Broken sales team? Sales team not meeting their quota? Sales culture not great? We have ALL of those answers.
Donny Dye is the founder of Quota NYC. Quota NYC helps companies build sales systems that scale efficiently and can be managed through a simple quota. Donny gives us his inside scoop on what culture should look like and how it will motivate your sales team. He tells us why working from the bottom up in an organization gives you the strongest understanding. For an added bonus, Donny tells us the two things he would create if he had a magic wand and makes a great reference to the Will Ferrell movie, Ricky Bobby.
Donny has over 15 years of Saas and enterprise sales experience by selling, leading, and guiding companies scale predictable revenue. If you are building a sales team or have broken a sales team, Quota NYC can help.
George: It’s the latest edition of the “Conquer Local Podcast,” and I’ve been trying to track this guy down. I met Donny Dye when he was VP of sales at Simplify, but he left to start his own organization. We had a conversation about four months ago about him coming on the podcast. Finally, I’ve been able to track down Donny Dye. He’s the founder of a new organization called Quota NYC. Donny is a super smart sales leader, and he has worked with sales organizations in local media space.
And now, he’s starting to bring those learnings forward for software companies, for media companies, and he is consulting, and he’s out working with these organizations. He’s going to teach us some things in the upcoming minutes of the “Conquer Local Podcast.” And what you’re going to find, and I guarantee you this, is there is a lot more than just sitting in front of a customer and making a presentation in building out a successful sales organization in 2019. Donny Dye, founder of Quota NYC is our guest on the “Conquer Local podcast.”
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George: Donny Dye is joining me on the “Conquer Local Podcast.” And Donny, you know, the interesting thing is you and I have stood in front of sales teams over the years, you working at Simplify at the time talking about their digital ad solution and me talking about presence and reputation. And I’m sure there’s listeners of the “Conquer Local Podcast” that have heard you speak. So let’s first give them an update where you are today and just give us a little bit of an intro on Donny Dye, and where you’re sitting today, and what hat you’re wearing.
Donny: Yeah, absolutely. Every once in a while, I get pinged on LinkedIn and some other social media platforms so they’re kind of going, “What are you doing these days?” So for those that don’t know, or don’t know me at all, my name is Donny Dye. I was the seventh employee at a startup called Simplify. I spent close to seven years there, worked heavily in there, what’s referred to as the enterprise business. So essentially taking our technology to teams within media companies, media groups, as well as anyone that wanted to build a business on top of a platform, that was kinda my charge.
Last April, I decided to take a break. And in the short and long term, I decided to start working in more of a consulting fashion. So I went out and founded a company called Quota NYC. George, as I like you say, if you are looking to build a sales team, if you have broken a sales team, or if you’re looking to binge your strategy significantly, then my company and myself can easily help.
So I spend a lot of time talking with companies that are looking to try to scale their sales organizations. If something has gone sideways and they just don’t know why, I can have a lot of conversations on that front. Or if they’re trying to identify a new market that they just haven’t attacked yet and just wanted to make sure that they got all the pieces right, especially if they’re trying to engage with large organizations that sell their solution through a channel or a reseller model. So that’s the 30 seconds of what I’ve been up to, George. And, yeah, super excited to kind of dig into what we’re going to talk about today.
George: We’re going to have a great conversation. I’m sure we always do. I think that it’s really interesting what you said there is if you’ve broken a sales organization, and you and I have met a number of broken sales organizations over the years and tried to help those organizations transition, but the people that you’re working with today are in software as a service, and startups, and things like that. Can you tell us a little bit about what a typical company might look like that Donny Dye shows up at the door and does a gig with?
Donny: Yeah, absolutely. So the majority of folks that I work with today, revenue-wise, are somewhere between…some of them are as low as a million bucks in annual revenue and some get up into the 15$ and $20 million revenue. And what they’re really looking for is they feel like they have a good strong sense that they’ve figured out the product to sell to a market, and they’re trying to just add a couple of salespeople. I should probably throw this in as well just as a free tip.
