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Episode: 519 |
Ashlee Horn :
Training New Sales Leaders:
Episode
519

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Ashlee Horn

Training New Sales Leaders

Show Notes

Ashlee Horn speaks about her practice, which focuses on coaching new sales leaders. Ashlee outlines the problem she is trying to solve that 50% of new sales leaders fail within the first year. She speaks about the lifecycle of a sales manager and why sales leaders are so important to an organization. She explains that she focuses on those who are new to frontline sales management or director roles. She works with star performers who have made the leap into leadership, and star managers who  are now trying to manage teams of teams. Ashlee provides coaching for these roles to help them drive sustained behavior change.

 

Training Sales Leaders

Ashlee outlines her approach to promoting new sales leaders. She has identified six key areas of focus: building relationships, holding people accountable, multiplying themselves, creating a culture of execution, developing their team, and driving strategic planning. She stresses the importance of building relationships based on trust and value, as well as the need to be able to articulate what makes them successful. Additionally, she emphasizes the need for leaders to be able to hold people accountable and have candid conversations. Lastly, she highlights the importance of creating a culture of execution, developing their team, and driving strategic planning. All of these areas are essential for successful leadership. Ashlee  recommends that salespeople prioritize the highest revenue generating activities, focus on effective communication, simplify complex topics, and use data-driven decision making. She has experience working with technology sales and service sales, specifically SAS sales. 

 

Time Management for Sales Managers

For frontline salespeople, she recommends they focus on facetime with clients, build pipeline, and take care of customer service activities. For frontline sales managers, she suggests they prioritize their time and get six to ten people motivated to make changes to their daily habits that will lead to success. A good time allocation for a frontline sales manager with eight reps at a tech company may include focusing on individual team member goals, mentoring and coaching, analyzing data to make decisions, creating and executing sales plans, and managing customer relationships.

Ashlee talks about the importance of reverse engineering a sales manager’s priorities. According to Ashlee, the majority of the manager’s time should be spent on coaching activities that improve customer retention, as this will be the highest revenue generating activity. This includes one-on-one meetings with the team members, team meetings, and individualized programs. Additionally, Ashlee suggested that the manager should spend 70% of their time with the team, observing calls, preparing for calls, and reviewing deals. The remaining 20% should be spent on broader team activities such as setting the vision, having internal meetings, and working with their VP or director to understand their marching orders as a sales leader, and 10% should be spent on understanding clients.

 

Motivation Coaching for Sales Leaders 

She talks about assessing the motivators of their team members in order to come up with the best solutions for them, including looking at examples of mindsets other than the mindset of the sales rep who was promoted. She suggests looking at the broad category of growth and fixed mindset. This involves understanding how people respond to challenges, failure, and success, as well as their attitude towards change and effort. This can help sales managers come up with a roadmap for understanding different categories of motivation and how to best approach each person.

Ashlee identifies different mindsets that salespeople may have and how to address them to develop an effective coaching strategy.  The first mindset is the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset, where the growth mindset individual believes they are in control of their own success and the fixed mindset individual believes external factors determine their success. The second mindset is the individual who is not money motivated and does not want to be competitive. To address this mindset, Ashlee recommends focusing on uncovering what motivates the individual. Ultimately, it is important to understand the mindset of the individual in order to help them be successful in sales, and how to overcome the reluctance to sell to people who don’t want to take the call or listen to the pitch.

 

Accountability in Sales Management

Ashlee talks about  the concept of accountability in sales management. Ashlee points out that in order to hold team members accountable, managers should be explicit about expectations upfront and use data to ground conversations in facts and ensure objectivity, and that conversations should take place early and often. Moving on to teaching managers to scale their impact,  Ashlee suggests that it begins with simplifying the complex and getting into habits that allow them to effectively and efficiently manage their teams. 

Ashlee explains how sales managers can multiply their impact. Ashlee recommends that they take the tacit knowledge they have and document it into a simple, repeatable process, known as unconscious competence, that can be shared with the team. She also suggests managers prioritize their time and their messaging with the team to align with moving a key performance indicator (KPI). Additionally, Ashlee suggested that instead of spending a lot of time one-on-one, managers should  offer batch coaching sessions with two or three reps who are newer or working on the same skill. She also explains what they should prioritize to be most effective, and  how she helps sales managers with communication techniques. 

