Remote Work and Building a Culture of Sales Performance, with Laura “LG” Guerra [Episode 776]

Laura “LG” Guerra (Senior Sales Director at ringDNA) stops by to discuss how to effectively manage sales development teams in this new, and rapidly evolving, era of remote work. Listen and learn how to build a culture of performance, accountability, and team spirit in a remote sales team.

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Episode Transcript

Andy Paul: Welcome to the show.

Laura Guerra: thanks, Andy. Great to be here.

Andy Paul: What do you currently do? What’s your current job?

Laura Guerra: I am currently the senior director of sales at ring DNA, and I am leading our sales development team.

Andy Paul: Got it. Got it. And we’re going to jump into that a bit later. I mean, obviously now we’re recording this in the midst of the COVID-19 work from home, uh, era. So we’ll talk about changes you’ve experienced with that, especially with your, your SDR team. Um, but first tell us a little about you. So how’d you get into sales?

What was the path for you to start a sales career?

Laura Guerra: Yeah, absolutely. So I have been in sales and sales leadership. I like to say. For 20 years, although you might be scratching your head doing the math. And so first got into sales, selling girl scout cookies. But, um, so, so I was one of those few where I think some people fall into sales and, uh, I knew from a very young age that it was a career that I wanted to, uh, embark on.

And so been in. Oh, yeah. I learned early on that through, you know, perseverance hard work and getting creative, uh, uh, I think probably around this time during four 20 selling, uh, you know, cookies on college campuses, uh, you could quickly become a top seller. no. Next week. Yeah. So. Yeah, exactly. So, so yeah, so I I’ve been in sales and sales leadership. Now I’m full time for about 10 years and have sold pretty much everything you can think of from, you know, ergonomics and ergonomics consulting for a large global organization to, you know, SAS, startups, you know, food tech, you name it.

Um, so I’ve learned food tech. Yes. So food tech is, um, essentially think about like a grub hub for work. Right? So we were selling lunch programs for organizations that was based in the Bay area. Uh, and I had that role here locally in LA. So, um, you know, the eat club, family, uh, absolutely fantastic company. Um, but I imagine they are they’re hurting right now, unfortunately,

Andy Paul: Yeah. And yeah, they sold themselves to GrubHub. Uh, I think they timed it perfectly with everything that’s happened. So, um, so who’s been your, you started your biggest influence in sales, in sales. You had to say, you know, like for me, I had a, a mentor, like in my early thirties, that really was hugely influential for me and learning how to take my sales career to the next level.

Who’s it been for? You?

Laura Guerra: Yeah, I think, um, I probably two main mentors. The first is my mom. Um, so she was actually selling software. Uh, she’s been selling software and actually, you know, started her own organization. That was a family business that they ended up selling. And so she was really the one to teach me that, you know, again, you know, with sales, you know, your output, your input is your output.

And so, um, you know, really learned a lot from her. And then another woman named Larissa Herta, who was, um, the president and chairman of TW telecom. And so I met her and had a mentorship relationship with her in college, and she was also on the board of the federal reserve and she was, she got into sales and then ultimately ended up running TW telecom.

And she taught me from a young age that, you know, really, regardless of what you want to do, whether it’s, you know, Run a company or, or even, um, you know, start, start your own company. Um, you know, you got to get into sales, right? Everything in life comes down to sales, whether it’s, you know, uh, selling a product, selling a concept, an idea.

Um, and so that will open a lot of doors for you. So, um, she was also another mentor that, you know, really had a big impact on me as well.

Andy Paul: What type of software is your mother

Laura Guerra: Yeah. Uh, sh she actually sold, uh, CAD software, uh, three D CAD modeling.

Andy Paul: or something like that? Or?

Laura Guerra: Yup. Exactly. So Autodesk, um, was, you know, potentially gonna buy the company and they ended up selling to another French company called

Andy Paul: Big fighter pilot defense company. What’s you know, when you talk to your peers and so on, it’s still not terribly common to have were both your parents in sales or at least have your mother in sales.

Laura Guerra: No. So my dad was a dentist.

Andy Paul: Okay. Got it.

