Evan Bartlett on the Nuances of Inspiring Sales Leaders and Scaling the Sales Org

Collin Stewart, CEO

12 October 2017

Everyone wants to know how to best scale their sales team.

Going from one or two people to a full fledged team of salespeople is surely a good sign of the health of the company (sales is the driver of growth after all), but it comes with some growing pains.

How do we effectively train new hires. And, if we get that big, how do we train other sales managers and directors? It’s a tricky balance: great salespeople don’t necessarily make great managers. The jobs require two different skill sets. So, in knowing that, should you promote your top sellers to management gigs? Or, do you look outside the company for sales leadership?

These are big questions, for every growing company. And, we haven’t even got to discussing effective sales processes and systems yet.

Complex business, isn’t it?

“The first step in establishing new sales leadership is earning the trust and get buy-in from team. Whether you are coming in from outside the org, or promoted internally,” says Evan Bartlett, Head of Inside Sales at New York City’s Zocdoc, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

“Every single new leadership role I step into, you have to start from scratch. Remember – Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take the time to understand the business, and take the time to understand the people. And, add value. Solve problems, come up with solutions – take things off your team’s plate. If you can’t do that, they will not trust you with bigger leaps of faith. Remember, there is no cost to starting from scratch with each new opportunity.” 

As in all trust-building scenarios, the critical piece for success is effective communication. According to Bartlett, effective communication can be described in many ways, but at its most simple it is “explaining things in simple ways.”

“You always need to be able to break complex problems down in simple terms. And you must tailor it to who you are speaking with: sellers versus managers,” says Bartlett.

“The mistake I see a lot is when top sellers promoted into management. Top sellers don’t have to think about selling too much – so they can’t describe it.”

Another, less obvious, aspect of communicating is the need for leaders and managers to repeat themselves. It’s easy, Bartlett adds, to forget you haven’t shared every idea with every member of your team.

“Don’t just tell one person,” says Bartlett, with a laugh.

“I’ve botched that a bunch of times.”

Conversely, motivating your team (yet another example of effective communication) sometimes requires different schemes, depending on the different people on the team.

For example, some sales people are simply motivated by money. Others, though, find inspiration in work life balance or recognition. It’s up to the sales leader to understand that, and communicate as such.

“If you waive money in front of the wrong person, it won’t connect. It’s not a one size fits all approach,” says Bartlett.

“Table stakes is knowing that it is different for different people.”

Speaking in generalities, too, will not motivate your team members. Often sales leaders lean on outcomes as a way of lighting a fire under their team. For example, focusing on sentiments like “we need more results” or “we need to make more money next month” doesn’t illuminate the reasons your team is in need of more results.

You may actually need to focus on calls, product knowledge, cadence writing – the list goes on. It’s those inputs that will, eventually, lead you to that general “get me more results” output.

All of this nuanced communication and motivation builds towards two extremely important aspects for any sales team: development and accountability.

Sales leaders, says Bartlett, have to develop the members of their team (whether they are novice or experienced sales professionals). But, effective sales development requires some leg work. That’s why sales leaders take the time to communicate effectively and motivate on a one-on-one basis.

As that trust is developed, and that personal relationship fostered, a sales leader can begin to craft development or coaching plans that suit each individual team member and their skills / needs.

“Manager often focus on advanced skills, because they are good sellers, but you can’t just focus on that. For example, why can’t a new person close? Is it listening? Is it Confidence?” asks Bartlett.

“You have to work backwards from advanced skills to the root skill that prevents them from excelling.”

Finally, it’s then, and only then, that sales leaders can focus on holding their team members accountable. Accountability, says Bartlett, can be a difficult concept, as it sometimes requires having difficult conversations. For instance, if a team member isn’t following their coaching plan, than that needs to be addressed. But, talking about such issues will only have an impact if clear conversation, effective motivation and tailored development have already been been put in place.

It takes work, sales leadership does. But as you grow, because that’s what we’re all here to do, it will produce a well-oiled team.

“Accountability is a huge idea. It starts with an environment of accountability. We’re all here to work, we’re all here to be professionals,” says Bartlett.

“As a manager, you need to put the work in. So, regardless of what the specific point is, you can have that conversation as a manager. Earn the right to hold others accountable.”

For more on Evan Bartlett’s sales leadership methods, check out his recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.