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Our goal at Building the Sales Machine (BTM) is to enable sales leaders in the tech community to help and learn from each other. We’re all in this boat together, trying to help revolutionary companies disrupt the norm and make people’s lives easier, better, more fulfilling. We’ll aim to bring some of these great teams, leaders, and strategies to life through our articles, meet-ups, speaking events and interviews.
For today’s Q & A, we spoke to Tom Mcnulty, Director of Sales at Fundera. Previously Tom built out sales and operations teams for Dash, a mobile payment provider to the SMB space.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received from a mentor?
When I was younger I had the privilege of opening up & running a string of successful martial arts schools in Brooklyn. A little known fact about martial arts schools is that of all SMB’s, they have the highest % of opening & closing within the same year. We knew we had to operate at an incredibly high level, but we also knew we had to somehow create an infrastructure for the business that no other schools had. We decided to create a sales driven environment – tracking funnels, measuring traffic, cold calling, etc – which at the time, was contrarian to the industry. As a 17 year old, doing sales for the first time, I would often get frustrated with the process. One day, I brought these frustrations to the head instructor & main proprietor, Gene Dunn. He looked at me and said, “I believe in getting people in shape & happy. I really do. And I am prepared to lie, cheat, and steal to get them there. When you find the thing you believe in, get ready to dive in, and never take no for answer.” For me, this has resonated throughout my entire sales career – if the thing you are selling works & you know it’s going to make your customers life better – it’s not just your job to get it into their hands, it’s your responsibility.
Most important thing to learn for new sales managers?
Having recently become a sales manager for the first time, I’d say the most important thing is to really keep your ego in check. This seems peripheral, but it can drastically affect your interactions with your team. As managers we are consistently owning performance, managing expectations, fielding grievances, and walking with the emotions of our teams. It’s important for new managers to remember that it is okay, and in their employees every right, to object & disagree. Too often, I see new managers (myself included) take a hard line “no” on an issue without every giving it real thought & deliberation. It’s very easy to step into a mindset of “Is this person crazy, I’m the manager now, there is no way they will get that”. In the beginning, you really need to take every request to heart, and always defer the answer to a later point in time, preferably within 24 hours. This gives you enough time to think through the request, consult with other managers/leaders, and come up with a clear & concise response & reasoning to the employee request. Even if the request is ridiculous, keep your ego in check, defer, and re-present the issue in a way you can explain your reasoning.
How do you get buy-in from the people you manage?
1. Get in the trenches with them. You really have to create this vision for your team as one solid unit opposed to hierarchy. My favorite thing about cold calling in front of my team is they get to see me go through the same pains & frustrations that they go through. And, if i’m lucky, they will get to me overcome some of them. As a manager, this will allow for so many positives: you establish credibility when critiquing, you show that you are not afraid to do the job they are doing, you create camaraderie, and you establish yourself as a resource, not a boss.
2. Be freakishly reliable. Any single thing your team needs – try and get it for them, and if you can’t, make sure they know how hard you tried. And, if it’s taking longer than expected, make sure to touch base with that person that you are still working on it & should have an answer soon.
3. Actually care about the people on your team. I treat my business teams with the same respect as I treat my family and friends. As leaders, our goal is not to earn an extreme amount of money, but an extreme amount of respect. In my head, with each of my employees, and I am always asking myself – would this person follow me to another department within the company? Would this person follow me to another company completely? If the answer is no, I know I have to work on that relationship.
Most effective coaching techniques for giving feedback to a sales rep or sales manager?
1. Structure 1 on 1’s to be 60% quantitative and 40% qualitative. Spend the first portion of your time going over metrics & KPI’s – you made “x” amount of calls, you set “x” amount of meetings, you churned “x” customers, etc. Critique these numbers based on where you want them to be, and have them understand your activity syllabus for success. The second portion of the meeting should focus around coaching against specific instances from the past week. If I can, I try to get on some calls/meetings throughout the week and I will try to write down specific feedback for that person – i.e. opening sentence too long, not asking enough questions, need to ask for the close sooner, etc. I make sure to always go through this with them, and frame it in a way that we are creating a tailored, successful pitch, just for them, that if they are willing, will make them incredibly successful at the company.
2. Praise-Correct-Praise. Every time you are going to give negative feedback, wedge it in between two compliments. “Hey really nice job and that first objection, I think you could do a better job asking questions are you prepare for the credit card, but overall nice work”
How do you strike the balance between analysis paralysis (trying to measure too much), and flying blind (not measuring anything)?
You have to know where you are at in the development of the business as a whole. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to flood your organization with KPI’s if you still haven’t found product market fit. Depending where your start-up is at, understand the hierarchy in importance. The most important thing is to get to market, speak to as many customers as humanely possible, get their feedback, and then iterate. After you feel you have accomplished that, your sales team becomes an add water growth factor for the company, and that is the best time to start instilling hard metrics, analysis, growth models, etc.
Tom currently serves as Director of Sales for Fundera, where he helps lead SMB acquisition efforts. Prior to Fundera, Tom was Managing Director at payments startup, Dash, where he joined as the first employee, and oversaw all frontline operations from launch through acquisition. Prior to that he was an early sales hire at ZocDoc, where he was the #1 individual contributor, and instrumental in the creation of the first inside sales team. A native New Yorker, Tom can be found practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or playing music really really loud out of his Lower East Side residence. You can find him on Linkedin here.