Burnout: Sales Edition
Updated: Apr 9, 2021
how Burnout affects your sales team
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And we are live. Hello, LinkedIn. Hi, Dan.
Hey, Katie, how are you doing?
I'm good. So welcome back to the Get Your Sh*t Together Live Show. And today we are joined with my arch nemesis when it comes to fitness. Dan Brown from ThinkWow. And we're gonna be talking about burnout, sales teams, all the things that I love talking about but anyway, how are you Dan?
Yeah, I'm great thanks Katie. The two things to pick up on there one is I'm glad you were impressive that nice and early, that's good--swearing, second is saying I'm your Nemesis is like Usain Bolt saying anyone else in the last 20 years was his nemesis? You know, I mean, I'm a perennial silver playing silver medalist. You know, if I win an event, it's because you haven't turned up. So I don't really think--
No, hang on a second, just to give some context for anyone that's watching. So Dan, and I have been a part of a group for about a year where we've been doing fitness challenges, like diet and all that kind of stuff, challenges. But last month, we decided to do a really hardcore high, high intensity interval training challenge. And yeah, Dan and I were definitely competing against each other. And it was, you were nipping at my heels. Oh, yeah. You set the tone a little too early. And you're like, Hey, get this time I was like-- yeah
That's all good.
Now, I'm not competitive. I'll point blank say I'm not competitive at all, but I hate losing. And I like to win. So. But um, anyway, so thank you so much for joining me. Today, I think that this topic is incredibly important. But before we really jump into it, let's get a bit of understanding about where, like your journey of how you've gotten to where you are right now. Because obviously, you are a part owner with your amazing wife, who I can see is on right now. Rebecca, Rebecca Brown of ThinkWoW, but how did you get here? Because I know you've been a sales manager. And you've seen the good, the bad and the ugly. And you've probably been a bit of a part of that. But how did you get to where you are right now?
Well, I'll give you the sort of the the short version, but spanning, you know, a long, long time. So I started my career as an engineer, I was an electronics engineer. That's what my degrees in apprenticeship. And that work for the Ministry of Defense, did that for seven or eight years, and then just kind of got tired of that, for whatever reason, I moved into a sales role, probably 11 or 12 years ago, kind of selling the engineering services that I've been doing as an engineer, by myself, then by circumstance very quickly in a traditional sales management position after about six months, and just progress through that really ended up in sort of key account director, sales director, my last employed role was vice president of sales, FTSE 100. So it kind of became quite a big corporate role with big budgets, by the end of it. And I think by the end of it, I'd almost come to the point where I start to fall out of love with sales and commercial stuff. And because of it, the essence of it, which was should have been, for me, it's about relationships, and about creativity to go after things in a way that feels right to you. It was very restrictive. And it's taken me kind of stepping away from that and going into business, initially, with records of customer experience, focus, you know, consultancy, but actually, it's allowed me to realize that now I do still really, really love it. I just love it on my own terms.
Yeah, sales is an interesting role. I will I will absolutely say that. But I've got to say, in the last numerous years, probably the last 10-15 years, it's been a dramatic shift in how we do sales. And it's leading to a lot of reasons why sales teams are burning out. But I really wanted to talk to you today, because you've obviously been in sales yourself, you've been a sales manager, you've also been a VP of sales as well, now running your own business. So I really want to understand the good, the bad and the ugly that you've seen, and why do you think sales teams are burning out? Now for anyone that's watching this, please feel free to ask questions or even just add into the conversation, because it's really important to get a good view of everything. So do not shy away from asking questions at all, or adding any commentary as well. But, Dan, what do you think some of the biggest reasons that people burning out right now?
It's such a great question. I think, you know, whatever sales environment you're in whatever company you're in, there is a point after week, month, quarter a year where your performance clock is reset. So, great month, you feel really great. You know, it's the last day of the month you smash target, first day, the next month, that's gone. Doesn't matter. It's in the bank. No one remembers that. You're back to zero again.
It's kind of like the treadmill child treadmill element, right? It's like it's the never ending treadmill where you start finishing.
Yeah, exactly. I think I think people who can a big part of whether or not people end up approaching burnout with with with a sales role is whether or not they can get their head round that from day one, if you're in a stable role, there will be multiple occasions throughout the year where what you've just done is wiped clean. And you've got to start again from zero. So it really is like rebuilding from the ground up every single month or quarter or whatever the period is to kind of mention that from now, that isn't something that we just have to accept as sales leaders or business owners, whatever it might be. But that is typically the way things are done from a sales perspective. So you might just bank the best quarter you've ever you've ever delivered. But Day One, Quarter Two, the FD or CEO, whoever is kind of banging the drum for those numbers to be here to say, right? What's the forecast for this quarter? How are we how are we looking?-- You ever heard me say that? Numerous times, you're only as good as your as your last sale. It's so true.
Yeah. And I wanted to put that up here, because it's something that I think is salespeople, if there's anyone that's in any type of sales role right now, it's something that we've all heard, you're only as good as your last sale, you're only as good as your last month, your last quarter, whatever it is, and that pressure does get to a lot of people. And I think that, you know, it's it's foolish for us to say that there's no pressure in sales, there's absolutely a whole bunch of pressure in sales. And you know, it is very much you know, you've got a month or a week or quarter, whatever, however you measure your sales targets, you always are working towards a target, you hit it, and then there's that kind of excitement, you know, I've achieved my target or I haven't, or whatever it is. And then the next day, it just restarts again, you see you You know, if you've got a CRM, or whatever it is that tell us shows you it's like, you know, zero sales, it's just that is another uphill battle. And being able to do it again, you know, to be able to do it, again, is really important. And as your lovely wife says, again, it is relentless. It's absolutely relentless working in sales, as well. So I think that there's the individual mentality when it comes to to burnout as well. But being a manager, what else do you think that there, you know, as a manager, and VP of sales, what other things do you think you've been sort of contributed to the, I mean, to be fair, I'll give you some figures 60% of sales, people say that they have felt either burnt out, or they're very close to burnout throughout their whole career. 67% is a very large portion of people in sales.