One of the biggest things that I see is a lot of companies that are trying to decide if they’re doing a lot of founders selling or executive-level selling. So maybe the CEO or a couple of founders are out there swinging, trying to get in big deals. And they’re going through the process of saying, “Do I need to hire a CRO, like a big, heavy executive that I got to throw a couple of percent of the company at, and a whole bunch of money at, and raise some money to get to? Do I go that path, or do I hire a couple of sellers and build out my process and then start moving forward in that realm?”
That’s a fairly common question that I get is how do I go from founders selling to a sales organization that can grow and scale. On the broken side, it’s really a funny thing when you talk about organizations that they really are struggling on the sales side. Sales always come like sales organisms, and the organisms can be very fickle, meaning that most sales organizations operate from about a 60% to 70% cultural aspect over a structural.
Meaning I can put all the right pieces in the right places, and there’s still going to be a putter where there should have been a pop. And it all comes down to the culture that you’ve built around that organization. Again, I’m not working with the Fortune 500. I’m typically working with companies that are trying rapidly to go from product market fit into the growth stage of a startup and capture their market space.
Ownership + Excellence = Culture
George: What a great nugget that you left with people there, and that is around the culture. It’s something that I really believe is if we can put all the right systems in place that have proven to work, we can do the analysis around what the goto market is going to be and what the value proposition might be, hire great talent. And if you aren’t able to install that culture or build that culture that is around wins, and positive attitude, and that type of thing, you’re not going to get, as you said, the pop. What do you see are some of the real things that can help to contribute to building that culture for our listeners that are like, “Oh, Donny just said something pretty cool.” You know what are some things that you know, that are proven that can build that culture?
Donny: Well, you know, it’s interesting, and I get into debates pretty regularly with other sales leaders, and even other consultants at times where, just, what is culture? And again, I’m a process-oriented guy. So, at first, if you look at culture, I think at the very core of it, the two things that can drive the best culture, are ownership and excellence. Meaning if the sales rep believes or the salesperson believes that they truly own the opportunity in the sale and the deal, even to the point to where even if a CEO or a founder walks up and says, “Hey, I really want to be on this sales call with you.” If they feel comfortable enough to go, you know, “I hear you, it’s just not the right call to have you in this call at this moment.”
And they have that level of ownership to where they’re even pushing back at the top of the organization because they’re saying, “No, this is my deal.” And it’s not that there’s friction there, but it’s just more of this idea of, “I know what’s best for it.” And again, that doesn’t mean the founder doesn’t get on the call with them, but it does mean it causes a conversation and the rep feels hurt. So I think ownership is one of those things that you have to instill in an organization.
That comes from a clear understanding of who owns what throughout the entire sales process, and even post after the contract and those kinds of things. It also does things like the client’s lifecycle. So simple things like who owns the upsell? So if you’re working in a SaaS model where I use a lot of the tip of the spear model where you sell something smaller initially and then you prove value and you grow, grow, grow, grow within a client’s portfolio. But knowing who owns the upsell versus the initial sale, what’s the best thing for the organization, and all these funnels right into quota and everything else.
The other piece of it, in my mind, is excellence. And excellence is one of those really cool things, George, where it’s really pure related, meaning that if you have the team built the right way, and you’ve hired the right folks, and they have the right culture, then they really just don’t like tolerating B and C players in their own organization. So it’s almost like a manager doesn’t have to identify that someone doesn’t fit, the rest of the organization, in a very professional way, is bringing light to that just by their own performance and even just by the candidness of their feedback.
So again, that’s the surface level of it, but that’s the two things that I think that if your sales organization has a high level of ownership and has a natural intrinsic excellence to it…and by the way, these are not things that you have to have a magic wand to create. You can build a culture and build a lot of these things into the way that a sales team’s operated. Like, I mentioned earlier, when you break a sales team, like 9 times out of 10, it comes down to just building into that cultural belief system. And culture really is just consistency in time. If you build in the right things and you do it long enough, you’ll absolutely build the hardest part of the organization, which is their belief system.
