Ep4 Chris Gearren. Having a Positive Mindset in Sales Leadership

Ep4: Chris Gearren. Having a Positive Mindset in Sales Leadership

Join Pete Evans as he speaks to Chris Gearren, who is the general manager of VP PLC. GroundForce Training services.

The pair talk about the importance of positive sales mindsets when leading your sales team and assess the impact of a bad hire. Chris relates back to his experience growing up in the US and compares the sales culture between both countries. Chris finishes talking about the impact of technology in the sales industry and looks into why it is important to be open with your sales team.


About our Guest

Chris Gearren has over 23 years experience in corporate B2B sales, and he’s starting his post-graduate career with the Division of G-capital in the state of North Carolina in the US in 1999, and after a promotion within the American company, Enterprise Holdings or enterprise rent-a-car as many people know them. 

It brought him to the UK in 2006, and in 2009, Chris had an opportunity to move into commercial sales within the health and safety training industry, being responsible for major projects such as the 2012 London Olympic games and the Canary Wharf Crossrail. 

Chris prides himself as a lifelong learner, and in 2013, Chris earned an A master’s and a master’s degree with distinction in occupational safety, safety and health from the University of Greenwich. Back in 2015, Chris had the unique chance to harness his entrepreneurial spirit, senior leadership skills and passion for making a difference within the construction industry to start the safety training division within GroundForce and in all of the past seven years.

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

Oliver Eaton | Pete Evans | Chris Gearren

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.


I’d like to welcome Chris Gearren, who is the general manager of VP PLC. GroundForce Training services. I’ve known Chris for over four years now as a client or other pleasure of personally coaching Chris over that time. Chris tells me he’s got over 23 years experience in corporate B2B sales, and he’s starting his post-graduate career with the Division of g capital in the state of North Carolina in the US in 1999, and after a promotion within the American company, Enterprise Holdings or enterprise rent-a-car as many people know them. It brought him to the UK in 2006, and in 2009, Chris had an opportunity to move into commercial sales within the health and safety training industry, being responsible for major projects such as the 2012 London Olympic games and the Canary Wharf Crossrail. Chris prides himself as a lifelong learner, and in 2013, Chris earned an A master’s and a master’s degree with distinction in occupational safety, safety and health from the University of Greenwich. Back in 2015, Chris had the unique chance to harness his entrepreneurial spirit, senior leadership skills and passion for making a difference within the construction industry to start the safety training division within GroundForce and in all of the past seven years. Now, Chris has certainly got a growing reputation for increasing revenue within that and building an effective sales team within VPI ground force. So Chris, without further ado, after that lengthy introduction, I’d like to welcome you to the Creating SalesStar Podcast. 

Thank you. I appreciate the invite. 

No, it’s great. So, Chris, I over the, you know, looking at your career history and experience, you’ve developed a wealth of knowledge in sales, sales, leadership and sales management for the benefit of our listeners. What would you say the key attributes of a great sales leader are in your experience. 

I think, you know, focusing on creating high performing sales teams, really. You know, when you’re looking to create high performing sales teams, you need to focus on hiring the best people. For me, that starts with dropping your ego at the door, sales leaders and sales managers often have a deep held belief that they can pick through CVs, interview people and automatically find the best people. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. This is often witnessed through high turnover of staff or even worse, low performing individuals that simply don’t have the will to sell. Have low desire, commitment and motivation. Or are not coachable because they lack the sales DNA that we’re looking for. 

Yeah I mean, it’s interesting, Chris, you mentioned the word ego, and that’s come up with quite a few of the guests on this podcast series. So far. You know, can you think of times in your career where perhaps your ego as a leader or manager has taken over and sort of impacted on your decision making? 

Oh, yeah, absolutely. Several times throughout my career, I think it’s natural progression through anyone’s career that you know, well, I think we all know. Fortunately, unfortunately, some of the best salespeople automatically tend to get promoted into sales management or even, you know, positions of leadership. And you’re not always ready for that because you just want to jump in and do-do-do, because how to get results. You’re motivated to get results. But you do have to step back from that and think, I need some help here. And drop their ego and think, oh, there are different ways of doing this. You know, who can I reach out to help me there? That’s not an easy thing to do because as salespeople, we think, you know, we’re the best. We want to control it. But actually being a great sales leader is about relinquishing some of that control.

And how difficult in your career when you went into sales leadership, you know, did you find it and maybe even finding it today, how difficult did you find it to sort of relinquish some of that control and empower, empower others to perform better? 

