“You always go into a situation to learn,” says Kevin Armstrong, Global Enterprise Strategy Leader at ENAVATE. He talks with host Chris Smith about his passion for sales leadership, and how he cultivates an atmosphere of learning, growing, and striving for success.
What are the lessons Kevin tries to impart on his team? You have to want to learn, and you have to go all in to succeed. But despite his passion for going all in, he knows that the key to sales success is being efficient with your time — and sometimes that means saying no to opportunities that just aren’t right for you or your company. As he tells Chris, there are two winners in every sale: the one who wins and the first one out.
Tune in to hear more of Kevin’s surprising lessons on sales, sales leadership, and how to balance intuitive selling with CRM.
Watch or listen to this episode:
Wed, 12/9 1:59PM • 55:20
sales, crm, people, leaders, deal, teamsters union, company, years, rep, career, strike zone, learned, team, lead, goals, buyer, model, person, understand, punitive
Kevin Armstrong, Christopher Smith
Welcome to the Sales Lead Dog Podcast hosted by CRM technology and sales process expert Christopher Smith, talking with sales leaders that have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Listen to find out how the best of the best achieve success with their team and CRM technology. And remember, unless you are the lead dog, the view never changes.
Christopher Smith 04:33
Welcome to the Sales Lead Dog Podcast. Today we have a terrific guest, Kevin Armstrong of Enavate. Welcome to Sales Lead Dog, Kevin.
Kevin Armstrong 04:44
Yeah, thank you I’m thrilled to be here.
Christopher Smith 04:46
That’s awesome. That’s great. So Kevin tell us a little bit about yourself and your company, Enavate.
Kevin Armstrong 04:51
Sure, as you said, Kevin Armstrong, I am currently based out at, just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I work for a company called Enavate, we’re a global Microsoft systems integrator. We focus on ERP technology, CRM technology, BI analytics, and cloud technologies, really the broad spectrum of Microsoft and NetSuite solutions is, is where we focus.
Christopher Smith 05:16
Yeah. And you guys are growing incredibly fast.
Kevin Armstrong 05:21
Yeah, you know I’m fortunate to have been able to join Enavate while they were beginning that growth pattern and it’s been very very impressive during one of the most difficult years that we’ve seen really in our history, that the company has continued to grow. During this year it’s a testament to the people and the capabilities that already existed and we continue to augment.
Christopher Smith 05:41
And they have a great leadership team. I think that’s a big part of your success, so.
Kevin Armstrong 05:46
Well I can tell you that the CEO, Thomas Asper, is somebody that I’ve known for a number of years more socially and inside the Microsoft ecosystem. He’s one of those people he’s an, he’s an innovator, he’s an entrepreneur and I think he has been a large reason why, between him and the people that he’s brought together, why this company has grown so rapidly.
Christopher Smith 06:05
Oh, he’s terrific. He really is a terrific person. So tell us a little bit about, you know, thinking back over your career, who’s the person who’s had the most impact on your success.
Kevin Armstrong 06:22
I have been fortunate, I will tell you I have been very fortunate in my career to have a number of people who have impacted me from before I got into selling, before I got into business overall. You know, I was very fortunate to be able to play athletics at a very high level and at the college and professional levels, and some of those coaches honestly impacted me in the way that I do business, before I ever even knew that that’s what they were doing. And then beyond that I’ve, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had to have worked with several great leaders over the years, most specifically a gentleman by the name of Steve Turp, Tony Dibenedetto, two gentlemen that that started and grew a company called Tribridge, as well as Thomas and Yves Klein and members of the Enavate leadership team. I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with them over the years.
Christopher Smith 07:14
Are there certain things about what you’ve taken from those people that you now are using on a regular basis?
Kevin Armstrong 07:22
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I learned early in my career that you always go into a situation to learn, and I have found that, you know, there’s an old sports euphemism that says if you, you either win or you learn, and that translates very well to selling and what I’ve what I’ve been able to do over the years is take the best of each of these leaders and team members that I’ve worked with and kind of cobble that together into my style my team style and really the the the type of a, of a team that I like to build. It’s, every company that I’ve worked with in the last 20-some years has been a little bit different. They’re all unique. But I would say that, it’s each of those great leaders and each of those great team members have impacted me to the extent where I do have a mold, I have an idea of what I’d like to accomplish. It’s never going to happen exactly the same way at every company, but there are elements that I’ve learned from all of them that I try to bring to the table.
