EPISODE 576: Four Ways to Modernize Sales Recruiting with Janice Gordon

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This podcast, sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales, is a special Women in Sales Episode and was hosted by Gina Stracuzzi and featured an interview with Janice Gordon host of the Scale Your Sales podcast.]

Find Janice on LinkedIn

Janice’s TIP: “Understand that your career is within your hands. If you’re not getting the training you want within the organization, reach out and get it outside of the organization because this is your business. Make sure you nurture your customers as well, because your customers, your buyers, buy into you first, then the product or service, then the company. Understand that you’re managing that relationship. Those relationships will often go where you are as well.”


Gina Stracuzzi: My guest, Janice Gordon and I met in California at the Outreach Summit for sales innovators. It was just a fabulous event. As soon as I talked to her, I knew I had to have her on the show. Janice is known as the Customer Growth Expert and she is founder of Scale Your Sales podcast and framework. Welcome, Janice from London.

Janice Gordon: It’s great to be here. Thank you very much for inviting me.

Gina Stracuzzi: Absolutely. Janice, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are in your own business and how it is you help people?

Janice Gordon: Yes. I started in sales in the 1980s. I was selling textile designs in America and representing an American company in Europe. I’ve been selling for many, many years. Actually my formal training in sales started when I worked in financial services in the 1990s. I had all of the sales training and at that time, in the UK, in Europe, we were able to do cold calling, so I’d be on a Tuesday, have to get in by eight o’clock and it was stand up cold calling, and then choose the evening, seven o’clock until eight stand up cold calling.

That was my formal training in sales. I was working in financial services for good 10 years and I wanted something more. I built up my own client bank. I worked with a lot of leaders of mid cap companies and their employees but I wanted more. I’d always been more entrepreneurial and that’s what was my starting point.

I moved on to work in customer experience and, that blew my mind as to really what I was doing previously. I had learnt the sales process and I’d learned to sell from a selling point of view. Whereas customer experience is all about the buyer and the customer and doing everything from their perspective. That’s really been my print, my mantra, my principal, really representing the customer and talking more about the buyer experience, the customer experience and the buying process and educating salespeople on what that looks like for their sales process.

Going forward, I’ve worked with mid cap companies. I am a Visiting Fellow at Cranfield School of Management, working within their Key Account Management and leadership helping companies to grow their revenue. That’s really been my background, always been entrepreneurial and on the revenue generating side of what I do. Coming to the Scale Your Sales Framework and podcast. This really focuses on reimagining revenue growth through customer excellence in sales. It’s bringing those two sides of what I do together to modernize the sales process into a buyer process and being really focused on the buyer and closing the gap between the sellers and the buyers.

Gina Stracuzzi: It’s interesting, you and I hit it off so keenly at Outreach and the one thing we didn’t hit on is the financial background. I used to trade commodities, and so I know of what you speak in terms of the cold calling and it was such a different mindset. I actually had a fair amount of success, more than a lot of- I was doing this in Texas- a lot of the Texas good ol’ boys, because I would talk to people about their money, whether it’s a wise investment for them.

It just came out of the immigrant experience that I was raised in, and I knew every dollar counted, and that resonated with them before it even became a thing. I wasn’t doing it because I was really smart or crafty, it just what came naturally to me and it really resonated. When you said stand up cold calling, I was like, wow, I remember those days and I had a quick shudder there.

Janice Gordon: Yeah, I still shudder now. The thing is, so it’s very different in America because I know that we’re not able to do it anymore. I speak to lots of people that are still cold calling in America. It works for different cultures.

Gina Stracuzzi: There are still things that are sold in that respect. There has been a serious clamp down because there were a lot of scams and that’s a good thing. But it was a way to cut your teeth in selling and, it certainly took the weak and the strong. I’ll tell you what, some people were running for the door after the first day.

Let’s talk a little bit about some of the other things that you and I hit on when we first met. That is, let’s talk about diversity and the importance of better hiring and more purposeful hiring within organizations. That is such a huge piece right now is companies are struggling to attract more women and more diversity to their sales teams. Let’s talk about that a bit.