I think is, you know, I'll talk about some of the sort of systemic things that I think businesses and sales leaders get wrong about their team for literally just talking about the psychology in the dynamic of selling is, there's a lot of fear around it on both sides. I'll explain what I mean by that. So before we even think about the salesperson that the customer, ultimately if you're trying to, you know, a situation where you're trying to influence a potential customer, and you're asking them to buy your product or service, whatever it might be, to a greater or lesser extent, you're asking them to make a change. Change supply, change shoes, change whatever it might be. Now, change is scary, if you want to, like change some people to a greater or lesser degree. And what happens is, there's we, you know, I know you're into psychology, the brain is stuck in the brain, which is called the amygdala, and hasn't really changed for half a million years. And it's in a very real sense makes us think that we're in physical danger as a survival instinct, which is great if you're being chased by a saber toothed Tiger on the savanna or something like that. Just considering a relatively minor change you made that doesn't really have shades of gray just has on or off, so it goes danger. And then that's fair, and then people will adjust book in a state of panic. And that come back now to the salesman contributes to why people I think, approach sales with so much nervousness because their customers are becoming defensive and scared and fearful. Now, we're not in control of other people's emotions, but we can be aware of what they're feeling, and then approach them differently as a result. So I think the fear that exists on both sides, actually, is self perpetuating. Cuz if you end up if you've got a fearful customer, because you ask them to make a change, then you're going to approach that conversation fearful, because you're like, this guy's not going to be receptive, I'm going to get shot down in flames, I'm gonna get sworn out depending on what you're trying to sell. But actually go you know what this is how this person is probably going to feel if I start off wanting to make a change. So what I need to do with a salesperson is make them feel safe, not anything, if you just make them feel safe, then the whole thing is going to feel a lot less stressful and less fractious, and then I can start to feel safe. And then when I approach my next sales goal, and the next sales meeting, I'm going to feel a little bit less nervous and a little bit safer. And it becomes a positive cycle as opposed to a very real vicious cycle with an unsafe customer and an unsafe salesperson. And then that contributes to this is a relentless emotional toll having to sign yourself up for these calls and these meetings. You've got to blast your way through it and you either get death or glory. It's just adrenaline and serotonin and all these things sloshing around. I think that's a very real contributor to burnout.
Yeah. No, I absolutely agree. So, just to add on some of the psychology part, a lot of us, we don't like to feel uncomfortable and change makes us feel uncomfortable. So our brain will naturally try to force us to get back into our comfort zone. So a lot of times with sales, with sales roles, it's being able to lean into the discomfort I understand, hang on a second, like, because here's the thing, you have to even have the courage to pick up the phone and or send that message of what however you want to do your BD your business development, right? You've got to be able to bring in, you've got to bring in that element of Hang on a second. I'm feeling uncomfortable. Where's that coming from? Oh, okay. Yeah, like, I've been taught from a young age not to talk to strangers, I've been told not to, not to interrupt people, which is also playing a role. But also I'm just feeling really uncomfortable and understanding that discomfort learning techniques to be able to lean into it, which is where what I talk a lot about is being able to lean into that discomfort as a salesperson, to be able to just to be able to have that conversation. And then on the opposite end, I really love what you said in regards to the in regards to the other side, you know, people are a little bit people are skeptical when it comes to sales people, let's be real, you've always got a uphill battle anywhere. But if you can manage your own emotions before you even go into those calls, it's going to make it's going to open that space up to be a little bit bit more easier to start that conversation. I just really wanted to quickly answer Colin's question about 60%. So 67%. And it was around to over 2000 people. I don't know the exact number, but I'm happy to find the the research poll that I got that from and put it in later column if that's all right, so I'm happy to do that. So yeah, it was it was over 2000 people, though, that I do remember. So it's crazy.
Another huge contributor to why why so and instead of the shades of burnout isn't there's people just feeling a bit flat in the early warning signs. They're not looking forward to Monday morning, they're not listening, there's right down at the extreme end. But people are often stressed and they can't physically can't do the job anymore. But I think No, let's be let's be realistic as there are in every single function, though there isn't every single function in a professional capacity. There are a lot of people in sales, leadership, sales, management, whatever you might want to call it, that we're great salespeople, but they are terrible managers. (Yeah) A job doesn't mean you're going to be good at managing people to do the job. And I think that's one of the mistakes that businesses make is they automatically promote the best salesperson to become the manager without looking at actually all the traits that make you a good salesperson transferable to making you a good manager. Because great salespeople are very single minded very degree of, of arrogance. Now, I don't mean that as a criticism (no) you need that unshakable self belief to deal with the rejection because it comes as a part of self. But does that necessarily make you a receptive manager and empathic manager, someone who can be aware of their own faults and actually deal with people on an individual basis, as opposed to just plan forward. So I think the way we promote people into sales, leadership positions, and the sorts of culture that they create is a huge factor in why sales teams often feel quite stressed.
I actually agree with that. And a lot of salespeople if you if you think about it, they know what works for them. And here's the thing, what works for you isn't going to work for every single person on your team. So a lot of the times when I talk to sales managers about, you know, how do they manage they always saying things like, well, I can do it. So why can't my team do it, this is how I do it. So I just showed them what I'm doing. And it's like, but that makes sense to you might not make sense to that person, you need to bridge the gap of making it makes sense to that person. So that the thing is when it comes to management as well, there's not a lot of training that comes into it. And a lot of the times if you're working with people and you're managing people, there has to be compassion, there has to be empathy. There has to be a place of vulnerability as well, especially when working in a sales role. Because it's so challenging, right? You're going to have moments where you're going to have to be able to be vulnerable to say, Hey, you know what, I'm having a really crappy day. What can I do about it? Like I'm really struggling to pick up the phone instead of having a manager, just do it, you'll be fine. Like blah, blah, like that, like kind of like hard ass approach is actually going okay, cool. Like having somebody be able to take a step back and go, what's actually going on? Like what's happening, like, how have you gotten here and being able to see the whole person and not just sort of see the person as a number to get them to their initial target, because hey, sales managers have targets as well. That's not taking away from the business, but there has to be an element of human first business second.