Christopher Smith 08:19
That’s great. What are the top three things that have helped you the most in your career.
Kevin Armstrong 08:25
Well, first of all the thirst for learning. It’s never been proven more important than in 2020, where the entire global economy has changed and I run into people every day who think, “Hey I’ve been doing this for 20 years, I know I know the game,” right? And the game has changed, so I would say, number one, my thirst for learning has driven me to, I’m a, I’m a nerd. I mean I wake up and I read, I read blogs, I watch pod, you know I listen and watch podcasts, TED Talks, you name it. So that thirst for learning. The second one is, I was always taught that you have to control your own destiny, take control of your destiny and do what you have to do to be successful. Don’t worry about everybody else, count on them that they’re going to, they’re going to be, you know, they’re going to do their part of the equation as well. But focus on what you have to control and do that to the best of your ability. And really, the third thing is, I don’t do anything partway. I’m an all the way in guy. So, if, and the way this translates into this economy is, I talk to a lot of people who aren’t thrilled with their jobs on a day to day basis or people even some that have worked for me that I’ve said, “Look, I love you, I think you’re a great person but if you’re not all in, then you should be all out.” So I think that has served me well over the years because when I’m passionate about something, I wake up hitting the ground running every day.
Christopher Smith 09:47
That’s great. It’s great. If you’re with a group of your peers and you’re all sharing stories lots of laughter, what’s your craziest sales story?
Kevin Armstrong 09:58
Oh my goodness. So a little known fact for you, I’ve always said that when I retire, good Lord willing I get to retirement age, I’m gonna write a book about some of the experiences I’ve had to sell. But I’ve got one great brief story that I’ll tell you. I was a young salesman at Xerox, so copiers, printers, and what-not. But I had large accounts. Okay, I had national accounts and one of my accounts was the Teamsters Union. So literally the headquarters of the Teamsters Union. We sold a deal there, and it was the last day of the month and I was worried about, we had to get everything plugged in and installed for us to get credit for the order. It was a multimillion dollar order. Okay. I show up in my suit. I think I’ve got everything checked, I’ve done all of the checklists, we’re good to go show up on the loading dock nine o’clock in the morning at the Teamsters Union, our trucks start to back up, and somebody comes out and says stop. They run out, “What’s going on?” Well it turns out that the one item that we didn’t check off the checklist was whether or not it was a union truck.
Christopher Smith 10:57
Kevin Armstrong 10:58
So we’re at the Teamsters Union with non-union trucks, right, so we had to pull the trucks across the street. We had to get union trucks in there, you know, in an open parking lot in downtown Washington D.C., move all of the equipment from one truck to another, and then back the trucks back up to the, to the Teamsters dock. So, the lesson learned, and then I’ll tell you the, the very quick end of that story, the lesson learned was don’t skip anything on your on your pre-sales checklist.
Christopher Smith 11:24
Kevin Armstrong 11:24
Right. It doesn’t matter how you check your, do they have Wi Fi? Do you have a place to project your demo? Whatever your challenges are, make sure that you learn that, make sure you do the site visit to make sure that you’ve got it all checked. Because I didn’t do one thing, and it led to almost not getting a multimillion dollar deal at the end of the month. The last part of this story that I think you’ll find very funny, so it’s so now my I’m sweaty my coat, my suit is all dirty. I’m literally down on my knees plugging equipment in, and it’s about 11:30 p.m. And we’re at the Teamsters here, I don’t know where I am, I’m just in this building and I feel a hand on my shoulder and I turn around. Honest to God, it’s Jimmy Hoffa Jr. He’s the president of the Teamsters Union. Of course I grew up in the New York area so I know who his father was, so I turn around and here’s Jimmy Hoffa Jr. and so I stand up, dust myself off, and the guy who I was working with in the print shop comes in, he said, “Mr. Hoff I’m sorry to bother you. We were just finishing up the, the install here.” And he looks at me he goes, “You’re the sales guy with Xerox.” I said, “Yes sir I am.” He goes, 1130 at night he goes, “You’re a teamsters kind of guy.” And he just put his hand on my shoulder and then walked away, he walks away and I look at the guy who’s running the print shop and I’m like, “That’s good, right? Right? That’s good.” So, all of that because I didn’t check one box on a pre-sale.
