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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Sales Game Changers Panel Webinar hosted by Fred Diamond, Host of the Sales Game Changers Podcast, on April 8, 2020. It featured sales leaders Paul McConville from Hobsons and Dorean Kass from Neustar.]
EPISODE 220: Sales Game Changers Learning Event: Sales Transformation and Success During COVID-19 featuring Paul McConville and Dorean Kass
MAJOR TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “The big thing for us (Neustar) and the focus for us is maintaining the connection between the team, the individual contributors, the management, the support organizations and the other components of the functional team.“
Fred Diamond: Today I’m very excited, we have two great sales leaders on the panel. We have Dorean Kass with Neustar and we have Paul McConville from Hobsons. We’re all located in Northern Virginia today just outside of DC, of course we’re in our own homes. Let’s get to it. What are your top priorities right now? Paul, why don’t you start us off?
Paul McConville: Thanks, Fred. I think for us and it’s common across the board, part of it is keeping confidence levels high for the team. Everybody’s got a little bit of uncertainty, a little angst right now of what’s going on in the world, what happens with business, I think our jobs as leaders is to keep confidence. Dorean and I talked a little bit about this but orienting our teams to the clients’ needs, I think that’s been heightened. The world of sales right now, you better figure out how to make what you do a need to have and the only way to do that is to focus on what clients’ needs are. I think we’re probably all in the boat, there’s also research out from Gartner, this idea of keeping the sales machine running. How do we keep people focused on the business at hand, what we do and being active out in the community for selling, for renewing, for having conversations with clients?
Fred Diamond: Paul, for people who aren’t familiar with Hobsons, why don’t you tell us who your customers are, who your team sells to so that we put this in context?
Paul McConville: We’re three teams, about a hundred people between sales and account management focused in three areas. One is the K-12 market, primarily middle schools and high schools for a product we call Naviance which is a college and career readiness platform used in almost half the high schools in the US. We have what we call Intersect which is for higher education schools to have a presence within Naviance so when schools or students are doing college search within Naviance they can find schools that are best fit and match so that they can succeed in college. Then our third business we call Starfish, Starfish is around orienting a school towards student success to help more college students retain and ultimately graduate.
Fred Diamond: You’re obviously dealing with a customer base that’s been disrupted, everyone’s been disrupted of course, because of the situation but your audience has definitely been disrupted.
Paul McConville: Enormously so. I think all of the Fairfax County school system is like almost every other school system where kids are not going to school, schools having very quickly shifted to distance learning. Nobody had a playbook for this and they had to accommodate change very quickly, same with colleges. Every school has closed and students were a little more used to distance learning, most students today have a hybrid of class online and class at a school so they can shift a little more quickly but there are no rules for this. Everybody’s had to find a new normal, if you can call it that, but education in general has been incredibly disruptive.
Fred Diamond: Dorean, Paul has alluded to who he sells to. Tell us who your customer is, give us a little about Neustar and tell us once again what are your priorities.
Dorean Kass: Thanks for having me on, Fred. The blessing and the curse for Neustar is we sell across a variety of different verticals and while I like to say you never waste a big crisis, there are certainly situations where we’ve been negatively impacted – I think everybody has, but some verticals more than others. We sell within four primary business units, communication solutions, security solutions, marketing analytics and risk that are all vertically oriented with a focus on leveraging identity to help solve challenges for our clients in the moments that matter. Within specific verticals like travel an hospitality interactions with consumers is almost essentially non-existent so insights around how to best maximize or engage most effectively with consumers who aren’t traveling doesn’t really carry any weight regardless of the positioning or the value but there are components around consumer electronics, e-commerce and inbound call center applications, fraud applications that naturally kick up in these situations.
At least from the perspective of having diversity there are certainly negative impacts to a large component of the areas that we work but there are other areas that have more of a need for the capabilities and [Inaudible 08:24] that Neustar can bring to bear. As it relates to priorities for us I think first and foremost, Paul and I were talking about this yesterday, it’s the safety of our people. Nobody wants a situation where you’re having to announce somebody getting sick, god forbid somebody passing away. There’s so much unknown, I think the first priority is the safety of our people and their families and then shortly and quickly thereafter it centers into how do we get back to doing what we do and driving some sense of normalcy back into a very unusual and odd world both in terms of trying to balance your work life and your family life and dealing with becoming educators for your children and having them home and everything else that goes into it.
