Turning Vision into Action

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Turning Vision into Action

The Sales Leadership Awakening Podcast
The Sales Leadership Awakening Podcast
Turning Vision into Action
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Keith Rzucidlo, Vice President of Sales at Miller Electric, joins the Sales Leadership Awakening podcast to discuss how to turn visions into actions in sales leadership. Keith shares the importance of patience and reflection in driving behavior change and advises sales leaders on coaching and change management.

“I think framing it up in a manner that would resonate with them was the critical piece.” – Keith Rzucidlo on implementing change and effective coaching across existing sales leaders. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Testing the execution of a vision is crucial to understand what is working and what needs to be adjusted.
  • Involving frontline managers in the decision-making process increases buy-in and accountability.
  • Patience is essential for sales leaders, as behavior changes and shifts in an organization take time.
  • Providing tools and resources for coaching and investing in sales leaders’ development is crucial to success.

Follow Keith Rzucidlo on LinkedIn

Follow Colleen Stanley on LinkedIn

Follow Steven Rosen on LinkedIn

[Transcript]

Introduction

[00:00:00] Keith Rzucidlo: Okay.

[00:00:02] Colleen Stanley: Let’s do it. Hi everyone. Welcome to the Sales Leadership Awakening podcast. I’m Colleen Stanley and joining me today is Steven Rosen, and together we’re going to tackle the age-old issue of bridging the knowing and doing gap.

[00:00:18] Colleen Stanley: So I am really excited because we have a terrific guest today. So, Steven, I’m going to hand it over to you. 

[00:00:23] Steven Rosen: Fantastic, Colleen. 

[00:00:25] Steven Rosen: I want to welcome Keith Rzucidlo, Vice President of Sales of Miller Manufacturing. He is not only a gentleman, but what I consider a visionary leader. Keith, welcome to the show and can you share a little bit about yourself?

[00:00:38] Keith Rzucidlo: Thank you, Colleen and Steven. I’m very honored to be a guest here on your show today. A little bit about me, I have a very difficult last name. It’s Rzucidlo. It’s very hard and nobody ever gets it right. I’m the Vice President of Sales for Miller Electric, as Steven mentioned.

[00:00:55] Keith Rzucidlo: I’ve been in the organization for 12 years. We’re in the welding industry, a very old industry, and have a rather large sales organization. I have the honor of working with a great group of people that make up that sales organization, and they are weld engineers, industry professionals, and an extremely technical bunch.

[00:01:16] Keith Rzucidlo: Again, that’s a little bit about me and who I manage in the organization I work for. So with that, I’ll pass it back to you, Steven. 

The Awakening Moment

[00:01:25] Colleen Stanley: I’m going to jump in here, Keith, because, what you’re reminding me, I grew up on a farm in Iowa… and I have to tell you, my dad was a great welder.

[00:01:32] Colleen Stanley: So as a kid, I used to go into his shop a lot. I’m pretty sure today that would be considered dangerous for a child to be in their welding shop. But anyway, I digress. 

[00:01:45] Colleen Stanley: Keith, here’s the question I want to throw to you. I’m always really curious about this one because I’ve had several of these moments in my life. We like to frame this question up as what was your awakening moment as a sales leader?

[00:01:59] Colleen Stanley: Because I’m looking at you. We’ve had a prior call. You’re very smart, but I’ve even seen smart people where they go, “Duh. There’s a better way, a different way that I need to approach my leadership.” So, I’m curious if you had one of those awakening moments. 

[00:02:11] Keith Rzucidlo: Colleen, great question. We all look back in our careers and there’s probably a couple and I’m going to go to the one that I probably had most recently. That’s really around the journey that our organization has been on.

[00:02:28] Keith Rzucidlo: We’ve been really building the skills and aligning behaviors to this vision. There’s a lot of energy that goes into that and there’s a lot of work and you’re in the weeds and you’re reinforcing behaviors and that’s great. But at the end of the day, are we measuring or testing how well we’re executing that vision or where we’re at in our journey? Also, there have been these large things that have occurred with COVID and other different things that have slowed progress at times.

[00:03:00] Keith Rzucidlo: As I look to next year, I’m thinking, ‘We’ve been building for a long time. It’s time that we really test the vision.’ Otherwise, how do we understand what’s working and what’s not? When do we need to pivot, or are these investments really paying off? I’m examining where we might have missed and if there’s an opportunity to become more metric-driven in some areas, thereby raising the level of accountability with our leaders.

