EPISODE 558: Keys to Enterprise Sales Success with Women in Sales Leader Lori Richardson

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This podcast was sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales, and featured an interview with Lori Richardson of Score More Sales. The interview was conducted by Gina Stracuzzi.]

Find Lori on LinkedIn.

LORI’S TIP: “Whether you’re a seller or a manager or a sales executive, the biggest thing right now that is important is mindset. We need to understand that in good times and down times, there’s always selling going on. Why not your products and your services? Why not your company? Why not you? Focus on mindset and just dive into it like it’s the best topic you’ve ever researched and become a researcher on mindset. If you did just that one thing, revenues would go up.”


Gina Stracuzzi: I cannot say enough wonderful things about Lori Richardson. She’s a B2B sales and revenue growth strategist. She does virtual sales kickoffs where she’s the keynote. She’s an author. She’s a women in sales champ. She’s a sales coach at the Harvard Business School. She’s advisor to the Women in Sales club. She’s a podcast host herself, Conversation with Women in Sales. She is the Founder, President and Board member of Women Sales Pros. I don’t know, did I leave anything out, Lori? Welcome.

Lori Richardson: There’s a lot, but it keeps me youthful.

Gina Stracuzzi: I’m sure. Well, welcome very much and thank you for coming on the program, I appreciate it. I gave a quick laundry list of your titles, but why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you got to where you are and some of the things you’re doing? I know that while you do a lot with women in sales, you also work with companies across the United States, maybe even beyond, and help them with their sales strategy. We’ve got a lot to talk about, but why don’t you give the audience a little bit of background on yourself?

Lori Richardson: The overview is that I got into sales as a young single mom. I wasn’t able to support my family as a teacher, which is what I did first. I got into technology sales at a time when technology was bursting, which was the early 80s. I was talking to somebody the other day and I was saying, “I sold software in a box,” and I sold big, heavy desktop computers and technology and services and then ultimately training.

It was just a really exciting time back then. I was in saying sales and sales leadership for about 16 years and then I launched my own consultancy. I wanted to help other companies grow sales. I didn’t really want to be an individual contributor again and I certainly didn’t want to be a manager again because that reminded me a lot of parenting and I already did that. I did enjoy my time as a sales leader and have been able to apply a lot of those lessons learned, as well as all the things that I’ve learned with working with so many amazing companies over the last number of years.

Then in 2015, I launched Women Sales Pros, because I walked into one of my client’s meeting spaces where we were having a big meeting with everybody getting together from all their different offices, and I had seen them in every office, but never in one place. All the sales managers came in, and there were nearly 100 people in the room and there were only three women.

I just thought, “This is 2015”. It feels like the 80s again, and I just wondered where the women were because this wasn’t a technical sale, there’s no excuse like, “Oh, we have to hire really technical people and it’s typically men.” It was just a boys’ club, and there was nothing else to it. I just started doing research at that point and trying to figure out why is this and how can we change it? That’s kind of how it launched.

Gina Stracuzzi: That’s a very good story. Not dissimilar to what was the impetus for me with the forum, is just hearing conversations. I had left the corporate sales world myself like five years earlier, and now it’s like 2016, 2017 and I’m thinking, really, this is still happening? It’s amazing, seeing that can really galvanize something in you. Well, the selling world is better for it because you’ve built something pretty amazing.

Lori Richardson: Well, I should credit Jill Konrath because she actually launched the original group and I took it over, so kudos to Jill Konrath.

Gina Stracuzzi: Yes. Well, Jill is a formidable prospect on her own, she’s a star. Good for her and I’m glad you two came in contact with one another. Let’s talk a little bit about both from a women in sales standpoint, but from a larger standpoint, what are some of the trends you’re seeing in selling and what is happening now that maybe you think is not necessarily the right path as we come out of the pandemic and now we’re moving into this kind of hybrid world? Everybody seems a little, I don’t know, off on their own and not sure what to do.

Lori Richardson: I think people are confused. We’ve never been at this point in our lives before, in our business life. No one’s ever come back to rebuild after what we’ve gone through. I was just noticing even today on LinkedIn, two big name people everyone knows in sales were debating about whether if you’re under so many years in your career, you should be in an office and other people were debating about that’s ridiculous, you don’t have to. I think that’s going to be a defining issue for a while. Working hybrid, so what does that mean?

Myself, I was in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago in an office building that was practically empty. Just the fact that hardly anyone is working in your company in the office, it makes it feel weird when you go in. Just like I remember going to a conference during the pandemic and everything was wrapped in plastic and we were there, but it felt weird.

I think there will end up being two camps. I think there will be the all-virtual, maybe we get together once a year to celebrate something or maybe quarterly, and then the people that are going to be solid hybrid with a minimum number of days in the office. I see both sides and I know we’re not just talking about this topic, but I think it’s going to be a big topic, because how you work is important and the fact that just kids going back to school, there’s a lot of catching up to do and even in socializing.

I’m a very social person and it was hard for me to be isolated for a long time. While I look forward to upcoming conferences that I’m going to be speaking out, I’m also happy to be here, at my home office and not going anywhere. I think it’s going to be a bigger issue than people think. I also think that there’s a lot of poor advice that’s shared on places like LinkedIn where someone could have a lot of great knowledge at their company in their role but that doesn’t mean it works at your company in your role.

