Are You the Chief Rescue or Chief Revenue Officer?

Are You the Chief Rescue or Chief Revenue Officer?

The Sales Leadership Awakening Podcast
Are You the Chief Rescue or Chief Revenue Officer?
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Colleen Stanley and Steven Rosen discuss the role of a sales leader as not just bringing in the numbers but developing their salespeople into self-managing individuals. Sales leaders can drive revenue and achieve long-term success by avoiding the trap of rescuing and focusing on coaching and accountability. 

“The goal of the sales leader is to create self-managing people.” – Steven Rosen

“Unbelievably talented sales leaders still fall into that trap of rescuing their salespeople versus developing their salespeople.” – Colleen Stanley

Key Takeaways:

  • Sales leaders often fall into the trap of rescuing their salespeople instead of developing them.
  • The desire to be problem solvers and the lack of coaching skills contribute to this behavior.
  • Self-awareness and assertiveness are key skills for holding salespeople accountable.
  • Pre-call planning and post-call debriefing are essential for coaching and development.
  • Journaling and self-reflection can help salespeople improve their own selling skills.

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[Transcript]

Introduction

[00:00:00] Colleen Stanley: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Sales Leadership Awakening podcast, where we tackle the age-old issue of bridging the knowing and doing gap in the sales leadership realm.

[00:00:16] Colleen Stanley: I’m Colleen Stanley, and joining me today is my partner, Steven Rosen. So Steven, how are you this afternoon?

[00:00:22] Steven Rosen: Great, Colleen. It’s so nice to see you, and I’m excited about this episode. It’s an interesting subject that many of us run into.

[00:00:31] Colleen Stanley: And as former VPs of Sales, we’ve all run into it, as well as with the sales managers we’ve been interviewing.

The Trap of Rescuing Salespeople

 

[00:00:36] Colleen Stanley: Our topic today is, are you the chief revenue officer or the chief rescue officer? And Steven, I’m going to have you kick off the conversation today because, in our work, I’ve seen competent, unbelievably talented sales leaders still fall into that trap of rescuing their salespeople versus developing their salespeople.

[00:00:55] Colleen Stanley: So I’d be curious to know what you have observed with that type of behavior.

[00:01:07] Steven Rosen: It’s a great question. From a personal perspective, I do coaching and consider myself a professional coach.

[00:01:15] Steven Rosen: Even as a professional coach, I still want to jump in and rescue people. We are all lifeguards. We want to help. You asked me about sales managers. If we’re really focused on the sale, then the tendency is we want to be a rescue officer. If it’s going in the wrong direction, then there’s a natural tendency to want to jump in.

[00:01:36] Steven Rosen: And that’s a trap. There are several reasons why even the most competent managers, the best coaches, still fall into that trap, even though they know they shouldn’t be doing it. We still do it. One of the things is we all want to be chief problem solvers. We all want to solve other people’s problems.

[00:01:53] Steven Rosen: So there is a tendency to jump in and fix the problem, as opposed to having the individual learn. It’s an easy thing to do, especially when we’re under the pressure of a sale. Do you want to say something? 

[00:02:05] Colleen Stanley: What strikes me is that they probably got promoted because they’re good problem solvers.

[00:02:10] Colleen Stanley: As a salesperson, your clients love it if you do the consulting, but you actually come up with a problem for their solution. So you’re almost having to take that skill and realize it’s an Achilles’ heel for you, possibly.

[00:02:24] Steven Rosen: The nice thing is in sales, we’re not dealing with heart surgery, where it’s life or death.

[00:02:31] Steven Rosen: If a surgeon’s teaching someone and they’re about to make a mistake, you want to jump. In sales, there’s always a time to recover and to learn. The goal of the sales leader is to create self-managing people. And there are some other reasons why. If it’s about accountability, sometimes we don’t want to have those difficult conversations with people that, Hey, you’re missing. They’re uncomfortable, and many will just help them out.

The Importance of Self-Awareness 

 

[00:02:58] Steven Rosen: One of the biggest challenges is that many managers just don’t have great training in being a coach, and understanding the role is not necessarily to be the best salespeople but to help salespeople get better. I know some of it comes from an area of your expertise.

[00:03:18] Steven Rosen: Even for self-aware managers, because it takes a lot of self-awareness, it still affects their ability to develop versus rescue.

[00:03:29] Colleen Stanley: I’m glad you used the word self-awareness because, really, in the world of emotional intelligence, Steven, that is the mega skill.

