How online events have changed after COVID-19

Converting Field Sales to Hybrid Reps Post COVID-19

COVID-19 impacted outside sales reps by putting their charisma, expense accounts, face to face interaction, and typical sales cycle on the sideline.  It’s not a secret many high performers were left wondering how to build a book of business from behind a computer or phone.  The good reps kept going with those they knew, the great reps adapted and started becoming a hybrid inside/outside sales ninja.

What does it take to convert?  The work it takes to become an exceptional hybrid rep may not be a difficult as you think.  So, what does this mean for the sales professional who’s built a career on charisma, working business problems, and meeting for drinks/dinner/outing to close a deal?  How can outside sales teams and managers thrive in this new role.

Find out in this episode, Rob and Kyle discuss:

  1. How are outside sales reps coping with COVID-19
  2. Where/how can an outside rep get training to become a hybrid rep
  3. What should the KPIs and inputs be
  4. Ways to effectively manage and predict pipeline
  5. Being human even while being virtual



 Kyle: (00:00)
Welcome to the summit, a podcast focused on bringing you the knowledge and insight for industry leaders. I’m your host Kyle hammer, and I’m on a mission to help you exceed your potential. As a sales guy, turned marketer, I’m passionate about building sustainable businesses. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned is that you won’t find an overnight growth scheme, shortcuts has access or a way to hack yourself to the top. Nope. Success is the by-product of great relationships, and we’re here to help you unlock that success. One conversation at a time

Rob: (00:31)
In a lot of cases and outside sales rep has become an inside sales rep, and those are two kind of different skill sets.

Kyle: (00:41)
Welcome. Thanks for stopping by today. Our guest is Rob Smith of sales accelerated. Uh, Rob is a fractional VP of sales. And today we’re actually going to spend a little bit of time talking about moving from the field to virtual Covid causing all kinds of changes and where we’re, um, sales teams are having to adjust. So Rob’s just the guy to give us the insight, but before we do Rob, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Rob: (01:06)
Sure. Thanks for having me Kyle. Um, so my name is Rob Smith. Um, I’m president and founder of a sales consulting organization. Um, I actually spent the majority of my career 20 plus years in a big corporate environment. Um, I’m actually recovering a electrical engineer. I started my career as an electrical engineer and then hopped into sales. Um, and when I did that, I went to go work for a division of a large corporation and the guy who was out five or so tiers above me, the VP of sales was just a great guy, awesome leader, still friend of mine, actually to this day, I wanted to be him when I grew up. So I said about that task and took the jobs. And the corporate told me to take and move to the cities. The corporate told me to move to and ultimately made it, got there to the top, you know, as the VP of sales looked around and I was like, I don’t want to do this for the rest of my career.

Rob: (01:56)
So, uh, I founded five S sales consulting. That’s my company. And as Kyle mentioned, I got an affiliation with a larger organization, sales acceleration. That’s a 10 year old company out of Indianapolis founded by two X, corporate VPs of sales. Um, and they look for knuckleheads like me who attained the VP level within a complicated organization, tired of the politics, the travel missing games and recitals and all that kind of stuff. And so I take the skills that I built over a 20 plus year career in sales, um, and apply that to the owners of small and medium sized businesses. So very rewarding, much more so than corporate America.

Kyle: (02:34)
Well, you, uh, you touched on it there a little bit. You talk about, uh, you know, being able to be home for recitals and in sporting events, et cetera. You’re a road warrior sounds like with even just in your progression, um, moving up the chain in the corporate world, like it wasn’t a lot of time at home.

Rob: (02:50)
No, I was gone 90% of the time I was on anywhere in between two and six planes a week. Usually. Um, I had a sales team across 14 different zones managing $650 million of revenue. Um, it’s busy dude. Um, lots of, I was very happy to hand in my rock star United garden. Um, cause I would, I’d flown her eight times, literally a few times a year. I’d just take three weeks, pack a bag and fly from Houston to Tokyo, to Singapore, to Dubai, Rome, London, and then back home or some variation of that, you know, stopovers in China and stuff like that. So, you know, people think that sexy and it is for about 12 months and then, you know, look, I’ve done some cool stuff. I’ve hiked on the great wall of China. Uh, you know, I’ve been to the top of the tallest building in the world and Dubai. Um, so seeing some cool stuff I’ve been to mass at the Vatican.

Kyle: (03:57)
That’s cool. That’s not something you hear every day or like, Hey, you know, I actually went to mass with the Pope.

Rob: (04:02)
Yeah. So, uh, I’ve done some cool stuff, but you know, after a while it’s just steel and concrete and glass really. I mean, just you’re just in a city. Um, but anyway, yeah,

Kyle: (04:15)
Well, you know, and I think the thing that, that, what that does is I think it’s, it makes the transition that we’ve all had to go through, you know, related to COVID, um, probably even more interesting for you and it, it helps that the transition that you had to go through moving from flying all the time, being on the road all the time and, and just the shift in dynamic to, Hey, uh, now I got to figure out how to sell or, or start a business and do things differently, but I’m not on an airplane. I’m not talking to people that are, you know, I’m not running $650 million and I’m running 650. There’s probably a lot of sales guys out there in sales organizations that are going, uh, I got this, this, this great sales rep with this huge, you know, this huge salary and expense account and they can’t use, I’m not getting anything out of either. What do we do? What what’s, um, what’s the experience like for those guys, like right now what’s a, a normal field rep or an outside sales rep. What’s what’s going through their mind these days.