One of the best things I have received is the ability to look at lots of different companies, and see that one thing doesn’t work every place. One salesperson isn’t good at every company. You can’t be a very strong enterprise rep and then a strong very small SMB type person. There are just so many things. People need to be careful about what they listen to and take it with a grain of salt.

I like the AB testing approach to try things out. If it doesn’t work, try something else, give it a little bit of time. Just because someone that you know who they are, and you follow them and they say things, it doesn’t always and myself included, I put us all in this category that often the answer is it depends, and it depends on a lot of different factors. Get good advice from others, not just somebody or a couple of people on LinkedIn that everybody agrees with the post and keeps agreeing and agreeing, so you figure, well, that must be the right answer then.

Another thing, Gina, is that I think that people undervalue the importance of hiring the right sales candidates. It’s not true that anyone can sell and I’ve heard people say that. Just recently someone said, “Well, we were hiring a salesperson so they’ll be able to ramp up and figure it out.” It’s like, “Whoa, they don’t do that on their own.”

They need a strong infrastructure, they need process, they need marketing and they need other things and not everyone is coachable. Not everyone has that drive and motivation to be successful. Those are hard to interview for. I’ve seen also a lot of advice that I don’t think is very healthy on those specific topics and I would just stress that hiring the right people, the right places, the right manager, the right leader, and then individual contributors is critical to the success.

Gina Stracuzzi: Yes, absolutely. You bring up a good point, that hiring the right person and I’m thinking, companies are really struggling. There’s so much competition for good salespeople, especially women, too. But what’s interesting thinking about some of what you were just saying about whether we should be in the office or not and it depends on the person, if you’re trying to bring on new salespeople and integrate them into your selling process and your products, having them all work from home, I think could be difficult because when you’re coming into a new sales team, you need that energy and that enthusiasm that you get from others.

If you’re doing it in a vacuum, and I’ve talked to a number of people where, “Yeah, that person lasted like three months,” and they’re like, “I don’t blame them. They never met any of us. It’s just a screen and we’re just like, try this, try that.” It’s just I think overwhelming for people if they’re trying to do something new.

Lori Richardson: I think the data will prove down the road one way or the other. I don’t have an opinion because I like to see what the data says. I think in some ways we find what we did as the right way because that’s the way we did it. But I also know I happen to be a person that bonds really well with people virtually, and maybe other people don’t.

I’ve had relationships with people where I’ve never met them, and I’ve known them for years online or maybe I’ve met them once. I have very strong relationships with people like that. I think it’s going to be interesting. I’m not taking any bets yet. I want to see what happens but I find things like this fascinating. I happen to like change, which is a gift, I guess, because a lot of people don’t like change and I’m really curious to see what’s going to happen in the next couple of years or how this fills out and who’s going to be right and are there two right answers?

Gina Stracuzzi: I’m sure there are and because to your point, each company is a little bit different in what they need, and what they can provide virtually is different maybe from a company over here that has a different kind of infrastructure that just never landed itself to the virtual environment.

Lori Richardson: When you talked about getting good people, it’s hard because there’s such a demand. I agree with you and I believe that people need to be very clear in companies about who they are and what they stand for. Particularly when hiring women, we know that women care about the company they work for. They care about what the company stands for. They care about their professional development.

Those are things that you can’t really fake. Put it on your website, put it in your conversations, and get feedback as you’re interviewing. If you miss out on good candidates, go back to them and ask them, was there anything that they heard or saw that made them not be as interested if they don’t actually just tell you which some people will. Because that’s really good data, that’s really good feedback that you can get to get the next great candidate.

Gina Stracuzzi: Absolutely. It’s one of the reasons that we are launching the premier Women in Sales Employer to help women be able to say, this company has proven themselves not to just talk and things on their website, but actual programs have some merit and some length, and they get positive numbers from the people that work there for them and they do have the support women need.

We are super excited about that but, you are so right, it matters value wise. I think we’re going to find that even men are going to be more particular about that now, because I think the pandemic really laid bare what companies are about. If people got the support they needed in this difficult time, it was obvious, and if they didn’t get it, it was blaringly obvious,

Lori Richardson: Right. If it was not a good company before, it didn’t get any better during, usually in those cases. Yeah, absolutely, it’s an issue for everybody. Just as soft skills, we’re back to talking about soft skills again for everyone, about empathy, and listening and those things that sometimes get put on the backburner. We know those are important moving forward in connecting with buyers.

Gina Stracuzzi: Absolutely. Let’s talk a little bit, backing up, how would you recommend that a company find the right sellers for them? What questions should they be asking?

Lori Richardson: Well, what I’ve learned over the years is that it’s really good to look at data like I was mentioning. I have a process in our company where we don’t just ask a bunch of questions and we don’t encourage people to just ask a bunch of questions, but to actually do a bit of an assessment where they can learn about strengths and areas where there’s a gap in some fundamental core competencies.