[00:03:36] Colleen Stanley: There are many that we talk about and work with sales teams on. I always say that what you’re not aware of, you cannot change. What you’re not aware of, you’re bound to repeat. And so for sales managers, having the awareness of, first of all, that they are rescuing and why.

[00:03:56] Colleen Stanley: For some people, they’re rescuing because there’s a payoff. In psychological terms, I get to be the hero or heroine. There’s a dopamine bump there. And so you’ve got to recognize that. The second one is that sometimes you have to take a humility pill because you have not spent enough time coaching your teams.

The Role of Coaching

[00:04:21] Colleen Stanley: Now, to your point, they haven’t been taught coaching skills. When I got into sales management, I was a naturally pretty good teacher. I was not a coach. So I was always teaching teaching, but I never was coaching to see if the information landed. Could the salesperson recall it?

[00:04:37] Colleen Stanley: Could they recall it under a pressure point? And so the humility and self-awareness was that I’m doing a lot of telling here, but I’m not doing any coaching. Therefore, I don’t even know if my salesperson can demonstrate the right selling behaviors on this upcoming call. That might be getting out of your comfort zone and investing about 50 percent of your time coaching your people.

[00:05:00] Steven Rosen: Funny how that comes back to coaching, right? The big mindset shift we do in coaching is moving from telling people what to do to asking effective questions and getting people to think. So, it’s interesting how that skill overlays many areas. Are there any other reasons why self-awareness is critical? To me, when you’re coaching someone, if they’re not self-aware, you can’t coach them.

[00:05:23] Steven Rosen: But as the coach, your level of self-awareness that you’re coaching is critical. So that self-talk of, Oh my God, I’m rescuing right now, or I’m telling right now. The alarm bell has to go off while you’re on that call or trying to help someone out of a difficult spot.

[00:05:39] Colleen Stanley: Our listeners or viewers today are probably thinking of a time when, listen, you two sales gurus, if I hadn’t jumped in and rescued, we’d have lost a million-dollar deal

[00:05:47] Colleen Stanley: We can always have these exceptions. And I want people to put those exceptions aside because there is a time when somebody is ramping up. Maybe they’re selling a bigger enterprise sale. This is really when you’re seeing this consistent pattern in yourself that you don’t need to be jumping into rescue.

[00:06:08] Colleen Stanley: I want to set that context there. But the other reason people rescue, at least from the emotional intelligence world, is they have too much empathy. And often, they’re not holding them accountable for learning the skills. So let’s say they’re the trainer. They spent the time coaching, but as you’ve said before, performance is on the salesperson.

[00:06:31] Colleen Stanley: So that salesperson simply isn’t taking enough time to practice. Then the manager starts giving excuses. They’re really busy. They have a lot on their plate. Too much empathy gets in the way of holding people accountable.

[00:06:44] Steven Rosen: Very interesting. Part of that is the pressure of sales short-term versus long-term focus in the sales leader role. I could go on and on about this, reminding sales leaders. What’s your role?

[00:07:00] Steven Rosen: The answer would be bringing in the numbers. Yes, it is. That’s mission-critical, but how are you going to do that?

[00:07:08] Colleen Stanley: Bingo. They bring in the numbers. How are you going to bring in the numbers if you don’t develop people? But let’s go back to something you said.

The Power of Pre-Briefing and Debriefing

[00:07:20] Colleen Stanley: This is a conversation I’m sure we’re going to have more than once on this podcast, but accountability still seems to be a theme. It doesn’t matter if it’s sales leadership or operation leadership; holding people accountable seems to be one of the more difficult skills or habits to develop.

[00:07:40] Colleen Stanley: So what can sales leaders do? What hard or tangible skills do sales managers need to develop to hold their teams accountable?

[00:07:48] Steven Rosen: I do a number of profiles, and one of the key skills I look for in managers is not only drive but comfort with having difficult conversations.

[00:07:59] Steven Rosen: I teach five steps to doing that. One is if you believe it’s a conflicting discussion, it is. Two, there’s a high level of preparation if you’re going to have a difficult conversation, and most of us are certainly not comfortable.

[00:08:14] Steven Rosen: Most of us don’t like to create conflict, although sometimes, in my younger days, that was fun, stirring a little bit. But putting that aside, there’s a direct correlation between how well you prepare to hold someone accountable or have that discussion and the outcome.

