How to Build a High Performing Inside Sales Culture (Video Podcast with Ben Simms of MarketSource)
Are you a sales leader or manager that wants to build an incredible inside sales culture that maximizes salespeople’s performance, engagement, retention, and motivation? Then check out our podcast episode below to learn how to better acquire, engage, develop and retain your key talented inside salespeople.
Most inside sales organizations underperform not because of training, but because of:
- Poor leaders (who don’t know how to manage, engage and develop their talent)
- Poor cultures and overall employee experience (which includes low-levels of trust, lack of growth opportunities, etc.)
- Minimal training on soft skills (or power skills as I call them)
- Poor teamwork / team building and communication
Below is the transcript of the conversation with the brilliant inside sales guru Ben Simms where we dissect how to build a high performing inside sales culture including tactical things any sales leader and manager can implement with their teams.
Click above to watch the video (and the video should also be posted soon here on the Marketsource website.)
Ben Simms: Hi everyone, Ben Simms here from MarketSource for another video podcast featuring sales and business leaders. Today I have the privilege of having Jason Treu join me. CEOs, senior level managers, and employees call Jason their strategic advantage. After graduating with a law degree and master’s degree in communication from Syracuse University, Jason spent over 15 years in Silicon Valley working with transformational leaders such as Steve Jobs, Mark Cuban, and companies such as Apple, HP, Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, AT&T, and more. He wrote a number one bestselling book on Amazon called Social Wealth and was a featured speaker at TEDxWilmington. Today he runs programs for workplace culture change, manager training, conflict resolution, executive coaching, and is a keynote speaker. I’m delighted to have Jason join us today. Thank you, Jason, and welcome to MarketSource.
Jason Treu: Hey, thanks for having me. It’s great to see you again. The last time was in February at AISP’s executive leadership.
Ben Simms: That’s right, in Tubac, Arizona.
Jason Treu: Yep.
Ben Simms: That was a great retreat.
Jason Treu: That was a fun time.
Ben Simms: That’s good. I will plug that now. For those leaders interested in a great executive retreat, the AISP one is excellent. There’s one coming up in October at Barnsley Resort here in Georgia, actually.
Jason Treu: Yes.
Ben Simms: So, good plug.
Jason Treu: Locally.
Ben Simms: Nice job.
Jason Treu: Thanks.
Ben Simms: All right, so let’s get started. I have a few questions for you, Jason, to pick your brain. Let’s start with when you first walk into a team and evaluate culture, what is it that you’re looking for?
Jason Treu: Well, I’m looking at how they engage with each other. Have they created psychological safety? How much trust is going on? How good are the relationships they have with other people? And then ultimately, how are they working together as a team through communication, and some other variables. Because end of the day, teamwork is how we become and create the greatest results for our organizations and ourselves. We have to bring out the best in other people. So, if you don’t have a great atmosphere and environment for people to be their best selves and create it for other people, you’re not going to get the result sets that you ultimately want.
Ben Simms: It’s been well reported that over 70% of salespeople miss their quota for the year, and most teams in general miss their annual goals. Why do so many teams underperform?
Jason Treu: Well, it’s not lack of training, because most organizations have tons of sales training and opportunities for people to educate themselves and learn more. The problem is people are not working together as a team and really helping each other out. Because every team has people who are masters in some part of that, and if they would share that information more and help each other, they would do more. The other part of it is when you don’t create those strong bonds with people, you don’t create that level of caring. The next level caring is you’re willing to do anything, walk through walls for each others because you don’t want to disappoint the other person, the team, your manager or other leaders.
When you’ve created that environment, where people really have a deep caring about the team, the results in the organization, and that connection, they’ll pretty much do anything and learn things and they’ll get outside of their comfort zone. They’ll do whatever is necessary to be successful and help those people around them be successful.
Ben Simms: Good. The number one challenge for companies, I’ve heard you say, is that 7 out of 10 employees are disengaged. That’s a high number. Why is that, and what’s the overall cost to business in America for that?
Jason Treu: Well, the overall number is $550 billion.
Ben Simms: What?
Jason Treu: And if you look at other pieces of data, it costs between $4,000 and $10,000 per year in miscommunications between employees. 70% of the execs site poor collaboration for mistakes and other challenges that create projects to blow up. The problem ends up, for that, is there isn’t the level of trust between the people on the team. They don’t have that closeness. They don’t know things about each other, how to work with each other, their pet peeves, their styles. And so ultimately, they just don’t care. Same thing goes for the organization as a whole. They haven’t created the environment where people feel like they’re creating that impact on the other side of it. So, you have to put all of these things together and create a foundational layer, and then you get high performance across the board.