[00:03:29] Keith Rzucidlo: We’ve done it at the field level but it hasn’t necessarily rolled up. So, why is there a disconnect there and how do I get the information I need so that we can make adjustments accordingly moving forward? That was my aha moment here as I’ve been building this. 

Getting Buy-In from Sales Leaders

[00:03:47] Steven Rosen: That sounds like an exciting journey you’ve been on. You’ve rolled it out to the folks below and I guess really the challenge that you’re talking about is how do we get our sales leaders to lead those changes and the vision.

[00:03:59] Steven Rosen: What are you doing to get them to be part of that process, to build in the accountability, and the buy-in from them? What have you learned so far? 

[00:04:09] Keith Rzucidlo: It’s a lot of work in managing change and getting that buy-in throughout the organization.

[00:04:14] Keith Rzucidlo: And it takes a long time and it starts with really understanding what those long-range plan objectives are and what the annual plan is. I think most organizations today take that stuff, give the highlights, you cascade it down throughout the organization… that’s fine and good. You explained the what and the why.

[00:04:36] Keith Rzucidlo: But I think we’re taking another step here in the accountability piece, or the aspect that I mentioned was missing. It’s about getting leaders to understand that it’s not our job to figure out the ‘how’; it’s really the responsibility of those frontline managers who need to have a say in it, and have to be involved in it.

[00:04:58] Keith Rzucidlo: This involvement drives adoption, leading to a higher level of accountability they have towards executing that vision because they had a say in it. They’re going to drive it and hold their team more accountable than they would if we were telling them exactly how to do it.

[00:05:13] Keith Rzucidlo: If that makes sense. 

[00:05:15] Steven Rosen: Yes, it does. 

[00:05:16] Colleen Stanley: Absolutely. You know what? You just gave me a little bit of an epiphany here because I love to tell. So, it’s something I have to be really careful about as a leader—teaching, and, to your point, focusing on the what and the why before the how. The old adage, which comes from adult learning, is that people believe their own data, right?

[00:05:35] Keith Rzucidlo: Yeah.

[00:05:35] Colleen Stanley: And frankly, generally… if they’re closer to whatever the issue is, they have better execution. Is there anything that you had to work on to really help your leaders step back and say, ‘Let them figure out the how.’ I don’t know if that’s too vague of a question but I’ll throw it back to you.

[00:05:52] Keith Rzucidlo: It was more of an aha moment that we all had together; sales directors and myself. It was a reflection process that we go through every year. I like to use some very simple tools to gauge progress towards the vision.

[00:06:15] Keith Rzucidlo: For instance, a from-to orientation. We have some from-tos from when we started this journey. That was the first iteration of the vision. We’re going to go from a manufacturer’s representative to a strategic selling organization. We’re going to go from reactive to proactive and those steps in between. We do that every year. 

[00:06:38] Keith Rzucidlo: The ‘from-to’ aspect becomes more pointed at times. So, when we encountered some disconnect, we asked, ‘Why isn’t it connecting here? Why isn’t territory planning working as well as we thought?’ It was because we came up with everything in a silo and a box. So, how do we involve the team in the process?

[00:07:00] Keith Rzucidlo: We have to provide guardrails and some structure because we want them to leverage data. Our goal is to drive a mindset shift and thought process. We don’t dictate how it should look, leaving space for creativity. That’s really how we’ve approached it.

[00:07:17] Keith Rzucidlo: We really had much more than an epiphany and a realization by all leaders. We’re okay with that. There are times when we’re in conversations about relinquishing a little control to the frontline managers, and we just have to agree to move forward. That’s just the different personalities.

[00:07:38] Colleen Stanley: I do hope our listeners really took note of the word ‘reflection’ because I often find people rushing into the next year without taking the time to slow down to speed up in the right direction. So, I think that’s a really good point. 

[00:07:52] Keith Rzucidlo: Yeah

Change Management and Coaching

[00:07:53] Steven Rosen: I think that’s why I introduced you as a visionary, Keith, because you had a very clear vision of where you wanted to go when we first met. It doesn’t happen overnight. You’re talking about getting buy-in and buy-in from your leadership team. What are some of the challenges that you’ve come up against?

[00:08:10] Steven Rosen: Is it the frontline managers, or is it the level above that? Where did you face the biggest challenge in moving your vision from where you wanted to be to where you wanted to go?