Christopher Smith 12:47
Oh man, that’s crazy. It really is crazy. Thinking back to the time when you were starting your sales career, what do you wish you were taught, when you got that first job?
Kevin Armstrong 13:00
I wish that I was taught that you have to be efficient with your time, I found early in my career that I was the one who, because I was capable of chasing a whale, I wanted to chase all whales. Right. So from a selling perspective, it’s okay to say no. Right, there’s two winners in every deal, and I learned this far too late in my career, it’s the one who wins and the first one out. Right. And I wish I had learned earlier in my career that it is okay to say no.
Christopher Smith 13:32
Let’s stop there for a second, it’s okay to say no. That’s pretty powerful words in the sales world.
Kevin Armstrong 13:40
It is and I find it because you’re going to transition into sales leadership here in a moment. It starts at the top down, you have to let your people know that it’s okay, it’s okay to want to chase the deals that you’re best suited for, because we’re all not, and this is the point, you ask the question what do I wish I learned earlier. This right here is what I wish I learned. I wish I learned that I am well-suited for certain types of deals. And I wish that as a leader right now the one data point that I track more than anything is close rate. Why? I actually track two. I track lead, lead opportunity conversion rates and I close, I track close rates. If my close ratio is high, that means I’m chasing high value opportunities that fit my profile and are able are deals that I can win. If my close ratio drops, then I’m probably not saying no to enough opportunities. Right. And that, I believe that if you can be far more efficient with your time you can actually generate more revenue in less deals over a shorter period of time, just by being focused.
Christopher Smith 14:48
I’m shocked, even in this day and age, when we work with clients how many really don’t have a strong concept of their ideal customer.
Kevin Armstrong 14:58
They don’t, you know I find that we go through an exhaustive exercise and we do it on on a fairly regular basis, “Who’s your buyer?” and and by role, by industry, by segment, all of it, right? You have to understand all of those variables, and you have to understand the buying behavior in all of those segments, because for instance, if you’re selling CRM as a solution, you know, in a larger company you might be doing that at a divisional level with a VP of Marketing or VP of Sales or something like that. But in a smaller company it’s typically the CFO. Right, so you have to understand who the buyer is, what the industry’s requirements are, and do I have a fit. Do I have a story I can tell, because if I don’t have a story to tell, it’s going to be, I can do the best demo in the world, but if I don’t have a story to tell, it’s going to be hard to win.
Christopher Smith 15:45
Yeah. You’re spinning your wheels. Yeah. How would you advise someone who has the goal of achieving your level of career success?
Kevin Armstrong 16:01
Well, find something you’re passionate about for sure. I am extremely passionate about, well let me let me, let me tell you how I even got into the space that I’m in, and I think that’ll tell you a little bit about why it motivates me. I was working for a large systems integrator in the late 90s and into the early 2000s, and we had done a project for National Geographic, and they were doing a content management initiative. They had millions and millions of images and videos, and they wanted to catalog them and be able to sell them much like Getty Images does, right. We used a financial back end of that that was called Great Plains, which is now Microsoft Dynamics GP, which is now becoming Microsoft Dynamics 365. Well, sadly on 9/11 my office was right around the corner from the Pentagon, so I was literally around the river in Roslyn, Virginia, and we knew right away that the world had just changed, and we knew we were going to head for some economic hardships. And I said, You know, I really liked working with those people at that Great Plains company. Financial and operational systems are going to be recession-proof, I might as well go look more heavily at that. Fortuitous decision on my part, because it is recession-proof. Okay. Every company still has to be able to run, so I made that decision. And what I have found over the years to answer your question is that I am able to not only interact very deeply with buyers and walk their warehouses and, and and be in their workforce and understand how they’re operating, but I can see the fruits of our labor. I can see the return on their investment, the time to pay back, all of the things that we talk about when we’re selling technology, I can see it in action in the space that I’m in. So, find something you’re passionate about, become a valuable subject matter expert in that industry and whatever, whatever it is that you’re in. Because if you think about it, I don’t know if you follow the Challenger sales model at all, but if you, the corporate executive board, one of the data points they put out there was that a buyer comes 57% done with the buying process now right when they come to you, because of the accessibility of information. I actually think the number’s a lot higher than that, but let’s just go with 57%. That means that today, a salesperson needs to be valuable, a sales leader needs to be valuable you can’t just, you’re not just a conduit to information anymore. They don’t have to come to us to get price lists or fact sheets or anything else. They can go to YouTube and get an innumerable number of videos around what they’re looking for. So you have to be valuable. In order to be valuable, get, get into a field that you’re passionate about, take the time to not just go through the motions. Right. I don’t care how successful you’ve been at selling whatever it is you’ve sold. You need to be an expert now, you need to be able to, when you’re sitting in front of a buyer, provide them with something, educate them with something that they didn’t know, or make something easier for them.
