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EDITOR’S NOTE: We conducted this interview in January 2020. Since the show was released during the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked Denise what her advice is for sales professionals during the pandemic. She offered the following:
- “This is the perfect time to practice your research, personalization and empathy, all elements of a Sales Done Right approach.
- Business is still getting done, but needs have changed.
- Make sure to take the time to find out what has changed and work to adjust to meet your prospects and customers’ needs. What a great time to create trust and loyalty!
EPISODE 219: Expel Sales Leader Denise Hayman Explains Why It’s the Perfect Time to Apply a Sales Done Right Approach to Be of Service to Your Customers
DENISE’S FINAL TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “It’s Sales Done Right. Nothing takes the place of you doing the work. Athletes practice no matter how great they are, lawyers practice before they go into the courtroom, we have to practice. We have to be good at our elevator pitch, we have to be good and know the questions ahead of time, we have to be prepared with understanding who we’re talking to, we have to know how those people want to be talked to and talked with, what are the best ways. The biggest tip that I would say is do the work, prepare and do the work.”
Denise Hayman is the Chief Revenue Officer at Expel.
Prior to coming to Expel, she was at Neustar and Symantec and was a sales leader for a lot of exciting startup companies in the tech space.
We spoke about the difference between working as a sales leader for a large company and for a small company.
Denise can be found on LinkedIn here.
Fred Diamond: How did you get into sales as a career?
Denise Hayman: I did not come up from a traditional place to get into sales. I have an interesting background, I actually started out as a special education teacher and there are lots of jokes about that as you might imagine, that dealing with salespeople is a lot like dealing with special education people. I think the main thing for me that came out of that is I really understand how to evaluate individual performance. The ability to ask questions and ascertain where someone is in their current state and help them, lead them and motivate them to get to the next place is a key foundation of what has made me be a great sales leader over the years. After that, of course I had to figure out what I wanted to be once I figured out that I wasn’t going to be a special education leader. I sort of fell into it, I think we’ll talk about that in a little bit here.
Fred Diamond: Usually I ask the question, “What are some of the lessons you learned from your first few sales jobs?” and you have eluded to it, what are some of the key things that you learned as a special educations teacher that you apply today?
Denise Hayman: The difference between a special education teacher and a regular teacher in a big classroom is that as a special education teacher you’re dealing with people that are coming at you from all different places. You might have children that have difficulty reading, difficulty with math, dyslexia, attention issues so you’re having to deal with everyone individually and differently. I learned early on that you had to really not look at everything as a whole but look at everything as an individual. The ability to create sales programs, to do motivation by an individual rep, all of that really came from my original teaching experience.
Fred Diamond: Tell us about Expel, tell us what you sell today and tell us what excites you about that.
Denise Hayman: We’re selling what’s called a transparent managed security solution. Why that is important is because there are millions of open cyber security jobs out there today and organizations that really want to be best-in-class in terms of how they deal with their security internally at their organizations. What we’re doing is bringing that expertise to the masses so we’re able to allow any organization to be able to purchase a service from us that has full on credibility and full on access to the best-in-class kinds of security in their management of their solutions internally.
Fred Diamond: A lot of people, when they listen to the podcast, they want to know who you sell to. What types of positions purchase your solutions?
Denise Hayman: Many people think that what we’re doing here is selling to smaller companies and it’s amazing, every size of company has this issue so it can be smaller companies, it can be huge companies that are either extending their security posture or they are replacing what they’ve got internally already. The primary people that we are selling to, it’s a head of a security operations center, it’s a head of a security architecture type of team, it’s a chief information security officer, the people that are the custodians within an organization of what happens to the security internally and sometimes out to their customer base as well. That’s who we’re selling to.
Fred Diamond: Tell us how you first got into sales, how did you make that transition from special ed to sales?
Denise Hayman: Accidentally. When I knew that I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore, what I really tried to figure out was, “What’s next?” The best opportunity was go figure out some things so I took a job selling advertising, 100% commission selling advertising for a trade show book. This was just testing my skills to see what I wanted to do and what I learned from that has taken me to this day which is, first of all, in a job like that it’s all about you. You’re not making any money until you make a sale so the scenario of having to really grind it out and do the work was very apparent.
