Discovering Success: Insights from 3 Boston Sales Managers on Uplifting and Empowering Sales Teams

Leaders from Dynatrace, Lusha and SmartBear discuss how to shape sales leaders.

Written by Built In Staff
Published on Nov. 30, 2023
Discovering Success: Insights from 3 Boston Sales Managers on Uplifting and Empowering Sales Teams
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“If you aren’t selling, you aren’t in business.”

That’s what Melissa Houston, a Forbes contributor, said when writing about the essential nature of sales in businesses. She describes sales as the “lifeblood of your business.”

However, as she notes, it’s a job that doesn’t come naturally to most people. And innate talent alone won’t cut it. In her contributions to SecondNature, marketing leader Rebecca Herson shared, “Even those with natural sales skills need to align with your sales process. Your company’s training and coaching of sellers may need to go beyond messaging and product features to improve sales performance.”

Sales leaders from three companies spoke with Built In Boston about how they work with new and developing representatives, some of whom came from disciplines outside of sales. Such  diverse expertise is valuable, but both the sales manager and the junior representative have to learn how to work together to achieve important business development goals.

“I think the role of any sales coach is to administer constructive feedback that is tailored to the person’s selling style and personality, but measured against the standard of success expected of the role,” said Marc Perroni, head of global sales development for Lusha. He credits the people who trained and mentored him with his own rise in the company, and feels an obligation to pass along that kind of training to others.

Read on to learn how these Boston area companies are uplifting their sales teams through impactful leadership, tailored training and mentorship. 

 

Jonathan Fortunati
Senior Solutions Engineering Manager • SmartBear

SmartBear provides the tools needed by software development engineers that ensure end-to-end quality and consistently optimal software releases.

 

Describe your role as a sales coach. How did your career journey lead you to that position?

My role as a coach started when I worked on the development side of the business as a Scrum Master. I knew since college that I did not want to do engineering work all day, and that I wanted the technical aspects of my job to be balanced with a social dimension. I just did not know what that role would look like. 

When I worked at a previous employer, they were undergoing an agile transformation and I was offered a Scrum Master position. I thought the role could give me the mix I wanted, so I accepted. The team there prioritized coaching as part of their transformation, which formally introduced me to coaching concepts. Still, I could not connect with the Scrum Master role in a way that felt motivating or gratifying.

So, after some formal self-reflection, I decided to pursue sales/solutions engineering and am glad I did. Now I work with a team of solutions engineers to help make sure we are providing the best support we can to our sales team, prospects and customers.

 

What separates a good sales coach from a great one? Are there certain skills all great sales coaches have?

When it comes to coaching I am all about making feedback as specific as possible. I think the more specific you make your feedback the further you move up the continuum from good towards great.

 

I think the more specific you make your feedback the further you move up the continuum from good towards great.

 

For example, feedback such as “you could have asked more questions” is helpful. But feedback that is more specific — “you missed an opportunity to help uncover pain when you didn’t follow up on the customer’s statement about xyz” — is much more useful. The specificity further depersonalizes the feedback, making it easier to receive. It connects the team member to a moment in time, which makes it easier for them to reflect and gives them a cue for the future so they know how to respond in similar situations.  

Specificity is particularly important when delivering positive feedback. It's relatively easy for leaders to identify specifics with negative feedback as the negative things usually stand out to us. But positive feedback is tougher because we frankly are not always looking for it — we just walk away with a general impression of “that was really good.” If we as coaches do not look for those positive moments, we are leaving money on the table in terms of team member growth.

 

Describe a time where sales coaching made all the difference on a rep's performance. What impact did this have on the business?

We have an associates solutions engineering program at SmartBear. This is for people who have never held a solutions engineering job before, including some associates who are just out of school. Getting solutions engineering right is not easy for many people; it means smashing together two opposite disciplines and asking for proficiency in both. This means we do a lot of coaching with our ASEs who typically come on board with strengths in one area but need help developing in the other. 

That development is six to 12 months of two steps forward, one step back. Coaching is key to making sure that step back does not go too far. The benefit to the business is that we hire people with diverse backgrounds who otherwise may not have landed a solutions engineering job. This ensures a well-rounded team with a variety of skills and aptitudes. 

A specific example was when we hired someone to cover the product I worked on before moving into leadership. The sales team was accustomed to my style and the new team member was different. It took upwards, lateral and downwards coaching between me, the team member and the sales team to reach a new – and better - equilibrium.

 

 

Marc Perroni
Head of Global Sales Development • Lusha

Lusha provides clients with go-to-market solutions by way of business data and sophisticated data modeling.

 

Describe your role as a sales coach. How did your career journey lead you to that position?

I think the role of any sales coach is to administer constructive feedback that is tailored to the person’s selling style and personality, but measured against the standard of success expected of the role. 

