Sales leadership does not have a defined framework in most organizations. When Todd was promoted, like many others, to a sales leadership role from that of a sales executive, he found himself drowning in activity without having a definite direction. This led him to analyze the role of the Sales Leader and target key focus areas that sales leaders need to concentrate upon. The session on “The Transparent Sales Leader” challenges long-held sales leadership standards, providing a modern, cards-face-up, science-backed, easy-to-implement framework for today’s sales leaders. He dives deep into the five core responsibilities of the sales leader. He also goes to great lengths to explain the behavioral science that explains why sales teams act in the way they do, and what inspires them.
Welcome to the Sales and Marketing Lit Fest. I think this has been a fabulous experience for us, but we’ll come back to that after this session. In this session, we have Todd Caponi. Todd Caponi’s second book is the “Transparent Sales Leader”. Before this, he wrote the “Transparency Sale”, which won the American Book Awards 2019 Sales Book of the Year. He’s a speaker and workshop leader as Principal of Sales Melon, LLC. Up until mid-2018, he had spent almost four years building the revenue capacity of Chicago’s PowerReviews from the ground up as their chief revenue officer, turning it into Illinois’ fastest-growing tech company. Prior to that, he held sales leadership roles with three other tech companies, including ExactTarget, where he helped drive to a successful IPO and a $2.7 billion exit through the acquisition by Salesforce. He’s also a former American Business TV Award winner for the VP of WW Sales of the Year. Todd Caponi, coming up.show more
Thanks, Subhanjan. I appreciate you having me here for the first of its kind. What a cool concept, the first Lit Fest for Sales and Marketing. Appreciate you inviting me and entrusting me to all of you, and thanks for tuning in. Also, welcome to my home. Part of the reason I say that is just a side note, when cool people are doing cool things on the weekends, you might find me curled up with a late 1800s or early 1900s book or magazine on sales or sales leadership. I’ve built up quite a collection of memoirs, books, magazines from sales histories past. Side note, I post daily at Sales Historian on Instagram and Twitter— quotes, pictures, items from sales histories past. Then I’ve got a podcast that’s just a monologue. If you’re bored, 15 to 20-minute episodes that cover a different topic every episode. It’s called The Sales History Podcast. I encourage you to check it out if you’re a nerd like me. But there are books here from the late 1800s, early 1900s. This one just came in. I wish you could smell it. It smells like grandma’s basement. This one’s from 1911 from Orison Martin, who is an incredible sales writer that you all should check out.
Got a new collection of magazines from the early 1980s. That’s not what we’re here to talk about. What we’re here to talk about is sales literature. As you probably know, I’ve written two books. The first book was “The Transparency Sale”, which really encompasses this idea that as it turns out, transparency not only feels good, but it sells better than pretending your products or services are perfect. When we present our solutions as a perfect five, we’re actually making it harder on our buyers to make predictions and thus trigger decisions. When we position our solutions as a 4.2 to a 4.5 on a five-point scale, it turns out that we trigger faster purchase decisions. We help buyers predict. We get customers who not only buy, but they stay, they buy more, and they advocate for us and our solutions. That data, the 4.2 to 4.5— that actually comes from the world of online selling, where a product on a website that has an average review score between a 4.2 and a 4.5, that’s actually optimal for purchase conversion. As it turns out, all of us, all of you, when you’re looking at a new product that you haven’t bought before that’s of medium to high consideration, I’m guessing you’re one of those nerds that skips the five stars and reads the negative reviews first.
Well, turns out it doesn’t make you a nerd, it makes you a human being. We all do that. We’re all drawn to the negative first. It allows us to process the positive. When we do that in our selling efforts, it has magical impacts on win rates, cycle lengths, qualification in and out, and it makes it really hard on our competitors to message against us. But that’s not what we’re going to talk about today. We’re going to talk about the newer book. It came out last summer. It’s called The Transparent Sales Leader. I want to just take you through a couple of frameworks. It’s like a TED Talk, or if I’m being cheesy, we’ll call it a Todd Talk. I want to just take you through a couple of things that hopefully you can apply to the way that you think about building and maintaining and growing revenue capacity in your organization.
