The Audible-Ready Sales Podcast
The Audible-Ready Sales Podcast

Episode · 2 years ago

03. Sales Leadership: Playing the Long Game w/ Brian Walsh


NOTE: This episode was recorded last month, prior to the Coronavirus shut down. Although the episode provides some good tips that apply to the situation many of us find ourselves in now, please listen with the understanding that Brian's comments were recorded without the current context.

There’s not a sales leader out there that doesn’t want to make an immediate impact when they take on a new role.  

However, the best sales leaders are also thinking about what they can do to create ongoing and sustainable success. It’s a two-pronged approach. 

In this episode, Senior Director Brian Walsh runs through how to play the long game in sales leadership or even in your selling role.  

He covers key things you should be thinking through as you map out your own plan for success as well as how to know if you’re in the right company for “the long game.”


Check out this and other episodes of The Audible-Ready Podcast at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.

The greatest players of a long game. Understand that you've got a pivot in the short term to affect the long term upcomes that you're trying to get to. You're listening to the audible ready podcast, the show that helps you and your team's sell more faster. Will feat your sales leader sharing their best insights on how to create a sales engine that helps you fuel repeatable revenue growth, presented by the team at force management, a leader in BB sales effectiveness. Let's get started. Welcome to the audibilready podcast. I'm Rachel Clap Miller with force management, and I'm excited about this conversation today that we're bringing you because it's focused on leadership and commitment and it's with our own Brian Walsh. Hi Rachel, Hi Brian. I'm excited to have you on our new podcast today. Me Too. I think this is my first time on the new podcast, the new and what a day it is. So I had asked you, Brian, what was a topic that was top of your mind that we could do for podcast, because I know you're out talking to people in the space all the time and you came back with this idea of playing the long game. Talk to me about what you mean by that and and why it's a hot topic for you right now. Okay, so well, let me answer the second question first. It's it's a hot topic because it's s Ko season, right, everybody's kicking off the year, everybody's coming off whatever happened last year, good, bad or ugly, and everybody is trying to, you know, look forward but at the same time make this thing happen, and there's this ying and Yang of the short term in the long term. And you know, at the first question level, you know, the concept for me, as I come out of these kickoffs, is I'm realizing that it's critical for both leaders of organizations, whether you leave a team or the whole company or anywhere in between, and individual contributes, contributors it just it has different forms. Right. So for leaders, I think it's really about three things. First, it's about understanding that, no matter how long you plan on being in the role that you're in, your name is going to be in the history books, right. So now you know these books might be distributed in different ways and the different fashions. You know, and big companies they were. They literally write white papers and in small companies. It becomes, you know, Lare and family history and you know spoken word, right, people I say, Oh, well, when so and Soo was in charge, or yeah, that's all. Know what that meant? You know. Yeah, but in some former fashion, you're going to be in the history books. Right. So I think you got to think about the legacy that you're going to leave, both in terms of your reputation and in terms of the fact that you know, as you know that I like to say, people will either be remembered for what you did for people or you'll be remembered for what you did to them. Right. So that's first the secondly, it's the idea that in a role where you've got responsibility for others, you therefore have a responsibility to think about the long term, not just for yourself but for them and the business. Right. I mean that's pretty obvious, but it should be something that's top of mine. And I think the third thing, and maybe it's the most important, because I you know, I can't understate this enough, it does not dismiss your responsibility. The idea of playing the long game to the immediacy of the now. Right. So the concept of short term success and long term and a long term game view are not mutually exclusive ideas. In fact, if you think about it, the greatest players of a long game understand that you've got a pivot in the short term to affect a long term up comes that you're trying to get to. Right. So in a role where you've got responsibility for others, you therefore have a responsibility to think about the long term. That's for yourself, but for them, and you got to be thinking about how do we stay in front of changes that are happening to pivot, and or how do...

...we react to changes that come at us, both of which are going to affect a long game. So it can kind of sound like you're talking about in both sides of your mouth, but the two ideas have to go hand and glove to really have a long game approach. So I bring that up because I don't want people to think that you have to sacrifice short terms success, in short term wins to get to the long game. You don't at all. So it's not an either or type of conversation, right, it's a both. So I thenk. Yeah, I'm sorry. I think also to your point, it's those the benefits of the short term win lead up to the long game, right. That their foundational aspects that you need to be looking for and making sure those wins are getting you to the end to that long game. Well, and you know, and I do think, your behaviors in the short term will signal the people whether or not you truly believe in what you say or talk about when you talk about the long term. Right, that's that's classic. It's like, you know, it's your actions that define you. It's not and it's not the words. The words, the words are in one year and out the other pretty quickly. People believe what they see now they hear. Sure so. And then if you think about the individual contributal level, right, of whether I'm like, let's just take a frontline seller for a minute, the idea plays out, but it will just plays out a little differently. Right. But if you know, if if I truly think or view professional selling as a career, right, I really don't have a choice but to view the job as an act of service to both my company, my customers and really me and my family. Right. So the long game, there is really the only way to create any sort of sustainable, repeatable success, and I believe that's even if you're jumping from one sales job in one company to another sales job in another company, because eventually word gets out as to who you are in the marketplace. So the long game, you know, really requires that. I'm looking at my customers and my territories, a series of accounts that require this view around strategy, right, you know, at force management, like we like to talk about strategy or position in an account being the combination of the knowledge I have in the relationships that I've relationships that I built with it, with the customer and all the different people inside of their company. So the long game here is about creating, you know, raving fans. There's there's a new book out there called Fan accracy. I can't remember who wrote it, but you know, it's the whole idea of turning fans into customers and then customers in the fans and it's a really interesting concept. That is really, again, all about the long game, right. So, as I said earlier, it's really about how others view you and what legacy you want to leave for yourself. Or great for yourself, because that's going to follow you, and either one of these scenarios right, whether you're leading people in an organization or you're representing that organization out in the marketplace or in the field. Yeah, and how are you managing to that? And I think when you brought that topic up I thought it was a good one because I think they say the average term of a VP sales, especially in the text base, is like eighteen months or something. So, yeah, how do you get around that urge to jump ship or run if you have the options? I well, I guess you kind of made that point too. It's not always about the company they're in, but it's all about, you know, your long term career and your your long game. But it seems to be there's there's an underlying theme here around getting around that urge to run and sticking it out for the long game. What's Ye that? Yeah, there, I think there's a couple of things here. Let me start here, which which is, you know, there's the only line that people quit their boss before they ever quit a company. You know there's I think the opposite is true. People will follow a boss as well, and if you think about the greatest leaders in business, people follow them and it's because those leaders don't have a short term view of the world. Those leaders have a long term view of their careers, the things that they do, not just for a living but in their personal lives. Right they're all about building, constantly building,...

...constantly learning. That's a long term view. Now, you know, I'm not sure this is going to the rest of this is going to fully answer your question, but you know I'll. I will point back to my earlier comment. You know, I'm the first to agree that you have to make an immediate impact when you step into a root leadership role. So I'm not suggesting that you should be sacrificing short term success or wins to get to a long term play. I do think the mistake a lot of people make is that they think they have to immediately hit a number. I got to go in and I got to hit the number in my first quarter. And don't get me wrong, if you see some opportunity that you can make an impact on because of your skill set, of your experience and you can go get some big wins or early, go do it. Have a head it. But you know, I when I when I got to a point where I was hiring people who were either going to be like product specialists, people who add a lot of responsibility to the number and a lot of informal authority. They work with eight or ten sellers or immediate sales managers. I would tell them all the same thing, whether you have former leadership or informal leadership roles now as a part of what you do for living, that one of the best things you can do is go find a couple opportunities that you can make an impact on and help people win right away, right because it helps you build credibility with the team, it helps you start to build relationships with them and all that. But at the same time, while you're trying to get a couple of big wins early, what I think you really got to be doing is you got to be creating an organization that can can create on their own ongoing, repeatable, sustainable success. By the way, that's one of the tenets of good to great and one of the things that Collins found out in his research was those organizations that were able to be great over time, not just against their peers but against the entire market place, were those that created self sufficiency, they created skill. Right. So it comes from having a view that creating skill and teaching others how to create skill or coach skill is maybe the most important immediate impact you can make. So now, whatever your long term game is in the role that you're in right now, eighteen months, three years inside the same company to the next company, you're creating. You're creating your own out of fanatics right and now you've got a both mentality. It's a short term success counts and the long term game counts. It's not an eat or mentality, because I listen, I've seen that. I remember seeing a guy come into the region where I was a sales rap and he came in with a ball of fire. They literally wrote a Wall Street Journal Journal article about them. Eighteen months later and he was a regional sales leader. This true story, and he was on the front page of the Wall Street Journal with one of those pixelated pictures of him and that was big that was a big deal. Well, a year later he leaves and he left a trail of just just literally death and destruction. He left that counts in the Midwest. That to and this is twenty plus years ago, that that company still can't go into today, because all he had was a short term when mentality, and that creates all kinds of bad things. So maybe, I hope that answers where you were trying to go. Well, yeah, and you know, it makes me think of something you said to me, either in a podcast or just when we've been talking about just various content topics with your managers. You say you have to have the commitment and the guts to take a step back and coach, coach the coaches, and some of these choices you need to make as a leader have to do on whether you're making the playing the long game or leaving behind your death and destructions like you're guy in the Wall Street Journal. But these are investments that, you know, we often play into. It's coaching the managers, it's investing in sales transformation, sales transformation programs that create that sustainable success that that you...

...were just talking about. Yeah, yeah, I think they're right. I mean, if you think about this, you know, I'll give you an example. I was I've got a phone call just yesterday from a sales enablement later, someone we know well, that we've worked with at a few different places, and he called me and he told me that his company had decided to take two different distinct parts of the organization and merge them into one. And you know, he said to me, it's a great idea in terms of where our market place is going, where our customers going, and it makes perfect sense for us to pull these two pieces of business together and make one go to market or create one go to market strategy. However, he then went on to tell me that the CEO of the company wants to do this immediately, within the next thirty days, and doesn't have any concerns about enabling the two sales forces that are now being merged, even though both sides have no idea really what the other side does. So now, all of a sudden, half of what I know is going to be relevant and the other half of what I need to know I don't know anything about. Right and so you tell me, like, is that any sort of recipe forget long term success, how about short term wins? I mean, it's just right. I mean, I would submit to you from personal experience that what is about to be created is going to be a pretty ugly blood letting of people who are going to realize that the company literally is only interested in one thing and that's cutting cost or driving short term revenue gains. And I got bad news form. That ain't going to happen. They might cut cost because they're not going to do enablement, and maybe they're going to be able to pull some sellers out and instead of having two hundred, maybe they only need a hundred and fifty. But they're not going to get any short term wins if they don't enable the strategy right. And in fact I lived that movie a couple of times in my career and I'll tell you I went through one situation. This is not good for anybody. I remember literally overnight in December of one year, there was an announcement made by the new CEO where everybody was told your new territory in January, you will be a vertical specialist. We had had we had had very few vertical specialists in our company in the past. Maybe a couple of market places or a couple of vertical industries, but most of us were geographical focused with lots of different industries in our territories. And overnight we had to industry align every rep in the company and we broke the company. Broke something like eighty five percent of the relationships that people had to get to that strategy and there was literally zero enablement. There was no strategy to get people ready to go to that specific market place and the only chance you had was if your past experience happened to fall in line with whatever vertical market you would just been assigned to. And I'll tell you something, Rachel. Yeah, just by luck. It is still viewed as one of the worst moves made in the history of one of America's greatest selling organizations. In fact, the CEO lasted only eighteen months in the job, and the sad part, the really sad part, is that everybody knew as it was happening what was happening and that it wasn't the right move for both the short or the long term, because there was no commitment. I mean the long term strategy on paper was like look, what probably look perfect. If we make every person in this company and Industry expert, we're going to will own the industries. Well, yeah, that's great, but you know what do they say? Vision and passion is nothing more than a day dream. If you don't have really good action around that, you're never going to get resolved. You've got to figure out what does it take to help the organization execute or whatever the long game is. Don't even bother, like just stop listening to this podcast right now and right you know, yeah, right, I have already the the plan. Oh, always looks good on paper. I mean what the example that you gave is is a pretty big one,...

...but it also can happen on small things, whether it's a Oh yeah, pricing strategy ors just leaving new widget on something. If you don't have a plan around execution, particular on the sales team that's responsible for your revenue, it's never going to work. Yeah, and then I think you nailed it. I mean, yeah, there's nothing else to say. Oh my gosh, I've left finewell speech. List well, on that topic, on that topic. Right. Well, yeah, what ask you another question. So, given the company, I mean you said in that particular situation, everyone knew it was a wrong decision and it was also, and then the earlier example, sending the example that the company's really looking for short term Revenue Games and not really caring about the individual. So that brings you the question of how do you know that you're in the right company for for the long game? I think a lot of times, especially if you're good, the offers came. The offers come so how do you know that you are in the right place to make the long play? What what am I looking for? Well, you know, look, different things are important to different people, right, but maybe at a level above that, and I don't I try not to be an idealog right, and I think I understand that not every company is always are where they need to be or want to be or has the resources to the necessarily do everything they want to do. Right. So, with that as a caveat, I do think you have to be a little dogmatic when it comes to the idea. Like I said before, the vision alone doesn't make things happen, because if you're going to join a company that's only got vision and isn't up for action, you're going to be sorely disappointed really quickly. And if you truly believe in this concept right and and you're gonna you're going to find yourself realizing you made a mistake. So I think you got to find a place that's all about actions. So I think if you're trying to figure out how do I know I'm talking to or I'm in the right company at the right place in times you're serious about wanting to be an organization that understands that the long game is an important concept. I think you got to be willing to do a couple of things. You got to be willing do some research and you got to be willing to have a couple some candid conversations. So on the research side, I think you got to look at the company's history right. Look not just at the last six or twelve months, right, because anybody can make that look good. Hey, we had a rough year, but look at our pipeline, or hey, we had a great year, we're killing it right. First, on the research side, you know, look at their history and look at how they've behaved as they've grown and as the company has changed. Right. And then look at the history of the leadership in the organization and again, not just in their current roles at the current company, but dig into their past. Linkedin is a powerful tool. You'd be shocked at how many people you're only one connection away from right. So look, look at where they've been and what they've been a part of. You know, there's there's two things I'd recommend you remember here, because wise people said these. The first is those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. So do you know, learn a little history here. And second is on the people's side of this. You know people will show you who they are. So so believe them. So go do that work to understand who you're dealing with, both at the individual level at the end, at the company level, and what the history says about who they are and how they're going to act. And then on the candid conversation side, I think you got to be comfortable having some of these conversation. You got to be willing to look somebody straight on and and just say on the Front End, listen what you're talking about. Your words sound like a really good match for me. So what are we going to do? What are we going to do to ensure that we actually live up to those ideals? Like, what's the executable action that we're going to sign up for? Right? It's if you think about it, this is a lot like when we talk to the organizations we work with and their entire sales organization and everybody else is customer facing. They all go through command of the message so that they can talk to clients about helping the...

...client think through what's really possible and what it's what's really required to get there right, creating a longer list of required capabilities to help them get to those outcomes. Well, it's I tell reps is all the time and I'm getting more and more results for Reps. I'm hearing more and more results from them on this. It's one thing to agree with a client on what's required right. It's one thing to get agreement on what's required to get to these outcomes. It's another thing to get agreement across in the customers entire organization or entire decision process with everyone to ensure that that's what we hold each other accountable to. Right. Is One thing for you and I to agree on what's required to get somewhere. It's another thing for me to help you realize that, Rachel, you're one of eight people that are going to make this decision. And so how do we get complete agreement on that right? This is because, as I tell sellers all the time, if you're going to go through the effort of lending your expertise and credibility to help a client think through their issues and their potential outcomes right and help them think through those outcomes in such a way that you help them better to find requirements to get to those, then you not only have the responsibility, I think you've earned the right to look the client in the eye and help them realize that we stick with the plan and that you don't get selective Amnesia or that you don't get other people engaged in on board. So the same thing here. If I'm a sales leader and I'm looking at an organization to maybe join them, if I'm going to talk to them about being part of their short term goals and long term success, I'm going to force them to talk through the long game and talk about the positive business outcomes and what's required to get there and then put some of those commitments in writing, not just with one person right but with the entire organization. And I and you know this and I know this. We have multiple examples of sales leaders who have called US and said I used command of the message to get this job. I sold myself using command of message to get this job. But I also use command in the message as a part of my contract because I walk the customer, my new employer, through what good looks like in the long term and I was able to show them how to get there and I force them to commit to that long term play on the front end. That's not easy to do. I'm not saying you can just walk in and put it on the table. Right, there's some skill that goes with that, but that's a point of view that that, on the front end of an engagement with your employer, put you in a better position to know whether or not you're about to start working with somebody who's really committed to not just some six month round you go, but the long term game as well. Right, right, that's a great way to think, to think through it, and I think I mean none of the stuff is easy. Right you using the strong term ways and looking out for the long term plan. It's not it's not easy, but recognizing that the importance of doing both at the same time. To that earlier discussion were talking about the dual pass your one step in the right direction. Yeah, that's right. Yeah, exactly right. Any final thoughts as we wrap up here, Brian, that you want to leave the folks with you are listening? I keep coming back to this thing that hit me a couple of years ago and I mentioned it to be in the webcast or the podcast up offers that if you were to close your eyes and imagine it's x number of years from now and people are talking about you at your retirement party or you're moving from one company the next or whatever. Whether you realize it or not, one of the things that's happening in that moment, and it's probably happening every day at People's dinners, dinner tables right, is someone's talking about you and what they're really basically saying is that they remember you for either what you did for them,...

...what you did to them, or they literally simply forget your name. And it's funny. I was in New York this week with a client for a day. There were thirty five managers in the room and we had that conversation. They said, let me ask you a question. Raise your hand if you can remember one leader that you work for. They did something for you, and they al raised their hand. It's a great can you remember at least one leader who did something to you? You remember them for what they did to you. And we'd already had the conversation on the negative connotation of that statement. Right. Every hand went up. I said now let me ask you this. Do any of you remember someone you work for but you literally can't remember their full name and almost every handle up, and that really hit me hard because I realized how much this idea resonates with people. That you have a conscious choice that you get to make if you're smart enough to make it, and unless you are evil to your soul. I can't imagine anyone ever choosing anything but that first potential outcome. Right and and the only way I believe that you can really walk away in life with that type of legacy is having a long term, a long game point of view. The short game doesn't follow them to the side of the road. It's still a big part of my arsenal, it's it's big part of my thought process, but that's only one part of a big conversation. So that's that's what I believe people with you get to decide the outcome or you get to decide the outcome by your inaction. Either way you're deciding the outcome. So that's what I've leave it with. That's great. Thank you so much for this conversation, Brian. I think it's a really valuable one for our listeners to hear and to ask themselves how they are playing the long game. Thank you. Thank you, Rachel. Have a great day. All right, and thank you to all of you for listening to the audible ready podcast. Don't forget subscribe and stay up to date. At force management, we're focused on transforming sales organizations into elite teams. Are Proven methodologies deliver programs that build company alignment and fuel repeatable revenue growth. Give your teams the ability to execute the growth strategy at the point of sale. Our strength is our experience. The proof is in our results. Let's get started. Visit US at force MANAGEMENTCOM. You've been listening to the audible ready podcast. To not miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. Until next time,.

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