Rob: (05:15)
I would say there’s probably, I mean, we’re pretty far into this, right? I mean, right. Post outbreak, everybody was just kind of nuts. I mean, everybody’s trying to find their way, right. I think some people have found their way and I think there are other others there that are still struggling a little bit. Um, and I think those on their way adopted this new virtual world readily, um, they took a look at kind of revisited their value proposition or a unique selling USP, whatever you want to call it. Um, because what got you, the sale pre-AP break may they may still be still worked, but may not get you the sale post, uh, outbreak. Um, so those that have adjusted successfully, I, I know that that was a, you know, an ingredient in the stew, so to speak to so re reevaluate, you know, how you’re positioning yourself, your product, your company, to your customers.

Rob: (06:13)
Because I think one of the opportunities that we’ve had through this whole mess is to connect with our customers on a different level. Cause we’re all going through the same things. We’ve got kids at home that should be in school, um, potentially, you know, spending a lot more time with family, which can be a good thing. But I I’m guessing that in addition to the COVID stats, increasing divorce is increasing as well. Um, you know, so it’s just a, it’s kind of an emotional time. So it’s an opportunity for you to connect more on that kind of level. Um, and certainly empathy when dealing with your customers or potential customers, um, is another piece that goes into it. Um, you know, they may not be in a position to be, even to be wanting to listen to a hard pitch. So you kinda got to find your way through that.

Rob: (07:02)
Um, you know, a couple other things, you’ve got to be a lot more deliberate in this kind of medium, um, about who you’re targeting, how you’re targeting them, how you’re running your virtual meetings. Um, and you know, one, one skill that a salesperson needs that hasn’t changed is you need to know when to press and you need to know when to shut up and listen, you know, it might be more impactful to the customer. If they’re distracted, if you don’t want to sort distracted or something, call them out and say, Hey, man is now a good time. You’ve got something, you know, that you want to talk about or is that kind of connection that can lead to deeper, longer lasting and more lucrative relationships, uh, in the longterm. Um, you know, I think it’s also caused those that have been able to transition successfully to really think about who the new kind of decision makers are. Um, cause that may have shifted. You want to take a look at that. Certainly you may, you may not need to be talking to the same people. You were post outbreak than pre outbreak. Um, so I know I just ran through a lot of kind of random top line stuff there, but

Kyle: (08:13)
We really ran through a lot of random. I think, I think one of the things that I’m most curious about is the interchangeability. I mean, I understand that we are, we’re in a more blended approach now where there’s some travel and some people are able to still get face to face, but, but when you’re, when you’re a field sales rep and you can’t call into the office, cause everybody’s working from home and everybody’s using email all of the sudden the skills that you used with building relationships, you know, having a beer, going and playing golf, meeting people at trade shows those, those types of things, all of a sudden they’re gone. What are the skills that, you know, he’s like, Hey, you maybe thought you didn’t need them before. You’re definitely going to need them now as, as you transitioned back through the next 18 months and we figure out, you know, when can we go back to face-to-face in sales the way it is

Rob: (09:04)
Just a little bit of a sidebar there. I know a lot of sales reps that are actually playing more golf now than a pre pre outbreak, at least here in Texas. That was one of the few things that remained open. Um,

Kyle: (09:19)
It’s, it’s, it’s funny to hear you say that because there, um, I have a friend who just bought a golf shop in, in central Iowa and he was like, man, we just crushed the previous owners. You know, he’s like we did in one year, we actually said we did in six months, what they did in the previous two years because of COVID because everybody needed clubs and balls bags and upgrade, upgrading everything. So it’s not, everybody’s not, everybody’s been frozen out with the sales. Yeah.

Rob: (09:45)
So to your question though, I mean, I think people sales reps need to reevaluate Katie not only internally through a different medium, um, and look, you can Google and get all kinds of ideas on how to tighten up, say an email to have calls to action, maybe softened language, uh, certainly important right now, maybe not being as direct. Hey, hope you and your family are well, you know, so you need to be a little softer, uh, I would say in your delivery at least, you know, via email, which can, I think pre outbreak, everybody was kinda in the mode of Kurt, Hey, I need this, I need this, I need this or whatever. Um, modifying your style, um, to fit kind of the, the time, uh, as effective. And you need to be better about managing your follow-up and your follow through. Um, because I wasn’t in corporate at the time, but I saw a lot of friends in corporate.

