Chatting Up Success


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Chatting Up Success

  1. 1. essentials MANAGERS’ CORNER TIPS PSYCHOLOGY SELLING SKILLS “It was when I started looking out for everyone else that I became a good manager.” Chatting Up Success How one company’s innovative system is used to share success throughout the organization In an innovative series of candid inter- views with Heartland Payment Systems reps and sales leaders that began in Sep- tember 2008, chief sales officer Sanford Brown talks sales, motivation, opportuni- ty, and success. “I wanted people to listen as if they were flies on the wall or hearing through the door the conversation they always wanted to hear,” explains Brown. Dissatisfied with experts who would come in and explain how to fix what was broken, Brown wanted to discuss suc- cesses – why and how they happened. Realizing that paper lessons from top management often go unread and emails get bounced and deleted, he came up with this concept of a kind of sales “fire- side chat” to celebrate success throughout the organization. He invited 500 of Heartland’s 1,700- strong sales force to reserve a seat for a live interview and question-and-answer session with a top rep. In only eight hours, the house was filled with people eager to listen in. “Scarcity of seats seems to make it more valuable,” Brown notes. But all the sessions are recorded, so other reps and managers can hear playbacks at their own convenience. JEFF WEINER The key, Brown emphasizes, is that reps Sanford Brown, chief sales officer, and managers can hear real success sto- Heartland Payment Systems ries (including mistakes made along the REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM SELLING POWER MAGAZINE, JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2009 ISSUE
  2. 2. ® way), learn practical lessons, and hear about best practices that can be applied Blaine Burn, divisional manager, Heartland Payment Systems immediately. The candid interview approach is just one more thing that is distinctive about the $1.3-billion-a-year Heartland. All of the firm’s relationship managers, account managers, territory managers, district managers, and upper management, including Brown himself, are entirely paid on commission, on either their own sales or those of the teams they manage. “I wouldn’t be comfortable doing it any other way,” says Brown. “Having skin in the game is good.” A lot of people have done very well at this game. Record-setting district manager Blaine Burn kicked off the series with his leadership-track interview, heard by 125 Heartland managers. Burn left a $50,000 base-and-commission sales job in 2000 at the age of 25 to take his chances with Heartland. Eight years later, Burn was earning a very handsome income and broke all company records for monthly sales, despite his Oklahoma territory being one of Heartland’s smaller markets. “I was 25 and thought I knew every- thing,” Burn told his listeners about his decision to join Heartland with a family to support. His wife’s family came from a nonsales background. “They thought you go into an office for 40 or 50 hours, and if you want more money you go for over- time,” Burn remembered. “My mother-in- hot tips 1. Figure out your weakness and take corrective action. 2. Nurture the whole team, not just the top performers. law asked when I was going to get a real job, settle down and do something real.” Burn started out as a relationship man- ager, working from a home office. He remembers receiving his first residual check, for 17 cents, or “14 cents after tax.” But he was confident there would be many and much more to come. Partly at the prodding of his wife, Burn leased an inexpensive office nearby. “It was a key to my success. You know when to work and when to play.” He then decid- ed to look upward. “I wanted to move up to management for all the wrong reasons: title, respect, REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM SELLING POWER MAGAZINE, JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2009 ISSUE
  3. 3. essentials MANAGERS’ CORNER TIPS PSYCHOLOGY SELLING SKILLS “It’s like football. If I build the team and month, and then I created a plan around that. I did the math, figured out the infra- focus on each player, hiring and training, structure, and created a lot of little action plans. I decided I would not teach a big divi- they will get me to the goal.” sion meeting but would have lots of little voluntary meetings. We went through some pain, but we did not let go of the big goal.” and power. And I made a lot of mistakes forced me to articulate what I was doing.” Burn’s first piece of advice to new man- at first. I have a big ego. I want to be right In explaining his methods, Burn agers and reps is to simply read the history all the time, and my ego got in the way. learned what he was still doing wrong of Heartland. “It will give you a chill. “In the first years I did not hold my ter- and started to improve further. Results When you feel like quitting, you realize ritory managers to the same standard [I followed. “People tell me if they had my people have gone through bigger things in hold myself to]. It is like with my children team they would perform well, too. I tell creating this company.” – they are all different, and I have to han- them, you’re right, you would. It was Second, he urges, “Create a plan you dle them differently, but there has to be when I started looking out for everyone are in love with and your people are in the same standard. else that I became a good manager.” love with. Your success will be a byproduct “There were people I did not talk to The job also became a lot more fun. of that plan. Be flexible. It’s like football. enough. One older person bullied me Burn’s successful team spends a lot of time It’s all about the time left on the clock. No and pushed me around. And if I did not together. “I care about them, and I want matter what happens, stick with the plan, like people personally, I did not spend them to care about me. If they don’t care care about others, and it will work.” enough time with them. Now we identi- about another team member, I want to Burn took a few questions from the live fy people who we are not friendly with, know why. If the person is a crook, we will audience at the end of his interview. He told and we seek to help them out.” get rid of that person. But otherwise, not one questioner that his favorite book, after Burn now says he was also too judg- caring about other people on the team and the Bible, was Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. mental in his early management days. “I avoiding them is not an option.” Mutual To another manager who worried about judged people on the way they dressed, the caring builds loyalty and allows the team to making his own sales because he could way they acted, and I made some enemies. share tough, candid conversations. not make a living on overrides, Burn said, Last sales meeting I looked these people When he loses a top rep to a promo- “Take care of your own numbers, and set up and apologized to them. My judgments tion, Burn cheers. “That rep is not going your priorities first. Then empower your were eating me alive. Now when we are to work for me forever,” he concludes. team members to get the answers they getting down on somebody at a meeting, practical wisdom we point it out, ask if we can help that per- son in some way, and if not, we move on.” He had to learn how to deal with disap- 1. Transparent information empowers the sales team. pointments in his new position. “There were times I thought of throwing in the 2. Success and stories of success spread more success. towel. I was being crushed by my plan.” 3. The team is stronger when members work together, rather He had a good prior year, and his new plan was built on that success. “Things than compete for the top slot. were not turning out well. I felt I couldn’t sell and that they were going to fire me.” When pressed to meet plan, Burn used need. Don’t fish for them, teach them to He tried to resign, but his superior told to push his top producers harder because he fish. Listen to them. Ask how you can help him to shut up and take some advice. knew they could do it. But there was a draw- them, but also how they can help you.” So Burn met with Brown and other back: “They were withdrawing from me.” And don’t love just your top producers, Heartland execs to focus on executing a The harder he pushed, the less satisfac- love the whole team, especially the strug- new plan. “I loved planning, but I was tory the results. Now he reminds the stars glers. “You hired them, now love them doing it all wrong. I focused on my goal, that they know what they are doing and into success. You don’t need more peo- and if I fell short I felt terrible.” Brown asks how he can help. “They produce ple, you need to help the people you got.” urged Burn to build and then work with more, and we have a better relationship.” For new managers struggling with time the team. Burn got the message: “It’s like And Burn concentrates on reps who are management, Burn was blunt: “Compart- football. If I build the team and focus on struggling. “If you beat them up and run mentalize your time, including time to get each player, hiring and training, they will them down, it works for a while, but less away. Set expectations. You cannot be all get me to the goal.” and less, until they stop listening.” things to all people. Set times to help your The big change was planning and Brown praises Burn for planning proac- reps, and tell your reps when it is OK to call.” focusing on the team. “If you put the plan tively, rather than by the seat of his pants as He gave one final tip to a novice – and to work, you can accomplish amazing former top reps often do. Burn responds perhaps reluctant – manager: “Do your things.” One pivotal point came when that Heartland is a great place to be reward- job because you love it and want to do it. Burn appointed his first territory manager, ed for being first. “I declared [that my team] Don’t do anything against your will.” and he had to train the new leader. “He would be the first to hit $250,000 in a – HENRY CANADAY REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM SELLING POWER MAGAZINE, JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2009 ISSUE