Join Pete Evans as he speaks to SalesStar founder and CEO Paul O’Donohue.
Talking about the creation of SalesStar and moving into the top of having a good sales mindset, this episode is great for understanding the foundations of SalesStar’s working. Sales Coaching is often talked about when looking into Sales Enablement techniques and Paul talks about the importance of sales coaching for developing sales teams.
About our Guest
- First ten years of working career as an industrial electrician (Diploma of Electrical Engineering) – realised most tradespeople were poor at sales and wanted to learn more
- Sales Engineer for PDL Electronics
- Key Account Manager, Tyco Electronics
- Moved to Recruitment Industry – strong interest in assessment tools that could help identify the traits of a successful salesperson
- Post Grad Diploma of Business Administration
- Owner of Business Consultant franchise (2003)
- Founded SalesStar (2005)
- Member of EO (The Entrepreneurs’ Association) and board member for New Zealand for the past four years
Paul O’Donohue says: I have always been passionate about making a difference, helping to grow people in order to grow sales. I particularly enjoy helping entrepreneurs develop the sales strategy and disciplines they require to maximise their growth. We literally give CEOs the clarity to help “engineer sales success”. Over the years we’ve been instrumental in aiding our clients to grow their markets, putting the science behind sales success so they could grow by as much as 146%. I gain great satisfaction out of using my unique blend of skills and experience to pragmatically solve complex sales challenges and help companies map out a clear path to grow. I’m a strong advocate for three things: for setting goals that stretch, for lifelong learning and for developing a supportive mindset for success. I live by the philosophy “If you’re not getting out of your comfort zone, you are not growing.”
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.
Oliver Eaton | Pete Evans | Paul O’Donohue
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.
So welcome back to this week’s edition of Creating SalesStars. I’m delighted to welcome as our guest this week, the CEO and founder of sales star global, Paul O’Donohue. I’ve personally known Paul for six years now after meeting Paul at my very first objective management group conference. Paul has been running sales star globally now for 16 years, so I’m delighted this week that we’ve got the opportunity to ask Paul some questions about sales, challenging sales leadership and for the benefit of our listeners this week. Paul, could you tell us a little bit about how you came to form SalesStar?
Oh, well, first and foremost, six years is and past, hasn’t it?
It certainly has.
Yeah look, it’s a bit of a long story, so I’ll try and keep it really, really short. So it was it’s almost eight years ago now to be fair, and I started with thinking with the end in mind, which is growing a global organisation. And I think a lot of business owners, entrepreneurs just don’t think big enough, you know, and I think it takes the same amount of thinking as thinking big as thinking small. So it was really driven from a passion which is, you know, making a difference to grow people, to grow sales. And it was driven by, you know, a purpose of really trying to make a difference in the world of business and helping businesses and salespeople really excel in selling.
Fantastic. Just tell it for the benefit of the listeners, just tell us a little bit about your background before you set up sales style.
Yeah, for sure. Well, I spent my first 10 years and my working career as an electrician, and I remember vividly thinking I was going to have an electrical practice. And what I realised at that time was that electricians weren’t very good at selling or the very good business people. So after 10 years having been on the trade, I went and did another apprenticeship of sorts, which was in the world of selling. So I got my first professional sales job as a sales engineer, selling variable speed drives to, you know, a lot of processing plants and manufacturing industries. And I progressed there to work for one of the top 50 companies in the world. It was a key account manager for Tyco electronics. And then I kind of fell into the recruitment industry, which is where I really learned how to sell. To be fair, because it was the commission only and you’re actually dealing with a product that has a mind of its own and it can change its mind at any one stage. So, you know, taught me about numbers and discipline and really taught me a lot about following the sales process in particular. And then from there, I brought into a business coaching franchise and I’ve become the number one licensed partner franchisee in New Zealand at that time. And it was not just through my ability to sell and connect, but it was my ability at the time to really lean on a referral system and ask for referrals to grow the business. But an interesting thing happened after a couple of years as a general business coach. One thing is I realised I wasn’t a very good general practitioner, and I always focused on the front end of the business, which is, you know, sales and marketing. So that whole franchise system got wobbly from a head office structure, and I decided to really sit down and focus on sales. So that’s when I started SalesStar, which yeah, that’s basically how we got started basically down on sales.
