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Today’s show featured an interview with L’areal Lipkins and her client Chelsea Bouvier, Sales Manager at biotech research company Sanguine. IES Women in Sales Program Director Gina Stracuzzi conducted the interview.
L’AREAL’S ADVICE: “Slow down to speed up and ask “Where’s there a gap?” What’s the behavior that’s driving that gap? What’s the belief that’s behind that? What are the behaviors that we’re doing or not doing that is generating that on the back end? Is it something cultural that as an organization we have these beliefs around our industry, our product, the economy, whatever it is, that is creating those behaviors or lack thereof, that is getting the results that we’re getting or not getting on the back end?”
CHELSEA’S ADVICE: “Stay consistent and go in with an open mind if you’re changing your sales process. Often, salespeople are close headed, “Hey, it’s working,” but you’re not always open to, “What else can I do to be better?” You’re just scared, what could go wrong? I would certainly say be open and then be consistent.”
THE PODCAST BEGINS HERE
Gina Stracuzzi: Well, I’m super excited. We have two amazing women with us today. We are going to get straight into it. We have L’areal Lipkins with us. She is CEO of Lipkins Consulting Group, and she’s out of Houston. With us is one of her clients, Chelsea Bouvier, she’s head of sales at Sanguine Biosciences. Welcome everyone.
L’areal Lipkins: Hello. Thank you for having us.
Chelsea Bouvier: Yes, thank you, Gina.
Gina Stracuzzi: Well, you’re welcome. Let’s start with L’areal. You are so beautiful.
L’areal Lipkins: Well, thank you. I didn’t hear what you said, Gina. Can you repeat that?
Gina Stracuzzi: I just said you’re gorgeous. Truly. You people have to look her up on LinkedIn because she’s stunning. Anyway, L’areal, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to having your own company.
L’areal Lipkins: My name is, as you mentioned, L’areal Lipkins. I’ve been doing sales training and consulting for 13 years. The first 10 years I worked for the largest sales training company in the world, left in 2018 and started my own sales training and consulting agency. Really specialized in working with organizations that are looking to improve their sales process. We do a lot of consulting work in that area as well as sales training and sales leadership training, which is how I got to know Chelsea Bouvier.
Gina Stracuzzi: Wonderful. Chelsea.
Chelsea Bouvier: I’m very lucky to have worked with L’areal as well. I’ve been in sales for over 11 years doing a mix of account executive work at software companies, as well as B2B companies, and recently for the past four and a half years at a biotech company where I’ve grown into sales leadership and recently sales enablement, to really work on defining sales processes from all the work that we’ve done with L’areal.
Gina Stracuzzi: I love how your careers and lives have intersected, because one of the things that we talk about a lot in the Women in Sales Leadership Forum is the idea of really elevating other women around you, and helping them to be the best that they can be. Tech sales, especially, anything in the sciences and the tech, it can be highly male-driven, as I’m sure you both know. I love to see how you’re supporting one another. Let’s talk a little bit about, and L’areal, we’ll start with you, which sales processes should people be working on to really build better sales teams? What should they be optimizing first?
L’areal Lipkins: The most important process, and we’ll probably need to do a counter for how many times we say process on this episode, but I think one of the most important processes is your actual sales process. For me, I define that as when we have an opportunity from an initial conversation, or they’re booking an appointment, to the time that we close the deal, onboard them as a customer, what are the stages and steps that you take a prospect through that allows you to be able to scale and increase the chances of winning the business? Now, obviously there are others processes. Whether it’s hiring, and comp plans, and metrics, but I think really the sales process is the foundation of building a scalable sales team.
Gina Stracuzzi: Chelsea, why don’t you talk to us about how that philosophy of L’areal’s impacted your sales team?
