Building successful sales teams
Matt Cameron: The way I think about ensuring people are going to be successful and removing them from the company if they’re not going to be successful is this. During the 30, 60, 90-day program is where I’m going to get the maximum effort and value out of them and they’re the most excited at that time. It’s a new company, a new opportunity, and if I don’t see them demonstrating great commitment to that and giving me them all during that process that’s a good time to let them go because it’s not going to get any better, right? So, assuming they get through that process they’ll get to some point, for some people it’ll be the 90 days when they should be on quota - rare; it’s more like fourth or fifth month usually. Once they’re on full quota I’ll give them one sales cycle for review. If they miss quota we’ll sit down and we’ll have a very serious discussion about it, and if I’m doing my job as a manager meeting with them weekly there’ll be leading indicators that we’ll be talking about. “It doesn’t look like you’re getting enough leads inbound and you need to up your activity, your out-bounding activity to be successful. If you don’t you’re not going make it.” And each week we’re talking about it and wondering “At the end of the month they’ve missed their number.” We diagnose, we review, and we say, “What are you going to do differently next month to make sure that you do hit your number? Assuming that your sales cycle is monthly, you’ve missed one sales cycle. As we’re progressing week to week through the second cycle we’re talking, talking, talking and if you miss two sales cycles in a row nine times out of 10 this is not the role for you. Right? We’ve talked about it. We know what we need to do to remediate it. We’ve agreed it’s within your control, and you haven’t made it” I’ll let them go. I don’t want to be putting a person in a position where they’re not going to be successful because it’s not good for them; they’re going to be unhappy. And secondly, we mustn’t accept mediocrity and failure in our sales organisation because if I’m a high-performing A-player I don’t want to be associated with a B-team, and the unintended consequence of accepting mediocrity is I’ll lose my best people.
On boarding just on time
Matt Cameron: There are two phases to bringing in new sales people. The first is that sort of firehose boot-camp experience a lot of the US companies do. And what I’ll say about that is it should be structured in a fashion that you give people just what they need at the time they need it, which means that you have to extend it beyond the first week into a 30, 60, 90-day program. In the first week I need to understand what the company does, how to be successful here, the tools that I need to use while I’m here and where to get information from. I need to do that in as lightweight a fashion as I can so that I don’t get to the end of the week and feel overwhelmed and not have absorbed any of it. Then 30, 60, 90 relates to the fact that if I have a six-month sales cycle I need to make sure that I teach that rep the skills they need, how to use the tools that they need when they need it. So, I’m not going to teach somebody how to get a contract approved and signed in their first 30 days if I have a six-month sales cycle. I’m going to teach them how we identify good prospects, how we qualify them, how we engage sales engineering resources in the first 30 days. What’s really important is, as I’m onboarding these people, that I understand that they understand what they can do and they can execute as I expect. So, I have the 30-day checkpoint and certifications. They get certified in their ability to qualify an opportunity, to give a good demonstration, to present our sales presentation. And if they don’t pass that then I have an opportunity to make a decision. “Why? Are they not committed to it? Do they not have the capability? Was there something else? Did we not onboard them well?” And if I decide it’s their problem I have the opportunity to pull the pin right there because I don’t want to waste their time or ours by going through a 90-day process when I can tell after 30 days they’re not going to be successful. How do I know that? Hard very, very early because I need data points; I need to see what other people did. How long did it take other people to get through the process? So, for goodness sake, don’t set an expectation for your first hire where you’ve got no data and say, “Well, they didn’t do what I thought they would do after 30 days, I’m going to fire them.” You need some pattern recognition here, which implies that you’re recording the data as well as you go forward.
How to attract top talent
Matt Cameron: When you’re in a start-up mode the scarcest resource you have is talented people and so I think you should take every opportunity to make people aware of the opportunity that is afforded by your company and you need to do it in a few practical ways. One is every time you’re interacting with someone in a new situation you explain what you do at your company, why you’re excited about it and the resources that you need or may need in the future. “You know, I’m at this stage in my company and the most important things for us to achieve right now are around customer success so I’m looking for really great account managers and people,” blah, blah, blah, blah. “Do you know anyone?” that sort of carry-on. So, it really is just making sure that there’s no secret to who you need, when and why, and the opportunity. But also it’s important that all the executives or all the managers in the company have a public presence that might attract someone. So, what I mean by that specifically is rather than make your LinkedIn profile look like attractive to a future employer for yourself, attract talent. So, if you look at my LinkedIn profile what I’ve done is make sure that people who have worked for me talk about what it’s like, right? What you want is people to say that you know, “Matt was the best manager I ever had. Here’s how he enabled me and this is what has happened to me since I worked with Matt.” Those sorts of things. So, I think LinkedIn is a really great recruiting tool most people don’t use.
Hiring your first sales rep
Matt Cameron: I always believe you should hire in pairs. A pretty simple reason. Basically if it doesn’t work out the way you wanted it with an individual we don’t know whether it was the person themselves, the territory they were assigned, the market opportunity perhaps, or what our product delivers. If we hire in pairs and they both fail we’ve got a much better likelihood or probability that it’s one of those other factors than the human. My concern is, and my experience has been, that if you hire them one at a time two bad things happen. One, I’m less certain of why it happened; and two, the opportunity cost or the momentum lost. So, I then go out and seek another person and recruit.
Another non-obvious fact about that is it’s really hard to hire your first sales person because there’s no evidence for success. So, if I fire one and one remains who’s been successful that’s evidence that it is possible to be successful in the company and the next person is more likely to join.
Meet with purpose
Matt Cameron: Every meeting that’s customer-facing should have the Triple A Plan - as I call it - employed, and that is, going into the meeting we should have written down what the attitudes that they will have, the answers we need to get and the actions we need them to take. So, attitudes: It’s things like “I want this person to think that our solution is the best answer to A, B, C problem and they need to do something about it.” The answers or questions that I’m going to put to them relate to “Where am I at in the sales process? What information do I need now to understand whether they qualify as an opportunity for us?” Or perhaps it’s our position. I might need to answer the question of “Who do I need access to to get this deal done? Who are the stakeholders?” It really depends. So, write those questions down and make sure you don’t leave without them. And the third thing is “Specifically which actions must they take to progress a deal? Do I want them to agree to bring other stakeholders into the next discussion? Do I want them to agree to a demonstration? Do I want them to sign a contract?” So, I go into this meeting with a plan, and as a leader what I do is enforce this by refusing to join a sales meeting or a sales call until I’ve seen the Triple A Plan.