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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Sales Game Changers virtual learning session sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on November 30, 2021. It featured an interview with Amazon Web Services Sales Leader Clint Crosier and WorldStrides Sales Leader Jennifer Fisher ]
Jennifer and Clint are IES Premier Sales Leaders. Learn more here.
JENNIFER’S TIP: “Move forward. You have to keep moving forward. Have that courage to try something new, pivot, change. Just move forward. As long as you keep moving forward, you’re going to be okay.”
CLINT’S TIP: “You succeed only – and I underscore only – when your customers succeed. Pick a customer, sit down with a blank piece of paper and see if you can articulate your customer’s top three business priorities. Draw a line and then see if you can articulate the three biggest problems they face to achieve those opportunities. If you can do it, great, you’re well on your way to helping your customers solve their hardest problems. If you can’t do it, you need to go back and do some more listening and some more investigation about what’s important to your customer.”
THE PODCAST BEGINS HERE
Fred Diamond: A couple of weeks ago, the Institute for Excellence in Sales, the major host of today’s show, introduced our Premier Sales Leader designation for the first time about two weeks ago. We recognized 13 great sales leaders from around the globe that have basically defined how to lead their teams and reinvented working with customers during interesting and challenging times. We’re featuring them on the Sales Game Changers podcast in November, December and January and today, I’m very excited, we have two of the inaugural Premier Sales Leaders. We have Jennifer Fisher from WorldStrides, and Clint Crosier from Amazon Web Services. We have a lot to talk about today. Congratulations to you both for being recognized as the inaugural IES Premier Sales Leaders.
Jennifer, we’ve had you live on the Sales Game Changers podcast before and you were a guest back in May of 2020, right during the early stages of the pandemic. Clint, it’s great to have you here, you had a very distinguished career in the military. First off, thank you for your service. You’ve been with Amazon doing some great things. For people listening, Clint is actually in Las Vegas for Amazon’s big show, which has returned. Jennifer, why don’t you get us started? Tell us a little bit about you, and let’s get right to it. How are things going for your sales organization right now?
Jennifer Fisher: Fred, I appreciate you having me on here, thank you. My name is Jennifer Fisher and I am the Senior Vice President of Sales for WorldStrides Higher Education. Basically, what we do is design and develop study abroad programs for colleges and universities. I’m also a podcast host, A Life You Love, Sales Tips with Jennifer Fisher, that I just have a really good time with. Thank you again.
Things are going well. Based on from when you had me on before, Fred, back at the beginning of the pandemic we were in a point where, as you can imagine, international travel, colleges and universities, we came up against a brick wall and our business shut down. We really struggled throughout the pandemic, but we are coming out the other side. We’ve got programs traveling, we’re developing programs, students are traveling and we’re really back to changing lives through experiential learning. As of now, things are going very well.
Fred Diamond: When I used to go to people’s offices and do the interviews, I interviewed you in Charlottesville. Clint Crosier, Major General retired, again I acknowledge your service. You’ve been sales leader at Amazon for about a year and a half now really making a difference. How are things going? Amazon Web Services, we’ve had Dave Levy on in the past and Sandy Carter has been a guest. It’s great to have you as a premier sales leader, and curious to find out how things are going with you.
Clint Crosier: Thank you very much, Fred. I’m honored for the recognition, and thank you for having us today. I’m following in the footsteps of some great leaders at AWS, it sounds like, and I’m honored to be here with Jennifer today too. Jennifer, I’m going to go check out your podcast. I’ll admit I haven’t seen it before, but I’m going to go listen to it because I’m already excited about your sales tips.
Fred, to your question, we are really excited. We’re doing some really interesting things today. About a year and a half ago, Amazon saw the space industry growing at a rapid rate, recognized the value of cloud computing technology to support, grow, scale and innovate the space industry. Determined that we would establish a brand-new AWS business focused specifically on the space domain and the space industry. I was honored enough as I was retiring from the US Air Force and US Space Force to be asked to lead it. For the last year and a half, we have been growing as rapidly as possible, scaling to meet our customers’ demand. We’re seeing more and more space companies all over the world recognize the value of leveraging cloud technology for the space missions, so we’re growing extraordinarily fast and more importantly, helping our space customers grow even faster.
