Jeanette Bennet of BusinessQ Magazine Interviews Top Sales Leaders – Ken Krogue’s Answers to Top Sales Questions
Interview taken from the Summer 2013 issue of Utah Valley BusinessQ Magazine
Jeanette Bennett, BusinessQ: What are common traits of successful sales people? Can anyone learn the traits?
Ken Krogue, InsideSales.com: When I was at FranklinCovey years ago, we started the first inside sales department. We interviewed 450 people through the process to find specific indicators of success amongst top performers. We found those with a background in competitive athletics were almost always successful in sales. But it doesn’t have to be athletics — a chess champion was one of our top reps. LDS missionaries create another factor — no where else in the world do young people knock doors for two years. The other predictors were Eagle Scouts and a background in technology.
With two universities in Utah Valley, we are one of the most technical cultures on the planet. We really are Silicon Slopes, and local companies have built and imported strong senior sales leadership.
We use Persogenics to determine personalities, and we even put our personality profiles on our nametags and on our doors. When you walk up to a door and see that this person is an “Dominant/Dominant,” you better be ready with the bottom line because you only have a few seconds. With those who are Amiable, you need to build trust, and for Analyticals, you better have a sound argument with visuals. We can find out in the first 30 to 60 seconds what kind of personality type we are talking to amongst our buyers and then adjust our process. But sales people need to know their own style first. It’s all about learning — learning is what we choose to do for ourselves, training is what someone else does to us.
All the training in the world without learning has no value.
“The Challenger Sale” tells of a study of 6,000 sales people and breaks them down into five clusters. There is the lone wolf, the hard worker, the relationship builder, the reactive problem-solver, and the challenger. Everyone used to think it was all about relationships, but the new position of the challenger is now the best with 54 percent of high performers having the challenger mindset. Relationships are still important, but it’s no longer about buying you Jazz tickets or lunch and then you owe me. The challenger challenges you and they are willing to tell you, “No, that’s not the right way to go; you actually need to do this.” They tailor their solution to what will help you, and then they take control of the situation when the obstacles come up and help you push through the reasons why you shouldn’t do it.
Bennett, BusinessQ: What are the elements of a good compensation plan?
Krogue, InsideSales.com: It’s also about alignment. InsideSales.com measures the “first downs” Griffin Hill talks about. We have researchers, business development specialists who set appointments, closers at three different tiers, and then account managers. Each are incented for the job they can do and are paid for things they can control. If it’s outside of their control, it’s hard to stay motivated. We even include effort incentives for what we call the four-minute-mile model — we gamify the process. For example, we’ve learned when we’re helping a new team get going, someone has to break that four-minute mile — or in our world, that 100-dial day and then a 150-dial day. If they do it, then within the next week everybody on the team has gotten it and the whole culture shifts to competitive productivity.
Bennett, BusinessQ: When a company is forced to change the compensation plan in order to stay viable, how can they do it without upsetting the sales reps?
Krogue, Inside Sales: Tell them why. They are adults — help them align themselves with corporate interest. Co-op them into the process early-on and build a ramp or a safety net during that transition so they know you’re not trying to hurt them.
Krogue, InsideSales.com: As Todd said, we put data on the wall; we have whiteboards everywhere. We have real time data dashboards. As soon as we put numbers on the wall, numbers go up 20 percent. We also do our best to get people committed to life’s big milestones. When they get married, sales go up 20 percent. Do everything you can to grow the people, and they will grow the business. We celebrate marriages, babies and homes. As they grow, their competency and commitment grow.
Bennett, BusinessQ: What role does traditional education play in preparing sales professionals?
Krogue, InsideSales.com: A bachelor’s degree is critical, so we are requiring that of all of our new hires. Neither Josh James (who is on our board), Dave Elkington (CEO) nor myself finished our degrees. We are serial entrepreneurs who were doing too well and didn’t have time, but we are regretting it and hiring MBAs like crazy. We still have to overcompensate for lack of education. Our on-boarding process is two and a half weeks of just pure classroom, plus several weeks in the department. I’m really disappointed there aren’t more sales degrees offered out there. The sales industry has got to rally.
Bennett, BusinessQ: What advice do you have for integrating the sales department with the rest of the staff? How do you keep everyone on the same team?
Krogue, InsideSales.com: We look at every department in sequence, and sales is not the first department. Hiring and training and lead generation comes before sales. Every department has a quota and an incentive plan based on responsibilities, and sales has to deliver its piece. It’s like a bowling ball going through the snake, you have to make sure everyone is aligned. I learned this in Boy Scouts and the military — we do a debrief so if we bring on a customer who had promises made by sales, the implementation teams can give feedback like, “Hey, do you realize we can’t deliver that?” The “brief and de-brief” model brings accountability during every stage of the process. It is an ongoing adventure, but we treat the whole company like sales, because without sales nothing else happens.
Bennett, BusinessQ: How do you use technology in a sales cycle?
Krogue, InsideSales.com: One study showed outside sales people got a 40 percent close rate when they went face-to-face, while the inside sales reps got a close rate of 16 percent, but they had 700 percent more contacts. What we are finding with InsideSales.com is that technology is a way to mimic the face-to-face sales call. We put our photographs with signatures on e-mails and find that makes an impact. We don’t like the robo-call concept where the computer takes over. The model we love is “Iron Man” where you have a human encased in technology; the human is thinking, acting, doing and speaking. Vivint has embraced inside sales, but they also get people out face-to-face, which is the best of both worlds. Technology is about leverage of human interaction; it should not replace it. Predicative analytics is where the computer is using statistics to tell us who we should be calling now and what we might say, but a person needs to do it. Technology has its place in sales. Text messaging is not for prospecting, but it’s great when you have an appointment to send a reminder via text 20 minutes before to double the show-up rate.
Bennett, BusinessQ: How does social media fit in with sales?
Krogue, InsideSales.com: Social media is wonderful, but research shows it is still a bubble. LinkedIn is powerful for researching a person’s background instead of talking about the weather. Facebook is great to find out someone’s hobbies. You used to go face-to-face and look up at the wall and see a stuffed fish and know you have a fisherman. LinkedIn is the most powerful sales tool ever invented if we use it well. Technology is exciting and it’s fun, but it should augment the human interaction or it’s cold and harsh. Also, you better be good at what you do or technology is just a gigantic crowbar with more leverage to hurt or help you. If you make a mistake in spelling and then you blast it out a thousand times, you multiply it.
Krogue, InsideSales.com: You just hit on a huge principle. Grade your technology by the level of assertiveness it adds to the sales process. You always want to be bridging to a stronger, more assertive media. E-mail is the worst. You want to bridge from e-mail to social media or LinkedIn — if you cut and paste an e-mail and put it in a LinkedIn message, it will improve results 700 percent.
Bennett, BusinessQ: Lastly, what do you love about what you do? Why are you in sales?
Krogue, InsideSales.com: I have to caveat mine a little bit — why do I love inside sales? In the early 1990s at FranklinCovey, outside sales and field sales ruled the day and inside sales was a second-class department that got all of the hand-me-downs and scraps off the table. The stress was incredible. They first tried to crush us, then they tried to control us, and then they tried to co-op us. I would come home at night after battling and grind my teeth off. I’d wake up in the morning with little bits of teeth in my mouth. Life’s too short for that! It’s not revenge but it is more of a crusade to promote inside sales, and I absolutely love what I do. It is finally bearing fruit — inside sales is growing 300 percent faster than outside sales.
Bennett, BusinessQ: Sold!