Rob: (10:40)
They said as soon as the applicant and everything shut down, like they went from getting maybe 70 emails a day to like 200, because it’s like you said, and kind of your question, the way you posed it is everybody’s sitting at their desk. Right? So I think I’ll share a personal story. You know, if, if you’re still in an area or if you’re still uncomfortable, uncomfortable, or can’t go out and see a customer or something like that, I would push the fact push some sort of virtual interaction, whether it’s zoom, whether it’s FaceTime or whatever, we were kind of, well, a few weeks into the outbreak and I’ve got two twin girls, um, and they were going nuts cause they kind of social Mister friends and stuff like that. And I hadn’t really thought of it, but uh, I made, I made them schedule at least 15, 20 minutes or something a day, take 15 or 20 minutes a day, connect with a friend, FaceTime on whatever, just so you can see them and interact with them. So even though we may not be able to visit our customers in person, you can still use the technology to at least try to as best you can. Um, we’ll simulate that experience and be able to speak to this helps it’s there’s psychology behind it. And you can Google that too. I’m sure you know, all kinds of articles about the psychology of quarantine.

Kyle: (12:01)
Well, you know, I think it’s, I think it’s interesting. Cause when, when quarantine hit right every email from somebody who had your email address tucked away in the catacombs of their, of their marketing tool or their sales tool, they were sending you messages saying, you know, in these challenging times, and this is the new normal, you know, and I think for a lot of sales guys, especially field sales guys that I know there’s a certain makeup to, Hey, I I’m extroverted enough that I enjoy being around people. I miss the social interaction I feed off of other people’s energy. It charges me up, right. There’s, there’s a lot to that, but when you can’t feed off other people’s energy and you’re not attracting it, like sometimes it’s hard to manufacture that energy or that same level of connection via screen. What sort of things do you, do you coach or do you the lookout or at least providing managers to say, okay, look that normal charisma and energy may not translate the same way in virtual. How do you, how do you compensate?

Rob: (13:04)
That’s a good question. Um, I think I’ll go back to something I said maybe a little earlier, you can still read reaction, right? Whether it’s, I know, I know this guy’s looking at his phone or I can tell it, he’s not looking into the camera. He’s, you know, probably a dinking around with his ear. You get, you gotta be, I think in the absence of being able to be in person and capture someone with charisma as you put it, um, you know, I think you need to be super mindful of the information that you’re passing out. And also those cues that tell you that, you know, this guy’s checked out, um, and have something as best you can at the ready, that would be, you know, attention grabbing, um, to, to bring them back into the conversation. And I, you know, any number of examples of, you know, having something in your pocket that you know, is a hot button, but I would say that’s probably easier to do with established relationships. Um, you know, more so than maybe ones that you’re trying to nurture and grow, um, you know, in, in, in a virtual setting. Yeah.

Kyle: (14:12)
I think it’s interesting. One of the, one of the things that I’ve, I’ve observed casually, cause I’m not, you know, I’m not a, I’m not a field rep and a hundred years ago I had a field rep type of experience, right where I was selling long-term care insurance door to door in the country. Like you, you have to have a tough gig. It was no joke. That’s for sure. There’s a reason why I’m not doing it today. I mean, those are the guys that are doing that. There’s a, there’s a certain level of technique and skill that you develop over time. And all of a sudden the tools that you would use to prospect or to, to open conversations, those things are all, all switched. And what I realized or what I’ve been observing is it seems like for many field reps, there’s not the same level of comfort with technology.

Kyle: (15:02)
There’s not the same level of comfort when it comes to, you know, managing stuff and trusting your CRM, using your computer, like you were talking about to create the engagement and even stuff as simple as well. How do I introduce myself in prospect? I don’t want to cold call. I haven’t cold called ever since when and how do I get new business? I got this quota, I’ve got to hit my, my customers don’t have as much money. Cause they’re, you know, they’re, they’re part of the, uh, economy that was impacted. Now, what if I’m a rep that’s in that situation where maybe I don’t feel like I have all of the skills, if you’re my VP of sales, what are you telling me to do? Like how do you, how do you coach me or get me through this, this period.

Rob: (15:46)
So breaking down a big problem into smaller pieces, right? That’s uh, my recovering engineer brain. Um, and I’ve, I’ve mentioned a couple of things, I think along the way here. Um, you know, I talked about value prop and how it may not be the same, um, your post that you need to sit down and kind of take stock and you need also come up with an elevator pitcher, a value prop for yourself, especially for new clients. Um, and you can start by talking to your existing clients and you know, those that you have relationships with, get, gather some data points like, Hey, why do you buy from me? Why do you buy for my company? Um, you know, what kind of challenges are you facing, you know, in this environment? What, what are you worrying about and capture some of that stuff because that’s where the gold is.

Rob: (16:33)
And then you can apply that data, you know, manipulate it, manufacture it and turn that into kind of an approach to new business. Um, because unless you understand, you know, going back to something I’ve said over and over there, what sold them pre outbreak may or may not be selling them post outbreak. And the more you can understand the shifts and the risks that people are, you know, that are very real to your customers and they’re trying to work through them the same way, tailor it to that kind of situation. And I think you’ll find the most success. And to your point cow, I mean sales guys, aren’t always the best planners. You know, I’ve, I’ve noticed this in myself as I’ve, you know, started this new venture being out on my own and stuff like that. Um, you, you really have to, you really have to be disciplined and force yourself because naturally as a sales rep, I mean, you’re the guy that likes to chase shiny things, Oh, squirrel, you know, that kind of thing. And, uh, you really need to sit down and take stock and do your best to understand what the customers are, uh, you know, trying to deal with and how you best present yourself and the solution that you’re selling, whatever that may be a widget or a service and how it’s going to meet those needs, because otherwise you’re just, you’re going to be frustrated.

