The Pavilion Podcast
The Pavilion Podcast

Episode · 2 years ago

Ep 15: Developing Teams with Servant-Based Leadership feat Chris Neenan


Ep 15: Developing Teams with Servant-Based Leadership feat Chris Neenan

Book. What is going on everyone? Welcome to the revenue collective podcast. I am your launch host, Justin Welsh, member of the Los Angeles Chapter of revenue collective, and inside of these episodes we're going to feature ideas and conversations that are inspired by ongoing discussions within the revenue collective community across the globe. In one of the revenue collective members was talking about a really critical topic inside of our slack channel, and that topic was frontline sales management, the future leaders of our sales organizations. This episode we're going to discuss the development of those folks and ask out loud, are we investing enough? We're going to do that with our guests, founder at relentless growth, Chris Meanan. Before we dive in with Chris, a few quick notes. If you're out there listening and you want to join revenue collective, visit Revenue Collectivecom and click apply now. I also want to thank our amazing podcast sponsor, outreach, the number one sales engagement platform. Outreach revolutionizes customer engagement by moving away from silod conversations to a streamlined, in customer centric journey, leveraging the next generation of artificial intelligence the platform allows sales reps to deliver consistent, relevant and responsible communication for each prospect every time, enabling personalization at scale that was previously unthinkable. Okay, let's get the show started with Chris Needen. Our guests today is Chris Needen. Chris is the founder of relentless growth. Prior to founding relentless growth, Chris spent twenty years in enterprise sales across a wide range of responsibilities. As a family man, spirituality nerd and endurance athlete, Chris Enjoys the daily challenge of keeping everything in balance while striving to be at his best in service to others. Chris, so glad to have you on the show. Man. Welcome. Thank you very much. It's great to be here, honored to be a part of this and excited to do this with you. Same here, man, and you know I want to kind of kick it off. You know you have this really interesting story to becoming the founder at relentless growth. Tell the audience a bit about your journey to this, this point in your life. Sure so. Well, as you mentioned, I'd spent last twenty years in enterprise sales. So it kind of mention where it began and ended and a lot of a lot of steps in between. It began and me in the very glamorous industry of signage, literally selling neon lit signs for the sides of buildings, was commission. Only my prospecting was driving around with a little tape recorder in my hand. I'm not old enough to I was a leads. It was at least digital, but that was that was an I have another kid at the time, so it's very stressful. But I had to learn a lot of things pretty quick to find success and then are prior to doing what I'm doing now. That the kind of journey ended as the had of sales for Europe for a what was once publicly now private software company, overseeing basically all of our our go to market for roll for Europe. And so it was a was a big journey. I think the things that were the most exciting for me is every kind of couple of years I was given a chance to take another step forward and each time had an opportunity to figure out what was needed, how I could be successful, put in place a new kind of a new playbook and execute it and then get another chance to do it. So it is a lot of steps along the way, probably a lot more than listen to the podcast probably want to listen to. Yeah, that's one thing that was really interesting to me is I read through your background, like one thing became really clear, like you're selling signs, you jump into a couple, you know, individual contributor roles and then you're sort of rocketing up this leadership path and along that path you must have started to recognize that you were passing some folks by, and I'm curious, did you edge execute like a really intentional plan in doing that, or resort of flying by the seed your pants? How did that come to be? It's probably probably on a stensor's probably somewhere in between those two.