George: You know, I’ve had this happen to me in the last little while, you’re growing really fast, and you’re adding salespeople, and you don’t pay enough attention to the hires that you’re bringing in the door and that’s where you can break that culture. And it happens so bloody fast that you really have to… you know, you have to have your head on a swivel and make sure you’re keeping an eye out for it because keeping that positive attitude and that drive for excellence is not a one and done thing, it’s an ongoing battle.
Donny: Yeah. And I have a great story for you around that specifically. I had an engagement where I got a call from someone that I knew, and they said, “You know, we had an executive that departed.” And their organization just needed someone to come in and kind of keep the ship steady through their busiest time of the year. And one of the questions, when I first arrived, that came in was they had a sales manager that was overseeing a team of seven, and they said, “You know, something is wrong with this team.” And the perception when I walked in was that because the team had been growing very quickly and because they’d had multiple managers making multiple hires within that team, that the previous managers had just hired poor talent. I mean, they just hadn’t hired the talent that would bring the results they wanted.
And so, I dug in, and I do always do. I started talking directly to the sales reps, which is kind of interesting… most consultants you talk to will go kind of top-down. I always go bottom up because I think the guys that are living in the streets, then that’s where you get a feel for the culture. It’s not through what the CEO believes is going on, but it’s from what the sales rep is telling you is going on. And so if someone goes out of their way to tell me something, I tend to believe them. And so, I started talking to the sales reps, and what I learned very quickly was this team, the manager that was in place that had been there for the last nine months, had never done a single bit of training.
The quotas that they had established just looked like a straight line going Northeast on a chart, meaning the quotas at the beginning of the year were very easy, and the quotas at the end of the year were impossible. And the thing was that, of course, they crushed at the beginning of the year, but they were getting to the middle of the year and nothing was being sold. And then to top it off, the manager was on every call closing every piece of business rather than empowering his team to replicate it and scale it. So it’s interesting. So from a cultural perspective, we had to do two things. One, we had to have a huge mea culpa. We had to go, “So listen, guys, you have not been treated fairly.” And from that team, some of them ended up being really good sales reps that just got off to a rocky start.
Other ones, we did have to make some changes there, but at least it was done with clarity and with fairness overall. And then with the sales manager, we actually took that sales manager and returned them back to an individual contributor role. By the way, too, we also adjusted the quota, which is a monumental task for a mid-year. I tend to hate changing things mid-year. But for this one, it was just completely appropriate. And Q4 of last year, the client that I was working with at the time, they had their biggest quarter in the history of the company, and two-thirds of the revenue came directly from that team. So it just goes to show culture is such a powerful thing, that if the markers are aligned, the organization is willing to say, “Listen, we have the best interest in mind for you, and we believe in having attainable goals, and we are for you,” that people will work just an amazing amount to see success within the organization.
Quotas: The Epitome of Elegance and Simplicity to Reach Your Goals
George: When you and I connected a few months back to discuss you coming on the podcast as a guest, you said that, you know, you were a big believer that, when you dig into an organization, quota is one of the problems. Can you elaborate on that for me? Why is that one of the biggest problems, common problems you see?
Donny: Well I think that’s a great one. I still believe that wholeheartedly. I think quota is a naturally charged word. So, in some ways, the quota can be something that people love to talk about, and it’s things that people want to hide under their mattress in the same month. So you already are talking about…and if you think about it, the idea of a quota, it should be the momentum and the expectation of a company rolled up in a single number.
And I think there’s something kind of elegant about that, the ability for an individual employee to be able to go, “This is the number that I have to attain to know that I’m doing a good job.” And so it’s kind of surprising to me a lot of times how many organizations downplay it. And/or even worse you have managers, that instead of creating quotas that are reflections of what you want to get done, they’re just kind of a segmentation of what the manager’s goal is.