Yeah, I think early on it was quite difficult because, you know, I think we take results to heart and we want to, like I said, control those results. And in reality, if we’re going to grow, we have to hire great people and coach those people and actually let those people, you know, learn from that coaching, make their mistakes. And actually, that’s true growth. 

And you’ve mentioned a phrase there that somebody, you know, said to me very early in my sales career. You know, if you’re going to learn and grow, you’ve got to make – you’ve got to make mistakes. And you said about, you know, allowing people to make mistakes. So, you know, would you like to share with the listeners, you know how you can give feedback to somebody in your team is perhaps made a mistake and how you grasp the learning opportunities from that. 

No, I think the reality is, there isn’t really a mistake that we can make, that’s not something that we can repair. And, you know, spending time with people, letting them make mistakes, like I said before, it’s a great way to learn really, because they won’t make that mistake again. If you’ve got good people that are coachable and listen and want to learn, it wants to do a good job. Literally make that mistake once. And there’s no reason to beat people up for those mistakes. I think it’s a great opportunity to coach, actually. You know, when do you make them those mistakes? You can step back and really learn from those mistakes and like I said, not repeat them.

OK, now you’ve referenced the word coaching a few times so far in the podcast. Tell us a bit about the importance of coaching and maybe some of the challenges that you face as leader when coaching your team. 

Well, I think outside of hiring the right people, when you’re trying to create high performing sales teams, it’s down to you investing time in those people. I think the automatic go to for sales leaders is often a thought process that goes something like this. We’ve hired salespeople, leave them to it. If the individual is not selling enough will just increase their outbound call. Target gets some other metrics and places some pressure on them to perform. I think in truth, sales teams need direction, they need coaching and leadership. And you, you know, as that person must take responsibility and be accountable as the sales leader, you know, have you spent time with each person? Have you asked them what they need from you in order to drive more revenue? You know it’s OK if you periodically and consistently, you know, get in the trenches with those people and work with them. As long as you know that time spent is positive, you know, that helps them. It helps the business and it helps you because nothing is more valuable than having conversations with your prospects and clients. 

And one of the things that came up in a previous edition of the podcast was about the ability of the sales leader themselves to receive feedback in a coaching environment. So how do you feel if your team give you feedback about your performance? 

Well, I think, like I said, it’s important to ask, you know, I will ask for that feedback because I need to step out of the way. Get out of their way and let them do their jobs. And what do they need for me, what I meant by that was, you know, what is it they need for me? They don’t need me micromanaging them. They need me coaching them and they need me, you know, stepping away, maybe giving them some advice, helping them through, you know, questions that they have from me. And it’s important that you’re engaging with each individual to understand what is it that they need from you to drive that revenue? 

And from your own perspective, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a leader to improve your own performance as a sales leader? 

I probably would say, you know, personal mindset really, you know, advice of. You know, stepping back away and looking at your mindset on a daily basis before you engage with your people. I think the traditional way of doing things is, you know, looking at all the metrics, like I said before the call stats, the clothes business, et cetera, et cetera. But you know, before you go in there trying to tear people apart. I think it’s important to step back and think, you know, your personal mindset here. Throw some positivity on it. Go in and have those meetings with people in that way because you know, that’s the most important thing, really, I think. 

So it’s interesting you come on to the topic of mindset and and as you know, it is a topic that’s close to my heart and, you know, something that I sorta study constantly. Do you think it’s possible as a leader to really help change the mindset of your people because you mentioned the word positivity and you mentioned that about, you know, not going in all guns blazing with people. So, you know, is it possible to change your own mindset and become more positive rather than a glass half empty, a glass half full individual? 

Yes, absolutely. It’s I mean, mindset is fluctuating, and we know that, and it can fluctuate day to day can fluctuate throughout the day, and it’s important to consistently evaluate, reevaluate your mindset for salespeople. We need to realise, I mean, what we do, what our people do all day long is they get rejected. And that’s the reality of the game, isn’t it? You know, we get rejected all day long. If they’re picking up the phone like they should be, and that’s what’s happening. You know, How’s that for keeping a positive mindset, pete? You know, getting rejected all day? 

Well, you know, I often say to salespeople that sales is one of the best jobs in the world because I know that there’s any, any job, any role where you get that sort of high when you close the deal or, you know, you make an appointment with that prospect you’ve been chasing for six to nine months. But I think also the opposite of that is there can be quite a lot of lows without rejection, you know? 