Laura Guerra: Yes. So, yeah. Um, you know, I think, uh, it’s, it’s interesting that, that question of like, were you born with it or can you learn it? And I absolutely it’s, uh, I believe it’s a combination of both. Um, so I believe that by kind of like learning early on at a young age, um, that, you know, sales has this like reputation, unfortunately, That, you know, you think of like kind of door knocking and selling products, but, uh, but she was really able to show me that, um, it was a lot more than that, right?

Like selling enterprise software, um, building relationships, um, solving problems, solution, and consultant based selling. Um, so,

Andy Paul: You were aware of that when you were young,

looked down upon a little bit as a profession.

Laura Guerra: you know, so, so I became aware of that actually. In college. Uh, when I, at a young age, like I didn’t have outside resources or, you know, I wasn’t aware of like the reputation that it had. Right. And so, um, having my mom as a mentor, I only learned about the benefits that sales could provide and then in college.

And I was like, I want to be in sales. Like everybody kind of looked at me and kind of chuckled a little bit. Right. Like, Oh, why? Like, I wanna, I want to get into account Andrew. I want to get into market communications and, um, and so forth. And so, um, You know, uh, looking at it now, I have a lot of friends who, um, I have been looking at my career trajectory.

Right. And they work just as hard as I do. They’re arguably just as smart, if not smarter than I am. Right. Um, but, but their career path has definitely taken a different turn. Um, and they’re in a much different place, just because again, in sales, if you, if you put the work in, if you connect yourself with the right people, um, you could be very successful.

So, um,

Andy Paul: Identify your sales superpower. What would that be?

Laura Guerra: Yeah, I love this question for me. I would say my sales superpower is, um, I’m actually, we’re going to be doing a webinar on this, but, uh, what we’re calling it, sales swagger, which is this idea of just having this, like. Untenable confidence in yourself in your ability, uh, to win. And, and so, um, you know, as a, as a young seller, I actually, my first role, I was the only female on a team of 12 men.

I was 22 at the time and the next youngest guy was 28. And so, as you can imagine, it was, it was a bit intimidating at first. And, but, but I would say one of the benefits of being in that environment was I really learned, um, uh, Through kind of a challenging climate and a competitive, the climate that by having this, that, but being confident, right.

Um, you know, people want to work with you. People will trust you and you can still bring that confidence with you every day. Even if you don’t know the answer to something, right. Even if you don’t, you don’t know what, know something, you can answer that confidently. And so I think having this, like this will to win and yes, confidence and myself too, even like, even when I don’t know what the next.

Action plan is, or if I don’t, if I know I need to learn more about the product and these certain areas, I’m going to be confident in my ability to create an action plan, to learn in those areas. And so I think from an individual contributor stamp point, like that confidence is what led me to be successful.

And then from a leadership standpoint, um, I think my super power is, you know, my team. I think anybody that has worked for me knows that like, You know, they say LG has got my back, like at all times. Um, and so like right now in our leadership meetings, like I’m, I’m kind of sharing with, uh, uh, with our executives that, that the SDRs have the hardest job in the company right now with what’s going on.

And so the different things that, that we’re trying to do and trying to incentivize and, um, the different. Programs and things that we’re putting in place is to, to really, to support them. And so by going above and beyond to make sure that people feel supported, uh, professionally, but also personally people who people on my team are kind of right.

Going through some, uh, some personal things right now, as many people across the world are, um, you know, like sending, sending, uh, one of our team members, cupcakes, cause she had a bad day little things that can go a long way that, that really, um, the team knows I have their back back, um, and I’ll walk through walls for them.

So. Um,

Andy Paul: I’m going to give you my address. A friend of mine, uh, he and his wife, long time friend, he knows why I started this commercial cake baking company years ago. Actually the wife, uh, Caroline had started it and it’s turned into fairly good sized business that make these incredible, incredible cakes. And yeah, last week my wife and I were talking about it’s like, you know, we should order one of those.

We’re

Laura Guerra: yeah.

Andy Paul: the apartment. All the local bakeries are closed for the most part. It’s like. Yeah, let’s treat ourselves. So

Laura Guerra: yeah. Or I would say you could, you could bake a Tate. Cause a lot of people are doing some baking right now, but they’re out of flour

Andy Paul: flower, right? Yeah. We found flower yesterday. Um, but yeah. Yeah. My stepdaughter in San Francisco has been, I think last Saturday was like last weekend was baking bread, sourdough bread, bagels, chocolate chip cookie. So anyway, yeah. Uh, well, let’s talk about culture and how that’s been affected by, by what’s happening with COVID-19 is, so you sort of start out describing it before this happened.