Chelsea Bouvier: When I came on with Sanguine, we were really a 20-person company. It was myself and the CEO doing the majority of the sales, and we built up our sales team. By the time we got to L’areal, we had started building a process. We started hiring sales development representatives to help us with prospecting. We really needed to create something a little bit more scalable to help us with our growth. That’s exactly what L’areal helped us do. How do we align, what calls for the clients that SDRs are responsible? What’s the process this should go through when it comes to discovery? Capabilities calls, study design discussions, proposal reviews, really aligns that whole process, as well as built it out in our CRM. How do we forecast these deals appropriately? What are the specific stages that they’re in? That way everything’s a little bit more scalable, everyone knows what their responsibility is, and we’re able to forecast way more appropriately, as well as manage and track for improvement and see ways that our SDRs can be promoted to account executives. We’ve definitely seen a lot of efficiency and scalability from implementing a process, like L’areal described.
L’areal Lipkins: One of the things with Sanguine, which is not uncommon with a lot of organizations, is they had the stages defined. They knew what those stages were. The challenge became when they’re looking at the results, and they were making money and closing deals. They were doing well, but when it comes to how do we optimize and how do we speed up the sales process, how do we eliminate some of that waste? How do we shorten the sales cycle? One of the things they quickly realized is that they were missing the steps within the process.
A lot of organizations have these big stages that come with their CRM. We do discovery, we do a deeper dive maybe with additional people on both sides of the table. Now we’re doing a proposal and all of these things. But if you talk to two different reps, and you say, “How do you actually run a good discovery call? What are the questions you should be asking? Who should you be talking to? How do you know they actually qualify to move to the next step?” That is where a lot of organizations mess up. What happens is they’re able to identify there’s something not working in our process, but we’re not sure where the breakdown is happening. Even if we were able to identify it, we’re not sure necessarily how to fix it. I think they were in that position as well. But a lot of organizations find themselves saying, “We have big stages, but we don’t actually have the steps to follow within each stage. We don’t know where deals are or are specifically getting stuck.”
Gina Stracuzzi: Well, that’s a great differentiation to think about. A lot of the listeners we have are in big corporations that probably have those steps defined, but there are a lot of medium-sized companies that perhaps don’t. I could see how that could be something that trips you up. If you don’t have the sub bullet points to those things, you are going to be wasting time.
Let’s talk a little bit about how you optimize your sales processes for conversions and scalability. There’s growth and then there’s scalability. Sometimes too, sales and business development get a little gray and people aren’t sure which is which. Talk to us a little bit about that. L’areal, do you want to go first? And then Chelsea, you can talk to us about how you applied some of this.
L’areal Lipkins: When I think about scalability, what I’m looking at, is it something that we can repeat? If it’s not repeatable, it’s not going to be scalable, and then can we scale it without necessarily having to add additional expense? One of the things that Chelsea mentioned is it was literally her and the CEO who were doing the sales, and then they built out an SDR team, and then they built out an AE team. You have to have systems and process that can grow with you that allows you to increase your revenue faster than you’re increasing your expenses. A lot of the things that we did were how can we put systems and structure and process in place where it becomes repeatable and it’s no longer tribal knowledge? There’s a point where tribal knowledge just doesn’t scale anymore.
That’s what we really looked at, is where are those pieces where we’re missing opportunities where we can shorten that sales cycle, where we can differentiate ourselves from the competition. A lot of that came, Gina, through putting in those individual steps that we talked about, as well as talk track. Because even if I have the stages, even if I have the steps, but I don’t know what I actually need to say, then that can still trip you up. When we’re looking at scalability, it’s what are those systems and structure that we need in place? Things like self-process, things like playbook, things like understanding how to manage the pipeline, and then ultimately be able to forecast.
Chelsea Bouvier: That’s exactly what L’areal helped us build over at Sanguine. We worked together on a very in-depth playbook. We built out all of those different items that L’areal just mentioned in regards to talk tracks for all the different call types. As well as the types of questions that we need to ask through those to really help all of the SDRs and the AEs really know where they should be at and what questions they should be asking. Another piece too that L’areal mentioned was that tribal knowledge. We work in a very niche industry. A lot of our tribal knowledge has been built from just working on various studies. When we onboard newer folks from the outside who might have great sales experience, they’re missing that tribal knowledge. What we did was really build out those talk tracks for them, questions they should be asking, to really help them drive that forward and lower things like ramp up time, sales cycle, win rate.
