As originally published by Partner & COO Christopher Powell Jones:
Recently, I had the privilege of making a guest appearance on The Shred Coach Podcast, hosted by Tom Adams. The podcast explores various issues and challenges in the commercial shredding industry, and functions as a platform for pros to share knowledge and insights. While Tom’s target audience are operators within our relatively small industry, many of the ideas are transferrable to the world of closely held businesses.
Tom’s podcast is a favorite of the team at Secure Records Solutions. We all listen religiously and enjoy discussing and applying the insights we find in our day to day work. That’s what made it such a pleasure to join them and share a story of my own. I hope you’ll give it a listen, but I’ve also outlined the themes and stories I shared below.
A few years ago, I was playing tennis with a mentor and complaining about a salesperson I was managing. This management problem, as I saw it, was really starting to frustrate me. My mentor listened to my complaints for a while, but then he stopped the point and said something that caught me off guard.
“You don’t have a management problem, Christopher,” he said. “You have a sales problem. You’re not big enough to manage a sales team. You need to find someone to cook and clean, so you can go hunt and kill.”
Game. Set. Match.
He was right, and I knew it. What I framed as a management problem, wasn’t. It was a sales problem. I was trying to put off the real problem on someone else. Ultimately, until we grew our business 10x, any problem besides sales was just a distraction from the real issue. We had to change, and change would have to start with me.
I realized that I needed to move us towards a new, sales-driven culture. That meant devoting my own time to following leads, cultivating relationships, converting sales, and building a team to support that transition.
We’ve grown tremendously since that conversation 6 years ago. The results speak for themselves:
- Our sales have grown by 5x.
- Our team has grown by 7x.
- Our goal last year was 20% growth, and we hit 30%. We hope to do it again this year.
There are five core ideas that got us here. They inform our sales-driven culture, our competitive and collaborative natures, and our innovation-based approach to problem-solving. They are: Principal Passion, Team Goals, Weekly Accountability, Leveraging Technology, and Iteration.
Principal passion means adopting an owner-led, sales-driven culture. For my role, this meant leading by example and setting a standard of actively pursuing sales and holding my team to that standard. It’s what fosters a growth-minded culture and a natural excitement for sales across our team.
The foundation of my principal passion is my belief that we are improving the lives of others. I always struggled with getting motivated to sell in my roles before SRS. I think it began with doubts about what I was selling. Now when I pick up the phone, I draw on the confidence that our customized solutions improve the lives of each of our clients. I had a tough meeting yesterday – the prospect just didn’t want to hear my recommendation or see the wisdom of my experience, even as we were surrounded by the self-created disaster of their records. He wanted to put me in a box of “salesman” and make our solution a commodity he could compare to anyone else. Every person in sales encounters objections and ultimately rejection. The more you put yourself out there, the more it happens. When I find myself in one of those meetings, or on one of those calls, that despite my best efforts doesn’t end well, I remind myself that they may not be the right person, and this may not be the right time, but I reached out with their best interests in mind. Then I make another call.
I believe in outbound calls. Recently, I’ve been listening to industry peers give presentations on sales. From this, I’ve concluded that many companies are just looking for excuses to avoid making outbound calls.
I was asked to create ten thousand dollars in value while on Tom’s podcast, and got it out of the way early in the episode with one simple piece of advice: if you haven’t made a call today, stop distracting yourself, get out your phone, and start making calls. If you’re reading this, the same applies to you. Minimize this browser window, get out your phone and make some calls.
Our largest sales have come from outbound activity, and outbound calls stimulate my best creative instincts and sales-minded thinking. When I’m stuck, I make calls to help remind me of what’s important. When we bring in a new team member, I use outbound calls as a training exercise. (Yes, new hires really do sit in on outbound sales calls with me in my office – what better proof is there that I eat my own cooking than to do so in front of a near stranger?)
Not everyone on our team is a salesperson, but everyone on our team likes winning. We’ve assembled a team of people who talk regularly about our goals and work together to accomplish them. Though everyone plays a unique role with varying responsibilities, we work together towards common goals.
Functionally, this is expressed by our end of year goal setting and the collaborative work we do to accomplish those goals. The seven members of our Sales and Client Services team set a goal – in one example, creating and measuring a legendary client experience – then meet weekly to measure our progress. This allows us to collaborate and plan, and to hold each other accountable in our pursuit of them.
Speaking of accountability, Weekly Accountability is the third idea that helped us create our sales-driven culture at Secure Records Solutions. Every Monday, our Sales and Client Services teams join for a multi-part meeting. These meetings are where we report on our client experience goals, hold a roundtable discussion of the past week’s sales experiences, and strategize for the upcoming week. Before we break, we cover big picture issues like sales training, new sales tactics, or what to talk about when you’re invited on one of your favorite podcasts.
These meetings allow us to report on our progress and share our experiences, and to start each week off on the right foot. They’re collaborative, spark innovation, and our entire team enjoys participating. They’re a cornerstone of our sales-driven culture, and essential to knowing that we are on track to accomplishing our annual team goals.
Around the same time I learned that important lesson on the tennis court, I was limping along with an excel spreadsheet in place of a dedicated sales software. We were too cheap to buy a real CRM, until it was time to add a second salesperson. I realized that to give this new hire the best opportunity to succeed, we couldn’t continue without such a software. It just wasn’t sustainable.
While we had unsuccessfully shopped for a CRM before, this time we eliminated cost as a factor. I just wanted to find the best. By changing the lens of decision making, choosing Salesforce became an easy decision. I swiped my credit card and started building out the platform myself, spending countless hours filling it with my pipeline, and our clients, making it the standard repository for client data going forward. As more team members got involved, we upgraded to their enterprise subscription and used one of Salesforce’s development partners to customize the platform to our needs.
This ultimately led to reports that form the backbone of our weekly sales/client services meeting, automated client onboarding, and has inspired collaboration, improved management, and reduced slippage.
Often goals begin as exciting plans, then begin to feel stale, and eventually drudgery, until they are abandoned altogether. I’m sure you’ve set such a new years resolution or pre season diet. It’s especially true for me. With my attention span, things start to feel stale every few weeks. But we’ve come up with a way to stay ahead of my attention span – iteration.
An example is a conversation we had this week about refreshing our document management sales strategy, but iteration can apply to any part of the sales process. It starts when I issue the challenge to our team in our weekly meeting. Then we split up the work.
We’ve used iteration to spark creativity and build momentum in a lot of different ways, from follow-up with on-call clients to review their usage of our shred program, to marketing campaigns for education at school year’s end or CPAs post-tax season. It’s the final key to keeping things feeling fresh and keeping our team excited about our sales goals.
I enjoyed joining Tom to share the underpinnings of our sales-driven culture on the Shred Coach Podcast. I encourage you to employ these ideas in your own business. I welcome the opportunity to share more in person or on a call if you need help building your own sales culture.
Partner & COO,
Christopher Powell Jones