How to Accelerate Your Sales into 2017, with Bridget Gleason [Episode 372]

Welcome to another Front Line Friday with my very special guest (and Front Line Friday co-host), Bridget Gleason.

Key Takeaways

  • Bridget likes to finish with the panic before the end of the year. The last two weeks of the year, reps say, “I don’t have anything else to close this quarter.” Bridget says, “So start building up to where you need to be for the next quarter.”
  • By the end of January, Bridget likes reps to be well on the way to meeting their first quarter goals. As VP of Sales, Bridget needs to have the year’s structure — territories, hiring, ramping — all set, to focus on the year’s success.
  • Bridget sometimes postpones personnel issues until the new year, to focus on finishing the year well, but, as soon as possible in the year, has that difficult conversation.
  • Andy says to have those conversations back in October or November — because the problem is evident by then — so you have the team composition in place that you need by January.
  • In sales, the data identifies there’s something that’s not working. Millennials in particular, would like ongoing feedback. If managers provide feedback often and early, then the final conversation isn’t as difficult, because it’s not a surprise.
  • Andy wants to see successes in January — milestones, closes, shared successes — to build team confidence. It is crucial to keep the team motivated.
  • Angela Duckworth’s, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, says great performers are often made by the team, as opposed to great players making the team great. Bridget wants a team that makes people better for being on it.
  • Andy believes a team gives you more people to hold you accountable, because no one wants to let their teammates down. Everybody wants to contribute.
  • Bridget ‘feels that in spades,’ about her company, Logz.io. Team accountability applies not only to sales professionals, but to all levels of a company. It’s a mesh.
  • What has inspired Bridget recently? Angela Duckworth’s book on grit, teaches that intelligence matters, but if others are smarter than we are, we can do a lot to counter that by persistence, and by hard work.
  • Bridget shares a story of a personal sacrifice made by one of her managers, with quiet determination, to help close out the big year-end deals. Some sacrifices are needed and appreciated, without apparent martyrdom attached.
  • In the first month, pay attention to what’s going on; get early successes for the team; and deal with problems, regardless of sunk cost, whether personnel, or projects that will never close. Take a hard look at everything.

Episode Transcript 

Andy Paul (AP)

It’s time to Accelerate. Hi, I’m your host, AP. Join me as I host conversations with the leading experts in sales, marketing, sales, automation, sales process, leadership, management, training, coaching, any resource that I believe, to help you accelerate the growth of your sales, your business, and most importantly, you. 

Hello and welcome to Accelerate. This is another edition of Frontline Fridays with my very special guest actually. I think you’ve elevated past guest to co-host status of Frontline Fridays.

 

Bridget Gleason (BG)

Andy, if I’m a co-host, then we should be able to turn the tables periodically, I think

 

AP

Sure. Meaning what?

 

BG

I asked you questions. I liked how you answered. You know what I appreciate? I appreciate that you say “yes”, and then you asked, “What does that mean?” I like that. That’s good.

 

AP

Yeah, I just go along to get along, what can I say?

 

BG

Yeah, go along to get along. I like it.

 

AP

I thought we’d talk today about—we are at the end of January, and one month of the year has gone by already. And that’s a good time for checking in, if your sales manager it’s this is a good time, a little bit of a gut check actually time. Sometimes we see a little panic setting in—So, where do you like to be after the first month of the year? I mean, how do you like to be positioned?

 

BG

Okay, well, first of all the panic should come much earlier than now, so the panic should happen a month ago. So, for me, I like to get all the panic out of the way at the end of the year. And then the end of the year– here’s what I always tell reps and you can tell me if this was consistent with your experience and advice. As you get closer and closer, for those companies that end their fiscal year also in December. As the weeks go on, reps have fewer and fewer deals that they’re closing so, the last two weeks of the quarter, end the year, I would get reps that are saying, “I don’t have anything else that I think is going to close this quarter. I brought them all in I’m done.” Perfect. Because that’s when they should be building, I love hearing that some wise, especially if we’re where we need to be, because then you start building. The building really should start towards the end of the previous quarters. So, at the end of January I like to be well on my way of where I need to be for the quarter. So that’s sort of the short term. And then as a VP of sales, I need to have the structure and the outline and the skeleton of what the year is going to look like, territories and hiring and ramping and sort of all of that. I’d like to have that pretty well set, so that I can be focused for the next 11 months. Time goes so quickly. And I just like to have everything set up pretty well by the end of January.