Gina Stracuzzi: I love hearing how somebody puts it in place, the processes in place, and then has exactly the results that were forecasted. That’s great. Chelsea, let me ask you, what size sales team are you up to now?
Chelsea Bouvier: Now we have over six account executives and I believe we have 12+ SDRs, and we’re looking to grow. We have our process in place, and we just launched a new product set. Now we are trying to grow and expand through that product set. Now that we have our infrastructure and our sales team, we’re hoping to continue to grow and add more products in the future and really expand upon our offerings.
L’areal Lipkins: Gina, can I jump in with something real quick that I think naturally happened?
Gina Stracuzzi: Certainly.
L’areal Lipkins: We experience this, and Chelsea was leading the forefront on this, is that as you’re building your sales team, then you have the issue of career paths. One of the things that they experienced is how do we then create career paths for SDRs to become account executives? Then how do we prepare them and train them? Because that’s a different skillset. Opening the door top of the funnel versus middle of the funnel and closing the deal. Chelsea was instrumental in helping us formulate what does that career path look like? Then not only that, what’s the process? What skills does this person need to have? The path when we’ve transitioned someone from an SDR to an account executive, what were the gaps that they were missing? What were the skills that they were missing? What were some of the developmental areas that we wish we would’ve spent time developing when they were SDRs, so they were properly prepared to take on an account executive role? Where are those gaps and where do we need to backfill?
That was another area when we’re thinking about scalability, obviously that comes with processes, obviously that comes with increasing revenue, but it also comes with scaling your sales organization and your team and personnel, and creating those different levels within your sales organization where someone can say, “Hey, in 18 months, this is where I can be. Another 18 months, this is where I can be.” It was beautiful to be able to work on that with Chelsea at the ground level and developing what that could potentially look like.
Chelsea Bouvier: That’s something too we’re really taking a closer look at right now as we are looking to grow our sales force. Because we’ve seen some of the most successful account executive that we have, are ones that we promoted from our SDRs. Actually, right before I went on maternity leave, L’areal really helped us with this exercise where we built out specific competencies that the SDRs need to have to become successful account executives. Then we built out a plan in regards to how do we help them get there. L’areal helped in my absence, where she helped with training on some basic sales techniques that they might not have had when they were SDRs.
We reviewed specific calls and gave them chances to get a taste of that account executive to really help them build. That way when we did have a spot on the team, we had these people ready to go, so that way their ramp up time was a lot shorter than it would be from someone else hiring from the outside. We’ve seen great success in that program, and I think a lot of that is from building out those competencies and showing them where they need to be in order to get that promotion and that path that they want.
Gina Stracuzzi: We have the Women in Sales Leadership Forum, which we’ve been doing for five years, and that is to help women who are well on the leadership track to make sure they don’t get stuck in that middle management. It’s been just a highly successful program. Now we’ve launched the junior forum, which is for women that are just getting started in management roles. It is fabulous when companies have these internal resources that help them. What we find with our programs is when you get people outside of the walls of their own company, and they mingle and discuss these things with other women who are experiencing the same trepidation or lack of support, let’s say, sometimes, or where they just feel like nobody’s listening to them in meetings, there’s a strength that comes from that that puts them on the right footing. I loved hearing all of this about how you’re preparing them, because it gets lost the bigger the company gets. I hope, Chelsea, that you will hang onto these principles and these processes as you grow, because it will make a big difference in your retention rates.
How do you get buy-in or adoption for changing sales processes? L’areal, I’m sure you come into companies and there’s got to be people that are kicking and screaming, like, “What’s wrong with what we got?”
L’areal Lipkins: Never. Never, Gina.
Gina Stracuzzi: Never?
