Buying a company sometimes entails a decent size sales team composed of seasoned and senior employees with not much fire in the belly. Ken Courtright tells the step by step story of how he went into a publicly traded company, took a sales office that was in last place, and turned it around in 91 days to become first place in the whole company. He also put together a top ten list that can be applied to a company of any size and position anytime to reinvent a sales team. Learn how you can successfully source new talent and train them to work with the seasoned veterans.
Listen to the podcast here:
Reinvent A Sales Team
This is the podcast where my wife and I live life. We own and operate what will soon be a five-time Inc. 5000 company. Hopefully we’ll hit the Inc. 500 list for the first time. Saw the numbers, it’s looking pretty good. This is the podcast where we live life and we oversee 100, 120 employees. We oversee tremendous growth, we double every year literally and we sell a lot of stuff. We sell people on taking promotions. We sell contracts in the real world. We sell children on behaving. My wife and I, as is everybody in our audience, is constantly selling.
I say all this in the context that an email came in from a Spencer Kendall. He emailed, “Ken, I’ve been listening to your podcast. I’ve heard all your classic episodes on your other channel. Could you do me a favor? I’m probably going to buy a company. It has a decent sized sales team. However, let’s say they’re a little bit seasoned and senior and there’s not much fire in the belly. Could you put out some tips on not only sourcing new talent but how to work with the transition? Maybe everything from selecting the talent, training the talent and working with the seasoned veterans.” What I’m going to do is put a little top ten list together that flowed. I think at least four of the ten of these can be applied to a company of any size, any position, anytime, as long as you’re in a growth mode. No rhyme or reason, I’m going to rip through these top ten ways, in my opinion, to reinvent a sales team.
Number one, I would weed and feed not upon entry of the new company, but on an annual basis. What I mean by that, weed and feed says if you have ten sales reps, you can almost always presuppose that one out of the ten, if not three to four of the ten, have what is called stinking thinking. What that means is there are five phases that people go through in any position. These get escalated in sales because of the pressure that these people put on themselves, and phase one is the excitement phase. Phase two is the education phase. Phase three is the reality phase. This is when a salesperson hits that phase of, “This is work. The leads aren’t exactly as awesome as I thought. I’ve got a knock on a lot of doors. I’ve got to clear a lot of email. This is a lot of work.” Phase three is the reality phase. Phase four is the doubt phase. The doubt phase can last a minute. I’ve seen it with some people. Phase five is the clarity phase.
This is where somebody somehow some way got through the doubt phase and decided to stay at that company. It’s usually a fork in the road at the doubt phase where people either go, “This job’s not for me.” They move onto another company, or they go, “This is what I’m intended to do for the next three to ten years. This is what feels right. I’m going to basically pull up my bootstraps and get busy. My point is purely psychological. Out of ten people, if you’re walking into a new company, the odds of, I’m going to say five of them not having being stuck in the reality or doubt phase is very small. I think that at least five.
What’s the point? The point is if I’m buying a company with ten sales reps and I’m coming in from the outside, my number one priority is the overall health of the overall company. The overall health, not just any one division, not just the clients, not just management, not just the people that do the meaningful work, the shareholders, everybody, it’s the overall health of the overall company. That means that outsider that buys that company, they need to love the company as a child, not just the individual employees that worked here. This is not an easy thing to do. You’ve got to love the whole company as a child. You make decisions for the whole company first, not just any one individual. If that’s the case, it is Spencer’s number one responsibility to weed out any cancerous type of salespeople.
People would be stinking thinking in the doubt phase and help them move on out because someone in the doubt phase can only bring somebody else down, they cannot lift somebody else up. Number one, Spencer’s got to weed and feed these people as fast as possible. Find a way to psychoanalyze the people in the doubt phase or you can come right out and ask them, that’s my best trick is I come out and say, “Here’s the five phases. Believe you, me, I’ve spent a lot of time in each of the five phases. Which one are you in right now?” There’s no right or wrong answer and doubt phase doesn’t mean you’re going to another company, not at all. It will shock Spencer how honest these folks will be.
Number two, I would understand the principle that some of the seasoned people like Spencer said in his email, there’s not a lot of fire in the belly with some of these senior folks. I don’t mean senior in age, I mean senior they’ve been there, they’re like veterans. Nothing gets a fire in the belly faster for seasoned sales reps than when you ask them to train a junior sales rep. They get very proud, especially when they’re out on ride-alongs and on sales calls. They get very proud when that junior understands just how much knowledge they have. It is very reenergizing to a veteran. There’s a lot said about the concept that, “To know something is one thing, but to teach something is to really know something.” Number one, I’d weed and feed. Number two; I would get all the veterans that are not in the doubt phase training new people immediately.