What was the culture you’re trying to build within your team to serve optimize performance?

Laura Guerra: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, I think anyone who knows me knows I’m extremely passionate about, about culture. And I think that really stemmed from a company that I worked at previously will, and it was a mindfulness and emotional intelligence based software. And that we were going into global organizations and talking about the impact that, that mental health mindfulness and having high emotional intelligence had.

On culture and on performance. And so, you know, obviously we had, you know, scientists from Stanford and so forth on our board, um, and in, in reading and doing a lot of the research, that’s really where I became, um, kind of enthralled in this, in this environment. And, and, um, and so I learned a lot there and, and for me, culture kind of stems.

If you had to break it down into four different pillars, um, the first is transparency. Um, so I think as it relates to what’s going on right now, you know, it’s extremely important that, you know, our executive team, our leadership team, and, and I demonstrate to the team that, you know, really can clearly speak to how COVID is impacting, you know, us as us as an organization and then them as a team and then them personally.

So being very transparent about the current state, um, how the numbers are changing, if they’re changing and so forth. The second is learning and development. You know, coaching, I know we’re going to get into a little bit about what coaching, um, for ring DNA and for our team looks like, um, but learning and development, the career path, a competition, and then fun.

And I think that’s where, you know, a lot of leaders are struggling right now is how do we, I think everybody will universally agree that like, At work, we’re spending more time with each other that at home, like there should be an element of fun and comradery there. And so how can we implement fun when everybody’s entirely remote?

Um, so we’ve done, we’ve done a couple of really interesting things to be able to maintain that as we’ve been remote. So

Andy Paul: Dissect those things as we’ll start with fun. So what have you done the, of what would you normally do to keep things fun and light and what’s that turned into now?

Laura Guerra: Yeah. So you previously, no. In addition to kind of the standard things that a lot of companies will do around, and we have ping-pong at the office and happy hours and so forth. Um, I think making our competitions fun was always something that, that I did at the office. Right. So, um, based on different things that we’re trying to incentivize and new strategies, we’re trying to test out.

Um, so. In, in mirroring that and trying to implement that while being remote. One of the things that we did was we broke up the PA the SDRs into pods of three to four people. And every single week, we had a new competition over the last four weeks. On a different area, a different channel of outreach, for example.

So our first week it was LinkedIn. And so at the end of each week, every pod would send me an example of their best LinkedIn personalized messaging and what the outcome of that messaging was. Um, and we had prizes for that. The second week was video. Right. We know that video is a

Andy Paul: move on. What was the winning message?

Laura Guerra: Ooh. Um, let me see. I can’t remember. Um, but I know that the, the team that won their dog moms only if they’re listening to this, that was their that’s their team name. Dog. Moms only is their team names. So I know that they won that, that challenge that week. Um, And then the second week was his video. And I know that, uh, video is an extremely underutilized channel from a prospecting perspective.

And I think people are kind of scared to use it, right? Like how, what are people gonna think? How do I look in the video and so forth? It’s, it’s also kind of difficult, difficult to execute at scale. Um, But I think in the climate that we’re in, people are craving human connection. Right. And so I think we’re going to be seeing more video.

And so knowing that the team was a bit more uncomfortable with that channel, that was our competition on week two. And so all the different teams sent me the videos. Um, and, uh, uh, we actually ended up setting a few meetings from video. So again, it was a really great and fun way for the team to not only try out new things.

Um, but it was fun for them to fund for them to do. And we saw, you know, success from it as well. we are using drift. Um, and that’s how we’re sending the videos through LinkedIn.

Andy Paul: Got it.

Laura Guerra: Yeah,

Andy Paul: What was your next one?

Laura Guerra: the next one for the next week was just the most net new meeting set for week four, or I’m sorry for week three. And then last week we actually just finished a companywide spirit week. Which was really awesome. And that entailed now pretty much a different theme every day of the week. Uh, we gave back to the community, people were posting all sorts of fun videos on Slack of, you know, dressing up their dogs, kids.