L’areal Lipkins: They’re always like, “We have been waiting for you. We want more systems, and accountability, and structure. We don’t want the freedom we had before you showed up.” [Laughs] Yes, there are some organizations, and it’s very dependent on the culture of the organization, and the tone and precedent that the leadership is setting. I find that it is easier to get buy-in once you have buy-in at the top. Oftentimes, it’s not uncommon for me to come into an organization and leadership hires me, but they say, “Work with the sales team.” Then as we move up and say, “Well, you know what? You actually hired these people.” You frame them and all the gaps that exist are just because from a leadership perspective, we didn’t put those things in place. No fault of your own, it’s just sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know.
Sometimes actually the biggest gap in getting buy-in is at the leadership level, because they want you to fix their people, but they don’t want to be fixed. One of my big things is understanding the long-term vision of the organization and making sure that that is clear, because all the changes that we’re going to make need to line up with that. That’s one way that we get buy-in, is really understanding from the CEO down, what is the larger vision, and how do these changes align with that? Then the second piece that I look at is really what’s the internal sales culture?
There are some individuals who are actually struggling, and they are looking for a life raft, and they’re looking for someone to come in and help. Sometimes there’s people who are tenured and are doing fairly well without systems and processes and they just want to be left alone. Then in those cases, it’s really up to leadership to say, “Do we leave them alone?” They’re like the sacred cows, so to speak. We’ll leave them alone and work with everybody else. Or are we saying, “Hey, we’re a hundred percent committed to making these changes,” and that means everybody needs to be able to get on board?
Then the last thing I would say, Gina, is I manage expectations. I let my clients know, “We’re going to get some resistance.” I heard someone say, and I don’t even remember who it was that quoted, but they said, “People don’t fear change. They fear loss.” One of the things I’m always thinking about when we’re coming in is, what will your team fear that they are losing? Is it control? Is it autonomy? Is it flexibility? Then if we know that, we need to be very mindful how we’re positioning these changes, and that it isn’t for micromanagement. It’s actually to help them be more efficient with their time to make more money and less time where they’re not having to work 60 hours a week in order to meet their numbers. But that has been a huge paradigm shift when I come in and say, “What does your team, what do you think they’re going to fear they’re losing? How do we get ahead of that? How do we address that ahead of time, versus having the revolt on the back end?”
Gina Stracuzzi: I like that, the fear of loss. Chelsea, well, it was just you and your boss that she had to manage the expectations on at the time.
Chelsea Bouvier: No, we had built up our sales team. I think we were about four or so by the time we found L’areal. Actually, it’s funny when she says like start at leadership, that’s exactly what she did for us. I’m pretty sure she messaged our CEO on, was it LinkedIn or was it a conference?
L’areal Lipkins: We got connected online, and Brian, he is genius practitioner. I can generate some sales, but I think he generates sales because he has the industry knowledge. But you really bring in the true sales background.
Chelsea Bouvier: Yes. I know she started from the top for that, with the leadership, we found our vision and we implemented. I think it’s a lot of things that L’areal said, but in regards to rolling out the processes, I also think a lot of it’s like consistency, and just working through and also showing results. For example, we did some sales training in conjunction with implementing these processes, and we saw sales skyrocket that year. It just showed, hey, look at this, we implemented our process, we implemented training, we’re consistent with this new process and training, and now you’re seeing higher results in your sales, which ultimately means higher paycheck for you and commission. I think the consistency of it following along and also showing why it’s beneficial really makes it effective.
Gina Stracuzzi: I was just envisioning, L’areal, when you were saying like, “Everyone’s just so happy to see me and so happy to implement these things.” It’s funny because salespeople can be some of the most ornery critters, shall we say, in Texas speak. I lived in Dallas for eight years, and that’s where I started my sales career, with selling commodities, a New Yorker selling commodities to cattle farmers and sugar farmers. It was insane. But the fact that you’ve had such great success with it, and that Sanguine is living proof of what these processes can do in terms of helping a company to ramp up, it’s just spectacular. But let’s talk a little bit just in our remaining few minutes about some of the common mistakes that companies make when they’re trying to develop these processes or training. What do you see and how do you overcome that?
