EPISODE 595: Five Steps to Scaling Your Sales Organization with Joe Campanella

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JOE’S TIP:  “Everyone knows. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. What is that one thing that you should be doing? In my opinion, that one step, if you’re looking to scale your business, think of what one thing can I do today to create a concise, repeatable sales process, because everything comes off of that. Everything is built off that basis of if you want to scale, you’ve got to figure out what works, maybe iterate it, let me perfect it. Once that is done, now you can scale and be repeatable.”


Fred Diamond: I attended a very special and interesting event that was in the beginning of 2023. We’re doing today’s interview in February 2023. It’s called the Expert Summit. It was put on by Lurn. I met Joe Campanella, who was the VP of Sales for Lurn. I got to tell you, Joe, it was a life-changing experience for me in many ways. You had about close to a hundred people in a room in Gaithersburg over three days. You and your leader, Anik, went very, very deep into what information communicators and information program developers should be doing to grow their business into the seven and eight figures. I met you, I met some amazing people there.

First of all, it’s great to see you. Your pitch at the Expert Summit was very inspiring. We’re going to talk today about scaling your sales organization. I know at the event you told me it’s one of the main questions that you get from people, is how do I scale my sales team as I grow from a million, to 5, to 10, to 100, whatever it might be. It’s great to see you. Why don’t you give us a little bit of an intro? I know you have another Expert Summit coming up shortly, let’s get going.

Joe Campanella: First and foremost, Fred, thank you so much for having me on your podcast. I’m excited to be here. It was great meeting you in person a few weeks back. Yes, that was at our Expert Summit Mastermind. It was a mastermind designed for information marketers, those in the courses, coaching, consulting business. I had several attendees tell me it was probably the best knowledge share masterminds they ever attended. All about how to scale your information marketing business. We do have our next mastermind coming up March 28th through the 30th. It’s absolutely free. If you’d like to request a free ticket, you can go to expertsummit.com. We do have a few requirements. You need to be the founder of the business. You need to be in the information marketing business. Again, courses, coaching, consulting, and your business needs to be doing at least half a million dollars a year in sales. But it’s an absolutely free ticket. I highly recommend go to expertsummit.com. VIP experience. Again, Fred, you were there and really life-changing for most of the attendees of what they told us.

Fred Diamond: Yeah, it was actually fantastic. I’m not specifically an information marketer, so I was a little bit of an outlier, but I was fascinated by the people who were in the room. I was also fascinated by just some of the things that I learned. I run the Institute for Excellence in Sales, and we’re a global organization. Our mission is to help employers attract, retain, motivate, and elevate top tier, typically B2B sales professionals. But one of the most fascinating sessions that you all had at the Expert Summit was when Anik went through how to scale your business. Then the adjunct to that was when you came on board talking about some strategies for scaling your sales organization, which I thought was fascinating. Now, you have five steps. You’ve gone through a five step process to scale your sales organization. Why don’t you tell us the five steps? Then I want to get deep into a couple of them.

Joe Campanella: With my sales career, I’ve built many teams, sales organizations, anyone from 5 to 10 sales reps all the way up to 100 sales reps. I always say, I’ve paid the idiot tax many times. I’ve made mistakes, and that’s where we learn. Over my career, I’ve really learned five steps that you need to take in order to scale your sales business or sales organization. Those five steps are first and foremost, it all starts with finding the right talent. You need to make sure that you’re taking the time to find the right people. Very easy to do it 5 to 10, not so easy to do when you’re scaling to 25, 50, or 100. Take those steps, it’s absolutely paramount that you take those additional steps to make sure you’re finding the right people initially. That’s step one.

Step two, and in my opinion, this is the most important piece at scaling, is developing a clear, concise, and repeatable sales process. If you don’t have that down, you’re going to run into a lot of problems. It’s almost like building a house. It’s the foundation of your house. If you don’t have a strong foundation, you’re going to run into trouble down the line. That, in my opinion, is probably where I see most sales teams and organizations run into trouble, is not having that process in place, that clear and concise, repeatable process before they scale.

The next piece is actually making sure you’re driving the business by data. Goes without saying in the sales organization, you need to be looking at the data to make those decisions. Our CEO Anik says all the time, “Don’t tell me what you’re thinking or how you’re feeling. Let’s look at the data. The data will tell us all that we need to know.” Of course, that’s really important when you scale.