Jason Treu: Otherwise, you’ll have top teams and then you’ll have bottom level teams. The problem with that spread is you can move that up considerably if you do some basic level things and get people to be connected and actually practice teamwork. Because teamwork is really a strategic choice and intentional.
Most people just think it’s like oh, it’s just another word that we have, but it’s a strategic choice and you have to do things to elicit and create that. Most organizations don’t do that. They talk about it, just like company values. It’s on the website or they’ll write posts on it, but they’re not actually making strategic initiatives to make sure that teamwork is actually happening and they don’t know how to go through the process.
Ben Simms: Right, so it’s intentional when you build that strong-
Jason Treu: Yes.
Ben Simms: … team and build those dynamics and that layer of trust. And a lot of people don’t know how to deliver those specific activities that build that teamwork.
Jason Treu: Yes, and then what happens is, when you don’t have that, you have pockets of the team that work well together. You have a lot of miscommunications, misunderstandings. People not helping each other, not being proactive. not doing stuff outside of work to get better. All those things that the best sales teams do. Also their ability to create relationships with their prospects, customers, partners, whoever it might be. That’s also a skillset that goes to what’s happening inside of the company.
Ben Simms: Yeah. I mean, you’re even reminded me of some of the best teams I’ve been on outside of work. Whether it’s a sports team or some group that I had, that we were, as a team, we had great success. You’re speaking to that a little bit. What is it that made those teams dynamic?
Jason Treu: What happened was when I was in Silicon Valley, I worked for a marketing agency and we ended up getting pretty much all the top clients we wanted. We very seldom lost. In fact, we had a 80 person company pitch Apple versus every global marketing agency in the world. Unlimited resources, tens of thousands of employees, and we had 80 people. And only two people were over the age of 35. We ended up pitching one of the hardest people ever to line a client from Steve Jobs when he came back to Apple and end up winning it. We ended up having Pixar. A lot of large … We had Nordstrom shoes online when they first started up. I mean, all these other pretty interesting clients that we had. We actually won eBay and turned it down, which was a mistake.
Jason Treu: But, the thing that we had was this incredible teamwork together. We had the ability to bring the best out in each other to innovate, to come up with creative ideas, and we weren’t afraid to fail because the mantra was if you don’t try, you’re never going to be successful. And you’re going to have to crack a few eggs in order to make your omelet. That’s an important part of the process. Most people are afraid to fail or there are other incentives that if you do that you won’t do well in that organization. Or you’re branded because of your failure. That has to be done away with because you can’t do your greatest work and overcome gargantuan odds to start winning business if you don’t have that mentality and everyone else in the organization doesn’t.
Ben Simms: Yeah, and you’re not going to be engaged if you feel like you have a target on your back from making a previous mistake.
Jason Treu: Yeah, and that’s what happens. Because managers don’t know how to manage their team, leaders don’t know how to manage their managers, and it goes all the way down. You have to put in systems and processes and things to get people to care and know about each other and to find out really what’s going on in order to motivate them and overcome challenges and problems. And just have more explicit conversations and say what you need and other people say what they need, as we do with the people that are closest to us in our personal lives. We have to have those relationships at work.
No, you don’t have to be friends with them, but you have to know them that well to understand how to work with them, because now, the world we live in is constant chaos. There’s disruption. There’s change. That’s way different than it was 10, 15, 20 years ago. The problem is, if you can’t work exceptionally well in that environment, you will not do well. And you have to have everyone doing that. You can’t just have a handful of people doing it, or one sales team. You have to have all of them doing that. That becomes the challenge.
Ben Simms: Yeah, that’s a big challenge.
Jason Treu: That’s a big challenge. Every size company is struggling with teamwork. I talk to large companies, small, medium, all the time, and they’re struggling with how do we put together the sales culture? How do we put together the teamwork? How do we put this all together and make it work from top to bottom and institute it? And so, you’ll see companies doing crazy things all the time. If look at Zappos, they’re doing many different things around job and career pathing that they don’t even know if it’s going to work. That could fail. Company-wide they might have to change because they know that it’s the only way to put their company on top and to stay on top is to innovate and go outside the norm. And failure is a requirement for success.
