We recently had the pleasure of hosting a meetup for sales managers and executives in the Boston area at our office in Cambridge. Presiding over the 45 attendees who showed up for the casual and informal event – beer and pizza! – was special guest Bob Brennan, CEO at Veracode and former president and CEO at Iron Mountain. [image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”32541″ align=”right” title=”Bob Brennan” alt=”Bob Brennan” width=”131″ height=”131″ quality=”100″]Bob shared not only his experiences in rising through the ranks from sales rep to sales VP to CEO but also some tips and best practices on effective sales management.
“This [meetup] was a highly useful way to engage with sales leaders who are focused on emerging technologies and techniques to maximize their own results,” Bob said after the event. “There was good, intimate dialogue and this was a great environment to exchange ideas. I would have gone as an attendee and might even steal the idea [of hosting a meetup] for myself.”
One of Bob’s most important points of emphasis was the necessity for sales managers and executives to create a culture and environment that promotes mutual trust among all employees. Sales reps had to feel like they could trust their managers and each other. Bob outlined a ‘Trust Equation’ that guided his sales management principles:
TRUST = (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy) / Self-Interest
Credibility refers to the words that employees speak, while reliability refers to their actions in delivering something that is depended on by others. Intimacy refers to the security we feel when trusting someone else. Meanwhile, the long variable in the denominator – self-interest – refers to a certain selfishness among employees to perform their very best, motivated by their own self-interests. A sales rep with low levels of self-interest focuses completely on the opportunity, the customer or your company. By increasing the value of factors in the numerator, you are increasing the value of trust; consequently, increasing the value of self-interest in the denominator decreases the value of trust.
To reiterate his point about the importance of trustworthiness and culture, Bob shared an anecdote about having had to fire high-performing sales reps because they were fully self-interested and did not fit into the company culture. Bob illustrated the grid below to emphasize his point:[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”22748″ align=”center” title=”Skill/Culture Grid” alt=”Skill/Culture width=”300″ height=”300″ quality=”100″]
The horizontal axis is indicative of skill level, while the vertical axis represents cultural fit. Employees in the top right box were top performers, highly skilled and a good fit for the company culture. Employees in the bottom left were untalented employees who were also poor cultural fits. Yet, Bob noted that the most dangerous employees to have were those in the bottom right box – sales reps who might be highly skilled but were a poor fit for the company. These reps can be incredibly damaging to the rest of the team and overall company morale. Your other reps will celebrate you for getting rid of these bad apples, with no real loss in productivity by losing a high performer, due to improved morale – and subsequently, performance – across the rest of the team.
Lastly, Bob highlighted the importance for sales managers in balancing their ratio of statements to questions. A great manager asks lots of questions. They have done the tough job of hiring great workers below them, and it’s now the great manager’s responsibility to seek out opinions and leverage the knowledge of his or her employees.
“Bob Brennan’s thoughts on leadership are relevant to any organization and leader that aspires to high performance,” said InsightSquared CEO Frederick Shilmover. “As the leader of our young and fast-growing team, I am very fortunate to have been among the audience at Bob Brennan’s talk.”
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