Episode 19 - Kevin Beales Creating SalesStar Podcast

Ep19: Kevin Beales. Creating a Coaching Culture from the Sales Leadership down.

Join Pete Evans as he speaks to Refract (now Allego) founder, Kevin Beales. In this insightful episode the pair look into setting up a coaching culture for sales leaders. Bringing in the learnings from OMG’s Dave Kurlan and Membrain, Kevin looks into why only 5% of sales managers take time to coach their sales team. Finally Pete and Kevin investigate the power of role playing especially from a sales leader point of view. 


About our Guest

Kevin Beales is the founder of Refract and general manager at Allego. He is the father to 3 children and a Brighton season ticket holder. Kevin started Refract to help sales coaching through sales call AI intelligence amongst other benefits.

Allego provides an all-in-one sales enablement platform with patented technology that ensures sellers have the skills, knowledge, and content they need to optimize success in a virtual world. In place of traditional training and content enablement tactics – which are rapidly outdated and often ineffective – Allego empowers reps with the activated content they need to close deals faster, and the personalized coaching and learning they require for continuous improvement.

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 | Kevin Beales

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.


Welcome to this week’s edition of Creating Sales Sales Podcast. This week I’m delighted to welcome Kevin Beales. Kevin is a big Brighton fan, so big, big football fan, but he’s also the founder and CEO of Refract. Who were, I believe it’s now two years since you joined Allego is that correct Kevin?

That is right, yeah. Thanks, Pete, and I’m really delighted to be here this morning. And yeah, as you say, we got we became part of the Allego family almost two years ago now. Yeah.

So congratulations. And you were recently at the the celebration dinner, for sales star in the UK as well. So really good timing for each of us.

I was. Yeah, and I’m delighted to be that. It was great to be part of the the evening and the celebration with you and your colleagues from New Zealand.

Yeah, from fantastic. We really enjoyed hosting you and Matt so I’m Kevin. You’ve got, you know, a wealth of experience in building sales teams. You built Refract as a conversation intelligence intelligence platform to support, you know, great sales coaching. And my first question is, you know, really what changes have you seen in the world of sales since the time you’ve been involved with the sales profession?

Yeah, no good question. I think. Well, I guess for the context for for the audience and for, you know, for anyone that not familiar, Refract is a conversational intelligence platform. So we capture sales calls and demos, analyze what happens, those key moments in in those conversations and in that category of sales conversation, intelligence. And as you say, it’s now acquired by Allego who had a leading sales enablement platform. And I guess the reason I kind of share that is one of the contacts that it does give us is that we are capturing sales conversations from a myriad of different organizations right across the that the different sectors and actually seeing what is actually happening live in those conversations and really getting that first hand glimpse of some of the changes that that come into to us in the sales professionals and I think that there’s obviously, you know, lots obviously about sales that is is very consistent, very consistent through history. But we’re obviously going through a period of time where the the advent of technology is and particularly the shift towards virtual sales. And the fact that so many of us are about so much of our sales interactions happen through virtual means rather than face to face. Then we’re going through an unprecedented amount of change and that the organizations and the teams that are best winning out of that all those that are able to embrace that change are able to embrace some of that the technologies and be able to use those to that greatest effect. You you obviously have the benefit of working with lots of customers, lots of organisations. Talk to me through maybe some of the changes that you see as well. And we can compare notes there.

Yeah, I think I think that’s a great a great question back on the interview. I think you should get the Michael Parkinson award there.

I do my best.

Yeah, I know you do your best, but I think some of the changes were really things. I think those companies that are wanting to keep ahead of the game are actually investing in developing the people. You know, I think more and more organizations are if they’re not embracing sales coaching, they’re certainly talking about and I think is interesting is that, you know, I think sales enablement, as you know, has become a an industry in itself over the past few years. But I think what we’re really what we’re really saying is, is that it’s easy when the economy is rising. To you know, when sales you know, and I think even post COVID, it’s been relatively easy for organizations to hit target. And I think we’re certainly going to go into recession. So I think organizations realize they’ve got to get better at coaching the sales team. The sales managers who are doing the coaching have got to get better at coaching because coaching is a skill. It’s not something that you learn in. You’ve got it, you’ve got to practice- But I think what we’re also seeing is organizations making intelligent decisions about what tech stack to support, great sales coaching. And I think without technology it’s impossible to get the data and the metrics. And I think one of the biggest questions of our CEO, Paul O’Donohue says the data doesn’t lie. And obviously we’ve been using, you know, what was the Refract platform now migrating across to Allego you know that data internally over how much time a rep spends talking on a call, how many questions they ask, what key phrase is they using it all using positioning positions? And I think those are the things that, you know, organizations are really interested in. And I think the other thing which one which we’re noticing is organizations are realizing that, hey, if you want to scale, you can’t scale your organization on a bunch of sales mavericks. You’ve got to be able to follow a sales process. And, you know, obviously you’ve done quite a lot of work with Membrain who were partnered with, I think it was George Bronten used to stat that organizations that get their salespeople to consistently follow a sales process will see an uplift of 15% in revenue.