Christopher Smith 18:59
Yep. Critical. Tell me about your decision to become a sales leader.
Kevin Armstrong 19:07
Yeah, it was a natural progression for me very early in my career coming from an athletics background. I think that it’s always the hardest thing to do to take somebody who’s a top performer, especially as a hunter, and want to take them out of production and put them into leadership, and my leaders had problems with that over the years early on. But being, that being that I’ve come from an athletic background and that I’ve for all of my entire life, I’ve always been a coach. As a matter of fact, this is the first year I’m not on a baseball field as either a coach or a player since 1978.
Christopher Smith 19:41
Holy cow, yeah.
Kevin Armstrong 19:43
So, because of that natural coaching element, I always gravitated towards helping to make the team better anyway. And once you’ve matured enough in your career, you kind of start thinking you might be able to add some value and knowing that you want to coach people and knowing that you think you can add some value, it’s a natural path to go into leadership. It was difficult in the beginning because you’re used to being an individual contributor. And now you have to focus on making a team successful. And for me, I think what made me successful really throughout my career is that I view my role as, I’m an asset to my entire team. So if I can help them win a deal, if I can remove a hurdle, if I can make something easier, if I can help get them what they need, if I can answer a question, if I can fill in for them, whatever it is. That’s what I view my role to be. I’m there for them, they’re not there for me.
Christopher Smith 20:44
What do you think some of the common myths may be about being a sales leader?
Kevin Armstrong 20:51
Well, I know that I hear it all the time that people talk about sales leaders who are academic about it, meaning they talk about it or they’ve studied it or they’ve, you know they’ve almost been a professor for years but but haven’t really been out there carrying a bag for very long. It’s a common criticism, and I heard somebody say recently that you know if you were, if you were a surgeon and you took 10 years out of the operating room, you weren’t, you wouldn’t be able to walk back in that next day and be viable at it, right? I think the key to a good sales leader is that they keep their skills fresh, they keep them sharp, they own, I tell you when I came in to Enavate I said to Thomas, our CEO, I said I want to own something. Meaning an account, some revenue. I want to go through the processes, I want to see what we’re good at I want to see what we’re not good at. So I think the most common misconception is that sales leaders talk about it but can’t, they can talk to talk but they can’t walk the walk, and I’ve seen a lot of that, to be honest with you.
Christopher Smith 21:48
Yeah. What are some of the common mistakes people transitioning to see a sales leadership role make?
Kevin Armstrong 21:57
You know there’s, there’s a funny skit on Saturday Night Live and it’s more of an IT guy not a sales leader, but it’s how I think about the answer to this question. And it was a funny skit where he would always, the person would be asking them how to do something and he would try to tell them and he would just say, move, and he would just do it, right? And it’s kind of how I feel about sales leadership is when you have a young sales leader or you have somebody who’s uber aggressive, their tendency is to want to do it for them. Maybe they have, maybe they’re aggressive and just they work at a fast pace and the person in front of them, while they’ve built a good relationship isn’t moving at their pace. Right? And I think that the biggest mistake I see sales leaders make is, you don’t need to get your salespeople to do it the way you do it, you need to help them do it better the way they do it.
Christopher Smith 22:43
Kevin Armstrong 22:46
Does that make sense?