Janice Gordon: Unfortunately, we’re still hiring in the way that we hired forever. It’s not working for sales, obviously, because in the last 30, 40 years, 50% of sales teams do not hit target. I think there’s a problem in hiring but there’s also a problem in the way that we nurture our sales talent as well. I mean, how ridiculous is that? That we’ve been happy with 50% of our team failing.

It must mean there’s a good 20% of the top performers that pull everyone else through. It seems to me, there’s an awful lot of waste within the sales organization. Well, we can’t afford to continue to do this going forward in the future in the headwinds that we’re in and all of the challenges and permacrisis is the latest word in the Collins dictionary. It’s a word for 2023. We’re in a permacrisis. We cannot afford the waste that we’ve had in the past.

We need to start thinking about doing things in a completely different way. Regarding recruitment, the traditional ways of recruiting is that we get a job ad and it’s very much in the vein of the bro culture. We’re still using the words, and this is one of my campaigns, killer, hunter, smashing targets. These are the words that we use to attract a diversity of people. Well, obviously that’s not working.

Then we have sales leaders and HRs that really trust their gut. I want to recruit someone that’s very much like me. Well, if you have the majority of white men in sales leadership or in those positions, they’re going to recruit more people like themselves. Also, recruiters play a part here. Now what do they do? They’re on LinkedIn, they’re playing safe, they want to get their commission, so they target people that are in the same job. We’re not getting an influx of new people into the talent pool.

Then we have the classic interview of random questions because a lot of people are not trained on interview skills. The problem is, we’re not measuring what good, what great looks like. We don’t know how to do that. Well, there is a way. What I promote is scale questionnaire which is based on 28 years of assessing over 2 million salespeople on 21 core sales-specific core competencies to determine what good looks like.

We need to stop using all of these biased filters to filter out what good might look like and we know, you and I know, Gina, that women outperform men in sales. We’ve known this for a long time, but why isn’t it that we’re seeing more women coming into sales? Because we still got the same recruitment practices, we’ve still got the same barriers.

In actual fact, you and I know from the Women in Sales research that Mary Shea and I presented it, was that actually there are a lot less women in sales positions. In the last two years, it was measured at 1/3 of women that were surveyed identified as women in sales. Then after the pandemic, so from 2020 to 2022, only two years, that reduced to 23%, less than a quarter. In two years, we’ve gone back 10 years. There’s a real problem here.

Gina Stracuzzi: Yeah, there is. Mary and I were having that similar conversation, I don’t know, a week ago or so. Now there’s this, and I want to go back to permacrisis here in a minute, “Look, we just need salespeople”. It’s this hunker-down mentality and instead of keeping the path steady, let’s rebuild the women, let’s bring more diversity, now it’s like, “We’re heading into a crisis. We just need the best people we can find whoever they are”.

All the efforts that companies were making are in jeopardy of being just shut down in this effort to get great salespeople, which means there’s going to be a lot of mistakes, even if you’re hiring traditional, bring the guys back in mentality. It’s going to be interesting to see how 2023 shakes out. I really believe that we can rescue this if we calm down, instead of saying the sky is falling which is what the permacrisis made me think of.

It’s human nature, the more we talk about it, the more real it gets. If we could just step back and say, “Okay, what is the bigger picture?” It’s really important that we bring in more women and more diversity. What would be your advice to companies in this permacrisis environment in terms of keeping steady on the path of trying to recruit more women and more diversity?

Janice Gordon: I think you’re absolutely right Gina in that companies are just wanting to get bums on seats, because we’re in this headless crisis zone. Actually, we need to take a step back and think about, okay, if we’re going to be here, if and this is an if, if we’re going to be here in the future, we need to do things in a way that we didn’t do before”. We need to think about what are our competitive advantages, and you need to set the right intentions.

I always say to leaders that, unless you know the outcome of your decisions on your key customers, on your buyers, then you should not be making those decisions. Regardless of what’s going on in this crazy world, we need to stick to that as a real focus, a real guideline as to how we should start making smart decisions because we want to keep our customers.

