The Sales Hacker Podcast
The Sales Hacker Podcast

Episode · 6 months ago

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


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

One, two, one, three, three. Hey everybody, it's Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the SALESACER podcast. Today on the show we're excited to bring you George Donovan. George isthe chief revenue officer of a Lego, a really cool company coming out ofMassachusetts that's building sales engagement technology and sales enablement and learning technology for sales people, and George himself is a career salesperson. He started off selling fax machines onthe streets of Boston and has since done a number of really interesting things. So it's a great conversation. Now, before we get into the conversation,we want to thank our sponsors. We've got three sponsors for the showtoday and this week. The first is outreach. Outreach has been a longtime sponsor, in fact they've always been a sponsor of this podcast, andthey just launched a new way to learn outreach. On outreaches the place tolearn how outreach does outreach learn how the team follows up with every lead inrecord time after virtual events and turns them into revenue. You can see howoutreach on account base plays, manages reps and so much more using their veryown sales engagement platform. Head on over to outreach, Doo forward slash onoutreach to see what they've got going on. PODCAST is also sponsored by Pavilion,the community formerly known as revenue collective. Pavilion is the key to getting moreout of your career. Our private membership connects you with a network ofthousands of like minded peers and resources where you can tap into leadership opportunities,training, mentorship and other services made for high growth leaders like you. Witha pavilion membership, you'll build deep connections with peers to expand your expertise andunlock growth of access a full suite of training and certification programs like frontline managerschool for sales, marketing customer success, and unlock over one hundred different jobopportunities every week, shared between members in a trusted and private setting. Unlockyour professional potential with a pavilion membership. Now joined today at join Pavilioncom andfinally linkedin. Today's virtual selling environment demands a new kind of approach, onethat prioritizes the buyer above all else. As the world's largest professional network,with seven hundred and twenty two million members Linkedin is the only place where buyersand sellers connect, share and drive success for each other. Every single day, find new ways to connect with your buyers virtually with linked in sales navigator. You can learn more or request a free demo at business dot linkedincom.Forwards sales solutions and without further ado, let's listen to my conversation with GeorgeDonovan. Hey everybody, it's Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the sales hacker podcast.Today on the show we're excited to have George Donovan. George is thechief revenue officer to Lego, responsible for achieving the company's customer acquisition and salesgoals. He's approven sales leader with over twenty years of sales, marketing,operations and management experience. George is a sales enablement enthusiasts who loves tools andsystems that empower people. Over the past decade, he's worked with many ofthe world's top brands to help them achieve their sales and profit goals. Priorto a Lego, George served as the chief sales officer of compete, theworld leading expert and helping clients grow great brands. In this role, Georgeaided the exponential growth of the company from thirty million to a hundred and tenmillion previously. He is the principal owner of a sandler training franchise in MarbleMask for nine years. He holds a be a in psychology from St andsome college. He was also voted father of the year twenty times by hisfamily in a contested election that many say was rigged with fraud. George,welcome to the show. Thanks, am I'm honored. We're excited to haveyou. So we start with your baseball card, which is really a wayof giving you the opportunity to, in your words, tell us a littlebit about what a Lego does. So I read a little bit about whatthey do, but in your words, what does a Lego do? Thecompany for which you're cro the formal definition, we're a sales learning and enablement platformsor software company. But to simplify and put in Layman's terms, whatdoes that mean? We're a platform for sales people to go to to helpthem do their jobs, so to gain knowledge, to collaborate, to seekcoaching, anything that's going to empower them to be more confident and more successful. That's a Lego. That's the go to place. Wow, how longhave you been at the company six years.