 

Data-driven Decision Making

On data-driven decision making, Ashlee  explains that it is important for leaders to be able to react to data and anticipate decisions for the business instead of responding emotionally. Ashlee then gives an example of a leader who noticed their team was not making many calls and assumed that improving that would help, when in fact the data showed that their conversion rate on cold calls was already high. She explains which metrics they should focus on and which ones should be avoided. Ashlee advises that the front end of the funnel is the easiest to track and that looking at the data can help leaders to identify more effective solutions. 

 

How Sales Managers Navigate Their Roles

Ashlee talks about how new sales managers can navigate their roles. She stresses the importance of focusing on the quality of conversations, rather than just quantity. As a sales manager, it’s important to judge conversations based on the organization’s expectations, and setting clear objectives for the call, and if the client is clear on why they should take another meeting. For sales directors, the challenge is coaching through a layer and helping managers foster their individual style. Ashlee also offers advice for independent consultants on cold outreach, suggesting that they should research the customer and approach the call with a point of view. People enjoy being told about what they’re excited about, and if the consultant is wrong, the customer will be happy to correct them.

Ashlee shares how to create a compelling message when trying to build a relationship with a Chief Strategy Officer. She suggests that the message be more detailed and have a point of view, rather than a generic one, as that could be seen as uninteresting and not differentiate the sender from others. Ashlee believes that having a point of view is bolder than a generic approach and that it is better to be wrong and have a point of view than not have one. 

 

Timestamps:

03:51 Structured Program for Onboarding New Sales Leaders 

06:58 Sales Leadership Prioritization and Time Allocation 

09:06 Reverse Engineering Priorities for Sales Managers 

11:54 Effective Sales Management Strategies 

13:53 Strategies to Motivate Sales Teams

15:05 Different Mindsets in Sales Teams 

21:13 Accountability and Scaling Impact for Sales Managers 

26:24 Multiplying Impact and Prioritizing in Sales Management 

28:24 Effective Communication in Sales Management 

32:14 Engaging Participants and Performance-Based Conversations 

 

Links:

Website: HornSalesCoaching.com

 

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

 

Ep. 519. Ashlee Horn

SPEAKERS

Ashlee Horn, Will Bachman

 

Will Bachman  00:01

Hello and welcome to Unleashed. You can view all the transcripts of all the former shows@umbrex.com as slash Unleashed. I’m your host will Bachman and today I’m happy to be speaking with Ashley Horne, whose practice focuses on coaching new sales leaders. Ashley, welcome to the show.

 

Ashlee Horn  00:23

Thank you. Well, appreciate you having me.

 

Will Bachman  00:26

Actually, maybe you just give us a quick sketch on your background.

 

Ashlee Horn  00:31

Absolutely. So I am a former VP of Sales sales have spent the better part of the last decade has a VP of Sales leading and hire mostly in the mid market and SMB division. And I have been focused on developing sales leaders in fast growing organizations.

 

Will Bachman  00:52

Fantastic. So tell me a little bit more about your practice. Okay, so we got that the one sentence version, you focus on coaching, newsletter sales leaders. Kind of let’s double click and tell us more about that.

 

Ashlee Horn  01:06

Absolutely. So the problem I’m looking to solve is 50% of new sales leaders are fail within the first year, we see time and time again, that sales executives constantly think that they need to get more from their sales teams. And so the lifecycle of a sales manager can be fairly short. And I believe that we can do more to help out sales leaders in being successful sales leaders are such a critical part of the organization. And if your frontline managers and your director level, the doers and the face of the organization are not up to standard, it’s gonna be really hard to keep and retain exceptional clients.

 

Will Bachman  01:49

Okay, and when you say sales leader, give me a sense of the typical structure of the kind of sales organization that you are advising, and just start maybe at the very frontline people on the call on the phone, or if they’re out in the field, and what are the different levels, and then tell us which level you’re kind of focusing on?

 

Ashlee Horn  02:11

Sure. So frontline sales managers, as well as directors, and I, my ideal client is really new in either one of those roles. So we’re looking at star performers that were stellar, individual contributors, who are now making the leap into leadership and learning how to be people leaders for the first time. And individuals who were star managers, maybe managing a team of eight to 10 people now looking to lead teams of teams, and coaching managers and having to be a first time manager without being too without being able to actually do the coaching themselves.

 

Will Bachman  02:51

Okay, so you’re, you’re coaching, like a former sales rep, who’s now been promoted to sales manager and has to manage a team for the first time or a sales manager who’s now who was at least getting to kind of be have direct contact with the person on the phone or meeting clients. And now they’re one step removed. So you’re coaching those two roles.

