Website - Ep16 Jennifer Fisher Creating Salesstar Podcast

Ep16: Jennifer Fisher. Prepare to be the best you could be – Getting Recession Ready

Join Pete Evans as he speaks Membrain front-line Sales Manager Jennifer Fisher. Jennifer looks back into her career as a sales representative and then as sales manager and reflects on the power of ditching micro-management bringing in a good sales culture and maintaining constant training and sales coaching. Talk soon turns to about the possible global recession and how you can get recession ready through keeping positive and utilising sales enablement platforms such as Membrain.

 

About our Guest

Jennifer Fisher is a front-line Sales Manager currently scaling a US sales team while helping business owners and sales leaders learn how to stop micro-managing and start coaching through technology.

Jennifer would be happy to connect with anyone on LinkedIn, and of course we’d love everyone to check out Membrain’s webpage at Membrain.com

About our Host

Pete Evans has over 20 years sales experience with a successful corporate sales career. If you’re involved in B2B selling, cold calling, sales recruitment, sales training, sales coaching, sales transformation or have a desire to grow your business then this podcast is for you.

Pete is currently MD and Practice Partner of SalesStar UK. SalesStar combines sales training with sales coaching to deliver long term results in line with your sales strategy so you can smash your targets and grow top line revenue. SalesStar works with growth minded CEOs and sales leaders who are frustrated with their sales results and are looking for a proven system to grow sales.

Episode Transcript

Intro/Outro | Pete Evans | Jennifer Fisher

Welcome to the Creating SalesStars Podcast. Each week, our host, Pete Evans, will be joined by some of the big and upcoming names within the sales industry. This is brought to you by SalesStar UK.

[MUSIC]

Hello, everyone. It’s Pete Evans from SalesStar again. And this week on our creating sales stars podcast, I’m delighted to welcome Jennifer Fisher, who is a frontline sales manager, currently scaling a US sales team for Membrain while helping business owners and sales leaders learn how to stop micromanaging and start coaching through technology. So Jennifer is the US Sales Manager for Membrain and sales star is a partner membrane and our very on our very first podcast, Jennifer, we interviewed George Bronten, the CEO and founder of Membrain. So you’re following in excellent company. So welcome, Jennifer. 

Thank you. Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be here. 

Fantastic so, Jennifer, I think for the benefit of our listeners this week, it would be fantastic just to hear a bit about your background before you join Membrain. 

Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been a sales manager. I think I started in B2C, basically managing a large team of direct sales representatives and from there moved into a position where I was tasked with drastically growing revenue and hiring a sales team. It was that position that actually turned the company onto Membrain. And once we had implemented Membrain, shortly after we took our team through some sales training, it became very evident that all of the Excel sheets that I had been creating for the years that I was there, there wasn’t a need for that anymore. And I was able to really see where the sales team would struggle through, through the sales process that we had a sales trainer help us build. And it became so much more easy to coach them and to help them actually sell more that I championed Membrain honestly to anyone that I talked about. So it’s kind of full circle now coming to Membrain and working to help other business leaders maybe transform how they’re working with their sales team. So that’s really my passion right now is just helping sales leaders understand that, you know, micromanagement isn’t necessarily a good thing. And there’s a better way to do it. 

That’s that’s fantastic. And obviously, we’ve had quite a lot dealings over the last 12 months, Jennifer, as a sort of sales staff in the UK and you helping some of our clients. So I’ve got some questions around sales managers and sales leaders. You know, in your experience to be a highly experienced sales manager and obviously, you know, working from Membrain, what are the key things that you think sales leaders and sales managers should really focus in on when they’re trying to create a high performing sales team? 

So I think it really starts with the culture. I think it needs to be one of, you know, approachability, teamwork and collaboration. And with everyone knowing that, you know, sales is going to be a continuous improvement, I think it’s so important for business leaders to reach out to business and sales coaches like sales star, because as an outside person, you can see what’s, you know, what’s happening. And make suggestions. And sometimes I think as a sales leader or a business owner, you’re so focused on the number you have to hit. It’s great to have that outside party that’s really helping you on your behalf to create that kind of culture. I also think that, you know, sales training on a regular basis is a great idea. I think so many times company. Is will bring in someone it’s a one and done. I mean I’ve been there myself. We’d go to these big conferences, right. And we’d have these great speakers and two days later, no one really remembered what, you know, what happened. And, you know, and so that continual training and that continual reinforcement just helps sales teams actually live live the process every day. So I think that’s definitely a key. 