Kyle: (17:55)
So the other question I have that I think is, is interesting, specific to field reps is how has COVID or, you know, this, this transition from being locked down and enabled to sell face-to-face, how has this impacted the relationship with marketing?

Rob: (18:13)
Um, I would say, you know, in some instances it’s strengthened it. And I think in the instances where it’s been strengthened, it’s, you know, people have done a lot of what I’ve talked about here, you know, taking a new inventory of your tools and making sure that they’re still applicable in the new, new day and age. I think those that, you know, is probably damaged relationship or broadened a gap that was probably there anyway, are those that didn’t react or didn’t move in one direction together. Um, you know, because marketing, you know, you and I have talked about this, you know, personally marketing and sales, if they’re clicking together, that’s a girls’ company. If there’s, you know, some sort of tension is, is healthy, but if there’s a, a huge chasm in between sales and marketing, that that’s, that’s not a long-term sustainable, uh, you know, type relationship for the, for the organization in its entirety.

Rob: (19:10)
Um, and I think those that have worked together and moved in the same direction. So the sales guys are out there doing what I’m talking about, talking to their customers, what are the, you know, what are you dealing with? How can we be helping better? You know, how do I need to be selling to you differently? Why are you buying from me now? Those kinds of things, voice of customer is a VOC is an acronym that by corporations is throwing up, throw around a lot. We’re the eyes and the ears. We need to be feeding that back to marketing. And, you know, guys like yourself, Kyle can be helping us develop tools, maybe it’s content or something like that, that we can be delivering and helping us to be successful at penetrating those new accounts, those new logos that we want to bring into the fold. So I don’t know if that answers your question, but I took my best crack at it.

Kyle: (19:54)
Well, it, it, it, it’s your perspective. And I really appreciate that. I think the thing that I find interesting Rob, as it relates to sales and marketing specifically during COVID is for a field sales guy, the, the reliance, or at least the guys that I knew there was a heavy reliance on their own self and their day to write emails, to, to create the communication, to, um, use the phone, make connections, have meetings, whatever it was like. There was, there was always the momentum that felt like they were propelling their own book of business. And then all of a sudden, several of the tools and skills that I would have used to perpetuate those relationships or to move that deal forward, or to build a better relationship to, you know, get that new account. I can’t do that, but there’s this group over here called marketing all of a sudden, it’s like, I wonder, do they have tools that I can use?

Kyle: (20:53)
Can I start sending, like, can I figure out how to send 50 emails a day or a hundred emails a day? Or is there, is there a way to start doing big? What, what can we now do because I’m kind of stuck, right? Like, I don’t know how to get ahold of this person because their cell phone I don’t have in their, their, um, uh, their, their information is not fully in the CRM and they’re not at the office, but they’re really, really good prospect. How do I engage them? And so I just wondered if that changed the value or the perception for, for field sales guys of what marketing can and does do relative to their sales

Rob: (21:30)
For, for the good outside sales guys, like the creative, the ones that aren’t, you know, stuck inside the box. I think it absolutely has. Um, you know, you and I were, we’re talking about a client prior to this call, and I think they’re ones that kind of got behind the eight ball. And now they’re like, Oh my gosh, we got 20, 20, 20, 21 staring us in the face and our pipeline is not good. Um, so I think those that, you know, those that were able to, and this is of very highly overused word right now, so I’m gonna apologize, but those who, you know, pivoted and said, you know, admitted to themselves, man, I need some help on this. This is different. This is new. What resources do I have at my disposal to help me through this? And, and I think the smart ones have, you know, reached out to their marketing organizations and said, let’s talk about this. Here’s what I’m seeing. What can we do? What can we work on together to, to help?

Kyle: (22:23)
Well, and I think, I think one of the things that’s interesting because coming out of the software world, we, we saw this, uh, we saw this sales model in the sales motion that really was, um, embraced by the, the Oracles. The Microsoft B2B, uh, in, in Salesforce was really one of the early adopters of this predictive revenue model, right? Where you have either a BDR calling and transferring it over and setting up for an enterprise rep, or you have a sales rep or account manager going out and working accounts into a specific territory everything’s done on the phone, it’s behind a computer screen. There’s this, there’s this element of software as a service in, in technology where I can sell from behind a computer screen, just as easily as I could sell face to face.

Kyle: (23:11)
What I’m curious about is, is if like the, the client we were talking about before the call, if there are organizations out there that are looking at these models and actually shifting their entire sales organization, cause it’s like, well, geez, we didn’t, maybe our sales are down 18% this year, but our expenses in our commissions, which you never want to skimp on commissions, I get that, but our commissions are down. And so our cost savings of not sending any EV everybody everywhere is like 30% less. And so we actually have a net positive impact to our EBITDA or bottom line. Does it, is, are there things that businesses are learning that makes that sales rep, that field rep have to have different skills moving forward?