Then I also learned that I really loved getting the sale, the aspect of targeting and really going after a specific person, a specific company and the thrill of the chase, the success of what happens when you actually get to that place, that was interesting during that part of my career. Now overtime obviously that has changed and the things that excite me now about sales are more about the building of the team and the impact on the organization both from a company perspective as well as the individual sales rep perspective. I love being able to – maybe this is some of my special education stuff – take an individual and really help motivate them to a new place that they didn’t even think they could accomplish.
Fred Diamond: I’m curious, again at the introduction we talked that you worked at Neustar which is large company and we actually interviewed a couple of the sales leaders from Neustar, we’ll put a link to the show that we did with Dorean Kass who now heads sales there and also Craig Pentz, but you also worked for some exciting startups like we mentioned in the introduction. What do you like better? Tell us what excites you about selling for a large company versus selling for an exciting startup.
Denise Hayman: First of all, the job is very different at both of those companies. The mission when you’re at a small security company sometimes can be about getting those first customers, sometimes it can be about trying to figure out product market fit, you’re in the early stages of trying to decide whether there’s a ‘there’, there, whether that thing that you think is going to be out in the marketplace is going to sell. Then you get some momentum and you start building out the team so it’s very much about proving the theory of the marketplace. When you’re at a larger company it’s much more about scale and about maybe new opportunities, about organizing and operational efficiency, those kinds of things. It’s a lot more about building the management structure and building the capabilities within the team than it is necessarily about finding those first customers.
Fred Diamond: You did both.
Denise Hayman: I have.
Fred Diamond: Did you enjoy both? Now obviously you’re with Expel and we’re doing the interview from your offices today, and by the way, for the Sales Game Changers listening around the globe we’re located about 20 minutes outside of Washington DC, not too far from the Dulles Airport. There’s a lot of tech around here, a lot of cyber companies that we’ve also interviewed for the podcast. Tell us what excites you about working for a large company versus working for a small company like this.
Denise Hayman: They’re both awesome when you get to lead a team of people that is motivated to hit targets and see that growth. To me, again it’s less about the size of the company than it is about the team that I get to lead so it really has to do with the individuals and their motivation to grow and learn. If I can take somebody, like I said before, to a place that they didn’t expect that they could get to, motivate them to get there, that’s a huge win for me. In larger companies I’d say that’s harder to do sometimes than at startup companies. I have tended to lean into startup companies, I think that’s more my wheelhouse around the being able to build and really that intuition of understand when you can find a customer niche and be able to match that niche. It’s a lot harder to do that at a large company although they have their benefits as well, I’ve had a couple of big companies in my career and I’m back at a startup. I think this is my eighth startup now so I seem to lean in this direction [laughs].
Fred Diamond: We have a lot of Sales Game Changers listening around the globe and we get two types of questions – we get a ton of questions, but one of the questions we get from our listeners is, “I work for a small company, how can I work for a larger company?” and then we also get the converse, “I’ve been working for a large company for 20 years, I want to try a startup, a high tech, sky high flying type of company.” What would you tell someone who works for a large company about going into a small company? Not a leader per se, but a rank and file individual contributor who’s been with an Oracle or a Microsoft or an HP for 20 years and now they want to take a shot working in something a little more energetic.
Denise Hayman: I would ask why. The first question is, “What is it that attracts you to this? Is it just because you think there’s some big payout at the end and so you’re just in for that?” Because the work is totally different at a startup than it is at a large company from a rep perspective. What I interview for and what we look for in terms of individual sales reps has to do with, “Have you built a territory from scratch? What would it take? Have you targeted accounts within? Who do you know within those accounts that you get going quickly?” It’s less about, “Is the organizational brand going to help you bring into those customers?” What if you had no customers in your territory at all and you had to start from scratch? We’re lucky enough to not be in that position, we have customers I think in every territory but the building of a territory is totally different than a servicing of a territory, that’s #1. #2 I would say the pace is totally different.
Again, making a generalization here but at a startup company the pace around what happens when a lead comes in, when you’re going to an event, the pressure on ensuring that you’re making the most of every moment, one of the other things that I interview for is a bias for urgency. The whole idea of, “If you had a situation come up that you need to take care of and these other things came in mind, tell me how you would prioritize those.” What happens if the customer is pushing you off? How do you create that urgency? It’s a lot more about the hand-to-hand combat at a small company than at a large company, it’s more about making the organization operationally efficient to be able to deal with that customer.
