We are on a search to find out exactly what it takes to be a successful sales manager. A great sales team is a powerful force in a company which is why hiring and developing successful sales managers is vital to the growth of a business. Last week we took a look at our very own Katie King. She had some great advice for equipping her team but… we wanted more. So we ventured out to find our next target: fellow Atlanta Tech Villager Kyle Porter – CEO and Founder of Salesloft.
Kyle is known in the sales world (check out his Salesloft blog) and has some fantastic insights from his experience of growing and leading his sales team. Here is some great, practical advice directly from Mr. Porter himself.
CEO and Founder
My answer often changes but recently it is the The Joshua Priniciple: Leadership Principles of RSVPselling. It’s a business fable around the solution-oriented sales challenge.
What do you like to do when you’re not in the Atlanta Tech Village?
I have a citrus farm down in central Florida. I play a lot of golf, tennis, and paddle boarding. I also read a lot and love to go boating.
So what’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I started a company selling equipment to sports bars. At one point in time, I had 45 sports bar clients that I had to drive around to and collect money from. It was kind of a nightmare.
What is the funniest moment you’ve experienced in sales?
We had flown to San Fransisco for a million dollar sales opportunity with one of the largest out-of-home advertisers in the world. We had an LED Display that we were showing them. It transported all the way to their office – this is a 112-inch TV – and we had to sneak it into this small little room. When the VP came down to see it, part of it started to malfunction – it was terrible.
Oh no – so what did you do?
During the entire demo I was literally standing in front of the errors on the screen, hiding them and basically making a fool of myself and the team trying to make sure this product would work and wouldn’t break in front the big buyers for our deal.
Tell us a little about yourself and in what capacity you lead sales?
I’m the CEO and Founder of SalesLoft, which is a business that sells software to salespeople. We spend all of our time uncovering challenges salespeople and executives face and solving those with content, best practices and tools.
Internally, I lead our own sales efforts and help coach, set goals for, monitor and track the performance of our sales organization.
What’s another word you would use to accurately describe what a sales manger does?
The best sales managers are coaches. They know some best practices but actively monitor how their people are performing and help guide them to be on line when they need to be.
What are the biggest challenges you face in managing a sales team?
My challenges in managing a sales team are likely due to the fact that its not my sole responsibility. As a CEO and Founder of SalesLoft I have other areas that are important to focus on: product development, marketing, recruiting, operations, finance, etc. Its hard to be the CEO and manage those areas of business and also be the head of sales.
What does an average day look like?
A typical day starts off with our team meeting at 9:50 a.m., an attempt to get to ‘zero’ in my inbox before the day is up and a late night at work.
What are the biggest surprises you have found being a start-up sales manager?
When your #1 goal is building an amazing business, sometimes that is not the same as just closing deals and bringing on customers. Sometimes you may be focused on how can you improve the product or improve the process. So sometimes on a call with a prospect, if I hear them go down a certain path, I might refocus that call and no longer have a sales conversation but a product discovery conversation.
There are other things that might take priority over the sale and knowing how to listen for those cues is a skill I like my team to know.
What do you think is the difference between a successful and unsuccessful sales manager?
I think the most important differentiator is this: Do they [sales managers] fit the culture of the organization? Do they match up with the DNA and fit the core values the company has set?
The second is this: Are they asking questions more than preaching answers? People, whether they are in sales or not need to be self-starting and typically learn better when discovering answers their own way. Great sales managers should ask questions in order to help their team uncover the right answers for themselves.
Those are the two things I think are very important.
How do you balance being a boss and a friend?
I think the biggest thing between balancing those two is finding people that you love and having them understand that the first piece of the relationship is this: that you love them and want to see them be successful. Everything flows from there, whether it’s friendship or reporting or results, it starts with having a servant’s heart.
Where do you draw leadership inspiration/find resource to better lead?
Books and blogs. I’m really a fan of the Patrick Lencioni series. I really enjoy any writing around servant leadership and also get inspired by stories of faith and stories of unselfish giving.
How do you set goals, professionally and personally?
Tactically, I use a method called the one-page strategic plan. The purpose of that is to set direction for what we need to do to be successful in a short period of time. It helps classify areas of importance and gives them equal focus for goal-setting.
Professionally, we may break our goals up into a revenue goal, a product goal, a customer base goal and a community base goal.
Personally, I typically break up my goals into categories of a physical goal, a relational/family-oriented goal, spiritual goal and/or financial goal.
This has been fantastic Kyle. I think I speak for all of our readers when I say you have helped us get another step closer into discovering the best way to be a successful sales manager. So before we leave, we would love to know – what is one piece of advice you would give to a new sales manager?
I’d say you need to have a set of values that are unconditional, that are required. Start with a core set of cultural concepts and make sure you only bring people on the bus that fit those values. Be vigilant to make sure that people that don’t fit your culture or values are let go – and fast. Make sure that the goals for your people are transparent and measured and understood.
In a simple sense, it comes down to this: “Who’s my boss, what’s my job and how do I know I’m doing it well?” – make sure your people know the answers to that.
Thank you, Kyle – we appreciate your insight!