Yeah, absolutely. And you know, we, as you know, we use personally in our business the SalesStar academy, which is great for coaching. One of the things that we learned through there, which is I think it’s fantastic, is, you know, 80% of sales success is mindset and 20% skill set. So, you know, we control our mindset so, you know, we can control our sales. 

Yeah I love what you’ve just said there, but we can control our mindset. So do you think if you’ve got people with a negative mindset in the sales team, they can significantly influence the mindset of the others, then because, you know, I’ve heard people say, you know, a negative mindset actually can spread quicker than the impact of coronavirus. 

Yeah, and I think you see that in all businesses. You know, there’s people in that way. You just can’t have it in your sales team, you know, you it just can’t happen. And if it is happening, then you need to nip it in the bud. And that’s what I mean by investing time in the business. Return on time is very important. You know, if that’s happening, you can nip it in the bud with coaching. And if you’re not willing to invest that time to work with that person and if for whatever reason, they can’t adapt, then I would say you’ve made a mistake in the hiring process, which is disappointing and you probably need to reevaluate with that individual and ask them if they wanted to go into operations or some other type of role within the business. 

Now, just like circle back, some of the needs said right at the start, you know, you talked about hiring salespeople and hiring salespeople with the right, the right mindset. Do it. Do I take it from those comments that, you know, in the various roles you’ve had through your career, you’ve made some hiring mistakes? As I said – 

Yeah, absolutely, we talked about earlier, you know, ego coming into this, and, you know, I think we believe and we often look at. You know, human nature is we interview people, we like those people, we don’t like those people. And no matter what the CV says, or no matter what the answers are, people we know people are selling to us in the interview and we tend to hire people that we like between the hire, people that have lots of experience and sales. And actually, what happens when you do that is you get let down because, you know, someone sold to you in the interview, you think they’re great, you like them. But that’s a gut reaction, and that’s just something that has no scientific, you know, information behind it or, you know, you’re not actually thinking outside the box there at all. So we like to use the OMG assessments to help us to kind of filter that out. And also, selfishly, I don’t today, as I stand today, I don’t really want to interview tons and tons of people just because they put forward a CV. I want to see the best people in the interview process because time is the most important thing for me. I’m super, super busy. I don’t have the time to go on some long journey of hiring or seeing the wrong people within interviews. I want to see the best people and then make my decisions based on those best people in the interview. 

So I’d like to link this back to the discussion about mindset and the stance they use. And you know, these have come from objective management. You know, 80% of success in sales is down to mindset. Do you see people really trying to focus in on, well, this salesperson has got the right skills, Chris. So, you know, we should hire them, you know, look at that, look at their track record and you know, they’ve got great consultative selling skills. They’ve got great qualifying skills they can prospect. Do you ever say, have you ever faced pushback in your career about, you know, what, you should really hire Pete because look at his CV and his track record and then you, you actually hire Pete and you find that he just won’t pick the phone up. You know, did you see? 

Yeah, it’s a common problem, isn’t it, I think throughout all businesses. And like I said, it’s trying to think about a different way of doing things because the traditional way of doing things is it’s not very cost effective, both financially, you know, using recruitment companies to find individuals that then you sit down and you think, oh, this goes, this guy or gross has done some, some great work in their career. But yeah, you get them in because you think they’re great and and that’s what it is, you think. But you don’t know, and they won’t pick the phone up, you know, and they might even pick the phone up through their probationary period. But then they don’t pick the phone up. And then what do you do from there? You’ve got a problem on your hands. You know, if you’re hopefully giving yourself the best chance to hire the right people, that should be in the interview process despite what their experiences are. Do they have the right mindset? You know, are they coachable? Can we coach them? Because let’s face it, regardless of what we believe the product can be taught, the service can be taught. But what can’t be taught is the fire in the belly, the desire, the, you know, the ability to pick up the phone and be rejected all day to understand that if you win 3 out of 10 deals, you’re an all-star. You know those things, you know, those things can’t be taught, really? 

Yeah, you’ve got to have it, and you’ve got to have the right mindset. So Chris, I’d like to come back, you know, you’re, you know, one of the individuals that that has got cross-cultural experience, you know, you started your sales career in the US and now you’ve been based in the UK for since 2006. So you you’re well versed in the culture in the UK. What differences do you see in sales in the US and the UK because they’re not speaking to a lot of people in the UK? They perhaps a thing that sales is a bit brash in the US you know what? What differences and insights can you share with our listeners about the cultural differences in sales or are there any? 