I completely agree. I think in all disciplines, the if you take the profession of manager is one of the I don't want to say undervalued, but that's not the right phrase. It's one of the most oversimplified roles and I think we under estimate the significance of it in almost every business up and down the country because if you take any other profession whether plumbers, surgeon, electrician, IT guy, whatever it might be, you would not put someone into your business doing something that needed skills without them having the qualifications, the experience, or the training, or some combination of all three, fighting chance of being a good plumber, a good surgeon, a good IT guy, whatever it might be. But we take people and dump them into management roles, they might have a no prior experience, they've got no specific education in that area that have no training whatsoever. And then critically, they get no support. Again, no coaching or mentoring or ongoing support to be a good manager. Now I'm generalizing, I know their businesses better. But there are so many you just go your manager now. Off you go. There's the HR but that's either disciplinary, you're on your own, and it's just doomed to fail.
It absolutely is. And I really love what Gabe says here, it's like different approaches work for different people with varying skill sets, not one size fits all, as some sales managers seem to think, and I absolutely agree with that. And that's exactly what we've been saying, you know, leading up to this point, it's like, there's not one way to do everything, there's not one way to become, you know, successful I'm being as being a manager, and also then being able to help promote, like, you know, motivate your team. The other thing that I would absolutely love to put in here as well, different things motivate different people. And so I think that there's this, you know, over overshadowing feeling that sales, people are all motivated by the same thing, which is money. That's not necessarily true. Like, it seems like it's a very easily generalization, but it's not always true. So it's being able to actually find out in your team, what's their motivator, and being able to understand what motivates them, what drives them. And being able to sort of push towards that rather than going, don't you just want to have a huge commission check? Because some people are like, you know what, I love the money. But I also want to feel valued in my, in my team, I want to feel like I'm working towards something. And I think that that's a really big thing as well. Something that I I you know, this is just my, this happened to me what like a couple of times, and it was something that I've always found really frustrating was, I hated being compared to the other people in my team, it's like, Katie, you need to do better, because you know, so-and-so is about to overtake you, or you're falling behind so-and-so. I just didn't feel like that was really good. For me personally, I actually found that actually quite stressful being like compared to somebody else. And I think that it's easy to be able to compare, you know, the top salesperson to the bottom sales person, but I just I feel like that's very stressful, and it creates a bit of a toxic work environment sometimes. And I think that, you know, there's a whole piece about neuroscience behind that as well, which I talked about, which is understanding dopamine and cortisol and how they work together, that dopamine hormone is the high five hormone, which is, you know, you ever gets released from or about to achieve something, can we feel really good about it. But the cortisol is a stress hormone, which has all of the survival element, when you combine the two, it's actually creates a very toxic work environment, because people don't become sharing, they don't, they don't work well as a team. And it actually creates like that survival mode of, I have to hold on to everything that I've got, and we don't work as a team. And I feel like that's a very big part of being burnt out. But I also want to loop back to something you said, burnout, you just don't want to call it with burnout. I'm just gonna I'm just throwing it out there for every single person that that's out there. It's, it's there's a whole journey behind it. I talk about the six stages to it. So yeah.
Yeah, I think you're talking about what motivates people and this assumption, and I was guilty, I mean, it for the first four or five years of my career as having sales people working for me, I just assumed they were wanting more money. You know, that was why I was in sales in that at that point in time. So I've saved up to buy a house. So it was very much I was very much driven by buying a house the money to buy a house kind of made sense, the direct correlation between the two things. So I assumed everyone in my team was in the same position, they're all in sales, therefore, they must all want more commission. And one particular example of a guy who was a bit older than me, he was very engineering sales, sort of personality. I just thought I couldn't get the best out of my he was really conscientious. But I felt like I was still leaving something intact and went round this boy numerous times. And it transpired after me doing a bit of digging and actually getting my head up my ass and figuring out working for him. But he he had like, he basically lived two miles away, stayed in a hotel for like three or four nights a week and then went back home again. Really like is if I hit target, I'd like to be able to earn more days working from home and this span of time and working from home but like a special treat, not you know what the entire world is---
Being forced into it right now.
When we were able to do that, it was an absolute win-win because it actually obviously it cost the business less money. So pushing against the open door and getting approval for that. But it made a huge difference for him because he felt like he could actually get what he wanted. And just to sort of come back on the whole the whole motivation piece with money, you know, if you are someone what motivates you and they say money is tempting at that point to just say, Okay, great, but actually what I found really effective and this is when sales teams and non sales teams, by the way, over the years, you know, leaving people are very failed in businesses is to say Okay, um, what are you gonna do with that money? What's your goal? What's your big goal? On your board or home? What's the dream that you and your partner or you whatever that you're, what do you need to do with that money. And if you can get people to think about that goal, I don't even have to tell it to you, as that manager, whatever, you can get people thinking about that big goal, and then linking it through what they need to achieve, and then the actions they need to take to achieve it. All of a sudden, that extrinsic motivation to do things that we do for fun, because not every aspect of a sales job is great fun, you know, we, we do it for a hobby, we wouldn't want to get paid. If you can get them linking the big goal to the day to day actions, that's when I found you start to get some really amazing improvement.
I agree. And also, the other thing that I've found really useful is asking people, why do you want to work in sales and understanding their reasons of wanting to work in sales? Yeah, it could be money, but it could actually be something else, it could be completely something else. It's something that they want to build upon, it might be a skill that they want to develop. So it's actually going well, that's a different, that's a different motivator than money, isn't it like money could be a nice byproduct, but it actually might be I want to learn different skills and in the business. So that's also something really important. Colin actually said something really interesting. And I do want to share it, because I think it is actually really important. So Colin said, he's got some awful sales people I think we all have over the years. And one thing that stands out from these people is they don't ask the right questions in order to find the issues that prospects have. 100% agree with that. I think that way, what typically what salespeople can do wrong is that they're asking questions, to get them to where they want that person to be, rather than asking questions to genuinely wanting to understand the the issue. And then Collin's also written solution selling is the way to go. 100% agree with that. Nobody likes a pushy sales person that odd is not coming across as a salesperson, but more of a consultant that can close at that end. And I agree with all of what Colin has just said there. What do you think?
Yeah, absolutely. And I do a lot of work one to one with people. And the first thing on the first session that I do is get them thinking about how they frame sales in their own mind and the self image that they carry around when they go into sales. So if you ask people, like word association games say, right, I'm gonna say sales. What's the first word that pops into your head? I've done this with literally hundreds of salespeople over the years and probably 2% come back with something positive, the rest, it's sleazy, pushy, car salesmen, bellboy. It's like, yeah, that's fine. That might be your experience of salespeople. But guess what, that's how you're thinking of yourself when you're selling. So you're going into these things, thinking that you're going to be a pain in---
Mindset piece, right?