Um, but within school, spirit week, that was company-wide at ring DNA. We had an internal sales competition going and the team could earn points for different things. Yeah. So, uh, we had points for, you know, and we actually had SDRs and AEs. Uh, on the same team. So this extended beyond just sales development.

And so they could earn points for the most calls. They could earn points for closed deals, meeting set, uh, and then for the most, uh, LinkedIn post, uh, so all, all the different channels and all the different things that we’re encouraging and people to go out and test out, uh, people could earn points. And then ultimately, uh, I know I got feedback from the team that that was a really, really fun thing to do while being remote.

Andy Paul: And in general, as you’re doing this outreach, what’s, what’s changed about your tone. Cause it’s interesting. You read things online and, and yeah. People give lip service to, yeah, we can be more empathetic,

Laura Guerra: uh,

Andy Paul: but in some authors or some, you know, practitioners are saying still the same messaging, right. We’re still, still charging hard and it was a spectrum.

What are you finding is most successful for your team?

Laura Guerra: Yeah, so it’s interesting. You know, one of the, one of our metrics that we look at is, you know, Total activity daily, total activity. Right? And that cause the combination of calls, emails, texts, as well as LinkedIn messages. And so what we did while going remote was we actually reduced the KPIs and our daily activity metric because, you know, to your point, right, everybody’s going around and saying, Oh, we need to be more empathetic.

And just by saying, you know, hope you and your family are safe. Here’s what we do at ring DNA. Right. That’s that’s not empathetic. Um, but I, uh, but from my perspective, the only way to truly show empathy, Right. And, and step in someone else’s shoes, if we don’t know, uh, Morgan Ingram actually, um, speaks about this, but like, we need to know our ICP is ICP, right.

If we don’t know, you know, what they do, what they sell, they’ve been in the news. Exactly. And, and, you know, it’s interesting. You would, again, you would think that this was be a standard part of the sales process and that’s, that’s the expectation. Um, however, I think in a lot of cases, you know, w what we can tend to see is as we’re, um, As we’re promoting personalization at scale, you know, inserting dynamic fields or inserting like a one liner of, Oh, we’re working with a lot of companies space, that’s not personalization.

And so, um, we wanted to reduce the metrics so that, you know, the team would be comfortable, uh, and had plenty of time to do their research on the account level, on the, on the contact for the prospect to be able to really craft and personalize the messaging. Uh, yeah, it’s been, it’s been extremely beneficial. I think, um, you know, we specifically, uh, uh, created a sequence that was both, had an elements of personalization as well as automation. Um, it was really a remote work sequence. Uh, and so, you know, some of the steps were manual. Some of the steps were automated.

But again, I think that’s, so that’s how we were able to come plead this at scale, but ultimately, um, you know, people appreciate, uh, especially I think when you have a really comprehensive, complex product, what, what we try to do is break that down by persona and then give specific value props to, you know, how our product can help, uh, with that persona.

Uh, so it was persona based and then we included some company or account-based information in there as well. Um, and the feedback has been really positive. so, you know, one of the things that we’ve done is, you know, in terms of kind of like, um, how we’ve been, uh, cause again, at the end of the day we’ve got quota, we’ve got metrics we need to hit. And so that there’s that delicate balance of personalization and being able to scale. Right. And so one of the things that we’re trying to do is each rep.

Is doing account level information. Right. What industry are they in? Have they been in the news and so forth putting that account level information in the account description? Yeah. Right in the dialer. Right? Regardless of what contact or what persona we’re calling, we have that account description information right there for folks to be able to see and get that context prior to calling.

So again, I think it’s been really, it’s been, we’ve been looking at not only, I think people understand that conceptually, but I think it’s been difficult or what most sales leaders, uh, it can be difficult to do is try to operationalize that. So that’s just an example of, of what we’ve done, um, to, to try to make it a little bit easier for the reps.

Andy Paul: Is there anything you were doing, let’s say with your coaching,

you think sounds like pressure. This is better than what I was doing before and we’re all together in one spot.

Laura Guerra: yes. So, you know, it’s interesting. I think, um, being in an office, you know, I struggled with this and I know a lot of sales leaders do as well as like there’s a lot of ad hoc coaching. Right. Um, and one of the biggest things that I’ve learned and things that I’ll definitely take away from this as like, we I’ve really developed more of a coaching program.