Yeah, you pick on a few of my favourite subjects there and it’s last let’s dive straight into that sales coaching and you know we both obviously have that view and able to see some of the challenges that organizations have with coaching. I know I know you kind of said, you know, we’ve been through a period of time where achieving goals, achieving targets has maybe been easy. You know, I would perhaps argue sales is never easy. And obviously as as we you know, as we scale and expand our teams, as we bring new people into those teams, the making sure that we’re coaching people to a playbook, being able to share that best practice, be able to coach people to attempt to be successful and arguably is getting harder because, you know, as we made that shift to being more remote, to being more virtual, to not necessarily learning by osmosis, of sitting alongside each other on the the sales, not being able to are to not only be coached by it, by managers, but but informally be coached by, by peers and be able to overhear what other people were doing, other people’s success stories that that coaching element has become more critical and more important than never. As you know, as again, I know you share this this view, I think, you know, sales coaching, there’s some great stats out there that the average manager spends less than 5% of their time coaching. And yet countless studies show that coaching is the most impactful way that a manager can influence performance development and revenue results. And it’s yeah, it’s you know, it is perhaps what is alarming is that stat sounds and it is alarming. You know I don’t know of any other profession where the the thing most critical and can have most impact on success get so little time and attention. But the challenge that obviously managers have is you know, is that managers are always busy, busy on things that have to be done that day, that they are responsible for, that they’re forecasting for the onboarding. So they’re motivating for supporting the the different day to day challenges that the team may have, the opportunities that they may have for for deal forecasting, for commissions, for working with other teams, for looking at what tech stack should be, should be used and how that’s implemented. There are just so many countless things to become the responsibility of managers and that are always urgent and always that need to be done that day. Working with other parts of the organization that it’s perhaps no wonder that the amount of time that’s dedicated to coaching is so alarmingly, you know, so alarmingly small, Pete.

Yeah. I mean it’s interesting you quote that stat there that you know, most sales managers are spending less than 5% of their the day coaching the sales team and I think it’s a stat from Dave Kurlan at Objective Management Group and Dave says the sales managers ideally should be investing at least 50% of their days, coaching the sales team. And obviously we were a partner of OMG and we use their evaluations. And it’s really interesting when we evaluate sales organizations how little time sales manager are coaching the sales and actually there’s one- there’s a couple of clients that we work with the last 12 months were actually if you were a salesperson, you were lucky to actually get coached once a year by your sales manager.

And unfortunately that is all too common across so many organizations. I’d say I know even the organizations that really embraced coaching and a coaching culture right through that business I think would still all say they wish they did more. They wish that there was more time for more coaching. And so, yeah, this this is kind of the, you know, the perennial challenge of any organization. But as you say, for so many that haven’t perhaps dived into creating that that coaching culture, you know, maybe that’s something to dove into a little bit more about. It’s not just about coaching. It’s about creating an organization that has a coaching culture that is at its core, but without the it’s almost inevitable that your teams are going to be under coached, underdeveloped, and that you’re not going to be able to embrace the, the benefits that the coaching clearly brings.

Yeah. And you’ve hit on something that I’m really passionate about by creating this coaching culture, within the organization. And personally, I think the responsibility for creating that coaching culture doesn’t lie with the sales managers. It actually lies at board level Kevin. And I think what what we’re seeing is, oh, you mentioned all these tasks that a sales manager has to do, you know, calculating commissions, onboarding, dealing with other parts of the organization so they’re left with little time to actually coach, which isn’t really the sales managers fault. That’s a culture that’s been created by some of the higher up the food chain in the organization. You know, I’ve heard sales managers who I’ve coached say, Pete, I’d love to be able to coach my team, but I’ve got all these spreadsheets to fill an account’s asking me for this, it’s month end, and I’ve got more bits to fill within the CRM and I’m just not left with any time. And that is nothing because there isn’t anybody at board level really driving the coaching culture and enabling them. The other thing that we’ve seen is organizations saying, Well, I actually will invest in a much better CRM because that will solve our sales challenges and that will actually create more challenges if you’re not coaching your people.

