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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Sales Game Changers LIVE Webinar sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales and hosted by Fred Diamond on February 9, 2021. It featured Fidelus Technologies Sales Leader Matt McDarby and CallRail Sales Leader Jason Rozenblat.]
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MATT’S TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Look in the mirror and tell yourself, “I’m worthy, I can do this, I’m absolutely capable of creating value for others and being different. I’m worthy.”
JASON’S TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: Control the controllable. Understand what is in your control and what isn’t and focus on that and your mindset. It’ll absolutely have a profound effect on your life.”
Fred Diamond: Today we have two great guests, Matt McDarby and Jason Rozenblat. I want to acknowledge some of the IES Corporate Members like Fidelus Technologies, Matt McDarby, you’re the VP. We’ve got a bunch of people here, we’ve got thousands listening to the podcast in the future – I’m going to take that leap of faith because we get all those downloads. Gentlemen, it’s great to see you, we’re going to help sales professionals take their sales game to the next level. Matt, let’s start with you, let’s get right to it. How are things going for the business right now and how has the pandemic affected your efforts as of today?
Matt McDarby: Business is going well. We’ve just come off our strongest half as a business ever, we’re a services business primarily and the revenue and profits from professional services have been tremendous. I attribute that to a couple of things, of course the first half of the year we had a lot of clients that were concerned and delayed projects so we had some demand, that helped. The second half was about my team staying close to clients, reminding them of conversations we had about what our clients were trying to achieve and help them to look at the project that we had teed up as high priority. We’re coming off a great second half and we’re looking strong going into the new year. Lot of work to do, heavy focus on execution but feeling good about where we are.
Fred Diamond: We’re going to be talking about execution a lot today. I just want to acknowledge you real quickly. Back in March of 2020 the Institute for Excellence in Sales shifted everything from in-person to virtual with our daily webinars and you were one of the first guests that we had on the Sales Game Changers Live last April, so I’m looking forward to seeing how you’ve progressed. Jason Rozenblat, great to see you. You’ve worked for some great companies, tell us now what you’re doing and same question for you, where are we right now? What’s the current state of your company right smack in the middle of the pandemic?
Jason Rozenblat: Thanks for having me, I’m really excited to be here. I currently lead sales efforts at a company called CallRail based in Atlanta and same as Matt, we have done incredibly well considering everything going on – it’s my favorite saying, “Considering everything going on.” We had a very strong second half of the year as well, we found that we were starting to see an uptick in our business, it was almost like an indication of small businesses in America waking up because we’re tracking phone calls, we’re tracking leads that are being generated by small businesses. We actually started to see an uptick in activity and then ultimately in revenue around the summer time of 2020. Our revenue has been great, we grew very strong year over year and are geared up for another strong year in 2021. We launched our fourth product in Q4 so all efforts are on making sure we can get that out into the market and getting that into as many customer’s hands as possible.
Fred Diamond: Gentlemen, let’s talk about priorities. Jason, let’s start with you. What are you focusing on right now? What are the top priorities for you and yourself as a sales leader?
Jason Rozenblat: If I had to over-simplify, it’s always in macro and micro trends and how they will impact my management team and my reps trying to get in front of those as much as possible. I need to have a really good pulse on what’s going on at a macro and micro level. That means obviously understanding what’s going on with the economy, obviously everything going on with COVID, politics, understanding how that may impact my team’s performance or revenue. Then also understanding how all of that is impacting my team that are human beings that are also dealing with everything going on in a more micro level, so just making sure I’ve got a really good finger on the pulse of both macro and micro at this time, more so than ever before.
Fred Diamond: Matt, I’ve got a follow-up question for you on that. Again, your company is a member of the Institute for Excellence in Sales so you and I have been in touch a number of times throughout the course of the last year. Back to what Jason just said, we’re all familiar with the pandemic but there was also an election that caused a lot of impact, also social injustice coming to the forefront, we’ve had such a crazy last 10 months with the pandemic being a piece of it. How have you as a sales leader been working with your team? You also mentioned that your company is on the rise. You just came in right before the pandemic started so I’m curious on how you have been leading the course.