So if the manager is, you know, responsible for grading 50% lift year over year in terms of new business, then they just take their five members, they just give 10% of that to each one of the folks. And I just don’t think that that’s the best path. Now, in my mind, the way a quota should be written is that it should be incredibly simple to calculate. And if you can help it, I would recommend not having what’s referred to as like a scale, a sliding scale within your quotas.
So a lot of times I work with organizations, they’ll say, “Well, if you get below 60%, your commission rate goes down to zero.” I don’t think that’s good, I think that you always want to have a place for sales reps to continue to strive, even if they’re struggling within a given time. And at the end of the day, if they’re struggling to that extent, there probably needs to be a conversation about outplacement more so than just trying to bring someone along and stream along the bottom.
So on the one side, I think a quota needs to be very simple. The line I always draw with my clients is your sales rep should be able to do the math in their head during the call. Meaning if someone says, “Yeah, I want to do $100,000 with you.” Then they should be able to answer like, “Okay, that means five grand in my pocket.” They shouldn’t go, “Okay, well, I’m at 30% of quota so far in the… day, so that means I’m in the 7.5%.” That’s where you get into the idea of it being demotivational.
George: So a question about that because you’re hitting on a very important point. The transparency of the comp plan so that the salesperson knows exactly in their head how much money they’re making from the deal that they’re working at the moment is vitally important, and most organizations suck at that.
Donny: They do, I agree. A healthy business I have today will prove. So, it does take some time, I agree.
George: You know, getting that simple, you know…and the other thing is your organization gets bigger, and now you’ve got a CFO at the table, and you’ve got People Ops at the table, and you’ve got the CRO at the table, and the sales management team at the table, maybe even the CEO is there saying, “Well, we want to pay our top performers a lot.” How do you navigate that world to get a simple comp plan?
Donny: This the simply put…and, by the way, I tend to see the opposite, which is going to sound odd. A lot of times, I see people that we put comp plans in front of, sales reps crush it, and then you see a lot of blowback from the CEO not wanting to write the big check.
George: Oh, I know.
Donny: Which is, to me, far more painful. I mean there’s nothing worse than making a promise and a commitment to a sales rep, and then when they achieve that goal to go, “Waah,”, you know, or even worse. Strap them down with a much heavier goal so that they never have that happen again.
George: I wonder, Donny, on that. You find that when it happens, it’s because one person knocked it out of the park, a bunch other people didn’t perform, and the overall team didn’t hit their number that was expected. So, that’s why the CEO has a problem writing that check. If everybody would have outperformed, he wouldn’t have any problem with it because he’s got a bunch of money in the bank.
Donny: And in some ways, George, maybe oversimplifying a complex question. So I’ve seen comp plans, I’m reminded of an organization I was involved with that I came in, and the CRO was departing. And as a parting gift, he gave all of his largest accounts to the sales team before the next sales leader could come in, which creates its own issues because the first thing as a sales leader, you don’t want to say is, “Oh, that’s great you can’t have that.” So that got changed, so that was one challenge. The way that those sellers were paid is that, let’s say, for example, you had a client that was $50,000 a month.
If the client bought something new from you, you got commissioned on it, but you didn’t get commissioned on the old sales. Well, the nature of the product that they’re selling is that you could sell them a variation of the same product. Meaning if you had a blue version of something, they could sell an orange version of it, and they would be commissioned on the orange one, even though the company didn’t gain an extra dime. And if anything, they probably lost something because now they had to do the process of changing things out. Think about that. So what I found, in that case, you had sellers, for lack of a better word, that were gaming the system. So they were swapping out old orders for new orders so that they can get big commission checks.
