By Shawanda Roberts
Director of Sales, Americas
Frost & Sullivan

The 3rd Annual Sales Team Accelerator Retreat (STAR): A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange was full of inspiring, bold and actionable ideas! The event took place in sunny Phoenix, Arizona, where there were jaw dropping views, great restaurants and let’s not forget baseball Spring Training taking place from March 2-4th, 2020. Many Fortune 500 sales leaders gathered to talk about the challenges facing the sales industry today and in the future, and how companies were addressing those challenges with proven sales tactics.

As a sales leader and team member, I have leveraged this event for the third year in a row. It’s a great way to share and learn best practices, and to find solutions to some of the top sales challenges my team and I face today.  The STAR event included a ton of insightful, collaborative and action packed conversations that generated ideas and take-a-ways that could be quickly implemented. On top of that, amazing new friendships were formed and there was great food and fun!

Over the course of the event, I had a chance to meet a lot of inspiring new people and received a lot of good feedback too. Here’s the consensus on the top take-aways to consider:

Drive Revenue During Uncertain Times: It is no secret that we are living in uncertain times.  The sales industry is transforming and the political and economic environment is constantly moving and changing.  All of this can make or break a company.  In order to be successful in times like these, you must have a strong and impactful leadership team in place. Renee Joseph, Vice President, Global Customer and Sales Enablement, Johnson Controls, showed us how to lead our sales teams to great outcomes too. Below are her four keys to navigating during uncertain times and unlocking success for your teams:

  1. Institutionalize Pre-mortems-call out all of the risks of a project failing and work backwards to determine what potentially could lead to that failure, project or the organization. Develop a robust action plan for that risk, so if it happens you have a plan that delineates how and when to change direction.
  2. Be hyperfocused on Critical Customers-have strict discipline and processes for account management with your sales team, and make sure you have programs in place to address the most critical needs of your customers. Continue to drive sales management practices.
  3. Value Your TeamImplement systems and processes that support your team’s performance. These processes should include consistent and clear communication at all times. Having weekly 1~1 sessions is a good example of consistent communication with your team. Show compassion and motivate your team.
  4. Hone Your Leadership Skills-Every good sales leader needs to continue to perfect their craft, so it is important that you take care of yourself and focus on emotional intelligence. Every company has R&D, but how much R&D are you spending on yourself?  Invest in that time to continue making yourself a better sales leader which will inspire others to follow you.

 Developing High Performing Sellers: The internet has made consumers much more sophisticated about what they are looking for prior to reaching out to a company. Therefore, the traditional selling skills like product knowledge, strategic prospecting and pitching are no longer enough. This has led to paralyzing 60% of decision makers and companies leaving money on the table by just taking a small portion of opportunities, according to Mark Wasilewski, Senior Vice President of Global-Mavenir. Sellers have to be able to educate and challenge.

Wasilewski talked about making sure opportunities are clearly qualified and problems are fully understood before you start giving solutions. This quote really stood out in his presentation: “You can’t get to the value unless you have clear information on the clients challenges or needs.” This means sellers have to continue to question and probe again, challenge with positive tension, and reply and validate.

Examine Your Belief Systems: How do you win more, work better and live happier?  Dr. Jason Richardson, World Champion Athlete and Olympic Psychologist, tells us it is all in your belief system. Every success or failure can be traced back to a belief.  This powerful session gave us insight on how to reprogram ourselves and our team for more success by overriding negativity that gets in our way. Some of his suggestions:

Change your perspective
Change your language
Change your perspective about others
Become strength based
Change your perspective about self

The Belief Matrix is Beliefs-Feelings-Actions-Result. This matrix will arm you to ask the right questions that will drive you and your teams to act immediately so that you win the day, every day!

Transform your Thinking and Behavior for a Digital World: Kyle Pottinger, Senior Vice President, Ticket Sales and Service, Phoenix Suns, shared a powerful message about how the Suns changed the culture of their sales organization for success.  Even though the Phoenix Suns did not have winning seasons, they instilled a culture of “Hope for the Future” for their sales organization. They started by renovating the stadium and made sure they maximized each interaction with their customers. Pottinger gave us the exact steps on what was done that in turn, increased ticket sales year over year.  Here are a few of their most effective tactics:

Recruiting: The characteristics they look for in candidates are:

Positive attitude
Coachability
Relentless Work Ethic
Leader
Passion for your craft

Onboarding: They have a pre-start date where the new hire gets to know the team and they get to know the new hire all prior to that official start date.

What stood out most was that you need to be “People First Always” and that “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.”  You have to have a great culture in order for the strategy to work.  You should continue to analyze, access and take action repeatedly.

Build an Intentional Inclusive Sales Culture: It is a fact that only 18% of sales leaders are women, and that the percentage of women in frontline sales management has remained flat for 10 years.  Lori Richardson, President of Women Sales Pros gave us three ways to audit for inclusion as follows:

  1. Ask women on your team
  2. Do an audit on who you have interviewed
  3. Understand what your pipeline really looks like

As an organization, you should make sure you are not only looking at diversity, but inclusion in your sales team.  It is important to understand if your organization has equal pay for men and women.

 Use Data versus Intuition: There are tons of data points on prospects and customers, and as sales leaders, we have to find ways to continue to encourage our sales teams to leverage this data. Rob Beattie, Vice President of Sales at Thomson Reuters, gave us some best practices on how he has engaged his team on this challenge:

  1. Create a vision of where you are going-what the future sales rep model looks like. What characteristics will be needed to be successful in that role? Being team oriented, tech stack enabled, a data analyst and a master of digital sales are just some of the characteristics and conversations needed
  2. Make changes for them without even letting them know a change occurreduse an improved data model to generate data driven leads and then let the leads speak for themselves
  3. “Eat the elephant” one bite at a time- do not try and get everyone on board at one time. Pick no more than 3-5 middle performing reps and focus on their territory and then use the data to drive their activity

There were also several concurrent think tanks and networking roundtables around topics such as coaching, agile selling, sales performance management, strategies on winning business from key accounts, AI and analytics, structuring account teams for growth, hiring and onboarding that were very enlightening and left everyone with actionable take aways.

If you missed this event, you sure missed a great one! Mark your calendar for next year’s 4th Annual Sales Team Accelerator Retreat (STAR): A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange taking place March 1-3, 2021. The location is still being finalized, but there’s talk it will take place in the “Big Apple” aka New York City, so stay tuned!

In her current role as Director of Sales, Americas, Frost & Sullivan, Shawanda leads a team of sales professionals who work with clients to help them accelerate their growth objectives through the company’s research and advisory solutions in thirteen different industries. She has served in additional sales leadership roles at Frost & Sullivan, providing market research and consulting services to C-level executives within the financial services community.

Shawanda was recently honored by the San Antonio Business  Journal as a 2020 “40 under 40” award recipient. According to the site, “these awards celebrate young rising business and community leaders.”

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