[00:08:30] Colleen Stanley: I’ve got to stop you right there because I knew it was coming. I have to quit pointing the finger here. But here’s what is interesting. We get on our sales teams about pre-call planning. How many sales managers really spend the time on pre-call planning as more of what we might coin as a difficult conversation?

[00:08:50] Colleen Stanley: I don’t think we’re doing it.

[00:08:51] Steven Rosen: You raise an amazing point because I was going to share a story. I’m working with a new group that you actually connected me to. There are three leaders who are both coaches and they’re players. They’re damn good players.

[00:09:06] Steven Rosen: These are the most successful salespeople in the organization. So they have no issue selling. What they forget is they’re also a coach. That’s a hard place to be. I’ve been working with them on how they can help reps who are struggling because the reps don’t sell as well as they do. When I became a regional sales manager, I learned how good reps sell.

[00:09:28] Steven Rosen: Reps were better than me. I thought, Oh my God, look at that technique. I would use that, but then I can share it with others. When I have discussions, getting back to what your role is, and how does a call go? And the answer I get is I have to rescue calls.

[00:09:44] Steven Rosen: I’ve heard it at least two times this week. So, let’s talk about relevant topics. I created a very simple process. I asked them, do you present with a slide deck? Yes. The rep builds a slide deck. Do you review it and discuss it with the rep?

[00:09:58] Steven Rosen: Okay. Next, do you do a pre-call role-play?

[00:10:03] Colleen Stanley: Or a pre-call plan. 

[00:10:05] Steven Rosen: You have to work it through. Do you have them present to you, do you role-play it, or do you ask what’s your goal? What are you trying to accomplish? How is this working? Practice makes perfect.

[00:10:16] Steven Rosen: If we just go into the call without any preparation, the role the manager can play in terms of rescuing is giving them the life preserver before they go in. And then observe. It’s very hard to keep quiet. We all want to share, but if they’ve done a good job pre-call planning, their role in the call is to see if they are hitting the goal.

[00:10:37] Steven Rosen: How is it going? Then, it’s their time to rescue them, not on the call but through post-call coaching and the debrief. One of the easy mistakes that most managers make is they will tell the rep what worked well and what didn’t.

[00:10:55] Colleen Stanley: Tell, tell, tell, tell.

[00:10:56] Steven Rosen: You know the approach.

[00:10:59] Steven Rosen: I sometimes sound like an old man because I constantly repeat myself. Self-evaluation before feedback, and I do it the same way. Let’s remember, Oh, yeah, I forget to do that. I know sometimes I go into tell mode like I’m doing right now, and oh, yeah, I’m in tell mode.

[00:11:21] Steven Rosen: I have to switch back to ask. You hit the nail on the head when you said pre-call planning. If you want to help the rep and train them, coach them, and get them to be better, spend the time upfront. Spend the time after. But the time in the call is not the time to be the lifeguard.

[00:11:38] Colleen Stanley: Yes. I’m getting this vision of the man or woman running out to the ocean.

[00:11:42] Steven Rosen: They’re swimming just fine, but you want to rescue them.

[00:11:46] Colleen Stanley: Exactly. And maybe they have to do the breaststroke instead of whatever because they got tired or what have you. I had to discover this quite a few years ago. I found that once managers began doing pre-briefing, there was a greater shift in behavior and success than debriefing.

[00:12:01] Colleen Stanley: It’s not an end or right. You’d probably teach the same thing. You’re testing to see if they can recall the knowledge and not to overuse some of the analogies we always use. Still, whether you look at an athlete, an actor, or a musician, we’re the only profession that doesn’t test to see if they can actually execute.

[00:12:26] Colleen Stanley: So we just put them out on the playing field, and they were so disappointing. Hello, people.

[00:12:42] Steven Rosen: I’ve had this discussion at least twice in the last week with managers, and they get it.

[00:12:47] Steven Rosen: They do. It’s not rocket science. And do you do that? Now I’m going to start. So my job in holding them accountable is next time we talk, how has it gone with trying this? Because two people need to be rescued: one, the manager from themselves, from their great selling skills, and their desire to be the savior or rescuer as opposed to the developer of people.

[00:13:08] Steven Rosen: And then the rep where we want to create self-managers, people who can go into the call and do a great job. That’s classic knowing versus doing. 

[00:13:25] Steven Rosen: The gap is you have to take the time, slow down, and prepare the person. I love your analogy of athletes. Let’s say it’s football. They have a whole week to practice for the three-hour game. They practice the plays. They practice execution.

[00:13:42] Steven Rosen: They look at what works, and in some cases, execution still falls down. There are mistakes made in the field, but they practice and practice.

[00:13:51] Colleen Stanley: And you said something earlier. You just touched on it, but this goes back to belief systems. If you truly believe that, if you put in coaching time now, you’ve got to be taught how to coach.

[00:14:03] Colleen Stanley: That’s what we talked about in a prior episode. Sales managers get set up to fail. They do not learn coaching skills, but you’ve got to believe that putting in the time is going to earn you the reward of self-managing people. So, if you’re not doing something, I’ve coached many sales managers and salespeople to examine your belief system because you will do what you believe.

[00:14:28] Colleen Stanley: And so you might think it’s not worth the time putting in coaching time. That might be working upstream as to why you’re not doing the right selling sales manager behaviors.

[00:14:41] Steven Rosen: Is there anything you want to add to the skills? We talk about soft skills, and we may have covered most of them that sales managers need to develop to increase the level of accountability and start reducing that “I’m going to jump in and save this rep” lifeguard mentality.

Developing Assertiveness and Emotional Intelligence

[00:14:56] Colleen Stanley: When you look at accountability, it’s a big topic, including crucial conversations, et cetera, but it is usually just the soft skill of assertiveness that needs to be developed, which is the ability to state what you need nicely.

[00:15:10] Colleen Stanley: Now, here’s what can happen. Steven, you’re somebody who is coached, but I bet you’ve had a time when people give you feedback, and you get this emotional reaction. Then, what we do is we get defensive. Even if we don’t say anything, maybe our facial expressions change.

[00:15:27] Colleen Stanley: 100 percent for a manager when they’re stating what they need nicely, then they do it the right way. Here’s the observable behavior. Here’s the impact, or they’re just having the truth-telling conversation. A salesperson might push back, and that emotionally charges the manager. So then they either default to a passive-aggressive behavior where they go, let’s talk about this in 10 weeks or 10 years, or they get highly aggressive.

[00:15:49] Colleen Stanley: Then we need to be right. And so assertiveness is the key skill; emotion management also ties in with that. But now, take a best practice from when you were a sales rep. We’re debriefing the salesperson on the call, which is great. And like you said, ask the questions versus tell them what they did right or wrong.

[00:16:12] Colleen Stanley: But here’s the self-awareness piece. Sit and think about when you got emotionally triggered and why you jump in and tell versus ask. So when you’re sitting there looking at how you debrief the call, you’ve got to be aware of what the rep said, did, or did not say or do that caused me to go into professional telling mode versus coaching mode.

[00:16:38] Colleen Stanley: So you’ve got to look at your own triggers as far as, why am I talking too much?

[00:16:44] Steven Rosen: Okay. So, that brings it to a whole different level of self-awareness.

[00:16:49] Colleen Stanley: Yes. I got pretty good at it as a rep. If a prospect would say something that would get me to start moving into a verbal vomit.

[00:16:59] Colleen Stanley: I have to spot the trigger because my response is the only thing I could change. I can’t change the trigger. A prospect’s going to say the same thing, and then I’d go into a verbal vomit. You’ve got the same thing going on in sales management. A rep might say something, and you move into tell mode versus redirecting with a good coaching question based on the context.

[00:17:20] Steven Rosen: You are the expert in emotional intelligence. This is the Steve Rosen approach to self-awareness. And maybe it’s only for our listeners who are somewhat more mature or aged. I use the example of the Flintstones.

[00:17:36] Colleen Stanley: I hope they know who the Flintstones are.

[00:17:38] Steven Rosen: I always ask that question of you. So I can’t ask, but hopefully, you guys know. If not, Google it. There’s a character called Kazoo, who’s a little Martian. And he sits on Fred’s shoulder. There are two of them. There’s the angel, and there’s the devil. To me, self-awareness is because the devil Kazoo tells the sales manager just to tell them what to do.

[00:18:01] Colleen Stanley: What a great visual.

[00:18:03] Steven Rosen: The angel says no, don’t do that. Just ask how they thought things went. I use that imagery with 90 percent of people, even if they’re younger. I think my kids remember the Flintstones. But to me, that’s self-awareness. It’s not a very high level of intelligence, but it’s just a cute visual to remind yourself when you’re having your self-talk to ask, am I telling people what to do, or am I asking? We do the self-talk while we’re coaching. We’re doing the self-talk right now.