I’m all for looking at core competencies and it’s very difficult to figure those out when someone is interviewing for a sales role. Because as salespeople, we give you our very best sales pitch when we’re interviewing, right? You’re going to want to hire me. Even if I don’t have the commitment, even if I don’t have the motivation, I’m going to tell you I do because I know that’s what you want to hear.

I talked to a founder yesterday who said, “This person told me this and they told me that and we went six months and they did nothing,” and I said, “I’m so sorry that you had to go through that.” That’s very common in the idea that sales used to be a black hole, and we didn’t really know what was going on. We didn’t really know what good salespeople did but we know now.

We know that there are competencies and we know that there are key differentiators in terms of how people handle rejection, and whether or not they need approval and whether they are saying things in their heads on an ongoing basis that are supportive, rather than unsupportive. Because if you teach me consultative selling, but deep down I feel like, well, that company is not going to buy from me because they never have in the past, my thought in my head is going to derail what I know about consultative selling.

I believe very strongly that that’s part of why the sales training industry has done so little in terms of results. It’s a multibillion dollar industry last I heard, I haven’t heard lately, but it’s a place where you can’t just go and learn consultative selling and qualifying skills and closing skills and be good. It doesn’t work that way. You have to have fundamental drive and desire and passion for what you’re doing, and then you have to make sure you don’t have those roadblocks around rejection and needing approval and things like that.

It’s more complex than people think. You don’t just hire someone and put them in a sales role. Just because someone was good in a sales role in your industry, doesn’t mean they’re going to be good in your company. It takes some thought and diligence and perhaps an assessment.

Gina Stracuzzi: Well, that’s really good advice. I think most of us that have been in sales a long time have had that one job where you just weren’t as effective as you normally are. There was no rhyme or reason to it. It’s like, why am I struggling here when I could sell milk to a cow? Sometimes it’s just not a good fit and maybe it’s the leadership or whatever.

Lori Richardson: Well, it’s a combination. In a lot of cases, it’s a combination of the profile of that role, what the role entails, what the company is expecting in terms of ability and results and it could be personalities too because we’ve all had these managers. I had 23 managers in my sales career. I always say that some of them were awesome and some of them were awful.

Gina Stracuzzi: Well, that could be a whole other conversation. You’re a big proponent then of using profiles for somebody that gets to kind of towards the end of the interview process, then?

Lori Richardson: Actually I do them early on and they’re not personality based, they’re not psychological but they’re based on core sales competencies. I’m looking for those tactical skills like consultative selling and value based selling and hunting, ability to reach decision makers and things like that.

I also want to know if they’ve worked with a sales process. If they’re very process-oriented because that certainly helps people and how they do remotely because some people actually don’t work as well remotely as other people. Then of course, the will to sell.

If they’re motivated and if they have a strong commitment to be successful, if they have strong desire, if they have a positive or good outlook – I don’t like to use the words positive and negative necessarily. Then if they take responsibility, because if everything is always somebody else’s fault, it’s the economy, it’s the company, it’s the customer, the prospect, that will not make for a successful rep either. It’s a combination of those together.

Gina Stracuzzi: Is there a test that you like? Because I’m sure anyone listening now is going to be thinking, “Okay, well, what test does she use?”

Lori Richardson: Well, it’s a process and it’s a process that we run. If anyone’s interested, reach out to me and I will be happy to tell them with more information on that.

Gina Stracuzzi: We are at that point in our conversation where we like to ask our guests for one piece of advice that our listeners can put into place today to help their careers or if they’re a manager, to help their process of selecting new sellers. What would you like to share with us?

Lori Richardson: Whether you’re a seller or a manager or a sales executive, the biggest thing right now that is important is mindset. Regardless of your skill level, if you tackle each day with the mindset that things are possible, that what you’re hearing, maybe some things are true around the economy and yet we need to fire up and excite our teams. We need to understand that in good times and down times, there’s always selling going on. Why not your products and your services? Why not your company? Why not you? Focus on mindset and just dive into it like it’s the best topic you’ve ever researched and become a researcher on mindset. If you did just that one thing, revenues would go up.

Gina Stracuzzi: I love that because mindset right now, I think you’re absolutely right, Lori, is such a huge thing. We’re in this in between world. As we started the conversation, people were a little confused about what they should be doing. Should they be doing in person meetings, not in person meetings? It feels a little like you’re detached. I think revving up your mindset is really great advice. Do you have any favorite books that you like or podcasts or anything that you listen to?

Lori Richardson: There are so many different things. I have a wide variety. You know what? I’m going to write a post about that. I don’t have any one book. I’ve read some amazing things over the years and for many years. Some of the things I read early on, it’s still valid because mindset is mindset, so it doesn’t go away. Even the old Dale Carnegie books, and Zig Ziglar was an old time guide. Not everything he wrote resonated with me but a lot of it but there are so many different things.

I would compile a collection of things that resonate. Even throw in Brene Brown and there’s a lot of things both women and men have written that could really be inspirational. That’s what I want is inspiration and I want something that I’ll read that I’ll just go, “Oh, yeah, that’s so true.” Then it just lifts you up and helps you get through that next call or that next hour. Sometimes you need that.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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