OK I mean, you’ve mentioned some great things. I’d like to come back to this. The word culture, because essentially a lot more of our clients are talking about, you know, transforming sales culture and actually introducing a culture of sales excellence. You know, organisations have often talked about it’s about it’s about the culture, you know. You know, even in Membrain of the organisations where you’ve worked before, you know, what things can you think? What advice would you give to a sales manager? Our sales leader in terms of creating a winning sales culture, what sorts of things can people do to create that culture of success? 

Yeah, the thing that I will probably come back to time and time again is to ditch the micromanaging it. It doesn’t help anyone. It really can stifle the culture. It can create a hostile work environment. So learning how to write, we all have goals that we have to meet, but learning how to work with your sales team, letting them, I would say, letting them skip steps, whichever one would say no, no, but but when you allow them to move through a sales process and allow them to not necessarily on purpose, skip a step. But if they don’t have the answer to one of those questions in your sales process, the very best way to help coach them is to see where they’re continually missing steps. So instead of the point your finger, that’s oh, hey, I think this person needs a little more coaching in this area and that’s where you can tailor training. And it’s a funny because, you know, the last team I had, we would have, you know, one or two different areas where one or two sales reps needed a little extra support. But it was very telling when the entire team was passing over a certain step. And we were able to sit down as a group and really discuss what was, you know, what was hanging them up on asking these really great questions and how could we help? And it it came down to a lot of role play and a lot of reinforcement. And within a few months, there there was no problem with that portion of our sales step anymore. So it’s really being able to, you know, allow the sales reps to do their job, but gaining insight into what’s happening and then using that for coaching. 

So I think what I’m hearing from you here, Jennifer, is to create this to rate this winning sales culture, you’ve got to know the sales leader or sales managers have got to create trust with this team. So allowing them to, you know, skip steps actually helps you identify where you can help support your salespeople. Because if they’re continuing to skip the steps and they’re not getting success, then that you’re identifying as you. You talked about the training needs and obviously you can see whether any trends within the team as well. So so actually what you say is about creating a culture of high trust. So rather than get rather micromanaging, you’re allowing people you’re creating a culture where people can make mistakes..?

Correct.

And they feel comfortable making mistakes. And then that’s where you can have an impact as a manager or leader in terms of the development through coaching. And it’s interesting you mentioned the word practice and role play. So why do you think salespeople are reluctant to role play with their peers or the managers? 

It’s so uncomfortable even, you know, we’re going to have role play a little bit later today. And, you know, initially everyone’s like, everyone’s watching me and do I really want to do this? In the end, once you know, once you start to get in to the role play. You do learn from your team members and you learn really the words and the techniques that you need to use to effectively learn about a client, learn about their needs, learn about what their challenges are, and then successfully close it. So role play, as uncomfortable as it feels to a lot of people, is really quite valuable. And I suggest, you know, regular role play, especially with, you know, newer team members and and once a week maybe with some more experienced team members. 

Yeah, I was going to ask you how highly regulated think it be, but I think what you’ve said there is for new people, it should be really regular, perhaps, perhaps daily. And what you say is for more experienced people, at least sort of once a week. How do you respond to salespeople who say, listen, yeah, I can understand doing role plays, but actually a role plays isn’t the real world. How would you respond to that feedback from a salesperson? 

Yeah, it’s definitely not it’s definitely not real world. But I always come back to this story so many, many years ago, before I was a manager, I was learning just basic instead of a cold call, a cold approach, like a face to face with someone. And I went to my leader at that time and I told her, like, I have no idea what to even say. And she was like, all right, well, here’s what you do. Go back to the situation where you didn’t know what to say. And I want you to write down what you would have said now that it’s after the fact. Right? because we always know after the fact, what we should have said. 

Yeah 

And practice it. Say it over and over and over and over and over again until it becomes second nature. And you don’t even have to think about it anymore. And so, of course, that was, you know, just role play in my car, in my rearview mirror. And sure enough, it wasn’t about maybe 10 days later that I had run into this same person that I wanted to talk with. The words, there wasn’t even a hesitation. They were just there. And I thought, OK, this manager is onto something. This is why role play is so important, because it just becomes second nature. The more you say it, the more you go through that scenario in your head and let it play out. And so that’s kind of what I lead with it. It does help. It does make a difference.

Yeah and just coming back to just going back to role plays, why do you think salespeople are sort of saying, well, actually, I’m good, I’m good enough and actually I’m going to practice on my customers. You know, I always see your Paul O’Donohue as an expression where he says, don’t pay your salespeople to practice on your customers. Yet the vast majority of sales teams are actually practising on the customers and the prospects, which is a very expensive way of burning through cash. 

