I recently had the pleasure to interview Mike Kunkle, a well-known sales transformation strategist, practitioner, speaker, and writer. In his 22 years as a corporate leader or consultant, he has helped companies drive dramatic revenue growth through best-in-class learning strategies and his sales transformation methodology.
Mike was kind enough to sit down with us and share his thoughts on how sales leaders can drive excellence and on how technology can help organizations increase efficiency. He also recommended a list of must-follow thought leaders that is useful to anyone in the industry.
Enjoy the full interview below!
If you could give one piece of advice to sales leaders for driving sales excellence, what would that be?
Some people use the terms leader and manager interchangeably, so I’ll aim at both. That one piece of advice is, “Be a force multiplier for sales success.” The advice comes with strings attached.
For Sales Managers:
- Get out of reaction mode
- Stop overdoing tactical deal coaching
- Stop being the “super seller” who jumps into deals to save the day
- Start being a developer of sales talent
- Start getting into a sales management operating rhythm – an orchestrated cadence of doing the right things, especially with process, pipeline, and people
- As part of that cadence, spend time analyzing, observing, and discussing each rep’s skill levels – how they execute your sales methodology – and training and coaching them to higher levels of performance. The payoff is huge.
For Sales Leaders, those who manage the managers, that advice translates to, “Implement a Sales Management System.”
You’re an expert in sales transformation using a systems approach. What are the necessary criteria a company needs to have in place before taking on this type of approach?
There are various organizational maturity levels, as well as maturity models for sales enablement. So, the degree to which an organization can implement each system may vary. But there are no prerequisites for implementing systems other than the desire to improve performance and having the budget to hire resources to plan, implement and monitor the systems.
With that in mind, the four systems I recommend, as a starting point, are:
- Sales Selection
- Sales Support (aka Sales Readiness and Sales Enablement)
- Sales Learning
- Sales Management
These are needed everywhere at almost all levels, or at least once the organization has the revenue and cash flow (or for start-ups, the capital) to invest in sales growth or to effectively scale the sales force.
Resource requirements vary based on the size of the organization, the speed in which they want to implement the systems, and the depth that’s appropriate for the maturity model and situation. You can certainly start with one person who relies on support from others in the company, and expand as it makes sense. In larger companies or more mature organizations, it can take an entire department. And remember, you don’t have to figure it out on your own. There are consultants who can help.
How can Sales Operations most effectively participate in The Four Sales Systems?
The answer depends on how you’re defining Sales Ops and whether the organization also has a Sales Enablement function. Responsibilities vary from company to company, but typically, Sales Ops interfaces with the Four Systems in these ways:
- Ensuring effective territory and account assignments (Sales Support System)
- Using CRM effectively (Sales Management System) including sales process support
- Getting a qualification method integrated into CRM, so opportunity qualification scoring can be implemented
- Supporting sales process management (Sales Support System, Sales Management System)
- Providing reports, dashboards, and sales analytics support (Sales Management System)
- Supporting forecasting (Sales Management System)
- Establishing a way to capture coaching documentation and related performance tracking (Sales Management System)
There are other ways, but this would be a great start.
What are the most useful ways technology can be used to ease the burden and eliminate bottlenecks in a healthy sales function? And how can organizations use technology specific to increasing efficiency through analytics, data and automation?
This could be a book, so I’ll just offer a few key ways:
- Making research on account and contacts easier and ensuring contact information is accurate
- Tracking for possible trigger events through alerts or using AI to source potential buyers who are expressing interest on a relevant topic
- Serving up buyer engagement content, in context, during pursuit, whether nurturing/lead generation or opportunity management
- Using learning reinforcement software to sustain knowledge gained in training and help managers see who is getting it and who may need coaching
- Using workflow performance support or EPSS tools, to guide reps in executing best practices, in their work streams
- Using dashboards and analytics to help managers know where reps might need support and what to coach to get the greatest return
- Providing virtual coaching systems and systems/tools to support sales managers and coaching
- And in general, using SPM systems like you offer. Not to pander, but I saw recently that Optymyze was mentioned again in Gartner’s Sales Performance Management Magic Quadrant.
When possible, I encourage sales and sales enablement/operations leaders to look for broader, enterprise solutions that cover as many aspects of readiness and enablement as possible, to avoid the “Frankenstack” syndrome.
You are a leader and influencer in your industry. We are curious to find out who influences you and why?
It’s hard to be in this profession and not be influenced by so many others. It’s a long list for me, so I’ll do my best to pick out some of the stronger influences.
For effective practices for organizational performance improvement:
- Geary Rummler
- Thomas Gilbert
- Robert Mager
- Joe Harless
- Fred Nickols
- Dana Gaines Robinson and James Robinson
- John Kotter
For training and development:
- Don Clark (compiler of Big Dog & Little Dog)
- Ruth Clark
- Donald Kirkpatrick
- Jack Phillips
For effective management:
- Peter Drucker
- Edwards Deming
- Kurt Lewin
- Frederick Winslow Taylor
- Chris Argyris
- Ken Blanchard
For sales thought leadership:
- Greg Alexander
- Andy Zoltners
- Dave Stein
- Dave Brock
- Mack Hanan
- Linda Richardson
For general success:
- Tony Robbins
- Tom Hopkins (especially his Official Guide to Success)
Also, check out our expert interview series.
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