Now looking at the buyer side, what customers want, is that they want people that will be able to offer them a diversity of views, not the group think. They want to work with companies that have a diverse workforce. Some companies are starting to put it in the RFP. The quicker you can get on to where your customers want you to be, that becomes your competitive advantage.

Then you’re going to look at, okay, we understand we need to move in this direction if we want to be around in the next five years. Now, how are we going to do that? How are we going to start to attract the talent? Well, we know that the system that we’ve used to recruit in the past, actually is full of bias, and actually creates a lot of barriers to that wide pool of talent.

Harvard Business Review did some research and said that if you have a majority of minorities within your selection talent pool, you’re more likely to recruit diversity. That’s the first thing you need to look at, what is your pool? There is other research that also says that, we know that when you have female leaders, if you can’t see it, you don’t believe you can be there. You don’t believe the culture will be inclusive enough, so you need to see that.

Companies need to look at their senior management team and look at what that looks like. We know that women sales leaders, women leaders naturally recruit diversity. They recruit ethnic and gender diversity. They attract because it’s saying, I can see that I’ve got a growth plan within this company. It’s easy for them to attract a diverse employees.

There are the few things that they can do. They’ve got to look at their recruitment practice, they’ve got to look at their senior management team, but they’ve got to start with really, who are their customers? What are their customers? What direction are they moving in, and making decisions so that they can be where their customers want them to be. That’s where I would certainly start.

Gina Stracuzzi: It’s really good advice. It’s one of the reasons that we started the new PWISE certification that the Institute is going to be bestowing on companies that can actually prove that they are women and diverse friendly and it’s that. Women can see it and they know that they can go into this company and actually be in an inclusive environment.

A lot of companies can talk a good game but as you say, women and diverse candidates get in there and it’s like, “Whoa, this is not at all what I thought.” That’s what the PWISE certification is for. It’s easily more identifiable. Let’s talk about what we can do to help bring more women into sales.

Janice Gordon: Women have got to be visible. I said at the conference, if the company is blocking your boss or your senior leader, if they’re not willing to listen to our diversity of views and opinion, if they’re blocking your progress, if you’re not getting where you want to be, if you don’t feel you’ve been heard, then you need to vote with your feet because there is a war on talent and recognize you’re the talent and you have choices out there.

You need to go to a company, whether it is inclusive and open. You need to start being very vocal, and making sure that you’re visible within organizations and having the courage. You may be with a company where they need a certain level of education. You’re going to invest some time in it, but if they’re not jumping at having you in there as an advantage, helping them to move the needle, then I really think we need to go somewhere else.

Eventually, you’re going to get companies that are biting off your hand, but I don’t think it’s healthy for you to sit there and suffer in silence. You’ve got to be visible and you’ve got to be vocal because you’re not only representing yourself, you’re representing the sales industry. You and I know, because you and I Gina are campaigning on this a lot, you and I know that it’s good for the industry. You and I know that buyers, our customers, want us to move in that direction.

There are a lot of people within the industry, the bro culture, that we continue to see that haven’t quite got it, but that’s okay. We need to keep moving the needle and keep pushing. This is not the time to think, “I’ve got into this company, then I’m going to rest on my laurels”. No, we’ve really got to continue to move the needle. I would like in 10 years’ time not to be talking about this and I’m sure you would as well.

For the moment, we’ve just got to keep pushing. The women, what I would say to the women that are in organizations, you need to start asking questions. I often ask leaders, not just sales leaders, but CEOs, I ask them, what is the makeup of their senior management team?

I’m not looking to embarrass anybody but the more people that ask those kinds of questions, the more the senior management team, the CEO, the chairperson will think actually, why am I being asked this question? I need to do something about this, because I don’t really want to be stumbling at my answers anymore. I need to do something.

We need to keep asking those questions and not asking people to justify the answer, but I think when you just ask those really targeted questions of our senior leadership, how is this representative of our customer base? Really understanding what your customers want, and being in touch with your customers would help the organizations to move in a direction that is going to create more competitive advantage. I’m sorry, women, we’ve just got to keep pushing the needle.

