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Sales Leader Interview Series – John Barrows

If you’re in B2B sales, you’ve probably heard the name John Barrows. John is a true thought leader in the sales community, with nearly 350,000 followers to date on LinkedIn. John now runs JBarrows Sales Training, and works with sales teams from industry leaders like Salesforce, LinkedIn, and Okta. We sat down with John to get his take on the quickly changing sales technology landscape and how recent trends impact sales managers.

For sales managers who want to become better coaches, what do you recommend they focus on?

Business acumen and empathy. Especially for younger sales reps, I don’t think there’s enough attention given to business acumen and helping them learn how to just be a business professional. Read the articles, join the groups that your customers belong to. Google your audience and find the list of the top three-to-five influencers in that space, and then set up a Feedly account so you can actually follow their blogs. Read them every single morning and just understand what these people are thinking and what their worlds are like.

The fact that you show you know a little bit about somebody’s world tends to open up the conversation way more than just “hey, we’re the leading provider of XYZ” or “tell me about your top priorities.”

What are the problems of the heavy automation used by some modern sales teams?

I think we’re getting a little bit too automated. If used the right way as sales efficiency tools, I think automation is fantastic. But I think there’s a danger zone right now of a whole host of SDRs and BDRs becoming obsolete because they’re using these automation tools to just send out massive amounts of emails and increase their activity levels.

The fake, automated personalization is hurting. Too often I’ve seen emails like, “John, I see you went to the University of Maryland” and then it just takes a hard shift to the value proposition of their product with no connection to me or the University of Maryland.

What do you see as marketing’s role in these trends?

Marketing split tests and tries out different things over and over, and I think sales reps need to take a page out of marketing’s book. I think managers need to give reps the frameworks and the structure of messaging and let them play with it. I’m against scripts because I think it takes away from the creativity of reps, but I love structure. What’s the structure of a good cold call? What’s the structure of a good contact strategy? What’s the structure of a good email?

Additionally, I think the role of the SDR and BDR is going to evolve, but likely under marketing or operations, not sales. The role is going to be more about leveraging the tools, technology, and analytics to really align with account-based marketing and drive more meetings for full-cycle reps. I already see more and more companies aligning SDRs and BDRs under marketing and operations.

What do you think the “sales manager of the future” will do? In the next decade, how do you think sales managers’ work will differ from what we do today?

I’ve seen a study that says the average amount of time a sales rep spends on selling is something like 30%. That means the other 70% of their time is spent with admin, internal meetings, and all that other stuff. I think a sales manager of the future is going to have to focus on how to change that 30% of selling time to 50%, 60%, 70%. They will automate the rest of that work with tools that put the sales rep in a position to have the best conversations.

I also think that artificial intelligence is going to help managers figure out how to coach reps on a more individual basis. Right now, the biggest thing that any manager can do to improve their team is coaching, but it’s often the last thing that they do. In the future, managers will know exactly what they should be coaching about because of the tools and technology that know what reps’ strengths and weaknesses are.

Some great insights from John about what is to come for managers! Stay tuned for more interviews with sales thought leaders coming soon. In the meantime, find additional practical tips for sales managers and food for thought on the BuyerSight blog.

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