Well, this this is this is exactly why Pete. We are creating, as a sales profession, an industry of dashboard managers, an industry of managers who become. Yeah. Who spends their entire days looking at dashboards and and creating dashboards. And as you say, it comes from the top, because if how you are measured, how you are measuring the success of your your managers is dictated purely by those, you know, those dashboards and coaching is just not not accountable. Coaching is not measured. Coaching is not accountable in most organizations. And so therefore, if you’re not measuring it and you’re not making people accountable to coaching, why were you expecting your managers to dedicate their that time? They’re going to be dedicating their time on the things that they are measured on, the things that they all held to account for, and therefore, again, this is where coaching falls down the back of the sofa in so many organizations because it’s just not from the top something that it’s something that there is always rhetoric, always is is is important. In fact, you know, another great stat Pete is that 74% of organizations. When you ask the leadership at the top of the organization will cite coaching as the number one responsibility of managers. They will quote it as the top priority for 74% of managers. But that’s just not followed through in creating that coaching culture, in making coaching, measurable, making coaching accountable, making sure that everyone understands that coaching is going to be the key ingredient that has the most impact on success.

Yeah, well, personally, I believe that coaching helps you develop people and it creates the magic in people and it helps people, you know, really realize their own potential. You know, coaching can really unlock people’s potential, you know, get them to go to the next level. It can unlock the limiting beliefs which get in the way of growth. You know, great sales performance. And it’s interesting you mentioned you know, you mentioned dashboards. I think dashboards are important. But when a sales manager can use a dashboard to coach his team, you can then unlock challenges and you can share the insights from the data. But I think, like you say, most organizations are getting their managers just to coach- not coach through the dashboard, but to manage and know exactly. Yeah, because- go on.

I’m not I’m not in any way diminishing obviously the value that comes from that data in that in some of those dashboards. And of course you know, I’ll say this is a product that, you know, produces dashboards with that insight and data. But it is then what happens with that inside data? There’s no magic ingredient that says, well, once you know that, you know, it’s the same with with what we doing conversation intelligence as so many other things knowing what happens in conversations even knowing what leads to successful outcomes is crucial data and crucial insight. But that alone still won’t change. Performance is then the coaching that comes on the back of having that insight and having that data that then allows you to actually really be able to impact on that, on success. And, you know, one of the most frightening things and it’s scary how often we hear this and I know you all have heard this countless times as well before. Pete, is when you hear an organization say and a manager or even a leadership level that these people don’t need coaching because they’re too experienced. And, you know, that is as soon as you hear that, I know you’re laughing, but how many times have you heard that? How many times I’ve heard that?

I’ve heard that so many, so many times. And then I’ve also heard people say not just this, not just the managers, but salespeople say, I’ve got my own magic sauce. My sales success is based on my award winning personality. Coaching doesn’t work. And often what I would do when I was doing more coaching directly with clients was, you know, a lot of I’m focused on scaling the scale of the operation in the UK, but I think what’s really interesting and what I would do is when somebody said that’s what I say, so do you, do you follow sports? Yeah, you know what what sport do you follow, you know, what about the elite players? Yeah, but elite sport people are different from salespeople. You know, you have to have coaching, you have to have coaching in sport, but elite salespeople don’t need coaching. I think that is not a growth mindset. It’s a fixed mindset because what I would say as well, if you think you’re at the top of your game now and there’s probably an organization down the road that is, you know, getting better, and actually I don’t believe sales is about a salesperson. having a magic sauce, I think it’s about them asking the right questions, great questions, being able to challenge your customers, think challenging customers thinking, do great discovery meetings. Well, those things don’t happen by accident. They happen through that. We practice repetition, get getting coached. And I believe even the best salesperson can get better.

The best salesperson can will continue to get better every single day, will continue to learn and will continue to develop. And at one of the stories, I tell, I know you in the room at the same time, he was at one of the OMG conferences where there’s 200 of the best sales coaches and trainers in the in the audience. And and Dave Kurlan at Objective Management Group does a live role play with two of those chosen coaches and gets the opinion and the wisdom of everyone in the the audience to contribute to what might be a great question, what might be a great way of framing that? What might have been a better way of addressing this particular challenge or objection? And everyone in your everyone in our audience, many of them written bestselling books, many of them coached hundreds and thousands of the greatest sales reps, all learners and all have something to learn from the from the wisdom that exists in that there is no one that is beyond coaching and beyond learning. There is no one, certainly, that is too experienced to be coached or or learn. And if you allow that perception to exist, you know, you are essentially saying with that statement, either as an individual or as an organization, you’re essentially saying that these people have reached the reached the peak of their achievement are never going to take a step forward and can only ever go backwards from this point.