 

Ashlee Horn  03:16

Absolutely. And those two roles have a lot of similarities. The biggest one we see is the ability to drive sustained behavior change. So we see often in organizations that they promote a new leader into a role that person was a strong seller. So they come in, they jump into deals, they work to close some early revenue and get some quick wins. And then that’s changed doesn’t sustain because they haven’t actually made a cultural shift on the team. They’ve just been able to insert themselves into a few deals and get some quick wins.

 

Will Bachman  03:51

So tell us about your approach. Is there a sort of a checklist of six areas that you work on? Or how do you think about is it more holistic, or some people might have a structured program? What what does your approach look like?

 

Ashlee Horn  04:08

It’s a great question. And it depends a little bit on the individual, but we start with a structured program. And as I have in the last several years, on boarded and interviewed and hired 271 new sales leaders. So when I say I’ve been busy, I’ve really been focused on growing these leaders and I’ve whittled down the areas of opportunity to six key areas. The I use the acronym ramped to get them ramped into leadership. And the first area is their ability to build relationships. So when I’m looking to promote a new leader, do they have an ability to build relationships that are based on trust and value not only with clients, typically a great seller can do that with clients but now with individuals On the team that they would be leading and cross functionally across the organization to work with business partners. I look at their ability to hold people accountable, and have those radically candid conversations. I look at the ability to multiply themselves. And this is such a important one, we find so many great sellers struggle to articulate what makes them so successful. They’re generally charismatic or very heavily focused on building relationships, which is great, but doesn’t scale. So are they able to bring a process and share that process with others? The key is prioritization. So new sales leaders, whether you’re a director or manager, you have a tremendous amount of demand on your time, your client portfolio, or the book of the amount of revenue you’re responsible for has now likely quadrupled. And being able to prioritize the highest revenue generating activities is a learned skill. II is effective communication. I want someone who people want to work for and want to galvanize behind and consider vision and clearly articulate their process. Simplifying the complex is a critical skill when you’re working with reps, especially in a fast growing organization where you’re onboarding a lot of reps and need them to be productive quickly. And the last piece is data driven decision making. We want someone who is going to use all of the resources and tools be able to analyze their dashboards and make a sound business decision based on data and not emotion.

 

Will Bachman  06:58

Excellent. Now, is there a particular industry that you focus on?

 

Ashlee Horn  07:04

Having come from Gartner and then top towel prior to that? I’ve focused on technology sales, service sales, primarily, service and SAS sales.

 

Will Bachman  07:18

So to help anchor me, walk me through, what would a typical week look like for the frontline salesperson, you know, as a sort of typical client of yours. And then let’s walk through a typical week of the frontline sales manager of what are their activities during the week, what’s their time allocation look like typically.

 

Ashlee Horn  07:39

So that frontline, individual seller is spending the vast majority of their time in an efficient organization on the phone with clients really challenging to sell to someone that we’re not talking to. So you certainly want to maximize the frontline sellers time, FaceTime with clients. They would also be looking to build pipeline and focusing on new prospecting activities. There’s depending on the role, whether it’s a pure sales role, or there’s a customer management component, they’re going to also be doing the service based activities to ensure that their existing clients stay happy. The transition from that selling position to leading, you’re now looking at how do you scale the time on your calendar, you have to set a priority and get six to 10 people excited about the priority and eager to make some changes to their daily habits that are going to lead to the team’s overall success. And it’s just not something that’s taught very well in in today’s new manager training.

 

Will Bachman  08:49

Yeah, so walk me through that. What What would a good schedule look like a good time allocation for a frontline sales manager who has called Eight, eight reps at a tech company, let’s say to make it specific?

 

Ashlee Horn  09:06

Absolutely. So first, I always tell people that I work with that, I should be able to look at your calendar and reverse engineer your priority. So if the business is hyper focused on improving customer retention, and that’s going to be the highest revenue generating activity, the vast majority, let’s call it 70% of the time should be allocated to coaching those activities. You’ll have your one on ones with your individuals, you’ll have likely a team meeting on a weekly basis. And then there should be the individualized program to focus on the highest priority for the team. If you’re spending a lot of time with your team on there cold calling and sending targeted emails, but you’re telling me that the highest priority opportunity for the business is retaining your existing clients. There there’s a disconnect of priority.