Yeah, Oh, wow, awesome. And then roughly, I mean again, obviously there's numbers that areconfidential. Never reveal anything that's private, but how big is the company,either from an employee perspective or a rough revenue range? You know, whereare you on your journey? We're about almost eight years old and we're comingup on two hundred employees and and as far as revenues, you know,just subfifty. Awesome. Cool. Well, that's really interesting, I guess.You know, to start off, the place that I like to startpersonally is just understanding a little bit about your background and how you came tobe a crow. Many of our listeners are earlier in their career and they'realways thinking about career paths and what are the ways that they can navigate theircareer and make the right decisions about which job to take in order to makeit to the curo position. So what's your background? How did you getinto sales? I mentioned that you graduated from Sant ansome. I mentioned thatyou were a trainer at Sandler rent running your own franchise, but tell usin your words, how you came to be the cro of a Lego.Yeah, it's probably an interesting story because it wasn't my path. From ayoung age, Sam people always told me the same thing was you have theability to get people to open up and talk and say things that they don'tnecessarily say at other people, and I had so many people tell me thatthroughout my youth that in my head I thought I need to get into somesort of a career where I'm going to talk to people. So it waseither maybe a bartender or a psychologist, right, and so I went downthe psychologist path and I was an undergraduate in psychology. I was going toget my Ph d in psychology and at the last minute I got 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 psychologycalling is still there, and I went into sales and I'm announced to mewas just like, okay, what am I going to do for year?I could get a sales job. So I was selling facts machines, andthis was the early days of fax machines in downtown Boston, knocking on doorstrying to convince people to buy this magic box that, by the way,it was enormous back when fact machines first came out and they were twozero apiece and you put this magic piece of paper into one end, you know, let's say in Boston, into this machine in Boston and New York thepaper would come out on the other end. So it was like something black magica little bit to people and it was tough. A lot of lessonslearned there in rejection and endurance and just waking up in the morning with theright attitude, so that that actually hoped me on sales. I fell inlove with the game and never look back at going into the psychology field.From there went on to sell software, hardware and software, and had agreat career as a salesperson and then, a relatively young age, I thinkI was twenty nine or thirty, I've got my first opportunity at management.It was during the thecom bubble and the company I was with raised a hundredmillion dollars from soft bank and we were doing all sorts of cut and backthen that was there's that name again, Soft Bank. They've been there throughout, I guess they have been. Yeah, and a hundred million back then andwrite late s was probably like a half a billion today, so thatwas a lot 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 coaching and myfirst endeavors there. Made a ton of mistakes and then we had an exitwhich afforded me the ability to start my own business, which was the sailorfranchise that you mentioned, and I had three young children at the time andwas on a lot of planes, trains and nomobiles. So I had anice lifestyle business with owning my own business for, like you said, justunder a decade. Wow, let's pick through that a little bit. Youmentioned, because it's it does. It... an interesting story. When youwere selling fax machines door to door, just having decided to get into thisafter, you know, abandoning your psychology degree, it must have been ashock to hear so much rejection. Or maybe it wasn't a shock, maybeit was to be expected. But what were the key lessons and principles thatyou taught yourself and told yourself in order to kind of move from a probablylike a loss of version, negative mindset to a more gainseeking growth mindset.We're looking forward to the day because you mentioned that you loved it. Sowhat was it about it that you love so much? Yeah, it wasbottomed me out fast. It was the first time I learned the lesson offail fast. Today, that is one of our operating principles at a Legothat we teach every employee who joins the company to fail fast and make alot of mistakes. You can take risks because the sooner you do that yougain more confidence because you bought them out. You've experienced so many things early thatthen you feel like you can't go any lower. It sounds funny right, but I remember the day vividly. I got hit over the head witha booklet in a law firm by a office manager throw me, literally threwme out of the office, hit me over the head with a stack ofbooks and I get on the subway a home and started to cry. Ihad hit rock bottom in my sales career. I I wasn't doing well at thetime and now I've been assaulted. How could it get any worse?But that was the day I decided okay, this is the bottom. I havenowhere to go but up, and that empowered me and gave me somestrange sense of confidence, which I think was the most valuable lesson I everlearned as a young seller. That's amazing. And how about this, because youdropped some really interesting nuggets. You mentioned that you were at the youknow, the start up in the in late S, maybe ninety eight,ninety nine, and they gave you forty five people to manage the first timeyou were manager. Tell us about that journey. That sounds really interesting.And what did you learn and and what were some of the key mistakes thatyou made that you that you're teaching people not to make now that you've gotsome experience? Yeah, first one was so obvious, but I had twogoals. One was make a number. Okay, the second goal US buildthis team as fast as you can. So your audience is probably laughing becausethey're they're competing goals. If you're going to try to build a team toofast, you're going to make mistakes, you're going to hire the wrong people, you're going to put the wrong people in the wrong roles. So Iwas actually paid to build the team quickly because we wanted to get a faststart. But that really incented me to make a whole lot of mistakes whichconflicted with the other goal of making a number. So that, looking back, was a huge mistake from day one. The other was just not really payingattention to we were selling in pods back then. Okay, putting threepeople in a unit, in a sales pod, and not paying attention topeople's individual strengths and weaknesses and styles and trying to, you know, complimentone another in these pods instead just haphazardly throwing three people into a group,which is not the right way to approach it. Right you really need tohave some consideration for the varying degrees and styles and personalities of the people ina work group. So that was another mistake. And then, of course, there was all sorts of mistakes around hiring the wrong people, bad incentiveplans in the beginning, you name it, I think I made it. Whatdo you think the keys to great leadership and management are? Put It? Let's put leadership aside. When you're coaching first time managers, what areyou specifically focused on teaching them in order to enable their success? The firstthing you teach them is to be selfless, and that's hard because a lot offirst time managers are coming from individual contributor and as an individual contributor it'soften about yourself and your goal. Yeah, of course you care about your teammates, but now, as you step into leadership, you are second.Your team is first, your team takes priority. Your needs go to thebackseat and that's a hard transition to make...