Christopher Smith 22:47
Oh yeah, totally, I love it. Yeah. I think that applies generally in management, you know.
Kevin Armstrong 22:53
Yeah, you know, does. I will tell you that one of the, I’m often asked the question like, “What, what are you proud of in your career?” and there’s, before joining Enavate, I had left a company that there was multiple acquisitions between late 2009 and then just a couple years ago where a large technology company had bought up several versions of the companies that I had been working with and running. So we had a large group of people that had been together for, you know, ten, fifteen, years, and the absolutely the most proud moment of my professional career was when I left that business, there was seven people that had been on my team in the, in kind of the last five years, that were VPS or VPS of Sales or Chief Sales Officers in other companies. That makes me happy, because that means, you know for some of those people they have no desire to ever be in leadership, you know, maybe they have more of a mercenary mentality where they want to, they want to hunt, hunt, kill and wake up tomorrow and hunt and kill again but they really don’t want to be asked where they are, right? That is a profile, and it as long as they play well in the team that’s okay as well, but then you’ve got people who aspire to more. And the fact that seven of them had become elevated leaders at other companies to me was something I’m very, very proud of because it means that we were able to invest in them enough to where they were able to achieve some of their goals.
Christopher Smith 24:21
How’d you you identify those seven for leadership?
Kevin Armstrong 24:24
Yeah, a little bit of trial and error. I mean, to some degree, you’re doing career planning, you should be doing career planning with your people all the time. And for the leaders that are out there watching I, if you’re not, you need to be having dialogue around more than the numbers.
Christopher Smith 24:38
How frequently do you do those conversations? So once a year?
Kevin Armstrong 24:45
Structurally, we’re doing them a couple of times a year. So I would say once a quarter you’re having that kind of dialogue. But built into our business now and really the way that it used to be in my prior company as well as, it was always, it should always be a part of your one on one rhythms. And the way that I manifest it is I asked them for both their, their professional goals and their personal goals. And what I mean by that is, like, if I’m talking to a salesperson and they say they’re getting engaged, you know, in the spring and they really need to plan for a wedding. Well, that tells me they’re going to be money motivated, right? Or if they tell me, I’ve got a young sales rep who tells me they want to buy their first house. Those are the kinds of big life moments that I would actually like to help be a part of and help to make happen, because the moment you’re you make that person successful, I had one young sales rep a couple years ago and I said, “What do you, what what motivates you?” True story. His response was, “I just want to buy a BMW seven series and the pay for happy hour for my friends.” I’m like dude you’re 23 years old, you don’t need a BMW seven series, first of all, second of all, paying for happy hour for your friends is probably pretty cheap at this stage in your life so, yeah I think we can get you there. Right. So, under, I think my advice on that topic is just ask the person the personal side of it. What is it, both personally and professionally, that drives you. Understand where it is that they want to go and if they tell you, “Hey, I just want to come in. I want you to put as many opportunities on my plate I want to kill it from a revenue perspective.” God bless, let’s work on that. But if they tell you that they want to be a leader of people, then you put them in a team lead scenario, you give them a project, you give them a topic. You watch how they, how they interact with their team. You give them honest critiques, you know, it has to be,
Christopher Smith 26:26
Do you have an approach? I’m sorry. Do you have an approach to, to, when you’re having those hard conversations, how do you approach that?