I think what we’ve seen is a shift overall in sales throughout my time in sales is, you know, we’re much more on consultative selling as you hear that in the states now and you hear that in the UK and you know, we really to speak to clients and understand their needs. Stop talking about the product, stop talking about your brochure, stop talking about, you know, PowerPoint presentations and all of those things. And OK, yeah, there’s hear a lot more coming out on podcasts in the states and the law. You know, the authors are from the states and things like that, and you can pick the pick things up within that to use in the UK as well. And I think people are just as passionate in the UK and are just as coachable, and it’s just about spending time with those people. And there’s a bit of cheesiness in the US sometimes, and we get a bit excited and we get a bit passionate. And sometimes the Brits can kind of laugh at that. But hey, you know, it’s all true. It all transfers over. And really, the focus today is consultative selling as opposed to the old, you know, sales is a bad word. Actually, it’s a great career. Like you said earlier, it’s a great place to be. There’s lots of high earning positions within sales and inevitably, people that don’t ever think they’re going to end up in sales actually do end up in sales, you know, so it’s a great place to be. 

Yeah, I mean, I mean, it’s interesting. There’s a few things that I’ve just noted down, there, Chris. When you talk about sales being a great career, you know, when you were growing up, was it somewhere that you said, I want to go and work in sales when I’m older? Or was there another career? It said it. It got me. 

Yeah, for me, it was, you know, interesting enough, I wanted to go into psychology and I actually got accepted to sort of my dream university, which is, you know, University of North Carolina at Chapel hill, which is famous for Michael Jordan basketball, that kind of stuff. And I went home to my dad and I said, I’ve got accepted to you, believe it to the, you know, the School of psychology. And he kind of laughed at me. My dad was a blue collar worker truck driver, and he and he said that that’s not going to work son because as a truck driver, I’m always going to make more money than you because you’re going to have to go and get a PhD and you’re still going to make less money than me. So he said, you might want to refocus that and think about something else. So, you know, I went off and said, all right, business management. So I went into business management. So that’s kind of where I saw myself going as a manager within business, but which I am today. And I and I have been management. But I think the reason I got to those positions was my sales acumen and my results in sales. So it’s interesting where it leads you and how your mindset changes around the sales arena. 

I mean, that’s fantastic. I mean, it’s interesting that you mentioned that you wanted to do a degree in psychology and you know, sales is all about psychology and understanding, understanding people. Would you say that’s true? 

I think it is, and it’s not an easy thing to do to, you know, I think we need to have empathy for people and empathy when we’re speaking to clients. So especially we saw during the COVID pandemic that, you know, we weren’t really selling to people. We were just having empathy with, you know, what’s going on in your business. And you know, when we come out of this, how can we help you or how can we help you now? Or, you know, what advice can we lend to you? You know, those type of things. That’s very important that we, you know, each individual is different, like I said before, and we need to – There there is a bit of psychology there and there’s certainly psychology through mindset. 

So, Chris, I know that you’re an avid sports fan, you know, and study success in sports, you know, if I, you know, for those listeners to the podcast are perhaps up and coming into a sort of sales management or sales leadership career. What lessons would you like to share with them from your knowledge of sports success and how they could apply those into a leadership or management position? 

I would just say I know it’s probably not very transferable to the UK, but you know, and me growing up in the States and playing things like baseball. Like I said earlier, if you can hit the ball and get on base 3 out of 10 times, you’re an absolute all-star. So you know, you can look at another way you’re a failure because 70% of the time you don’t get on base, but you’re a multimillionaire, if you can do that at professional, you know, to a professional standard. You know, we see the same thing in basketball. When you talked about Michael Jordan as an influence in basketball. And you know, he would say things. I don’t know the specific quotes, but something to the effect of, you know, I’ve missed 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost 300 games, you know, 26 times I’ve been asked to take the game-winning shot and I missed it. So I keep failing over and over and over again, and that’s why I succeed. And you know, that’s quite powerful because, you know, we always think, you know, I’m the Michael Jordan of sales or I’m the Michael Jordan of Goals. You know, whatever it is, that’s what people. That’s what people say. But you know, he was a massive failure. You think about it, but actually, he’s the best in the world. So that’s what we do in sales. We fail every day. But actually, the best, best salespeople are, like I said earlier, if you get, you know, if you’re helping your customers or prospects 3 out of 10 times, then you’re an absolute superstar and that transfers over to sports. 