Yeah, that’s exactly right. And again, it has to be frustrating for them, I would imagine, if they’re continually getting, you know, no’s or hang-ups or not meeting their quotas. And that just makes for a sales rep who’s probably, you know, going to end up leaving and churn with sales members. It just it costs the company. So much money, just like you said. So role play should definitely be something that everyone should just understand. It’s part of the job. And it becomes again, the more you do it and the more you’re comfortable with your teammates, the better it it gets. And you get a lot more feedback than, oh, hey, I’ve tried this before, see if this works for you. 

Fantastic so you mentioned a few other things that essentially you you talked about continuous improvement and then you also referenced the sales training and going to conferences. And when I was in corporate sales, I attended enough of those conferences where, you know, we got some highly paid speakers then who were allegedly very motivational and but like, say, two or three days later, nobody could really remember what that motivational speaker had said. And there was little impact. Why do you think organizations continue to go for that high profile speaker? And organize, you know, conferences for sales teams. There must be costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. And don’t think I should be better investing in, you know, continual coaching. Why do you think they go for the high profile motivational speaker?

I, I think that it’s about, you know, the initial engagement, the initial. I hate to say like the rah rah, you know, everyone’s hyped up and jumping around and so excited and and, you know, you come out of those conferences for a day feeling, you know, super energised, but but then reality hits and, you know, you’re tasked with making these, you know, these plans for the next year or the next quarter. You sit down and you start to draft out, you know, what you really want to focus on how you want to achieve those goals. And it suddenly becomes the rah rah has gone away and you’re reaching out to anybody that you, you know, met at the conference like, hey, how are you going to do do this? How are you going to approach that? So, you know, I think they’re good at really getting the energy up. But when it comes to actually putting plans in place, I think there’s definitely a lack there. 

So, Jennifer, I want to come to discuss technology and software in sales, which I know is a passion of yours, you know, being the US Sales Manager for Membrain. Why do you think technology and software is so important in terms of developing the sales skills and capability of sales teams? 

So it it was definitely a light bulb moment. With my last team, we brought in a sales coach and we took the team through a 12 week training and the training was going great. They, they were, you know, learning the techniques, practicing the words to use, and everyone was enjoying it. We ended that training. And the following week I was listening to some calls and I was my jaw dropped. Nobody nobody remembered the training. They literally, in a matter of days, reverted back to their old habits. Right and it was then when we had a discussion with the sales coach and they recommended Membrain. And we were also looking for a new CRM at the time. And ultimately, we did move forward with Membrain. And once we went live we were able to embed the training into every step of their sales process and they literally had those words in front of them. Every single time they picked up the phone to call a client, they had the instruction right there. It it was almost an immediate shift back to now they’re remembering the training. Now they’re putting it in place. And when we implemented Membrain, you know, I would spend hours upon hours putting Excel spreadsheets together to look at data to see where, you know, things were at. But Membrain did all of that for me. And that just gave me the time back that I needed to coach the sales team and it provided insight into data. So for example, I just wanted to pull a quick dashboard on our renewals and one sales rep really stood out in there, not only retention, but moving clients from, you know, a one year agreement to a multi-year agreement. And in that moment, I just simply looked through the story stream for what she was doing. And I found that she had created the most clever email. And so I got up and I’m like, how long have you been using this? And she’s like, oh, I made it a couple of months ago. Like, this has to be we have to make this template available to everyone. Will you help me create it? So being able to recognize those sales reps that have found something that really works well and then implement it throughout the whole team, I, I wouldn’t have been able to do that without Brian I wouldn’t have had that visibility into those things that were, you know, really working. And it made our renewal process and getting people to renew. So much easier. And so it was, you know, just all sorts of light bulb moments that kept going off that I don’t have to compile Excel sheets. I can see this, you know, right in front of me and make immediate, you know, plans to implement. 

So listening to what you’re saying and to give some great insights there, Jennifer, for our listeners, it seems to me that actually the right is software, you know, such as Membrain, you know, can help you with the data to make the right decisions in terms of coaching your salespeople. It allows the sales manager to get time back, but also is a platform for sharing best practice. And I love that story there about the salesperson who was getting more renewals. And you asked how long they’ve been putting this email together. It’s giving you visibility. And I think the other thing which you said is it actually the right tech stack and the right sales enablement platform that they will perform. So like membrane can really help you embed the training and coaching you might receive and get externally. So, so I think those are the things that you’ve really articulated well. Would you agree with us? 

Yeah, absolutely. The I would think the biggest plus for us was embedding that training into the process so that it was in front of the sales reps every time they would pick up a call or with every next step. It it 100% changed around the team in, in a matter of days. 