 

AP

Yeah, I agree on that. One of the issues, though, that I see with companies, in managers, the problem is they get toward the end of the year, in December, think about last month, maybe as people didn’t perform, the team didn’t perform as well as they should have. And I see managers sit down and talk with the rep and rep saying like, “yeah, next year, different story, could be better.” And instead of making the hard decision about who are the keepers and who are not keepers, instead they let them roll over to the next year and start the whole thing over again. And so, for me, it’s not been uncommon to work with a company and get to the end of January, somehow regretting the fact that hadn’t made decisions back in December they should have made.

 

BG

Yeah, I think that’s a little bit of a hard one. Just because sometimes at the end of the year, you’re so focused, I think about myself as you’re talking about it, I’m so singularly focused, more so than other quarters, because it’s the end of our year of making sure it’s a good year, I put off those personnel issues, I don’t always. In fact, I’ve made lots and lots of hard decisions the last month of the quarter, the last month of the year, but some of them do slip through just because I’m focused in other areas, but my strong recommendation is, if these hard changes aren’t made at the end of the year, then as early as you can make them you want to make them, you want to make sure you’re going into the year with the team that you want to be in the boat with you for the year. And if you know somebody really isn’t that person, I think it’s kinder for everyone all the way around to have that typical conversation.

 

AP

Yeah, that conversation really needs to be had back in October, November. Because you’re going to know at that point whether the year is going to turn out well, and so part of what I recommend is to avoid finding yourself in that situation where you, again, slight unease, maybe a little bit of panic setting to get to the end of January, you’re looking at your team and thinking, “yeah, this isn’t really the optimal team composition.” Don’t put yourself in that position. If you have those conversations back at the end of October, early November, at the end of the year is pretty clear what’s going to happen. In most cases, right? There are instances or perhaps things change, but you’re pretty much going to have a track record for the rest of the year, from the receiving the beginning part of the year up to that point, maybe even a prior year. Now, don’t repeat those mistakes.

 

BG

I couldn’t agree more with that. Yeah, you don’t want to repeat the mistakes. Also, in sales, we have the benefit of numbers, and all kinds of data where you can identify if something’s not working. It’s so clear cut if we look at the data, or it can be very clear cut. And the other thing I think is, someone was talking, maybe this was last year at a conference about feedback and millennials, and I think it’s true for everybody, but millennials in particular, they’re not looking for feedback every year, or every six months or every quarter. They’re looking for ongoing feedback. And I think if you get in the habit of providing ongoing feedback, like you said in October, November, if you’ve been having those conversations all along, “this isn’t working”, and you make that clear, then the difficult conversation, the final conversation, isn’t actually difficult because you’ve been having that conversation.

 

AP

Right. And I mean, to their credit, for millennials, they’re expecting what we would have expected if we if we had spoken up in our generation. But we were too cowed by managers to do that. So, we accepted the fact we’re only getting feedback once a year. I mean, in terms of formal feedback and appraisal, we got coaching more frequently, absolutely makes sense. This is what you should be doing as a coach, is you should be engaged ongoing basis, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to people.

 

BG

Right. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Sometimes it does. But if we’re doing our job as managers, it should not come as a surprise.

 

AP

Yeah. So, to the point you to made earlier, I want to see in January, I want successes. It doesn’t mean closing a lot of deals. And it could be closing some smaller deals, it could be achieving some critical milestones, but I want as many people on the team to put themself in a position where they’re experiencing success at one level or another. So that their confidence is high. And, this is something that your managers can help with, they can coach, they can keep people focused on perhaps working on bigger opportunities that can help them understand what the smaller victories are within, and celebrate those, make sure people understand that was an achievement, move on to the next stage of the deal. But you want to keep your team, that’s really important to me, to keep the team really motivated. pumped. Maybe things aren’t going 100%, but pick out the small successes. Let people build on, let them build their confidence heading into the year.

 

BG

Yeah, I’m thinking about the best ways to do it. I agree with you that confidence is so important. It’s so important that they have confidence and they feel good about going into it. And so, giving reps opportunities to excel is great. Sometimes you can do that internally in a kickoff, or we do ongoing training sessions, giving various reps opportunities to showcase what they’re really good at, whether it’s prospecting, or giving a demo, or doing qualifying calls, or presentations, or objection handling, but allowing them to be the expert can also be a way to help boost confidence.