So in that regard, I think you absolutely have to change the commission plan to be more realistic for the success of the company. Well, in most cases that’s not the case. In most cases, I think reps they’re doing right by the company and selling new business. I think you just have to set that expectation with the CEO at first. The problem I tend to see is not that the CEO doesn’t understand they’re going to have to write the checks. It’s not a logical argument, it’s an emotional one at the end. Just like you would sell everything else, just like you sell the customer, you also have to sell and set expectations against the executive team that “Hey, you know, if we knock it out of the park, this is going to be the best day ever. But just realize that we are going to see this money come out.”
George: I was really excited to get you on the podcast because we have local sellers, and we have sales managers and VPs of sales that are listening to this broadcast. And I’m sure they’re sitting, and they’re going, “There’s a lot of science and math that is going into this thing. You know, I’m in the sales business. I just go call on customers and close deals.” What you need to understand, our listeners need to understand, is that SaaS companies, software as a service companies, that are building new pieces of marketing technology have their own inside sales teams, and they’re hiring Donny Dye to come in and to craft out all the science behind, how many calls need to be made, what the culture needs to look like, build a culture of excellence.
And if you’re a local seller that is not embracing new technology and this way of thinking where you’re almost more of a chemist as a sales leader, then you are as the Rah Rah person walking into the room, you’re really going to be at a disadvantage. And Donny, you and I have seen that a number of times, especially in traditional media space.
From Education to Elevation
Donny: I’ve been involved in local media since…Oh my God, I don’t wanna age myself at this point. But I think my first job was with Yellow Pages in around 2004 or 2005. So, definitely, we were selling guaranteed clicks, I think it was my first digital product. So, yeah. And it’s interesting because even back then, especially, I was promoted into a role where my job was to do my best to convert an ink on paper sales rep into a digital sales rep.
And I remember sitting in those cars with Yellow Pages’ reps and hearing the phrase, “Listen, why would I ever sell anything online? I’ve got 20 years of ink on paper, and think you’re hitting on a similar revolution in this space today.” Especially in some of these startups, I mean, they’re coming in with totally different structures, for example, a number of companies that use a BDR model on it. That’s an acronym for business development rep.
So what they’re doing is they’re hiring younger reps, and all they’re doing is hitting those number games in pretty sophisticated ways to activate as many conversations as possible. I mean, the opportunity is large enough to actually kick it over to an account executive who’s probably more like the local media seller in terms of experience and acumen.
The best thing I could give advice to any local media seller today is that it’s super important to become as much as an expert as you can tolerate in the local media space. You know, I used to say he who educates indoctrinates. Meaning if you’re the first person to explain an idea to a potential client, whatever your opinion is, that becomes the opinion of the person you’re talking to because there’s no frame of reference.
They’re not saying, “Well, you know, I know you believe that big stream data is a great way to do geo-fencing, but I happen to believe that truncated data is better.” They don’t have that frame of reference. So whatever you say, they’re going to believe. Now, I used to say that. And the reason is because the average buyer in the local space today already comes to the table with a baseline of knowledge. They’ve done a Google search, they’ve watched a YouTube video. They’ve got an indoctrination by sales rep, whatever.
They’ve probably sat across from a competitor. And, by the way, most studies show that they’re not even going to talk to you until they’re two-thirds of the way through the process. Meaning by the time that they sit down with you and talk brass tacks about how to advertise, they’re usually sitting there already having gotten enough information to know they need to do something.
And so what I say today is instead of he who educates indoctrinates, I now say he who elevates indoctrinates, or she who elevates indoctrinates. Meaning it’s not good enough to be able to educate them on what you’re doing, you now have to raise it to the next level. You have to have like some level of granularity. If you can clarify a point for an advertiser, you’ll have that advertiser forever because you took something that was complex. The internet is great at quantity, but it’s horrible at quality. So if you can take an element of quality into the sales call and into the conversation, then I think you stand more than a fighting chance of landing a large opportunity. Because, at the end of the day, people don’t need more options and more tactics nearly as much as they need an understanding of what they’re buying.
Bibbidy-Boppity-Boo What Wishes Do You Want to Come True?