Then the next piece, which we’ll get into a little bit further, is having a strong support system around you. As you scale and grow, the things that you need when you have a 10 salesperson team is a lot different when you get to 50, 75, and 100. Then lastly, it’s really incentivizing the behavior that you’re seeking. It’s so important when you scale a business to make sure that everyone’s interests are aligned, whether that’s the business owners, the sales team, the management team, the reps themselves. As long as everyone’s interests are aligned and you’re driving towards that common goal, you’re going to be in a great spot and a great position, Fred.

Fred Diamond: I want to go deep into process, and I also want to go deep into the support. I got one good question for you. Again, we’re doing today’s interview in February of 2023. People are going to be listening right away, and people are going to be listening into the future when they learn more about what Lurn is doing and the board of experts in the Expert Summit. I want to ask you, how have things changed, do you think? Now that we’re coming out of the pandemic, all the emergencies have been lifted finally. One of the big things, Joe, that we see with sales organizations right now is they’re still struggling with the whole hybrid approach. Do we have our people come in all the time? Do we have our people work from home? One of the biggest reasons why that’s so exacerbated as a challenge is because your customers are also dealing with how do we be hybrid moving forward? Or how do we be as a customer? Not only that, but their customer’s customer and their customer’s customers. Before we go deep into process, give us some of your insights on how things are right now. Again, the show’s going to launch March of 2023. We’re doing the interview in February of 2023.

Joe Campanella: I think that’s a great question, and it’s one that I’ve heard numerous times from people in the sales organization, sales space, is how are you dealing with COVID? How are you dealing with working from home and things of that nature? Luckily for us here at Lurn, it really was not a shift. We were already using Zoom. Most of our teammates were all over not just the country, all over the world. We were using Slack. We were using Zoom. We were used to that hybrid type of environment. What I’ve seen, and especially from a sales process, is more than ever, it’s that community. We used to just dial and be on a phone. Well, now if you can be on a Zoom call and have a customer see you face-to-face, it just adds another element. We were always doing that, there’s really no change for us, but I have talked to other people in the industry that have different sales organizations, and once they started incorporating Zoom calls or Google Meet, it really helped their business. That connection was there, that face-to-face connection. I really don’t see that going away. I think if anything, you’re going to see more of it.

Fred Diamond: Let’s get deep into process. First discuss, why is it imperative to develop a clear and a concise repeatable process? Then talk about things that people need to be thinking about as they grow?

Joe Campanella: The reason I feel that’s the most important piece is when you have a small team, and I’ve been there before, 5, 10 sales reps, most likely, you as a leader, you train those people. First off, you hire them, you source them, you train them, you work with them, you coach them. You’re typically all sitting in the same area. You can hear them on phone calls, much easier to manage. But as you start growing that team, and as that sales team grows, the process, if you don’t have something down… And when I say concise, I’m talking about your hiring process, I’m talking about your training process, the way that you’re coaching your sales reps, the way that you’re presenting to customers, all that needs to be systematized.

Once you do that, and again, it’ll be different iterations that you need to go through, we make our mistakes. But each iteration gets better and better. I used to train, and every training class, three to five things I’d pull out and say, “I could do this better.” You need to systemize that. Once you do, now you’re ready to scale. Where I’ve seen sales organizations fail is they say, “I’ll just wing it. It worked with 5 or 10. I can figure that out as I grow.” What happens is very quickly, 25, 35, 40 reps, it starts breaking down. There needs to be a process.

Think about a Subway or Chipotle. You go into any Chipotle in the country, the process is the same. The store looks the same. The franchisees, they’ve systematized that process. That’s what you really need to be thinking about when building and scaling a sales organization. How can I systematize it? It’s just going to make everything easier. What are the clear goals? The goals of the organization, the goals of your sales managers, the goals of your team leads, the sales reps, everyone should know exactly what their goals are, and then they should be all working towards that same goal.

Fred Diamond: I want to talk about culture for a second. When you start up a company and you get to the first couple of steps, 1, 2, 3, 5, 10 million, you can maintain the original culture. A lot of cases with startup type environments, and I’ve worked for a couple of them, it’s one of two things. Either it’s a lot of fun because you believe in the vision, you respect the founder, you’ve seen some early wins, or it’s miserable because the business owner is overwhelmed. The entrepreneur, maybe he’s a tech or whatever and doesn’t quite understand sales or marketing. Then it just becomes miserable if you’re on the sales or marketing side. But let’s say the culture’s good. Let’s say people believe in the vision, the CEO, the founder, maybe two or three founders, they’ve been able to grow something that people really feel passionate about. How do you suggest that type of culture stays? Or do you have to acknowledge that the culture’s going to shift as the company grows?

