Tips on Sales Management, Cold calling, and Metrics – Anton Phung Q & A

Building the Sales Machine’s Q & A series is focused on sales leaders in the real world actively building and scaling high tech sales teams.  We aim to bring you the most practical and operational tips from down in the trenches.

For today’s Q & A, we’re talking to Anton Phung, recent head of training and development at Yotpo,a customer content marketing platform that generates reviews, social Q&A and rich media and uses this content to drive traffic and increase conversions.

Most important thing to learn for new sales managers?

The former COO at Yelp, Geoff Donaker, used to present to all new managers on the topic “Living on a Stage”. As a people manager, you’re always being watched… by everyone, but especially by your reps. Whatever you do, your reps will think it’s okay to do the same and perhaps even stretch it a little – show up late, make crude jokes, slack off, get black out drunk at work events, come into work hungover. A colleague of mine gave me a great example years ago. Privates in the military may bitch and complain to each other about the day to day grind, or having to march into what seems like a losing battle, but the officers must remain unwavering in their determination and belief in the mission and never openly display any signs of doubt. I think that’s a huge challenge for new managers because they’re so accustomed to behaving like an individual contributor. They’re used to their actions flying below the radar, not having to set the example, and not worry about the consequences of their words or actions. And it’s incredibly difficult to flip the switch and be able to filter everything you say and do the moment you are given a leadership role and all eyes are on you.

What do you think of cold calling? Should sales teams still be using it?

I’m a huge advocate of cold calling. I watched a talk by Gary Vaynerchuk in which he talked about Uber and why they were the highest valued unicorn. Most people think Uber’s value proposition is transportation. It’s not. Uber’s value proposition is time. Uber provides the opportunity to save you the time it would take to walk out of your apartment to the corner of the street, and stand out there with your arm in the air trying to flag a cab. Cold calling is the same thing. Cold calling gives you immediate access to the prospect’s time, even if it is unexpected and perhaps invasive. It may be uncomfortable, but it’s up to the sales rep to make the most of that time once the prospect picks up. I’ll admit that there’s a good chance the conversation may shift to taking place over email at some point, but I still don’t think there’s a better substitute for getting your prospect’s attention than picking up the phone and calling them directly. I think reps fall in love with using e-mails for initial cold outreach for two reasons. First, it lets them avoid the awkwardness of cold calling as well as being told no and hung up on. Second, when they e-mail prospects, the only feedback reps are receiving are the responses, so they’re under the illusion that their e-mails are substantially more effective than their calls, when in reality, they aren’t seeing the hundreds if not thousands of people who are automatically deleting their e-mails, moving them to their junk folder, or unsubscribing from them.

How do you strike the balance between analysis paralysis (trying to measure too much), and flying blind (not measuring anything)?

This topic is near and dear to my heart. I’ll be the first to admit that as an individual contributor. I had an obsession with my metrics. Yet when I was a manager, I was the least metrics-focused manager in the sales org. That’s not to say I don’t think activity is important. It’s the starting point to success. I make the same deal with all my reps – if they promise to uphold their end of the bargain and hit their daily metrics, I’ll be there alongside them every time there is an opportunity to learn and develop. My job starts once they’re on the phone with a prospect and guiding them through the sales call as well as reviewing the call afterward to uncover learning opportunities.

The way I see it, hitting metrics is down to the individual rep’s work ethic, focus, self discipline, and desire for success. I’m not their parent so I don’t see it as my job to chase after reps to make sure they’re hitting a certain number of calls or emails each day. They’re adults and they should be able to police themselves. They know that if they want to be successful, statistically, there are certain metrics they should be hitting day in and day out. And they also know that if they are hitting their numbers, I’ll be with them every step of the way.

I don’t believe in spending all day behind a laptop lost in Salesforce and spreadsheets. There’s a time and place for that. If you’re noticing a trend in your team or org, analysis is a great place to start to try to isolate the problem. But I’m a firm believer that I can tell you more about what a rep does well and what a rep does poorly after listening to one call, than I could if I spent all day analyzing an Excel sheet.

What interactions / meetings should managers be having with their reps and why?

I’m a big believer that managers should spend 5 minutes with each of their reps every morning deskside, talking about non-work topics – some restaurant they tried, what TV show they’re watching, etc, and also getting an idea for what the rep has going on for that day. I think this works to endear the reps to their manager and also remove any barriers to communication.

I’m also not a believer in one-on-ones. I don’t like the idea of a recurring event in my calendar where two people are required to come up with something to talk about. As a manager, I had an open door policy. My reps knew if they wanted to talk about anything at any time, they could just ping me and we’d go for a walk or grab a room right then and there. I think having to wait until a weekly one on one to discuss something that’s on your mind is unhealthy, can often lead to things becoming more grave than they really are, and can be a serious distraction to productivity.

Anton Phung is Head of Training and Development at Yotpo, where he oversees the onboarding process for all new employees as well as ongoing learning across the Sales and Client Services teams. Before coming to Yotpo, Anton spent nearly seven years at Yelp where he started off as an SMB Account Executive in their New York office, moved onto their Enterprise sales team in their headquarters in San Francisco, took on a leadership role in opening up their first international office in London for three years, and ultimately brought things full circle and transitioned back to their New York office and oversaw one of the top sales teams there. Anton also spent two years working abroad in Japan as a high school teacher.

Through his various experiences, Anton has identified his passion in helping early stage start ups build out their sales processes and scaling their sales orgs to maturity.