Matt McDarby: I think it’s coming off a great last half to last year and having some momentum going into this year. We have to remind ourselves we’re still a relatively small organization and there’s only so many initiatives we can execute all at once if we have a chance at executing really well. We’ve really been working hard at narrowing the list of things we’re doing to identify and pursue net new clients and defend and extend existing client relationships. For example, when it comes to the identifying and pursuing net new, the thing that we’re really laser-focused on is working with our technology partnerships, narrow target account lists informed by intent data, very specific campaigns.
We’re really trying to take rifle shots at the kind of opportunities we know we can go out and win because in a time like this, it’s tempting to try to do everything to capture every opportunity that’s available to us but given what’s going on around us, economically there’s some uncertainty. We don’t know what the market is going to look like 6 months or a year from now so we’re just trying to capitalize on the opportunities that are available to us right now and execute really effectively and pursuing them. Lord knows what things are going to look like six months from now and I know I can’t control any of that, so the team is focused on the fundamentals. Executing, account and opportunity planning really effectively trying to execute a few really important initiatives at once and holding ourselves accountable to executing those things. There’s nothing sexy about it, it’s just executing what we know we need to do and being focused about it.
Fred Diamond: Jason, follow up on that. You brought up macro, there’s nothing that anybody who’s listening to today’s Sales Game Changers webinar or podcast in the future can do about almost any of the macro things. You can be smart, you can wear a mask, you could stay out of places. To Matt’s point there, how are you keeping things focused on the now as compared to wanting to divert yourself? You’ve got to be thinking strategically, but strategic instead of being three months from now might be a year from now. How do you stay focused on the present?
Jason Rozenblat: Matt brought up something that I practice a lot with my team. I’m a big fan of stoicism and the concept of controlling the controllable and I preach that to my team all the time. A lot of what that means is you obviously can’t let things that are outside of your control influence you, your performance or what’s going on in your life and that’s way bigger than just as a salesperson getting up and doing your job. It’s how you could live your life so it’s pretty profound if you can adopt that mindset, easier said than done but it’s something that I focus on a lot. Every opportunity I can speak with my leadership team or my sales team, I really preach that same motto. When you think about the things that you can control, it’s your mind, your attitude, your opinions. You can’t control what other people think or luck and karma – if you believe in that, good luck – realistically, things happening in the world, we can only control how we react and respond to those things. A lot of it is just mindset and constantly reminding the team of what they need to be focused on right now in the moment.
I remember when I carried a bag and I would get my quota for the month or the quarter and I would look at it and I was at zero and I would start panicking because I was young and I didn’t know any better. I had a mentor and manager who helped me synthesize that down. You don’t go A to Z, there’s a lot of things between A and Z and I never took that for granted. I have a lot of younger sales reps on my team and sales professionals that have never really been given that perspective, so helping them understand you need to have a plan, you need to focus on that, you need to execute on it, like Matt said. Don’t deviate from it, if there’s an opportunity to pivot or adapt, that’s fine but let’s come up with a game plan on how you’re going to get there and execute on all the little things that will help you get there along the way instead of focusing on that big number that you’re trying to hit. What are the little things you can control that will help you get there? Progress as you go along. Again, easier said than done, it’s a simple concept but actually practicing that and putting that into play is incredibly profound and effective.
Fred Diamond: We have a question here that comes in from Reggie and Reggie is in the DC area, his company is a member of the IES. Reggie’s question is, “Good answer, Jason, but how quickly have you had to shift the plan?” Interesting question for the two of you. As we all knew, in the beginning of 2020 everyone had the best plan of all time and come March 15th, all of a sudden the plan went out the window. Jason, I want to hit you with that but Matt, you first. By the way, I didn’t mention this but you’re also a published author, you’ve published a couple of great books for sales leaders. I encourage everybody listening today or watching the webinar, go to LinkedIn, link in to Jason Rozenblat and Matt McDarby. Matt, I want to acknowledge the books that you’ve written, I know you have a third one coming out as well for sales leaders. Talk about how sales leaders have been able to shift, things have evened out a little bit but at the same time we don’t know when people are going to be back in the office. We don’t know if it’s going to get worse before it gets better, certain industries may or may not come back, restaurants are still hardly opened in parts of the country, Canada is still on lockdown. I talked to someone yesterday in England who said, “We can’t go two miles from our house.” Talk about how you adjust as a sales leader during these uncertain times and then Jason, I’m interested in your thoughts as well.