[00:08:22] Keith Rzucidlo: There’s a slew of challenges there, Steven, along the way. It’s not a linear process–you take two steps forward and one step back sometimes.

[00:08:32] Keith Rzucidlo: I think where I experienced quite a bit of challenge early on was getting the buy-in on the vision we had. We had a highly successful salesforce, with very good market penetration and a long-tenured team—many with 20-plus years of experience in the organization.

[00:08:55] Keith Rzucidlo: So, to come up with a vision and then tell a highly successful team that we need to do things differently, you can imagine how that goes over. I think the challenge was: how do you really tell that story and get buy-in? It’s about bringing some data to the party and getting them to acknowledge that things are changing in the market faster than they have historically.

[00:09:20] Keith Rzucidlo: We have these macro trends going on in our industry, and our customers are facing or needing more value from us than ever to overcome those challenges. It’s in our best interest to figure out and be the partner to bring that value.

[00:09:47] Keith Rzucidlo: And that means us doing some things differently. I tend to focus on the potential loss. So although my vision is rooted in how we outperform the market and achieve growth, we really focus on the risk of maintaining the status quo versus growth. We need to start there because I believe that psychologically people are more likely to respond and react to loss, given the effort they’ve already put in. 

[00:10:17] Keith Rzucidlo: We have ownership there, something that is new additive is out there. It’s not mine yet, so people tend to value the business that they have versus the business that they don’t have. By doing that and telling the story in that manner, I think it really helped get the buy-in of the organization and helped folks understand that ‘Wow, he’s right. That is coming. I am getting those kinds of questions from my customers,’ etc.

[00:10:43] Keith Rzucidlo: I think, that was one of the biggest challenges that we really had in this journey. It was setting it out on the right path and getting the mass buy-in because it’s at different levels in every organization.

[00:10:57] Keith Rzucidlo: You got early adopters, you got people that come along, and then you got some detractors or some that are never coming. I think framing it up in a manner that would resonate with them was the critical piece. 

[00:11:09] Colleen Stanley: I love the fact that you told a story and that you tapped into psychology because they have a term for it. It’s called loss aversion. 

[00:11:19] Colleen Stanley: Like it or not, as human beings, we are more inclined to take action to avoid a loss than to achieve a gain, which somewhat contradicts how we usually like to talk and persuade. It’s interesting, Keith, this is the ‘change curve’, I suspect you’re familiar with it. 

[00:11:34] Colleen Stanley: Change is coming, and then we go down the toboggan. It’s a really fast ride, your hair blowing back, right? Then, you end up with a thought at the bottom of the hill, looking up. I think what happens with that change curve is people have to make a decision. As you said, some are early adopters, some are slow adopters, and some are no adopters, and that becomes a tough call for leaders. 

[00:11:53] Colleen Stanley: With this, let’s frame it up as change management. Is there just one or two things—you mentioned one already, the psychology of it—that you’re equipping your sales leaders with? Because change management is sales management today. Any tools there? 

[00:12:12] Keith Rzucidlo: Yes. So, from a tools perspective, we’ve done a lot. To paint a picture for our audience, we’re transitioning from a manufacturer’s representative to a strategic selling organization. The former is reactive, while the latter is proactive. The former has no sales process

[00:12:25] Keith Rzucidlo: The former has no sales process, the latter has a repeatable process that we believe brings extreme value. We’ll win faster. We’ll win more often, et cetera. There’s a lot of tools along the way, Colleen, and I think the biggest piece was getting the folks to understand that we’re going to invest in them. I think the tools were around coaching. Our leaders are ensuring that they’re equipped to coach and ensuring that they understand what leadership means in our organization. 

[00:12:58] Keith Rzucidlo: What does authentic leadership mean to us, in our culture, and our values? Because the team is going to need that through this process. Frankly, that’s an area that we’re going to take a step back this year and go a little deeper.

[00:13:13] Keith Rzucidlo: We’re really asking our folks to answer some questions, and rate themselves on where they are with each individual on their team because we’ve had some new leaders along the way. Another thing that we’ve done is to allow for that coaching to happen and for them to spend time with their frontline sellers.

[00:13:35] Keith Rzucidlo: We’ve added resources and regions, and we’ve managed the span of control to be more appropriate so that we can spend the time to do those things. There’s been quite a bit of effort there. Now, certainly, data metrics, all that good stuff – we have that in spades now. We didn’t always, but we do today.

[00:13:56] Keith Rzucidlo: We’re certainly able to raise the level of coaching and support to help the team reach their goals, focusing on them making money and maximizing their compensation, etc. Does that answer your question?

[00:14:10] Colleen Stanley: It does and what really resonated with me is that your organization is putting in a system–maybe I’m using my words–a system or process to allow time for coaching because this is the knowing-and-doing gap. 

[00:14:22] Colleen Stanley: Everyone knows that people perform better when they get coaching. If the overall organization doesn’t put the manager in a place where they can actually dedicate the time for that, sometimes they turn into firefighters rather than professional coaches there. 

[00:14:36] Colleen Stanley: So, that’s the one that really resonated with me. 

Tenacity and Reflection

[00:14:37] Keith Rzucidlo: Colleen, I’ll be honest with you. We began with coaching when we started on this journey because we thought, ‘Hey, that makes sense. These guys are going to need to be rock-solid coaches as we navigate through this sales process.’

[00:14:50] Keith Rzucidlo: Then, the reality is they were firefighters, right? That’s the reality of sales management. So what we always do is, we had to take a step back and do a reflection about this every year. 

[00:15:06] Keith Rzucidlo: As we’re wrapping up the year, we’re asking, ‘Where are we missing the boat relative to what we said we were going to do?’ and how do we then create the time and the energy to be put into what we call high-value activities, the expectations we have for our frontline sales managers.

[00:15:27] Steven Rosen: You know I’m passionate about coaching and we’ve had various discussions on coaching. Can you share some of the learnings in terms of how you can better arm your managers and create a comfort level that they can coach more effectively?

[00:15:41] Keith Rzucidlo: “Steven, last year I took the time to level set with the team, and at our leadership kickoff meeting, I threw out a question to them—it was just a question.

[00:15:55] Keith Rzucidlo: ‘How much of your time do you think you should spend coaching?’ I’ve got to tell you, nobody was right, and everybody was under, so we level set the expectations to say, ‘Look, this is the job. This is where we’re going to get the biggest return on investment. So, you are allowed, if I am bombarding you with any asks or if your director is or somebody, don’t do it.’

[00:16:21] Keith Rzucidlo: You are freed up to spend, over 50 percent of your time coaching, out on the road coaching. I frankly would like that number higher, Steven, as I know you probably would too, but I got to meet people where they are at some times. 

[00:16:34] Steven Rosen: It’s building, right? You want to get a certain level of commitment, then you can always up it,  and raise the bar on performance as time goes along. 

[00:16:41] Keith Rzucidlo: Yes. So, Steven, we’ve set the expectation, freed up the time, and then we have provided some tools in coaching plans. We are starting to be intentional. For our organization, our teams, and our span of control is probably still too high to necessarily have that for everyone.

[00:17:00] Keith Rzucidlo: As I said, we have some long-tenured folks in the organization and a high percentage of our team that’s probably going to retire in the next five years. We have to pick and choose our battles here and invest where it makes sense.

[00:17:16] Keith Rzucidlo: But where it does, we’re putting those things into place and ensuring that we’re investing in those people. We’re spending time with them, reinforcing, and understanding their personal goals and their professional goals, and just trying to do right by them and make them as effective as they can be.

Conclusion

[00:17:32] Colleen Stanley: So, Keith, as we wrap up today, and you’ve shared a lot, for anyone watching or listening, check out Keith’s LinkedIn profile—he’s got a big old background there. 

[00:17:39] Colleen Stanley: But if you had to narrow it down to one piece of advice for sales leaders—remember that book, ‘The One Thing’ by Keller?—and you do that one thing, some other things go away or become easier. What would be that one thing?

[00:17:56] Keith Rzucidlo: I think patience is one of the most important things for any sales leader because it can be lonely. Sometimes you hear all the negatives, you hear everything, and having patience or not reacting right away, along with the curiosity to really understand where the noise is coming from and keep asking ‘why,’ can give you a clearer picture. I see it time and time again in organizations where there is a flavor of the month. At the first sign of adversity, they knee-jerk react and get thrown off course. 

[00:18:36] Keith Rzucidlo: I believe patience is the biggest thing. Behavior change and big shifts in an organization don’t happen overnight. You also have to be honest with your team. So, as you find things and need to make changes, you need to own it when things don’t go right or as planned.