Rob: (23:55)
Oh, absolutely. And that, that was a big part of the conversation I had with a client that we referenced. Um, I mean, in a lot of cases, an outside sales rep has become an inside sales rep and those are two kind of different skill sets. You know, an inside sales rep. It’s kind of like, I don’t know if you’ve ever worked with a lead gen company that there’s a lot more crappy ones out there than there are good ones. It’s, it’s, it’s a numbers game. And so, especially, you know, if you’re prospecting, if you’re trying to bring in new business, new logos into the portfolio, unfortunately you’re going to have to grind. And, you know, I mentioned how outside sales guys like to chase shiny things, making a hundred phone calls a day is not something that they probably want to do a whole lot of, but

Kyle: (24:45)
It’s not as sexy as flying around the world and my first year, right?

Rob: (24:48)
No, no, it is not. But unfortunately, you know, that’s just kind of part of the new reality, especially as it results to build. And, you know, a book of business with new customers is you gotta be relentless and you gotta do the work because it’s not as easy. I think a lot of companies have been shocked by how much business they realize just by incidental contact. Uh, I don’t get, I’ll give you an example. Like, uh, one of my old, uh, manufacturing rep buddies was telling me about this, that, you know, they call on like distributors and stuff like that. And, you know, Tuesday might be a wholesale electric Bay. And so he would go into wholesale electric on Tuesday and he’d work the hallways and go into the inside staff and lean over the cubicle. And Hey Johnny, I was your weekend. That kind of thing.

Rob: (25:33)
I don’t think they realize how much of their revenue actually came from like discretionary. Hey, I’ve got this on my desk. Can you help me with this? And so their solution was to make sure that on Tuesdays, instead of working the hallways, they were working the phones and they were calling Johnny and Jill and everybody, Hey, how you been? You know, everything good. So again, kind of being deliberate and shifting, trying to as best you can replicate the same sort of interaction. And it’s not going to be exactly the same, but as close as you can get, the more successful you’ll be.

Kyle: (26:02)
Well, and, and, and the part that’s interesting to me is, is this, this, the shift in the, in the market. I mean, you talked about people calling and, you know, what’s your reason to call reason to connect, et cetera. It’s almost like everything that was old is new again, right? It’s, it’s this recycling call it nineties, uh, sales methodology, or, you know, the nineties, uh, enterprise rep, if you will, if they weren’t the travel wasn’t as cheap, um, you know, it, wasn’t communication was still a bit challenging. And so you had to be much more intentional with how you planned any activities that you were doing, right. If you were to, um, if you were to go to a specific area or go visit a client, not only did you have pop-ins or drop-ins you were doing with other folks, but you were, you know, you were saying, Hey, I’m going to, I’m going to be three, four or five appointments or whatever it is, client relationship, building things deep.

Kyle: (27:02)
So you had to do all of that via the phone, right? Well, fast forward communication gets easier. You get blackberries. I can now talk in text and everything just becomes easier to, to, um, to communicate and travel. Travel gets cheaper. It’s a whole, you know, you get all kinds of, of flyer miles, it’s it’s benefits of the company card. And so you kind of get to this spot where you get away from the basics in now, you know, it’s like, Oh my gosh, I did not. I haven’t had a prospect in years. You haven’t, when you started 20 years ago and you didn’t have a book of business and you didn’t know anybody, how did you become who you are today? Right. You gotta go back to the basics.

Rob: (27:41)
Yeah, no, you’re exactly right. I hadn’t really thought of it like that, but that’s a pretty compelling analogy. I think you captured it perfectly. Yeah. You kinda got to retrench, you know, especially for a 20, 25 year old or 2020 or 25 year sales person. I mean, they were . They were probably using payphones, right?

Kyle: (28:02)
Yeah. That’s exactly right. Yeah. Well, and so when we think about, when we think about the differences here, I think there are some things that, um, you mentioned a Legion company, and I’ll tell you what those guys, you can, you can, you can fall down on social media today and run into a lead gen company. Like that’s there.

Rob: (28:24)
I usually get, I usually get three messages a day, XYZ Lynch, Legion.

Kyle: (28:31)
Yeah. You know, it’s like, Hey, we’ve solved this for other people, just like you. Thanks. But no thanks. But if you think about it, I mean, with, with the demand in the, in the elements that are there, there, there are two big questions that I think are our leaders in sales and our leaders in marketing, because because more and more the BDR and the SDRs are starting to fall outside of not would say to the revenue, but outside of the sales organization and more into the marketing organization, cause marketing is using it to try and pre-qualify leads and push people through. And, you know, it’s like the marketing qualification component has now a sales motion, but are there things that, that the senior leaders should be looking at as, Hey, this is actually a much better use of dollars or time, instead of saying, Hey, you, you old sales guy pick up the phone and make a hundred calls a day. Wouldn’t it. Maybe be easier to hire three to five BDRs and, and teach them to prospect and just set appointments all day and let your, let your field guys close from the technology that they’re uncomfortable behind.