...for a lot of people and notput themselves first and to check the EGO at the door. The other istake off the Superhero Cape. You've probably heard this or seen this before,but you've got great sellers who then become managers and they continue to want tobe great sellers and they want to swoop in with their Cape on and bettertheir salespeople and sell for their salespeople. So they're not teaching the sales peopleand coaching the sales people how to sell better, they're actually doing it forthem. Now you have to do the little bit of that, but Isee that as a huge mistake for first first time leaders, first time managers, is that, you know, selling for people instead of empowering them tosell. If you're in a one on one or talking to somebody and theysay, George, I'd love to be able to do that, but exactlyto the conflict that you just articulated. As a first time manager, I'mbeing asked to hit a number and you know I'm scared if I don't hitthe number. I'm worried I'll get fired or that I'll be seen as afailure as a manager, and so I just feel compelled to come in andhelp my wrap close the deal, even though in my heart I know Iwant to let them fail. I just can't let that money go when Isee that it's possible we might get it if I help and and and likelyto lose it if I don't. Yeah, it's a good one. I thinkthere are point in times where we all have to jump in and bailout a cellar right as managers, as leaders, but it happens way toooften. So it all comes back, Saym to company culture and the typeof organization you want to run and teaching people to play the long game,not being looking for that quick sugar high, not thinking myopically about making each month'snumber, but really building a team for the long run and ingraining thatinto people from day one so that they understand that it's okay to fail.It's okay to make mistakes you're playing the long game. If you miss amonth, a quarter or two, it's okay so long as we're building forthe long term. That's a big part of our culture to Lego, andI think that helps alleviate that problem that you were talking about. I loveit. So a question I have. I mean, you've been doing thisquite a while and you've even taught sales methodology as a franchise Z for Sandler. Do you think sales is changed since you started doing it? You think? What's your point of view? And and certainly, I guess related,you're both selling software for sales people, but also just the proliferation of toolslike sales engagement software like Outreacher, Sales Loft coaching software or revenue intelligence softwarelike Gong or chorus. So much technology as entered the sales space. Hasthe core elements or have the core elements of selling evolved or shifted, andif so, how? What have you seen change over the last, youknow, twenty thirty years? Yeah, this is very interesting and deep question. Do we have an hour? No, I'm just kidding. The answer isyes, especially in the last twenty four months and I'll give you someexamples. I would say that the pace of change over the last twenty yearswas very slow. Selling didn't change dynamically, but the last twenty four months has, you mentioned, a whole bunch of great technologies right a Lego,I believe, is one of them, and we're seeing this consolidation of technologiesthat empower sells people right around sales learning, sales enablement, and there's lots ofthem and there's a lots of great technologies out there and they are helpingpeople. But what we're really going to capitalize on now, Sam, isvirtual selling. The pandemic helped to magnify this and the way that sales ischanging and it has prompted organizations to do studies around how do people want tobuy now that virtue will selling is more prominent, how effective our salespeople atselling in a virtual sales environment? And...