I think I've got a I was just one of the natural strengths that I have is is kind of seeing, you know, process in just about everything and breaking things down. I do it in everything and it drives my wife nuts, drives myself nut sometimes, and I think every role that I had, that was always an approach that I would take is just be very methodical about what do I need to do to succeed in this role? And so, regardless of the role, you know, I would observe who did it well. I would look at what they did, I would look at what I could do and and then I would find a way to go execute that. So it wasn't necessarily a rigid playbook or anything like that. It was more of an approach that I used each time. And then I think the other part of it, and this kind of speaks, you know, to say that they say sales is an art and science is probably more on the art side. I was, you know, raised Christian. For me, like like a life of service and being a man for others is always something that was drilled into me from very early on. It's kind of part of just my makeup now, and I think that I think that was a big part of why in sales I was able to do well. I was trusted by my customers because I was I was there for them, and internally, people trust to me because I was there to help them. And so I think the the way I behaved and just kind of the the nature of how I treated people and how others looked at me in the trust that I would build, combined with the, you know kind of methodical approach I would take to doing everything necessary to, you know, to be successful I think that that kept giving me that that chance to take a step forward. So service to others, you know. I think that that comes, as you mentioned, from your Christian backgrounds, that comes from your upbringing. You also mentioned being very methodical, being very rigid in structured. I'm the same way, but I wasn't always like that and what I found is when I talked with most folks who remind me of myself in the way that they approach you know, rigid a struck. Sure it comes from some point in their career. As you think back in your career, was there a turning point that led you to be rigid or structured, or did that come from your upbringing? Where did that come from? Probably two points. It definitely didn't come from the upbringing. I think some of the more natural styles of what to look for, you know, where there, but the I think it became more to the forefront two different points. So one was I was a sales rep still in the UK and we had brought in a whole leadership team that came from the kind of PTC BMC, the the kind of the medic Mafia. So they this whole coaching tree that finds this way back to John McMahon, a few other people, and so we were all very much brought into medic and first meeting excellence and all of the rigid around sales process and just how to execute and and I think that really got the juice is flowing for me, because here was a playbook, a written playbook and a clear one that I was able to basically put all of what I've been doing subconsciously into and see it all connect and all of a sudden it was like it it just everything clicked. So that was probably the first moment that and which was really cool and you know, since then that's it's something I've coached people on finding that same kind of that same click. And the second one was, as I was a leader, starting to get involved in more off sites and more, you know, just kind of working with people, of how to facilitate a team. So this is actually when I was a second line sales leader, so I had a team of managers underneath me and needing to work with them in a way of how do we, how do we basically how I work through them so that they can work through their team to achieve what we needed to and it really forced me to think in terms of objectives, measures and being very clear of what that is, so that it would translate several layers, you know, down and so having to take that approach and thinking, you know, working backwards from what's the behavior we want to see and how do we how do we get that so clear that this will translate to consistency? That was where, you know, the next kind of playbook clift or the next way of working, of being methodical, to where, you know, I realized how important clarity was to execution and needing to do that through other people. You know, you use a word playbook a lot, right, and especially when you're talking about leadership and growth and you talk...

...about sort of finding a playbook when you get in with the the quote Unquote Medic Mafia, and I've heard a little bit about yours. You've touched on it slightly, but can you tell me a bit more about the pillars of your specific leadership playbook that you stand by? Yeah, so the main ones. In the majority of that is people based. So from a sales leadership point of view, no degree of things that you look at in terms of metrics or Kpis or territory carving or being the executive sponsor like all of that does not matter at all if you don't have the right people on the team and if they and a secondarily, if they don't want to work for you. So the majority of the kind of leadership playbook that that you know I kind of developed and Co created and have adapted it's so much of the centers around people. So it begins with knowing yourself best, knowing your own strengths, your own weaknesses, knowing you know who you are, what you're there for, because if you're not, if you're not in touch with that, it's going to come out. You might as well know what it is before it comes out and you know it gets misinterpreted. But the second part to that it would be who do you bring in? So the how do you know who you're hiring? How? Why is that the the type of person to get? How do you go about getting them to make sure that you're actually getting in the right talent on your team? But also from war, from a DNA point of view, you can train lots of things, you can't train certain attributes and you need to know what it is you're looking for, and so a lot goes into how do you do that very methodically. And then from there, how do you develop people so that they want to stay? You know, they need to execute. There's a lot of things that they need to be able to perform, you know, beyond just having those natural attributes, and so there's a lot that goes into how do you develop and essentially, how do you serve your people so that they can succeed in a consistent, predictable manner? Only after that does all of the things that you would do as a leader in terms of what are you monitoring? You know, how are you gaging the hell? How are you forecasting? Those are those are necessary. The business needs that, but it is only possible when you've done those first two, furse three parts really well. You know, it's interesting. I had an episode with Colin Cadmus the other day and he and I were discussing and one of his sort of controversial perspectives on leadership is that he doesn't really believe that you can. I don't want to miss quote him, but he basically said, you know, hirings a crapshoot and the only strategy that he likes to fire follow is to hire fast and fire faster. I'm hearing something different from you. Is that right? Yes, definitely, yeah, would say that. So. So how do you do that though? Right, I think there's this like if you read through all these studies, if you look at all the different Harvard business reviews, like a lot of these these studies will come to the conclusion that hiring is a crapshoot. They really will, that it's really difficult to make a great higher. You seem to have cracked the code. Tell me more about that. Well, it's a big same to say of cracked the code. I think it's possible to do well. I don't think it's a something that you just throw the towel and and say, all right, well, let's just bring a bunch of people in and see who swims. Now, this that may, actually, that might. I've always been in the enterprise business and so I've never had to build or hire teams in S and B or and you know, our a sale cycle is quicker, where you might have a quicker turnover of opportunities, and so having a turnover of people isn't detrimental. So for me, with with longer sale cycles and a you know, wanting to have a consistent team who needed to build pipeline that was going to deliver not three, four or five months down the road. You know, attrition was a was a killer of performance. So you know, whether you're firing people, it's still attrition, and so for me it was I didn't that. I was not something I was okay with just saying all right, let's let's just accept it. So I think I was always a believer in a hiring for aw talent, meaning it experience based. So it was less important for me how much sales experience they had, how what their track record of success in terms of sales achievements was. I was looking for things like are they coachable? Are they driven? Do they have very high Equ are they smart? Does it seem like they can pick things up quickly? Did they show good character or they interesting to talk to? Like those are things you can't teach, you can't train that, and those are things that matter when...

