EPISODE 537: Sales Leadership Improvement Strategies with David Masover

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This podcast, sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales, was recorded on June1, 2022 and featured David Masover of David Masover Sales Consulting.]

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DAVID’S TIP: “What are the three or four things that have to happen when someone is a prospect, before I decide to give him a demo or do a discovery call? Take that to the next level. Of the two or three or four things in step two, how can I do those more effectively? If you really start peeling down the layers of the onion, what do I do? How do I do it? How can I do it better? Then making those incremental changes at those micro levels. It’s a great way to understand your work, a great way to assimilate advice that you hear by knowing where to put it into your process, a great way to grow as a leader and a communicator and just a great way to be more effective at sales. Get that clarity.”


Fred Diamond: Dave, I’m excited to talk to you. Interestingly, for our guests who are listening in, I’m based just outside of Washington, DC, and you’re in the beautiful city of Budapest. I’ve been there before. It’s just a beautiful city, the Buda side, the Pest side, so good for you for being there. At the same time, you’re still working with sales organizations around the globe at David Masover Sales Consulting, you’ve also created some amazing things.

You’ve written a couple of books, good for you. We’re going to be talking today about a formula for sales training success, sales team success I should say. It’s a huge problem right now because a lot of sales leaders became sales leaders when the pandemic kicked in, it was typically their first job as a leader and everybody’s at home in their basement looking at a screen. What’s the status right now? Why are we talking about this today?

David Masover: I don’t think we ever really stopped talking about it. Sales is just one of those funny things. For some of us, it just comes very intuitively and for others, it’s just really hard to describe, or to teach someone else how to be effective. For some reason, that’s just an enigma. It has been for the three decades that I’ve been in sales. Conditions are different now. That’s been a problem at least for the whole time I’ve been around.

Fred Diamond: I would agree. You’re also the host of The Sales Team Success Formula, that podcast. Good for you. We’ll talk about process. It’s interesting, where do you think sales is right now? Most of the listeners of The Sales Game Changers podcast are typically in B2B, or business to business, for enterprise sales.

We have a lot of people in tech, we have a lot of people in services who listen to today’s show. They are sales professionals. We do have a small percentage of our listeners who are maybe consultants or small business owners who know they need to be more professional at sales. Most people are sales professionals. Where do you think we are right now? A lot of people, they’re not on lockdown anymore but they’re still working from home. In many cases, their customers are still at home.  Where do you think we are as a sales profession?

David Masover: Let me answer it this way. I grew up in the United States, born in Chicago, spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley, moved out to Budapest in 2004 and for the first 14 years, I worked predominantly here in the region. In 2018, some things changed for me and I decided, “I’m going to get back into sales consulting. I just want to go global with it. I’m going to engage with the internet and see where it takes me.”

I was a little bit sheepish because I didn’t really know the state of sales outside of my geographic region. I dipped my toe into LinkedIn and started poking around and meeting people and engaging in content. My first impression was, “It looks like everybody’s got everything all figured out, look at all these really smart posts and these really great discussions.” Then I started working with organizations.

What I realized is we’re almost further back than when I left. I don’t have a great explanation for it. If I had to hypothesize, I would say there seems to be this real drive for looking for a hack and a tip and a trick and something quick or a piece of tech. It’s very much this, “What’s the one thing?” mentality. That whole perspective just takes you in the wrong direction. That perspective has become very, very pervasive.

Fred Diamond: Is there one thing?

David Masover: No. I don’t think there is. I just don’t. If there’s one thing, it’s to take a holistic perspective, which I’m not sure if that’s what you’re looking for. That’s all I can come up with.

Fred Diamond: Now, I’ll say a couple of things. One is, we do a Sales Game Changers podcast every day. I get 40 requests per week from people who want to be on The Sales Game Changers podcast. First of all, they have to have written a book. If they’ve written a book, then I’ll read the book. I get a book sent to me, David Masover, probably every day. Some of them are great, and some of them are not. The point is people are out there writing books to help people get better at sales. There’s a couple of reasons. One is, first of all, it’s a hard profession. We talk about this all the time, it is a profession. A lot of times people get into sales, and they think, “I should be good because I like to talk and I have charisma, and people always say to me, you could sell anything.”

Well, I’ll tell you man, if you’re going to be selling software, you just don’t call up a CIO and say, “Hey, I got charisma, how would you like to buy a million dollars’ worth of software?” You have to understand the budget and the need and the marketplace and your customer. There’s so many things that go in to being a sales professional.