George: If I give you a magic wand and you could walk into one of those media companies that you’ve dealt with in your past life and say, what’s one of the things you would ask them to do to be successful from all the experience you have across those organizations, and money wasn’t an object. What’s the one thing you would install inside those organizations if you could?
Donny: I would install two things. One, I would install a certification process that was ongoing for technical prowess. So I would come in and say, “It’s not good enough that you sit through an eight-hour training or that you listen to a four-minute video. I want you to collect the information, I want you to process it, and then I’m going to test you on it.” And then I would create some sort of standardized form. So if you’re a large media company, then I might have a holding group level kind of certification that I issued out.
And so it becomes an internal cultural sense of pride, but it also becomes a way to normalize and elevate the understanding so that whenever someone interacted with a team member that was certified from that organization, they understood, and they felt the impact of an expert as opposed to…and there are a lot of experts in local media and the sales channels not taking anything away.
I think the ability to be able to quantify and verify that is incredibly valuable. And secondly, it still surprises me how many companies don’t add some level of quota against at least a grouping of these products. I mean, it’s an old joke that I think is still accurate. When I used to train local media teams, I’d say, you know, “I have this thing that I referred to as the Ricky Bobby effect.” In digital tactics, and tactics where they are not anchored to a content-based media company, meaning not the TV station, or the radio station, or the newspaper, if they’re not attached, meaning if they’re SEO, PPC, social, programmatic, any of these, if they’re not attached to a core content that is proprietary to the seller, most markets run at about an 85% incumbent rate, meaning 85% of the time, it’s one company that wins.
So it turns out that Ricky Bobby’s dad was right. You’re either first or you’re last. Either you’re dominating your local space or you’re fighting over 15%, which if you’re fighting over 15%, who cares? And even now, you’re seeing more and more…the good news is there’s so many new channels coming in that there’s new opportunities to do it every day.
So, for example, voice-activated advertising is on its way, so this is probably going to be the year of that. There is no incumbent voice activated network in your local market, so who’s going to own the 85%? So you asked me really if I could wave my wand, I would do two things. I’ll create a certification process within the organization, and I would set a quota against at least a grouping of digital products, and then I’ll measure it like crazy.
Beware of the B’s: Batting Averages and Burning Leads
George: So on the quota, I want to dig into that a little bit. You’re saying you have to sell X of X. And what I’m wondering is, have you thought about quotas on lead metrics rather than on the lagging metric of, did you sell the product or not?
Donny: Oh yeah, absolutely. I think that’s the beginning of sales acumen or prowess, so where you’re able to go in and say…and the way I look at it is like this. If you have a guy who makes 50 calls and books three meetings, or if you have a guy that makes 10 calls and books four meetings, which rep would you rather have? I hear from so many sales leaders today say it’s a numbers game. They’re right, but it doesn’t mean that bigger numbers are better. I call it like the salesperson batting average. Like, you want a good batting average.
You don’t just want raw data and end up…for example, I have a lot of clients that I do rep vetting forward, and interviewing, and stuff like that for, and it is shocking, George, how many people are still calling me up and giving me the ” Man, I make more calls a day and more emails a day.” And I’m like, “Oh, great. Well, why do you have to do that? What’s wrong with your process, man?” I know it’s a sales point, but you’re selling to the wrong audience in my mind. You want to be effective because what we’re finding is these sales calls regardless of vertical, regardless of size, are getting more and more important and getting more and more precise. So, you’re gonna get one shot.
George: How worried do we need to be about burning leads then? I think you’re leading into burning leads here.
Donny: Well, I think there are two sides of that ditch, to be honest, George. I think, on one case, you don’t want to be so reckless with leads that you’re burning through it but you’re still making quota. But I also think that you don’t want to be so delicate with the sales lead that you’re allowing their process to be driven as opposed to your own.