Let’s start with a little story. I don’t know about you, but for me, I was a pretty good sales rep, but I always knew my jam was leading and coaching and teaching and that sort of thing. When I was first promoted into sales leadership, it was back in 2008, I was running sales operations for a company and the CEO came to me and said, “Todd, I think we’re ready”. The previous VP of sales was departing. He thought I was ready to take over and run global sales for this Silicon Valley startup— basically a series A type company, to take it to the next level. Now, how exciting is that? That’s exactly what I’d been aiming for my whole career. But the thing was, I was excited for a couple of days, and then all of a sudden I woke up to realize that, hey, as a sales rep, I always had a process, a structure, a framework. Where’s my sales leadership or revenue leadership structure or process or framework? Well, one didn’t really exist. And as a result, I felt like I was a dog chasing a car down the street every day, never knowing what direction it was heading.
As a revenue leader, one day, it’s a forecast issue, it’s a pipeline issue, it’s a recruiting issue, it’s a board meeting, it’s a one-on-one. My day was guided by whatever the fire was of the day. Instead of being able to take a step back and strategize and plan and feel like I have control. Being the nerd that I am, back then, I created a framework for revenue leadership, a structure, a process. Who knew that there’s such a thing as a sales leadership or revenue leadership methodology? Well, it’s super easy. It had to be easy because I’m not that smart. I made it really alliterative, and it became what I call the five Fs of building revenue capacity. Once you see these, I’m going to walk you through it— if you use them in everything you do, basically, you wake up in the morning, you plan your day through the five Fs— you could plan and strategize. I used it to communicate up, down, side to side. It became the structure for all my one-on-ones to make sure that we weren’t just talking forecasts. We were talking about all the things that drive revenue capacity. And even more important, there’s an element of this that nobody seems to teach revenue leaders, and it’s the science of intrinsic inspiration. What actually drives our salespeople to show up every day, to stay, to do their best, and to share the good news and advocate for us, our company, and the job that they have to others to make turnover go down and make time to recruit speed up.
I’m first going to take you through the five Fs of building revenue capacity. I know you may have been hoping that there was going to be a ton of slides. I don’t have any slides for you. We’re going to use the whiteboard here. But I want to walk you through your responsibilities as a revenue leader. As it turns out, all of your responsibilities as a revenue leader fall into one of five categories. Again, once you internalize these, you’ll start to gain control. All right? So to walk you through them, first, as a revenue leader, you have a responsibility initially and ongoing to establish, maintain, and grow the focus of the individuals and the teams that work under you. Meaning this, the most valuable asset your team members have to convert to revenue, of all the things they’ve got in their inventory that they can convert to revenue, the most important one is their time. It’s never going to be any earlier than it is right now. And so you, as a revenue leader have a responsibility to make sure that they are spending that time focused on the right opportunities at the right time and the right places.
By focus, what are we talking about? We’re talking about the right firmographics. How confident are you that when your team wakes up in the morning, they’re calling on the right verticals, the right company sizes, and the right chiefs at a high level? Number two part of that is the right demographics, meaning the individuals within those companies that they’re calling up. The right roles, the right titles. Are these people capable of mobilizing change within organizations? Identifying that and making sure that they’re spending time on the people that can actually make stuff happen. The right prerequisites. Some of your organizations, the things you sell, require that from the outside, maybe they look okay, but on the inside, maybe they need to have a certain size accounting department or a certain platform that they’re using for their CRM. They’ve got to be a Salesforce user. So, demographics, and prerequisites fall within focus. That’s responsibility number one for you.
Responsibility number two for you, initially, ongoing and always, is to optimize the field organization, the team. The people that you have taking the field every single day— are they the right people in the right places with the right experience using the right tools and the right resources? What do I mean by that?
I mean identifying the right team members as it relates to focus, not the other way around. Based on your focus, do you have the right people in place? And are they using the right tools in the right ways? And do you have the right support, resources, sales operations, sales enablement, marketing operations, rep ops, all of those types of pieces? That’s responsibility number two. You’ve established and maintained the focus of your team. You’ve built a field organization with the right people, tools, and resources to support it.
Responsibility number three for you is the fundamentals. You gotta get the right things right consistently. Fundamentals. Your responsibility as a revenue leader is to make sure your team is good at prospecting and positioning and qualifying and discovery and proposing and demoing and negotiating, whatever they are. Identifying what those fundamentals are and making sure that your team is getting those right things right consistently. It’s a core responsibility that you have always and ongoing.