Absolutely. But actually, you know, Collins absolutely nailed it that 90%. If you talk at all, in a sales meeting, it should be to ask a question. Don't go in with your with your 50 bullet point long, really down, even if even if you're lucky enough that one of those benefits is going to be relevant to the person the other side of the table by the time you read off the other 35. They don't care. They're not listening anymore.
I know. Yeah.
Asking those questions, getting to know, is there a problem I can solve? And then knowing your product or service well enough that you can pull the right benefit out of the drawer and go, there's your solution? Do you want to talk about us more, but you've got to earn the right to bring that benefit out and talk about actually finding what the problem is. And if there isn't a problem to be solved? You're not gonna say anything?
Absolutely. And being able to have the balls to actually guide you know, what I don't think I can help you is actually going to give you a lot more street credit than then if you try to sell something that they don't need, but asking the right questions, but asking questions to genuinely want to understand, right, just ask random questions, right, you know, ask the right questions at the right time, and listen appropriately, and have those conversations, you know, something that I saw posts actually on LinkedIn throughout the week, and it was set, you know, are you asking questions to get to the end result of what you want? Are you asking questions to actually properly hear what they're what they're saying? And, you know, most people don't think like that. It's being able to get those questions to see what you can what problem you can solve not, let me try to like manipulate this person to show them where I want them to be right. I mean, there's a lot of things that managers can be doing as well. In regards to supporting their sales team, I do think that, you know, management, I don't like to say that all managers are terrible. And I don't think that, you know, we've got to change that system, I think we've just got to add a little bit more into it when we're looking at burnout. And I think one of the biggest things that when I talk to managers, it's getting them to understand the stress and the pressure. So I always talk about stress and pressure as good and bad. So you can have positive stress and you can have positive pressure. But the difference between positive pressure and positive stress is the the amount of time that you have that pressure and that stress on you. You can't constant you're not gonna get the best out of your sales team. If you're constantly making them feel under pressure, and you're constantly making them feel stress. You might have gotten a successful result a couple of times, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you can use that as your only toolkit to motivate people. It's just by constantly putting that pressure on. And I would actually say that I think that that's a bit of a misconception from from managers what like, what would you say to that?
Again I think I don't think that I can't remember who put the comments up early, but there is no one size fits all solution. So I when I was in frontline sales, I thrived on the pressure I loved. I loved it. And it was it was a constant, constant adrenaline sport for me, I was having the best time. And would that be sustainable 10 years later? If I'd done it, if I've been frontline sales for the whole time, I don't know. Because I was only in that real frontline sales role for quite a short period of time, I was still doing sales, but predominantly leading a team. So I honestly don't know, I think I think there's there's the sort of difficulty and demand curve and the stress response that it provokes. If something's too easy and too boring, and you're not challenged enough. That's stressful, right? (Yeah.) Obviously, when things get the point where you're like, this is difficult, but I'm good at it, and I've got enough time to do it. Well, that's fine. So a bit of pressure, but you can meet that pressure feels good, go too far too much pressure, not enough time, all of a sudden, you feel crappy again. But what that curve looks like is going to be completely different from person to person. So there are some things you try and put any squeeze or any pressure on them at all. They just go into their shell it just back away, not how they want to work. And I think there's room in a sales team for people like that, I think, no, like anything, really, a sales team with no diversity with one type of personality is going to be good for one type of problem or one type of situation. Whereas if you've got people that can, you know what, at the moment, I'm never going to be the guy who pulls a half a million pound order out of his butt, you know, the last day of the quarter, but actually now routinely chew through a chunk of work every single week, and they'll be consistent in their numbers and the quality of their work will be high. There might not be the person you come to when the chips are down he desperately needs. But there's still a valuable member of the team. So I think it depends, I think it's horses for courses. So you can say, some pressure is good, some pressure is bad. I think it was good for some people and some pressure is bad for us.
Yeah, I think with the pressure pay, so it's not using that as your only tool. Don't use pressure as your only tool, right, being able to actually understand it comes back down to motivators, right? Like what motivates you and what and what actually gets you to where, you know, get your team where they want to be. Now, I think we've I can't let if we look at pressure, and we look at sales, and we look at the stress of it, if we think about it as a whole, sales is stressful, there's always a lot of pressure on us, there's targets, you've got to hit your quotas, you've got KPIs, you've got all of that stuff. So there's always going to be some kind of pressure and it's how you utilize that pressure. But here's the problem with the sales team is that it's it can be you can use it in the wrong way. And that pressure can be used in the wrong way and understanding what actually motivates your team can actually be really beneficial. I'm very similar to you, I actually work really well under pressure I actually work well under stress emphasizing for I've burnt out twice in my life. But again, it comes down to understand for me it was understanding my limitations and understanding how much pressure is too much and how much stress is too much before I actually start to crack and being able to see that as a manager to be able to say hang on Can I push my Can I push my sales my sales guy a little bit further or sales lady sorry. If you cannot push that person a little bit further are they at their actual limits and being able to see that as a manager means you need to know your sales team on a more of a one on one basis on a human level not necessarily seeing them as a as a number again so I think that that's that's really important. So yeah.
No, I agree with that. And I think what what's probably the sort of the final evolution of that in my mind is rather than having to artificially create pressure as the manager of that team, I find all I have a situation where people within that team are intrinsically motivated they know what's expected of them and what they consider a good day or a good month whatever it might be. They will self generates not even pressure but they will self generate the means enthusiasm the determination to do what without you the manager having to go right up behind them with my with will whip crack because it's the last week of the month yes there might be in theirs that you can sense it in a good sales department when when budgets inside and starting to get there there's a little bit of a crackle of energy and everyone starts to move a little bit faster and things just aren't happening a bit faster. It's you know, it's human nature if you look at like any deadline whether it's University work or something else a lot of the activity is back loaded right later most people but I still sort of feel that that trying to create pressure is probably not sustainable.
Yeah, no it's not. Yeah.