Matt McDarby: Thanks for the acknowledgement on the books, by the way, Fred. I appreciate it. On March 15th I just reached over my shoulder and grabbed my global pandemic playbook and it was fine. Clearly we couldn’t have anticipated any of that, so the question is what do we do to be in position to address these changes when they come because you can’t anticipate them? I think there are a few things. I know some of the things that I’ve done is remind myself regularly, despite all the things that are changing, sometimes unexpectedly. We’ve got a pretty clear vision of what we’re trying to achieve and as long as you’ve got that North star, and I don’t just mean a financial objective, if you have a vision for what the business needs to look like and what the mix of products and services are and who you’re working with, who your clients are, the more clarity you have on that, I don’t want to say it’s easy but it makes the process of shifting your priorities simpler. If you don’t know where you’re headed and your whole world has changed around you, it’s near impossible to pivot and make the right adjustment.
My advice to anybody listening here is if you’re listening to this and thinking, “I’m not really sure that we as a leadership team know exactly how success is defined” that’s the next thing you should do. You can expect that something’s going to change, maybe there’s some new variant of the virus or one of the vaccines is not effective, who knows? We have no idea. This is about putting yourself in position to pivot and the other bit of advice here is expecting the change. I’ve been doing this a long time and I can’t think of a year where we’ve been able to fully execute the strategy that we anticipated executing on January 1st that it went exactly as we planned. We looked back on December 31st and, “Yes, it went exactly as we planned.” It just doesn’t work that way, as a sales leader you need to be prepared to pivot and that may be one of the most important skills you can develop.
Fred Diamond: Jason, same question. As a sales leader, mindset is great. As a matter of fact, we have a show every Thursday we’re doing just on mindset. Matt knew this, prior to the pandemic once a year typically on a Friday in October we would bring a speaker to come in and spend a couple hours talking to IES members about mindset. Now we do a show every single Thursday, tomorrow we have the great Umar Hameed as our guest. Jason, talk about specifics as a sales leader. How have you been able to not just lead the team but from a sales leader perspective when compensation challenges, if the markets went away, what are some of the things you’re able to do to truly be an elite sale leader during this time?
Jason Rozenblat: I was laughing as Matt was going through and said a couple things that I thought were sad but true or just very on the nose. I feel like we over-prepared in 2019, we wanted to get in front of planning for 2020 and we felt great because as a startup, you’re always still planning in January and February. We got ahead of it and everything was going great and then we had to completely pivot in March, had to do a massive rework. This is a little bit of hindsight being 2020, but we weren’t in a position where we had over-extended ourselves so we had the flexibility to be able to pivot. I completely agree with Matt, being able to pivot is an incredibly important skill and having the courage to pivot and knowing what you’re pivoting to, knowing when to pivot. This concept of fail fast isn’t just like, “This isn’t working” and then you just completely change gears because then your team starts to lose faith in what you’re doing, so it’s got to be well thought out and there’s got to be a good plan B, C, D or however far down the alphabet you need to go. We were in a position where we had not over-extended ourselves and we had the flexibility and agility to be able to pivot.