Kevin Armstrong 26:35
Well, the one thing I always say about me is the good news is, you’ll always know what I’m thinking. The bad news is, you’ll always know what I’m thinking, right, and that is kind of a rule of thumb with, with all of my, I’m almost not emotional about it. I’m just going to tell you. Matter of fact, I did a demo, demonstration with our team earlier. We got out of the account and I went through almost immediately, here’s what worked in my opinion and here’s what didn’t. It’s not meant to be negative, it’s just meant to be open dialogue so I, the way that I try to work that stuff in is we have, we have bi-monthly, well bi-weekly, we do a top five meeting, so what’s on their plate, what’s driving them, how are they focused, and you have that mentoring dialogue. That’s every other week. And then at least once a month I try to have, you know, the one on one meeting that says, “Okay, where are you versus your goals. And I’m not talking just the numbers, where are you versus, what are your initiatives that you’re working on and what’s what, what are the training goals that we’ve set for you?” find out where they are on that. And then very specifically because we’re coming up on the beginning of the year, one of the things I like to do in the beginning of the year is say, “Okay, the good news about sales is, we turn the page on Jan. one. January one, right? So now that we’re in a new year, here are some things we’ve just done their review when we do the reviews twice a year, but we just done a review with you, but heading into 2021, here are the things that I believe you need to improve on or work on or do more of, stop start continue. Right? What do you need to do to achieve? You know we all, well, we usually decide on what is the goal, what is the revenue number that you think you can generate. Forget a quota, what do you think you can generate? You can do 2 million? How are we going to get you there? You can do 4 million? I’ve had reps tell me I did $10 million. Right, great what is that going to take, what do we need to do to get you there and then let’s have an open dialogue around that. So I think it really starts with, what is the structure of your interaction with your team members, you have to create an environment where they can challenge you just like you’re challenging them and make it a part of your daily rhythm of dialogue and it becomes very normal to them.
Christopher Smith 28:43
Yeah. I like that approach I love that, making it, if you’re not doing it on a regular basis, you’re kind of saving that, that’s a, it makes it very tough when you get around to having to do bad news or, or give them negative feedback or constructive feedback.
Kevin Armstrong 29:00
Imagine, we’ve all done that review where you’ve come in and it’s somebody you haven’t spent a lot of time with and you know they’re looking at you like, “What, how do you know?” Like, I hear what you’re telling me but, and I don’t even disagree with it or agree with it, but how do you know? You don’t ever want to be in that scenario.
Christopher Smith 29:14
Right. You’re building credibility through those discussions. Yeah, it’s key. Yep. As you’re developing these young sales leaders and getting them ready to really excel, what’s your cue? What are you looking for that they’re ready to go solo.?
Kevin Armstrong 29:31
Yeah, I’m looking for somebody who is mature enough in their approach that they understand that it is not about them anymore, it’s about the team. That’s the first thing. Right, they have to show a willingness to be selfless and that it is about a team goal, it’s about the team’s growth, it’s about the team’s development, it’s all of that. So that’s the first element, I see. The second one is that they have the patience and the tolerance to be able to do that, the shotgun selling approach where they can allow the person to make mistakes. You know if you truly win or learn, then that losing is not the worst thing in the world. You just have to learn from it, right? So, you have to give them that environment of being able to that it’s okay to fail, that it’s okay to say no. So I look for the maturity, I look for somebody who’s got a team focus. And then the last one really is I look for somebody who can understand the way that a business runs. Part of that is on me and the business. I often find that we demand a lot out of sales and sales leadership, but we don’t often, I’ve had the good fortune to have owned a P&L, to have run businesses, to understand the financial impact to decisions that we make, but we often don’t allow especially sales leaders to have that understanding. Well then how do you expect them to be good stewards of your, your cost model?
Christopher Smith 30:51
Kevin Armstrong 30:52
So, I like it to be somebody who has the aptitude to understand that when I come to them and tell them that I respect the fact that $800,000 worth of renewals are due in January, but that cash flow landing in December is really going to help us for these reasons, that they understand why.
Christopher Smith 31:08
Right. Awesome. I, we’re gonna transition now let’s start talking about CRM technology and I always started this way. CRM: Do you love it, or do you hate it?
Kevin Armstrong 31:20
I think that I find it to be a necessary evil, I am more of an intuitive seller and I am not the person who’s gonna go in and document every single step that I make although I do take copious notes. The important stuff makes it into the system, so if you heard me earlier say, you know, you have to model the behavior that you’re that you’re expecting, I expect the important information to be in CRM. The problem that I have with CRM which I think the follow up to your question is, it’s almost punitive to the sales rep. And it’s important to the company but it’s almost punitive to the sales rep, right? It’s, it’s the watch, it’s the watch guard over their activity levels. It’s, it’s the accountability model. And I think that why I’ve always struggled with each of the companies I’ve been with. I’ve always struggled to find a way to make the system valuable to the seller. So what I mean by that is, how often do you see companies that own a CRM system but don’t use goals? How often do you have companies that have a CRM system but don’t tie in compensation? You know how often do you see people today not using social interaction or gamification or any of these elements of CRM? So if you’re using it truly as a sales forecasting tool, it’s never going to be valuable to a rep.
