Episode TwoHundredSeventyFive

Sales Managers: Quit Cheerleading!

Guest: Shawn Buxton, Sr Manager of Sales Leadership Enablement at LogMeIn

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About This Episode

One of the biggest myths about sales leadership is that leaders have to be cheerleaders.

No, actually, the reps are already motivated by their salaries and themselves. The motivation is their part of the agreement.

So what should a sales leader’s job be?

That’s what I chatted about with Shawn Buxton, Sr Manager of Sales Leadership Enablement at LogMeIn.

Shawn came to sales leadership by way of worship leader and top performing rep. 

“The best way to sell your team on your leadership is to just step up and get on the phone. Show them that you can do it to build their confidence in you,” he said.

Now, 20 years into sales management, Shawn most enjoys coaching leaders on leadership.

Let’s get into the conversation!

Forget cheerleading

One of the worst myths about sales managers to come out of LinkedIn is that the job of managers is to manage motivation.

“I cringe when I hear that because the main thing that I’m proud of in my personal life and in my professional life… I didn’t have a manager motivate me to do that. It was a result of my own self-motivation,” Shawn said.

Let’s give reps the credit for wanting to be awesome and, in fact, being awesome at their jobs.

Honestly, motivation cannot be external. When we have the drive to accomplish, that comes from ourselves.

“Managers spend all this time and energy and resources on trying to get their teams pumped up to do a job that frankly, we’re already paying them to do anyway,” Shawn said.

Isn’t motivation a bare minimum expectation for employment? The deal is that you show up and try to do your best.

“I didn’t realize I had to be a professional cheerleader and get you hyped every day,” Shawn quipped.

Managers shouldn’t have to do this because it doesn’t work anyway.

What should they do instead?

Removing obstacles

Reps bring their own motivation, and here’s what managers bring: tools, resources, support, culture, and obstacle removal.

“The foundation of a high performance team is recognizing that I’m not going to motivate you. I’m going to facilitate your success, though,” Shawn said.

Honestly, that’s wise enough to frame and hang on the wall.

One way to reconnect reps with their own motivation is to talk to them and get to know what drives them.

It’s probably one of these 4 general buckets:

  1. Fear of not being able to pay the bills.
  2. Fortune to earn the beach house or the watch that costs just as much.
  3. Fame to be the acknowledged best among peers.
  4. Philosophy about doing your best every single day for self-fulfillment.

In one on ones, you can find out what someone’s main motivation is. Then you can simply remind them about it and ask how you can help them achieve it.

Example Okay, how much do you need for a down payment? Let’s put together a plan for making that happen by figuring out how many actions it’s going to take.

“We’re working together. I’m your partner. I’m coming beside you to help you to achieve this goal. That’s really how I get people to start being in touch with their internal sources of self-motivation,” Shawn said.

Oh, and a word about sales contests? Recognition after the performance is great and all, but it’s not what actually drives the performance. Let’s not confuse the two.

Digging into motivation

I bet you’d guess that fortune or fame are the most driving motivations. Not in Shawn’s 20-year experience observing sales leaders.

It’s fear and philosophy.

Think about fear. People will do crazy things when they have to pay their bills, when they’re afraid to fail the people who are counting on them. “They’ll make 200 calls a day instead of 100,” Shawn said.

Caveat: Fear doesn’t mean the sales manager is scaring them. It means they have forces in their life that are driving them to perform.

Philosophy, meanwhile, gets to the heart of who people really are. It’s how they were brought up to see life.

This one’s the heart of true intrinsic motivation, someone who will work their hardest because that’s how they see their role in the world. (There’s no teaching philosophy, by the way. It’s there or it isn’t.)

Culture helps

One of the supports that sales managers are responsible for is culture.

“You can establish a culture of high performance and of excellence,” Shawn pointed out. “People will become uncomfortable if they’re not aligned with that.”

That probably means they aren’t on the right team. Or they need help refocusing to conquer their apathy. The slightest amount of pressure delivered through culture will reveal whether they rise to the occasion or retreat from the responsibility.

A manager should never apply pressure without also providing the support to succeed. But at the same time, if the rep is not the right fit for the team, then they’re not.

Technology can be a help in this. Shawn says one of the greatest enablement tools is one that can help reps accurately hear themselves on a call and analyze their performance.

Yet a tech investment only comes to fruition when the sales manager is a true coach and works individually to improve reps.

Shawn’s top 3 tips for sales leaders

  1. Building and protecting culture. You just don’t want a bunch of quota carriers, you want people who are crushing quota. 
  2. Coaching, then development. Don’t get this one backwards. Coaching is getting people proficient at their current role, development is getting them ready for their next one.
  3. Removing obstacles for performance. A sales leader should be laser focused on clearing the lane of everything that would get in the way of the team’s top objective, which is to sell.

Get in touch with Shawn on LinkedIn.

About The Podcast

The Sales Engagement podcast is the #1 podcast focused on engaging your customers and prospects in the modern sales era. This show features real-life stories and best practices from revenue leaders doing the job day in and day out, in a casual, radio-like talk show.

Each episode features modern tactics, strategies, hacks, and tips to get the most out of your sales engagement strategy and help you navigate the next generation of sales. You’ll find energetic talks that will provide you with real actionable value around building meaningful connections and creating a better selling experience through authentic conversations that you can measure.

The Sales Engagement podcast is here to help B2B sales leaders, customer success leaders, and marketing leaders innovate and usher in the next era of modern sales by building pipeline, up-selling customers, and ultimately generating more revenue with more efficiency.

Hosted by Joe Vignolo, Senior Content Managing Editor at Outreach, and Mark Kosoglow, Vice President of Sales at Outreach.

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