I took something out of the Cvent playbook in my time there, it’s where I learned my sales leadership MBA. They do a lot of promoting from within, lots of recruiting at regional colleges and then promote from within, develop from within and I’ve done that now in two different organizations. That gave me the flexibility to move people around and the way that I had built my training and development program, they learned skill sets so I was able to put them in different positions. We were able to land on our feet with very little negative impact when all hell broke loose, for lack of better terms. A few things that I want to reiterate, having that North Star, not necessarily just a financial goal but having that North star is incredibly critical. I’m reminding the team of it and at CallRail where I am now, we actually do quarterly OKRs. We nominate or submit ideas for OKRs, as a leadership team we vote from anywhere from three to four, there’s one OKR owner for the quarter and the company rallies around those OKRs. We like doing it on a quarterly basis because it allows you to be a lot more nimble versus on a half or annual OKR.
That has really helped us out and something I said earlier in the macro and micro trends, not allowing anybody’s anecdotal feedback to be made as the truth. I want to seek the truth, I want some more empirical evidence, I want some data to validate that. Something really is going wrong, something really is being impacted, I want to talk to customers, I really want to understand what’s going on without just allowing every rep to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Create that line of communication where you can get that feedback directly from the field or from wherever you’re able to get it, but then go out and seek the truth so that when you are making a suggestion to a leadership team, to a board and then convincing the rest of the group that you’re doing it, there’s data to support those decisions.
Fred Diamond: What should a rep be doing right now to be elite?” Let’s talk about the specific sales rep level right now. Matt, let’s start with you, what are a couple things that elite performers should be doing right now or are doing? It’s interesting, because of the challenges of people not being in an office, management has had to think about, “How do I motivate my younger people? How do I keep my senior people engaged, the ones who are used to going to events?” You have a lot of young sales professionals that have been in their apartment or their parent’s basement for the last 10 months that they didn’t expect to. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s a lot harder coaching somebody when all you see is the typical screens that we’re familiar with these days. Matt, then Jason, what are elite reps doing right now?\
Matt McDarby: I think there’s two things off the top of my head. One is they’re being systematic, in a time when things are still dynamic and changing it’s tempting to flail about or try the next thing because the thing that you were taught to do maybe didn’t have an immediate result. Stick to the process, know the behaviors that are going to work, that are going to get the outcomes you want, stick to them. That’s what I mean by being systematic and make time to do things like planning your calls effectively and reviewing your results with your coach getting feedback, getting better every time, that’s what I mean by being systematic.
Two, listen. Because I’m an executive, I get messages on LinkedIn constantly, email outreach, phone calls from people that it’s a one-way push, “This is what I do, I’m going to help you with lead generation.” I get a hundred of those a day and I will respond to many of them, and I’m certain that 99% of them are not reading, not listening, not understanding my feedback. If they did, it would be competitively different, they would stand out. To be elite, be systematic and keep your ears open. Really listen to understand, not to respond.
Fred Diamond: Jason, before I ask you about elite performance, frequent listeners of the Sales Game Changers podcast and our webinars know that whenever our guest says, “You need to be a better listener” my follow up is always: Matt, give us a physical human way that sales professionals or sales leaders can become better listeners. Give us something specific, what’s something people can or should be doing to become a better listener?
Matt McDarby: Some of it is just active listening, we’ve all been trained in that probably. “Fred, I just heard you say X, when you say X, does that mean [fill in the blank]?” It’s active listening and asking clarifying questions with the intention of, again, listening to understand. “Fred, can I just test my understanding? You just said you’re trying to achieve X, does that mean you have to achieve that now? Does that mean you have to achieve that by the end of the year? How are you going to get there, Fred? Tell me about that.” I always encourage people when listening is clearly an opportunity for them, “Don’t worry about your questions, have a few really basic clarifying questions you keep in your back pocket that are your go-to’s. Your job is not to worry about the words coming out of your mouth, your job is to listen to the answer.” Mine are, “How so?”, “Tell me more”, “What do you mean?”, “Can you explain that in a little bit more detail?” It takes the pressure off of me to be really artful in the questions I’m asking and puts the burden on me to listen and not worry about anything other than that. That’s my recommendation for listening.
Fred Diamond: Not many people know this about you as well – or maybe they do – that you also spend a good part of your career working for some elite sales performance improvement companies and that’s a great answer to the question, thank you so much. Jason, eliteness. What does the elite sales professional look like right now? What do they do?