Yeah, I think, you know, I’ve an expression every day is a learning day. You know, you can you can learn something about sales from talking someday in a shop on the train, you can learn something about mindset. You can you can develop something and we it’s pretty interesting into some of these people who object or see no value in that and say either coaching the team or being, you know, being coached themselves, you know, I will challenge people to say so, you know, Kevin, do you eat every day? Why do we eat? Well to put fuel in my body so my body can function. But if you ask them the same question, what? How do you fuel your brain? What are you learning? They see that as different. But, you know, the brain is like a, you know, a big computer. And if you don’t fuel it with the right information, you’re not going to get better. You know, your brain is going to wither and die. And actually, you know, I think top salespeople, even average sales people don’t want to get better and be coached. It’s actually a road to mediocrity in performance and for excellence.

Exactly as you know, as as we are saying that, you know, you can no longer go forward. You cannot really ever go backwards and what you know, what a sad position that is to know that you’ve already peaked in your career or as a as a as a team by having that not that attitude. I just want to pick up on one of the other things that you said there about, you know, again, something that, you know, that we we hear all the time of when, you know, someone says they have that secret sauce, as you said, that or someone has attributes that their success to building great relationships that you know that that greater building relationships that great building rapport that that ironically people like them and that that maybe brings us on to one of my my very favorite parts of the objective management group assessments. And I know you’re so prolific in that in working with that is that DNA of need to be liked and that in that you know I think in the data the OMG share it is of all the 21 DNA competencies that attribute to a successful sales performer, it is the single element that most distinguishes between top performers and those that aren’t that I think is 89% of elite performers have no need to be demonstrate, no need to be liked. But in that the bottom performers these well over 80% that as I say, manifests itself in comments like I’m great at building rapport. People like me, I build relationships which of course, you know, really is is all to do with need to be liked and has nothing to do with selling.

No, exactly. And I think when I first came across the OMG evaluation and another consultant got me to take it was a real eye opener because my score in that competency was about 60 and the person who gave me the feedback, I was a bit surprised because I said, Well, I’ve got I’ve had really good relationships in the corporate sales career with my corporate clients and the lady who is giving me the feedback said to me, But did you sell every product you could do to all of those clients? And I said, Well, no reason why. Said, Well, I didn’t want to upset them and she just said, So you wanted your clients to be friends then? And it was a it was a real eye opener that actually if I went. If set out to be respected and not liked by with customers, I was able to challenge more and it wasn’t I wasn’t going to discount and I think you’re right those salespeople who think, well, I’ve got great relationships. They’re often not maximizing the potential of that portfolio of existing accounts they’ve got.

Exactly, I think, again, you raise a great thing there about being respected rather than being liked, you know, that was the goal for us as salespeople and as a sales teams is that, you know, that we are there to help our customers, to help our prospects, help them solve their problems, to help them unleash the the opportunities that we can help them achieve. But not to do that by being liked, not to do that by just building great relationships and being a good friend to our customers, but by helping to challenge them to help ask the right questions, to help uncover the right opportunities. And often that comes from, you know, as you well know, asking those difficult questions, those uncomfortable questions that but as you say, lead to respect rather than I need to be liked.

Yeah, There’s such a wealth of data in your energy evaluations which can really help organizations understand which of the sales team actually will respond positively to coaching as well. Because I think there are salespeople who just will not respond to any type of coaching.

Yeah. That, that coachability and you know, obviously we’re in a little bit of a privileged position that the products that we sell is, you know we sell to sales leaders it’s about improving sales performance. It’s about helping them create coaching cultures and successful coaching in their organizations. So coachability of our own team has to obviously be at the absolute heart of what we do, but you know, again, we’ve lots of the organizations we work with, that element of coachability becomes the most important factor when recruiting and building a team. Because without that coachability, without that level of coach ability, then the success that you’ll have in implementing your process in your playbooks and being able to share that, that best practice and how people learn and develop each day will again always have a limit and always have a ceiling because it’s inhibited by their lack of coach ability, their lack of desire to become better, to learn each day, and to fight for that constant improvement. And that’s why we and I think so many of the organizations we work with per coach ability as the number one attribute that they look for when, when, when they’re growing their teams.

Well, one thing I wanted to ask you about in terms of coaching and again, in, you know, in our experience of working with organizations, often the sales leader doesn’t want to exposes themselves to the rest of the sales team and won’t participate in things like role play. But one thing that I’ve noticed about you is the you are actively participating role plays and gain gain feedback from the sales your own sales team, about your own performance. I’ve seen, I would say your colleague Richard Smith do that. Why why do you believe it’s important for you to, you know, practice yourself and demonstrates your own team and prehaps leave yourself wide open to some some great feedback from less experienced people? Why, you know, what message can you share with other sales leaders in terms of why they should do that as well?