Fred Diamond: Obviously, space has been in the news a lot. A lot of world-famous business leaders have created space-related businesses as well. We’re doing today’s show in the beginning of December of 2021. If you’re listening sometime in the future, thank you so much. It’s crazy, we’re doing this show in December. The pandemic’s been around for close to two years now and it’s obviously been a different world again. You’re back to an event right now as we’re doing today’s show. Tell us what the priorities are right now. Clint, why don’t you go first? Tell us specifically, what are you focusing on right now? Then Jennifer, you mentioned how your business is coming back as well and it’s already come back at some level, at a good level. Let us know what you’re focusing on right now as sales leaders.
Clint Crosier: As you’ve said, right now I’m here in Las Vegas in our Premier Annual Event at AWS re:Invent, as we call it and the title says it all. We’re helping our customers reinvent innovation within their businesses. Right now, my focus is on meeting with our customers and understanding as much as we can about their mission, and more importantly, about their problem sets. We believe in AWS one of the most powerful ways we can build strong partnerships and earn trust with our customers is to help them solve their hardest problems. I’m in a series of meetings this week from customer even to customer event, I walk in and I sit down and I say, “Tell me about your hardest problem and let our team help you figure out how to solve it.” That goes a long way. That’s what we’re focused on right now, Fred, helping our customers identify their hardest problems and figure out how we can solve them on the cloud.
Fred Diamond: Clint, just a quick follow-up. One thing that we’ve talked a lot about over the last 18 months is sales professionals, to really be elite, they really need to know not just what’s going on with their customer, but their customer’s customer, and their customer’s customer’s customer. Because obviously, the effects of the world have impacted the complete supply chain. Without talking specifically about a customer, you mentioned their hardest problems. Generically, give us an idea what a hard problem might be in your industry.
Clint Crosier: I love that question and I’ve been dealing with it all week, so let me give you as quick an answer as I can. As we look across the space industry, and as a sales leader, you have to understand your industry. I have 33 years flying satellites and launching rockets for the US Air Force and Space Force and other parts of the government. You have to understand that mission set, but right now, the industry as we look at it predicts that we will grow globally the number of satellites on orbit by 5 to 10 times over the next ten years, so 10 times the number of satellites. We think about all that data that’s going to be coming down from space and literally, we are very nearly and, in some ways, already in the situation where we have more data than we know what to do with.
We’ve got data overload. How do you make sense of the data? How do you analyze the data? How do you tag and track and store the data? Our customer’s hardest problems right now is we have a wonderful problem that we’ve got more data about our world than ever before. The hardest problem our customers face right now is how to efficiently draw insights out of that data, and it turns out that’s what AWS is really good at. But that’s the biggest thing I’m hearing from customers, “I’m getting more data than ever before, I need help making sense out of it in an efficient and cost-effective way.”
Fred Diamond: Jennifer, how about you? Again, your industry shut down for reasons that you’ve just alluded to and now it’s coming back. One of the cool things, as I’m reflecting back to the original interview we did with you, it’s such a special service. I have some kids who are college age – actually, I have one, I have two kids who are older. I can relate. Anybody with kids who are going through college or in high school can relate to the value of what WorldStrides provides, and of course, it had to stop at some level because of travel restrictions. So, what are you focusing on right now? Tell us about how you’re directing your team. You’re a great sales leader, what are you telling them to do, and how are your customers responding?
Jennifer Fisher: I will say, one of my top priorities right now is actually recruiting top sales talent. Obviously, with coming out of the pandemic, there is such a pent-up demand for study abroad programs. Students are ready to go, colleges and universities are ready to get back to normal and the demand is coming in so fast that we’re just not able to hire fast enough. Hiring and supporting my team that way is number one for me right now. Building the team up, having the best of the best is what I like to say our team is, and that’s really the focus right now. Then by having the team hired and trained and ready to go, we can better service our university partners because WorldStrides’ mission is to transform students’ lives through experiential learning. We’re excited to get back and get those students out there. That’s our number one priority right now, hiring top talent.
Fred Diamond: We have a question that’s coming in from Suzanna, “Jennifer says she’s hiring. What makes a great sales rep for her company?” I’m going to ask you both for that question. Jennifer, ideally, what are some of the characteristics, some of the habits of great salespeople? And Clint, Amazon Web Services in the space side, obviously it’s a big brand, it’s a hugely growing company. We’re all based here in the Northern Virginia area, and of course, the headquarters is based not too far from where we’re doing today’s show. Jennifer, you go first. What does an idea sales professional for your industry look like? Then Clint, same thing for you.
Jennifer Fisher: I would say for professional sales in higher education, having learning agility. Being able to learn, and that’s all what higher ed is about, learning, growing and coming in with a beginner’s mindset. Things are changing rapidly in international travel and higher education, so the ability to be flexible, to learn new ways to pivot very quickly are all very important traits. I feel when we have sales professionals who can handle themselves and do those pivots quickly, they are so successful. They have confidence in themselves and when roadblocks come up, it doesn’t paralyze the team member but they’re able to say, “I can pivot and we can still help solve our client’s problem, or still work with universities to help students travel abroad.” Those are some of the skill sets I would say are most important in higher education.
Fred Diamond: Clint, how about you? Again, Amazon Web Services, big brand, huge company hiring lots of people. Tell us what you think would be some of the characteristics of a great sales professional for your company right now.
Clint Crosier: We’ve created a niche base, we’ve created an industry within an industry. I like to talk about we’re building the space cloud industry, we’re building an industry where we take people that have a deep understanding of the cloud and a deep understanding of the space mission. When you bring those together, it unleashes innovation for our customers. With this niche business that we’re building, the first thing I look for is people that have a skillset, a set of experiences in either the space or the cloud industry. That’s the starting point.
But as you may know, we have a very focused process at Amazon for bringing on new talent in the sales and other parts of the organization. We always talk about raising the bar. When we interview candidates, we’re looking for candidates who are going to improve the overall quality of the sales team that we have at Amazon Web Services. We have a series of 14 leadership principles from earning trust to customer obsessions, to learning and being curious. I’ve never been part of an organization before that not just puts their principles and core values on the wall, but uses them to manage activity and make decisions every single day. We focus very specifically, after space experience, cloud experience, helping our customers figure out how to solve hard problems with the cloud for space missions. We look very, very seriously at our leadership principles and we look for talent that can model that behavior focused on the things that we say we value the most in our salesforce.
Fred Diamond: As a Premier Sales Leader you have to be a coach. You have to guide your people, you have to notice, what do I need to do now? Where are they? Maybe this requires some additional attention. I want to ask you both about how you’re coaching your people right now and Clint, I want you to go first. You just came out of the military, you’ve been with Amazon for a couple years now. I’m just curious, as a sales leader now, coaching people in the military who worked for the government in that regard is probably different than coaching sales professionals, right? I’m curious on what you’ve learned now that you’ve been on the commercial side. How are you coaching people today? Then Jennifer, you have a different type of a sales organization. I met some of your people when I went to your office, of course, they’re younger, different level of energy, a lot of them are very committed to universities and higher education. I’m curious on both of your answers. Clint, why don’t you go first?
Clint Crosier: I would say it’s the same, but it’s different. What I mean by that is obviously the sales activity, the sales motion, the sales profession is a very unique and specific skillset that we have to help develop and we have to help people learn and apply that experience. I will say just interestingly, by coincidence this morning I spent my first hour after I got up addressing a group of students at the AWS Sales University as we’re going through that very deliberate process of improving and enhancing the training of our sales team. Just happens to be my activity that I was doing this morning.
Whether it’s military or civilian, I believe one of the most important things we do as leaders is to grow that next generation of leaders who will take our place. Critically important. But as unique as the sales piece can be, leadership is leadership and there are principles that transcend whether you’re doing military operations like flying satellites, or whether you’re leading a sales team. I’ve found the standard, treating people with dignity and respect in all cases and at all times is the golden rule in the military or in the civilian sales world.
