Leadership Panel: How to Maintain Momentum During Uncertainty
In this episode of the Reveal podcast, we’re bringing you a recent panel discussion on how industry leaders are maintaining forward progress in today’s economy.
The panel included host Justin Welsh, previous SVP Sales at PatientPop; Ralph Barsi, Tray.io’s VP Global Inside Sales; Anna Phalen, Jellyvision’s VP of Sales & Account Management; and Stephanie Jenkins, Glassdoor’s VP SMB Sales.
Key Points to Remember
- Focus on what you can control.
- Build structure to encourage communication and symbiosis.
- Lead with empathy, caution, and humility in your sales conversations.
- Respect your team’s personal time and boundaries.
- There is no playbook to what’s going on right now. There’s no silver bullet.
- Be humans first and listen to your prospects.
- Dealing with a crisis can often lead to innovation.
- Encourage your team to share their good ideas and insights with each other.
- Teach your reps and trust that they’ll lead by example.
- Be productively paranoid, and start building the checklist of levers you’re going to pull to keep the plane in flight.
Managing a Remote Workforce
I think I’m learning day by day. But the biggest takeaway that I’ve taken from the leadership team and my CEO at Jellyvision is focus on what you can control.
So as a leader, I’m constantly talking to my team about, “Okay, we cannot do anything about the pandemic. That’s happening outside our walls. But within the virtual walls of Jellyvision, we have a job to do. So how are we going to do that? How are we going to band together as a team and make that happen?”
In early March when this started to go down, my biggest concern was how are we going to manage everyone remotely? And I manage a very large team that are a lot of early career professionals. That were all in the office learning from each other, hearing each other’s talk tracks. So a lot of what they were learning was really through symbiosis. And I was very concerned about us moving remotely.
But we try to build a lot of structure and rigor around how we can still create that symbiosis, and how we can still learn from each other…so a morning huddle, an evening huddle to answer questions, increasing the cadence of one-on-ones or team meetings to cover different and specific and tactical things.
Try to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’ve been touting this Zen proverb, which is “let us exist like a lotus at ease in muddy water.” No mud, no lotus.
Maintaining Your Top of Funnel
Just being mindful, especially in sales development, that for the most part they’re initiating conversations with the marketplace and setting that first impression.
And so leading with empathy, leading with caution, with humility in our conversations, is top of mind. Frankly, it’s something we should be doing anyway. But this is certainly a unique catalyst event that’s going to reinforce that.
Maintaining Proper Work/Life Boundaries
I think little things can prevent [encroaching on personal time]. So we started a Slack “hi, I’m here” in the morning, and that usually doesn’t happen for most of my team members until 8:30-9:00. And then a Slack sign off to your team “hey, I’m signing off for the day.” And that happens around 4:30-5:30.
It’s really respecting that, outside of those hours, we all have lives. And we all have things to do and take care of. We have to respect that time. So you can’t really depend on someone turning something in outside of those hours.
On one hand, you’ve got to over-communicate and say, “Hey, look, I’m eating lunch right now or I’m signing off for the day or for the next half hour.” But at the same time, you’ve got to be respectful of the team’s schedule as well.
And don’t be communicating that stuff at 9:00 at night. “Hey, I’m signing off for the day, but if anybody needs me…” It’s 9:00 at night. Give them their time and their space as well, and just create little barriers or guard rails throughout the day.
At Jellyvision, we have a flexible work from home policy. So, while we have an office, many of us are new to working from home. We have a lot of parents that are working and juggling kids. And they’re basically just saying, “Hey, from 2:00 to 4:00, there might be a little bit of craziness of me changing diapers and running around. Just heads up.”
Just communicate and be honest, and we’ve got your back. We can support you through this. We’re all doing some crazy things that we never did before.
It’s critical in those early conversations when we’re engaging prospects to diagnose and to qualify for the right areas the first time around. Because what we’re essentially doing is we’re creating a medical record, if you will, that’s going to get handed off to those who are prescribing the solution in the AE role.