So so I think what I’m hearing here is, is that because you had all the steps in the process and there were visible to the sales reps when they were making calls, actually the use of Membrain. What that’s done as a sales needle platform is it’s actually transformed performance within days. 

Once, once we put the training back in front of them, absolutely. It was night and day. So, you know, after the training had ended and that following week, I was listening to phone calls and, you know, just kind of beating my head against the desk like, oh, my gosh, did we just waste money, you know, on this training? And it was completely different once we launched it. And I listened to those calls, you know, that following week, they were right back using the techniques, using the training that they had learned. It really was transformational when someone says that, you know, sales reps will forget what they’ve learned, you know, rather quickly through a training. That’s no joke. I, I witnessed it and I witnessed it. Turn right back around. 

Oh, this is fantastic. And obviously, this reinforces a lot of the work that we do with our clients, the sale sstar Jennifer so Thanks those great comments and I want you to think a little bit into the future. Obviously, you know, know, what happened with COVID and the pandemic and lockdowns has really changed the world of sales probably forever. You know, probably people like you and I would argue for the better. You know, it’s helped people or it’s forced people not help people to use technology such as Microsoft teams, you know, zoom, Google, etc., to host meetings and has really cut down on travel. But I’d just like to hear your thoughts on, you know, how you see sales teams and sales people developing in the future. You know, what is your insight to the future of the world of sales? 

So it’s very interesting that you would bring that up because, you know, many years ago, companies had to rely on their teams being local, like who can drive in, who can come in to the office, but that’s not the same anymore. Now it can have global, you can have people from all over the world on your sales team and you can connect through video. I think there was a time when there there were remote workers who didn’t quite feel, you know, as connected as they could. Because so many people are now on Zoom on teams, you know, whatever video conferencing you use, you can feel like you’re a part of that a part of that team. So I think that that’s probably key is you have a wider audience when you’re recruiting, don’t have to stick with, you know, just your 30 minute circle. I also think that, you know, AI will be important and can help identify trends. I would just caution personally, you know, I had someone say that AI is going to be the 100% truth. And I, I don’t believe that. I believe that it’s still going to be human interaction. People are still going to buy from people. And while AI can be very helpful and automate some things, I still believe you’re going to have to have a well-trained sales team to handle those business relationships. 

So it’s interesting that you talk about AI and personally, I believe that AI can’t fully replace salespeople, but it probably brings us on to another topic that I’m really passionate about. You know, a lot of organisations, I think, realised in particular the first lockdown that actually salespeople didn’t know, didn’t need to go out visiting customers to win deals. They could win they could win deals using the technology. And one of the things we talk to organisations about is for salespeople to survive, they’ve got to get better at selling, which means getting better at consultative selling, getting better at questioning. And certainly they’ve got to demonstrate demonstrate value. 

Exactly

Is that something that you believe as well, that, you know, listen, you and I both in sales. So we’ve to keep ahead of our competition. We’ve got to get better at selling to get it together. So is that something you’re seeing as well, you know, dealing with some of your other clients?

Exactly and I think that those companies that had well trained sales teams, you know, outside of certain industries, I think they weathered the pandemic better than others. And I also believe that those companies who had a great way to approach their current customers through growing accounts. I believe that they fared much better as well. So I think the learning from that is to always be working with your sales team and always have a focus on, you know, your current client, your existing accounts, and how can you work with them on a regular basis to be front of mind? 

So, Jennifer, I would also like to ask you about mindset. You know, we often obviously a lot of work that sales star does. And particularly being a partner of objective managmentr group is around mindset. I mean, obviously you’re building a sell another sales team in the US now with Membrain you’ve got the sales management experience. How important you think having the right mindset is in sales management these days? 

I think it’s critical, critical to approach every day, as you know, every day as a new day. And in the morning, you know, I will come back to I, I think, you know, sometimes we all have those, you know, those days, right, where we’re not quite as motivated. But when you have such a good relationship with your clients, it almost doesn’t matter what kind of a bad day you’re having because you’re talking to your clients and and they bring joy. Right they can sometimes turn around, you know, wherever you’re at. So keeping a good, positive mindset and really learning, you know, about your customers and genuinely caring about how you can help them and helping them to make their business better. I think sales managers should definitely foster that type of relationship building throughout their team. I think that if everyone is doing that, then really is there ever a bad day when you’re talking with fantastic clients all the way around? Right and again, I think that kind of comes back to the culture as well, you know, making it OK to create those relationships. 

