The Human Capital of Sales
Bryan Rosenthal is an entrepreneur and senior HR leader who has helped build sales teams around the world and hire countless salespeople. Bryan is now the founder of CoCaptain and Managing Partner of Jules Consulting, while he previously held senior HR roles at Nestle, Brinks, WWE, and Voxy.
The people of a sales organization are certainly the most important ingredient, and hiring, training, and performance management are critical for every sales leader. We sat down with Bryan to get his take on building sales teams and advice for sales managers.
What are some common mistakes you see new managers making?
One of the more common mistakes I see is when a new manager applies a purely textbook approach to leadership. I’m all for the textbooks, but not when managers forget that they’re dealing with humans. Things like developing emotional intelligence, understanding one’s team, and applying different leadership styles depending on the scenario are important skills that develop over time, and new managers often struggle with these.
Another thing I often see is managers being afraid to coach or challenge their direct reports. A person’s natural instinct is to want to be liked. As new managers, we often start to assume that the only way to have a great relationship with our sales reps is for everything to be positive. Direct reports, however, are looking for development, so new managers should be encouraged to challenge, to coach, to advise, and to have those difficult conversations.
What advice would you give to managers on hiring sales reps?
I have to say that there is no silver bullet for finding the perfect person, because otherwise we’d all be rich. My advice would be, first and foremost, to figure out what a difference maker looks like for your team. Take time to think about what you really need. Ask yourself how this person will help you achieve your objectives with the role. Focusing on the “how” is in many ways more important than simply checking boxes and finding someone who looks like a successful seller.
Another thing to keep in mind is diversity. There’s been a lot of recent dialogue about diversity, but it relates to the interview process, too. When you’re hiring, don’t hire profiles identical to your own. A lot of leaders find success when they find talent that adds a new dimension to their teams. Beyond being the right thing to do, adding diversity is a way to evolve the capabilities of your team and gain a competitive advantage. A diverse field of talent with an array of competencies can really help you achieve your sales goals.
How do you think direct coaching can be helpful for both reps and managers?
I founded CoCaptain as a virtual coaching platform with a mission to make coaching accessible for all. This is because we believe that everyone can benefit from having a coach. We want to make sure that everyone has a coach in their back pocket that they can call upon, ultimately normalizing coaching for professionals at all levels.
In most companies, if you make it to the executive level we give you a coach. From my perspective, we need to accelerate access to coaching, because it can really help people hone in on their particular areas of need. I would say, without a doubt, coaching tends to focus on helping an individual identify their own opportunities and in particular their strengths. Giving a seller the opportunity to figure out what they’re best at and how to leverage those strengths can absolutely accelerate their success in the role.
What do you see as the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for sales teams and sales leaders?
One long-term effect is the fact that virtual is here to stay. The days of hiring a sales manager to sit next to their sales team may now be an old-fashioned way to think about things. We will move back to physical offices soon, but it will include a greater tolerance for virtual interaction. Sales managers will need to learn to keep their teams motivated and engaged virtually. They will need to leverage new systems and tools to track performance and know if their team is on track.
The other point to mention is that COVID has been a reality check. It may provide for leaders—sales managers included—a need to think about the external factors that are allowing them to achieve their goals or creating additional challenges. I’m not suggesting that we should give up on our goals, we should still have that competitive spirit. But in the midst of a pandemic and a recession, are we really looking at the bigger picture and applying the right metrics based on the circumstances that we’re living in right now? There’s not much good about this pandemic, but maybe we can gain a level of perspective that can help us all to lead more effectively through future crises.
Thanks, Bryan, for the great advice on the critical area of human capital in sales. Stay tuned for another post in our Sales Leader Interview Series soon, and check out the rest of the BuyerSight Blog for additional interviews on sales, leadership, and more!