 

Will Bachman  10:07

Okay, so other than the one on one meetings and the, you know, the one team meeting, like, how would the person fill up their 40? Or 50? Or however many hours per week? Like, what would a, if you are going to reverse engineer their their priorities? Like what would what would an example of a good, you know, a good, you know, well functioning manager look like in terms of their calendar?

 

Ashlee Horn  10:31

That’s a great question. So I would say about 70% of the time should be spent with the team, right. So that is understanding what the team is doing, using, that’s observing calls, many organizations have call recording software, where they’re able to go back and listen, or preparing for calls, that’s the hands on coaching, reviewing deals, helping your sellers negotiate. That’s about 70% of the time. So 20% of the time should be spent on the broader team, like team meetings, setting the vision, likely internal meetings, right cross functionally, working with their VP or director to understand their marching orders as a sales leader. And that final 10% should really be spent on understanding the client. Where I see a lot of sales leaders Miss particularly new ones is they have so much time on the calendar because they’re comfortable on the phone with clients. So they end up spending all their phone all their time on the phone with clients. And while they may get a short term result, they’re not actually making their salespeople better, because they’re just jumping in and doing the work for them.

 

Will Bachman  11:54

Let’s talk through some of your ramped points. So again, I’ll just read them off again. So is relationships accountable? Multiply prioritization, effective communication, data driven decisions? Let’s start with the first one relationships. So typically, these people are already have they probably have been sales people, sales reps, frontline. So they have some experience already building those kinds of reports, if they were good enough to get promoted to sales manager, what are some things that they a sales rep, who is successful in that role might be lacking when they get to the sales manager role? In terms of relationships?

 

Ashlee Horn  12:36

Sure. So first, and I hear it most frequently, that it is surprising for a lot of new managers, that variance of mindset across a team, they assume that all sellers are as ambitious and intrinsically motivated as they are. And so one of the key things that they have to do is learn how to understand the motivators of the team, and the individuals on their team. Because not all individuals are as motivated as they are or motivated in the same way. Which is why the they were the top of the the team and others weren’t

 

Will Bachman  13:21

right, almost by definition, right? They were the most motivated ones. So that’s why they got promoted, or the most successful for some reason. So what are some tips that you have double click on that to help understand different maybe categories of motivation? What are some ways to motivate people other than just saying, Oh, don’t you want to be awesome and get more commission? Like? What are some things that are practical strategies that you help teach people?

 

Ashlee Horn  13:53

Right, so as we start with what I call, like the diagnosis phase, and understanding the sellers on their team, they try and whittle it down to three categories you have, what’s the mindset of this individual? What is the skill, ability of this individual? And what is the discipline? And in one of those three categories will lie their largest coaching opportunity. And so beginning with mindset, which is a lot of that, how are they thinking, and how do I build a relationship with this person so that they’re eager to implement the change that I’m bringing to the team? Start with understanding the simple, why questions? Why are you excited to be in sales? What is it that you’re trying to achieve both as an individual professionally but also, what does that mean for you personally, and so many new sales leaders are excited to have the promotion that they jump right into critiquing skill, and bypass the individuals mentality, which becomes very difficult to coach and unwilling participant And or someone who maybe has their mentality in the wrong place.

 

Will Bachman  15:05

Okay, so give me some examples of mindsets other than the mindset of that sales rep who got promoted. So I guess one mindset is, I want to be the best sales leader ever, and, you know, be the best in my team and get the trip to Hawaii, or the set of steak knives or whatever. And, you know, just like, I love hitting up the numbers, you know, I guess there’s some people who are like that, who just get jazzed up about that. But maybe not everyone on the team is some people is like, Hey, I just needed a job. And this was a job and, you know, I’m finished to get it, my friend told me about it, whatever. So do you have maybe three or four categories for other mindsets, some kind of rule of thumb or, or simple mnemonic or something for sales managers to think about, okay, this is a category a person, so I’m going to use my solution a against this person, they’re, they’re not motivated by like, money so much, but they, you know, they care about what the team thinks of them, or they care about, you know, contributing overall goal, or they care about helping out people or something like you have different categories of motivations, that that would maybe be a useful roadmap.