Christopher Smith 32:39
Right. I agree.
Kevin Armstrong 32:42
That’s, that’s been my inherent problem with it.
Christopher Smith 32:44
Yeah. You said it beautifully in terms of, and I had this conversation with a client of ours just a couple weeks ago, instead of pretty much the same way you did where, you know, from the perspective of the frontline sales guy, CRM can be very punitive if you’re not doing it the right way or if you’re not creating a value proposition for them, you know, to really, it benefits them. In your mind, how should CRM or how should CRM be structured to really create that value proposition for the frontline sales team?
Kevin Armstrong 33:19
Well I’ll give you two easy ones. First of all, let’s talk about comp. Imagine if you will that you were able to build in some sort of a goals metric that allowed them to take a look at on a deal by deal basis. If I was able to say, “I’m coming down at the end of the year, we’re in the middle of December, and if I was able to go in and I was able to go into my view and select this deal, this deal, and this deal and look at what my earnings would be at the end of the year if those three deals came in, do you think I would, and I’m gonna say, the way that I’m, I’m coin-operated right, so you know, obviously there’s a lot of things that drive me beyond that, but a good seller is coin-operated and competition, you know, drives them. So if I’m able to play with the scenarios and check this box in that box and, “Well okay but that one’s a little bit going to be tight, well what about this one?” And then I look at the picture and then all of a sudden, I know how to get to the earnings that make me happy, I’m going to be driven to go get it, right? So that’s one example, in my mind, tie it to the comp, tie to a comp model almost a slight, you know, a sliding scale to show me that if I get, so think about that, if I’m doing that, then I’m going to make sure that the dollar amounts are right, that the sales stages are right, that the probability is right, which is all the data that the company wants anyway.
Christopher Smith 34:30
Kevin Armstrong 34:31
And the reason why I’m doing it as a sales rep is, I’m telling you, I want to, I want to show myself what I’m going to make.
Christopher Smith 34:37
Kevin Armstrong 34:37
Right? So that’s one way the other way. You see baseball all over the wall behind me and we talked about my sports background. There’s a great old book. It’s called, “The Science of Hitting” and it’s by Ted Williams, and the cover of it, and you can you can search this, it’s it’s a cool visual. It’s a picture of the strike zone and Ted Williams standing next to it and it’s got their baseballs going across all segments of the strike zone. And they’re color coded by what his batting average was in each segment of the strike zone. That model always struck me as something that works for sales, because if you go back to the point that I made earlier about a high closing ratio, what gets you there. Well, pursuing an industry that we have solutions in, pursuing in a space where we have subject matter experts and we have delivery people that are available, pursuing in a space where I’ve got stories to tell. Right, all the different elements that make up those areas of the strike zone. So if you envisioned creating a strike zone and building it into boxes, you know where I’m most qualified and best solution to most qualified and lessor solution and then least qualified, but I have a solution at least qualified a no solution, like if I, if I graded that if I put a grid there, and showed the rep what their general probability was to win that deal, if it got below 60%, I probably wouldn’t pursue it.
Christopher Smith 36:06
Kevin Armstrong 36:07
So, you’d probably have a bunch of salespeople get mad at me if I use CRM properly, but this is a way to do it right, I might pursue ten deals a year but if I closed eight of them and closed, you know, $7 million while you were chasing 35 and closing $2 million, you’re going to be pretty mad at me.
Christopher Smith 36:22
Oh yeah, yeah. You know, we, when we talk about user adoption, we always kind of put in the terms of, you want to lead with a carrot. And the way you describe it, those are significant carrots that are really to get people to buy in. We also say, you need to follow up with a stick. What’s your form of a stick if you have someone that’s on your team that just says like I, I’m not going to use it?