Well people know, people will know there's a target people will know there's a deadline you come in as a manager going we've got a target to hit this month, guys and we're not hitting it. There we go. Yeah, no shit Sherlock. It's on the KPI board on the wall. If I can read that. I think the big one another Intelligence but also sound right? coming in with a different approach. What can we do? What is there out there that we can be going after? What can I do what internal? Because obviously proposals need to be signed availability needs to be made from an operations perspective. So what can I do as a leader to help you guys hit that number is a far better approach than chop chop, guys, we got numbers here. And that seems to be the go to the focus. So--
It's, it's, it's being able to what I what I always say, is being able to don't try and pick drive people up to where you want them to be get down to where they are, and see where they are, and build them back up step by step. For some of them. Obviously, there's a there's some people that will work well for that. But again, it's understanding your team individually, rather than having one way. I think one of my pet peeves working as a sales person, and as a leader was actually having some being treated the same as every single person on the team when I had absolutely completely different needs. My, my abilities were completely different to other people and having that, you know, having that pressure put on me when I was just like, What are you talking about? Why do I need pressure? I'm like, 125%, to target. So I don't know why I'm getting this pressure. When Joe Bloggs down, there's 50% to target. So it's being able to understand where your teams are, and, and not always using that pressure and not always using going, Hey, guys, here's your target, like Go Go get it, it's actually going, Hey, guys, this is a target how we're going to do it on a day to day basis. How can we work as a team to build on that, and I think that that's really important. So but if anyone has any other ideas of what they want to they think is really good. Put them in the comment section, I will absolutely bring them up. So there's been some pretty good comments so far. So going back to the questions element, Collins actually written, it's always it's, it's always to get, I think you're trying to say it's always good to give sales people a massive advantage. If you have a set amount of questions that you already know the answer to because you have researched the competitor you're up against, then follow up with a solution you have putting the prospects in the position where it's hard for them to say no to you. I mean, that's a good, that's a good way to look at it as well. What do you think about that Dan?
I think I think yeah, up to a point. I agree with that. Clearly, you need to know your competition, even a little bit about the prospect. I think as long as that doesn't preclude you keeping an open mind. Yeah, I'm sure that's not what Colin was suggesting. Doing the research now in your marketplace is is you know, the bare minimum really for an effective salesperson. I think then being prepared to be prepared to actually like come away from the meeting without even elite, let alone your but actually being open to the possibility that what you thought you might be selling as the solution isn't actually what you need to sell the solution. And not prejudging how that conversation is going to go. I think it's probably obviously more important, but I think you need to strike a balance between the two.
Yeah, I agree with that. I think I'm one of the I was always a sales person that would kind of know of my competitors. But I didn't pay too much attention to what they were doing. Because I would rather go in with a bit of an open mind about what solution I could offer. Some people would argue against doing that. But that was something that I spent more time understanding my customers rather than my my competitors. But I actually do think there is a necessary to understand what are your competitors offering compared to what you could be offering is obviously, you need to know that but not spending too much time on that. I think that's really good. But I love having an open mind. Like I was always one of those people whenever I went into a sales meeting, and I still do it today, where I go into into a call going, I don't know what the outcome of this call is going to be. But I'm really excited to find out what that is. So having that that mindset so and gabes said something really interesting as well in regards to asking questions. So asking the right question is key. But equally listening and hearing the answers to get to the information you need to be able to solve the problem or the customer's needs. Also allowing the sales guy space to work with the customer not so pressure that they slip into passing that pressure onto the customer. That is a really, really good point. So putting pressure on your sales team can actually put create pressure on the customer, which is not always a positive thing where you get that pushy sales person that used car salesman kind of slogan, so I really like what you said they gave I think that's really awesome.
Yeah, and I just it's sort of self evident, isn't it? It's like, you know, if you take any sales, which involves an element of human interaction, and obviously there are Amazon doesn't involve much human interaction binding involve much human interaction, but b2b or per salesperson led b2c there's nothing and it sounds horrible. It sounds empathic. I don't mean it to at all, but it is reality that there's nothing less appealing than somebody comes across a super desperate. And if you've got a sales guy who feels like his or her job is permanently on the line, they don't get that big order across the line this month, they're a goner, the prospects are going to smell that desperation coming off them a mile away. And games absolutely right. If you're if you're creating a sort of ruthless, unforgiving environment, you're saying teams, they will be desperate out there in front of the customers and performing far worse as a result of that, but it's an actual thing
And creating a bad name for you in the market.
Absolutely. And the one of the stupidest pieces of sales advice I see it typically comes with a 10x your sales figure guru douchebag. So they never never done that they have sales in their lives. They're saying--
Grant Cardone, you're talking about Grant Cardone he like runs around going 10x your everything.
Bullshit, they say, oh, tell him when it's okay to say no. It's like, well, it might be okay to say no. But if they say no, now, when it might have been a Yes, in a month, what have you achieved by that? I'm not saying I'm not saying you shouldn't be qualifying prospects, because clearly if someone's never, ever, ever, ever gonna buy your service, because it's the wrong service, or they simply cannot afford it ever, then fine. You don't want to be flogging a dead horse, but pushing someone to make a decision there and then so that you forced them into a no, you might have the right customer at the right service, wrong time. (Absolutely.) Keep door open. And any salesperson that goes into into a discussion or a meeting or a call with that mentality is getting it wrong.
I love that I love the set the statement it's like always be closing like the ABC always be closing. I remember hearing that so much when I was when I was in like a sales sales role. But I think there's an element of it's like always be listening, like just just listen to say whether--right?
Always be opening always be--
Always be opening, there you go! Your lovely wife, again, has put in a little gold nugget that I have to add, which is employee satisfaction directly correlates to customer satisfaction. And that is 100% true. I know that you and Rebecca talk a lot about customer service. And we're you know, Rebecca and I have talked about customer service and burnout previously as well. But you're absolutely right. Like if your employees satisfaction. And if your employees feel really valued if your sales team feels valued, and they don't just feel like a number that they're just there to like, make sales, which we know that they they know that they know that they're there to make sales. But if they feel valued and they feel appreciated, you're going to get a lot more out of them if you if they don't, and they go and they're going to stay a lot longer stay on for a lot longer. One of the biggest things I think that is is an issue with sales. And we've probably all heard it, which is it's got the revolving door element to it as well, especially when I worked in recruitment. It was you know, within the first 18 months, you're going to see people come and go quite frequently. And I think the problem with sales is because we're not nurturing newcomers, we actually have this mentality of kind of sink or swim. Not all companies. I'm not saying all companies do that. But there is an element of sink or swim and sales in the sales role. And I think that there is some room to actually go, actually how can we actually keep keep salespeople? How can we actually train them up and make them better, and not have this revolving door issue? Because I understand the return on investment. But the interesting thing is how much money a company is spending on constantly retraining stuff rather than investing in actually the staff that they have? Yeah, on the sales team?