 

Ashlee Horn  16:14

Sure. So I think the broadest category, look at our growth and fixed mindset. And I think many people are familiar with the concept. But if you’re not growth mindset, being the individual that believes that they are fully in control of their own circumstances, and therefore have an opportunity to grow and change them. The alternative to that is a fixed mindset where the world is happening to them. And they feel that they are many reasons for their ability to be successful outside of their control. And when you think about a salesperson, having a fixed mindset can be a really challenging thing. If you don’t believe that there’s a correlation between how much outbound activity and prospecting effort you put in, in your ability to hit quota, be really difficult to even come into work in the morning be very unmotivated. And sort of, you know, I have to get lucky with my clients. So that’s category or that’s step one is identifying am I dealing with a growth minded individual, when dealing with a fixed minded individual. And when you find the individual that is, has a fixed mindset, it can become very challenging to uncover. And that’s where I see a lot of sales, new sales leaders struggle to walk them through a few key questions, the first of which is why is this role important to them? What is actually their interest in being in this role? And to your point? Well, we find a lot of people who just sort of stumbled into sales. And helping them understand that. Sales is not the only path in an organization, and there are opportunities for them to. And it’s not just asking people for money, I hear that often. I don’t like to ask people for money, it’s uncomfortable to talk, or to be annoying, and have to constantly follow up. And so helping them reframe what their role is, and clearly understand their expectations can really help address fixed mindset.

 

Will Bachman  18:13

Oh, tell me about that reframing someone who says, Oh, I don’t like bothering people don’t like, you know, calling people, they are always mad at me and hang up. How do you reframe that?

 

Ashlee Horn  18:27

Yeah, that’s a great question. Well, I think first and foremost, you have to have people who understand the value that can bring to clients. And I think that understanding, there’s a good reason for your call that takes a bit of conviction and the product that you’re selling and your ability to drive value to a client. So there’s, there’s the reframe of understanding. One. Why is it that you’re actually investing time in this person? Is this are you trying to get them on the fold solely so that you can hit quota? Yes, I mean, I think we all we all definitely have our own in selfish motivations. But really, we believe wholeheartedly that we can drive value to their business, and we know that they have problems at the business consult that our product or service can solve. And helping a lot of what I see is that their ambiguity will drive resistance and behavior change. So if the individual is not clear, exactly on the client’s problem, or how the solution that they are selling or the service is well positioned to alleviate that problem. They become resistant and skeptical. And so sometimes it’s as simple as helping them better understand their ideal customer profile, or their product better.

 

Will Bachman  19:48

Okay, so there’s that person, that kind of growth versus fixed mindset. What are some other kind of mindsets?

 

Ashlee Horn  20:00

There’s the, when we think of sales, specifically, there’s the individual who I think this is one I hear a lot from clients, it’s very frustrating for them as the individual that’s not money motivated. Everything we do in sales is designed to be for the money motivated individual, right? There’s constantly sales incentives or competitions, where they’re not just an outwardly competitive individual. And so that category I think of as the individual who just wants to do, what they want to do. And the way that we address that is by focusing on uncovering what actually motivates them. at a fundamental level, most people will say that they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, they see, they want to feel that they’re making an impact, and their work has meaning. And so while they may not care about winning the $5,000 bonus at the end of the quarter, they will care about contributing to the team and utilizing their position on the team to impact others.

 

Will Bachman  21:13

See, okay, cool. Let’s turn to the next one, the Accountable accountability. How do you mean, the sales rep who gets promoted, probably already has a pretty strong, inward sense of accountability to self accountability. How do you teach sales managers to, you know, keep to hold their direct reports accountable? How do you teach that skill?

 

Ashlee Horn  21:42

Sure, the phrase that you would probably hear me say most often is you cannot hold people to expectations that you do not set as a leader. And it’s such a common assumption that is made across organizations that people come into a role and know what exactly what they should be doing. I think it’s a huge opportunity across organizations, when they’re writing job descriptions, and bringing in new members of a team, really clearly defining what good looks like and what the expectation is, can help with holding people accountable. When you’ve been explicit with expectations, it’s very easy to have a conversation with someone saying, you know, we agreed on these expectations, and here’s where you are not upholding your end of the deal.

 

Will Bachman  22:32

So it’s teaching people to be sounds like a big part of the accountability piece that you teach, is how to articulate upfront make clear what the expectations are?

 

Ashlee Horn  22:42

Yes, and you’d be amazed at how many individuals I ask, if I were to ask members of your team that report to you today, what your top priority is what every single one of them share the same answer. And many of them have to stop and think. And it’s such an opportunity for them to go back and effectively communicate to the team, what is most critical to that team success, and get everyone on the same page so that they all are spending their time with the most reps, the highest revenue generating activity?

 

Will Bachman  23:17

And let’s say that someone does not live up to expectations, how do you coach a manager to have a positive discussion with that person to say, Hey, you’re hitting the expectations that you signed up for?