...they're in front of prospects. And I knew, and I was willing to invest the time in them, months even, of developing them on. Okay, well, how to do a proposal or how to had a negotiate a deal or how to run a sales process where you know, some people hiring would want that knowledge already there, that experience there, but I knew I couldn't teach drive, but I could teach how to negotiate, I couldn't teach coachability, but I could teach how to run a sales process, and so that was the approach that I always took and looking back at those that I hired in the teams that I ran when it was direct sales, you know, when I was first line, had several great teams, not just from a performance point of view, but great teams in that these were people that love being part of that team and had a great time being part of that team and there was a very strong kind of inner team culture, and I think that comes from looking for those things that that you can't inject and you can't develop. So when you're looking at sort of your frontline managers or some of the people that are reporting to you, you know, how do you use your playbook or your system to invest the right type of time into some folks? Because what I always struggled with, or challenge that I have was, you know, trying to navigate the different type of people in my organization. Some folks need coaching on something like you mentioned a proposal. Other people need coaching in simply professionalism, for example. If you're coaching some younger folks, how do you use your system to make sure that you get consistent results from these frontline managers with these reps that you're bringing onto your team? Did you have sort of a formula for discovery when you were doing one on ones? I'd love to learn a little bit more about how you how you figured out how to best use your valuable time with each year people. Let's start with the Persona of a sales manager coaching reps, because they it's a different dynamic for in a manager to coach and met another manager. So in coaching reps like one of the big, huge foundational elements that needs to be in place is a very clear process, clear messaging and you know what the main indicators of success need to be, so you know from activity levels to what quality levels you can look at. That would gage are they doing enough and a good enough quality of the right things at an activity level, so that's prospecting or or conducting first meetings with prospects. All of that needs to be clear so that you know an onboarding and and through your coaching of them, they know exactly what's expected of them. If you can't do that, it's really hard to coach any further. It's just going to be kind of random. But if you have that, and that's where I remove, all of the initial investment of my time went into of making sure that that was in place. So it is very objective, it was very consistent and within that you've got your diagnostic now you can look at at their own numbers, you can look at their own metrics, you could look at any deal in that process and you can very quickly see where things are inconsistent with where someone else might be or what it should look like, and it's just the place to start that you can ask them, you know, from a coaching point of view. Okay, why do you think you're what you others are doing well at say this stage, but you're seem to be dropping off there. Or usually it takes, you know, only about a month to get from this point of the sale cycle to that point, but for you you just seem to have a lot that are stalling there. Why do we think that is? And it's just that you find those databased ways to as entry points to dig into what the issue is and in most cases the reps know, like they know something's not working right or they're not comfortable, but but they're able. You're given them the lead in of where to start. If you just go cold saying, Hey, what do you think you need to work on, you're probably going to get the wrong thing. Even if they think that's the top thing, it's probably not what's actually resulting in. You know why their performance may be lower. So that that would be the place to start. But I still would look at the whole thing and and some of the best reps, especially the coachable ones, they're they're actually doing that themselves and they're bringing to me the things that they that they think need to be worked on or why, and so you kind of start building in that muscle memory of them taking that ownership and then you're just there to help them through it. You might look at it and redirect them if you see that something is off, but put over time, you know it's kind of clock worry, they start doing it themselves and they take that ownership on. Yeah, I of that and I think one of the things I'm IM hearing, you know...