Joe Campanella: Culture is huge. I liken a sales team to a sports team. It’s very difficult to keep that close-knit culture when you’re a small organization, 5, 10, 15 people. Everyone knows each other. Everyone is working around each other. My feeling is, similar to a sports team, everyone needs to buy in. From the top leadership, all the way on down, you need to have that buy-in. I have always been a big fan of creating team leads with the sales team. A team lead is someone who is full-time selling, but they’re the captain. If you look at a football team, you have the running backs room, you’ve got the defensive backs, the offensive line, the defensive line. Well, those team leads are the individual team leaders.

They’re selling full-time, but they’re there to motivate. They’re working with a team of one to maybe four total reps. They’re there to motivate them. They’re there to instill that culture. Again, as long as that culture’s coming from the top down and everyone buys in, that’s the way you keep building everyone upon each other. You’ve got a team of three or four, they’re all working together. You have other teams that are all working. At the end of the day, it’s about having fun. The work hard, play hard scenario. Yes, we’re here to work hard, we’re here to ultimately serve the students, serve the customer, and hopefully make a profit. But if you’re not having fun doing it, you’re not going to keep that culture. It’s so important with a sales team, like a sports team, to make it fun.

What are some things that you can do where you have maybe pizza lunches? You bring in someone that does omelets in the morning to keep them excited. We’ve done things where I’ve brought in a masseuse for the entire day that goes through and helps out the rest of the team. You need to keep that energy up. You need to keep that momentum up. As you know, Fred, it’s so important with any sales organization, when you have momentum, you’ve got to put your foot on the gas and keep it going.

Fred Diamond: I’m going to talk to you in a second here about the support systems that you need in place to scale. But you just brought up a couple of things I want to follow up with you on. It was interesting, before the pandemic, I used to do these interviews in person, and I used to go to VPs of sales’ offices, and I had my mics, I had my recorder and the filters, and it was cool. I would ask different questions. I would ask, what are the biggest challenges, for example, that you’re facing right now? Or tell us about a mentor.

When the pandemic kicked in, everything we do now is about right now. What should you be doing right now to be successful? One of the questions I would ask is, what are the two biggest challenges that you face as a sales leader? 90% of the people would say hiring and retaining top talent, where it got to the point that it was a table stakes type of a question. We actually stopped asking it knowing that that was the challenge. I’m just curious, as you talk about scaling, can your sales team, the sales professionals scale as you grow? From your experience, have you seen that? Have you seen the guys and ladies who were good when the company was just getting going, can they also be good at 10 million? Could they be good at 50 million? Or is there a fall off that happens? You, as the sales leader, are you conscious of that if it’s a situation?

Joe Campanella: It’s a great question. It really depends. Ultimately, at least the sales organizations that I’ve been a part of, I’ve been a huge fan of promoting from within. If you can do that, it just helps from a culture standpoint, it’s absolutely huge. You already have the team that is, let’s say it’s a sales rep or a team lead, you’re promoting them to a sales manager or director of sales, they already have the respect of the floor. Does it always work that way? Not always. Because if you scale from 10 to 15, now you’re going to 50, maybe 100, you may need to bring someone in from the outside to run that organization. But it is very important in terms of having that culture if you can promote from within. I have seen people grow with the company, and it’s awesome when you can see that, when someone maybe started out as a sales rep. But we all know the greatest sales reps don’t always make the greatest sales managers, or vice versa. But when you have that and you can see that happen, it really helps you out.

What does it look like when you scale a sales organization, and what I mean by that support system? We talked a little bit about having a team leader. That’s the first thing. As a director of sales or VP of sales, you come in, you’re doing everything, the training, the hiring. Well, now you’re building. Now you’re spending more time in the training room. You’ve got your team leads. That’s the first thing you can put in place. Maybe you pay them a little bit of a higher commission, but they’re there to motivate the team and they’re set three or four reps that they work with. Then at some point you get to 10, 15, you bring in sales managers. Personally, I’ve always liked a sales manager managing 7 to 10 sales reps. You can get away with 10 to 12, but 7 to 10 to me is optimal. Then as you continue to scale, you bring in additional sales managers. Then you maybe bring in an operations manager that comes in and helps support. They’re helping with processing payment, making sure they don’t have any issues or training issues. That sales manager, what they’re doing all day, they’re listening to calls, they’re coaching.