So we want to make sure that we’re hitting on all cylinders early on, so that we can set the tone for the prospect that a mutual plan will be put together. We’re going to identify timelines and catalysts that are critical to your business and the problems that you’re trying to solve.
And then we’ll reverse engineer from there and work our way backwards, making sure that we identify and hit certain milestones together.
There is no playbook to what’s going on right now. There’s no silver bullet. No one is certain as to when the dust is going to settle and things are going to be back to normal. And so one of the key criterion that our sales development reps are qualifying for is timeline.
How do we just start a relationship with our customers? How can we use the free tools and products that they have, and the thought leadership that we have produced, to create the beginnings of a relationship for a long-term successful partnership?
Focus on Helping
Our main focus right now is to lead with empathy and be helpful. That’s something we always try to do. But when we get in meetings and calls, we have to be humans first and listen to our prospects.
We sell into HR. So a lot of our HR customers and partners, they’re dealing with a lot of chaos on their end. I’ve been coaching my team, “You know the deal structure, you know the buying journey. But first, listen. Only start really truly selling if it’s helpful.”
Deal integrity is very big at Glassdoor. We really want to make sure that we’re doing the right deals with the right companies. So all that shady selling—we try to eliminate that. We really want to have high integrity standards because we really want to help our customers, and help them do the right thing.
As we have shifted and moved into this environment, things have absolutely changed—and pretty quickly in the last few weeks. So the right thing now might not have been the right thing a month ago.
We steer our focus on them and not us. We’re leading with, “Hey, look, first of all, how are you? How is your team doing? How’s the company doing? The reason for my call or the reason I’m reaching out is because I’ve been researching your company for some time, as has the team here. And these are a couple of things that we’ve noticed, and I wanted to reach out to at least acquaint you with who we are. So that when it does make sense for you and for the business, we want to have a seat at the table to at least share with you how we might be able to help you solve these critical business issues.”
You’re approaching the whole conversation and the whole cycle with the understanding that “look, we’re going to build a long lasting relationship at some point. It’s just a matter of when that’s going to start.” That’s really the impetus of the call right now.
The crisis of the COVID-19 situation has led us to be innovative. It’s given us an opportunity to pause and say, “What we were doing three weeks ago doesn’t work anymore. So what can we do differently that’s gonna get prospects to engage with us, that’s going to be helpful to our customers?”
And to me that’s been inspiring. And giving me some motivation to really think outside of the box, and also lean on my team to come to the table with ideas.
I don’t exactly know how to move forward. Nobody does. But there’s 100 of us on this team. Let’s put our heads together, come up with some new ideas and just test them out.
Keeping Everyone in the Loop
First is really encouraging people to share. It’s when you do have a good idea, when you do have a good customer conversation, when you figured out some good messaging, you have to share it.
We’re actually cutting and pasting responses we’re getting from prospects, and sharing them in our channels in Slack as well. And then as a company, we have increased the rate of all hands calls that we have.
So it’s every other week we have an all company, all hands, where we’re sharing insights from across the organization, regardless of business unit.
We’re sharing what we’re hearing in the market, and what we’re seeing from our customers and prospects. And it’s just keeping everybody on the same page and in the loop. Which is helping us tailor our messaging and outreach.
COVID’s Impact on the Sales Profession
I think it’s really hard to predict. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned in this uncertainty that everybody is dealing with—and to double down on it again—is we have an opportunity to be innovative.
So moving forward, no matter what happens, what are the things that we can do to take advantage of new and unique ideas to help progress the business forward? That’s something that I’m excited about.
The way I see it is, number one, we need to empower one another moving forward. Just trust—after teaching of course—that your reps are going to own their business within the business, and they are going to lead by example in their own right.
Another thing to keep in mind is, start creating contingency plans. Be productively paranoid, and start building the checklist. If all engines fail, what are the levers you’re going to pull to keep the plane in flight?
For me, I think one of the biggest changes is just moving away from being that salesperson, or that attitude, and really moving more so with leading with empathy. Just what we’ve all been talking about.
So instead of being a salesperson to a sales consultant to—I think at this point—we’re in like a sales therapist zone. So I think we’re all going to lead more with a lot more empathy.
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