...from you. I heard in the beginning when we were chatting, is this idea of service to others and it feels like you are just really invested in the people that you bring on board. And I have this challenge with with servant leadership, and it feels like today sales leaders are in this rut where they are trying to either please their boss or, you know, you're an svp of sales or a cro and you're simply trying to please the CEO or you're trying to please the investors, and it puts this tremendous amount of pressure on the sales leader and they start thinking about themselves. How did they get out of that Rut and how do they start transitioning into something like servant based leadership? It's really hard, honestly, it's really hard because the way that most organizations today work is the higher level expects the level below them to serve them. And when you're when you're coming in as a sales leader and if you might have the best of intentions getting promoted to that role and say I'm going to serve my people, I'm going to serve my team, I'm going to help them each be that their very best and by doing that they're going to perform, want to stay, we're going to be great. Your boss probably expects you to serve them too, and so now all of a sudden you're kind of serving in both directions, and which one takes precedence becomes a tough one. It's not easy and I don't think it should be that way. But that's a bigger, more systemic issue to solve. If you know, from the top, very dead down to the bottom of that perspective. I think for a sales that you're going into it the part I would just look at and challenge and say, okay, well, if you only chose one, which one's going to have a bigger, you know, bigger difference? Which one's going to make, you know, bigger gain or loss? If you stop serving your team. It might, short term be okay, or you might feel better by what you're able to say to your boss or feel about okay, I'm doing what my boss told me to do, but you're going to lose your people there. It's not going to take very long for them to feel like you don't support them, your you don't have their back, that you're only passing on things you were told to do. And that lack of trust pretty quickly turns into them looking elsewhere and taking a better, better job or just not performing it to their best. They're just not inspired, and so I think that that's a if you make that choice there, it's hard to not have that follow. Take it in reverse, if you were say, you know what I'm going to I'm not going to forego serving my team. That's always going to be the higher priority, even if it means I need to push back on on my boss, that you can work with your team and work on, you know, with the performance that they have and with them know it. You being transparent. This is where I'm getting pressure. This is what we need to be able to deliver. Let's work on this together. How do we do this? You can find ways or get insights from them and from the field that you can take back to your boss and say this is what we're going to go do. And this is why I think it's necessary and why it's important for me to not let up on some of these things. That will result in attrition or will result in reduced engagement or bringing on bad deals. You know, there's lots of things that can follow if you don't do those things. You might have a boss it's not okay with that, in which case I would say, you know, maybe that's never going to be working out in the first place. But I think most of them will look at that and see the reason for it and at least give you a degree of trust to see how it plays out. But then it's going to come back to is your team executing? So if at best you can buy yourself some time to get that execution through by developing and working with your people, and if you're not doing that, then you know that's the that's the thing to develop somewhere else. Yeah, I'm with you. I think if you were to talk to the folks that have worked for me over the long period of my career, they wouldn't I don't know if they'd call me a servant leader. I don't know if that matches maybe my personality or my career, but they would say that I have their best interest in mind and I think that to me, that was always the expectation that I set with whomever was hiring me, was that, you know, I worked for the folks below me and when I see leaders who do that, what naturally happens is it does alleviate some of the pressure, in my opinion, above them right, because the team below you start to perform, they start to feel confident, they're they're invested in both themselves and you in naturally, up the chain the results get better. So I...