There’s a different discipline that comes along with working from home, there’s a different dynamic that comes across and along with being on phone calls all day long. Most of us are accustomed to being customer-facing in a literal sense sitting in front of somebody being able to read their body language, we have now shifted into needing to do much more of that over video conference and it’s been a very interesting time and drives a lot of need for adaptation in a very quick and meaningful way. That’s why these sorts of events are so important for me and I know what Paul and I wanted to participate is there’s a learning that is achieved by all of us going through this at the same time. Nobody is a global pandemic sales expert – I’m going to put that on my resume going forward but it was not there previously – so we have to learn from one another and establish best practices with the realization that it’s going to be unique for your given business if you’re selling into education versus if you’re selling into communications, for example.
Fred Diamond: What’s been a positive surprise coming out of this? What’s something you’re most proud of? We’re going to get to some of the details of what you’re doing but let’s look for some silver linings here. Dorean, why don’t you go first? What’s a positive outcome that is happening right now for you and your team and hopefully will continue into the future?
Dorean Kass: For me both in terms of the sales team and the company overall it’s been the resiliency of people just in terms of adapting quickly and moving past the uncertainty into an acceptance and almost making the best of the situation. We’re going to talk about this later, too but a lot of the ways that we’re trying to engage our workforce and making them feel like either they can’t walk down the hall and talk to somebody that they still have that connection to their team, to their other functional members of the company. The overall resilience of the organization and the creativity is really the things I’ve been the most impressed with. I’m trying to be preemptive in terms of how to solve problems both in terms of predicting what our clients’ needs are going to be both existing and future and then also how to adapt based upon the needs of any given vertical one versus another. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ approach, there is no monolithic application of things that we can do, it creates this need for creativity and forward thinking and the sharing of that information and people trying to help one another through this common lens of resiliency is the thing what I’ve been most proud of.
Fred Diamond: Paul, how about you?
Paul McConville: I’ll start with company first, Fred. I was pretty proud, we just got named by Forbes Magazine as a brand that’s doing it right. Within three days of school shutting down we went out to all clients and said, “We have college and career readiness curriculum.” It’s typically a package which a client would add on to the resources they’re giving students in our platform, there’s always a charge for it, we said we’re going to make that free for every client that wants to take advantage of it. Within two weeks we’ve had 2.5 million students in over 700 school districts around the country take advantage of this open access that we’ve provided. We quickly embrace the fact that you have to be and we want to be even more heightened to client first than we were in the past. We’ve looked across our business to find opportunities to say, “We’re going through something that’s highly unusual.”
As Dorean said, none of us are experts in a pandemic sales methodology but this is really the time that I’m watching some people shine, they’re saying, “Let me think of how do I do my business differently than I did it yesterday.” I just sent out an email to my team, I’ve got a happy hour coming up right after this where the whole theme of our half an hour happy hour is going to be celebrating people that are leading our organization on the way that they do things. One of the managers of our team who works in the higher education space came out with a completely different pilot program that we would have never thought of in the past that puts clients first. It’s allowing to try something, not charge it, not pay anything to us for the next three months so that they can get a presence in front of thousands or millions of students that are doing college search that they otherwise would not have had that ability to do. It’s inspiring to watch some people step up and just say, “I’m going to do my job differently and be thoughtful about it.”
I’ll give a compliment to our other guest here. Right now I’d say a pretty good lesson for salespeople, I know about a quarter of those who are under five years, when Dorean and I started working together he came in as a BDR and how he drove his personal actions was, “How do I do things not necessarily ‘the same way as everybody does but better’ but how do I do things different to get a better outcome?” That is the mindset I think will drive employees to differentiate themselves at this time.
Fred Diamond: What have you guys discovered about your leadership abilities during this pandemic?