David Masover: Yes, absolutely. Working on any one thing at any one time is important. There’s lots of skills. If you think about a sports team, for example, or any music, any endeavor, there’s lots of individual elements that are going to make you great. If you don’t have that holistic perspective, if you don’t have a larger game plan, if you can’t really see what is it that I’m doing here, what are the pieces, and what do I need to change right now in order to make myself better globally, you’re moving in the wrong direction.

Fred Diamond: A lot of the great sales leaders want to improve. We talk a lot about continuous improvement, not just that they want to improve themselves, but they want to improve their people. They’re listening to today’s show. They’re dedicating a half hour of their life to try to get better at sales. We’ve had over a million interactions with The Sales Game Changers podcasts, over 550 episodes. People do want to get better. Why do you think most sales improvement efforts, though, fail or fall way short of the desired results?

David Masover: A lot of them start in the wrong place. It’s very easy to presume, the basics and the fundamentals. I was very fortunate, I didn’t know what process was. For a very long time, I’d heard the word I understood the concept, but viscerally I didn’t really understand it. I worked with this guy, his name is Bob Noakes, he actually designed the very first online tracking system for DHL in a large, abandoned parking lot using string to connect all the dots. Really, really great guy. When he was explaining to me what process was, he said, “I’m the guy in the meeting where when somebody says, ‘Okay, and then we send a check.’ I say, wait a minute, who opened the bank account?”

There’s a real lack of that desire to take a couple of steps back and say, “What are we doing here?” With respect to the sales team, I think there’s usually a big blind spot about what happens in between the prospecting activity that’s very accountable, and the closing of the deal that’s very accountable. The stuff that happens in between on a one-on-one basis and across the team, it’s a black box. If you don’t have clarity there, what exactly is it that you’re going to work on? One of the reasons that a lot of people struggle is they don’t take the time to get that clarity. Because of that, they might be mostly in the right direction sometimes. But without that clarity, you’re not going to be sure.

Fred Diamond: If you think about it, there’s so many different things that must happen for a sale to take place. Particularly in the areas that we’re talking about here. The IES, Institute for Excellence in Sales, most of our customers are large tech or medium sized tech or professional services. Your offering has to be right for the customer at the right time, has to be budgeted.

The right people need to be involved. We tell people in sales, “You really need to understand the customer and their industry and what they’re challenged with.” A lot of times over the last two years, especially in the beginning of the pandemic, people would say to me, “Well, what should I be doing right now?” I would say, “Become intimate in the marketplace, not just where your customer’s in but where your customer’s customers are in and your customer’s customer’s customer. Then secondly, you need to be an expert in what you bring to the market. Your solution, how does it solve problems? Then third, if you’re a sales professional, you better be a sales professional.”

One thing I hate I, and I’m interested in your thoughts on this. You and I are both active on LinkedIn, I do a LinkedIn post or a podcast. People say, “Oh, this was a great reminder.” “Oh, yes, it was great reminder that I need to pick up the phone three times.” Okay, do I need to remind Tiger Woods, it’s important to practice 10-foot putts? You know what I’m saying? I love Tiger Woods. Do I need to tell him, “Hey, Tiger, I want to remind you, you need to be on the range for an hour today so that you can work on your drives”?

David Masover: Listen, the work we do is in large part about discipline. Discipline is not something that comes naturally to a lot of folks. Looking for the hack, looking for the trick, the word trusted advisor gets thrown around a lot. Nobody wants to be a salesperson. I’d rather be a trusted advisor. That’s not the thing that you can get to by looking for a hack or the three things. How do you be a trusted advisor? It’s exactly what you said, you need to understand the challenges of your prospects and customers, you need to understand where your solution fits in, and you need to be able to carry on conversations where you add value. There’s another phrase that we hear a lot.

What is adding value? It’s actually knowing what the heck you’re talking about, and being able to help somebody with the challenge that they have. If you don’t have that, you’re not a trusted advisor, I’m not sure what you are, you’re somebody who’s reading a script. Maybe sometimes something that the marketing guys wrote will resonate, or something you made up will resonate. But if you’re not really doing the work to be worthy of engaging around those conversations, you’re not going to be that trusted advisor.

Fred Diamond: One of the big reasons why this is happening is that the customer is now in charge. We’ve heard this many, many times over the last 15 years. Everything is on the internet, or social media. If I’m an IT director, and I need to know about a certain type of technology, I don’t need to call the sales professional, I could just do research or call a peer on social media, and LinkedIn, or whatever it might be, and I’ll get my answers. When it comes down to adding value, what is your advice, let’s say for someone who’s relatively new in sales? Let’s get really a little bit deeper in this. What would be your advice on how they can get to the point where they truly are adding value?