 

AP

Yeah, I like that. It’s really important at this stage of the year that you are building people up, because year is a long time, a lot of water is going to go under the bridge and the team. This is a team selling, is a team sport, increasingly a team sport. Everybody’s going to be feeling good about what’s going on.

 

BG

Absolutely. And it’s hard, like you said, it’s a long year, and to keep people motivated. You don’t need to keep motivated through the ups, but you definitely need to keep them motivated through the downs. And you and I’ve talked about this it’s something that I definitely believe in, which is, I can’t motivate another person, but I could provide an opportunity where a motivated person can be successful. And there are things that I can do to help encourage someone’s internal sense of motivation to be stimulated. And I think that’s where the responsibility is, someone that is sensitive to it and wants to be motivated, wants to work hard. I want to make sure I provide an environment that really facilitates that. I’m listening to Angela Duckworth book on grit. And in the chapter I’m listening to, she was talking about how great salespeople are often made, not just sales people, there are players, great performers, whatever the field, are often made by the team. As opposed to, “Okay, I get really good at something and then I go join a team.” Having a great team can create a great player on that team. And it sort of speaks to me to the point that you’re making about creating this environment. And we can all help each other get better. I want to have a great team at a place where people get better, because they’re on this team.

 

AP

Exactly. And I believe that a lot that comes from– you have more people to be accountable to when you’re on team, and I don’t mean accountable in the sense that people are checking a list to see whether you did something. It’s in the sense of, “hey, we’re all in this together and I don’t want to let them down.” And I think that is something that is a powerful spur for people to improve and to get better because they’re wanting to, please just not their boss, but they’re not wanting to let down their teammates. Now because in complex sales, lots of people have role to play and you want to play your role to the max because you want to see the team succeed. And you want people to think that, “Yeah, you’re a valuable player on the team.” And maybe when there’s another team made either, at this company or somebody goes to another company. We know how careers work, yeah, they’ll bring me along that great new opportunity.

 

BG

And they are people I want to work with again. Because they made me better, and I made them better. And to to strongly identify with that team, in that culture, in that company, and like you said, I really care about the other people. And it’s important to me, that I’m a contributor.

 

AP

Yeah, I think that the motivation part in developing motivation, at least in my mind, people have to come up with motivation themselves, but one of the things that I think they find motivating, especially in the team environment, not letting others down. I see that in sports teams. You see that in the military now and read about significant games or battles are fought or engagements, military engagements. One of the things that often comes to the surfaces Yeah, I did this for the team. I didn’t want to let my comrades in arms, I didn’t want my teammates down.

 

BG

It’s very powerful driver. I feel like that I told you, I’m working for this company and Tela-viv blogs.io. I feel that in spades. I don’t want to let the team down. I don’t want to let the peep, I don’t want to let the co-founders down. I don’t want to let the executive team down. I don’t want to let my managers down. I don’t want to let my sales the salespeople down. I feel so committed to this group. And I think it’s important for people to recognize that this feeling of not wanting to let other people down, occurs at all levels. It’s not just on a sales rep and not wanting to let my manager down. Managers often feel the same responsibility going the other way. I don’t want to let the people who work for me down. I don’t want to let my peers down. So, it’s a mesh as opposed to a hierarchy.

 

AP

Getting technical. Okay.

 

BG

Yeah, I know. I’ll back up.

 

AP

No, that’s fine. I get it. All right. Well, so let me digress for a second. We were talking about here we are into January. So, what sort of inspired you in the first month of the year, something you’ve read something you’ve know, somebody you’ve met. I mean, what’s been key for you so far?

 

BG

Okay, well, I’ll tell you something, I’m always reading. So, I’m reading right now, Angela Duckworth book on grit. That’s really inspiring. For me, that’s a really inspiring book, it’s more than intelligence that makes the difference. It’s this quality of grit and sticking with something and hard work. And I guess that really resonates with me because I come from a family that’s super accomplished. And I’m not an idiot. But I have always felt like, “oh my gosh, my sisters are so much smarter than me. They get better grades than me.” So, I think I grew up with this complex of, “God, if I can only be a teeny tiny bit smarter”, and just recognizing that it’s not a level playing field. Intelligence does matter. But we can do a lot to level it by our own persistence, in hard work, and I just think that’s a great message for everyone that we can do a lot to control our own destiny. That really resonates with me and is very inspiring.