Number three, I would relisten to my podcast titled Activity Versus Accomplishment. You can’t hear that one enough because it’s the step by step story of how I went into a publicly traded company, took a sales office that was in last place and in 91 days it was in first place in the whole company. Step by step. How did I do it? No stone unturned on that one.
Number four, model number one company in space. I would find out the number one company in your vertical, how are their salespeople set up? Here’s a shocker. If the number one company in your industry no longer has salespeople, it’s all Facebook ads with inbound telemarketers. If that’s the case, Spencer might want to reconsider his sales organization. At some point, it may be inevitable that knocking on door type of salespeople or email blasting salespeople is a thing of the past. I’m not saying that I think I could bring a door knocking sales team into any company and I mean literally any company. I think I could get people knocking on doors selling Ford Mustangs, but it’s all what’s proper. Find out what is the number one company in the space doing for salespeople? How are they doing that? What’s their lead flow? Are there inbound leads? Are they knocking on doors? What does their website look like? Tear it apart systematically. Become a client of theirs and find out what is the flow of emails coming once somebody buys something from them. Do they have sales people?
Number five, look outside the industry. Are there any successful sales models that you can see that have great sales organizations? Some might be pure door to door. Some might use only trade shows or booths at any kind of an event. Some might still be using direct mail. There are a lot of companies today still thriving on the old-fashioned methods. Number six, two books, not optional that Spencer reads and I mean not optional. I’m not sure if he can still get this first one in print but he’s got to find it. Red-Hot Cold Call Selling by Paul Goldner. I think it’s from the late 90s. It was a very tactical, step-by-step book on how to sell stuff. Of course, Psychology Of Selling by Brian Tracy. I believe that may be the greatest business book ever written. Those are the two books that I believe is not optional.
Number seven, where do I find salespeople? Where? If there’s a budget, number one, you pull a Burger King and you steal all the McDonald’s executives. You don’t steal them, you just offer them more money. You offer them a better position. You go to other companies in the niche, find them, offer them, not to be obvious but Indeed or LinkedIn. You find a way to penetrate those websites and get an inflow of leads coming in for recruits. What I would do, go to your veteran studs on your sales team and see if any of their children are interested in selling. You’re going to be very surprised at how many children of great salespeople want to become great salespeople. I would look at the other parts of the company. I don’t know how big this company is, but often people in engineering, people in management, people in other parts of the company want to become salespeople. I have this situation going on with one of our 100 people right now. They cannot wait to go into sales.
Number eight. I would spend a lot of time, not necessarily on salespeople. I would spend at least 20% of my week. I’m not exaggerating, 20% of my week. If I bought a new company, 20% of my hours would be spent on lead flow meaning Facebook, pay-per-click, booth at events, sponsoring events, finding your Louie’s. If you don’t know what finding your Louie’s means, you’ve got to hear that podcast. Sometimes there are people right in your own hometown that you can partner with. That day one provides you leads for free and you can grow your business immediately. I would spend 20% of my time perfecting three to five lead sources so our sales reps have something to work on. Number nine, I would brand a rep as authoritative. Let’s say Spencer buys this company that has ten sales reps. I would find out which of these ten is most interested in becoming branded as an authority in the space. Maybe they write a book, maybe they start speaking at local events but they become an authority because people buy from authorities. They want to follow someone in leadership.
Number ten for Spencer, show leadership. Nothing happens until something is sold. Show this company day one that the greatest protection for this company in the future is to understand that nothing happens until something is sold. All the manufacturing people to management, the admins, everybody that works for that company has to understand that sales go first or nothing happens. You’ve got to find a way to rally that company around sales that first year and make sure there are no sales versus management, sales versus engineering, sales versus production battles going on. You need to make sure that whole company falls in love with the salespeople of that company. For episode 326 on How to Reinvent a Sales Team, especially for Spencer Kendall. This is Ken Courtright signing off. Hope this helps. Take care.
- Activity Versus Accomplishment – previous episode
- Red-Hot Cold Call Selling
- Psychology Of Selling
- finding your Louie’s – previous episode