Dorean Kass: You can put me on the spot but interestingly – I promise it’s not a planted question – Paul and I talked about this yesterday. I’m going to answer it a little bit differently because nobody can stop me from doing that. It’s less about what we learned about ourselves and more about how Paul and I lead and I learned a lot of my leadership skills working underneath Paul for a number of different years. We pride ourselves in being incredibly authentic and transparent and in times of unknown people aren’t looking for you to necessarily have the right answer, they’re looking for you to be honest and they’re looking for you to help them understand how decisions are going to be made and be as transparent as you possibly can. You’re not going to be able to be transparent upon everything, but create this environment of collaboration and willingness to share information and be transparent.
To answer the question more directly, I think I’ve learned to be okay not having the answer to everything. The expectation as leaders is that we’ve seen it, we’ve done it, we’ve been there and that is not the case, as we talked about. For me it’s less about what I’ve learned and seen on myself and more this is the right time for people who are authentic leaders and transparent and okay not knowing the right answer to lead through that way because the teams aren’t expecting you to solve their problems, they’re looking to you to help position them to be as forward thinking as possible.
Fred Diamond: Paul, how about you?
Paul McConville: That’s largely the topic of probably a half an hour conversation we had last night. I think the other part of it is just vulnerability, the reality is there’s never been a more humanizing moment in our times certainly, you can talk about 9/11, that was as well. I think this maybe even to a heightened degree in a sense that everybody is having to adapt to something that they have never had to do before and I think the human side is showing a little bit of vulnerability. As Dorean said, it’s okay to say, “I may not have the answer at this point but trust me, we’re all in this together.” It has to be genuine, it has to be sincere, too. We do these happy hours once a week, Fred, I wore a sombrero last week because we had funny hat day. That’s not my nature, it’s that humanizing vulnerability of just go with it, everybody is just looking for ways to communicate, come together, share a little bit of humor in a tougher time. It’s think outside your comfort zone a little bit.
Fred Diamond: Let’s talk about selling. Again, this is the Sales Game Changers webinar every week and for our listeners, every week we’re bringing on past guests of the Sales Game Changers podcast. Dorean and Paul have been guests of the show, Dorean actually recorded a second show which is going to be coming up in a couple weeks about tying in your sales experiences. Dorean played in the Rose Bowl, correct?
Dorean Kass: That’s correct, I can put my football on if Paul puts his sombrero on.
Fred Diamond: [Laughs] we have another show coming up with Dorean in a couple of weeks but let’s talk about sales. Again, if anyone has any questions put them in through the panel. Do you see the pandemic changing the way we sell moving forward? Obviously everyone’s using zoom, nobody’s traveling, nobody’s meeting people for breakfast or lunch meetings, everyone’s sitting in their home office, in some cases it’s an office that they always use at home, in some cases it’s re-figuring the basement or whatever it might be. How do you see what we’ve done over the last three to four weeks moving forward? What do you think are going to become standard parts of your sales process? Dorean, why don’t you get us started off?
Dorean Kass: It’s interesting. I think there’s going to be some organizations that, because they’ve grown accustomed to meeting virtually, they don’t need people to come in and do a big dog and pony show and help them understand what the organization does by being in person. It’s going to take some time even after this pandemic winds down, I think it’s going to take time before people are even comfortable meeting in person. I think there’s a client perception of what the new normal will be. My hope is, to go back to the statement of the beginning of never wasting a good crisis, it requires much more of a focus on what matters for the client.
In times like this where you can’t be dependent upon building the relationship by shaking hands, breaking bread, whatever cliché you want to use, you have to do a better job of really understanding the client’s business and helping them solve problems by focusing on the impact of whatever it is that you’re providing can have on their business by helping your client succeed in a lot of the sales processes that we’ve put in place. It’s almost akin to losing one of your senses, you hear of people who if they’re blind or if they’re deaf or even if you wrap a bandanna around your eyes and you can’t see, it heightens your other senses. Not being so heavily dependent upon what I think people are typically accustomed to even from a negative sense of, “I’m going to go to a meeting and bring 50 people with me and I don’t have to be prepared because I’ve got other people that have my back”, that is not an option now.
There’s a different dynamic of having a video call with 50 people so it creates the need for people and sales individuals to take more responsibility on themselves and to focus more on what matters for the client. That becomes this aspirational hope that I have of how I see this pandemic changing the way we sell going forward, this requirement of going back to the fundamentals ensuring that the fundamentals are there for you to be successful and not being dependent upon others necessarily to drive that message home.