David Masover:  Get to the point is exactly right. It’s intimidating. It’s really intimidating when you’re a salesperson starting in a new job. I’ve been there a bunch of times where you show up, they show you your telephone and your desk and whatever other equipment you have, and they show you how the tech works. Then they’re like, “Okay, go start contacting people.” You know that your prospects and customers know more about your product than you do, that is very intimidating. Anyone that says it’s not, they haven’t been there.

For anyone who’s in that situation, the only advice is, a, hang in there, but, b, take that perspective, that this is what I need to learn. Whatever you can do to learn, asking your customers the questions that you need to ask instead of pretending you know the answers. Shadowing people who are doing well and who are further down the road than you are. You have to start from the place of knowing, my job is to add value and the only way I’m going to add value is if I understand how it is I can help somebody. Whatever you can learn to get there, that’s going to make you better in sales. Not the hacks, not the objection techniques, not that other stuff. Understand your client, understand your business, understand your solution.

Fred Diamond: As you were giving that great answer, I’m reminded of a couple things. One is, a lot of times I would give advice, I have a son who’s 10 years out of high school, and I’ll see a lot of young people who have asked me, kids he went to high school with or college who are now in sales, and they’ll ask me for some advice.

I say to them, “You know what? Go ask your father’s friends. Go find out people who have been in sales for 30 years. You don’t always have to be in sales mode. You could be in gather information mode. If you’re 25 or 27 or something, or even younger than that, and you are in an SDR role or something, your dad or your mom probably has some friends who are in IT or in financial services. Go ask them for coffee on a Saturday morning.”

They would love it. I would love it. A lot of my son’s friends did that who were in sales just to ask me questions, ask me advice and, put those things into play. We have a question here from Amanda. Amanda, it’s good to see you. Amanda says, “Can David talk about culture, and as a new sales leader, how can I be ensuring that we have the right culture?” David, I know you’re an expert on that. Let’s talk a little about developing strong sales cultures right now. How can we sustain that?

David Masover:  Sure, thanks for the question, Amanda, and good for you for reaching out as a new sales leader about something so important. When a lot of people talk about sales culture, they think about it at the periphery, at the visible level. We need beanbags and pizza parties, and let’s go do some adventures so we can bond with each other. There’s nothing wrong with that stuff. When I think about culture, I think about culture as something that emerges from the right kind of environment, not something that you impose onto an environment. That’s important. What kind of an environment is going to instill the right kind of a culture? There’s really only two main things you have to have. If your salespeople can come into the office every day or log on, whatever it is in this crazy time.

If they can show up at work and know two things. Number one, I am going to be supported. Number two, I am going to be held accountable to things that are very clear and specific and explicit and understood. If your salespeople know those two things, that’s the foundation for a strong sales culture. I’m not sure if that’s a satisfactory answer, but I’m very sure that that’s at the bottom foundational level of what it takes. If you don’t have that stuff, the pizza parties and the beanbag chairs, that’s not going to get you anywhere.

Fred Diamond: Amanda says, “Thank you.” She says, “A follow up question.” Amanda is on the more junior side. Congratulations, though, Amanda for being in sales management so quickly, “How do I work with people who are twice my age? I seem to struggle with motivating them.”

David Masover, we talked before on the podcast about how sales management first or second level is probably the hardest job in sales, especially if you were promoted in the last two years. You’re doing it from home, your salespeople are at home, your customers are at home for the most part. What are some of your advice for that if you’re relatively new, you just got promoted, you’re a quick starter, and now you’re managing people who are twice your age?

David Masover: It’s a tough situation. It’s really intimidating, it’s very easy to get shut down. A lot of these people probably have very effective communication skills, styles that may or may not sync up with the way you do things. It can definitely be a tricky situation. It’s a great question. Earlier in this podcast, we were talking about the importance of getting clarity on what salespeople are really doing as a basis for effective sales improvement efforts. The same concept applies here. You can say, “Okay, I’m going to be, a tough person, and I’m going to impose my will,” and go for it. Maybe that’ll work for you.

What I’ve always found most effective is to think of a sales leadership role or a sales management role is, how can I help my people succeed? The first step in that has to be just understanding who they are and what they need. Not everybody’s going to be open to that. If you approach somebody on your team with the idea, “Listen, I really want to understand, what’s going on with you, what you’re struggling with, and where I can help. I’m a different person than you are, I’m in a different role than you are, but I see my role as trying to support you and your success.”