...all the studies are showing that buyers. A matter of fact, it was just that there's a new study outby Bain and company, I think, at the title something like is virtualselling here to stay, or is it now just selling? Right? Isthat just the norm? In other words, and the first data point they hadin the study. I might get this wrong, but something like ninetytwo or ninety three percent of buyers prefer virtual buying rather than live interactions withsalespeople. So, right there, that tells you something, right, theyhave woken up and said, okay, I like this, I like thenew virtual aspects of buying. The other stat that's interesting is that buyers aredoing sixty two seventy percent of their research before they ever talk to a salesperson. And I'm talking be, to be selling here right be. TOC's evenworse. The the numbers are even higher, but for be to be seventy percentof the research done before they ever talked to a salesperson. So thisis really magnifying the importance of having strong, capable sales people, because the timeyou get facetoface with a customer or prospect is so limited now that you'vegot to capitalize on it and you have to add value or else you're done. So it is definitely changing and I could, you know, I couldgo on for a long time about virtual selling methodologies, and we're building somethingcalled digital sales rooms where buyers and sellers can engage in interact digitally. Soreally cool stuff on the horizon, Sam and I think it's it will nevergo back, will never go back to normal selling the way we do it. Well, what skills are you know, there's always these shifts and I wasjust reading a book about a guy from your neck of the woods,guy in Paul English, that started kayaks. Just whole section about how when computerscame around, it's sort of you know, it was an evolutionary shiftin the sense that there were certain people that were just predisposition to be greatsoftware engineers and maybe they hadn't had an opportunity to utilize those skills a hundredyears ago, but now, because of the rise of software, this groupof people was all of a sudden shifted into the limelight. Similarly, I'msure that over the last twenty four months, with the rise of virtual selling,there's a group of people that were in the prime of their environment infacetoface conversations, flying on planes, and now maybe the balance of power hasshifted to a different kind of personality type or 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 sellers. Wow, another deep question. I would say there's always going to be some portionof sale those jobs that you've got to be facetoface. Right. They're just, they're just will be. But, especially in technology, virtual is moreand more important and the shift in skill set is I'm seeing that the peoplewho are more organized, more analytical, are excelling in the virtual selling world. Okay, what I mean by that is you mentioned a whole bunch ofgreat technologies, right, and people who engage in those technologies, master thosetechnologies, take advantage of them and they also are watching how buyers behave,and meaning call recording. Conversational intelligence is here, right, a Lego,has it? You mentioned gone earlier. We're learning so much from analyzing callrecordings and live I call it game film, Game Film where customers are talking tosalespeople and we're learning so much about how they respond to each other.What words are resonating, what words aren't resonating? How many filler words canyou get away with? When to talk about price? How many questions toask? When to ask the questions? What's the switch rate between the conversations? There's so much to learn here.

