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Just Get on the Rocket Ship with Tana McDermott {Hey Salespeople Podcast}

Tana McDermott is currently the Vice President of Revenue Operations at Workiva but has held almost every sales role imaginable. From her experience, she has learned the do’s and don’ts of leadership and how to enable her own team to be great leaders themselves. 

In this episode of Hey Salespeople, she dives into which sales methodologies have had the greatest impact on her career journey, the key competencies of high performing teams, and how stepping out of her comfort zone has changed her career path for the better. 

Jeremey and Tana share leadership tips on everything from sales comp and taking chances to strategies on keeping reps incentivized and accountable. 

tana mcdermott podcast

Listen to this episode for answers to questions like: 

  • If you get offered a seat on a rocket ship, what should you NOT do?
  • Which methodology has the most impact: Challenger Sale or Force Management?
  • How strict should managers be about quota? 
  • What are tricks to keep your reps from burning out?
  • What are the benefits of having diverse personalities and backgrounds on your team? 

Getting on the Rocket Ship

Jeremey: I noticed looking at your background, you didn’t come in there as VP of inside sales. You worked your way up from field readiness training manager to the director, then director of inside sales, then to VP of inside sales. When you came in, I presume you’re focused on that field readiness role. 

Tana: Exactly. Prior to Workiva, my background was in sales and sales management. I had always led a team in my previous careers. When I came to Workiva, I said, “I don’t know if I want to train all of the account executives that come in the door here. I want to stay in management.” 

He said, “Look, Tana, if you get offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on and you find your seat later.”

I definitely took that to heart as I started in the field readiness training team here and trained every single AE who came in for a couple of years.  I love that department and then had the opportunity to move into the inside sales role that I’m in now.

Jeremey: On the training side, how did you approach that job to identify what the gaps were and what were those gaps?

Tana: We were kind of at a pivotal point in the company’s career, where we were expanding to multiple other solutions, and heavily growing our Sarbanes Oxley solution. We had also implemented the Challenger Sale as a sales methodology.

That was about five years ago. Since then, we’ve migrated to Force Management and Command of the Message. I thought it was time to get certified on the Challenger Sale. It’s an extensive two weeks of training for every eight who came in the door. So essentially, it was one week of product training, and then one week of sales training. It was intense. 

Transition to Inside Sales

Jeremey: You had been running that field readiness team for a while and then made the transition over into inside sales. What did you encounter when you made that transition?

Tana: Yes. When I got into this role, we had a lot of pipeline. However, they weren’t opportunities that weren’t necessarily qualified. We found that they weren’t progressing through the pipeline.

If you looked at our team at that time, there was no upward mobility for them. There wasn’t anywhere for them to grow. That was the first change that I made in that role and looking to see who we had on board at that time and where they wanted to take their careers.

We wanted to create more quality opportunities. If somebody wants to make a difference in the company, if you want to eventually get into a role and manage your own territory, you’re going to get there faster if you’re creating quality opportunities in an SDR role with the ability to move up in the company.

Characteristics to Look for When Hiring Managers

Jeremey: What do you look for in those people that actually do make it out of the associate manager training up into the sales manager role?

Tana:  Somebody with a high level of integrity. Somebody who has the fire. Somebody who wants to win.

Managers have a quarterly quota as well so they’re always fighting. Somebody who has strong communication skills. We work very closely with the managers in the field to really understand what’s happening to the opportunities and if they are progressing and come up with certain solutions if they aren’t progressing.

Jeremey: The big question is, what’s next? Have you guys thought about what to do next for the person that’s been in that SDR manager or inside sales manager role for two or three years?

Tana: That’s a great question. Last year, I promoted somebody from the inside manager role to a corporate manager. I have a diverse group of managers on my team. It’s important to build a team of people who replace you. So I have a protege on my team that I’m continuing to coach up. One of her goals is to be in my position, which is great.

Another one of my managers has more of a marketing background. She was formerly a VP of sales and marketing, and so I have been very engaged with the marketing team and meeting weekly with the Demand Gen team. I definitely know as we continue to expand, there’s going to be further opportunities for her to go the direction that she wants with her career.

I have a couple of newer managers and it’s important to continue to coach them and help them identify where they want to go. I’m definitely supportive of anywhere in the company that any manager wants to go to. And I’m committed to helping them get there.

THERE’S A LOT MORE TO HEAR! Listen to the full podcast for more on driving strategy.

If you have a passion for the art and the science of sales, are looking to further your career, or just want to hear some great, practical tips, ‘Hey Salespeople’ is the podcast for you. Subscribe so you can follow along as Jeremey interviews the brightest minds in modern sales to bring you immediately actionable advice. Listen and subscribe here.

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