 

Ashlee Horn  23:30

Sure. My primary client are our new managers. And it’s one of the things that it meant scares many people away from management is having to have what people deem difficult conversations or very honest conversations about performance. It’s particularly challenging if you were formally peers, and this person’s been an internal promotion. And we’ll go back to having those expectations. And understanding that this was an agreement made between the two individuals, this these are the non negotiables, to be a part of this team and to be successful in your role. And this person is not living up to those expectations. There’s a clear reason why is so much of those conversations begins in the preparation. So using data to ground themselves, in fact, not their opinion. So that it’s very objective conversation. Ensuring that they focus on this individual not doing their own best work for you managers can make the mistake of making that conversation about themselves and their performance and the poor reflection on the team. So focusing on that individual and where their opportunity lies. And the last area that we focus on quite a bit is having those conversations early and often. countability conversations or conversations around performance both positive and or negative should not be few and far between. And there should never be a surprise.

 

Will Bachman  25:15

Okay, let’s talk about multiply. How do you teach sales managers to scale their impact?

 

Ashlee Horn  25:24

It begins with simplifying the complex, but they feel is complex, and is typically unconscious for for so many successful sellers, so many sellers. And honestly leaders, whether they’re new or tenured enroll, get into habits and many of us do, they get into habits and they don’t even realize that they actually are following a process. I call it unconscious competence. And helping my clients slow down and document the steps that they go through or would have gone through as a seller. And then clearly, simplifying those. And sharing them with the team on a regular basis helps them multiply their impact, because the team has a clear repeatable process at the end of it.

 

Will Bachman  26:24

So what I’m hearing is to multiply your impact, try to take the tacit knowledge in your head and turn it into a simple, repeatable process.

 

Ashlee Horn  26:35

Simple repeatable process. Also new leaders because they want to be readily available, I see a common mistake where they want to be consistently available to show that their teammates that they care. And so they tend to do a lot one on one. So I also advise my clients to identify patterns within the team and do batch coaching sessions, Coach one to many take two or three reps who are newer in tenure or working on the same skill and offer your time in that format. It helps them learn from each other and it helps the manager avoid burnout, because they’re not adding two and three extra meetings to their week.

 

Will Bachman  27:20

Prioritization, that’s the next next piece. How do you help managers prioritize he talked earlier about you know, if you ask everybody what your priority is? Nobody will give the same answer. How do you help sales managers prioritize?

 

Ashlee Horn  27:40

In sales, I think we have an advantage because we have a very clear scoreboard. We all know that revenue and sales and quota attainment are the most important thing in sales. And so I asked my clients a simple question, if all other things were to remain at their same level of performance, what is the single largest priority that you could impact in the next 60 days in the next six months? And from there prioritizing your messaging with the team? The code, the time spent coaching, to align with moving the needle on that KPI?

 

Will Bachman  28:24

What are some of the answers that you get? Is it always the same? Or is there a lot very, very heterogeneous?

 

Ashlee Horn  28:31

I always I get a lot of answer, I get a lot of answers. I always ask a few second level questions there. Because the obvious answer for a sales leader is going to be well we’ve got a course more do we need to improve our conversion and digging one level deeper to say, Well, what’s preventing you from increasing your conversion or what is really the reason that sales cycles are stalling. And what leaders I find they typically and this might be the sellers in the heart of a salesperson, they love to be at the end of a deal. They love the negotiation, they love the chase, they love the excites what I call the most exciting part of the deal. And so much of the opportunity actually lies in the beginning of the sales cycle and the preparation and understanding the client’s needs. And we realized that we accelerated a lot of sales cycles prematurely. So I’d say the most common feedback I give is to go back into their sales funnel, and understand where they think the opportunity is go one step further back. And it’s probably that many of these deals should not have progressed, because we were not really in a position to understand the client’s needs and how we were going to drive value.

 

Will Bachman  29:50

Effective communication, so could you maybe give us a before and after C’s of effective communication what you see with sales managers Before you start coaching with them and what it looks like afterwards.