Fred Diamond: Paul?
Paul McConville: I 100% agree on that idea of fundamentals. Email will absolutely become far more of an initial communication methodology than maybe it is even as today. I think you’re going to see salespeople that aren’t good at writing and aren’t good at actually synthesizing what’s important about what we do relative to a client’s needs, they will struggle. There is a must change in the idea that you’re only going to be able to get out to guard this idea in the short term, we’re not going to meet people at a conference. Largely at least in our industry, we’ve nowhere to call anybody because schools are closed, they’re still working but getting to them is very different so email will absolutely matter and I’ll give a shout out to – she works for Dorean, I’ve worked with her for many years – Steph Richman. She built what we used to call ‘compelevant prospecting’, it’s the combination of compelling and relevancy in any outward communication to a client. Compelling and relevant becomes far more important and I think what won’t change, we’ve seen our enablement team, another area I’m really proud of, they spun up immediately when this crisis hit to help teach people this idea that the discovery process is far more important now than it ever was depending on the ‘let me demo what is a cool product to you’. It doesn’t matter if I don’t understand your needs. Our enablement team very quickly said, “We’re going to use this time when salespeople maybe are doing less prospecting to focus on “how do we teach you and grow your ability to do your discovery to really get to need?”
Fred Diamond: Paul, about what you’re going to be expecting from the salespeople moving forward. Let’s talk about that for a little bit. What are your expectations right now from your salespeople?
Paul McConville: One thing I’ve learned on expectations is the reality of how people work right now is very different so one expectation is just getting the team comfortable with helping us understand how do you work right now. I know we both have large teams that a lot of them have young kids at home, part of that was just saying, “My expectation is you’re going to let us know if you and your husband are juggling your two and four year old where you’ve got the hours of 8 o’clock to 10 o’clock where you work and then you can’t do anything from 10 until noon. Let us know so we understand how to work best with you.” The other expectation is let’s do our job. This is going to last for a while, we’re now in week four and our clients understand that it’s going to be here for a while as well.
There was, I think for everybody, reluctance of “should I be calling?”, “Are they ready to listen to me or am I just going to make people mad?” I think the reality is it’s time to get back to doing the job that we all require even if you want to take baby steps. With one team we talked about, “Monday, let’s do 5 outbound contacts. Do five, it’s do the A-B test. Test a few different messages, let’s see how it works, what response do you get and let’s learn. On Tuesday you do 10 and Wednesday you’re doing 15, you’re going to increase that each day.” The other part of the expectation is give feedback, share with your team what you learned. If you get a message that didn’t resonate and a client is telling you that, let others know so that you don’t do it again. Likewise, you get one where a client did give you response, we’re celebrating far more behaviors today than we are wins so let’s share the behaviors that are working?
Fred Diamond: Dorean, how about you? Like Paul mentioned, we’re four weeks into this new world, if you will. What are your expectations? Are you expecting people to get back to, “We now know what it’s like to work at home, we now know what it’s like for the kids to be here, we now know what it’s like not to go out for restaurants and for all these things that are going on.” Are your expectations for people to get back to business, get on the phone, “give me your account plan”? Tell us what your expectations are.
Dorean Kass: I think Paul hit the nail on the head. For me, my expectation is that people adjust to the new normal whether that’s balancing your work life and the kids being home and some of those other intangibles or it’s changing the way that you engage because the game itself has changed. You heard me mention earlier what I hope to get out of this is that it teaches more of a focus on the fundamentals. Everybody knows the definition of insanity, in a world of competing priorities and distraction, doing the same thing that you did previously that didn’t work is something probably worse than insanity because now it’s doing the same thing in a different environment and still expecting a different result. There has to be a different way of approaching so I thought that point that Paul made around sharing wins to drive momentum that way is important and the win doesn’t have to be a sale, the win can be, “Here’s an engagement I have with our client where I helped address a business issue that they had and didn’t charge them for it and earned a client for life” or, “Here’s a conversation I had with a prospect where they told me now’s not the right time but when this thing turns around they’re going to look to us to help solve their problems because of the flexibility that we showed.”\
That’s my expectation from the team, we still operate as professionals, we still have a job to do. For the people that are in the vertical that are picking up momentum, my expectation is that they’re going to make up for the head wins in the other verticals. My expectations for the sales team, the account management team, sales operations as a whole, use the lessons learned to share amongst your peers so that other people aren’t figuring it out for themselves. Change your approach based upon the very real feelings that we have as individuals because it’s no different for anybody else. What I’m experiencing being at home is very similar to what other people are experiencing being at home so I don’t have to put myself in someone’s shoes, I have my own shoes. You just have to think about it differently as you’re positioning whatever it is you’re trying to communicate.
Fred Diamond: Again, it’s April 8th, it’s Wednesday. If the quarter meant anything, the quarter last week has passed but what are you telling your people to talk about or maybe even more importantly, what are they telling you they’re finding to be worthwhile, positive, valuable conversations moving forward? Dorean, why don’t you get us started? I know you like that type of question.
Dorean Kass: I have two points on this. One is I’m actually finding feedback from the individual sales members of the team is that clients are more accessible. They’re not bogged down in travel, they’re in one place and we’re able to get them and they’re actually more responsive to phone calls and emails than they might have been in the past, counter-intuitive as that may sound. The question around empathy, you can only be so empathetic with somebody you don’t know, I think it’s more of a shared commiseration, and almost every citation and every email you get is, “Hope you’re staying safe and sane” or, “These crazy times” or something like that. I think that’s what empathy is, if you have a relationship it’s different.
For me empathy in terms of client engagement centers around how you aren’t viewed as an ambulance chaser because I mentioned earlier, there are things that Neustar provides that are actually beneficial for the challenges organizations are now going through specifically related to COVID-19. Reaching out to them and saying, “Hey, this is a terrible time, you should be working with us”, that’s not in the spirit of the value that we add, the challenges that we solve or really our cultural values. It’s much more relevant to the client to hear what their peers are doing. We talked about earlier, nobody really has an answer, we haven’t been through this before so if you’re able to speak with like-companies and offer to them what their peers are thinking about or some of the things that they are contemplating, if they are open to that discussion, we’re here to help. That blends empathy as it relates to what matters to the client with things that you can be doing to help solve for them through the lens of their peers which is really what matters to them.
That’s where we’ve seen a lot of the success, it’s always important to make it about the customer, it’s always important to make it about why it matters to them and what they would do differently. Now in this world of unknown, giving them some information of things to consider based upon what their peers are doing adds a lot of credibility to us as trusted advisers in those engagements.
Fred Diamond: You used a couple key words there, trusted adviser obviously is one that every great sales professional needs to be. Paul, you alluded to the fact that your people are getting back into conversations with the customers that they would normally be having so what are you telling your people to be talking about and how are they giving you feedback on that?
Paul McConville: Dorean talked about it, I think right now client base are hungry to understand what are others doing right now. They want to learn because everybody’s in a, “What do I do? How do I get back to the business I’m supposed to be doing? How do I stay focused when there are all of these distractions?” Nearly all of our outbound communication has been to prospects about all the things we’re doing for clients. We want to show the empathy that we have in the community that we serve, empathy fully is around understanding the needs of another and I think we’re trying to embrace that empathy. Partly it’s being human and how are you doing, but that’s only going to last a fraction of a moment.
rue empathy is saying, “I understand you still have a job to do, let me give you insight into what others are doing to be effective at that and let’s also share.” I think this is where I’m trying to very proudly talk about what our role is in helping our clients’ peer group or our prospects’ peer group to try to drive as quickly as possible back to normal or to solve a problem that is incredibly unique right now. In the higher education market communicating with students in high school to talk about where they may want to go to college, that’s really difficult to do right now because students can’t go visit a campus but if a school has a presence within Naviance, a college has a presence in there, they can give an incredibly rich virtual tour. Go to where students are now to ensure that your message is heard. I think being proud about what we do well to serve the community is where I’m trying to keep the team focused.
Fred Diamond: Tell us one or two things that you’re doing for yourselves to stay sane, to stay as good as you can for your team. Dorean, how about you?
Dorean Kass: It’s funny because now everything being Webex or Zoom or GoToMeeting, the expectation is everybody’s on video. Paul and I were just talking about the fact that we’re not any less busy and now we’re actually stuck in front of our computers all day long, it’s actually worse than we were in the office. Paul and I are big proponents of being able to work out and breaking up the day that way so it creates a different discipline. You have to carve out that time some way, shape or form. We’ve standardized our sales process around a lot of the methodology of Franklin Covey and if anyone’s ever read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the things they talk about is if you had an hour more in any given day, what would you do differently and what would you do with it? Most people talk about, “I’d spend time with my kids” or, “I’d read a book” or whatever. The truth of the matter is you do one hour more of what you do today, that’s what people do so if you don’t put first things first and carve out an hour to go workout or set up walking calls, which is what we’ve been doing. We still have conference calls, they’re not Webex, they’re not Zoom, they’re over the phone and they’re intended for us to be walking while we’re doing them so it creates a different dynamic, it breaks up the day. You said in the beginning of this podcast, Fred, that it’s Wednesday. I didn’t know what day it was, if we don’t have those sorts of things to differentiate, it keeps that sanity and people are looking to Paul and I and others to maintain that direction for the business. We are not afforded the opportunity of having any sort of mental lapses or breakdowns, we have to keep our wits about us. It’s all the more important that you carve out time in the day, whatever it is that you’re doing, whatever helps you keep that semblance of sanity so that it doesn’t just become Groundhog Day over and over again.
Fred Diamond: Paul, how about you? What are you doing to take care of yourself as a salesman?
Paul McConville: Dorean and I probably talked more in the last three weeks than we had in the three months prior and part of that is I just started reconnecting with leaders that we both trust and respect. There’s a lot of questions coming in that is “I want to know how you guys are handling it” and that’s helping my sanity and hearing, “I’m not sure yet either.” The big question I know we’re all getting is things along, “What are you going to do about commission plans?” and this is where we had to say, “Trust me, I worked with the finance team on three different opportunities for what we could do but right now the answer is I don’t know” but it’s really helpful to call Dorean.
We used to work with Jeff Beard, the COO at Infutor, Dave Helmreich who runs big business, part of Oracle. One is just connecting more with others in a similar spot. The other one, Dorean said it, I block off from 12 to 12:45 every day if I can, put on sneakers, get out and go for a run or a workout. I’ve got a group of two other guys that are in the neighborhood, we socially distance, we’re 10 feet apart but it’s having human conversations that is not work-related each day and try to get out of this chair. The one thing I realized I need to do for myself, Fred, is I got to get a new chair. This is the most uncomfortable thing that I’m spending 9 hours a day right here staring at that screen so I’ve got to treat myself a little bit better in the chair department.
Fred Diamond: Before I ask you for your final thoughts on what you think the week is going to look like coming up, again things are changing every day. We asked the first poll question, 75% of the people on the webinar today said that they’re at least 5 years into sales but a lot of people are new to sales that you manage, let alone forgetting about dealing with sales in a pandemic which we’ve obviously acknowledged that no one has had to deal with this challenge. A lot of people are new to selling in general or maybe they’ve gotten promoted recently. I know Dorean, we heard a podcast with one of your direct reports, Craig Pentz that came out two weeks ago and he talked about how they just promoted a whole bunch of people to VP level at the end of last year. You have people who are new in leadership roles, people who are new in account management jobs, let alone dealing in today’s environment. How are you both helping your sales team deal with the anxiety and stress caused by their customers going through anxiety or stressful situations? Dorean, why don’t you take that one first?
Dorean Kass: That’s a tough one. You can’t really deal with the anxiety so much as you try and re-channel it in a different way. We’ve had a couple situations where opportunities were about to close and then the funding no longer is available for the remainder of the year. You’re not going to get somebody over that sort of anxiety or frustration, I think it’s more of the realization of this is not impacting you and it’s not just you and it’s not in your control by any way, shape or means. You re-channel that energy to something that’s more positive of, “How can I position things differently? How can I be more creative? What steps can I be taking to avoid some of the headwinds that we typically see?”
The advice that I’ve been giving to the managers is the old way of doing it is not predictive of what will happen going forward for obvious reasons nor can you depend on ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ as a means to drive opportunities through. Things that were important to us before, business parameters, the legal language, those sorts of things, anything that’s introducing a delay, you’re weighing all of those components very differently. You’re also focusing on, “How do we get people engaging utilizing our capabilities today without some of the confines and constraints of what we would typically put into an agreement that puts them in a position to get value now and that when things unclog they’re ready to hit the ground running and you’re not trying to catch up from all the built up demand?”
We’ve actually started shifting some of our conversations not because we think we’re out of the pandemic at this point but you’re feeling this pent-up opportunity that’s going to come to fruition all at the same time. It sounds like a good problem but you can’t possibly recoup all of it. Somebody told you you’re going to have the entire 12 months’ worth of value all forced into six months, the answer may be, “I don’t think we can execute against all that”. We’re trying to take steps now to be proactive and preemptive in our approach that puts us in a better position to take advantage of what will eventually normalize down the road for our management and for the people that are in new positions. I think it all comes back to the earlier conversations we had of discussing things that they can be doing differently and recognizing what is and is not in their control.
Fred Diamond: Paul, how about you? Before I ask you for your final thoughts about what the week is going to look like.
Paul McConville: I think part of it is show confidence in people, don’t let the situation dictate the business. I promoted one of my directors to a VP last week and now manages a much bigger part of the business, I promoted a manager to director, she runs now a larger part of our enablement and operations business because those were the right things to do. Don’t delay the right decisions with people because of the challenge we’ve got going right now. I’m finding myself doing far more to be out in front of the team, be vocal but also connect more and more to people. I now have every Friday an hour open for any sales rep can sign up for 15 minute coaching sessions with me, I meet with my leaderships team almost every morning at 8:30, we’re doing these virtual happy hours, we’re getting managers together. I think it’s our job to be the voice, be the face and keep people connected to the reality of what we’re doing but focused on business and getting open communication.
Fred Diamond: What do you think are going to be the big challenges of the next 7 days? Paul, why don’t we start with you?
Paul McConville: I don’t think it’s a new challenge, I don’t think anything different than this week and I think that’s the reality of what the challenge is. People are all coming to realize that, as I joke, the extended snow day is going to last for a while. As we get into the fifth week of this, people are going to realize this is here to stay and I think part of that is helping people find releases of pressure to encourage them, “Take a day off, it’s okay” even if you don’t do anything but you just stay home, “Don’t turn on your computer.” I think part of our job, how do we help people stay mentally healthy during this? To me, that’s the only new challenge I see next week is it’s the fifth week of this and that’s a long time to be, for most of us, confined in the same room for every business interaction that you’ve got. Salespeople by nature are extroverts and we do crave that human connection, it’s tough not to have it for 4 or 5 weeks in a row. Then just continuing the process of helping people realize we’re all in this together and we’re here to help.
Fred Diamond: Dorean, why don’t you bring us home?
Dorean Kass: I don’t know that the challenges change, I’ll say that the big thing for us and the focus for us is maintaining the connection between the team, the individual contributors, the management, the support organizations and the other components of the functional team. We have a lot of virtual town halls, I heard Paul mentioned to having a virtual happy hour. I don’t want to speak for Paul, I would have told you in the beginning part of this pandemic that that’s a little bit too hokey for me. Last week I hosted a town hall and we did a trivia even where everybody could answer questions. I wasn’t necessarily a proponent of that but what I will tell people is air on the side of over-communication and anything that drives normalcy and human banter and interaction back to the organization, even if you’re too busy to feel like you need to do something that is maybe perceived as hokey. Your team doesn’t view it that way and it reminds everybody of why they enjoy each other, why they enjoy working together and it’s not just about the grind of what we’re doing on the day-to-day basis, it’s about the people that you’re interacting with which, at least for us at Neustar, is the majority of the reason that people stay.
Paul McConville: If it makes you feel good, Dorean, I’m putting on the suit I got married in after this because our happy hour is prom/formal wear and I still have my wedding suit from 18 years ago. The pants are a little snug, I say it’s the dry-cleaners shrunk them, it wasn’t me but…
Dorean Kass: I was going to make a joke about it not fitting you but you already beat me to it.