Yeah, absolutely. It's, it's a hugely expensive process, onboarding anybody into new business, I don't know if it's necessarily more. So for a sales person. But before someone coming in to a business can be effective at selling depending on the complexity of the products, you could have a three month, six month, twelve month lead time. And we most of myself backgrounds, in technical technical industries, technical products, and it would be at least six months, if not longer, until someone was kind of self sufficient with producing proposals. Yeah. And even then there was an administrative burden, because of that person that their work had to be checked out to be double checked for accuracy. So you bring that person on board under the wrong person. And 10 months later, you lose them, you have to go through all that. Again. It's painful, you know, and but I think in general terms, recruitment is not a function that many businesses are greater because we kind of go to our own interviews. We've got our we've got our guy we know from top to bottom, and I'd love to see a cultural shift in the UK where you can almost have the kind of try before you buy thing where someone comes in. They spend a day working with the team. Then they say Actually, yeah, you know what, I like that team, I'm gonna take the job and you say, yeah, we still want to keep the job offer, but there's no pressure. (Yeah)
That would be an interesting model to see how that would work.
Well, we just deliver, expecting someone to make a decision that's absolutely huge, based on a tiny, tiny proportion, that tiny little sliver of the culture, i.e. the culture that the hiring manager chooses to present to you in that meeting that very, very artificial environment, and then maybe a couple of phone interviews, or you might go meet the CEO, depending on the level you're coming in. And then when you actually get into the day to day to be like, Oh shit, I made a terrible mistake or the other way around. you recruit someone and then we go to go, this isn't the person we interviewed.
Yeah. That that it is it's definitely it's definitely an interesting model. I would love to see how that could be rolled out. But I think it is a good element, right? Like, for instance, I remember when I first went into recruitment, I had no idea what to expect them. And I loved the industry a lot was luckily for me, but I think that you know, if people actually understood what really what it really took to be in a sales is, and especially in recruitment, like recruitment, recruitment's cut throat, I'm not gonna lie. But being able to understand what that actually looks like, it's going to be really important. So I think that that's something that to look at, now something that I'm really conscious of. So when I first went into sales, it was just around the time of smartphones, so you could kind of get emails on your phone, you could kind of like have that phone call, but it wasn't really completely expected. And then as the years of progress, especially about five years ago, maybe maybe within the last 10 years, as well, that shift into, you have to always be on so you know, go back 20 years ago, you'd go to your sales job, you'd go into the office, you would do your hours that you needed to do, and then you would leave it there, because there was no such thing as working from home, we didn't have mobile phones, there was no such thing as the cloud where you could sign into the CRM at home and start working from now you had to be in the office. And that massive shift in the last 10 years is incredibly, I think that's having a huge impact. Because you're now talking to salespeople, and they feel like they always have to be there for their customer. They always have to be on, you know, if their customer messages them at like 10pm at night, they have to message back. Do you actually think that's playing a bit of a role in some of the burnout?
Yeah, I do. I think, for me, I was I was very much somebody who just wanted to get the work done. In fact, a bit of six, seven or something like that, I haven't finished it. I work because I wanted to do I wanted to achieve I wanted to I was young and ambitious and full of energy. I think where it becomes a problem is if it sets an expectation that everyone that he has to do that. And if you're not doing that, you're less than, like there's a phrase, one of the most toxic phrases in any business is a person, that person's a clock watcher. It's like you mean they weren't the hours that you paid them to work? What a complete monster they must be for going home. Like it's, it's just such a crock of shit. If you can to be effective in 40 hours a week, there should be no expectation that you should do 45 or 50, just because this other guy's doing 45 or 50, I think, (yeah) give people the means to do it. Say, look, if you want to take out your laptop home and spend a bit of time working on your phone, that's fine, but treat people and I'm getting into my sort of Neo socialists idea. But treat them with with a bit of human dignity and say, right, if you want to go home and work 3, 4, 5 hours tonight to finish this off, it's up to you. If you want to come in a couple of hours late tomorrow, don't tell people you will be here at eight, you will stay here till five. But if you want a few hours in the evening as well, that's absolutely fine. I think measuring people on their output, not on their input, and the whole world suddenly becomes a much better place to work.
Yeah, no, I absolutely agree with that. I think one of the you know, one of the worst things that I've seen in in companies is that expectation piece where it's like, well, you've got a phone, we've given you all this access, you should be constantly answering emails and constantly answering phone calls as part of the job. And I think that actually that narrative, it's a part of the job where you have to be contacted 24/7. That's really toxic, that's really, really toxic to be able to do that. Most sales people will put in the hard yards to hit their targets. But does that necessarily mean they have to be on at like, 6am in the morning until 10pm at night work weekends be speaking and doing doing all of that all the time? No. And I think creating that expectation and creating a culture based around that is incredibly toxic. I think that we've got to be really careful with that and giving people the option to say, Hey, you know what, I've seen you work in quite a bit over time and quite a bit of overtime, would you like an extra day off? I remember I was working in a really intense sales job when I lived in Vancouver. I frickin loved the job, but I was working, you know, I could work 16-18 hour days in that sales job, and I wasn't complaining, but having the option to be able to go you know, what I'm gonna take tomorrow off was was really needed and and i think i'm not having anyone bat an eyelid, right? You know, I was happy to put in those hours initially. But if I was told you have to be doing that that's a part of your job. And you know, if you don't do it, then maybe this job isn't for you kind of thing. It's just not the right way to look at it. So I think that there's I do think technology is playing a role on this. I do think that we've got to be really conscious in creating an actual precedence in the companies to be able to say, you know what, we're not you're not required to answer your emails after this time and actually create what was it you that was telling me that there's an actual rule that you can't set in certain companies you can't---
Or in France, like it's illegal, to ask someone to answer emails outside of their working hours and getting any additional work beyond the contracted hours that an employee in France you have to be incredibly careful. I've had a couple of sales teams in France over the years and no, I have no problem with it at all. But you just have to remember the culture over there is very much you work your hours and no--they can choose to but nobody can make them work more. And they also have a whole country shuts down three weeks in August, which is just hilarious. Like everyone goes on holiday for three weeks.