 

Ashlee Horn  30:04

Absolutely. So I’ll use an example from a sales leader that I coached over Martha. Martha was a high performer, very credible with clients very much a driving personality. And she led a team meeting by sitting down and saying, we need to improve our retention of large clients, we are in. And I know how to do this, I was exceptional with this as an ad myself. And I’m going to show you all my exact framework. And then proceeded to give a five slide presentation on the framework that she followed for retaining clients. Now, while the contents of that presentation was probably spot on, I received a bit of feedback on her delivery. And her delivery was disenchanting. And the team was not eager to go and make that change. And I see it so frequently. So we worked on her communication and her delivery and what it might sound like if she were effectively communicating to drive sustainable change. Team, I recognized here an opportunity for us to improve client retention, this is something that we’re very eager to do across the board, it will have significant impact on our commissions, and our overall performance as a team. We get agreement on that. Now let’s begin by brainstorming as a group, what sort of ideas we’d like where we think we have opportunity to improve client retention. And then I’d like to share some ideas that I have. And together, I’d like to walk out of this team meeting with two or three changes that we can all agree to make, that will overall improve our client retention.

 

Will Bachman  32:14

So I hear a bit of the consultative influence technique there where you you’re trying to engage the participants to co create it, right? So they feel engaged and bought in and then asking for kind of like this pre commitment, where you get people to agree upfront, yes, we will come up with some ideas, we’ll all agree to do it. As opposed to just telling them, here’s how to do it.

 

Ashlee Horn  32:42

Right. I can give an example that we I see a lot from individual, those difficult conversations, performance based conversation that we talked about. Here a lot of questions around. Well, how do I approach this performance conversation. And I always say, again, make this about the individual. And I coached them to tee up, you know, I’ve noticed you are doing work at a level that we’re not used to expecting from this is work that is not reflective of your capability and skill. And I want to have a conversation about how we can work together to improve that, versus coming in as a new manager and say Your performance has been lackluster, and I’m disappointed to see it, we need to pick it up.

 

Will Bachman  33:33

Okay, tell me a bit about the data driven decision making.

 

Ashlee Horn  33:41

So we all likely have an example of having worked with or worked for a leader who was reactive, that volatile, and it can we love passionate leaders but ensuring that they’re reacting to data and even better proactively anticipating the decisions that need to be made for the business instead of responding emotionally to any circumstance. So we look for not just analytical personalities, but individuals who are calm and able to synthesize the data and the dashboards and actually use that insight to make a change. I see a lot of leaders who come in, they say, Well, I noticed that I use the front end of the funnel example I noticed that my team is not making a lot of calls. And so that’s where we need to make improvement. And likely you’ll get improvement if you make more calls. But the real opportunity, if you look at the data might actually be that their conversion rate on cold calling is really high and doing the session on that would actually not improve the team’s conversion

 

Will Bachman  34:59

rate So like, what are some? Are there specific metrics that you have seen people may be focused on that you would discourage them from focusing on and maybe some other metrics that are neglected, but much more powerful?

 

Ashlee Horn  35:16

Yes. So I think the front end of the funnel is one of the easiest ones to track. And so it is a favorite of many new sales managers, because it’s very objective, yes or no was this is this person picking up the phone and making 50 dials that they’re supposed to be outbound calls they’re supposed to be making? Is this person having 10 new client meetings a week, those sorts of very simplistic metrics. And while increasing quantity can help, and you will see some uptick in performance, what we find is, again, that doesn’t that behavior doesn’t sustain. And so you burn through a lead list or client list very quickly, only focused on quantity. And new leaders should really be spending time focused on the quality of those conversations.

 

Will Bachman  36:18

Yeah, say more about that. How do you, as a sales manager, judge the quality of the conversations that are happening?

 

Ashlee Horn  36:25

It’s very, it varies for every organization, because every organization has a different level of expectation, right? They have their methodologies that they use, whether it’s medic, or challenger value selling, and Sandler. So the biggest thing that I come back to as I talk to clients that have are trained in various methodologies, is the salesperson setting a clear expectation and objective for the call? Or do they feel that they have met that objective at the end of the call? And does the client understand why they should take another meeting with this individual and understand the pain that the product can resolve? very simplified. I hate to say that sales is simple, but sales is simple. And I think a lot of people attempt to overcomplicate it. It’s complex, but certainly not complicated.

 

Will Bachman  37:29

Fantastic. Well beyond this. I’d love to hear we didn’t, we’ve mostly been focusing on the sales manager. But how do any of these aspects change when you’re working with the sales director, who is supervising sales managers?