That’s a fantastic background. So it leads me really into, you know, one of the questions I wanted to ask this about you. You’ve obviously learnt a lot in your career, learnt a lot about sales, sales, leadership and sales management, you know, from your previous experience and scaling up the sales side globally. As you are doing. What do you think are the key things that sales leaders and sales managers should be really focusing on when trying to correct the high performance sales team.
Well, that’s a fantastic question, and it’s taken us eighteen years to really unpack that question, Pete. And it’s the first thing we started with is what makes high performing sales teams perform really well versus the ones that tend to struggle. And I can give you a comprehensive list, but maybe I’ll just focus it on three things here. But first and foremost, the number one job a sales leader should be doing. As growing the team in order to grow sales. All right, so sales managers in particular often fall into a trap and they feel they single headedly have to try and grow the company themselves. And I believe this is mainly due to the fact that they were previously the top salesperson and then they’ve gone into a management role. And it’s kind of what they know best. And it’s that whole cliche. It’s like the best player doesn’t always make the best coach, does it? Do they?
Yeah. And I also think they sort of tend towards leaning back on sales themselves because it’s a really good dopamine hit. You know, they get the effect. It’s like a drug. They need to make a sale. I have to make a sale. So they kind of revert back to type. But there’s three things I’d say and answering that question in terms of what the key things are of a sales leader. And the first one that really stands out in terms of developing a high performing team is coaching and that’s coaching capability. But it’s also time spent and coaching, you know, making sure we have a regular cadence with our sales team and coaching them on a weekly basis. And, you know, as a sales manager, best practices about 50% of their time allocation and their job should be coaching the team. And there’s lots of different ways to coach the team. Is this formal? This informal? This prequel coaching is, you know, dual-core coaching is curbside coaching. There’s, you know, regular meetings where we’re managing the pipeline and doing deals, specific coaching. So there’s a lot in coaching, but at the end of the day, if you think about the number one job sales manager has to do, which is grow people to grow sales. Coaching is the way to get there, so that takes a big part of what a sales leader should be doing. The second one, I would suggest, is running regular sales meetings. I mean, I don’t know about you, Pete, but sometimes we get a new prospect and we ask them this question how often do you run sales meetings? And they say monthly. But last month we didn’t have one. And the previous month we didn’t have one. And when you ask them why, they basically say, I just feel like I’m not adding much value and so people don’t turn up and you know, they’re not that productive. But a high performing organisation, I believe that’s the litmus test is do they run regular sales meeting? And it should be the most exciting meeting in the week for the sales team should really, you know, motivate and inspire the whole team. You know, we’re steering the winds for the week when taking some of the common challenges the team have so we can get them unstuck. And first and foremost, we’re providing that group accountability on the leading KPIs that we should be. So, you know, we have to hold sales team accountable and the best way to do that is via group. So there’s a bit of peer pressure there. And I would say the third thing in terms of high performance on my list is recruitment. You know, if you want, if you’re up more saless, high better salespeople, and it sounds simple, but you know, recruitment is a process and as a science, it’s not a one off event where someone leaves and then we scramble around trying to find someone in a hurry because that’s a big mistake. So the processes we should always be building a candidate bench, so we’ve got players coming off the bench. And we should always be looking for the next a player. And ultimately, we need to be always upgrading the sales team because you probably know as well as I do when you get an A player coming in off the bench what it does with the rest of the team, you know, really sometimes it breaks that glass ceiling and enables everyone else to step up, and that’s how you create high performance.
Fantastic! I’d like to unpack some of these things, these great points you’ve raised, Paul. So you talk about coaching, coaching for the high performance and what sales manager themselves should be doing. How would you respond to a sales manager or sales leader says, yeah, I get all this about coaching Paul, but I just haven’t got time to coach my team.
Well, they have to make time really well. What are they spending their time on, you know, bridge seats,admin. Like, I’ve seen this mistake so many times as the sales manager sits in their ivory tower. They never leave the office. They never accompany the sales team. Therefore, they don’t really know how they behave or how effective they are out in the field and time spent with the sales team in order to grow them in terms of their capability, growth and in terms of effectiveness as time well spent.
I mean, essentially, it talks about the, you know, the salesperson who gets, you know, the great salesperson who gets promoted to be the sales manager. And often they still want to get their adrenaline rush of closing the deal so they’ll take over from the salesperson. And, you know, in sporting terms, it’s likely become the player manager. So they still want to be on something. They still want to be on the pitch and they’re doing the selling because they get the buzz out of it. Do you think actually sales managers should allow their salespeople to make mistakes? Or do you think they should be constantly rescuing their salespeople when they’re sort of the they’re riding alongside the salespeople in meetings?
It’s a really good question, and we – it’s difficult not to rescue a situation, but that’s one of the hardest things to do as a sales manager. But we shouldn’t, you know, people learn from their mistakes. You’ve kind of like it’s like riding a bike as the child. You’ve got two people, you know, fall off the bike, get their balance and learn from their mistakes, right? And you know, unless that’s a complete train wreck and it’s a big deal, we can jump in and help. But certainly we’ve got to unpack the lessons after the call. So it’s one of the toughest things to do is not to rescue the sales team, but from a coaching point of view, that’s the best way to transfer learning.
OK would you like to share with the listeners any examples from your own career where actually you’ve perhaps blown the deal and thought afterwards if only somebody coaching me on that deal?
This is a really good question. Actually, Alex Chan’s got a crunch. So we are we’ve got invited for a RFP and that was worth millions ours with a global account, and Alex hid the strategy and the RFP. So he led a team of about five people who were responding and pitching on the day. We had three of us turn up to pitch and me included. And we did really well and there was a final question. And we got bamboozled with it and we didn’t answer it as cleanly and as effective as we could of. Because, you know, the strategy, we kind of missed it out. So it was an oversight of the whole team. But Alex, who led it, put his hand up and took responsibility for that and wanted to die on us. Good afterwards, he said, hey, look, next time we do an RFP, you can choose a new team leader because, you know, I’ve. It’s just an oversight on me, and I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t prepare the team. Therefore, we lost this bit of business that was worth $2 million. My response to Alex was, are you kidding? I just spent $2 million on this thing and you’re learning.
I love that story, and I know that you’ve shared it with us. It was before, and I think not for the benefit of the listeners today. But, you know, together. We’ve also got some additional learning from trying to win transfer in larger accounts, Paul. But maybe that’s a discussion of a different podcast. But I want to come back to this, this area of pre-call coaching. You know, I mean, you know, I’ve heard you use this expression many times stop your salespeople practising on the customers. Why do you think it’s really important for, you know, sales, marketing and sales leaders to block out time to, you know, actually practice what’s going to happen in a meeting with a prospect or a presentation? You know, how much value should you put on that as an organisation?
Well, you’ve got to put a lot of value and currency on it. If when a new business is important and it is like it’s the lifeblood of any business, right, there’s the sharp end of the business. So, you know, I always say, you can’t be too casual about sales. Otherwise, you become a casualty. And like too many companies and too many salespeople, for that matter, practice on their prospects and. If you think how much it costs to get a lead, to find a prospect to have that discovery meeting and to perch at the cost of sale becomes quite, you know, quite high. It’s expensive and most cases, right? But without practicing, you’re not going to improve your capability. You’re not going to improve your effectiveness. You’re not going to improve your conversion rates. Then you know, salespeople are going to also be felt feeling despondent. So the best thing we can do is like any high performance sports team as practice on a regular basis. And you know, the prequel coaching is really important. It’s about getting your sales team in the right frame of mind for a start. You’ve got to have the right mindset. You know, sometimes sales are just absolute, a confidence game, and it’s making sure they the first person they Sellers themself, they’ve got to believe in what they’re doing. So that’s the first thing, right, really, that getting them to believe in. Other things I look for is asking questions about what would a good outcome be of this call? What are the core objectives? What are some of the pushback that you might get? And how would you answer that? But also, you know who will be at the call, all the decision makers there that everyone on the buying committee? Are they at the meeting? You know, what roles do they play? What do you think would be important to them and making sure? Most importantly, that they’ve got the questions framed up, so they’re thinking about the right questions to ask. One of the things they actually want, I’m always looking for. What do you think the client’s circumstances are? You know, what’s going on in their world are they’re in a competitive situation. What what are some of the pain points? Do you think that they will have? And let’s narrow in to that. Let’s find out what the objectives are and maybe what’s getting in the way of getting to the goals.