Number four, surprise, surprise. You as a revenue leader have a responsibility to predict the future right through the forecast. The forecast meaning proactive measures, KPIs. What are you measuring in terms of the data and making sure that you’ve got that finely tuned and honed so that you can be proactive instead of reactive and you can get better at predicting the future.
I’ve got the longest chapter, I believe, in the book, The Transparent Sales Leader— is digging into this forecast. Side note, going back to the sales history stuff, 100 years ago, they didn’t really have much of an issue with forecasting like we do today. I know exactly why. Because back then, sales processes and sales forecasts were solely focused on buyer centric. And today, we talk about buyer centric, you see it all over the place, but our sales processes, our sales forecasting stages, they’re all seller centric. No wonder we’re having a hard time predicting when a buyer will buy when all we’re measuring is what the seller is doing. So that’s a side note. Dig in. I hope you love it. And if you want to reach out, I would love to talk to you about it.
So that’s responsibility number four as a revenue leader, always and ongoing is the forecast, the metrics, the KPIs.
Category number five, fun. What do I mean by fun? This might sound cheesy, but wow, do you have a responsibility as a revenue leader to make sure that you’re building a culture— a culture where your team wants to be there, wants to stay, wants to show up, wants to do their best, always, and advocate for you to their friends. And they go to parties and they’re like, “I love it here and I’m making so much money,” or whatever it is.
Let’s talk about that money piece for a second. As it turns out, that old phrase that you’ve probably heard a million times, that salespeople are coin-operated. Well, if you believe that, you’re right, but it also means you’re doing it wrong. That if we can create cultures as revenue leaders where our team wants to show up, wants to stay, and that variable compensation becomes the reward for work we love to do instead of the reason that we do it, that’s when everybody wins.
Alright, so I want to dig into that one a little bit more with our remaining time. But before I do, the five Fs of building revenue capacity. This can become your one-on-one agenda. It’s something that we did— all of my direct reports, and then all of their direct reports. We had a Google Sheet that we used, and every week we put the five Fs in it. And as the week is coming along where there’s urgent… I’m sorry, important but not urgent things that come up, we put it in the document. When we’d sit down for our one-on-one, we’d use that as the agenda to make sure we’re talking about the important things and not slacking each other during the week for important but not urgent things.
We take notes in the document, push everything down, and then put the five Fs again and start collecting for the next week. It ensures that you’re not spending your entire one-on-ones in your forecast. But this became my one-on-one document with my CEO, the agenda for my board meetings. I used it for due diligence. I used it for all hands as the agenda. It became pervasive with everything we did to where the board actually came to expect it, and it built confidence in them. I used it when I was interviewing for jobs, which is even more interesting because it made me sound a lot smarter than all the other candidates, even if I wasn’t. I could use all the help I could get.
So let’s spend our last few minutes, though, digging into this fun element because where are you learning about how to build environments and cultures? I haven’t seen it. I built this thing over time, reading tons of stuff. And it’s another model for you that we’re going to dig into. And it digs into the six things that drive us as individuals to want to do our best work.
I call it the PRAISE model. Again, I’m a dummy. I had to make it alliterative. But as it turns out, there are six things that drive us to show up and do our best intrinsically. Not extrinsic, which is dollars, rewards, that stuff. Intrinsic— the things that actually drive us: the P, predictability. We as human beings do our best work when we can predict, when there’s certainty, when there’s consistency. The other side of that is uncertainty. Uncertainty is a crazy maker for our brains. When you think about your team and your environment, do you think your reps go to bed at night knowing what they’re going to get themselves into the next day? Because if they don’t, they’re not sleeping well. If they’re not sleeping well, they’re probably looking for another job. They’re less creative. Create predictability wherever you can, around even what’s going on from a macroeconomic perspective. If there’s any uncertainty where they’re worried, that maybe their job is going to disappear, you got to squash that. Create predictability every opportunity that you get.
The R, recognition. We do our best work as human beings when we’re recognized for our efforts, when we’re validated, given status, given feedback. Create opportunities to where you are recognizing and validating the efforts of your team on a regular basis, and you’ll find that their intrinsic inspiration grows.