Gina Stracuzzi: There has never been a better time to push the needle because we have the power of need on the side of the employer. That doesn’t mean you’re reckless with it but it does mean that you use your voice and you use your visibility in your role if you’ve got it to say we need more me. That is excellent advice.

One thing I did want to get onto, which is a little bit off of the diversity topic is identifying and closing your sales team productivity gap. Because one thing that I’ve been hearing from people I speak with about this is, now that we’re in this hybrid world, people don’t feel quite as productive as they did back when they were in the office all the time, or even when they were at home all the time. It’s something in between. What can you tell us about that and what advice do you have?

Janice Gordon: I think there are some people that have learned that they are more productive when they’re working from a home-based office. Some people have learned that they miss the office. I don’t think companies yet have adapted well enough to understand and provide the environments for the personality they’re working with. It’s almost like some companies are forcing people to be in and some companies when you’re in, you don’t have a sense of community.

I think it’s going to take a little bit of time for all of that to work out. It may mean that when companies have these big offices and floors that are empty, actually the companies may have to create smaller units within that floor to create a sense of community. So that when people come in because they prefer to be in they’re not the only person on the floor, and then that loses energy for them.

I think companies need to be a bit smarter in creating the environments that suits the personalities and I think companies are not doing that very well at the moment. It seems to be an either-or situation and that doesn’t suit everybody. All salespeople need to take control of their own business and their own digital footprints.

There’s an awful lot of SDRs that are on LinkedIn that are creating their own platform for themselves. I think we all need to be doing this. We all need to be managing our own social footprint. In doing that, your community is not necessarily just your company but it’s also with your customers, but also with your other influences, other networks that you’re in.

Through using the digital space, you can create a network, you can create a resource of people that will help you and support you through whatever path that you choose to take. I think you’ve got to be very much smarter about understanding your own personality and your needs, but also the types of communities that you can join, whether inside the company or outside the company. When you’re working in the company, understanding what environments are better for you. You have to understand how to make yourself most productive, what are your needs, and also go out and fulfill your needs.

Gina Stracuzzi: That’s great advice. You’re right, that’s what’s happening. There are people who are returning to the office, and then not only aren’t they getting any visibility with management, but they’re often alone on a floor. I mean, that’s more isolating than being home I think I would feel anyway for myself. Lord knows I crave people. My dogs are tired of hearing from me. I think that’s really great advice. As women in sales, tell us what you think we should be focusing on right now in terms of elevating ourselves in our careers. What advice might you have for that?

Janice Gordon: Women need to join more, there’s so many more online communities. We need to be visible within our own online communities. You need to be vocal within your company about what’s important to you, where you would like to see your organization moving by the end of the year. You’re setting them some parameters. If you’re not seeing that movement, then you need to be talking about, okay, well, there are other alternatives.

The companies will see that there are other alternatives because you’re now visible on LinkedIn and you’re vocal on LinkedIn about what you’re looking for, where you’re going, and you’re managing your own voice and your own platform. Think of your LinkedIn page as your own website. It’s your ability to state your views, your opinion, and to gather together your community.

I think you’ve got to be very much more intentional about it. You are the top talent. Women outperform men in sales. Recognize that, hold your head high, and be very intentional about where you want to go, where you want your organization to go and be vocal about that as well and start to measure how they are performing in line with where you see them.

Gina Stracuzzi: This is not the time to be afraid to use your voice. It is seriously the time to use it. I love that. Well, Janice Gordon, it’s been a pleasure having you. We like to leave our audience with one piece of final advice, something that they can put into play today to advance their career. You kind of gave it to us right there but if there’s anything else that you would like to add, we would love to hear it.

Janice Gordon: The key thing is understand that your career is within your hands. You need to be in the driving seat of your career. If you’re not getting the training you want within the organization, reach out and get it outside of the organization because this is like your business. Make sure you nurture your customers as well, because your customers, your buyers, buy into you first, then the product or service, then the company. Understand that you’re managing that relationship. Those relationships will often go where you are as well. I just say too, this is our time, this is definitely our time. I would encourage you to take control of your own careers.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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