Kinda like Australia, sometimes Australia, even over Christmas, it does summer holidays as well, I feel like there's like a two month period in Australia where it's like, people kind of work with it's no, like, you know that you're not going to be doing a lot of work during that time. But this kind of brings me down to the next question. So we've sort of looked at all the reasons why we're not all of the reasons why. But we've looked at some of the reasons why people are burning out and companies. So at an organizational level, what do you think organizations can be doing to actually help prevent sales teams from burning out?
It's such a huge question. I think the specific answer will vary from company to company, depending on the size, depending on the product that they're selling, is it? Is it a long lead time? Is it very transactional? So the article is going to be completely different, but I think that the starting point is going to be the same with you. Stop giving a shit stop caring, asking the question. So actually saying to your salespeople, or any team, whenever we're talking specifically about salespeople and asking them, is this working for you? How does the culture feel for you does the stress or the pressure that you're on the field sustainable, and actually be prepared to make some fairly wholesale systemic or process or cultural changes to the business to allow those people to be profitable for longer? Because, (yeah) so many initiatives, I think companies, there's been a bit of a, there's been a bit of a sea change, the last two or three years were sort of humanitarian policies are starting to come a little bit more to the fore. But I know I can name two or three businesses that I've known often some I've worked in the monitor people's computer usage, not for what they're doing, but just for how many hours they logged on to the VPN, for example, when they're at home, to make sure that when they're working from home, they're doing enough hours work. But how about you flip up the other way, and say, we're gonna make sure that you're not doing too much work?
Right. It's just like, flip it right? Just like, you've been working for a while. You've worked your 40 hours. Have a bit of a break?
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, actually starts okay. And--
Your day that we talked about bonus money and commission and I, I genuinely believe that bonuses should be in place for all staff, I think someone is worth having in the business, and they contribute to the overall success, they should be able to earn bonus, if a business is profitable, the people that made it profitable should take a share in that. I think one of the things is is don't assume so if you've got a business with a complex sales function with multiple different departments and different products, different, different targets. And let's say for example, you've got one department is absolutely smashing it and everyone knows they're getting 100% bonus, they're driving around a new car, they're flashing and walking around. And every other department of the business isn't, all of a sudden your bonus scheme that should be a motivational thing is actually weighing on 80% of the business like an anchor, because they see that this team's making an absolute fortune, and they're getting nothing. And that's even more damaging and toxic for the individuals in those non performing teams who are individually performing really well. Because they're like, I know, I'm feeling just as well as this guy over here. I'm getting no bonus at all. (Yeah) So I think, you know, to answer the question, What can organizations do? Ask the question.
Ask the question. It's like, what do you need from us? I actually think, I think one of the biggest things as well is understanding expectations. So expectations, the expectation piece is something that I talked quite a bit about. So understanding your expectation of your staff and understanding what your staff expect from you. It's a two way street. But also when it comes down to expectations, understanding, is it realistic, and is it sustainable, if it's not, if you've got a high turnover of staff consistency, consistently, you've got a problem, you have a huge issue that you can fix, but you have to be willing to invest to fix it, because it's going to be return on investment is going to be huge there too. But I think that understanding is what you're currently doing realistic and sustainable. And is it changing with the times, which is also really important, keeping up with the times like, you know, a lot of companies still have a business model based from the 90s. But God, what has happened in the last like, 30 years, right, like so much has changed. So being able to keep up with the times. But understanding that is it realistic and sustainable is really important. And I think that that's something that a lot of companies need to look at. But we've already talked about this a little bit, but what do you think managers can be doing a little bit more like what do you think managers can be doing to help prevent burnout or even spot burnout?
I think it's, I mean, we Rebecca and I talk about this a lot in everything that we do as we're doing sales, improvement work, we're doing customer experience consulting--, where the business is, you start with empathy, because if you can't approach your team members with a degree of empathy, everything after everything thereafter is negatively affected by it. So you know, the old the old classic management would be looking at someone's performance on paper coming out and go in your figure this month or pile of crap nothing you can do about it. As opposed to coming out and saying look, I've noticed that you're performance, you know, was great, you know, the numbers aren't looking like they were Is there something going on? Is there something that we can help you with. Have you got stress in your personal life that you either want to talk to us about, we just want us to make aware. And you just want to make us aware that there is an issue, and actually going into a situation with a view to helping a person as a view to correcting their performance. If you see people as outputs to be corrected, you will never ever actually help them correct those outputs. And that's another mistake I've made. And I've managed a lot of people over the last 12 years. And the first ones, if they're watching this, I'm sorry, because I was terrible. You know, I learned by making mistakes and seeing that I wasn't getting the results of my team I wanted. I think the best thing a manager you can do is be open to the fact that they're not very good at managing to begin with. And the biggest source of information to getting better, are the people that they're managing. So if you're responding, if your entire team isn't responding, you haven't got a shit team, you're just not managing them very well. And that's hard to accept, and people don't want to be introspective and look at what they're doing. Think Actually, I'm not great at this. But constantly ask your team, constantly be open to improving and treat them like human beings.
Yeah, I think that's a really good point, I think, you know, it's really tough with in sales, right? Because sales is a bit ego driven. So being able to take a step back going, you know, I'm doing a really shit job as a manager is going to be painful, it's going to make you feel uncomfortable, you're going to resist against it, humans naturally will turn around and actually say this isn't my fault. It's your fault, because it's easier to do that, because it's not our problem that we then have to solve. We don't have to change, which we talked about already. It's changing is hard, it's uncomfortable. There's a part of our brain that actually will give us warning signs going, this isn't right. So we naturally want to actually go, it's someone else's fault, my team's fault, it's this person's fault. It's that person's fault. But being able to take a step back going, Okay, but what can I do taking that ownership is super important if your team isn't performing, or if even if you are the CEO of an organization and your company isn't being successful, you need to have extreme ownership with that you need to own where you're going wrong, and what you can actually be doing about it. And I think that's really important. But some of the things that I think is really important for what you just said, it pretty much come with it with empathy, being vulnerable, to be able to say, I'm not doing a great job and being okay with that. And I think showing compassion, I think that's a really big part, when it comes to helping with your sales team. Something else that I would also say is to spot the signs, if somebody in your team has dramatically changed in their behaviors, that's a pretty big sign. And you've already mentioned it as well. But that's a pretty big sign someone's not coping, and they could potentially be at risk of burning out. And here's the other thing, your top performers burn out too. So it's not always the low performance, your top performance will burn out too. So make sure you're nurturing your whole team. But don't forget about nurturing your top performers, I think it's easy to sort of go, oh, they're right there is hitting their their targets, but you don't actually know what's going on. They might be hitting their targets, but they still might be struggling. So that's something that I like, I just wanted to add into that part as well.