[00:18:30] Steven Rosen: So that’s one of my little tricks for helping managers get into that mode.

Taking Action: Self-Reflection and Journaling

[00:18:34] Colleen Stanley: I love that action item there. I would say an action item for managers goes back to that self-awareness. And here’s how you build self-awareness. The number one strategy is carving out quiet time.

[00:18:49] Colleen Stanley: This is one where everybody goes, give me something more complicated. Give me something more sophisticated. Seriously, the only way you build self-awareness is to sit and think and try to do it without bias or judgment. That might be where you have to go to somebody else for feedback because, just like reps need feedback, managers may need feedback if you can’t figure out the trigger point.

[00:19:11] Colleen Stanley: To be more effective at figuring out when you’re rescuing versus developing, it’s just sitting and thinking. Do I have fear driving me? Do I want to be the hero or heroine? Do I have too much empathy going on? Do I really not like holding people accountable?

[00:19:32] Colleen Stanley: So until you’re aware of it, you can’t change it. That would be my piece of advice there.

[00:19:37] Steven Rosen: That’s a great action item. I have my repertoire of things that I always share. I took your advice here and thought about what’s something actionable that the manager can do differently to help move that rep along and be better at presenting and selling.

[00:19:50] Steven Rosen: I talked about the pre-call and post-call. The manager’s not always with the rep. If they’re lucky, they sit in on one call a month.

[00:20:06] Steven Rosen: Have a journal where the rep does the same thing you just described in terms of self-reflection after each sales interaction. They write down before any feedback. Or let’s say it’s a recorded call. They write down what worked, what didn’t work, and why. Doing this practice for themselves allows them to improve so they can become a self-coach, self-manager, or more self-aware. The goal is to create self-managing people.

[00:20:39] Steven Rosen: That’s one action that I never did. So this is not something to say, Hey, I’ve done it. But I was thinking about it and thought, wouldn’t that be great if reps, after each call when you’re not there, there is a mental debrief? It would be great if they took the time to write down and self-reflect in a way that would improve their own selling skills.

[00:21:01] Colleen Stanley: Yes. I actually did this when I got into this business. Luckily, someone designed a checklist for me. A checklist is a little bit more objective. With yours, there’s subjective and objective. And the objective was, did you ask this question? Did you cover this selling step in the stage?

[00:21:20] Colleen Stanley: And I have to tell you, Steve, it was really interesting. I kept skipping over the money step in this business. For people listening, my prior business sent out catalogs before we went out on the sales call. The customer knew the price point. And frankly, the budget conversation wasn’t as big as it needs to be in this type of business.

[00:21:45] Colleen Stanley: It only took me about five calls, and I had to be aware of missing the budget step. But then the awareness came. Okay. Now I know it. And then I was skipping it again. The awareness was you’re not comfortable talking about money to the degree you should be. So that’s where I had to focus my own self-coaching and get coaching.

[00:22:03] Colleen Stanley: So you’re absolutely right. But I would do that. Part of it was that I was working straight commission. I’m not getting any leads. So, guess what I evaluate really fast and figure out. Why am I not closing as much business as I should? So that is a great tool everybody should use: journaling or a checklist, whatever that is, but slow down to speed up.

Conclusion

[00:22:23] Steven Rosen: Time flies when you’re having fun. And we do. It has been a fun session sharing some of these thoughts. So, some great thoughts there as we wrap up what is hopefully another insightful episode of the Sales Leadership Awakening podcast. We hope you’ve gathered some really cool strategies of implementable ideas that can help you close the gap between what you know you should be doing and actually doing it.

[00:22:49] Steven Rosen: If you found today’s discussion on becoming the chief revenue officer, as opposed to the chief rescue officer, helpful, please subscribe. This ensures you won’t miss out on any future episodes. And we’ve got a lot of good ones coming as we continue to awaken you with tools, suggestions, and wisdom. We also have some great guests coming to transform your sales leadership to become a great, highly aware, and awakened sales leader.

[00:23:15] Steven Rosen: Colleen, it’s been a pleasure, and I look forward to our next episode together. 

[00:23:20] Colleen Stanley: You bet. Thanks, Steven.

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Steven helps companies transform sales managers into great sales leaders. His focused coaching helps clients achieve greater personal and professional success. Steven is the author of 52 Sales Management Tips - The Sales Manager’s Success Guide.

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