Ben Simms: What do you think then is the number one factor for a positive and happy work environment?
Jason Treu: Well, I think it is your ability to understand the people that you work with. Their experiences, their heartbreaks, their achievements. The things that they value the most. And how do they like to interact with other people? You have to know them at a real depth level and where you can share and be open. That is how you create that environment, because nowadays when you go into work, you’re not taking a neat little suitcase and putting your personal life right there. It comes with you, and all the challenges and disruption do as well. If you don’t voice those things and can’t talk with people, you’re going to have constant friction or you’re going to have someone who’s going to have problems with someone and instead of taking them in a room and saying look, the story I’m making up my head is that you don’t like me for some odd reason, or you don’t want to work with me. And then the other person will then say back well, that’s not it at all. Have these conversations.
Ben Simms: I thought the same thing about you.
Jason Treu: Yeah, geez. Well, I’m glad we did this. Right?
Ben Simms: Right.
Jason Treu: So now we’re going to figure this out after the podcast.
Ben Simms: Right.
Jason Treu: But that’s what ends up happening with people, Is that you have to create that environment where people can do that. Because then they start to see their purpose. I really feel like that word is overused. We all want to feel like we can make an impact, in whatever we’re doing, and if we can’t see that and we don’t feel that connection between people, we’re not going to do that. That creates the challenges, today’s world, especially around employee retention because now you can job hop all over the place because we’re at almost full employment.
Ben Simms: 104, yeah.
Jason Treu: Yeah. It’s extremely low.
Ben Simms: Yeah. What are the greatest fears executives have about their culture and why?
Jason Treu: Well, the problem is they don’t know what’s going on inside their organization and what employees are really thinking and feeling. I’ll talk with CEOs, especially ones that don’t do skip-level meetings, meaning that they’re meeting with employees and managers two levels or more down. They don’t know what other people are thinking, or really what’s going on as well.
Also, they have their own level of imposter syndrome. Every executive I’ve interviewed with, and there have been hundreds, all of them have imposter syndrome to some degree.
Because if you’re leading a group of people, not CEO but anyone, there’s a laundry list of things you have to do extremely well. There’s no way you can master all of them. A lot of it, you’re just going with the flow and winging it. And that’s how people actually do it. Everyone thinks that high level people or successful people have it all figured out. Well, they’re wrong. They don’t have almost any of it figured out. They just go with the flow. So, they’re worried someone is going to expose them along the way and they’re worried that they don’t have a good handle on what their people want, what they need, and are they really working together across the organization? All those issues and more are keeping them up at night because they want to create that environment and have everyone coming to work and be excited, feeling motivated, and they don’t know how to do that.
Jason Treu: They’re struggling with how do we put the pieces together? We have technical skills. You can have product or service knowledge. But how do we create the underpinning, that foundation where people really want to be here and are working together? That’s where people are struggling. Every company, every industry, and every size. That’s essentially the holy grail, because culture is what executes your business strategy. So, a great culture is not a nice little buzzword. Maybe it was before, but now it’s an essential piece of your bottom line. As I talk to executives that get all this, they’re starting to talk about KPIs along with teamwork, along with culture. Profit, along with communication.
Ben Simms: So there’s an ROI to it.
Jason Treu: There’s an ROI component to it dovetails right together. This connection, the executives and teams, and leaders, and managers that get this do exceptionally well, whether they’re in a pocket in an organization or it’s across the entire organization itself. That is the skillset people have to acquire really, is the soft skills, and specifically teamwork, and a lot of self-awareness. When you can put those things together, you will do exceptionally well in your career and rise to the top.
Ben Simms: Good. We talked a lot about the challenges in business today, in corporate America today, in building these high performing teams and outstanding cultures. Let’s get into some solutions a little bit here. What’s the foundation for building high performing teams? Where do they start?
Jason Treu: The foundation is trust. Because fundamentally, everyone asks themselves when they meet someone, it’s do I trust you or not? And if you pass that sniff test, the second one is how much do I trust you? At what level do I put you? I look at it on a scale of one to five, meaning extreme distrust or extreme trust. What the data shows you is, you’re not at a five, extreme trust, you’re at a one. Because Harvard Business Review did research study they posted in May of this year and they showed that managers that scored a five, and every team member rated them, had eight times higher engagement than average teams. But, if someone scored a four, meaning that they had trust, their engagement level was that of someone who actively distrusted you.