Jason Rozenblat: I just jotted down a couple of things. #1 is practice with deliberate intent, when you’re asking for coaching or being coached or trying to do any sort of self-assessment, practice on deliberate skills. Be very intentional with what you’re trying to work on and what you’re trying to develop, there’s got to be one portion or one part of your bag of tricks that you’re trying to improve. Be very intentional and deliberate with that.
#2, listen to your calls, watch your demos, it’s like watching game film for an athlete. Understand what you’re doing well, what you’re not doing well, pick up on those active cues, understand how your prospects or customers are responding to you and be very aware of that. Continue to do things that are working well and stop doing the things that aren’t working well.
The last thing is don’t get comfortable. If something is working today, that doesn’t mean it’s going to continue to work. Constantly be very self-aware of what’s happening. Again, going back to the whole concept of any macro or micro trends, if you’re starting to notice certain things are working better or not, don’t ever rest on the laurels and don’t ever get too comfortable.
Fred Diamond: We’ve got a question here from Rich, “How can I communicate to my manager that I believe we’re on the wrong course?” That’s an interesting question. We talked throughout today’s’ webinar about having a plan, staying on the course, what do you recommend to the sales professionals who are out there that maybe they’re struggling with direction? This happened a lot in the beginning of the pandemic where leaders were telling their people, “You still need to make a hundred phone calls. Your goal is to make a hundred phone calls a day, it shouldn’t stop.” Meanwhile, everyone’s going through a pandemic, everyone’s trying to figure out what they do with their kids, let alone wanting to take your call. I’m just curious about that, what would be your advice to Rich here about how you would recommend that they approach leadership if they think things might not be going as they could? Jason, what are your thoughts on that? Then Matt, I’m interested in your thoughts.
Jason Rozenblat: I always encourage my team to be very vocal, but there’s one rule and I learned this rule very early on in my career and that’s be a problem solver, not a problem spotter. I’m always going to have that open door policy, I want to hear your feedback but don’t just come and complain and point things out that are broken because I probably already know about it. Come with some solutions and let’s work on those solutions together, that’s one. The second thing, and I mentioned this earlier, is the concept of data. Bring some evidence, bring some proof. One of my favorite sayings is, “In God we trust, everyone else must bring data” so I’m more likely to take you seriously and want to work with you on this problem if you’re coming with a solution and you’re bringing some sort of evidence or data to validate that it is, in fact, a problem or that you’re doing something incorrect.
Fred Diamond: Matt, how about you? What are your suggestions for sales professionals out there that may be holding things in, that aren’t really happy with the way things are going?
Matt McDarby: I’d be sweating bullets right now if I had a member of my team named Rich [laughs]. It’s something that we in sales leadership roles can struggle with from time to time, especially when things are changing. What can Rich do or people like Rich? Here’s what I would do. I’d say, “Boss, I’m pretty sure that what we set out to achieve was this, this was the outcome we said we were working towards, we’re all working towards this goal and I see that we’re working on this initiative over here. I’m not understanding the connection between that initiative and what we’re all trying to achieve. Can you help me understand that a little bit better?” Because it may be that in Rich’s case he legitimately doesn’t see the connection between some new initiative that the boss is inflicting on the team and what they’re trying to achieve. It could be – and this is definitely possible – that the boss has forgotten [laughs]. One of the best things in addition to what Jason was offering – be a problem solver, have data, bring facts – is let’s focus on what we’re trying to achieve and if there’s something that doesn’t seem right, couch our question in that outcome. “I saw it at the beginning of the year we said we were trying to grow this way, we wanted to sell more of this solution, we wanted to increase our pipeline in this way. Boss, can you help me understand how this thing you’re asking us to do gets us there?” You never know how valuable that question could be, maybe the boss needs to think about that.