And just, just really, really quick. So when I started to be put in the latter part of my my leadership, and my employee leadership career, was when I was taking over a new team was to sit down with each and every individual member of that direct reporting team and say, How do you like to be managed? Because somebody might say, Yeah, I like to I like every single day feedback on how I'm doing, I want five minutes in the morning. Now, some people are quite high maintenance, and that's fine. Some will say, you know what, I don't want to know, I don't want to just come and tell me when things have gotten rolling like okay, that's fine. Some people like an email, some people like a phone call some people like, you know, everything. And just they're making it clear to every person in the team that it's okay to challenge me, it's okay to disagree with me. And if something that I say will do upsets, you come and talk to me about it. You know, I think too many people in leadership positions, the self anointed themselves as some kind of a guard who can't be challenged, his opinions and beliefs are beyond reproach. And it's just bullshit, isn't it? And making it clear to him that you can come and ask me a question, you can come and tell me you think I was wrong? Or you can come and tell me something I said, hurt feelings a little bit. It's so empowering because you're learning from them. And they feel safe to say, what you said to me earlier really, really stuck with me and not in a good way. You know, I didn't like that very much.
I think that's I actually think that it comes down to be a human, just be a human. You're not you know, seeing each other as an equal as, as human beings is really important. I think that you can bring that knowledge into business development, you can bring that into management, you can bring that into organizations, you can just bring that as, as any kind of leader. I think that's really important. Gabe said something really interesting as well, which is showing compassion and understanding not only helps to improve results, but helps to build loyalty and your team. That is a huge piece. If you don't, if you don't have a team that's loyal. It's going to be really challenging to actually get to listen to you when you need to motivate them, because if they don't trust you, but they don't think that you care that they're gonna give you nothing.
Yeah, sure. I mean yeah, kick the dog enough days in a row, eventually it's gonna run away and not come back and you got to treat badly. It's so obvious and yet something that we all forget on occasion, I think.
Yeah, no, I agree. I love that. So I think I think the loyalty piece is pretty, pretty important, especially with with sales team. I mean, I remember working in sales, and I used to fear always thinking I was always going to get fired, like, I was, like, if I didn't have good month, I'm gonna get fired. Or if I, if I dropped my performance, I'm gonna get fired. And at that stage, I was running at max all the time. And that's probably why I burnt out. So I was doing pretty good at sales as well. So it had nothing to do with my performance. But here's an interesting one, what do you think salespeople can do to help prevent burnout? Or actually overcome burnout?
Wow, it's such a great question, I think, I think actually being quite firm, about their own boundaries and their own expectations. And so I, I am fully cognizant of the fact that I was probably a nightmare to be to manage. But I would make, I would make it quite clear to anyone that was managing me throughout my career that this is not working for me, the way you're trying to manage me is not working, you got to be more or less, less, less of that. And I think actually just knowing yourself knowing and being aware of the fact. Actually, this situation I'm in at the moment, is not a good fit for me. And either going right, I'm going to go and try and make a change, or I'm going to leave. That's that's the best advice I can give to anybody. Because quite, you know, it's quite tactical. So things about the mindset will help things about reducing your own nervousness and your own fear by resetting the way you think about selling will help. But ultimately, if you're in an environment where the culture, whether that's your direct lead, or just a prevailing organizational culture is causing you stress on a daily basis, it's not sustainable.
Yeah, I agree. I think, um, personal boundaries is really important. And actually understanding what those personal boundaries are understanding, actually, what are my limitations? Like, what am I what's sustainable for me, because what's sustainable for Joe Bloggs, next to you might not be sustainable for you. So understanding your own limitations. And that's not to say that that's always the case, it's being able to understand today, what's my limitations? Well, how am I feeling right now. And it's obviously going to be external factors that come into that. But understanding how you want to manage your time, I actually think also being able to ask that quite telling your manager This is how I want to be managed is also really important. So that's 100%, something that I've personally done myself. So when I've got a manager, it's like, Hey, I like to be managed this way. And I like it when my team has actually said that to me, then I know what the expectation is, I know how much effort to be given, and vice versa. So it's really important. But it is now the end. It has been awesome chatting with you, I could totally talk to you for another hour on it because it's such it. Honestly, sales is sales roles. And sales is something that is so near and dear to my heart. I absolutely love the industry. And I think it's an absolutely amazing job for people to go into it. But I think that we need to tweak it to make it more sustainable for more people because it is a really good industry. It doesn't have to be used car salesman, it doesn't have to be stre--, it can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be that really bad stress as well. So thank you so much for coming on. Where can people find you? Oh, yeah, fine. So
Obviously, I'm on LinkedIn. And our website is just ThinkWoW.co.uk sales consultancy and CX consultancy and we love both equally now. So--
That's awesome. I just want to say a really good thank you to all the people that commented and got involved in this conversation. That was really good. But Dan, what is one bit of advice that you would tell people to help them Get Their Sh*t Together--Literally or Figuratively?
Sa--anyone you can just, anyone let's just open this door to everyone.
Oh my god. Such a big one. I think shedule in some downtime, put it in your calendar chunk of time I'm not doing anything. That doesn't mean sit there scrolling through phone in me just do something good for you. And it doesn't matter where it is a walk some exercise, read a book, have a bath meditate, whatever. Shedule that shit in?
Yeah, I agree schedule that downtime. And I think that's really awesome. Well, thank you so much. And thanks for everyone. That's been a part of this. Really appreciate it. And next week, I'll be back at the same time with an awesome guest as well. So thanks again, Dan.
See you soon!