 

Ashlee Horn  37:45

Sure, many of the key elements are the same, you still have to be able to build relationships, especially cross functionally at the director level, because typically, directors are going to have more collaboration with product marketing, and other organizations within the company. The challenge of being a first time director is coaching through a layer. So now instead of being able to go and deliver a performance conversation yourself, or go and excite a team with a new vision for the quarter, and a new focus area, you have to be very consciously competent, and coaching, how you would go through that process. And spending time with your managers reporting into you how they should approach that without curtailing their own individual style. And that’s a common issue I see with directors is that they want to have every manager replicate their exact management style, which we know doesn’t work if it’s not their natural fit.

 

Will Bachman  38:59

I’m curious how any tips that you have about the cold outreach, so for a lot of our listeners who are independent consultants, that’s an area that a lot of people find pretty challenging. And I’m also wondering if it like ever works, because I get so many spam emails today, and I never answer any of them. So you have any tips for independent consultants on doing like, cold outreach to potential clients? Is there any any approach that you think would work for independent consultants who want to reach out to you know, head of strategy, Head of Marketing, head of finance, whatever.

 

Ashlee Horn  39:38

I think in today’s world, everyone expects to be known. Right? We know we get targeted ads everywhere we look and daily apps and social media. And so one of my biggest pet peeves is speaking to a sales rep that is clearly not done that preparation. I am a big proponent of quality over quantity I’d like to see that the individual reaching out, has a clear reason, and has put some thought into what my problem might be, and what my how their solution or service can align. One thing that I wrote two fundamental rules that I share with my salespeople all the time is, I believe that people really enjoy telling you about what they’re excited about. And I see so many sales people that are afraid to be wrong. So they don’t actually come with a point of view or perspective in reaching out. And I would say that’s okay. Because if you’re wrong, they’ll tell you that at least they see that you put in the effort, and they will be happy to correct you, and tell you all about what they’re actually doing. An example I might give is reaching out, you you referenced a VP of growth, you said or growth,

 

Will Bachman  41:07

sure strategy, or growth or marketing or whatever.

 

Ashlee Horn  41:12

So a generic, I work with Chief Strategy officers daily to solve their biggest problems is gonna get you put directly in the spam folder. It’s not very interesting. It’s not compelling. And it’s very generic. I think a different approach and a more detailed example might be when working with two strategy officers, I hear most commonly that they are focused on how they’re going to achieve aggressive growth targets, welcome, cost optimizing. And reading your LinkedIn, I saw that you’ve posted two different articles on cost optimization. I’d love to have a conversation about how we can help there. Right? And if cost optimization, is that not their number one focus, you’ve put in the effort and likely differentiated and they typically will come back to you and say, No, I appreciate that. It’s actually not what we’re focused, here’s where we’re focused. But so many people will not be more valuable, because they’re afraid of being wrong.

 

Will Bachman  42:27

So you think it’s better? So as you’re saying, it’s better to be wrong and have a point of view, because people will happily correct you.

 

Ashlee Horn  42:37

I think it’s better to be I don’t think anyone should aim to be wrong. We shouldn’t make things up as, as out of thin air. But if you have a foundation or reason to I think having a point of view is a bolder approach than a generic approach.

 

Will Bachman  42:53

I see. Okay. So Ashley, if listeners want to find out more about your practice, and reach out, where would you point them online?

 

Ashlee Horn  43:07

Sure. So my website is horn sales coaching.com HLR N sales coaching.com. Working again, primarily with new leaders, not first not as first time leaders but new to their role coming into as a new sales director to an organization having to acquaint themselves with a new team and setting a vision and building a strategy to what all sales leaders are brought in to do is exceed quota and achieve exceptional business results.

 

Will Bachman  43:42

And are you I’m curious how you are getting the word out yourself in terms of, you know, the go to market for your firm?

 

Ashlee Horn  43:52

Sure. So combination of a few things. First and foremost, trying to go where my audience already is, I think, again, we live in a world of convenience and understanding that individuals out seeking resources for their own professional development are much more likely to be interested in working with a coach like me. I also do cold outreach. And understanding looking at keeping track of you know, where people are progressing their careers on LinkedIn, and reaching out with a congratulatory note understanding if they might be interested or what they were brought into an organization to do. Going back to the concept of expectations. I find so many people come in and take a new role or are promoted into a new role. And skip past really thinking through what does success look like in the roll? And that can be a great conversation starter.

 

Will Bachman  44:53

Amazing. Well, we will include that link to your firm in the show notes. Ashley, this was a fantastic discussion. Congratulations on your firm and great to speak with you today

 

Ashlee Horn  45:05

thank you well I appreciate it appreciate you having me on

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