In my career, I have been fortunate to have a lot of managers who invested in me and set an example for what it means to communicate feedback with empathy. They made a genuine investment in my development. 
 

What separates a good sales coach from a great one? Are there certain skills all great sales coaches have?

Most organizations have managers who administer coaching these days as part of a core component of the role. In my experience, what separates the good ones from the great ones is the combination of consistent, authentic and empathy-based feedback. 

Consistent coaching isn't a one-off opportunity to point where the individual fell down or could have done better. It’s coaching that is part of the regularly scheduled program. If you otherwise drift in and out of a salesperson's life, you miss the nuances and trends in their work. 

 

Authentic coaching is about knowing your people.

 

Authentic coaching is about knowing your people. You need to “find their why” and make it yours. You are obliged to develop the employee over the long-term. 

Empathy is very important in administering feedback. Keep in mind that sales is grueling. Quotas, cold calls, rejections, territory changes ... there is no shortage of reasons to lose a sales rep due to the myriad of challenges that are tethered to the role. 

 

Describe a time where sales coaching made all the difference on a rep's performance. What impact did this have on the business?

It's hard to identify a specific instance. I think sincere and genuine feedback always makes a difference for a rep's performance. It's within the delivery of that feedback that determines whether it has a positive or negative impact on the business. 

I would say outside of the quota attainment, I look at employee retention and promotion rates for evaluating sales coaching efficacy. I think when you are seeing high internal promotion rates from your teams and organizations, combined with low attrition, it indicates that your people feel seen and invested in and that they are developing. 

For example, In Lusha's XDR organization, we have had over 12 promotions in the past year and zero negative attrition. That is a stat we are more proud of than any KPI we have for our sales dashboards.

 

 

Fuad Najjar
Regional Vice President, Enterprise West • Dynatrace

Dynatrace uses AI and advanced observability to provide answers about application performance, user experiences and underlying infrastructure.

 

Describe your role as a sales coach. How did your career journey lead you to that position?

My journey to sales leadership is deeply rooted in my belief in and fascination with teamwork as the ultimate competitive advantage. 

Everyone — each with unique, individual strengths — is an essential contributor to an impactful team. As the oldest of three siblings, responsibility came naturally to me. The inspiration I receive in helping others to succeed motivates me. 

I'm known to be direct, with a fierce dedication to the growth, development and success of everyone on my team. Several team members have returned to join me based on our experiences working together in previous roles. My passion has always been working with some of the smartest minds, people who are always determined to achieve their full potential. 

It’s essential to foster the growth and development of each team member, recognizing that their fulfillment and growth contributes to both the collective success of the team along with their personal aspirations. Being committed to always learning benefits my coaching style, allowing me to set a strategy, develop a process and guide my team to help our customers.

 

What separates a good sales coach from a great one? Are there certain skills all great sales coaches have?

A great sales coach ensures that the sales team is deeply integrated and partnered with the extended team. We emphasize team selling in a “one team” culture that promotes collaboration and shared goals with our customers. We engage with purpose by being customer-obsessed and walking in our customers’ shoes to better understand the pain that we believe we can help them solve. 

 

A great sales coach ensures that the sales team is deeply integrated and partnered with the extended team.

 

We encourage creative thinking and ideation sessions. We call them think tanks. These are great for fostering team building, sharing new perspectives and brainstorming ideas. Our team regularly presents ideas or technologies that can help us drive greater results. Even though we are the leader in the observability space we maintain a “start-up scrappy” mindset and innovate with passion.  

Trust and recognition are essential for growth. If you prioritize trust, and are open to healthy conflict, you will drive results through commitment and accountability. We created a recognition program to celebrate those that showcase our values every day. We win with integrity by elevating each other, the customer and their experiences with us.

 

Describe a time where sales coaching made all the difference on a rep's performance. What impact did this have on the business?

We promoted an inside sales representative to an enterprise account executive, but he faced the challenge of winning a substantial deal with a large chip manufacturer. Winning this business would strengthen our position in the market and benefit this individual’s personal aspirations. However, the pressure and stakes were high. 

To build a strong relationship with the prospect, we mentored him on how to research and develop a deep understanding of the prospect’s long-term initiatives. This included how we would help. We call this a point of view. Following deeper discussion with the prospect, we formulated mutual action plans to ensure alignment with their objectives across many stakeholders. We leveraged mutual action plans to navigate the complex sales process successfully while the account executive concurrently built strong relationships with them. We won this deal due to team selling, our differentiated value and our commitment to being trusted partners. 

Looking back it was critical to support work-life balance and well-being through a high stakes cycle. This deal marked a major milestone in this Dynatracer’s career. It was the largest deal he had ever won and positioned him for more future success.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Shutterstock and listed companies.

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