It's incredible. And the people arereally diving into it and learning these news to statistics and capitalizing on it arethe ones that are excelling. Another fact is through these digital sales rooms atlike I mentioned the Lego and some other few firms have, you can putassets that you're sharing with the customer into these digital seals rooms. So itmight be an introductory video of me introducing myself to you, Sam then wehave our live meeting that I give you a recording of that live meeting thatI share in this virtual sales room, my proposal to you and a copythe power point that we went through. And as a seller, I cannow see you as a buyer, engaging in that virtual sales room. Soare you looking at these assets? If you are, which ones are youlooking at? How much time are you spending on them? Are you sharingthem with other people in your organization? And the good sales people are theones who understand these statistics and are watching the trends. So they know what'shot with customers or what's not, and they're doubling down on what's hot andthey're backing 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 tremendousamount of sense. Do you feel like, you know, I hate to soundlike you know, the stereotypical kind of old person here, you know, lamenting, lamenting the future, but does some part of you lament theloss of kind of human interaction? You know, it just feels like,if this is I guess we've shifted to an extreme because of the pandemic wherewe're all, you know, in our bedrooms and in in our personal spaces, and selling and business itself used to be the act of interacting with otherhumans in the same physical space, and now it is less and less.So is that a good thing, a bad thing or just it's just iswhat it is and we all have to adjust to it. I think itis what it is. I mean me personally. I'm an extra Rt.I like people. I've been in the office lately and more and more peopleare coming in and I love it. But I firmly believe that virtual sellingis here to stay in most industries and it's only going to go more andmore in this direction and we got to get used to it. We've gotto learn these technologies we've seen capitalize in these technologies and we will. It'sgoing to happen. It might force some people out of selling, but theone thing I keep coming back to is the time you get facetoface with buyersis less and less every year. Studies keep showing it and that trends goingto continue. So what does that mean? You've got to be super sharp.You've got to add value, you have to know your shit when you'rein a live engagement with a customer, because you cannot blow it. Itmight be fifteen minutes, it might be thirty minutes, but we're not gettingtwo hours sit down facetofaces anymore. We're not even getting an hour. Soyou've got to be sharp. Absolutely couldn't. I couldn't have said it better.George. We're almost at the end of our time together. I havetwo more questions for you. The first is, you know, we sendaround a kind of an interview questionnaire to our guests and one of the thingsthat you wrote in terms of one of your guiding principles, as you wrote, small lies become big lies. I'm super curious tell us what you meanby that. Yeah, this is more of a a dad thing. Truthfully, but I also play it in the workplace. So when Mike. I'vethree daughters there now, eighteen to twenty five, but from the time theywere a little I always had this mantra with them that was, you know, if little kids they do something wrong and they tell this little white lie, and most people think I was nothing wrong with that. They're just tryingto get out of stealing the cookie or whatever. It was right. Butmy line to them was, hey, that's a little lie. I knowpeople say it's a little white lie, it's okay, but it's not,because little eyes turned to big lies. Big lies turned to stealing something,then stealing something bigger, and then stealing turns to jail, jail turns toprison, and it was kind of you take that cookie, you're going tojail. Yeah, you're going to prison, but like a terrifying childhood. AndI wasn't that strict, but it...