Ben Simms: Wow.
Jason Treu: So, if you don’t build that, you have nothing. The problem is people don’t solve for trust, they solve for other things. The leaf on the tree. Let’s build better relationships. Well, that goes first to do I trust you? You can’t get any farther along, so that’s not the foundation that you build. You’re building it in a house of sand and it’s going to fall down. That’s the problem with most people that are running businesses and cultures and doing stuff, and a lot of the sales leaders miss it. They want to create this great culture, but they’re not solving for the root, they’re solving for the leaf on the tree. And they end up never getting there because they’re not looking for the right question to ask first.
Ben Simms: What is required then, Jason, of leaders in order to build that foundation and build that trust?
Jason Treu: Well, the first thing to understand is that you have to do sharing through vulnerability to get to know people really well, because ultimately we’ve all met people and within 5 or 10 minutes we felt like we’d known them all our lives. I mean, you’ve definitely experienced that going out to all the meetings and all the people you’re meeting with, where you’ve bonded with that person, and so has everyone listening to this. Well, what happened is, is that someone was vulnerable and you stair step it up, and so you did in that one interaction what people do in 20 or 30. From that, you put those people psychologically in your inner circle because they felt like a kindred spirit, someone who completely got you.
Jason Treu: Well, that’s what you have to do on a team. You have to quickly take those people there and put them in that place. A team meaning the team they’re working on. It’s a prospect, it’s a customer, it’s a partner. It doesn’t matter who it is. If you don’t take them to that place, you can’t do your greatest work and neither can they. You have to do that through sharing. I was reading a research study that I shared with you in Arizona about a professor back in 1997 that was trying to build interpersonal closeness. What they did was they had people ask really vulnerable questions, and for complete strangers, and over 45 minutes 30% of the people built the closest relationship in their lives.
Ben Simms: Wow.
Jason Treu: The closest relationship [crosstalk 00:16:56]
Ben Simms: With complete stranger?
Jason Treu: Complete stranger.
Ben Simms: Wow.
Jason Treu: That means I could take anyone listening to this, we go to their local coffee shop. I could sit you down with a few people and you’d walk away with a best friend, a business partner, whatever it might be, if all you did was ask them questions that were vulnerable to really get to know them really well. That is the requirement to do that in an organization and spend time doing that. The problem is a lot of times when you onboard people you have this list of things that you go through. Well, you don’t find this component at the top of the list. You find it at subpar. 27 of number A.3 of a whole list, but it’s so critical for anyone to do this. So you have to do things where that information is coming out in a variety of ways to get to know people exceptionally well.
Ben Simms: So vulnerability is key.
Jason Treu: Yeah, because you want to know people’s experiences. You want to know their hot buttons. You want to know their pet peeves. You want to know what really gets them going because it’s way easier to interact with them. Because, think about it. The people in your personal life that you know the best, that you love and care about, you’d anything for them.
Ben Simms: That’s right.
Jason Treu: Communication is easier. Collaboration is easier. Well, if you can recreate that same feeling with the people that you’re working with, how much easier would it be for you? How much easier would it be for everyone on the team? What would that do to the results overall? That’s what the top 1% teams do. The problem is, is that sales leaders can’t figure out how do I take that and put that down through every team in my organization? That feeling in creating that is really your secret sauce. That’s the exponential part of where you’re getting the list on your results and your sales numbers when you’re taking a look at them.
Ben Simms: Wow, that’s great. Jason, well, you just talked about it. You’ve seen and helped build the top 1% of high performing teams. How do they behave and interact differently than everyone else? They have that layer of trust. They’ve built that comfort of vulnerability where they really gotten to know each other. How is it that they interact then differently than the other 99% of teams?
Jason Treu: One of the things is you can just watch them. It’s really interesting. There’s a researcher at MIT that actually does this and can go out and spot teams and published research on high performers and watching them and how they interact. It’s really true, because what happens is if you take those sales people and you look at them versus other people, it’s not that they’re smarter. They don’t have anything that, doesn’t have to go to some great schools, if they work much better together. Their social interaction and social cohesion is another level, and What creates that also is psychological safety. What happens is, so let’s say some leader asks a question or they need to solve a problem as a group, if there are 10 people in that group, every single person will answer. Some might give a little bit more information less, but now you’ve got 10 people giving information, suggestions, and ideas that the sales leader can either piece together, or maybe the solution is someone else.