Fred Diamond: Tell us what you’re an expert in. Tell us a little more about your specific area of brilliance.
Denise Hayman: Brilliance [laughs] this is always a weird question for me. In talking to my team and hearing from them what they would like to have more of from me as well as what they think I’m good at, what frequently comes up is that they tell me that I am really good at asking questions. It’s sales skill 101 but there is absolutely an art to it to not have it be just a list of questions, to have it have context, to really be curious and it’s not faking curiosity, it’s more, “I am here and I am asking you questions because I am interested and I’ve thought about these other questions that might come up.”
The ability to not only ask an easy close-ended question but a hard, challenging question because our prospects and our customers sometimes need us to do that. They don’t know everything, we’ve seen lots of things that they don’t see. Sometimes we need to be mindful of asking not only the easy questions but the hard questions. What my team tells me is that I am really good at doing that with them as well as with prospects and customers from a place of not putting them on their back feet, not ruffling their feathers. It’s really because I am curious and I think it comes across.
Fred Diamond: I want to ask you a question. You just brought up something that hasn’t really come up all that frequently on the Sales Game Changers podcast. You talked about you asking your team for guidance on what you’re doing well and what you can improve on. Talk about that for a little bit, talk about how you as a sales leader solicit that type of advice and guidance from your team members.
Denise Hayman: As you might imagine, it’s for them maybe not the most comfortable position because they don’t know why I’m asking. To your point, it’s an unusual thing to make sure that is happening but I am their leader. I am not an elected official, I am in a scenario where they are only as good as my ability to serve them and to serve the organization on their behalf. If I don’t know what is going on for them that is working and not working or what I’m doing or not doing well, then they will never be able to be better. I have had to get them used to the fact that I’m asking it genuinely and openly and honestly, I actually just did a round with my team where I asked for some specific feedback and as you might imagine, some people are more comfortable at doing that than others. But again, using my questions I’ll dig in and ask questions and ensure that they’re getting what they need.
Fred Diamond: I really applaud you for that. We talk a lot about the people in the team continuously learning and we also talk about the sales leaders we interview on the podcast continuously learning but we very rarely bring up that aspect of getting input from your team on how you can become a better sales leader. You’ve worked for some great companies, a lot of high flying startups and large companies as well. You must have had some impactful mentors along the way, why don’t you tell us about an impactful sales career mentor or two and how they impacted your career?
Denise Hayman: This is personally a very big subject for me because I believe that mentors can be game changers for all of us but really hard to find that person that you really connect with that has your best interest at heart. I was lucky enough early in my career at Symantec, I had two people who I still consider to be mentors although we’ve all scattered into different places, one who was my immediate manager in a sales management role that really taught me about negotiating from a win-win perspective.
You go through a whole bunch of sales training and you learn the textbook thing to say or the question you should ask or make sure you’re getting everything from both sides, but she really did an amazing job at A, asking questions and B, really teaching us all about the importance of making sure everybody wins in a negotiation. It’s not just about us getting what we need, the customer needs to get something out of it as well and as a sales leader I’ve definitely continued on that path with her. Another one also at Symantec, at the time he was my VP of Sales, his name is Phil Dunkelberger.
Do you know Phil?
Fred Diamond: I worked at Apple Computer with Phil.
Denise Hayman: Years ago, absolutely.
Fred Diamond: ‘Dunk’
Denise Hayman: ‘Dunk’, yes. I was in California at the time and Symantec was there and he taught me so many things about sales management, how to interview, what to look for, how to test certain skills. He’s at the time a big person in the Xerox way of selling so there’s a lot of structure in terms of how do you go about the sales process. He did an amazing job at not only teaching but also he would go on the field regularly and make sure that he was taking those same skills and bringing them out to the individual reps. I worked for him again, actually at PGP when he was a CEO and I was a VP of Sales, so I got to do it in a different elevated role but same sort of thing, great mentorship.