Well, two things. First of all, if you truly believe that you have the opportunity to learn and develop each day and want to improve and and learn each day, then being coached yourself from from a 360 degree of of who’s providing that coaching and who’s contributing with that- their feedback with their suggestions with that that elements of what they may have done in that situation or in that moment in terms of coaching sales conversations is as we do is absolutely critical. But just as importantly, how can you talk about creating a coaching culture if you don’t demonstrate that? If you don’t demonstrate that coach ability and demonstrate that desire to to to be coached and and and so much so it contributes so much. If you can show that vulnerability that as leaders, we don’t know all the answers. We don’t know the perfect solutions, the perfect things to say at every moment because we’re on that learning journey with you, with all of that learning journey, then you create a vulnerability as a team that allows everyone to be vulnerable. What allows that we want to be coached allows everyone to see coaching as the great thing that that it is and it’s not. Yeah, it’s not just hearsay is not just for you and for for likes or for views. It’s is because everyone genuinely believes in that. Yet yesterday at our team coaching session we were listening to one of my co-founders, Rich, at one of his calls and conversations and as a team, with our STRs, with our AEs with everyone that came to our team coaching session, we’re all we’re all coaching his call and I know, you know, there was lots of bits of gold which is, you know, is a very, very accomplished sales professional. There was lots of bits of gold that were shared in that in that conversation. But there were also lots of moments where your people would have chosen to do something differently, where with the benefit of reflection, we might have phrased that in a different way. We might have asked a different question, we might have done something differently. And all of that contribution came from everyone in the team. So, you know, as you can show as an organization, if you show your leaders to be coachable, then it can contribute so much to creating that like coaching coach. And I’m finding coaching as that key ingredient to learn and improve every day.

Yeah, I love that phrase that I’ve written it down Kevin; to show your leaders to be coachable. I think that is so important, you know, and it’s something we talk right when we’re, you know, we’re talking to prospective clients. Like if we’re going to work with you on a sales transformation program your sales leaders have to actively participate in the program. So you lead by you you lead by your actions, not by your words.

Absolutely. And you know, and we’re talking here particularly around sales conversations. And one of the things that I would say about sales conversations is there are millions of variables. There’s an unlimited amount of variables of what you could say next, the way that you could phrase it, the question you could ask, the exact words that you choose, how you handle that objection that there are millions and millions and unlimited amount of variables. How arrogant would you need to be to think I got all of those right that there were there weren’t hundreds, thousands, millions of ways that that could have been improved by choosing different words, changing the tone, asking a different question, dealing with an objection in a different way, storytelling, something differently. Yeah. You’d have to be incredibly arrogant not to take that on board, but if you don’t show that you don’t display that, you don’t show that vulnerability and need to to be coached from the top, then how can you expect that to prevail in your teams?

No, I think that’s a great response. So so Kevin, a couple of things were coming towards the end of this is your really, really enjoy this one. What was your one nugget of advice that you give to a sales leader?

And. Well, I think on the theme of this of of this podcast, it has to be that you have to embrace that coaching culture. How do you do that? Well, some of the things that, you know, we talked about here and making sure that you’re hiring for coach ability, making sure that you’re leading from the front in creating that that vulnerability and that and coaching culture, making sure that there is time allotted to coaching. Again, I know that that’s easier said than done. One of my best tips and advice here is as well as making sure that there is time for 1 to 1 coaching team coaching sessions are just the easiest win, team coaching sessions you can take so much out of and help create that coaching culture so much. If you’re not doing team coaching sessions, that’s just a massive missed missed opportunity. And then making sure that you don’t become that dashboard manager, making sure that you are taking the insights and the data, as you say, the data off of the being, being the truth and the key to being able to understand the strengths and weaknesses in an organization and in a team and in individuals. But actually then applying the coaching to be able to address that and that that data and that insight is, you know, is it diminish hugely invaluable in value if you don’t then devote that that coaching time so making sure that you’re leading from the front as a manager embracing coaching and the coaching culture.

Fantastic. And Kevin, if people want to reach out to you, what’s the best way to work and to be able to speak to of all or find you.

The best way is on is on LinkedIn so say you introduce me at the start; Kevin Beales and love to connect with with with people on LinkedIn and do feel free to you know to share any stories or challenges. Love to hear if I can help in any way. I would love to do so. And yeah, thank you for having me on this this podcast, for being such a great friend and partner to, to, to me and us as an organization and really delighted to have been part tonight.

Our pleasure!


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.


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

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