Yeah I love how you’ve connected the challenge of having a positive mindset back to the culture because personally I believe that it’s the leader that sets the culture and the tone. So if the leader is negative, the salespeople, the sales managers are going to feed off the negativity of the leader. I mean, what’s really interesting at the moment, and I think there’s talk of this in the US, there certainly is in the UK that we’re about to head into a recession. And you know, I think the very use of the R word recession can create negativity. But I think what’s interesting, you know, in our own business, you know, myself and the team are feeling, you know, extremely positive. And what we see is recession presents opportunity. And I’ve just been to. On your thoughts on what you’re sort of seeing in the US as well. You know, are you sensing the companies are getting more nervous about investing because there’s a recession around the corner? 

So that’s know, that’s it’s an interesting thought. Everyone is saying there’s a recession coming. OK so that I mean, that’s so if you have a well trained sales team, if you have a product or service that’s going to help teams weather any recession that may come, you know, you can still move forward with your, you know, daily duties knowing that what you are doing is helping them to beat the recession, to come out ahead instead of behind. And, you know, in what we do at helping people with this technology, we can help them gain back some time, that they can focus on plans that, you know, will help get them through any potential recession. But I, I, I say one thing you don’t want to skimp on is you still don’t want to skimp on that sales training and that constant reinforcement because that, again, will keep your team moving forward and still winning some deals. Maybe it might be a few less, but they’ll still be winning versus a lot of no’s. So so again, it does come back to mindset and culture and you know, you hear it on the news, but it until, you know, until it really happens, you know, just prepare, right. Prepared to be the best that you can be to weather it through. 

Yeah I love what you’ve just said. That phrase prepare to be the best that you could be. So and listening to some of the great comments you’ve just made, actually, you know, the recession presents opportunity. It means that you can get closer to your existing clients, you can add value to those relationships. And certainly what I think has come through in this interview with Jennifer is the fact that having the right tech stock, you know, the Membrain platform can help you identify where you can grow, you know, your share of wallet with an existing account through the account growth module. As a manager, it allows you to identify great coaching opportunities and actually, you know, as a sales manager should be increasing the amount of time that you actually coach your salespeople. And you know, you’ve mentioned about role plays. This is a great opportunity to do more role plays for dealing with potential objections from either existing customers or potential new customers. Have I summarised it well in your world. 

Yeah, absolutely. And and, you know, you make a good point. You know, with talk of a recession, now is the time to start roleplaying, the possibilities. You know, what kind of objections do you think you might hear if we’re in a recession? OK, now let’s work to overcome those. And that’s where role playing for that now will prepare you instead of waiting until it actually happens. Maybe you prepare and it doesn’t happen. Well, that’s awesome, right? But if it does happen, your team is they know how to weather the storm. 

No, that’s great. So, Jennifer, before we finish, I always ask this question of every guest. If somebody is new into the world of being a sales manager or sales leader, what’s the one Nugget of advice that you would give a new sales manager? 

So I think one of the things that has stuck with me, the best piece of advice I got as a new sales leader was pull your audience. So as a new sales leader, sales manager, you have the ability and the want to make change. However, if you don’t kind of step back for a little bit and really talk with your sales team, those sales team members that have been there for a long time, learn about what they love, learn about what they wish were, were better, and really then taking a step back, kind of putting it all together and then slowly implementing change. And while you’re implementing that change, have your sales team, you know, be a part of the things that they can because that will, you know, get the buy in and they’ll feel heard. And the truth is, your sales teams, they’re there talking to the clients every day. And so by listening to the things that they have to say, you can gain some insight into potential industry changes or, you know, competitor changes. So I think that’s the one thing is, is really make sure that you are communicating with that team and maybe hold off on any drastic changes, you know, for just a little bit until you have a better lay of the land. 

OK, fantastic. And finally, Jennifer, if people want to reach out and contact you, what’s the best way that they can connect with you, Jennifer? 

So you can find me on LinkedIn, look for Jennifer Fisher or of course, go to, you know, Membrain LinkedIn page or our website Membrain.com and and you’ll be able to reach out to us and we’re happy to have any conversations. 

OK, fantastic, Jennifer. And thank you very much for getting up so early. I know it’s really early in the US, so thank you very much for being a guest. It’s been a delight to interview you and look forward to welcome you back on to the show on a future episode. So thank you very much. 

Thanks, Pete. It’s been great to see you.

[MUSIC]

Thanks for listening. This podcast was brought to you by SalesStar and hosted by Pete Evans. For more information about what we can offer you head to our website at salesstar.com/UK. You can also find us on all social media platforms just by searching for SalesStar UK.

Credits

Presenter and Producer: Pete Evans
Special Guest: Jennifer Fisher
Producer and Intro/Outro Voiceover: Oliver Eaton
Podcast Editor: Alex Mullen

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