 

AP

In that book. Great.

 

BG

I was going to say, the other thing that happened at the end of the year is one of my managers, and I’m not recommending this, I’m not. But I was touched by it. I’m a relatively new VP there, at the company. And she’s a director, and it’s the end of the year and we’ve got some big deals to close out and she’s a worker, this one, she’s a worker. She’s one I can count on all the time. She’s just works morning, noon and night. I mean, she’s so dependable. She’s an Amazing. Also a salesperson, she’s really good in the deal. And I knew that she had not had a vacation while she was planning a trip, I think to South Africa where she’s from, and I’d asked her close to the end, maybe two weeks before the end of the quarter, end of the year. I said, “are you taking a vacation? I thought you were going to South Africa.” And she never said anything to me. She never asked about it. She said, “you know what? I just felt like I needed to be here. You know, close up the year you’re new. I just want to make sure this is a good year, and so I’m going to do it a different time.” And I just was touched Andy. There was no drama. There was no guilt, like, “Okay, I’m canceling my vacation. I’m going to bring it in for the team, right? Look at me. Everybody look how I’m the martyr.” She didn’t say a word. She wouldn’t have brought it up. And just to me, that’s just it’s dedication with a capital D. She thought it was done with a capital D, that she ended up doing that, we ended up having some deals closed before the trip was even going to happen. But I guess the thing that was inspiring to me was just this lack of drama, a lack of heroism, a lack of “I’m the martyr, look at me”, it was just a quiet determination that she’s going to do what’s necessary to bring it in and that does, when you talk about not wanting to let people down, boy, she’s one I don’t want to let down.

 

AP

Yeah, well. There is sacrifice required in many professions. I mean, sales is not certainly not even at the top of the list, perhaps but there are occasions again, because people do depend on you. There’s a team aspect in what we do that I think is oftentimes overlooked. And that perhaps being one of them, sometimes, yeah, little sacrifices called for. Now we’ve talked about, in terms of people sacrificing their personal time to improve their skills, improve their craft and read that book they might not read, or listen to that podcast they should be listening to, just have something coming in their head every day. That’s new and different. So yeah, so sacrifices is part of the game.

 

BG

Definitely, definitely. And just the sacrifice with no martyrdom attached. I really appreciate because I grew up in a family where there was a fair amount of martyrdom.

 

AP

Expressed martyrdom,

 

BG

There wasn’t really I mean–

 

AP

If only you knew I was doing for you. Well, you are just telling me what you did for me, so–

 

BG

Yeah, exactly. There was a fair amount of that. So, it’s an attitude that I’m very familiar with. So just to have the absence of it. It was striking.

 

AP

I grew up in Midwest, we are a family of stoics. Everybody kept everything very close to their vest. It’s just the opposite. Those things never really leave you, as spouses and partners will have atest.

 

BG

Absolutely. That’s right. As much as they would like them to leave you. They don’t.

 

AP

We just want to talk, have your talk. I said something when no, you said yes. I’ve gotten much better as I’ve gotten older. Got that. So, first month of the year, pay attention to what’s going on, get some early successes for your team. If you have something that carried over from last year that needs to be resolved, take care of it, resolve it now. Don’t let it carry on. Don’t worry about the we’ve talked in the past about the sunk cost effect. As don’t let the fact you’ve invested in something that isn’t likely to turn out, that could be a person or a project, and that sort of thing with your pipeline, and we’ve talked about that, look at the pipeline, because there’s certainly a pipeline carry over from year to year. If the decision wasn’t made at the end of the year, and you’re expecting it. Now, which of those deals are realistically going to close in the first quarter? Are they gone? So, take a hard look at everything. Okay. Bridget, as always, fantastic. So, we’ll be back next week. Friends, we appreciate you taking time to listen to us today, and yeah till next Friday. This is AP

 

BG

And BG looking forward to talking to you next week Andy.

 

AP

Thanks for listening to the show. If you like what you heard and want to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming episodes, please subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or stitcher.com for more information about today’s guest, visit my website at andypaul.com.