George: So there definitely is a happy medium, and I do want to say we’ve had a couple of great drive-bys there. So, you definitely are in New York City because we’re hearing the sirens in the background, and that’s just…
Donny: Sorry about that.
George: No, that’s okay. That’s just the way it is in New York so people have to get used to it. There really is a happy medium. I got people saying, “Well you don’t want to boil the ocean.” “Yeah, but I want to talk to a lot of potential customers and find customers.” And what about disqualifying a certain set of customers because they don’t bring enough on annual contract value?
Donny: You’re hitting on such an important thing. So one of the major changes I would say has happened in just the modern sale, regardless if you’re in the business of selling. It’s funny, on my extreme days, I’ll say, “I actually wonder if selling the way that it was 20 years ago is even a thing anymore.” I think that we’re seeing a migration from activity to coverage. And let me explain what that means. In the old model, if you worked hard enough, you’d find success. In this model, because the internet is so ubiquitous with information, because there are so many tools to get a baseline of real knowledge of what you’re buying, I really think that it’s much less around, “Let me convince and convert you,” and it’s becoming more of, “Let me maintain a top-of-mind mentality so that when your priority list hit and then my service hits somewhere in your top three, then I’m one of the two companies you care about.
You see the difference? So what I’ll do with clients that I work with, we’ll actually…so for a new a rep, we’ll have a set number of accounts they work, and then I’ll give them four different acronyms. And in the first 90 days, their goal is to try to move every one of those within the one of those buckets. And the four buckets are in-cycle, which means that you’ve reached out to them, you’ve gotten a response, and they’re actively buying what you’re trying to sell them.
That typically becomes an opportunity in Salesforce, or a deal in HubSpot, or somewhere in your pipeline. So if they’re in-cycle, you’ve got to be a part of that process. Or they’re out-of-cycle, which means that, by the criteria, meaning they have the budget, they have the awareness, they could become a customer but their priorities aren’t high enough to where they are in an active process. So in-cycle is, “I’m ready to buy,” out-of-cycle is, “I’ll be ready to buy it someday. ”
So that’s the first two. We literally mark them, IC or OC. The next one is not a fit because there are some scenarios where unpaid looks great. But then when you have that conversation, they just don’t fit. So there’s like…and this actually goes back to some of the work you have to do around what a fit looks like with the organization. But the best gift you can give yourself is removing the guys out that will never be able to buy your service for whatever reason.
George: Well, I’m just giving you a round of applause for that because I tell reps all the time, they’re like, “What if I go call on that customer and I find out that they don’t have the budget to do what we’re proposing to them?” You know, it’s not a fit. It is not a fit for the solution, and you’re going to have a dissatisfied customer down the road. Their expectations are through the roof, whatever it might be. It is important to disqualify them and move on to the people that there is a fit.
Donny: Well, you know, and the funny thing about that, too, George, is that I find a lot of times that the NF setting can create some really interesting conversations with the manager of that team as well. So if a rep comes back with an NF designation, not a fit on an account that the manager feels like should be able to be sold, what a great conversation. Because somebody is right and somebody is wrong, and those micro-conflicts. And you think about it, if you have a high level of ownership into the culture, then it’s really the reps call to go, “Yeah, I’ve done my due diligence, and I just don’t think these guys are going to be able to do what we want to with them.”
George: Yeah. I’m not talking about prequalifying the sale. I’m saying you’ve talked to the prospect, you’ve done your needs analysis, and you look at it, and this thing is not going to work. And, you know, what it does do is get you to focus on the right customers. So we hear about customer selection all the time. You know, you’re saying that that’s something that you work on when you get into an organization.
Moving from Anything to Everything
Donny: Everybody has a finite pool. I mean, I talked to a lot of startups that, you know, the first conversation they’re saying, “Yeah, well, every person who owns a home can be a customer of ours.” Really? You want every person that owns a home? Every single…? And so when you can…you know, it’s like Zig Ziglar, he says, “If you aim at nothing, you hit it every time.” And a lot of conversations I have is I talk about, especially in a startup, going from anything to everything. So, and I think most sales organizations need to have the same mentality.