And so I’ve kind of structured that in a few different ways. I am looking at self coaching, peer coaching, one on one coaching and then team coaching. And

Andy Paul: The frequency and how the structured.

Laura Guerra: so essentially what, what we’ve done is we’ve given each. I’ve enlisted, you know, the different folks on the team to have a coaching quota. Right. And so I think oftentimes like managers, like I kind of felt this burden of responsibility to do all the coaching myself. And so since going remote, you know, I’ve actually increased my call monitoring by 30%.

And increased, uh, the amount of calls that I’m annotating and listening to by over 170%, right? Like it’s a lot of the coaching that was happening in the office. Even though we have the call coaching tool and I can annotate the calls, I would just naturally want to walk over and coach the person in person, a coach, that individual in person, if I overhear one of their calls, um, And so, you know, definitely felt this sense of anxiety for, I don’t know what’s going on with the team.

And so, um, you know, I gave myself a quota as well as each of, you know, the reps, each of the sales leaders, um, our executives and even folks in different departments, um, to help go in and annotate some of these calls. Um, and so that’s the first thing is, is kind of like operationally operationalizing this, like across the company, um, which has been really helpful.

The second thing is, you know, one of our team leads is running two call coaching sessions per week. And so everybody brings a call and then people review each other’s calls during those sessions. And the feedback from that has been extremely positive. People, really enjoy hearing other people’s feedback.

Um, and in fact, 91% of people say that coaching from peers is helpful yet, you know, from, from my research and some of my conversations with other sales leaders, it’s generally only the sales manager, the sales leader, um, that’s doing most of the coaching. So.

Andy Paul: So do you see being able to maintain this? When you go back to the office or you get distracted by the SIM management, by walking around drunk, go do the ad hoc coaching and know this is something you can maintain.

Laura Guerra: Yeah, I think so, because what I’ve done is, you know, my, my, the, the amount of internal meetings since going remote, hasn’t decreased, it’s really, it’s, it’s really increased. And so, but, but what I’ve done is, is. Made my, my coaching sessions, um, our team coaching sessions, the one on one coaching sessions, a priority.

Right. And so, um, I’m moving meetings and I’m, you know, trying to try to figure out on my end, like, Hey, can this meeting be done via Slack or via email? Or can it be done, you know, in a couple of days, um, knowing just how, how important this is and, and. For me to be able to see that the impact that this is having on the team in terms of like their level of development, their level of engagement, um, and then love their level of accountability with, um, actually making changes to some of those things that we’re talking about and coaching on

Andy Paul: for another few months. How would you say you have to sort of evolve what you’re doing now in order to maintain that engagement that you talked about?

Laura Guerra: you know, I think like any, like any new program or any new initiative, right. I think. What I’m going to do is, is take those key stakeholders like Mike, my team lead some of the AEs, other members on the leadership team and get them more involved in this program. Right. I think that’s, that’s really going to be the best way, uh, to, to maintain this longterm.

Um, because I know for me personally, uh, right, different things are gonna come up as we continue this, this COVID thing. And so by getting other stakeholders in the company involved and invested the same way that I am. Um, right. Like I know our, our head of product, Jeff he’s, he’s really great about going in and listening to calls.

And so, you know, not only is this great feedback for the reps to hear kind of different cross functional areas, listening to their calls, it also helps inform product right on what people are saying, you know, competitive Intel, um, and kind of give them a realistic view of what’s going on in the market.

Um, And so I think that’s really gonna, you know, having alignment between I self as, and those other leaders in this initiative, um, and continuing to evolve it over time will be, will be critical for success.

Andy Paul: Last question for you then. So we haven’t really talked much about the buyers. This is, yeah, I’ve seen most of the people you’re talking to, they’re operating in an environment from certainty themselves. They don’t really know what’s going to happen. Um, you know, things are invariably sort of slowing down.

How do you see that evolving? Are you starting to see that evolve already after the first months

Laura Guerra: in terms of.

Andy Paul: with third horizons might be and so on.

Laura Guerra: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, yeah. We’re, we’re like everybody else. We’re definitely seeing, you know, and getting, you know, the budgets are frozen, you know, reach out to me and, you know, Q three Q four, you know what I think, coaching and really how I’m looking at coaching rather than being more reactive. Taking a more proactive approach.