...couldn't agree with you, you know, any more on that one. So that's that's really great to hear that, that you feel that way as well, Chris. Well, listen, man, this is this has been really interesting. We are nearing the end of our time together and I love to do one thing at the end and it's called our quick fire or five segment, and it's just five questions where we just get real top of mine answers from revenue leaders like yourself. You're ready. Yeah, awesome. You don't strike me as incredibly controversial, Chris, and are in our twenty minutes, and I might be misreading you a little bit, but I'm sure you have a controversial perspective on business today. What would be your most controversial perspective? Well, probably, I mean too. I think one is the this idea of servant leadership. I do think is controversial. It does run contrary to true and most organizations and it's it says, especially in sales organizations. I think you'll see it a little bit more commonly accepted in other cases. So I'd say that's one. I think the second is virtue. In the business world, I think virtue is something that quickly gets kind of shelled or said okay, we'll not really hear we need some separation with that. But if you were to ask somebody, would you rather work for somebody that was selfish or selfless, or would you rather work with someone that was patient or impatient or was completely chaotic versus had self control, everyone's always going to prefer the person that demonstrates virtue. But yet we hear very little about virtue in terms of things to develop or things to evaluate people on or things to a plaud I think that that needs to change because we'll make a difference in the degree of trust people have and in the successive teams agreed. What is a book that you revisit on a regular basis? One that I love is it's called awareness. It's by a guy named Anthony de Mellow. He was a Jesuit priest. He died, who was lived in India, so is his view was a fusion of Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, lots of things. But it's one of those eye opening books where it's just put so simply and yet it you just you can't help but just feel like the scales are falling from your eyes. So things like how you view yourself or why you feel guilty about certain things or why? Why do you care about what other people think of you? Mean so many things that so many of less in kind of western cultures get hung up on. It just exposes all of it. It easy to fall back into those you know what you be away from it. So it's it's a book I go back to pretty frequently. Awesome. That actually sounds really interesting. Can you repeat the title from me one more time? Yep, it's called awareness and the authors were Anthony De Mellow. Anthony de Mellow. That sounds like something that I would enjoy. So thank you. Who is who is someone inside of the revenue collective that you follow closely? Well, two people, and in the London side, Tom Gleson, just because he's he's the man in London. He he started the the chapter over here. He was the one, obviously, because that when I joined, he screened, but he's been really helpful for me in kind of branching off in the direction that I'm going, you know, from joining as the senior revenue leader in a big company to coaching and supporting revenue leaders, but really helpful and connecting me with the right people always, you know, helpful of advising. Okay, try this work, talk to these guys. And then a second one is a mere Klaus. He's been doing the role that I'm kind of doing now for years, slightly different angle in the world, and he's just was very generous with his time on just at helping with how to handle certain situations, how to how he's gone about, you know, his own start. You know, it's a scary thing, especially with covid here. Has Been a scary thing kind of going off on my own and back to the commission only world with four kids and a wife who's a mother. So that having the help of both of those guys to both get confidence that it's doable. It's doable now, but also just some tips on getting started, but a really big difference maker for me. What do you think the biggest misconception about going out on your own like you've done is, I think the biggest misconception is that you don't have a team. In reality,...

...what I've discovered is your team grows phenomenally. The number of people that are willing to help you or that you can work with on things and just the exposure to problems that you get to think about and work on and go solve is just exponentially more. I was nervous about that part of it, of missing the kind of the Camaraderie of a team, but I've found that's pretty quickly forming between people that are doing something similar, maybe with a different discipline or specialty, but even across clients like you basically joined parts of teams for periods of time and and the thrill of that doesn't it's no, no different. It's just you have more of it because you're doing that across many teams all at once. Isn't that interesting? You know, I went on on my own almost exactly twelve months ago and I really worried about missing that team base structure, and what I've found is that people really come out of the woodwork and they want to be helpful. There's folks who don't want to be helpful to all and they disappear and you've got this incredible support system of other folks who just come out and say I want to I want to support Your Business, I want to support your journey. I feel like I'm a part of the largest team that I've ever been a part of. So I feel that that's such a that's it's so neat that that's your answer. So I I can really appreciate that. Lastly, give the audience like a life motto or a guiding principle, something from you that they can take home with them today. So mine, and this is where the name of the company came from, mine is rouleteless forward progress. It was as the name of a book that I read when I was training to run an ultra marathon when I I decided to get into that a few years ago. So I was doing a training out for a hundred mile running race and it I think one like that. That event was a good kind of just example for me in life of just a huge challenge that you could only take on one step at a time and just the idea of the book and the idea of that tackling that challenge was just about look, as long as you're making forward progress, you will get to that end and I kind of an approach that I now take to just about anything, whatever the challenge is, however big or near difficult, as long as you're making progress towards it and your your relentless about that, you will see your way not only through that but on too many of more afterwards. And so yeah, that that is absolutely the One. I love how you just decided to run an ultra marathon. Crazy. I love the process side of it, but yeah, yeah, I can't really that one, but I love it. Yeah, it was a cool thing to do. That's cool, man. Well, listen, this has been a lot of fun. You know, tell everyone how they can get in contact with you and how can they learn a little bit more about relentless growth. So I've got a website. It's relentless growth dot ioh to. You've got just some basic details on the main offering of what I do, which is around bringing that playbook to people wanting to be a sales leader or or already are but needing a bit more clarity. Follow me on Linkedin. I'm always you know, I love to write. I'd love to read and I love to write. So that's an area channel that I'm continually putting stuff up, so following me, they're just get in touch with me there. That's probably the best two places. Cool if you're a leader and you want more of a rigid playbook, you want to learn a little bit more about servant leadership, and maybe you want to figure out what makes to the mind tick of a guy who runs one hundred mile races, you can go to relentless growth, relentless growth dot ioh and learn a little bit more about Chris and his offering. Chris, thanks for being on the show man. Really enjoyed having you on and look forward to communicating with you in the RC slack room. Thank you very much for having me. Really appreciate it.

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