Fred Diamond: I have a little Phil story. I was with Apple’s Federal Systems group in the late 80s, early 90s and then I moved to Apple in corporate. Real briefly, Phil was the director of federal marketing at one point, this would have been 1988 through 1991 and I was in field training for the federal marketplace. We had an offsite probably in California and I was off sitting by myself and Phil came up to me and for me, it was my first job so it was like, “Phil Dunkelberger is coming up” and he sat down and he talked to me for an hour and he kept asking me questions like, “How are you doing? What can I help you with?” and I was thinking, “This is the director of marketing for the organization.” I was intimidated at first, but then the way he just came up and started asking me, an average rank and file person who didn’t work for him, questions. Thank you for bringing up Phil’s name, I’m getting chills thinking about that interaction and he definitely had an impact on me as well. What are the two biggest challenges you face today as a sales leader?
Denise Hayman: Let’s talk about the job of sales first. From a sales rep, how do we make sure that we can get through to customers so that they understand what we have to offer? It is such a crowded market out there and it is littered with bad behavior on the sales side so that it does not necessarily engender from a customer’s side that they’re going to be totally open and willing to talk to every salesperson that comes their way. I think the biggest challenge and one of the things that we’ve been doing here is this whole idea of sales done right. I believe that our sales team is one of our differentiators.
Obviously we’re a technology company so the solution, the service and the offering is absolutely one of our differentiators but I’m a believer that in order to truly differentiate ourselves at the beginning, it has to be the website, it has to be the first interaction they have whether it’s an SDR or whether it’s one of our event people. Then the interaction that they have with us on the sales side has to be different, we have to be showing them transparency and openness and we have to be an extension of what’s going on with the service when they actually get the opportunity to indulge in it. I think one of the challenges in that scenario is how do you do that? How do we use some traditional kinds of techniques yet approach it from a different kind of way so that we are seen as being different, consultative, open and transparent? I think that’s a huge challenge in the market and we’re using that as our differentiator, one of the major things to go about with.
Fred Diamond: Do you have another one you want to mention?
Denise Hayman: This is a challenge and an opportunity. There is tons of information out there to be able to utilize. I’m a big believer in doing research and planning your calls, understanding you’ve got a set of things that you’re trying to get to and a set of questions knowing where you’re going not being random in it. How do you figure out what information to believe and not believe and where to go to for it and what’s going to make you most efficient? You could spend all day doing research and not make a single phone call and you have failed.
Fred Diamond: We call those people librarians.
Denise Hayman: Exactly, so balancing the two. I have an early story from my sales career that has informed that position for me, one of my early sales things. Again, when you’re a sales rep you’re taught here the 12 things that you do and I had a targeted account that I was going after and of course I had my list of questions and I had been trying for months to get to this account. Finally, one Friday afternoon they picked up the phone and I was like, “This is awesome, I have the opportunity now to ask all of my questions” and I proceeded down my list of questions with this particular individual and he stopped me in the middle and he said, “Excuse me, is this a survey?” Again, the difference between being able to do the right kind of research but know intuitively what kinds of things you need to do to guide the conversation is the art and the science of what we do.
Fred Diamond: That’s a great point because a lot of times we give younger or junior sales professionals a script and it’s interesting, you were so excited when you finally got them on the call 2:00 o’clock on a Friday. You see that a lot with a lot of newer sales reps because people don’t return their phone calls and it’s hard to get through to people. When someone gets on the line they’re thrilled, “My god, we’re halfway there to the sale just because I got someone to pick up the phone” but that must have been such an impactful statement, “Excuse me, is this a survey?”
Denise Hayman: We learn from our mistakes, I’m a big believer on that, I’m a constant learner, I hire people that are like that as well. We learn from our mistakes and we learn from our wins.
Fred Diamond: I’m just curious, do you remember that prospect at all? Did they become a customer, did you shift or was it just a random example that helped you along the way?
Denise Hayman: I definitely shifted my entire approach based on that. They did eventually become a customer, we laughed about it later. I don’t know where he is right now, but from that perspective I definitely shifted how I thought about the whole sales game.
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you tell us about the #1 specific sale success or win from your career you’re most proud of?
Denise Hayman: From a sales career perspective I think the things that I am most proud of are not the individual sales. The thing that I am most proud of, as I was saying before, is my ability to impact where a person goes in a sales career. It’s a much bigger impact, they talk about the whole, “Are you impacting for today, are you impacting for the future?” One of the things that I’m most proud of in my career to date is an opportunity that I had years ago at Symantec to create a team from scratch that had never been done before.