I had a rep one time that told me that her founder printed shirts that said, “I’ll take anything.” And I think, as a startup, there’s a mentality you have to live with that where it’s like, you know, “I’m going to take anything to get enough data to figure out what I can sell for product market fit.” But I think a lot of organizations have to make that change from, “I’m going to close the door on taking anything, and I’m going to wait until everything is aligned for the ideal client.”
George: Isn’t there a stage, though, in the startup’s life where you will scratch and claw to get any deal across the line but then you kind of transition after you truly have product-market fit? So could that have been what that CEO is trying to accomplish with that shirt?
Donny: Yeah, in the early days he was, but I think old habits die hard, too.
George: It’s tough to get that out once it’s in.
Donny: You also start to get these mentalities. Like, I mean, there are some startups that are around for a long time, and they get so used to make an adjustment, to make an adjustment, to make an adjustment, and it really becomes a problem if you ever want to sell the business because then you’ve got an organization that’s built on every client is a unique flower, not something that can scale. But what has scaled is your service team, which is now hundreds of people instead of creating a process.
And I’d say it’s funny, the difference in scaling and not scaling a lot of times is your sales team saying, “No.” Sales teams that to say, “No” tend to be able to scale. Sales teams that don’t say, “No” end up creating a muddled ICP, create a muddled marketplace and can really end up finding themselves out of money sooner than they should, even though they’re selling.
So it’s kind of, like, it’s the difference in being busy versus effective, which kind of goes back to the same sales rep. Do you want the guy who’s taking every deal that he can find? And I’ll give you one other nugget, too. George, one of the things I say to young sales managers is I’ll tell them, you know, “You’re going to spend your life either arguing with the executive team on behalf of your reps, or you’re gonna end up arguing with your reps on behalf of the executive team.” And I tell them, “I’ll spoil the ending for you. You don’t want to spend your life arguing with the executive team because you won’t be a manager long if you do that.” But that’s really kind of the mentality that even sales reps do that, either they spend their time telling the organization, “I know it’s not perfect, but we should take it anyway.” Or they tell the customer, “Yeah, that’s a great problem to have. We don’t solve that problem today, but here’s the problem we do solve.”
George: Donny, I’m sure that we could go on for hours and hours, but we wanted to capture the biggest nuggets from you, and I wish you all the best with this new role at Quota NYC. Can you tell people how they could get ahold of you if there are some sales leaders out there that are thinking, “I could use some Donny Dye in my organization?”
Donny: Absolutely. Super easy to reach out to me. Obviously, my LinkedIn profile. If you just Google Donny Dye D-O-N-N-Y D-Y-E, the first LinkedIn that comes up there. If you want to email me directly, it’s just the same name, firstname.lastname@example.org.
George: Thanks for your time today. We really appreciate having you on the show.
Donny: Happy to join. Best of luck.
George: Well, I’ve had long conversations with Donny Dye. Sometimes we do it over a couple of Bourbon, but what I did find from this presentation, some key takeaways, in sales team management and how to manage that sales team and building that culture. And, you know, Donny said something that was really interesting in his… around the ownership and the excellence build the culture inside a sales organization. So you want the reps to take ownership of their part, and you also want them striving for that excellence.
So I thought that that was very interesting. The other thing is he really takes a bottom-up approach when he walks into a new sales team. He goes and talks to the frontline sales reps rather than going top-down and asking what’s happening. Now, you could probably do it either way, but you definitely have to have both approaches so you can hear what’s happening on the front lines.
I find a lot of times that sales strategy is designed in a bubble without that street-level influence. So really important as you start to build out your sales organization, or you start to improve your sales organization. There are some great learnings there from Donny Dye, the founder of Quota NYC. We really appreciate having him on the Conquer Local podcast this week. I’m George Leith, I’ll see you when I see you.