You then bring in a dedicated trainer so that all they’re doing is they’re helping with the hiring, they’re training. When they’re not bringing in a training class, they’re actually doing further training for the existing sales reps. Then you get to a point where probably around 50 or so sales reps, 75, that’s when maybe that director of sales, that VP of sales comes in from the outside, they come in, they’re very high level, and they’re looking at the data. Your sales managers are concentrating on coaching, listing the calls, and then you’ve got the support system there of the team leads. You’ve got the support system of your operations manager, your sales trainer. That sets you up for success. Trying to have one or two people do it all, it doesn’t work. You want to support your sales reps in any way that you can and set yourself up for success. That’s a way that you can do that.

Fred Diamond: Joe, I have a couple of other questions that have come up here based on what you’re talking about. What’s the first thing you think about in the morning? When you wake up and you’re thinking about what you’re going to be doing today with your team, and growing the business, and supporting all the amazing things that Anik is up to, give us some insights, what are the first two or three things, the big priorities for you? I’m not asking you to go through your morning routine. I’m asking you from a priority perspective, give us an insight into your top two every day, in the morning at least.

Joe Campanella: Well, the first thing that I do, and it’s something I learned a long time ago, and quite frankly, I don’t remember which book or which mentor I learned it from, but I think of three things I’m thankful for that day and that morning. It just gets me going. That may be I’m thankful my sports team won last night. I’m thankful for my wife or my kids. But two or three things that I’m thankful for and that’s how I start my day. Luckily for me, the first thing I think about after that, I have a ritual the night before. I write down my top two or three priorities business-wise, what I need to do the next morning. That’s typically what I think about. As soon as I get up, I look over my nightstand, I have it written down, and I know, “Okay, these are the three things I need to focus on today.” But immediately, you start thinking of the data. Like, “Okay, let me look at the data. Let me go in as a salesperson. Let’s look at the numbers from the previous day.” I think it’s really important. That’s the first thing that you should be thinking about.

Any salesperson is looking at the data, but I think more importantly is the night before, write those two or three priorities that you want to accomplish that next day. That way you’re not overwhelmed in the morning and start thinking, “Well, what do I need to be thinking about today?” I already know what it is, and now boom, I can immediately activate and move forward. That’s really what I think about in the morning.

Fred Diamond: As you’re talking here, and I’ve never asked this question before, but as you scale, we talked about not everybody is going to be the right person as you move to the next level. Different interests, different skills are required, different type of being in the company. Are you a get the non-performers out type of a guy, or are you more of a I’m going to try to make everybody successful type of a guy? I’m curious. They have that expression, hire slow, but fire fast. Where do you sit on that as it relates to scaling your sales organization?

Joe Campanella: I am more of the Jim Collins good to great type of background of the most important piece is making sure you got to get people on the bus, but most importantly, make sure they’re in the right seats. I do come from that background of I’m not going to fire quickly. I’m going to figure out was there something that me, my team, did we not look at something properly? If a sales rep isn’t performing, was there a breakdown on my part? Did I not communicate the goals clear enough? Did I not support them enough? If for whatever reason they’re not in the right spot and they’re not working, is there another area in the organization where maybe they’re better suited? Maybe they’re better suited operationally. That’s more of my background.

I am not a, “Hey, either hit the numbers or you’re out.” That’s just not my style. I do want to make sure they’re in the right seat. I have seen that, where someone maybe doesn’t work out as a sales development representative or a sales rep, but maybe they’re better at a different operational role. I think that you’re never going to be able to coach a D person to an A, but you can certainly get a C player to a B, and a B to an A. There is nothing that gives me more pleasure in anything I do at work than helping someone accomplish a goal that they didn’t think they could accomplish on their own, and we’re able to do it together. You see that a lot with sales. It’s not giving up on them, it’s supporting them as best you can. At some point, if the numbers aren’t there and it’s not making sense, then yeah, you do have to let them go. It’s best for them. It’s best for the organization. Those are always very tough decisions to make, but you need to make them with the thought of what’s in the best interest of the individual and for the company.