I had been doing field sales, I had moved into inside sales, I was doing management on both of those sides and I had an opportunity to build a team wherever I wanted to for inside sales. I chose a location and I got to build a team in Portland, Oregon, I ended up moving up there with it. I started with zero people, just a whole bunch of empty offices and I built it up to a hundred people within six months. It was an amazing build and the impact that it had on people’s lives at that time, it was a while ago but I’m still getting choked up about it because for a lot of them, they felt like they got to rejuvenate a career.
We gave them a place and a set of tools and training and motivation and a team to be a part of that they had never experienced before. It wasn’t one of the things that I set out to do when we set out to create it but we had a tradition where we wrote limericks and poems to each other as part of a Christmas holiday thing. I still have the limerick that was written about me at that time and it was all about rejuvenating careers and filling the hallways and impact on lives and I’m still in touch with some of those people because of the impact I was able to have at that particular point in time. Impact for me is the most important thing.
Fred Diamond: It’s a great point that you brought up because when you think back on a lot of the great parts of your sales careers, it was with the teams. It wasn’t you individually, it wasn’t this one achievement you made but it was being part of the team that built the Symantec inside sales team. You mentioned again, you were with 8 startups so you must have had some successes along the way and when you hit the home run or something you remember the people you worked with, you remember the circumstances. Before we take a short break, again you’ve had a great career, you told us some tremendous stories. I’m still thinking about Phil Dunkelberger and that moment that we had, I think it was somewhere in Santa Cruz or something like that. You started off as a special education teacher. Did you ever question making the move into sales? Did you ever think to yourself, “It’s too hard, it’s really just not for me”?
Denise Hayman: I think every sales leader has that question at the end of a quarter or at the end of a year. [Laughs] I had a previous sales manager, we used to sit together and talk about, “Wouldn’t it just be great to be a cashier at a grocery store right now? You don’t have to think about anything, don’t have to bring anything home” but obviously from a choice perspective, that wouldn’t be what we would do. I think there are moments where we have questions. For me, again, as long as the mission is clear about what you’re trying to do in terms of building, growing and impacting, I haven’t wavered from that. Again, we all have moments, those difficult losses that happen occasionally but there’s always a win around the corner.
Fred Diamond: Denise, what’s the most important thing you want to get across to the sales professionals listening around the globe to help them take their career to the next level?
Denise Hayman: One of the things, Fred, that I am seeing more and more is because of the plethora of information and the amount of access to tools and everything that people have, sometimes I’m finding that there are people who think the tools do it for them. I think the biggest thing I would say is nothing takes the place of you doing the work and I know you’ve heard this from lots of other sales leaders, but it’s a profession. This is a profession I’ve chosen, athletes practice no matter how great they are, lawyers practice before they go into the courtroom, we have to practice. We have to be good at our elevator pitch, we have to be good and know the questions ahead of time, we have to be prepared with understanding who we’re talking to, we have to know how those people want to be talked to and talked with, what are the best ways. The biggest tip that I would say is do the work, prepare and do the work.
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you tell us about one of your selling habits that has led to your continued success?
Denise Hayman: I would say it’s not necessarily a selling habit. If you would mind me going off script for a little bit here, my assistant likes to say I have a lot of fire in me, that means that it can go both ways. Fire can burn hot or it can burn softly so from the standpoint of I have a strong bias for urgency and I need to get things done immediately, anyone who’s listening to this that knows me will be laughing right now because this is what I’m known for. I think the important thing as a leader is not bringing that to bear every day on the team across from you and the team underneath you across the company. So one of the skills that I am learning right now, not necessarily a sales skill but it’s helping me at sales, is really those things that keep me calm and centered and not fiery.
This may be my California time but I do meditation every day, I’ve been doing a lot of things. There’s a training that I just brought to the organization called Pacific Institute that I’ve done that is all around ensuring that you have a growth mindset, retraining your brain on positive thinking and understanding where you’re trying to go to, having goals and that kind of stuff. The thing that I am doing right now that is most impacting my sales leadership are a combination of those things as opposed to a specific sales skill because when I am calm and centered I am my best self, it means I’m able to coach, it means I’m able to work collaboratively, it means all of those things and when I am fiery like Liz tells me sometimes, I’m not my best self. I think that applies to everything.