Fred Diamond: You mentioned your “pandemic sales guide book.” Prior to the pandemic there was an expectation that if you were a sales leader, like Jason mentioned, you’ve got the plan, we have all the metrics in place, we know what we believe everyone should be doing, were getting support from marketing ops and sales enablement, etcetera. Then here comes the pandemic and for everybody on the planet that’s been the one commonality that we’ve talked about many times. Everybody on the planet is dealing with coming out of the COVID situation from a quarantine, from a job loss, whatever it might be. They’re also dealing with the financial repercussions and impacts and then everybody on the planet is dealing with whatever the third thing is, maybe something in your industry or specifically to your company.
We’ve got time for one more question here but before I ask you for your final thoughts we’re getting a couple nice comments here. Rich says, “Thank you very much, Matt, for the answer.” He also says he does not work for you, it’s not a pseudonym, so good for you.
Matt McDarby: [Laughs] good.
Fred Diamond: Before I ask you for your final action step, just tell us what your expectations are. We’re talking about the need to communicate, Jason mentioned “open door”, those kind of things but tell us briefly, Matt, what are your expectations right now? Again, it’s Q1, it’s February 2021. Jason, same question for you. What are you both expecting? You guys have got to report up, you guys still have a number, the corporation is still expecting you, sales, to lead everybody out of the challenges that we face. Tell us what your expectations are for sales professionals right now. Matt McDarby, you go first.
Matt McDarby: For the people on my team, the thing that I expect them to do primarily all the time is to be asking clients some version of the question, “What are you trying to achieve?” You and I talked about this a couple of weeks ago. Whether they’re in a client success role defending and expanding client relationships or they’re new logo person focused on prospecting and building new relationships, you cannot create value and build trust with people when you don’t understand what they’re trying to achieve. Whatever way you can do, if you have direct access, ask. If you can only do research or you can talk to people who know, key executives in your target account, get the answer to that question. That’s the expectation because everything else hinges on that, and if we don’t know what our clients or prospects are trying to achieve, this job is infinitely harder than when we do know that. That’s my #1 expectation for my team.
Fred Diamond: That’s very powerful, always be thinking about what your clients are trying to achieve. Jason, how about for you? What are your expectations right now for your sales team?
Jason Rozenblat: I think there are two things. One is outward focus on the conversations that they’re having. In the same vein as what Matt said, be compassionate. These are people on the phone, they’re dealing with a lot of things just the same way we are so instead of looking at them as a prospect or customer or just another means to hitting your number, I’ve always coached this with my teams but more than ever, try to be compassionate and genuinely care about the customers and what’s going on with them. On the other side of that, more inward focused is same thing. Genuinely care, be present, never stop learning, never stop growing and be opportunistic. If they’ve got a good head on their shoulders now and they’re focused and they don’t stop their evolution, growing and developing skills and wanting to improve, wanting to help more of their customers, then when the dust settles on all of this they’ll be in a much better spot personally and professionally speaking. I don’t want them to feel sorry for themselves, I want them to keep going hard.
Fred Diamond: I want to thank Matt McDarby, Jason Rozenblat. You guys are sales leaders, you guys have led tons of people, you guys have done so much great work for your companies and for the sales profession. I want to thank you again for being on today’s Sales Game Changers live. Give us a final action play. We end all of our webinars and podcasts with this, give us something specific that people watching the webinar or listening to the podcast should do right now. Jason, you go first. Something nice, crisp, succinct and then Matt, you bring us home.
Jason Rozenblat: I mentioned it before, control the controllable. Understand what is in your control and what isn’t and focus on that and your mindset. It’ll absolutely have a profound effect on your life.
Fred Diamond: Matt, five us a final action step for people to right now take their sales career to the next level.
Matt McDarby: This is a mindset one, Fred. Look in the mirror and tell yourself, “I’m worthy, I can do this, I’m absolutely capable of creating value for others and being different. I’m worthy.”
Fred Diamond: Once again, Matt McDarby, Jason Rozenblat, thank you very much for the great insights today. My name is Fred Diamond and this is the Sales Game Changers webinars and podcast.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo