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Survive and Thrive on the Front Line with Richard Park {Hey Salespeople Podcast}

We all have experienced great managers… and then not so great managers.

In order to be an effective front line manager, you first need to learn how to be a great leader. Richard Park, Senior Vice President of World Wide Sales at SurveyGizmo explains exactly how to do that. Richard provides actionable advice on how to coach, motivate, and energize reps while also improving yourself as a sales manager in the process. 

From letting your reps fail to always asking what more you can do, Richard and Jeremey discuss sales coaching strategies and how to thrive on the front line in this episode of the Hey Salespeople Podcast.richard park podcast

Listen to this episode for answers to questions like: 

  • How many snow globes has Richard collected over the last 20 years?
  • How can you immediately identify a great sales manager?
  • Should salespeople divert focus away from their quota?
  • Can sales managers give their reps criticism without taking the wind out of their sails?
  • What is the importance of apprenticeship and how do you find a good mentor? 


First Time on the Front Line

Jeremey:  As a first-time sales manager, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced or mistakes that you made?

RichardThese mistakes are going to be ones that a lot of sales leaders will relate to. I tried to do more of the work for my reps than I needed to. Giving up that control in the deal cycle and not wanting to take over and dominate on a conference call when your AE isn’t asking the right questions or isn’t gathering enough qualification information is hard. We’ve all done it as manager where we take over the call. Then, we use it as a pleasant coaching opportunity for the rep after the fact.

We end up leaving our reps a little bit demoralized or take the wind out of their sails. I think my first challenge was not trying to sell for them and not trying to do too much, but leaving the selling to the rep. Be a coach and step away from trying to run a deal, or having them run a deal the way I would run it.

Jeremey: Does that vary based on the tenure of the rep? If you hire a new rep, would you as a sales leader tend to be more involved in those deals? Or should you coach them beforehand, coach them afterward, but let them do their thing so that they can learn and grow even if they’re new?

Richard: I’m going to say it’s the latter. Give the framework to your reps, give them the process, map, or whatever it is you use, even the more experienced reps.

This has happened many times where I’ve had 10- or 15-year salespeople come and work for me early in my career. I always knew told them what the expectations were, but I still let them run deals the way they wanted to.

It’s different for when you have a newer rep since you do have to be more prescriptive, but I like to let people fail fast. Earlier, I liked to let newer reps learn through understanding what their mistakes were. The learning curve isn’t as steep that way and you tend to have better quality interactions with them when they’re making mistakes.

Your style should be direct and candid, while also giving really good and helpful feedback. You then create a bridge to that rep and you make them feel “this is a safe space and my managers are actually allowing me to take chances and make mistakes. However, they’re also giving me the lessons and the process along the way.”

They are getting good feedback, they are getting coaching. I think you need to let go with new or experienced reps and let them follow along to learn how to do things the way you expect them.

Seven Sales Skills to Get Promoted

Jeremey: I remember when I was in my 20s, I always wondered “what do I need to do to get promoted?”  My managers could never really answer that because there’s a lot of intangible in there.

Richard: I totally get that and I use a couple of models to answer that question. The first model that I use is a competency model. It has seven sales skills and various levels of development from beginner to advanced. 

We tell the entire sales organization that if you want to be the most outstanding individual performer, you need to master the seven skills for our industry and our way of selling. If you want to go on the account management track, you have to master value selling and relationship management. If you want to be a management leader, you stay on that path. Doing that has helped people really understand what they have to develop and where they can go.

The most important thing is what can they do from a development standpoint. If they want to master the relationship management track, is it an outside training? Are there books for them to read? Do they need to interview great account managers and customer success people? The manager shows them the things we do for the relationship management learning track.

We’ve got a curriculum for each one, and it’s really helping people understand the second model that we use. We have a model around what we expect from every manager. We tell you everything you’re responsible for. Here’s your box and here’s everything outside it that you can do. Those two things together help people have more clarity on what it takes to get promoted and what it takes to move along a certain career path.

Secondly, we tell them what they need to do to perform and to continually learn in that role. Those two models have really served me well to provide clarity about career progression and what it takes to get there.

Business & Technology Acumen

Jeremey: Besides value selling and relationship management, what are a couple of the other success factors?

Richard: I’ll name the most critical: business acumen. This is for anyone who wants to be a fantastic salesperson or wants to sell the big gigantic whale, million-dollar deals. If you want to be a great sales executive or sales leader, you have to have business acumen. I define that as understanding financial concepts that are used in the businesses’ segments in industries.

For us, on the insurance side, we have to understand the economics of an insurance agency. How do they make money? What are the business problems they face? What are the business problems that our software solves?  How do we quantify that solution, or set of solutions, and use cases into dollars – dollars saved, dollars made, and dollars earned?

That’s business acumen.

It’s a whole series of things to learn. I always tell aspiring reps to learn about a balance sheet in your customers’ organizations. Maybe you serve multiple SMB businesses. Learn about what their balance sheets look like, how they do accounting, when they file for taxes, and what taxes look like. Go learn about how they get financed and understand what their finance structures are for their businesses. Are they just small business loans? Do they have some other associations or institutional funds that they’re part of?

What ends up happening is that the rep begins to really understand that selling is truly matching solutions to a bunch of business problems that can be solved, and earning a financial outcome for that customer. Business acumen is the big one. It takes many years of learning, digging in, and understanding how to develop that financial understanding.  It allows reps and managers to talk about value.  It’s the underpinning of value selling, ROI selling, and solution selling.

The next skill that’s extremely important is what I call technology acumen. This isn’t just for people in software. This is for any modern selling job today. You really have to have an understanding of what tools are out there to help you with your job. The days are gone where you can be an extreme, awesome individual contributor and not have the benefit of tools. 

People have to leverage tools, whether you’re a manager or a salesperson, in order to be effective. I think technology acumen is the one that we really stress a lot because we want every salesperson to really understand what the tools that will help them are.

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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