[00:18:56] Keith Rzucidlo: I think that helps drive buy-in and preserves your team’s culture, their mental state, their understanding that, ‘Hey, this guy is being realistic about what we need to do.’ Yeah, I think that’s my biggest piece of advice. And one thing I might add is that you don’t come up with a vision like this on your own.

[00:19:23] Keith Rzucidlo: It takes collaboration. It takes sacrificing in some areas and going in a different direction in other areas, maybe that you don’t initially agree with. It takes a lot. And frankly, it takes education, books, consultants, different outside resources. One big piece of advice that I give to organizations looking to make major changes or shifts: do your homework.

[00:19:49] Keith Rzucidlo: Don’t just adopt the thing that you read; really reach out to multiple consultants, interview them, and find people that fit your culture. All of our businesses have different nuances, and our go-to-market strategies are different. So, you really have to find the people, do the research, and spend the time upfront.

[00:20:11] Steven Rosen: Great advice, a wealth of knowledge, and I appreciate you sharing with us. Colleen, maybe you can jump in and summarize because there were lots of takeaways. I was making notes and trying to listen at the same time

[00:20:24] Colleen Stanley: Yeah. You’re gonna make me summarize all this brilliance.

[00:20:26] Colleen Stanley: I’m going to suffer from what they call the recency effect. Just what you said here, Keith, and I’m going to tie it back to that ‘how,’ which obviously grabbed me—the what, why, and how. When you’re talking about patience, I usually frame that up in the emotional intelligence world as delayed gratification.

[00:20:41] Colleen Stanley: I do believe that, in our world today, delayed gratification is a skill we’ve got to pay attention to and develop. When you take a look at a really well-run sales call, it involves patience—from the pre-call planning to designing the questions. And for managers, I know skill development and change are crucial.

[00:20:57] Colleen Stanley: It just doesn’t happen that fast. So often, they’re pretty good at the skill, maybe they were the early adopter, but they’re not having the patience to bring people along. So, I think the one I’m grabbing today, Steven, is that delayed gratification. Another term I’d use, which is really out of the EQ world, is reality testing.

[00:21:16] Colleen Stanley: If the plan ain’t working, redo it. This is where we all throw money after things at times and investment. I love the fact that you guys are course-correcting. I think more companies need to do it, but it’s hard because it takes a little bit of humility. Those are some of my takeaways.

[00:21:33] Steven Rosen: So let me cover a couple of things, Keith, that I thought were really valuable and well said. I used a different word; I called it tenacity. From my knowledge of Keith, I call him a visionary because I truly believe he has a vision of where he wants to bring the sales organization.

[00:21:50] Steven Rosen: He has a process, and the reality is Rome wasn’t built in a day. It does require change management and a very tenacious approach to getting from where you are to where you want to be. The reflection throughout the process, the data, but also bringing people along with that journey and having them be part of it, I think, is one of the key ways to accelerate to where you want to get to.

[00:22:14] Steven Rosen: One of the things that nobody really speaks about, and I cover a little bit in Bold Leadership, is that one of the ways to motivate people is to explore not only the upsides but also the downsides of doing nothing, of maintaining the status quo. If you want to be a bold leader, you have to challenge the status quo.

[00:22:30] Steven Rosen: Even motivating senior management to move, because sometimes senior management is very risk-averse, not only the tenured sales force. If you don’t present the risks, then the status quo is always the easiest place to be. So, it takes tenacity, I think, to move your organization, and it’s not a small organization—you’ve got lots of people with lots of different tenures. I think you’re bold and tenacious. 

[00:22:54] Keith Rzucidlo: Yeah, appreciate it.

[00:22:56] Steven Rosen: I just want to say, first of all, thank you, Keith, and this is really good. I love your presentation style. As we wrap up another great episode, the Sales Leadership Podcast, we hope you gathered some really good insights.

[00:23:09] Steven Rosen: I know I have, and it’s about closing that gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it. If you found this discussion on moving an organization from where they are to a vision valuable, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and ensure you don’t miss out on any of the future episodes. Although this one has been fantastic, I hope you have some awakenings as you go forward and spend more time with us.

[00:23:36] Steven Rosen: Thank you again, Keith and Colleen. Always a pleasure. 

[00:23:40] Colleen Stanley: Yes, sir. 

[00:22:41] Keith Rzucidlo: Thank you both. It was a pleasure. Thank you!

 

 

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