Fred Diamond: I want to ask you one last question before I ask you for your final action step. It’s interesting. A lot of people were promoted into the first level of sales leadership in early 2020. The hardest job in any company, I think, is first level sales manager, someone who was just promoted. You even alluded to the fact before that the high sales performers, a lot of times they do get promoted. They may not be the best candidate, but in a lot of cases it’s a logical type of a promotion. A lot of people were hired or promoted in 2020. Of course, everybody then went into working from home, lockdown, et cetera, and they didn’t get necessarily all the “training” or support to be successful. What is your advice for a first time sales manager? Someone who is either a great performer who was promoted, or someone who was promoted for other things that you might have seen. What would be the first thing you would tell them that they need to think about to be successful?

Joe Campanella: I think you need to go into it with an attitude of you’re always learning. The first thing I would tell someone that’s going into sales management is take a look at a few books on leadership. Sales, it’s not so much the management side, it’s making sure you can get the most out of your people and out of the team. It’s really how do I manage and lead by example? There’s some great books out there. Coach K has a great book called Leading with the Heart, probably one of the best leadership books I’ve ever read, all about leading and building a team, whether it’s a sports team or a business team. That’s a great one. There’s a few others out there as well. Jack Welch, Winning, is another popular sales leadership book.

Get into reading a few of these books, work with maybe getting a mentor. I’ve been lucky enough to have a number of great mentors in my life, sales mentors. That is really important. Some of you can bounce ideas off of, and just know that you’re going to make mistakes, and that’s okay. You want to go and you want to be very decisive. I think that’s probably something that most sales leaders lack, at least initially, is not being decisive. It’s okay, make a decision. If it’s not right, pivot and figure it out. But it’s having the right support system around you, so finding a great mentor. Personally, I love to read. Get as much reading that you can get in, whether it’s books, listening to podcasts, like this one in particular. That’s all just great knowledge for someone that’s especially new and starting out from a leadership standpoint.

Fred Diamond: A lot of what you just talked to is, we’ve been saying this for a long time, if you’re a professional, then be a professional. If you’re a sales professional, you have to read, you have to seek mentors. You have to learn about the profession. It’s not just about winging it. It’s not just about charisma. Listen to what you talked about before, you said you’re a great reader. We just published a great book, Insights for Sales Game Changers: Lessons from some of the Most Important Sales Leaders on the Planet. There are so many amazing books out there, there’s so many great podcasts. We are lucky to have just been recognized by Yesware as the Top Sales podcast for 2022. Great message to compliment what you just said. If you’re a professional, be a professional.

Joe, I just want to acknowledge you. We met relatively recently, but I was blown away by what you’re doing at Lurn with the Expert Summit, the board of experts that you and Anik have created. I’ve gotten to learn more about your organization, your team, your story. I just want to acknowledge you and applaud you for how you’re growing your people, how you’re satisfying your customers, and how you’re continuing to grow as a valuable and worthwhile organization out there for the people that you serve. I appreciate all your great insights today. Give us one final action step. You’ve given us so many great ideas. Give us something people should do right now to take their sales leadership career to the next level.

Joe Campanella: Well, first and foremost, thank you so much for those kind words. I really appreciate it. We appreciate it here at Lurn. We try to do our best to serve the community and serve the sales organizations, business owners, entrepreneurs. Thank you once again, Fred. To answer your question, that one thing, that’s probably the number one issue I think that business owners or sales professionals have, is not taking that first step. We talked about this at the Expert Summit event, how to eat an elephant. Everyone knows. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. What is that one thing that you should be doing? In my opinion, that one step, if you’re looking to scale your business, think of what one thing can I do today to create a concise, repeatable sales process, because everything comes off of that. Everything is built off that basis of if you want to scale, you’ve got to figure out what works, maybe iterate it, let me perfect it. Once that is done, now you can scale and be repeatable.

What is that one thing that you can do, not tomorrow, not next week, but today, to get to that point where you’ve got a repeatable process? Maybe it’s just focusing on one aspect of it, of, “Okay, I’m going to focus on hiring. Here’s my hiring process, and this is what’s going to be.” But don’t get overwhelmed. Just focus on one thing. That is the key. One thing, small chunks, and I would say focus on something that you can do to scale the business. What one thing can you do?

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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