If you take that approach, I think you’ve got a better chance of trying to get somewhere than if you’re more assertive, more dominant, more controlling. It may or may not work, nothing always works. Anyone that tells you that it does is probably trying to sell you something. This kind of an approach is probably going to get you farther than more assertive approaches.

Fred Diamond: That’s great advice on how to work with the team and how to be a leader. Talk a little bit more about what would you recommend to someone who’s relatively new in sales management from a true functional sales perspective. You did a great job addressing how to be a leader, how to interface with your team, how to bond. What would you recommend to people who are relatively new in sales leadership right now? We’re doing the show in spring of 2022. What are some of the truly functional things as a sales manager they need to be focusing on?

David Masover: I’m not sure if this is what you’re after here, but I think one of the toughest things about being a sales manager is the expectations that come from above you. A lot of sales managers, they want to coach, they want to spend time with their team. They want to do one on ones they want to do shadowing or ride alongs or whatever. They’re inundated with, they have to go to this meeting, they have to go to that meeting, they have their own quota.

They have to come up with this customer report. As a sales manager, understanding how to manage your time, prioritize what’s really important to you with respect to supporting your team. Managing expectations from those above you, if you can master those skills, and you give yourself the breathing room to be able to do the things that are really going to move the needle, which are often for many people, the first things that get pushed out in the midst of the firefighting and the chaos and the one-off expectations.

Fred Diamond: That’s a great point. A lot of people who move into leadership were great in sales, which is why they got promoted. Then they find out that they’re now in a more of a supply chain. They’re reporting to somebody. A lot of times people who aren’t sales leaders will complain to me, “I’m not getting attention from my leader, how come my leader isn’t bonding with me?”  I say, “The first thing you need to understand is that he or she is managing eight of you, and then he’s reporting to someone who’s managing three or four of him, who’s reporting to somebody who’s managing three or four of him or her. You’re a piece of this equation, you’re an important piece, but there’s the up and down.” 

I really liked the way you gave that answer. We have a question here, from Josef, or Josef, “How should I be presenting myself on LinkedIn? You mentioned that David is very active on LinkedIn.” What’s your advice on that for sales professionals and using LinkedIn? Guys like you and I are all over LinkedIn. We’re posting ideas. I post something every morning at 7:30, and it gets a couple of 1000 views and it builds my brand. If you’re a rank-and-file sales professional, what are some recommendations for them to optimize the use of that social media tool?

David Masover: Well, I’m glad you narrowed it down. I think LinkedIn is a platform that can be a lot of things for a lot of people. The first thing you want to ask yourself is, why am I here? What am I doing? What’s my objective?

Let’s assume, as you said, in your example, and as I think is the case with Josef. It’s a sales professional. One of the mistakes a lot of people make when they’re sales professionals is they talk about sales. I don’t think that’s going to help you unless your goal is to be some kind of a sales guru coach influencer. If you think about what it is you should be doing as a salesperson, it’s ultimately about solving problems. When I create content, people get mad at me. It used to be five times a week, now it’s four. I like my extra day off from that. I don’t spend more than an hour creating content for the week. People get angry because they spend a lot of time creating content, they really think about it.

The reason it doesn’t take me very much time is if I don’t already have my posts, I just look at my calendar from last week. I say, “What’s going on with the people who I’m helping? What are the issues that have come up? What are the things that made me scratch my head and think? What are the things that I’m curious about? What are the lessons that were learned? What are people struggling with?” If you take that approach to your content, then it becomes really easy to create content, and the content that you create is going to resonate with the people who you’re trying to reach. Think about customer interactions or problems that you had, or problems that you solved or interesting situations. That’s a good place to start if you’re a quota carrying rep trying to think about what should I be doing on LinkedIn?

Fred Diamond: We have time for a couple more questions here. Here’s one. One of the interesting things is sales has really been in a state of dynamic shifting over the last decade or so, and a big part of it, of course, is because of how the Internet has allowed the customer to find information on their own without the perceived need for the sales professional. The great sales professionals are the ones who go to the customer with the value. They’re proactively thinking about, what are the challenges my customer’s facing because of the customer challenges they’re facing? Bringing them solutions that hopefully will be well received. What are the two or three things that you suggest that sales professionals really focus on right now?

We talk a lot about mental health, everybody in the world is still dealing with the challenges as it relates to the pandemic from a health and financial perspective and things that may be affecting you. What will be your top three things that sales professionals should really focus on for the next quarter?