So like getting notified when companies are saying this and then try to make a correlation between, um, key objections and then certain verticals, for example, right. And then putting together a training the next Monday on this specifically. Um, so I think leveraging like our technology to be able to do that, uh, has given us critical insights.

Cause that’s what we can control. Right? We can’t control, you know, obviously the end state of our buyer and the way that they’re going to be making their decisions. Um, but we can control and, and be proactive about, um, uh, as soon as start to see news trends emerge, how are we going to respond to those as fast as possible?

Andy Paul: LG. Thank you.

Laura Guerra: thank you.

Andy Paul: yeah, I don’t envy the position you’re in. I think this is a great learning experience for everybody sort of working through this in sales. Cause invariably, am I trying to think know five, five major crises in my career that disrupted sales fairly, at least the sales I was doing at a minimum, um,

Laura Guerra: Yeah,

Andy Paul: And you do learn a certain amount of resilience as you go through it.

And I think that’s, for me, it was always the big takeaway was like, and I used to reinforce that here is just keep following your best practices message appropriately. I was selling into the financial industry when, uh, black Monday hit in 1987. And. You know, it wasn’t life threatening, like, like this was, but it was career threatening for many people.

And, um, yeah. How you messaged and the pace at which you messaged and the empathy that you displayed, uh, had to be sincere and authentic, otherwise, um, any sort of effort you put into building relationships was quickly dissipated. So it’s yeah. So what it’d be interesting to sort of think too is, is. You know, is, are the buyers could be different once we’re back to work.

Laura Guerra: Yeah.

Andy Paul: yeah. How does buying behavior changes as a result of this? Or does it even change as a result of this? And I suspect I was going to, I’m not sure exactly what it’s going to look like yet. I’m still gathering information, but you know, I think for teams listening to this is it’s one thing to say, yeah, we’ve transitioned to this mode now is what you are now have to start thinking about us.

Well, what’s it gonna be like after.

Laura Guerra: yeah. You know, it’s interesting. I think, I think the level of expectation of personalization and relevance, right. Not one or the other, but both, um, will, will be very high for buyers. Right. Because, um, Once things start to go back to, I mean, ever since like ZoomInfo came out, right. I think it was something somewhere around 2000 and then, you know, all the sequencing tools came out, like people hiding behind email and there’s been this shift from.

Cold calling is dead. It’s not dead. And then Omni channel. And there’s always seems to be this shift, but I think what will stay true after all of this is, you know, if you haven’t clearly done your research on me as an individual on what I care about and exactly how your product will, will help me as a persona or help my team, um, Uh, you know, it’s going to be very difficult to be successful.

So I think it’s definitely going to challenge the sales industry, um, challenge, you know, sales tech, uh, like green DNA and others in the space, um, to be able to, to enable teams to be able to do that.

Andy Paul: I think a big, big item for people to think about is it’s really your success afterwards is really dependent. To a large degree on what you’re doing right now, how you’re staying in touch the tone of the conversations, as you’ve talked about how the, how the customer feels, you’re there to support them while they’re in this hiatus.

It doesn’t really matter what stage they’re at when they start wanting to shut down mode is what is the quality of that connection that you’re maintaining? Because what happens is when I believe that when we sort of start getting back to normal, There’s going to be this rush to get in touch with the buyers.

And there’s going to be more noise than normal. Think about it. Cause they I’m trying to make up for lost time. I got to call all these people. You’ll stand out through the quality of the connection you made during this time. And I think that’s where people really want to be well positioned when we come out of it.

Yeah. Now’s the time to build that position for you.

Laura Guerra: Yeah, definitely. I couldn’t agree more. And one of the, one of the other strategies that our team is taking, and I know a lot of teams are right now, is this concept of making deposits, right? Or, or giving information, sending articles, uh, charitable donations and other, other, uh, creative tactics to kind of add value without expecting anything in return.

And so I think the people that are able to kind of stick with that and truly mean it, right. And again, be their well-prepared, um, in their conversations and, and thoughtful in their approach in a couple of months. Like those are the people that are, that are, you know, gonna be the front of the rush if you will.

Right.

Andy Paul: Thank you very much.

Laura Guerra: awesome. Thanks, Andy. I appreciate it. Talk soon. Thanks. Bye.