Rob: (29:34)
I think they absolutely should. Um, I think, I think you absolutely need to be re-evaluating, um, you know, how you’re spending because to your point, yeah. Revenue might be, you know, in declined, but costs are also in decline as well. Um, so the net, hopefully, you know, it’s either net neutral or net positive to the bottom line, but I think they absolutely should. Um, and cause that, that money may be better spent if you had, if you had a good lead gen company, I mean, why not invest in that or to your point, maybe build your own, um, with the skillset that is required to, you know, be able to just grind that stuff out.

Kyle: (30:16)
Well, what I have to say is, is that renting is, is, and I say renting renting when it comes to lead gen is really tough for an organization. That’s starting that for the first time, because there are lesson learned that you don’t get to keep and that walks away when you end that relationship. And there’s also things that, you know, that, um, institutional knowledge that, that lead gen company will never, ever, ever appreciate. Like they just, they just, right. That doesn’t matter. They just, they just won’t have that, that same fluidity in and out of your, um, but you know, you’ve convinced me, Rob, I’m going to go spin up a BDR team where I’m going to go experiment with this. How do I do that? Like, what are the things I need to think about? What are the things that give, you know, really high level? You don’t have to get me into your, your consulting as if I was your actual client, but do, give me practical things about how I can rework my team to maybe make it more profitable or, or to create this demand. If I have a fractured relationship with marketing or Hey, I just want to, I want to lean into the, the travel less and see if we can make it more profitable.

Rob: (31:23)
Well, I would say if you’ve got starting from scratch, first of all, across your organization, are there reps in the field that are actually making this transition more successfully than others? Um, and I haven’t had an opportunity to do this yet, but I think I may in the near future and my approach is going to be, hopefully we can identify a few of those folks that are good at that. And then what I’m, what I’d like to do is do a personality profile on that person because as we’ve discussed and said many times over the course of this conversation, a full on outside guy is not the same as someone who could be successful on the inside guy. So if you’ve got someone that has been successful in making this shift and, you know, retrenching doing the right things, figure out what makes that person tick and then get more of them, um, or develop more of them because one of the good things about doing personality profiles and stuff, I think a number of companies out there to do that. Um, but one that I work with in particular, they actually, what comes out of that are developmental suggestions, interview questions, you know, suggested interview questions. So, you know, it’s not, it’s more behavioral, uh, of an interview. Um, then, you know, just kind of sitting down and chatting, right? Because you want to, you want to get to the root of, you know, what their capabilities are, you know, what drives them, that kind of thing. So just kind of broad strokes. Um, that would be my approach.

Kyle: (32:51)
Well, and I know that this coming from the software world, a lot of, a lot of the successful senior leaders that I’ve seen in the software space, we’ll find athletes, collegiate folks that are, are, are driven, they’re highly competitive. And they’ll put them in these, these outbound seats as kind of the, you know, the warmup track, if you will, to, to insight sales as an account manager, even to potentially field sales. Is that a good idea? Is that a bad idea is, is developing a bench really where you need to be with an outside organization.

Rob: (33:25)
I think you absolutely need a bench. Um, you know, I’ve seen this not only in corporate, but you know, in a small business, you know, obviously, you know, corporate’s a lot better funded and, you know, capitalize and things like that, but it, you absolutely need a bench. Absolutely. 100% because you know, that rock star sales rep could leave, you know, tomorrow. And if you don’t have somebody that is at least close to stepping into that kind of role, then I mean that that’s going to ultimately be a net loss for the organization. But I think that’s a great, you know, a lot, a lot of great sales teams, that’s kind of the progression is you come in, maybe it’s a Colts rep or even a CS, you know, like a customer service person, quote, scrap inside sales, which is a little different than just being a quotes rep and then outside sales, that kind of progress because then you learn the entire process from end to end, you know, and then that takes you into a whole nother conversation about, well, how do you keep those people retain? So you don’t lose the talent in those, you know, we can have those conversations over many beers, but I think that progression is absolutely valuable to any organization.

Kyle: (34:31)
Well, and it sounds to me, just listening to you that one of the outcomes for field driven or sales driven organizations, when it, when it comes to, Hey, I’m used to selling face-to-face or belly to belly is, is that we’re in this, this position of reimagination, not reimagination is in nobody’s else has ever done this before, but really in where can I draw from other industries or other models that are successful so that we don’t get caught with our pants down for another two to three months, right? Like everybody adjusted to some degree and you know, there’s probably still organizations out there they’re just waiting for it to go back to normal, but some of them somewhere there’s an owner going, uh, how do we make sure that this doesn’t happen again? What would you tell those guys?

Rob: (35:19)
I think take stock, you know, take stock of where you were, where you’ve been and we’re where you are now. And I mean, how many people or how many organizations had to completely shift, um, you know, and by laptops and, you know, outfit folks so that they can actually work remotely. Um, and that kind of thing, you know, I, I think you can look in the rear view and hopefully take stock of the lessons you’ve learned, um, and hopefully put in risk mitigation strategies and things of that nature for F you know, this should happen again, and it doesn’t have to be a, uh, an outbreak. You know, I think we’re probably just generally speaking, given that we live on, on the Gulf coast and hurricanes and things like that happen. I think so many organizations were just inherently more ready for that in the Houston area.