Fred Diamond: Growth mindset comes up a lot. As a matter of fact, the Sales Game Changers podcast, a lot of times we use the hashtag #GrowthMindset and the podcast always trends on LinkedIn on #GrowthMindset. I want to ask you a specific question, when do you meditate and how do you meditate? It does come up not infrequently on the podcast, we’re not getting too personal into your practice.
Denise Hayman: I’m fine with that.
Fred Diamond: When do you do it, how often do you do it, how long do you do it?
Denise Hayman: Every morning. I get up at 5:30 in the morning and I do 30 minutes in a quiet room. For me, a quiet room means I put my headset on, my Bose headphones and sometimes I do it with music, sometimes I do it just in the quiet with a specific thing that I say to myself. It might be gratitude, it might be a specific thing that I’m working on, compassion or something else but I’ll meditate on that for 30 minutes. I notice now on the days that I don’t do it because I’m a different person, I’m just a better person when I do that.
Fred Diamond: Tell us about a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success.
Denise Hayman: Expel, right now we’re in explosive growth and it’s extremely exciting. We’re doing a lot of hiring, we’re doing a lot of expanding the team, I have actually just brought on a sales management team so I now have three brand new sales managers. It used to be about me and the individual team, first line manager and now second line manager and probably soon third line manager based on how much we’re growing here, but the major thing that I’m working on are the things that will allow us to scale.
This is a well-worn topic among leaders that are in high growth companies but I’ve seen it before, again, both at my large companies and my small companies so I know those things that can get in the way of scaling and I know those things that need to be invested in now to ensure that we’ll be able to scale. At Expel we do a lot of investment, we actually just rolled out a brand new first line management program, we have a learning and development person, for our size that’s nearly unheard of and the scenario there is that we are training our first line managers to be the absolute best managers they can be. We’re not doing it accidentally, we have a very specific scenario and I’ve done this over and over again as well with first line managers to ensure that they have the right tools to be able to really impact. Impact, hire in the right people, sales enablement and then impact deals and sales as I go.
Fred Diamond: Why have you continued in sales? Again, you started off as a special education teacher, what is it about sales as a career that has kept you going?
Denise Hayman: This is one of those things that I meditate on, actually, talking about what are the things that are important to you. Over the years I think I have learned about myself that I love the impact and the influence components of it. There’s no other career that I have found so far where the ability to get paid based on my choices of my actions every day is the difference maker. If I do not apply myself, I will not do as well. If I apply myself, I do extremely well. In my household my husband has been a stay-at-home dad for years, it’s been just me in terms of bringing in the money in the door so that has been really important for us, the ability for me to really impact that.
Fred Diamond: Denise, I want to thank you for being on the podcast. Again, we have listeners around the globe, why don’t you give us a final thought to inspire them today?
Denise Hayman: This sales done right thing that I’ve been talking about, it’s really a great compilation of not only diversification in sales, obviously I’m a female sales leader, I am one of a small percentage of female sales leaders that are in this kind of role. It’s a growing field, thank goodness. We have the most difficulty finding people with diverse backgrounds to be on the sales team and I’m looking for that specifically because we have different people that we’re selling to, we have different talents, I’m a big believer in multiple types of experiences make up the great teams.
The thing that I would say to people is I’ve been doing a lot of interviewing and I am, quite frankly, kind of disgusted with what I hear out there about how companies treat their salespeople. Not everywhere, of course and absolutely we are not that way but the amount of times that I hear that companies have lied about a comp plan, about the stock position, changed the comp plan when a big deal comes in, all of these things, every single person has a story that I’ve interviewed. I’ve probably interviewed 300 people in the last year, every single person has that and the push that I would say is you don’t have to put up with that. You absolutely don’t and this is becoming a bigger and bigger deal for companies to have integrity around how they deal with sales. We absolutely do that, the way that we approached it, set up the comp plan, everything, that is not our culture, we’ll never expand to the sales team but I would just implore people, “Don’t put up with it.”
Fred Diamond: The Institute for Excellence in Sales who is the sponsor of today’s Sales Game Changers podcast, they launched the Premier Sales Employer program at the end of 2019 to reflect companies that do what you just said, that treat their employees right, that are great places to work for people in sales.