The A, aim. We as human beings do our best work when the aim of our work matters. The impact, the mission, the purpose. When our work and our aim is to hit a number, that’s easily replaceable. And that drives intrinsic inspiration down. Have you figured out and communicated to the team what their work really means to you, to your company, to your customers, and to their customers? What does their work mean to your customer’s customers? If you’re able to draw those lines directly, I’m telling you, your team will come inspired. They’ll put in discretionary effort beyond what you think.
The fourth one, I, independence. We do our best work when we are given a level of independence, meaning we’re not micromanaged. We’re given the tools, the resources, and the trust to do our best work with minimal supervision. Are you optimizing for that?
The S, security. We as human beings do our best work when we feel secure, when we feel safe, when we don’t feel like there’s a hatchet swing in behind us, when we’re a part of a pack or a team related. Create those packs within your organization to where we want to run through a brick wall for each other. When you have that, you’ve got a team that wants to succeed and win together, too. So optimize the security and the safety, the psychological safety that your teams feel.
And last but not least is E, equitability, meaning the juice worth the squeeze. We do our best work when the rewards that we’re getting, not only in terms of dollars, but in terms of these other five categories are worth the effort that we’re putting in. And more important is devoid of politics. Are there other people that are making more or getting more rewards for doing the same amount or even less effort? We all know that. When we feel like other people are getting more for less, that equitability drives our intrinsic inspiration into the toilet pretty quick. Is the juice worth the squeeze? Balance all of these things out.
As a revenue leader, or as really anybody else that’s in any revenue capacity role, whether it’s sales, marketing, doesn’t matter, optimize for these five things. It’ll help you. You’ll no longer have to call your buddies and go, “Anybody have a good template for a 30-60-90-day plan?” Use this. You could create a 30-60-90-day plan right now using the 5 Fs. Where are we now? Where are the holes? What’s the plan to do something about it? 30-60-90 days, always in your back pocket.
When you look at these five, your focus, build a field to support that focus, get the fundamentals right, figure out your forecast, predict the future, and create a fun culture that is full of praise. I’m telling you, you will sound smarter, your team will not only perform better, but they’ll stay longer and they’ll become advocates for you. In so doing, those people that they’re selling to will feel it. Confidence is contagious. And be transparent with all of your team members and everybody that you share this with, so they know what you measure, what you look at, and how you drive your organization, and people are going to run behind you for a long time. All right? So that’s it for today. We’re coming in just under the wire. But if you need anything, please reach out. I share a lot of my nonsense on LinkedIn. Go to ToddCaponi.com for more information, but feel free to reach out. I teach workshops on a lot of things on the sales side, and then I teach a big revenue capacity leadership program to lots of leaders.
My transparent negotiation class is the most popular thing I teach but doing a lot of sales kick-off keynotes as well. Would love to be a resource for you and your team, so just reach out. And appreciate you all being here. Hope this makes a difference. Hope you can use all this stuff. And excited to be wrapping up the Lit Fest here. Subhanjan, thanks again for having me. All right, thank you.
That was great. I think it didn’t feel like it was a recorded session at all. Thank you, Todd. I really appreciate your taking the trouble. Actually, his recording came in quite early, right after Mike, and he had been very engaged with the process and was telling me that he really didn’t want to miss it, but there was a clash that he couldn’t avoid. So this was great. I think there’s a lot to take away from the session. He made it quite simple. You literally can remember the five Fs and the PRAISE acronyms and his entire talk. If you remember those five Fs and the PRAISE acronym, you got it. You have got the gist of his session. So I’ll take a 30-second break, come back, and we need to do the vote of thanks. There are a lot of people I need to thank, and we will then spend a little more time getting to know each other, networking. Thank you. Back in a minute.show less
Todd Caponi’s second book is “The Transparent Sales Leader”. Before this, he wrote “The Transparency Sale”, which won the American Book Award’s 2019 Sales Book of the Year. He is a speaker & workshop leader as Principal of Sales Melon LLC. Until mid-2018, he had spent almost 4 years building the revenue capacity of Chicago’s PowerReviews from the ground up as their Chief Revenue Officer, turning it into Illinois’ fastest-growing tech company. Prior to that, he held sales leadership roles with 3 other tech companies, including ExactTarget, where he helped drive a successful IPO and a $2.7B exit through the acquisition by Salesforce. He is also a former American Business “Stevie” Award winner for VP of WW Sales of the Year.