Rob: (36:11)
Not all but many, because we do have disruptions whenever, you know, storm blows in and things like that. So that people think about that more than say in the Midwest where there’s not as not a hurricane, maybe there’s a tornado, but it doesn’t, it doesn’t put people behind closed doors for days and days on end. Right. So definitely looking at rear assess, you know, how you got to where you are now, where you are now, and if that’s good, great, if it’s not then fix it and then figure out document some of that stuff, risk mitigation strategies for, if you have to all of a sudden send your workforce home for an extended period of time. So that’d be my suggestion.

Kyle: (36:51)
Well, in, in, in many of your suggestions I agree with, and, um, it makes perfectly sense to me, uh, you know, have a plan, work your plan, keep your plan in play. But I think one of the things that that is really easy for businesses is to say, okay, well, I survived this particular blip and not actually learn from it, something in, in, in make it part of the business continuity plan, moving forward. A good example of that is as a software company that I worked at, um, before I started my, uh, my own business is when hurricane who I’m going to screw this up. I want to say Rita came through hurricane Ike, came through, excuse me, hurricane. I came through, they were, yeah, the, the business was basically shuttered for two weeks because of power was out. Customers couldn’t get technical support, nobody could make sales calls.

Kyle: (37:45)
And so when that happened, they hired a new, um, a new director of operations or whatever you want. I don’t remember what he, what his official title was, but he essentially took every single business process and tool and it was in the cloud. So you didn’t have localized email only delivered to, to outlook. You didn’t have your CRM installed on your local server. You didn’t have your emails or your templates or access to your website at your physical location. Like everything was done distributed into the cloud. And I always thought, well, why does that matter? It’s not that big a deal Harvey hit. But before Harvey hit, we actually had an electrical fire at the building. And I showed up to the building at seven o’clock in the morning. There’s no lights. The transformers are all charred like theirs. And you’re thinking, well, crap, we’ve got a big number to it.

Kyle: (38:38)
It’s almost the end of the quarter. What are we going to do? We were literally able to pick everybody’s devices up. They went home, they plugged in, they logged in, they went back to selling and working the business thought that was a good idea to have continuity and wanted to keep the team camaraderie by keeping folks in the building. So we rented out some Regis space and we set up for a month while they repaired the building, the flexibility, right? This, this remote technology that the things that are happening the game is changing on field sales reps. And I know we want to argue with like, it’s not going to be that way. Long-term but it’s

Rob: (39:12)
Oh, no, no, you’re absolutely right. I mean, I think, I don’t think it’s the death of the salesman. Um, but I’ve attended a couple of seminars now on like business to business. E-commerce has evolved five years in the last five months. Um, so it, it is, it is a new world. Um, and you know, w what are people like it or not?

Kyle: (39:35)
And I think, I think that’s, so this is where I was headed with the question about marketing earlier. So I, and I have a couple of things on this first thing is, is you’re right. I don’t think that it’s the death of the salesman by, by actually by no stretch of the imagination. I do think that it’s going to change at least for a period of time, the, um, the skills that are required, right? The stuff, the stuff that got me here is probably not the stuff that’s going to get me there. And when I say there, there is retirement, um, that, that being said because of COVID because of the lockdown, because people couldn’t move. I think there’s a pressure now for sale or for sales, for marketing to stop thinking about it as, Oh, I’m only selling, or I’m only marketing one to many, or I’m only doing these broadcast messages, or it’s all about arts and crafts of brand.

Kyle: (40:24)
It’s actually an extension of the sales process. And if you think about the sales technique of, Hey, I get many commitments, I get people to like me who get their head nodding, right? The mini commitments for the field rep. Now don’t actually start in the bar or at the trade show floor, because people are at home behind their computer. They start with that very first marketing email. They start with what somebody reads when they get on your website. Like, those are all a continuum of the sales process. It’s not really marketing. And I think that that paradigm shift will have, if, if businesses can make that paradigm shift, they’ll have better alignment in greater growth.

Rob: (41:00)
Yeah, no, it’s kind of creating sort of a, a space, right. Well, you know, I’ve talked about this before as well. The lines between sales and marketing can get a little blurry. I think it’s in that, that blurry space has kind of gotten a little wider now as a result of what you just described, which I agree with a hundred percent.

Kyle: (41:21)
So, and, and again, cause I’m a, I’m a marketing guy. Tell me from your, um, from your side, what’s the coolest campaign you as a sales person or a sales leader have ever been a part of. And you’re like, wow, marketing really nailed it for me.