L’areal Lipkins: I’ll highlight a couple of things. One of the things that I see is, again, thinking that it is the staff. “I work with my people, but I don’t need any help.” That’s one of the big mistakes. I often train leadership before we train salespeople. Usually, people just want me to train the team and they don’t think that they have the gaps. Chelsea and I, there’s actually two Chelseas, there’s another Chelsea that ran the SDR team, and I think she had maybe six people when we started and ended up at 12 or something. But I actually spent a lot of time working hands-on with Chelsea. Although I come in with the strategy and the techniques and all of that, it’s really up to a person like Chelsea to implement. The credit really goes to her in doing the work and holding the team accountable.
But the other mistake that I see people make is they think that the gap is in training only. They’ll want me to come in and say, “Just train my people, give them some techniques. They’re really good. They’re really good people. They work really hard, they just can’t close.” They just want me to focus on techniques. It really does begin with making sure you have the right processes, and then building the training on the back of the processes. Then the last thing I’ll go back is to reiterate what Chelsea said, is the consistency. I’ve come into organizations where I’m the 10th flavor of the month, and by that time, you’re not going to get buy-in. You really do need to stick with something for at least 12 to 24 months, I would probably even say 36 months, to really measure the long-term results. If you’re always changing out the next process, the next methodology, it’s going to be very difficult to measure the return on investment.
Gina Stracuzzi: I can see how people will stop listening too if management is constantly changing things. Chelsea, what has been your experience in things maybe you’ve tried and wished you didn’t or wished you’d listened beforehand?
Chelsea Bouvier: One of the things, to just piggyback off what L’areal said, is putting the process in and then figuring out the trainings after. I think that’s something that we’re starting to do now, where we realize we have a good process in place, but there’s still something we’re missing. Goes back to some of that tribal knowledge where we realized we weren’t really getting all of it out within our trainings. That’s why I’ve transitioned more into the sales enablement role, to make sure that we are filling that gap by building out more trainings that are specific to our company and our product sets, and to our clients, so really drilling down. We did a lot of Sandler methodology with L’areal, so really drilling down into our client’s pain points and solving those problems, and how we’re getting there to dig deeper, versus staying surface level. I know that’s something that we’re truly working on now.
Gina Stracuzzi: One of the things we like to do is to leave our listeners with one piece of advice that they can put into place today to improve their sales careers, or perhaps in your case, L’areal, their sales training. But what would you leave us with?
Chelsea Bouvier: I would say hire L’areal to do their sales process [laughs]. But I think one of the message is stay consistent and go in with an open mind if you’re looking for changing your sales process. Because I think a lot of times salespeople, we are close-headed, “Hey, it’s working,” but you’re not always open to, “What else can I do to be better?” You’re just scared, what could go wrong? I would certainly say be open and then be consistent.
Gina Stracuzzi: Perfect. L’areal.
L’areal Lipkins: Love it. I’m pretty sure the invoice is on the way for that, Chelsea. The one thing that I would say is sometimes you need to slow down to speed up. What I mean by that is, going along with what Chelsea said, is really looking at where are we not getting the results? As an individual, you might look and say, “Where’s there a gap?” Then what’s the behavior that’s driving that gap? Then what’s the belief that’s behind that? Then as an organization, it might be the same thing, is evaluating where are we not getting the results, what are the behaviors that we’re doing or not doing that is generating that on the back end? Then is it something cultural that as an organization we have these beliefs around our industry, our product, the economy, whatever it is, that is creating those behaviors or lack thereof, that is getting the results that we’re getting or not getting on the back end. Really slowing down to speed up.
Gina Stracuzzi: Great advice, both of you. Thank you so much. It was a great conversation and I hope you’ll come back and visit us sometime and let us know what you’re up to and how your growth is going.
L’areal Lipkins: Absolutely. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you, Gina.
Gina Stracuzzi: Thank you, L’areal and Chelsea. Thank you everyone for listening. We’ll see you next time.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo