At Improving Sales Performance, we are proud to be celebrating Women in Sales Month once again.
For all of October, we have an amazing slate of women sales leaders who will be sharing their unique insights.
From offering advice for sales managers new and more experienced to surveying the anticipated landscape of sales in the years ahead, when it comes to Improving Sales Performance, these ladies know how it's done.
Joining Matt for the entire month is Stephanie Downs, SVP & Senior Consultant at The Center for Sales Strategy.
In this episode, Matt and Stephanie are joined by Nicki Harkrider-Probey, VP, Local Revenue Officer at TEGNA
Nicki brings so many awesome points to the table. Such as:
ABOUT IMPROVING SALES PERFORMANCE:
Improving Sales Performance is hosted by Matt Sunshine who speaks with guests that are thought leaders, experts, and industry gurus, to share their insight, tips, and knowledge on various topics that help companies improve sales performance.
The Center for Sales Strategy
2:19 - From your point of view what are the things you look at in the sales dept that let you know that you are on track? In other words, what are the 3 to 5 Key Performance indicators you pay attention to?
2:58 Sales Dashboards
4:43 When you have a great culture and depth, that’s a great sales organization
6:25 What should sales managers be focused on? Think of it in terms of big rocks or highest priorities that they should be focusing on? Revenue of course, but what else?
7:35 You’ve got to be more engaged than ever
9:15 How has sales management changed over the years? Compare what it was like to be a sales manager 5 years ago compared to what is expected now?
9:38 Sales leaders have a lot on their shoulders
10:41 Leaders have an important role amidst all this uncertainty
11:56 The future is optimistic
12:24 Let's say you were speaking to a group of new sales managers, and you were asked to give them advice on what they should be doing or learning right now to ensure they would have success; what recommendations would you give them?
12:48 Optimistic spirit and attitude are important
13:20 If you can create an environment where people want to run through a wall for you, then you have high engagement
14:32 Recap from Matt
16:38 Part of acceptance is resilience
17:42 Reacting in this environment is just not healthy
21:11 We have to be more clear on setting expectations
23:20 Final Thoughts: Look into the future 3 to 5 years and tell us what you think some of the changes will be in our sales departments.
24:20 What better job could you be in than where you’re actually helping change people’s lives?
Welcome to Improving Sales Performance, a podcast highlighting tips and insights aimed at helping sales organizations realize and maybe even exceed their goals. Here we chat with thought leaders, experts in gurus who have years of sales experience from a wide range of industries. This season, we are celebrating women in Sales month by talking to some amazing women sales pros. Joining me for the entire month of October is Stephanie Downs, SVP and senior consultant at the Center for Sales Strategy. She'll be sharing her insights along with our fabulous guests. I'm your host Matt Sunshine, managing partner at the Center for Sales Strategy, Sales Performance Consulting company .Stephanie Downs:
We're so proud to be celebrating Women in Sales Month for all of October. We have an amazing slate of women's sales leaders who will be sharing their unique insights from offering advice for sales managers, new or more experienced, to discussing the anticipated landscape of sales and years ahead when it comes to improving sales performance. These ladies know how it's done. I'm Stephanie down, Senior Vice President at the Center for Sales Strategy, and I'll be joining Matt Sunshine on the show for the entire month of October. Today our guest is Nikki Har Rider , Vice President, local revenue Officer at Techna . Nicki brings so many awesome points to the table, such as the importance of fostering a culture of engagement amongst your sales teams, having and maintaining your core purpose as a sales leader, and the power of staying resilient through the fatigue of change .Matt Sunshine:
All right , let's jump in. Stephanie, I are so excited about this conversation this morning. We have our questions lined up and we have an amazing guest. Stephanie, I'll let you let you start it off.Stephanie Downs:
Yep , perfect. Okay. So Nicki , thinking about the overall sales organization, what are three or four or five different things that you look at? Just really to tell you, you guys are on track that, you know, things are going the way you want 'em to be going.Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
Yeah. Um, so I think what's interesting about that question, Stephanie, is the sales department and , um, so from a department I think is so different than for, you know, a local sales manager, for instance, talking about what they look at for their AEs. Yeah . Um, so when I look at it through the lens of the department mm-hmm. <affirmative> , um, you know, I really look a lot at their, we have a dashboard that we look at that is basically all the areas that we have responsibilities in as a team. They're KPIs. Yep . And so when I open that dashboard and I see a lot of green, a lot of sellers with a lot of green in all of those responsibilities, that's my immediate visual, that the department is healthy. Yeah . Um , and they can be, a department can be making a goal, for instance mm-hmm . <affirmative> , but when you open that up and you only have maybe a low percentage of sellers that are creating that , um, that performance on a team, that's, you know, that can be tricky because it's really about the depth. It's about the amount of sellers, the percentage of sellers that are all experiencing success. Mm-hmm . <affirmative> . So the higher that percentage is in all their areas of responsibility. To me, that really is a reflection of the high bar that sales department has. It's really a reflection of the depth on their team, which I think is super important. Mm-hmm . <affirmative> , it's really a reflection of what a great place for a new employee to come in and learn. Yeah . You've got so many people to learn from. So I think that's super important today and I think it's a reflection of a great culture. Yeah . I really do. For sure . I think when you see a dashboard with a high percentage of sellers with green, green, green, green, that's a great culture. And, and I think that with everything we're going through, when you can have a great place to learn when you have a high bar, when you have got a great culture and you've got depth, that's a healthy sales organization. Yeah . And they're doing great work. So when I look at it through the lens of the department mm-hmm . <affirmative> , that's really how I get a visualization mm-hmm . <affirmative> on how that is. Now, of course, when I go there, I can feel that.Stephanie Downs:
Yeah, that's right. You get a different perspective, <laugh> , Hey ,Matt Sunshine:
Let me , let me follow up real quick. Um, so every single station, every single market has the same, I'm asking a question, has the same dashboard, the same KPIs, the same tracking across the board. So as a leader, that's, that makes it , um,Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
Consistent to look at. Yeah . Yeah . Yeah .Matt Sunshine:
Absolutely . That's a really , I think that's a really big point, the consistency of measure that's going on across the board.Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
Yeah, I , I agree. And I think to have consistency, you know, I will give you guys credit. There's been many a time where you're trying to identify and hire for a role mm-hmm . <affirmative> , and I've always carried this with me from many years when I was at the station and working with you and you would say, Identify what you're looking for in that role and identify the questions you wanna ask. Yeah . In the interview process that feeds to that need. That's right . And having the consistency of those questions across all candidates. Mm-hmm . <affirmative> really helps you , um mm-hmm . <affirmative> , see what you're trying to see. So for me, in this role, the consistency of that across all of our stations is super, super valuable when you're looking at the health of the organization there in their local market.Stephanie Downs:
Yeah. So similar question , um, you know, to what you're looking at. And I like the way I like the word consistency cuz there's a lot to that. What else should sales managers be paying attention to? I mean, depth of obviously, you know, all of the team con contributing to the overall calls of the revenue numbers. Right? Right. But what are some of the other high priorities or big rocks that sales managers should be paying attention to?Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
Yeah, so Stephanie, I'm gonna say of course all those things we just talked about Right. They're gonna be looking at all of that. Yeah. Um , but right now I would be unbelievably focused on engagement. Yep . I think we are in such a difficult time. I have a ton of empathy, <laugh> for the local leaders in the marketplaces post covid , you know, post getting teen in our rhythm again. Um, you know, from pre covid to today, so much has changed. Yeah . In our world, nothing is the same. That's right . Um , and as you're trying to move forward in this really , um, different environment with different requirements in our role mm-hmm . <affirmative> , you have gotta be more engaged than ever. Yeah . And we've been separated , um, again, we're not separated today, but there's still this different type of rhythm and an engaged team mm-hmm . <affirmative> that they're having to rebuild. Yeah . And so for me, if, if I'm a leader, I am focused on all those things we talked about before, but I am focused on engagement in a very intentional way. And that is engagement with every person. And that's the engagement as a team as a whole. That's right. And , um, without really high levels of engagement and recruiting for people that can share that same level of engagement with the right skill set that gives them the right opportunity and the belief in what we do and retaining people with high engagement , um, without really pulling that through with new employees and retaining your star talent. Yeah . Um, you know, I think it's, I think it's, that's really challenging. You've gotta have high engaged teams with the right people.Stephanie Downs:
You absolutely do. It's always been important. Right. I mean, that's always been important, but it's more important now than it's ever been before. Um, and you touched on recruiting. That's obviously a big need , um, across a lot of, I mean, I know you deal with it, you know , at te , but I mean, we see that across , um, a lot of different companies that we deal with. So I'm curious, you made a comment about, you know, everything has changed, everything is different and it is, we know the last two, two and a half years, things have changed drastically. When you think about a sales leader from three years ago, four years ago, five years ago, versus a sales leader today, what do you have to have in a sales leader , um, you know, to be successful today? What is so important about that role now?Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
Um, yeah, so I, I think the sales leaders mm-hmm . <affirmative> have a lot on their shoulders. Wow . And so , um, you know, I'm a big, big person on purpose. Yeah . And really, you know, having the strong level of core purpose in what you do. And so I think that those that still really have that every day in today mm-hmm . <affirmative> and that is helping them drive their teams themselves , et cetera , to the future cuz are really committed. Yeah . And I think that that level of commitment that's necessary from leadership today, you have a lot of people really , um, needing that. They really need to, to see the strong sense of purpose and the commitment and the belief in what our future can and will be. Mm-hmm . <affirmative> . And, you know, I do think because the, the accelerated , um, change that has happened and the uncertainty that's happened in the world, that leaders have an important role today. Yes . More than they ever have before. You know, they were leading people and leading performance and leading goals and yes. Hiring people, but now they're creating a, a vision for the future every single day. Yeah . Um ,Stephanie Downs:
And they've gotta be able to convey that vision and get buy in on that vision and get people to come along with them. And they, purpose is a good word and committed is a good word, but they've gotta be able to really bring people with them. And that goes back to the engagement conversation you were having.Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
Yeah. And you two know that one of my favorite words is galvanize love the word galvanize. And I, and I think that our leaders, I think the best leaders today are, are not , um, they are resilient in the fatigue that has happened through all of the unbelievable change. And they see all that as istic and they are able to galvanize their team through the right communication, through having a strong sense of purpose, through being truly, truly committed. And they're able to get everybody going to where they see there's the possibility to go. And I really believe that. I absolutely believe the future is , um, very optimistic. I think that we absolutely can paint that picture. Um, but it takes the mindset of a leader today to be able to do that. And so there's a lot of responsibility on leaders today cuz they have a higher responsibility than just skills and talents and goal performance. Yeah . They have a responsibility to galvanize teams andStephanie Downs:
People . Yes . Yes. So if you were giving, I'm gonna shift gears just a little bit. So if you were , uh, talking to a group of brand new sales leaders in our business today, what advice would you give them? Some of what you just said, but give me a , give me more detail on that.Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
Um, well I think, and , and I have this conversation when I interview new leaders. And , um, and I really, I , I think, I think that optimistic spirit is really important. I think attitude is really important. I think attitude is really important with sellers and leaders. Agree . Um, and the advice that I give them is just putting myself in the shoes of a seller and in the shoes of , um, what I loved as a seller and also what I found successful as a leader of sellers mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and, and we talk about it all the time, is if you can create an environment where people want to run through a law for you and they would, then you, you've got high engagement.Stephanie Downs:
And I just think that that's harder to do unless you clearly see it. It's not that it's harder to do, it's about seeing how important that is important . It's , it's about seeing the role of that and , um, you know, through earning their trust, their respect. And I think there's a lot of things like you gotta , you've gotta have people's back. You've gotta earn the respect. You've gotta show that you care about them and that they can trust you. And you know, as long as you can create in that role, if you're a new leader mm-hmm . <affirmative> , you have a team of people that wanna run through that wall for you because they trust you, they respect you, they know that you care about them and you teach them, you bring them value every day , then that's the way to success. And again, Stephanie, I would say that that's the , that would've been the same 15 years ago.Stephanie Downs:
How you do that is different today. Yeah .Stephanie Downs:
Yeah. I've heard you , Oh , go ahead Matt. And then I'll jump back in .Matt Sunshine:
Yeah. So I , I've been taking a lot of notes because,Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
Because I talk a lot.Matt Sunshine:
No, no. BecauseStephanie Downs:
You have fabulous insight.Matt Sunshine:
No, because this information is , is so good and , and , and so important. I I wanna recap some of it and give you an opportunity to , um, expand if you want or, or, or , um, add to anything here. But some of the things that I'm hearing you say is that you wanna build a great place to learn work and grow. You wanna have a great culture that as a leader, as a , as a sales leader, if you can have a great place to learn, a great place to work, a great place to grow, you're really gonna have that culture. And one of the keys to that is consistency. It's not just a, Hey, I read a , I read an article, let's do this. I mean, it's more of a belief. It's more of a Yeah . Let's get in. The other thing that you said was that engagement should be the number one focus. Um, and I love that every person as well as every team, and you need to retain your star talent. I don't think we can emphasize that enough. And I love the way, the way you put that together. I thought when you, when you went on talking about commitment and that belief and that sense of purpose and that leaders today need to create, share and convey the vision. And then the last thing that I took notes on that I wanted to highlight, cuz I , I really, I , I haven't heard you say this and, and I'm gonna, I'll , uh, I'm gonna give you credit for saying it for at least a couple of times before I totally steal it and use it for my own , um, resilient through the fatigue of change. And boy, isn't that the truth? Yeah . Like that's, that's truth right there. Resilient through the fatigue of change because there's been a lot of change.Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
Yeah. <laugh> , there's, there's no doubt, right? I mean, everybody, we all know. I mean, we can't sit here. I mean, we're not, we're not teaching anybody anything to say, Oh, there's been massive change. We all know it. And there's nothing that's really the same, honestly. Yeah . So , um, I'm, I'm a big, I'm just a big believer in you have to accept that. And part of acceptance, I believe is the resilience, Matt . So, you know, resilience through all the change that we've had and then seeing the opportunity in what's ahead and , um, it's just critically important and it's very important. Again, leaders play a very important role in that. Um, Stephanie, one thing I will add, and Matt, I will just say, you're a great student. Those are amazing notes. You did a great job summarizing your summary was perfect . Yeah . But I will say , Stephanie, you asked , you know, what's different than a leader had to have? And I was talking about the role of that galvanizing and, and all that we just talked about. But I, I also ask , I mean, add this , um, those that are, have a lot of intuition or really great instincts mm-hmm. <affirmative> , um, have a very special way to lead that vision and lead their people in engagement today. Yeah. Because it is reacting in this environment. Mm-hmm . <affirmative> is just not healthy. Yeah. Um , so understanding what's going on with someone when they haven't even said it. Yeah. Why are they struggling with activity in the environment today? Yeah . What's getting in their way. The ability to connect and have great instinct with people for leaders today is absolutely critical in helping them solve their problems. Yeah . Helping them grow, helping them learn. Matt , to your point , um, so I think instinct and intuitionStephanie Downs:
Really important.Stephanie Downs:
I think , um, it is absolutely important, but I think it's also important for leaders. Um, we know strong leaders have that just natural intuition and they need that. I think it's also important that leaders put some sort of routine or process in place to uncover some of that information as well. You know, it can happen in one on ones each week. It can be , um, that they stop down and have a formal process where they're asking very specific questions to learn what people are thinking about, what's important to them, where they wanna go in an organization, what their growth goals are. There needs to be a process in place to help support that as well. Don't you think?Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
Yeah , totally agree. And , and I mean, I can , I don't say it a lot because I can't imagine not doing it, but listening is just so important and asking the right questions. Um, and you know, when you're having a one on one and, and you're, I think I , I personally can't imagine doing those over a computer anymore. Um , I know we've all had to, but I don't know how you connect with your people and really understand and have great intuition if you're doing that across a computer screen. Um, you know, we ha we are in our markets with our people and we need to understand what's going on with our people. And there is body language and , um, I think there's a stat that 80% of what you're feeling or saying is actually through body language more than words. So , um, picking up on that in person is another way. When we're really trying to be intentional about engagement, you , our connection with our , our people , um, is really important. So, you know, I think listening, asking questions , and they don't have to be really complicated questions. NotStephanie Downs:
At all. They shouldn't be complicated.Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
Yeah . Yeah . It's just really understanding Yeah . And listening and, and being really intentional with that because the more that you can unlock what's going on with individual, their challenges, what's, you know, taking over their mind, their calendar, their worries, their successes, the more you're able to unlock the best in people. And , um, so I , I agree. SoStephanie Downs:
Yeah. And I'll , I'll add a thought to that and then I'm gonna ask you a final question here. But I think it's, once you do listen and you learn and you hear what it is, you gotta respond to it and react to it. Mm-hmm . <affirmative> , you can't just hear it and not do anything about it, because that would be the opposite of engagement. <laugh>.Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
Yeah. And Stephanie , may I add something before you get to your last question? Yes, of course. I'm actually in Atlanta was with the Atlanta team last night , and one of the things that we were talking, so I will add this other , um, you know, point to, you know, great leaders today and something you really have to be intentional about is I think we have to be more clear on setting expectations. Cool .Stephanie Downs:
For sure .Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
You know, so I think we've all done that. We've had roles and responsibilities. We all know what the expectations of a , of a , of a, you know , position is. But , um, I think in our environment today, and as we're challenged , um, with lots of different ideas on what creates success mm-hmm . <affirmative> , they should know the behavior, the activity mm-hmm . <affirmative> , the , um, what you're looking to see, what the cadence, what the process is. To your point, all of that needs to be crystal clear. Clear from the very beginning. Yeah , yeah . And agreed upon in that commitment area that we were talking about , aboutStephanie Downs:
And consistency and messageNicki Harkrider-Probey:
<laugh> . Yeah. Because , and again, it's , that's not about , um, that's not from leading with a stick. Let me tell you all the expectations that's about agreement. Sure . Here's what creates success. Mm-hmm . <affirmative> , I've seen it. I know it. Here's what the role is, and are you, are you highly engaged? Are you all in, are you fully committed in doing that? Because I'm responsible for making sure I set you up for success. And you're responsible for making sure you are. That's right . And expectations really, really need to be key because nobody wants , um, to go into a role and the expectations of anyone be false because that doesn't help anybody be successful and that doesn't help our organizations be successful. Yeah . So it's really important on setting expectations correctly.Stephanie Downs:
I think we could have an entire podcastNicki Harkrider-Probey:
Conversation about thatStephanie Downs:
<laugh> . I think we could, that could be an entire episode on its own. And you use the group , uh, the word agreement, and I think I've heard you say , um, something similar to that quite a few times on alignment. Just alignment and expectations and alignment in the direction that , um, that we're going. All right . Final thought. Um, so we know there's been a lot of change, captain obvious, right? So if you look out 3, 4, 5 years, how do you think sales departments are gonna , um, evolve over the next handful of years or changes that may come?Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
Yeah. AnyStephanie Downs:
Final thoughts on that?Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
Yeah, so I mean, I absolutely, I absolutely am excited and I absolutely believe that we are going to be even more advanced and , um, more proven in being outcome based selling. I think that is , um, the way of our future. I think we have the opportunity to do that. And I think it's super exciting. So if I look forward to that, I'm just excited to continue on that road. Um , I love that how that ties back to our purpose. And our purpose is really helping businesses and brands grow. And so having proof in the outcomes of that is so rewarding, Right . Um, and what, what better , um, job could you be in that you're actually able to help change people's lives? So having that tied in, in a even further, more consistent and more powerful way is an awesome part of what I think the next three to five years are in can look like. And I would also say that, you know, as we've all gone through transformation and there's, you know, some of our sales organizations have gone through that very, very effectively and very fast and are continue to grow in that. And some others self admittedly would say they're still challenged with that. I , um, think three to five years, you can't still be challenged with that. <laugh> never really have to be all in in that you gotta be all in . Yeah . So , um, that's what I would say are the two biggest things is, you know, outcome based . And then you've gotta really be able to look in the mirror at your department and say, We've got, we've got the people and the purpose in all the things we're trying to do, and we're not still trying to transform. We're always gonna be transforming, but we need to get through that hurdle for sure. Yeah. Yeah.Matt Sunshine:
Excellent. And I don't think we , Yeah. Do you have one more question or No, you're , No . All right . So Nikki , thank you so much for joining us. We, so we really, really appreciate it. Um, if anyone is interested in connecting with Nikki , um, we'll have her contact information , her LinkedIn and connection and everything in the show notes. You can go and grab that there. Um , Nikki was , were you gonna say something?Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
No, I would just hope, you know. Awesome. I'd love that plug. Thank you, Matt. Sunshine. But I would just say also, you know, for anyone that's listening to this, I mean, I really hope all those things for all of the, you know, all of our competitors and all of our companies in this industry, I think together we can really, you know, create an amazing industry together for the future. And I , and you know, that's what I would hope so, you know, also , um, connecting with me for specific anything on Teo , but you know, also, I just really hope that this is an industry, you know, passion that we all share. Cuz together we can be stronger for , um, what we, what opportunity we have in our communities.Matt Sunshine:
Mm-hmm . <affirmative> . Absolutely. Rising tides. Lift all boats .Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
Boats. Yeah . Exactly right . We look forward to seeing , uh, everyone on our next episode of the improving sales performance , uh, podcasting.Nicki Harkrider-Probey:
Awesome. Matt and Stephanie, as always, thank you for having me, number one, and thank you for, you know, sharing those passions that we talked about today. Really appreciate you guys . Yeah .Matt Sunshine:
This has been improving sales performance. Thanks for listening. If you like what you heard, join us every week by clicking that subscribe button. For more on the topics covered in the show, visit our website, the center for sales strategy.com. There you can find helpful resources and content aimed at improving your sales performance. And if you'd like to connect with any of us, including today's guests , please do. You can find our contact information in the show notes. Until next time, get out there and sell.