I’ve found the time-honored principle of praising in public, criticizing in private goes a long way and I love to stand one of my team members up in front of their peers and in front of their customers when we have the opportunity and brag about their accomplishment, and thank them for a job well done in public in front of their friends and peers, as I said. That’s a powerful motivating force. Regardless of what the mission is, always trying to help people understand the value of what they’re doing. By the way, let me say one of our goals with the space team we’ve established, we say making the world a better place from space. Whether it’s using space data to support climate monitoring or disaster response and recovery or wildlife conservation, helping our team connect with and understand the value of what they’re doing every day is improving life around the world here on earth. That’s a powerful motivator when you can praise people in front of their peers and help them understand their connection to truly making the world a better place from space. Those are two powerful approaches.
Fred Diamond: Jennifer, how about you? It’s interesting also because the sales team that you have has been directly affected with your industry going away for a period of time. They’ve been in that type of a space of, is it going to come back? What’s going to happen? Different type of a sales organization. Give us some of your thoughts on how you’ve been coaching your people, and I’m also curious on your consciousness of being a coach. Is it something that you think about every day when you wake up? Where does that play in, being a coach, as compared to other things that you might be responsible for?
Jennifer Fisher: Those are all very good questions. Clint, love your answers and I definitely can see why you are a Premier Sales Leader. Fred, coaching for me is very intentional and I do think about it. When I get up in the morning, I think very intentionally of how I’m going to address a team during the team meeting, how I’m going to help teams individually. It’s very intentional because as you said, starting out in the pandemic and literally losing our business, going through massive layoffs, trying to come out of it again, going down to a skeleton crew, those people who are still here with us, it’s exhausting. When Delta variant reared its ugly head over the summer, it gets like, “I can’t do this anymore.” Continuing to help them see the path forward, for me being that visionary leader and really showing them what that path is. We can get through this, we can focus one day at a time, we can only handle what we can focus on.
Focus on what you can control so that we can move forward, because when all the viruses are happening and Omicron is coming out, sometimes it can just feel like, “I cannot believe this is happening again.” It’s exhausting. I need to keep the people engaged and my team moving forward. Gratitude is huge because I’m very fortunate to have these people on my team and that they are believing in the picture that I’m painting, but we have to paint that picture that we are going to get through this. We do have students studying abroad right now, we’re going to continue to take baby steps. The fact that our clients absolutely love what the team’s doing helps get them engaged and motivated and keep us tied to the mission of why we’re doing what we do here at WorldStrides.
Fred Diamond: Clint, do you want to comment on that?
Clint Crosier: Jennifer, I loved your answer and I just want to piggyback on that. Coaching, mentoring, being a leader is a 110%, 120%, 150% intentional, deliberate process. We’ve got the Winter Olympics coming up, just like our athletes don’t accidentally find themselves in the Olympics, sales leaders won’t accidentally become sales leaders. You have to practice your leadership. That is intentional. Every meeting that I have, to your point, Jennifer, I think about how am I going to phrase this so that everybody will feel equally empowered? How am I going to call out this leader who’s not doing what he needs to do in a way that will motivate them but not embarrass or humiliate them? How am I going to tackle this next situation to be mindful that my stakeholders need to buy into this process too?
One of my best advice of all time, when you get one of those emails from your subordinates that strike you the wrong way, I type out a response and then I close the computer and come back 24 hours later. Almost 100% of the time, my first drafted message is not the one I end up sending. Again, intentional, deliberate leadership to make sure you’re doing all the right things.
Fred Diamond: That’s a great point. We talk about being responsive, but it’s even better to take a breath if you’re challenged that way. We have a question that comes in here from Nicholas, “How do Clint and Jennifer stay mentally strong?” It’s been a challenging time, as we all know, but sales leaders, you’ve still got to perform. One thing that we’ve heard many times on the Sales Game Changers podcast is the sales organization is going to be the organization that’s going to lead the companies back to where they need to get to.