OK, fantastic. I want to dig a bit deeper. You’ve mentioned mindset a few times. You know, Paul, you know, you’re a Kiwi. You’re obviously very passionate about your, your sport. You know, what do you think sales leaders and sales and sales people can learn from, you know, sales mindset? You know, the All Blacks have undoubtedly been one of the top, one of the top international rugby union sides for a number of years now. So what do you think salespeople and sales managers can learn from that sort of mindset?
Oh, well, 80% of sales success was mindset. So it’s a lot to do with mindset. Certainly from a sales leaders point of view. But, you know, I encourage everyone to have a growth mindset, you know, and that’s always thinking big. It’s stretching your goals. Having stretch goals. But it’s also, you know, taking personal responsibility for learning, you know, a growth mindset as being a lifelong student. You know, part of why I create a self-starter is because the more I learn about sales, the more I didn’t know. And so, you know, I’ve been fortunate enough to hang out with sales, thought leaders, experts from every corner of the planet. And I’m constantly learning, you know, eight years of this. I’m still a student. You know, I still have a growth mindset. There’s still more to learn. In the last two years, COVID’s really shaken up the whole sales landscape, and there are new strategies and new technology and new ways of being more effective than sales and more tech stack and tools to be more effective as the sales leader. So from a mindset point of view, we’ve got to have that growth mindset. Excuse me. And the other thing is we can limit ourselves with our own thinking and our own beliefs. So, you know, our we call it self-limiting belief that, you know, we can talk ourselves out of a sale before we even started. Like I’ve heard, sales leaders say, I will never win that bit of business. It’s a waste of time. Or why did you call on that? So and so we’ve never had any luck. And he’s a nuisance. You know, I literally got told that in my first sales job, but I got told that after I called on this prospect in the very next week we sent back, in those days it was a faxed order. I’m showing my age now. We’ve got a fax order for a whole bunch of variable speed drives, which had never happened. And it was all because I didn’t have any of these self limiting beliefs, and those sales manager didn’t get to me before I got to the client. I’m sure if they told me it was a waste of time, I would have manifested that. I would have thought, well, why would I call on him? As my boss said, it’s the waste of time. It’s going to be a waste of time, right? So you kind of look for evidence to support your thinking.
Yeah interesting. Therefore, you talk about fax machines and I can remember when I was in corporate sales and we actually got a fax machine in the office that was based up and I had a prospect and we will look at it as an employee benefits package for this prospect of 50 employees. So he was going to be a big deal. I put the proposal together and the managing director said, could I fax it to them on a Friday afternoon? And the sales manager said, you can’t use the fax machine because you have to have written permission from the regional sales director. And I said stuff it. I said the prospect is asking for this. And her response was which was not a growth mindset. You’ll be hung, drawn and quartered on Monday morning by Vincent on Monday morning. The prospect actually faxed back, saying they were going to go ahead, but it is back to having that growth mindset and surrounding yourself with the right people.
Yeah, it’s just about being customer centric, right, that company doesn’t sound like they’re a customer centric at all. They’ll probably be more operationally than following the rules from a, you know, an operations manual. They’ll still not do this. You know, you’ve got to actually think about the customer at the end of the day and what’s good for them so well done for being a rule breaker, Pete.
Yeah so so I want to explore this, this thing with the mindset and sort of the limiting beliefs. You know, if you’re a sales manager and perhaps some of your sales people are struggling with their mindset. What are some quick wins a sales manager can do in terms of, you know, encouraging the sales teams have a growth mindset?
Great question that wouldn’t be encouraging. Well, first and foremost, that comes from the leadership, right? The leadership can influence the culture of the company. So that’s first and foremost. Some of the growth mindset would come from really understanding what the motivational drivers of each individual sales person is, what do they motored by? What does success look like and working with them on personal goals and having those personal goals relate back to the business and particular, you know, to their own personal budgets and how steering like a roadmap or a compass on how they can achieve that, which would be breaking it down into leading indicators. And that’s one way to really enhance the sales motivation and entertain other things are the shekels that can hold salespeople back. And these things can be hidden from view of the sales manager, but also from sales people themselves. So a good way to really look under the Bonnet. And I guess the metaphor would be like if you had a motor vehicle and you started, it wasn’t firing on all cylinders and you started changing like the camp belt and the timing belt and spark plugs, and you’ll go through a process of elimination to find out how you can make it perform better. That’s just sort of a long and expensive way to do it. Plugging an analytical tool and some sort of analysis into the motor to find out and pinpoint with accuracy what the root causes of it not performing would be the best way. So in a similar fashion, you know, my recommendation is there are sales effectiveness tools out there, like from objective management group that looks that and evaluates the salespeople mindset. So we can really look at what’s holding them back from performance. And often these things are psychological barriers. You know, we talked about self limiting beliefs. It identifies about 36 different self limiting beliefs that are common with salespeople and sales managers. But it also identifies, you know, whether they have the higher need for approval, which is the need to be liked by their customers. So much so that there’s often an avoidance to ask the tough, timely questions to advance the sale. It also highlights whether there’s a money weakness where that can often lead to, you know, discounting and opting out of selling value, not asking for the budget. And there are some. There are other things without going into too much detail that really highlights the mindset of individuals.
Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting you’ve talked about the need for approval and the need to be like because as you know, we deal, you know, in the UK for sales like we do with a lot of companies where the salespeople say, oh, I’ve got Pete, I’ve got great relationships with my customers and they absolutely love me. We’ve got it for dinner with them. We got rugby, we go to the golf. But you know, what’s your opinion when people sales people say, well, I’ve got great relationships with my customers.
Well, that’s great. Relationships at table stakes are everything, and they can influence the sale. But there’s too many salespeople that rely on relationship as a strategy to win business. And often you find the people that are over servicing their client base. You ask this question, you know, are they growing these to your wallet or what is this your wallet? And you know, you can often ask them, are they buying from you? Certainly often they don’t know what this Sherer wallet is, or they don’t have a strategy around growing share wallet. They’ve basically got a relationship and hoping they’ll buy. But in the worst case scenario, I’ve met so many clients that have had an absolutely impeccable relationship, absolutely impeccable personal relationship, and that client has ended up buying off the competition. And in some cases, they don’t even know that the incumbent has provided a service or had offer this type of product. In some cases, they did, but the competition has done a better job at, you know, finding out what the core problem is, of a client presenting a solution, showing an Roi and closing the deal. So, yeah, I wouldn’t rely on relationships selling. It’s only about 3% of the world’s population who are relationship Sellers are at the, you know, at the top of their game.
OK, fantastic. And Paul, you know, if somebody sort of. Got new as being a sales leader. What advice would you give to them if you’re new into a job as a sales leader of an organisation?
If I were new in particular? I think sales is a bit of a, you know, it can be still seen as a bit of a Black art and developing high performance salespeople, in particular, these processes and science around that. And I think a lot of sales managers get to where they are because of the top performing salespeople, and they certainly don’t have an invested enough in their own capability and their education about what’s best practice. And I believe some of them do research on the internet, but they’re overwhelmed with the abundance of information that gets out there, and that often isn’t helpful. But my advice to a sales leader would be really get in tune with what’s changed in the last couple of years. What’s the best practice and really invest in your own learning? Because, you know, this is what you’re getting paid for as a professional sales manager leader and investing yourself. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Get help if you need it. Some people are just a bit too proud. They think, because they’re the best salesperson. They kind of know what they’re doing. But there’s certainly a whole bunch of other capabilities when it comes to leading and managing sales people. You know, there’s the strategic element, there’s the recruiting element, there’s coaching this, forecasting, you know this understanding what the tech stack is. There’s a raft of things that sales managers need to know. The new sales managers and even existing sales managers have been around for a while. Again, it goes back to having a growth mindset and sustaining current and investing in yourself.
