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About This Episode
There’s a struggle within every company undergoing high growth. On one hand, you’re hiring like crazy; on the other, leaders must keep the culture positive, upbeat, fun, and, of course, high-performing.
On a recent episode of The Sales Engagement Podcast, Nick Rathjen, VP of Account Development at Samsara, discussed how he keeps the culture strong, while onboarding 4 new sales reps per week. (That means by the end of the year, he’ll have on boarded 225 new sales reps.)
‘Culture is a meal. People are the ingredients’
No surprises here — to Nick, people are what make the culture. When you teach individuals the “why” behind the business, and give them freedom within that, they will help create and sustain the culture, even during periods of high growth.
Sure, the ping pong table helps, but without the right starting point — the people who reinforce the culture — no amount of perks is going to keep that culture tight.
‘Hire candidates with a desire to learn’
When I asked Nick what he’s looking for in a rep, the first thing he mentioned is finding reps who have a strong desire to learn. Here’s Nick’s hiring process:
At Samsara, they have a panel of 3 interviewers from different areas — a sales rep manager, a regional director, and Nick. They’re specifically looking at these 3 areas:
- Past performance and track record — is this candidate a top performer?
- Coach-ability — how well can this individual take & implement feedback?
- Curiosity — how do they like to learn?
When you combine these 3 pieces of the puzzle, Nick says it gives you a full picture to determine whether someone will be successful.
How to embrace fun without losing performance
If you’ve been in sales for a while, chances are you know this: Salesperson knows how to have fun.
Nick’s no exception.
They have games around the office to give everyone a mental break whenever they need one. But Nick doesn’t believe these should ever detract from the work at hand. The balance though isn’t initiated by rules and regulations — rather, the culture self-regulates each individual.
“No one wants the reputation for being the ping pong champion,” he said. So, instead of managing breaks and how much time each person is at their desk, Nick encourages the managers to manage performance.
So, as with most sales teams, at Samsara, everyone’s got a quota. Reps have a quota, which rolls up to their managers’ quotas, which roll up to the director’s, whose quota rolls up to Nick.
3 ways to manage performance
Managing to performance takes place at a variety of levels at Samsara:
Manager-to-rep: performance management happens during weekly 1-on-1s
In these weekly 1-on-1s, Nick has a loose format he encourages managers to consider:
- Start by asking the rep what the highlight of their week was. “What are you most proud of from this past week?” This allows the managers to start off on a good note and understand how their reps were successful in ways that may not appear on a dashboard.
- Next, managers can transition into the numbers — the leading indicators around activities, calls sent, emails sent, number of meetings set, and meeting-to-opportunity creation rates.
- Lastly, managers help reps understand how they are hoping to finish relative to their end-of-month quota. Maybe they’re rocking and rolling on their numbers, or maybe they need to pick it up a bit. Managers try to understand where the pain points are so they can remove obstacles.
Pro tip: Give individuals the freedom to make mistakes and pursue their own management style
Nick doesn’t ensure every manager is following a “script” when it comes to their 1-on1s — rather, he tells them to use their own particular style to manage their specific teams. Also, he doesn’t believe managers have to make the right choice every time. He gives them the ability to make mistakes, so they can learn from those.
Director-manager: performance management
Performance management of the managers happens during the director-manager meetings.
Here, Nick said directors are asking managers questions like:
- How are we performing against campaigns we’re running?
- Are there any areas of concern?
- What course correction needs to take place?
- How can we help individuals be successful?
A final note on servant leadership
The idea at Samsara is simple: Everyone is there to serve their subordinates — Nick is there to serve the directors, who serve their managers, who serve their reps. This means everyone approaches meetings with their direct reports with an attitude of, “What can I do to make you successful?”
Nick says this attitude has been successful in creating a culture of trust, where each party can challenge the other, whether it’s upwards (direct report to boss) or downward (boss to direct report). Since everyone has made it clear they are there to make the other person successful, they have a springboard from which to challenge each other.