better in thisvirtual selling environment because using technology being analyticalunderstanding data, all of that's going to become even more important as toolslike outreach and gong and others proliferate? So it's a reallyinteresting point and when i enjoyed thinking about and talking about nowbefore we go, we want to thank our sponsors. As you know, we've got threesponsors on the show. The first is out reach everything out reached us is atout reached on out reach so head on over to outrage. Otiore, slash on outreach to see how outreached his out reach our other sponsor is the companyi work for it's a company called pavilion. We used to be known asrevenue collective. We just changed our name to accommodate the fact that we'recreating communities for all kinds of functional areas, not just revenue ifyou want to learn more and unlocked your professional potential and getthat promotion, go over to join pavilion com and apply and finallylinked in find new ways to connect with your byes, virtually with linked onsales, navigator, learn more or request to free demo at business, dot, linconford, lash sales, dash solutions, you're, not a part of the sales hackercommunity, yet you're missing out, go over to sales hactor to sign up. Ifyou're listening right now- and you like what you heard hit that five starreview on your podcast listening...

...platform of choice. It really helps usget this message out to more ears, and if you want to get in touch with me,can linno forts lie to, or in fort ly, am of jacobs. Cort email me, sam atjoint pavilion, i'll talk to you next time, a.

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