Let’s go first with Clint. Again, you’re military background, you’re retired Major General so I’m sure there’s a lot of things you’ve learned over your military career that’s all about habit, it’s all about process. Talk a little bit about how you stay mentally tough. Jennifer, same thing for you and maybe even answer, how do you impart that on your team? How do you impart some of what you do onto your organization?
Clint Crosier: Fred, that is a great question. Hard work is a cost to doing business. Everyone of us in a leadership position guaranteed, table stakes going in, we’re going to have to work really, really hard. We all know that. With that said, though, I have found over time it is a marathon, not a sprint if you’re going to be a leader in any industry. Earlier in my career, I literally found myself once or twice in a position that I literally worked myself sick, because the more work I do must be better. The more effort I put in must be a better outcome. There comes a point of diminishing marginal returns.
We have to balance ourselves, we have to keep ourselves mentally healthy and mentally resilient. For me, that means affording time on a regular basis to exercise. I feel better when I exercise, I’m healthier when I exercise, it’s good to clear my mind. When I’ve got a situation that’s really bugging me at work I just need to go out and forget about it for a while and really work up the endorphins. I also will tell you having a balance in your life, whether it’s family or outside interest or obligations, it’s just really important to have a balance, a centering point.
For me, I’ll also tell you my wife and I have been married 37 years and she’s a balancing point to me. There’s been more than once that my wife, as I was lamenting a long day at work, said, “You know, I think you need a little bit of rest. You’re starting to get a little cranky and I’m not sure you’re as effective as you want to be.” I’ve learned to take that cue and it’s really powerful to have that voice, whether it’s a spouse or anybody else, that tells you you have to balance because you can’t continue on that pace forever. You’ve got to have a balance, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Fred Diamond: I agree with that 1000%. Jennifer, how about you? How do you stay mentally tough? You’re high energy, you’ve been high energy since the moment I’ve met you, you still are, you’ve maintained it. It’s been a challenge, but tell us about some of your secrets to staying mentally tough.
Jennifer Fisher: For me, it’s all about focusing on what you can control because like I said, especially going through the pandemic, there’s such bad news all the way around and it can be very overwhelming, it can be exhausting. You’re trying to do so many different things, but you have to let go of the things you can’t control and you have to be able to say, “These are my priorities today, this is all I can do, this is all I can control.” I’m watching the news at night and this border’s closed, this border has quarantines, and in my mind I’m like, “Oh, my God, there’s goes this group of students who were going to be traveling over there. We now get to get these students home.”
But at the end of the day, what can I control? I can hear a lot of bad news on the news, I can hear challenges. What can I do right now and what can I control? That has gotten me through so much, because you can’t keep worrying about the ‘what ifs’ because you’d make yourself sick. What can I control right now? I use that philosophy with my team. Just like me, they’re overwhelmed. We’re hearing from university partners and we’re talking about students and again, people are like, “Here we go again.” Guys, take a deep breath, let’s come in, let’s talk. Let’s look at what your to-do list is right now, and all these things aren’t anything that we can control. If this happens, it happens. Here’s what you can control, let’s focus on this and let’s move forward. I think helping my team find that and prioritize what they can control, they feel much better and they’re like, “Okay, we got this, now we can walk out.” All I’m expecting of them is to do what’s in their control.
Fred Diamond: Clint, did you want to comment on that?
Clint Crosier: Yeah. Jennifer, again, I love your answer. The most successful leaders I’ve ever seen have the uncanny ability to close the chapter, close the page on a bad day, on a bad activity or on a bad project. We’ve all been in position where something hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to, and we can lament it for days and weeks and we can then take that into the next project, but the most successful leaders will learn from their mistakes. Let’s not forget what went wrong so that we won’t repeat it, but turn the page, close the book, start fresh with a positive attitude and an inspirational leadership activity and drive everybody else forward to win rather than fail on the next one.
Fred Diamond: Before we get to your final action step, I want to thank Jennifer Fisher and Clint Crosier. They’re both IES Premier Sales Leaders, it’s a brand-new designation from the IES. Last question here. Talk about what your expectations are for sales professionals. You both manage nice sized teams of sales professionals, again, sales still has to perform. We know things that are happening, things have changed, some things that, Jennifer, might be out of our control might happen. We just have to acknowledge and roll with the punches, more things may occur, macro and micro, who knows? Tell us about what your expectations are, and then I’ll ask you for your final action recommendations. Clint, why don’t you go first and then Jennifer?