Jason Treu: Well, as you go down to teams that aren’t performing as well, what happens? Less and less people interact. You’ll also see people support each other a lot more when they’re going through challenges. That uplifts them and creates a higher performer. You have people that are much more curious. They’ll listen to podcasts. They’ll go to conferences and events like you did, and they’ll bring that information back to the team, which you did. That lifts everyone performance overall. So, it’s those types of things that separate them out. It isn’t because they’re working more or harder, that might be part of it, but it’s because they’ve created that comradery. You’ll also see what happens is they help each other a lot more. They’re not worried about oh, if I spend some time with you and you do well, and you are now the number one salesperson and I’m number three, the world’s going to come to an end. Because they know their team is going to do well and that person is going to help you. So, they don’t look at it like a give and take, a zero sum situation. They’re freely giving with each other to help each other, and that creates the best relationships outside of work and inside.
Ben Simms: Good. What are some best practices for leaders to manage, engage, and interact with people?
Jason Treu: Well, one, I think you’ve got to do weekly one-on-ones. The data shows that you get three times more revenue. And you have to ask questions of the people that are going to elicit it. What do you need my help from? Am I being helpful? What can I do better to bring out the best in you? What are your biggest challenges for the week and how can I help you? Get to the meat and the potatoes and figure it out and keep them on track. The other thing that we talked about earlier, before this, is they think they can do is create a user manual. What I mean by that is create a guide that you hand out to every person on your team on how they can interact with you. What’s your communication style? What are your challenges? What are your pet peeves? What gets you excited and motivated? I mean, there’s a lot of questions, and when you hand them out everyone in the team knows how to interact with you use a manager. If you create that for every other person, now everyone is creating things with each other. Interacting better, problem solving with each other.
Jason Treu: I would say the other thing is setting up an environment where people can go to each other instantaneously with problems and challenges, and they’re required to do so. Because the problem with conflicts on teams, because they deal with it the time, it festers from something super small because they never dealt with it. So, creating things like the story in my head I’m making up, I need to take you aside and have a conversation. And give the team tools to do these things. There’s a whole list of other things, but that’s part of it. I’d say the other thing is to create an opportunity for people to praise each other and thank each other, because that creates a significantly higher performing organization as well, and team. These are part of these things, but you have to really be deliberate about them as a manager in your team and as someone who’s a leader in organization. Institute these things, because otherwise you create challenges, or pockets of excellence but not excellence across the organization as a whole. Again, that’s the things that separate other companies.
Ben Simms: Going back a minute or so, this is truly different. You’re suggesting that Ben writes a playbook on how to interact with Ben.
Jason Treu: Yeah.
Ben Simms: And hand that out and say okay, if you’re going to interrupt me in my office for whatever reason, here are the steps that will get my attention the most. Or, if you’re going to present something, here’s how I prefer to read presentations. Or-
Jason Treu: Yes.
Ben Simms: … if you’re going to give some feedback, here’s how I prefer to have it delivered. And actually coach people on how to interact with me. Is that what you’re saying?
Jason Treu: Yes.
Ben Simms: Wow.
Jason Treu: Because the problem now is all guesswork. What happens is someone comes in who’s working for you, or anyone. They’re trying to guess, predict, and then analyze the results. Well, we know as human beings we do an awful poor job of that in our personal lives. I mean, and like everyone does. So now, look what happens at work. You’re going to get some people are going to do it right, but they can’t do it all the time right. But, if they knew exactly what to do, they would start doing it. And then, let’s say they did it and it didn’t turn out the way they wanted to.
Jason Treu: They could go to you and say look, I read this and did this. And then you could say well yeah, but you didn’t do this. It’s a slight change, and then they could get the results set. And then for the manager it’s way less work managing. It’s way less doing stuff. The data shows that most organizations want managers to actually manage and interact with their team, like 30 some percent, and giving coaching development and they ended up doing like around 10. Well, you’ve got to find ways to do more and help them, and this is one way to get there, is by giving them your playbook on how to work with you rather than guessing and analyzing, because most of the people in the team will never figure it out. That hurts you, it hurts them, and it hurts the organization as a whole.
Ben Simms: Jason, thank you so much. This was enlightening. Thank you for joining me. I really appreciate it. [crosstalk 00:25:15] It was great to see you again. If you want to learn more, visit www.jasontreu.com. Or, you can follow us both on Twitter and LinkedIn. Thank you for listening.