Kevin Armstrong 36:49
Yeah, I mean, well there’s a couple things right from the very beginning of the process. I have, we all have our -isms, right, one of my -isms is I want to be the most responsive company in the game. So, the moment, I don’t, there’s an old saying that says that it’s the first person that talks to somebody that has the best chance to close them. I totally disagree with that statement but if I make a slight tweak I agree with it. It’s the first qualified person, first person who has value that talks to them, that talks to the buyer has the best chance to win. That I believe. If I believe that our people are valuable and I believe that we can add value, then I want us to be the first one on the phone, so I’ve built a, with over the years, one of my key elements is I’ve built a lead qualification team that does some of the fact checking before they ever hand it over to a sales rep right, so here’s one of my sticks. If within 24 hours of that lead being assigned to you, you haven’t transitioned that into sales qualified, I’m reassigning it. Right? So there’s one. I’ve done dramatic things at different places with certain people, I’ll get to a point where I’ll tell them, “Look, you’re not representing any of your deals properly you’re not allowing us to forecast properly and here’s the deal, if we go to another deal that closes before that opportunity has gone through the proper cycles, you know you’re going to, you’re going to receive a significantly lesser comp on that deal.” It’s the one thing you can impact, I don’t ever want to, if I’m getting that punitive, I’ve failed the team member.
Christopher Smith 38:19
Kevin Armstrong 38:20
You know, so, to your point, there’s always a stick, there’s always areas that you’re going to enforce, I like to do them within CRM with workflow and visibility, because if you know I didn’t do something and an email, the first time that email goes out to you. Second time, the email goes out to you and somebody else who’s gonna hold you accountable. The third time, I’m getting that email and God help me if I get that email.
Christopher Smith 38:40
Dashboards are great way, too. People are competitive.
Kevin Armstrong 38:44
Even, you know, and we didn’t talk about that earlier I mean leaderboards and just straight up. The way you represent your data is both carrot and stick.
Christopher Smith 38:54
Yeah. Yeah, I mean I always tell people, “Hey look, a good stick is hey if it’s not in CRM, it doesn’t exist.” You know, so it’s like if I can’t see it, if I don’t know about it doesn’t exist, it’s going to impact your compensation.
Kevin Armstrong 39:07
We’re of a large enough scale now to where I have my sales operations team starting to work with the sales reps on CRM cleanliness every week. If you, if, so to all the sales leaders that are out there, if you’re at a scale where you can afford a little bit of administrative oversight, even though it will pain you to do it, it will, it will pay off in terms of your accuracy.
Christopher Smith 39:25
I think that’s another great tool in terms of really supporting your sales guys, because CRM can be very punitive for, you know, busy sales reps that, but if you can give them the help that offloads that grunt work to, you know, sales ops or people that are just there. “Hey I’m going to take care of that grunt work and help you,” that’s a great mechanism to get people to really embrace CRM.
Kevin Armstrong 39:49
Christopher Smith 39:50
Yep. What’s your biggest frustration with CRM today?
Kevin Armstrong 39:57
All of the processes that you would think you could funnel through CRM that happen outside of CRM and yet you’re expected to break from that process to make sure it gets entered into CRM. So when a lead comes in, all of the interaction that I have, if I have to create a quote, if I have to do a demo, if I have to you know get an NDA I can save them there but none of it’s happening, you can build it out so that a lot of it’s happening through CRM, you can do quotes and orders and all that kind of stuff. But depending on your industry, it doesn’t fit very well. We’re in one of those complex spaces where it’s hard to build out a model, both for the process and for comp that fits well within CRM so for me it’s a data repository, it’s not really a value added solution. So that’s my biggest frustration.
Christopher Smith 40:38
Right. That’s great. Well we are right at our time. I really, this has been great listening to you Kevin, I really appreciate you coming on Sales Lead Dog. If people want to reach out and talk to you if they want to learn more about Enovate, what’s the best way to connect with you?
Kevin Armstrong 40:53
Yeah, [email protected] Or feel free to check me out on LinkedIn and I’d be happy to connect, and Chris, I really appreciate you giving me the forum. I love talking about this stuff. I said earlier, I’m a nerd. This is the stuff that keeps me going, man, I can say I know I don’t know it all so I learn from everybody I talked to. I’ve learned from you today, it’s been great. Thank you for coming on Sales Lead Dog.
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- “You always go into a situation to learn” (3:18-3:21)
- “Ask the person, what is it both personally and professionally that drives you?” (21:49-21:54)