...was my line. was just mymotto with them and at the time I didn't realize how impactful it was,but I could pull my twenty five year old in here today and she couldrecite that verbatim and she still says she thinks about it in decisions that shehas to make. You know what, sometimes when you come across challenges inlife and it might be easier to tell that little white lie and they theydon't. I like to think that they don't for the most part because ofthat lesson. I love it and and also it's sort of part of thepoint that you're making is your daily habits are who you are and that thereis in some other part of your that you can sort of ascribe meaning to. It's what you do every day, it's how you treat people in themoment, it's how you treat the waiter and anyway, I resonate with withthat. Yeah, thanks, and I think it it, you know,obviously extends on into sales as well. Teaching self fills people not to tellthose little white lies because it just gets you in trouble. Makes Sense.So we're almost at the end of our time together, George, and whatwe like to do in this last little bit is sort of pay it forward. Figure out who are the people that you think are inspirational or that weshould do a little bit of googling on or Linkedin research on, people thathave had a big impact on you, people that you think we should knowabout people that that you just like. When I phrase it that way,who comes to mind? I would say couple people. One is Dave cancel. Dave is the founder and CEO of Drift Company in Boston. Do It'sbooming, doing really well at known day for a long long time, buthe found it performable before drift and sold that tub spot. He founded compete, which is a company that I had worked for previously. Sold that toTNS. So he's just he's one of those rare visionaries who also is oneof the kindest people and you'd love to have a beer with and just sitdown and talk about life with. So I would encourage people to meet Dave, allowing their journeys, and then my currency Eo as well. You ChunLee infamous for two things. Super Bright human being. He built and builtUNICA and took a public and sold it for half a billion. But priorto that he was on the MIT card counting team for six years and everyweekend went to Vegas and made a lot of money doing that. Learned alot of life lessons doing that. So He's a very unique and interesting personthat people can learn from. I love it. That's awesome, George.If folks are listening and they want to reach out to you, maybe theywant to work for a Lego, maybe they want to just talk more,learn about Sandler and learn about sales methodologies. Are you open to them reaching outand, if so, what's your preferred method for for communication? Yes, I am absolutely open. Linkedin is great or g Donovan at a LEGOCOM. Awesome George. Thanks so much for being our guest on the salesacer podcastand we'll talk to on Friday for Friday fundamentals. My pleasure, Sam.Thank you. Thank you. Hey everybody. Sam Jacobs as Sam's corner, anotherreally good conversation. We've only had great conversations here on the salesacer podcast. George is a career salesperson and I just loved hearing about his journey ditchinghis psychology degree back in the day and going door to door selling fax machinesand hearing about you know, inside all great sales people, all great leaders, is a sense of determination and commitment that just powers you through and Ithink coupled with a mindset shift. You know, there are people that arejust inevitably focused on the negative, focused on all of the bad things thathave happened to them or could happen to them. And there are people thatreframe the narrative in their minds towards a positive outcome and and to those peoplesometimes rejection is only the fuel that lights their fire, that pushes them tomove forward, and George sounds like one of those kinds of people. Wealso talked a lot about the changes in selling and how digital tools and virtualselling is now just selling. In fact,...

...he rattled off a really interesting statistic. Ninety two percent of buyers prefer virtual selling, and it makes senseto a certain degree. If you're sitting in your living room or your HomeOffice, do you want to do that or do you want a stranger tocome into your room or maybe into your work office? Some people really reallywant 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 people thatwant to mitigate and manage their interactions. One of the things that's great aboutvirtual selling is inevitably the meeting always ends on time. Everybody's got backtobackmeetings and there's no opportunity for downing or lingering, and so you can kindof regiment your schedule in a much more discipline way and, frankly, buildin time for yourself in an easier way than whenever one all of selling waswas in person. And so the point is, are you working on thetools that are going to help you get better in this virtual selling environment?Because using technology, being analytical, understanding data, all of that's going tobecome even more important as tools like outreaching, Gong and others proliferate. So it'sa really interesting point and when I enjoyed thinking about and talking about.Now, before we go, we want to thank our sponsors. As youknow, we've got three sponsors on the show. The first is outreach.Everything outreach does is at outreached on outreach, so head on over to outreach out. I forward slash on outreach to see how outreach does outreach. Ourother sponsor is the company I work for. It's a company called Pavilion. Weused to be known as revenue collective. We just changed our name to accommodatethe fact that we're creating communities for all kinds of functional areas, notjust revenue. If you want to learn more and unlocked your professional potential andget that promotion, go over to join pavilioncom and apply. And finally,linkedin. Find new ways to connect with your buyers virtually with linkedin sales navigator. Learn more or request a free demo at business dot linkedincom. Forward slashsales solutions. If you're not a part of the sales hacker community yet,you're missing out. Go over to sales hackercom to sign up. If you'relistening right now and you like what you heard, hit that five star reviewon your podcast listening platform of choice. It really helps us get this messageout to more ears. And if you want to get in touch with me, you can linkedincom forwards, last word in for its lash mf Jacobs,or email me Sam at join Pavilioncom. I'll talk to you next time.

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