Rob: (41:37)
Oh, good question. I would say, I mean, I’ve been a part of, you know, going back to my corporate days, I’ve been a part of a lot of like product launches and things that were supposed to change the world and never quite did, but it doesn’t matter what the product was, but one of them actually did just like blow up and take off like crazy. And, you know, I think it was due to a lot of just kind of basic blocking and tackling type stuff. I mean, because I think some companies can get enamored with a product that nobody really wants and that happens a lot. Um, so the, the voice of customer that we collected on, you know, during product development on that was super, um, you know, all of the, the marcomm, the collateral and stuff was just super slick, you know, got the, got the benefit across, um, you know, when it, when it launched, we had inventory upon inventory for samples to send out and stuff. I had just clicked, man, all those things that go along with a big, you know, product, product push, um, clicked. And it was, uh, it was a very lucrative product launch for a lot of, a lot of folks in the company, especially the guys out, peddling the stuff. Um, so

Kyle: (42:57)
That’s cool. What the, what that reminds me of is I had a, I grew up in Kansas and I had a football coach who moved up from the Texas panhandle. And I will tell you that there’s a difference in Texas football from anywhere else in the nation. And when he showed up, he, he looked at all of us and he said, do it right, do it, like do it wrong. And we’ll be here all day long. And to me, like, I think when sales and marketing, you usually look at it, you know, old sales guys, new sales guys, anybody, if you’re going to do it right, it’s, it’s really not a lot of work. It’s do it right. Do it light. But if you do it wrong, you’re going to be at this and it’s going to be brutal all day long anyways. So final thoughts, things that, um, things that you see in the next six, 12 months that, uh, maybe other executives aren’t thinking about or they are thinking about, but they haven’t quite figured out, you know, what’s, what’s going to happen with the election or how’s that potentially going to impact my ability to go back to the field.

Kyle: (44:02)
Are we gonna, like, what do you see for sales and field sales in the next six?

Rob: (44:07)
I’ll start with just kind of a general business perspective. I think we’re on a very kind of leading edge of a wave of M and a there’s going to be a lot of consolidation. So I think, you know, what that potentially means for the front end of the business as a sales rep and be ready for more change because it’s coming and it’s coming fast. Um, so, you know, I, I don’t, I wish I had a crystal ball. I’m not going to get into politics here. I think, um, look, I think this has been a perfect storm, right? You’ve got to, you’ve got to a pandemic and a politically charged election. And those two things have, I think, magnified each other, um, you know, through this whole process, I honestly don’t see a whole lot of change to status quo, at least in the next quarter.

Rob: (45:02)
Um, you know, I think I’m not even sure that the, uh, the vaccine that everybody’s talking about is going to bring a whole lot of relief even into the middle of next year. Um, depending on who you, who you listen to. So I think if, if it just maintains, you know, the infection rates and everything kind of stay the same and settle in because it’s going to be this way for awhile, at least I would guess you don’t see behavioral, uh, improvements, you know, being able to get out and be as free as you were pre outbreak until the back half of next year. That’s just my, my gut. So all these things that we’ve talked about over this time, and I appreciate the invite again, Kyle, um, take stock, figure out where you’re at, the tools that you have at your ready and the tools that you don’t have reach across the aisle to your marketing guy and engage that person, you know, tackle this together, head direction, head in the right direction together. And I think, uh, you know, when, when things do start to improve, you’ll be, you’ll be in the chocks, right. And you’ll be ready to get out and get after it fast.

Kyle: (46:17)
Well, it’s been, it’s been our pleasure to have you on the show today and in share, you know, some, some really valuable nuggets of what sales organizations, sales teams, specifically guys in the field need to be thinking about preparing for. And as you say, settling in, because I, I like you. I think the only thing that’s normal now is change and whether that’s MNA or, you know, uh, I don’t have an expense count in as much travel anymore. We don’t know what the fallout is from from the last six months. We’re only on, I’d still feel like we’re probably only through the first third. So, you know, we, we’ve got some time left to, you know, you don’t have to hurry up and make big sweeping changes, which is great to hear you say, however, you do need to figure out how to, to navigate through it. Cause it’s not gonna, you know, it’s not gonna just magically disappear tomorrow.

Rob: (47:10)
Yep. Agreed.

Kyle: (47:13)
Well, thanks again, Rob, for being on the show. If somebody wants to get ahold of you, I work and they find you besides hiding under a rock,

Rob: (47:18)
You can find me on LinkedIn. Um, you can shoot me an email. It’s and that’s sales, the letter X and then celebration. Um, you can also give me a call if you want. Um, three, four six two two four four five nine four.

Kyle: (47:38)
Thanks again. It’s been great. I’m glad I’ve had a wonderful time discussing for those of you who are listening in. You’ve been listening to Rob Smith and this crazy person talk about field sales going through COVID and in what to expect in the coming months. Thanks again for tuning in and until next week I’ve been your host. Kyle Amer, thanks for listening.

Rob Smith
Rob SmithPresident and Founder
Rob Smith is the President and Founder of 5S Sales Consulting, a firm specializing in advising and implementing sales strategy, sales process, and sales execution. Rob draws on over 20 years of broad and deep corporate experience in global and national sales leadership, P&L management, engineering, and business development.

A natural leader, Rob has led sales organizations with annual revenues from $5 million to over $600 million. As a former small business owner, it is Rob’s mission to help other small and medium-sized business owners get back on a growth track and/or position their ventures for success. His purpose is to help people create wealth for others.

Rob holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from SIU Edwardsville, and an MBA from Southern Methodist University. He lives in Spring, TX with his wife of 21 years and three children.