David Masover: I don’t want to answer that until I address a nugget that you brought up twice. It’s this idea that the customer or the prospect has all kinds of information available to them on the internet, so what’s the salesperson supposed to do if the prospect already has all this information and they’re 57% of the way through their selling cycle before they reach out? A really important perspective, and this might be an answer to the question, one of the key things that a sales professional should be doing right now. One of the things that great salespeople do, is they understand the problems that the prospects don’t see.

They know that because they’re working with prospects who had a blind spot. Going back to Josef’s question, that’s a great topic to write about. If you think about some hobby that you have, or something that you’re trying to learn, I like cooking, I’m not very good. I try. My family likes my food, but I’m trying to get better.

Whenever I make a new recipe, there’s always something I learn that I didn’t expect. I read the recipe, I followed the steps, but it’s like, “Oh, wow, the butter gets really brown if the setting is on x, I didn’t know I had that problem.” If you can bring problems to your prospects that they don’t know that they have, you’re adding value, you’re circumventing this whole ‘I know everything’. You’re getting people to say, “Wow, this is somebody I ought to be listening to.” Putting yourself in position to do that is a very good thing to be doing in sales now and all the time.

Fred Diamond: We got time for one more question before I ask you for your final action step. This question comes in from TP. TP asks, this is based on things we talked about before. “Hi, David, what is your advice? I’ve been promoted into sales management, I feel I’m a better salesman than a manager, so I still revert to my sales duties rather than focusing on managing the team. How can I grow into a more effective sales manager without failing dismally?”

That’s a great question. We fall back into our safety or comfort zone, if you will, but some things you talked about before. We love to do the things that we love to do, we love to do the driving with the customer, we love to do the get me in a meeting with the customer, get me into your Zooms. Let’s say that they want to move into management, what will be the two or three things that you would advise TP to do?

David Masover: It’s an excellent question. It’s a tough situation, a lot of folks wind up and they get promoted, they get no training, they don’t really understand the difference between the individual contributor role and the sales manager role. More often than not, they still have an individual contributor component to their role, which makes it particularly challenging to balance those things out. The first important thing to do is well, of course, ask questions like you’re asking, understand that this is a problem to be addressed.

That’s excellent. Kudos to you for that. Second of all, you really need to understand at a very deep level, the difference between the two jobs, and at the most simple level, the individual contributor job is about delivering a number. The manager job is about helping other people to deliver a number. As simple as that sounds, it’s a fundamentally different job.

If I was to give a third piece of advice, I think it comes back to what I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, getting clarity about what salespeople do to get new business. Many of us in sales, we go out and figure it out and do it on our own, but we can’t articulate how we did that. Making a goal of being able to articulate how sales is done successfully in your organization, seeking that out from your own sales work from the salespeople who are working with you, having those conversations. That’s going to be the kind of conversation that’s going to help you change your perspective and help your salespeople to be more effective along the way.

Fred Diamond:  David, I want to thank you for being on today’s show. I want to acknowledge you for the success you’ve had. I know you’ve helped tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of sales professionals understand the process and get more effective at building things like sales infrastructure, and sales culture.

It’s critical right now that the sales leaders that are listening to today’s show are reading the transcript that they understand that they take guidance from leaders such as you because it ain’t easy, it’s getting harder, the world is making it harder. They’re talking about if we’re not in a recession already entering into a global recession, which is going to make it even more challenging. We’re constantly looking for ways to help the sales leaders and the sales professionals who listen to The Sales Game Changers podcasts take their careers to the next level. You’ve given us so many great ideas, things we can do. We like to wind down every show with an action step. Give us something specific, something people should do right now to take their sales career to the next level.

David Masover: We talked about this a couple of times in the episode. It’s about clarity and when I work with clients, I help them by building out something I call a 4 level sales process. It’s a vehicle for getting clarity. What is it that I do to be successful at sales? We all know the sales process’s big steps. Somebody is a lead, somebody is a prospect, somebody is this, somebody is that. The names don’t matter. Take it to the next level. In stage I, somebody’s a lead. What are the three or four things that have to happen before I decide they move to next level?

What are the three or four things that have to happen when someone is a prospect, before I decide to give him a demo or do a discovery call? Take that to the next level. Of the two or three or four things in step two, how can I do those more effectively? If you really start peeling down the layers of the onion, what do I do? How do I do it? How can I do it better? Then making those incremental changes at those micro levels. It’s a great way to understand your work, a great way to assimilate advice that you hear by knowing where to put it into your process, a great way to grow as a leader and a communicator and just a great way to be more effective at sales. Get that clarity.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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