Fantastic so I’ve got a couple of final questions for you, Paul. You know, we’ve talked a lot about sales leadership, you know, solving the past. It was very much said, you know, the thinking was as if you’re in a leadership position, you know, you need to be strong all the time. You didn’t need to show any vulnerability or is seen as a sign of weakness if you are, if you ask for help. What’s your opinion on that? As as a leader, you know, a quickly growing business, you know, do you see it as a sign of weakness if you’ve got to go and ask other people for to help you develop and grow?
I don’t think it’s a weakness at all. I think it’s a strength. I think the more we can make ourselves vulnerable. It’s a good way to build rapport and connections with the whole team, you know? I’d like to think I’ve got all the answers, but I don’t, and I know that I don’t. And I’m OK asking, asking for people asking for opinions. You know, it’s the way you know, I’m a very collaborative consultative leader, and I think that’s a good way to lead a sales team. You don’t always have to have all the answers. I don’t think the old style of being autocratic works, you know, so a collaborative approach is the best form of leadership. And the other thing too is if you want to be a good coach, you’ve got to be a good listener and you’ve got to be able to win salespeople over in terms of their respect. And a lot of people respect the fact that you’re being vulnerable and that allows also them to be vulnerable. And it’s a good way to get breakthroughs and coaching when people can level with you and say, hey, this is what I think is going on with me. I don’t have the answers here. I don’t know how to win this account. And if I feel comfortable coming to you and they will have fewer, but they can see that you have been vulnerable as well. I think that’s a really good format and a good place to start your coaching.
OK and my final question is you’ve talked a lot about lifelong learning. And I know that you’re you’re, you know, an avid and avid listener of podcasts and you’re an avid, avid reader. What is the one book that you would recommend to a salesperson or a sales manager to read that you might have read in the last 12 months? That could have an impact?
Oh, that’s a Yeah. Which book would I lean on? Good question. I’ll tell you, there’s a really actually one of my favourite books, and this was a game changer for me. And the book sounds a bit strange, but it was the author’s Patrick Lynchian, who was one of my favourite, I guess, leadership and management authors and speakers in the world. It’s written. Lots and lots of books, but the book was called Getting Naked, and what it was about was a fable about a business coaching practice in San Francisco. It was like a boutique practice, but it was highly successful and highly profitable, more so than its larger competitors. And the rationale and the breakthrough there was. Was not having a predetermined product in mind when you go to scale. Too many sales people sell off a product or they have, you know, of a product catalogue or they have a specific service or product in mind, and they kind of lead with that. And they present far too early where. Getting Naked was all about actually leaving all the catalogues in the car, you know, letting go of actually your core product and service and going in and just really taking an interest and the prospect of decline for that matter and asking and understanding what’s going on in their business from a consulting point of view, even doing some complimentary coaching or consulting to really understand the client’s objectives and where they’re going without being attached to the outcome. So that was a really fantastic book for me. But there’s a raft of a raft of others that I could recommend.
OK, and finally, Paul, if people want to reach out and connect with you, what’s the best way of connecting with Paul O’Donohue?
Good question. LinkedIn so my LinkedIn profile connect with me. Send me a message. Email address because on our website, which is so SalesStar.com so self start with two. Have a look for my profile there. That’s all my details on their email addresses. Paul O for O’Donoghue, PaulO@salesstar.com.
So, Paul, thank you very much for making the time. I was going to say this morning. But it is. It’s evening in New Zealand and we’re delighted to have you on the show this week, and we forward to welcoming you. Can we back to the future as well? So thank you very much, Paul.
Yeah, I look forward to that and Thanks for inviting me. Peter was fantastic.
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: Paul O’Donohue
Producer and Intro/Outro Voiceover: Oliver Eaton
Podcast Editor: Alex Mullen