Yeah, I mean, I think that’s fun. And obviously, I think for those listeners of the podcast in the UK and even globally, they’ll recognise the name Michael Jordan, you know, and I see Michael Jordan as a huge success. But I think, like you say, with all those games, all those shots that he missed in all those games that he lost, you could say he’s a failure, but in my mind, he’s a complete winner. And it’s interesting. You use the stat, you know, as a salesperson, if you win 3 out of 10 times, you’ll be a huge success. But what’s interesting is you’ve measured, so you’re mentioning stats. How important are metrics and KPIs in developing a, you know, a great sales culture in your business? 

Yeah, I think measuring KPIs, I mean, we always say in business, if we’re not measuring it, then it’s not going to, you know, we’re not going to perform, we’re not going to hit the target. If we’re not measuring it. I do think it’s important that, you know, you know, how many what’s in the pipeline. You know, what are you keeping a tight pipeline or you having to look at that in our business? You know, we we’re focused on the quality. We do have a minimum sort of calls that we want to make a day. But it’s you’ll be shocked how low the number of calls is because actually we want quality. So we’re giving people time to make a quality call and we understand that, you know, for me. This all the tech can be a massive distraction sometimes, you know, we’ll get new people in, we’ll train them on the CRM and then they don’t get on the phones. They forget the CRM, you know? So actually, I would prefer to twist that up in a different way, you know, get on the phones. That’s going to help you learn the tech faster. You know, keep it basic as you possibly can, you know, keep track of the deals in the pipeline. Like I said, keep that tight pipeline instead of a bloated pipeline because that’s the forecasting for the business as a senior leader in the business and a manager of the business. I need to forecast. So if my salespeople can’t keep a tight pipeline, then it becomes a bit of a chaotic situation. And like I said, that means picking up the phone, speaking to people. Tech cannot do that for you. It’s absolutely impossible for tech to do that for you. So, you know. That’s the most important thing. You know, tech has a place, but it’s not the be all and end all. And it’s a big distraction sometimes. 

Do you think do you think is a sales leader? We’ve become over reliant on tech. You know, it’s actually used as an excuse for us not to pick the phone up or not to sell. 

I think as we go up and management, we’re, you know, let’s be honest. As for those in management roles, senior management roles, it – the most frustrating thing can be, you know, you get in a position where you’re reporting on absolutely everything and putting reports together for the sake of reports. And you know, it’s not healthy. You need to get that report down to one page. or get the key stats out. Yes, it’s important, but you know, get out of reactive mode and realise the primary focus is driving more and new revenue. We should be asking ourselves every day what can I do today to drive new revenue and that doesn’t it mean that you’re a salesperson, that you’re the person making the call is all the time? But what can you, as a sales leader, do to drive new revenue? Well, if you’re asking people to do 50 things and on every call or whatever it might be, then you just set yourself up for failure. You’re not going to be able to drive that new revenue. 

OK, that’s fantastic. So, so, Chris, if first of all, Thanks so much for joining us as a guest on our Creating SalesStars Podcast today to two final questions. The first one is what is your number one tip for any sales leader, our sales manager. 

Just ensure that you personally are blocking out time in your calendar on a regular basis to spend time with your people. And that your people are doing the same in terms of blocking out time on the calendar on a daily basis to make outbound calls. You know, like I said earlier, if you’re a sales leader, you’re a new sales leader. You know, what can you do to enable your people to drive new revenue? What do they need from you? Find a coach. Listen to podcasts. Get out of the way. You know, those are the important things for me. 

OK and finally, Chris, if people want to find out more about Chris Gearren, how do they get in touch with you? 

Yeah on LinkedIn, really? Chris Gearren, probably the only person on there that has that surname Gearren. 

Fantastic, Chris, and Thanks so much for everything you’ve shared with us this morning, I’m sure the listeners of our podcast will find this hugely beneficial and Thanks once again for coming on as a guest today. 

Thank you Pete. Really enjoyed it.


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: Chris Gearren
Producer and Intro/Outro Voiceover: Oliver Eaton
Podcast Editor: Alex Mullen

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Join Pete Evans as he speaks to founder and current...
Join Oliver Eaton as he speaks to regular Creating SalesStars...
Join Pete Evans as he speaks to High Performance Sales...
Join Pete Evans as he speaks to Objective Management Group...
Join Pete Evans as he speaks to SalesStar’s youngest salesperson...
Join Pete Evans as he speaks to Olivier Guerin. The...

Download Your 9 Step High Performance Pathway.

Download Your One Page Sales Plan.