Clint Crosier: Expectations are to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and understand your customer’s needs. What I tell my sales team is you can’t bring forward a solution that’s not valuable to your customer, and at the end of the day, that’s the only thing that is value. I tell our salespeople, I don’t want you trying to sell our customers things, I want you to sell them solutions to their hardest problems. You can’t do that unless you fully understand their mission, fully understand their hardest problems. I want you to talk less, listen more, and I want you to truly get to the core of what is our customer’s priorities and hardest problems? I want you to try to figure out what is best for the customer.
I will tell you, at AWS I love the refreshing approach where we have lowered our prices some 90 times in the last 10 years. Why? Because we want long-term partnership with our customers even if it costs us short-term revenue. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes, do what’s right for your customer over the long run, even if it’s not what’s best for us in the short run because we will all win over time that way.
Fred Diamond: Jennifer, what about you? What are your expectations for your sales professionals right now?
Jennifer Fisher: My expectation right now is courage. Have the courage to keep moving forward. It is so easy to be paralyzed by fear, whether you’re scared to reach out to a university, “Maybe now’s not the right time, they’re busy bringing students back.” Have that courage. I always use this story with the sales team. Just like in The Wizard of Oz, you’re going down the yellow brick road and Toto jumps out of your arms and runs off and you have to pivot a little bit, go find Toto and figure things out and come back. The wicked witch is going to come at you, flying monkeys are coming at you. Just when we thought things were going well, the flying monkeys are coming at us and it’s so easy to say, “Too much, I can’t do this.” But you have to have that courage to keep moving forward. That’s one of the expectations that I have and that I work on with my team, we have to keep moving forward.
Fred Diamond: We always say #KeepMovingForward. Clint, based on your experience in space I’m reminded of the great movie, Apollo 13. Every five minutes, something horrendous goes wrong and they still made it back to Earth and safely as well. I want to thank Jennifer Fisher and Clint Crosier, first of all, acknowledging them as Premier Sales Leaders from WorldStrides and from Amazon Web Services. Congratulations to you both. I just want to acknowledge you both for the response that we got when we announced who the original 13 Premier Sales Leaders are. When we announced the designation in November of 2021, the response that we got at the IES was just overwhelming in support of the 13 Inaugural Premier Sales Leaders, including you two, so congratulations to you both. Congratulations on how many lives you impacted with what you’re doing business-wise. It’s such a critical business that both of you run, it’s life-changing, it’s world-changing in many ways. I want to acknowledge you for what you’re doing to support customers and your teams. As we like to do, give us a final action step. You’ve given us so many great ideas, but give us something specific that you want to leave people with, an action step that they can do right now after watching today’s webcast or after listening to the podcast.
Jennifer Fisher: Move forward. You have to keep moving forward. Have that courage to try something new, pivot, change. Just move forward. As long as you keep moving forward, you’re going to be okay.
Fred Diamond: I agree 1000%. Clint, why don’t you bring us home here? Give us another specific thing people should do right now.
Clint Crosier: You succeed only – and I underscore only – when your customers succeed. Pick a customer, sit down with a blank piece of paper and see if you can articulate your customer’s top three business priorities. Draw a line and then see if you can articulate the three biggest problems they face to achieve those opportunities. If you can do it, great, you’re well on your way to helping your customers solve their hardest problems. If you can’t do it, you need to go back and do some more listening and some more investigation about what’s important to your customer.
Fred Diamond: That’s such a great point. Frequently people ask me, how do I get better? How do I become a sales leader? I say, you got to know your customer’s business intimately. If people didn’t take advantage of that over the last 19 months, they’re probably not listening to today’s show because they would have failed in sales. I want to thank Clint Crosier with Amazon Web Services, Jennifer Fisher from WorldStrides. I want to thank everybody who’s listened today to the Sales Game Changers podcast.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo