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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the SALES GAME CHANGERS LIVE Webinar hosted by Fred Diamond, Host of the Sales Game Changers Podcast, on August 19, 2020. It featured SAP NS2 President Ron Police.]
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EPISODE 263: SAP NS2 Leader Ron Police Says If You Balance These Four Things Effectively You’ll Have Richer Chance for Sales Success Right Now
RON’S TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “I’m a big believer in life balance to drive toward peak performance and it’s not just about peak business performance. A big part of it is yourself. Everyone has to take care of themselves especially now. Be healthy, stay healthy, work out. It’s about taking care of your family and friends and about a balance with community and different people. Practice spirituality in different ways. Everybody has a business plan for their profession and my challenge to everybody would be create a business plan for those other four areas: yourself, your family and friends, the community and spirituality. When everything comes together it’s really magical what someone could accomplish.”
Fred Diamond: We have the President of Customer Operations for SAP NS2, one of the top sales guys that I know, he’s led sales organizations, great companies like Oracle and Apple and now SAP NS2. Ron Police, how are you doing, my friend? It’s great to have you here today, people are logging in from all over the world and they want to hear from you.
Ron Police: Fred, first thanks for the invite for Sales Game Changers, I really look forward and welcome into my home.
Fred Diamond: Yes, it looks nice. Ron, let’s just get started. What are your top priorities? What are you focused on right now? Again, it’s August 19th, you’re in the public sector as well, it’s coming to the end of the federal buying season, so to speak. What are the main priorities right now with you and your team?
Ron Police: First of all, Fred, there’s 30 business days left in the government fiscal close so the window is closing fast. If you look at our top priorities, it’s creating this balance between driving business in the procurement and recognizing there’s a pandemic. You have to be sensitive with your customers which I’m sure we’ll talk about, but you also have to drive business forward. This is great for us if we look at NS2, our Q3 aligns exactly to the government year-end so we’re in a really good position. What am I doing, what message for each one of the reps? The objective is to drive the business and the procurement. You have to drive it and there’s only 30 days left, people say this isn’t the beginning of the buying season, this is at the execution mode of the buying season.
If you’re out there and you’re still working deals with customers, my recommendation to you is create that sense of urgency. I get the message of, “Treat hours like days and days like weeks” just to save the time to basically move it in. At the same time, the urgency is super important because think of what’s going on right now and think of all the challenges with procurement. You have remote buyers, you could have something happen with the process, you could have some of those buyers coming down with COVID but creating that sense of urgency is absolutely what we need to do, what everyone needs to do. How’s it looking for us at NS2? I’m proud of the team, we’ve been able to figure out how to put a strategy in place to really have some nice momentum going into the fiscal close so we’re excited about it, Fred.
Fred Diamond: Ron, we have listeners from all over the globe watching today’s webcast and listening to the podcast. Many of them have sold to the government space, a lot of them haven’t. We’re doing a webcast every single day, there are some markets that have just gone away. If you’re selling to the entertainment space, to arenas or markets like that or small restaurants it’s been a tough hoe over the last 4-5 months but the federal government continues to operate, it’s still been operating. You mentioned a little bit, but what’s it been like interfacing with the government customer over the last 5 months and how has that evolved to where we are today?
Ron Police: Interfacing with the government customer is interesting. We’re 6 months into the pandemic and you’ve got almost different phases of this pandemic. The first phase was called the adapt phase, everyone’s adapting, one thing about sales folks, sales organizations, we adapt to changing situations. At the same time, customers are adapting too, everyone’s working from home, everyone’s trying to figure things out. How we’re working with customers, the first adapt phase was more of a checking in, empathy, “How’s it going?” There was actually very little net new opportunities during that early stage so the stage we’re in right now, Fred, this is like the new normal 6 months in. What’s in place now? We have process in place, we have new digital marketing platforms, we have better communication mechanisms, not only do we have it on that selling side of it but the government has it as well.
The stage we’re in right now which is actually working to our advantage as we drive towards the end of the fiscal year, there’s always going to be this essence of that empathetic sensation with customers but they have the focus on the mission, they have to get the job done so there’s nothing wrong with asking for the business at this stage. I could just finish the thought about the stages of the pandemic, the next stage is going to be the next normal and it’ll be interesting. We have these different business dreams going on with SAP NS2, we’re looking at, “What are we going to do in the next normal?” We’re putting all this structure, process, advanced communication type mechanisms, we’re looking at this next normal as how fast we’re going to go back to the office, how many [phone] calls and video calls are we basically going to do before we do a face-to-face? We’re looking at ratios, X number of video touch points to a face-to-face call. That next normal will be pretty interesting for the marketplace.
Fred Diamond: Ron, we have a question that’s come in from Jerry in Washington DC. We have a lot of people local, we’ve got people all around the world. Jerry’s question is, “How empathetic can you really be with a federal customer?” You talked about the various phases, for the people who are watching today’s show who aren’t necessarily in the government space there’s a lot of rules and regulations and you’ve been selling to the public sector your whole career with great companies like SAP NS2, Oracle and Apple. There’s literally rules and regulations that you need to follow and you have to be careful to cross the line. Talk about empathy with that type of a customer today, like you said, the one thing that’s common with everybody that we’re talking to and every sales rep on the planet is that we’re right in the middle of the pandemic still, we’re right in the middle of the economic and everybody’s been affected no matter what you do, either personal, health, finance or political. Talk about talking to a customer like this and being empathetic, what that means.
Ron Police: Empathy, government, good question. I’ll look back at my career, Fred, it’s probably 35+ years selling in government. When I looked back at some of the best account executives in my career, it doesn’t matter if it’s early days at Oracle, my days at Apple, SAP, it’s individuals that have a natural way of having empathy along with professional aggressiveness. As I look back and I look at profiles of individuals, it’s a way to get inside the fence with their government customers because at the end of the day people buy from people, it doesn’t matter if someone’s in a commercial space, government space. If you have an empathetic approach, you get inside the fence, you become part of the team getting it done, that’s the way you’re going to close business. Everyone’s learning a sense of empathy for those that maybe didn’t have as much of it but here’s the thing, when the pandemic ends, don’t lose the empathy because that’s the #1 thing that you’re going to have going for you to create that customer intimacy that’s so important to close some business.
Fred Diamond: I’m just curious, how have your customers been? You mentioned the word ‘mission’ and we’ve had a number of people who are sales professionals to the public sector to federal and other public sector markets like state and local. They all talk about the mission behind it, I remember when I asked you when you were a guest on the Sales Game Changers podcast, “Why have you devoted your career to public sector?” and you talked about the mission of the customer. A lot of the people like you have been successful love the fact that the government is committed to the citizenry making the lives better for the people of the country. How has the customer been? Have they been able to maintain the veneer of moving forward or are they running around? I’m just curious how is the customer looking as your people are interfacing with them today.
Ron Police: How they’re holding up and what type of interaction do they want to have during this? If you look at one of the harder markets – and that’s the intelligence community – week on, week off, their whole nature of how they’re doing it and they’ve created an environment over the years that so much of it needs to be on the high side. Now it’s starting to open up a little bit, more and more organizations are looking at a low to high side discussion and they’re making it more of a process policy, even building systems. What’s great is we’re starting to build things on the low side and then we’re moving it to the high side the right time. Not that there’s positives from the pandemic, but as far as a process change with the toughest account, we’re seeing some real value and benefits there.
It’s interesting if you look at DOD, you look at federal civilian, there’s a lot of different policies in place and personally, we almost continue to challenge the policies. I did a survey a week or two ago with our inside sales team, different account executives, how often do they do a Zoom or Teams type call with a customer versus a phone call? More and more folks are doing a Zoom from their home but many of them are saying, “I have to do a phone call because it’s policy that we can’t do a Zoom call.” “Is this a sensitive classified account?” “No, it’s not but it’s organizational policy.” Fred, what’s going to happen based on the state we’re in right now which is going to continue for a period of time, I believe a lot of those policies are going to be readdressed and more and more government organizations are going to receive permission to basically do a video call.
Fred Diamond: Ron, you mentioned the word ‘positive’ before. What are some of the positive things? It’s towards the end of August right now, everybody has had to adapt, you can’t say, “Hey, I’m going to sit this one out”, it’s going to continue as is because of these spikes and surges and those types of things so people aren’t going to be going back to what they thought was normal before this. But what have been some of the positive things that have come out for you and for your sales organization?
Ron Police: Positive areas, let’s put it in a bucket of three. The first one is personally, Fred, I’ve been married for 33 years and I’ve never in my life worked out of my house except a day here and day there. 6 months into it and I’m still happily married so I’m excited about that.
Fred Diamond: [Laughs] good for you.
Ron Police: That’s for me personally. If you look at our company, a very positive aspect I’m sure like many companies, hopefully all the companies everybody online works for, NS2 as a corporation has done a fabulous job with their employees through this pandemic. There’s been open communication with my boss, Mark Testoni which you know well, on how we have ongoing all-hands calls, we’re bringing in experts, motivational speakers just to keep everyone fired up. Folks like Robin Arzon from Peloton for those Peloton users, Katie [Sowers], the offensive coordinator for San Francisco football, a lot of motivational speakers. We’ve also done a couple great things where no internal calls Wednesday afternoon, we have no internal calls taking place whatsoever. Free swag, free allocation for office equipment, lots of great things from a company standpoint but if you look at the sales executives and the sales team, we are solving problems to help fight this disease.
We’re a value added reseller of SAP capabilities as NS2, a subsidiary of SAP, so we have access to the entire portfolio and we’re solving a lot of problems whether they’re supply chain problems with different types of distribution, whether it’s different areas we have. There’s one product called Qualtrics, it’s survey software, so that’s a big hit because organizations are surveying their people from the health of their employees as well as how they’re fairing through this pandemic. We’re really seeing this as a positive with our folks being able to position net new solutions.
Fred Diamond: Ron, I want to get deeper on the last thing you just said. We’re doing a webcast every day talking to sales experts and sales leaders like you. Prior to the pandemic there was always this mystery of, “How can I solve my client?” It’s the lamest question in the world but trying to figure out, “What are your pains?” and those kinds of things, but now we don’t really have the time for that because we’re all at par. We all know that everyone’s recovering from COVID, solving that and then recovering from the economics. People aren’t looking at their 5 year plan – they might be at some level, but people are looking at, “How do I get by today?” Give us some of your insights, Ron, for the people watching today and we have people all over the world watching today’s webcast. Talk about how you as a sales professional can get ahead of the curve, how can you bring your customer solutions without, “What’s keeping you up at night?” That’s such a lame question. Talk about how you get the mindset of solving problems like they need to solve right now.
Ron Police: Solving problems in this new world, it’s interesting. One thing that we’re in the process of doing, Fred, we’re training 150+ customer facing employees at NS2 and we’re doing professional executive presence video training. Huge, because at the end of it what’s the objective? Sure, you want to keep your customer base happy moving forward, understand new requirements and sell them more, that is an ongoing sense of relationship, building that empathy, building that trust and confidence. The harder sale is finding net new opportunities within user customers tying in partners and we have a very limited window with different media if we could sell them on a Zoom call, Teams call. So, how do you have the lighting? How do you have your eyes?
How do you open up with maybe three key points you want to talk about? How do you keep that process moving forward? We’re training 150 folks with a professional firm to come in and to create this awesome video training, that itself is going to be really big because that’s how we’re going to create that value proposition for our company. So much of it becomes, “I want folks buying from Ron Police.” Sure, I have some great capabilities with NS2 but I need to create that connection so if you haven’t already done so, everyone go online, find tips and tricks on how to present yourself over video.
The next one, it’s the old plan letter communication plan. What we’ve incorporated is the requirement of a communication plan with every customer because these customers are being bombarded and it’s real easy to say, “I don’t have time for you” but you get through being respectful of the customer. Questions like, “What type of media would you like to communicate over? Phone call, Zoom, Teams? How often would you like to do it? I’ll also keep you updated, Mr. or Mrs. customer, with a newsletter so you can pass on to your folks with some different types of technology solutions or whatever it may be.” We’ve really created a platform around a communication plan and that’s really agreed to between the AE and the prospect customer. Just a few different ideas.
Fred Diamond: How have you grown as a leader?
Ron Police: I can’t speak for everyone, Fred, but personally I definitely work more hours. I’ve always worked hard but showing up in the morning, working all day, almost feeling like I can’t leave. The next thing is there’s so many Team and Zoom meetings so you start getting smart on how to do it. The way I do it, if I want to do a face-to-face meeting I’ll have a Teams meeting and it’s a requirement that you don’t turn video off. If someone can’t turn the video on for whatever reason, make sure you let the rest of the group know that, “I can’t turn the video on because I’m having problems with my internet” or, “I had to ride my son somewhere” type thing.
You have to pretty much do that and if you look at other things that I’ve been doing as a leader and how I’ve changed, as it relates to each one of the phases that I talked about earlier, I’ve always been more of an empathetic listener type of leader but I’ve definitely been more empathetic towards everyone’s personal situations. You have homeschooling, I’m glad my kids are out, we’re empty nesters now and I can’t even imagine two professionals in the house with children, homeschooling, everything we’re doing, call me up, I’ll come over and help out. Definitely more empathetic. What I’m also doing, Fred, I’ve always done a lot of one-on-one skip level meetings but I find myself pushing to do even more one-on-one meetings, small group of meetings really asking about the health and safety of everybody. That’s something that has really changed as well. It doesn’t mean we still have an objective to make the number but there’s a way you could do both. You could be compassionate, you could be empathetic, you could still drive the organization to do what they can.
One other thing changed as a leader, this is probably speaking for the whole senior leadership team, we’re putting a lot of energy recently from a change standpoint with D&I, Diversity and Inclusion. We’re creating a model that we’re going to build into the fabric of NS2 in terms of who we are and who we really want to become, that’s been a big change as well.
Fred Diamond: Talk about how you would coach someone who’s, let’s say, over the age of 50 who’s been in sales for 20 years, who maybe is an empty nester versus someone who’s maybe in their 20’s who this may be their first or second job. It’s interesting, a lot of the younger people that we had in the beginning of this process had a nice run, we didn’t really have any problems for almost 10 years in sales. You can correct something, “Get better at the phone”, “Work on presentation skills”, “Learn better questioning”, those kinds of things. Now this huge curve ball has been thrown in so how would you coach someone who’s a little more senior versus someone who’s a little more junior?
Ron Police: Coaching the different age groups, someone as first job out of school if they’re inside sales, they have an advantage. They really do, they have some disadvantage as well because in many cases they’re in an apartment if they didn’t move back to their folks’ house like two of my three kids did. What’s not to like? You get great home-cooked meals every night and an open stack bar. They’ve got the challenge of making it work in their apartment with two, three other roommates but what they have the advantage, they know how to work the phones, they know what it’s like to basically leverage a digital platform on customer outreach. Their skill was to transition typically a phone call to a video call so they’re learning the skills and we’re training them with some of this video presence type training and it’s really paying off. At the same time, the younger folks like to come to the office, they like to have Mark Testoni walk by or Ron Police, we hang out with them, they’re probably more efficient now because we’re hanging out with them [laughs].
They like that and it becomes an organizational issue of, “What is that doing to the culture of our company or any other companies that they have these inside sales folks or younger employees create a little bit of that young culture of what it’s like?” That’s interesting but to train them on video skills, to keep their head in the game because they want people, they want to be around people so it’s listening, it’s coaching, it’s doing happy hours, mixology type get-togethers, wine tasting, it’s trying to make it fun.
If you look at the 50+ crowd, a lot of folks on our team, a lot of folks I know really are more of the face-to-face having that empathy, building that customer relationship, that intimacy with customers. There’s definitely in my view a little bit more work to do because how do you create an environment for these very senior account executives when you’re used to having that nose-to-nose, toe-to-toe interaction? Now you’re doing it over video conference. Same basic setup is executive presence training, how to create it, back to the fundamentals of good discipline with follow-up. I always used to fall back to fundamentals, Fred, I mentioned that in my last talk. Sales folks whether old or new, the new folks typically ask you fundamentals, the old folks typically forget fundamentals and it’s time to go back to sharpening the pencil, dust off the book to do everything that you need to do to keep a process moving forward.
Fred Diamond: I have a follow-up question for that. Ron, we’re all home now, you’re talking about the video training that you’re doing for your team which is great, you’ve probably been in thousands if not tens of thousands of meetings in your career with customers, not just one-on-one but 10 people, 20 people making presentations. When you’re face-to-face like you just eluded to, you can observe certain things, you can pass a note to somebody who’s with you, you can see somebody who maybe their brow is furrowed or they might be paying attention. Now you’re actually a little further back than most people we’ve had which is great, I’m right up on the Zoom, if you will, although we’re using GoToWebinar. What would be some of your advice for some of the younger sales professionals or even the senior people who aren’t in the room that could observe? And I don’t mean looking at a guy’s desk and seeing a picture of a fish, I mean being in a meeting when you have to present your cause, your direction to get the customer to buy off and there are so many factors that happen in the room but now it’s just the screen. People can turn off their video if they’re doing Zoom and you don’t know what they’re doing, what’s going on so what’s some of your advice for this environment?
Ron Police: The first advice would be you’ve got to keep it crisp, you have to tell them what you’re going to tell them. It’s three things, you’ve got to just net it out, there’s the idea of three, what are those three items? Anything more than three key themes on a video call, you’re going to start distracting folks. How do you engage folks on the line, in a very respectful way, that may not be participating? That’s a key to bring folks in. Say their name, “Love to get your thoughts.” Another one is if someone goes off into a tangent, how do you stop the tangent and bring it back in line? And ultimately, how do you wrap it up, just summarize everything and have good disciplined follow-up?
Fred, at the end of it, it’s truly one that less is more, it’s about keeping it interesting. How many times have you been at meetings where you’re looking up somebody’s nose during a video call? It’s thinking about the discipline, I’m looking right at you, I hope you can see that I’m looking at you but I’m looking at the camera. Sometimes folks will look to a different side because their camera is somewhere else and they’re looking at a person which may be in the other side of the screen. It’s those little simple tricks that everyone needs to incorporate into their presentation skills on video but we have a challenge here, Fred, because it’s this one dimensional view versus what we’re typically used to. That’ll really be interesting as this unfolds over the next six months because how do we build net new pipeline? How do we close net new business?
It’s doing a lot of research upfront asking some key questions and once again, topics of three, eye contact, making it interesting and wrapping it altogether. I’d recommend everybody online to take an executive presence skill training that’ll actually go through role playing on customer type meetings.
Fred Diamond: Ron, before I ask you for your final bit of advice, like I said, we like to ask our guests for something people can do today to take their careers to the next level. I want to thank you again for being a guest on the Sales Game Changers webcast, I encourage people to go to salesgamechangerspodcast.com/ronpolice to read the transcript of the interview we did with Ron back in May of last year. We also did a show with Mark Testoni who you’ve referred to, you can either listen to the podcast or read the transcript on the salesgamechangerspodcast.com.
Ron, preparation comes up all the time. When we ask guys like you and ladies, senior sales leaders for advice on what should people do, preparation always comes up. I’ll say that to people on LinkedIn, “You need to prepare”, “Yeah, I always prepare.” Give us a little bit of insight into some things that you do before you give us your final action on really what it means to prepare. Again, you’ve reached the pinnacle of sales leadership, you’re the President of Customer Operations at SAP NS2, you’ve led huge teams at Apple, you’ve led great teams at Oracle as well. Tell us about some things that you do to truly prepare so that you can bring customers the value that we talked about through the course of this webcast.
Ron Police: Areas to prepare, Fred, there’s nothing like just good old-fashioned homework. Are there other folks you can talk to around that customer to get some insight? Do you have an advisory board that an adviser can give you some sense on the organization? Is there anything in the CRM system that can give you some flavor of who’s been here, what have we done in the past, what are some of the key personalities, what are some of those issues? Basic stuff like their website, any type of online information. A lot of times I’d encourage folks to call their partners that they know that may have either advisors, they have relationships with any account. At the end of the day, folks love when you’re prepared. You can’t wing it especially in a video type environment, you cannot wing a video call because that will be the first and last call that you make.
Here’s the thing, Fred, all this preparation is great but at the end of the day I’ve seen folks prepare so much but you still have two ears and one mouth. If you go in so prepared that you want to show how smart you are, once again, it’ll be the first and last call. You have to listen, you have to ask open-ended probes, your preparation is going to ask the questions that’ll start building that rapport but you have to be a good listener.
Fred Diamond: Ron, give us something to end big.
Ron Police: I’m a big believer in life balance to drive toward peak performance. If you look at peak performance, everyone’s at it from a business standpoint, business peak performance, it’s really a balance of your business. A big part of it is yourself, everyone has to take care of themselves especially now. Be healthy, stay healthy, work out, so forth, it’s about taking care of your family and friends, it’s about a balance with community, different people practice spirituality in different ways. Between those five areas, everybody has a business plan for their profession, my challenge to everybody online would be create a business plan for those other four areas: yourself, your family and friends, the community and spirituality. When everything comes together it’s really magical what someone could accomplish.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo