This is our interview with Chris Tourre, Director of Sales at NeonCRM. You can follow NeonCRM at @NeonCRM.
Sales Assembly: Give us your quick background in sales.
Chris: I learned sales independently, running my own small brewery for years in Chicago. It was a total grind. Everything was cold, and I called and walked into every store to drive my business. As my company grew, my processes became more streamlined and sophisticated.
When I took a position at Neon, it was a natural progression. My approach to running an economy of scale business dovetailed perfectly with a capacity sales model in a growing company. Instead of calculating pounds of malt, I was calculating call volume. I'm a leader where all discussions are around data and optimizing efficiency.
Sales Assembly: What's your biggest accomplishment in sales or sales leadership?
Chris: When I took over the sales team at Neon, our sales CRM data was not in a great place. We were growing so fast, and there were a lot of processes that were in place. While we had data, it lived everywhere and we couldn't make corrective actions on our sales processes. Within a few months, I cleaned our CRM and reconfigured our system so that we could forecast and scale to the ambitions of our executive leadership. Cleansing our data and creating a scaleable model in sales prepared our company for the creation of Neon One and massive growth that would come from it.
Sales Assembly: What's the best piece of sales advice you ever got?
Chris: I've worked with a lot of great leaders and find that the best advice is always around the simplification of a process. Data-driven leadership is vital, but it can also make us lose sight of the basics. Most recently, when Tim Hardin joined Neon One as our VP of Sales, he helped me reset in the best of ways. He had me a do a few quick 10 minute exercises, not around hard data, but my expertise and observations. What came of this was a refreshed approach which shed new light on the data that I was collecting and using to drive growth. It was calming and empowering. I urge all sales leaders to get out of their database from time to time and think more broadly. This can dramatically improve team intangibles as well, such as morale and professional development/growth.
Sales Assembly: What's the biggest challenge facing a sales rep today, and how would you recommend they overcome it?
Chris: Giant tech stacks and data entry. Some companies have their reps in so many software solutions, it would be impossible for them to use them all in a day - and if they did, they wouldn't be selling. I think there is also a good deal of data entry that is being asked of the rep to ensure that data-driven sales orgs have the fuel to drive their decision making. The best piece of advice that I can give sales reps is to develop a strict time management schedule. As Jeb Blount calls it "Golden Hours". Schedule time in your day where you are only dialing, building pipeline or processing contracts. Oh, and adjust your Slack notifications too - that program is getting to be a bigger distraction than a business enhancement tool.
Sales Assembly: Do you currently have a mentor when it comes to sales, or have you ever? If so, what did they teach you?
Chris: For the longest time, I was pretty independent. Just read every book I could, learned from many many failures and reached out to colleagues in the industry. When Tim Hardin started at Neon, it was great to bounce ideas off a seasoned veteran and also get a ton of validation from the work I was already doing.
Sales Assembly: What's the best sales book you've ever read? What are you reading now?
Chris: That's a tough one. I think it all depends on where you are at in your sales career. For sales reps, I would suggest, You Are My Favorite Customer or Fanatical Prospecting. If you are just getting into sales leadership you should read, The First 90 Days. Other great books are: Cracking the Sales Management Code, The Challenger Sale (and Customer) and The Transparency Sale.
Sales Assembly: Best sales or business related articles, podcasts or newsletters?
Chris: Podcasts: SaaStr, Manager Tools and How to Succeed. I typically optimize my LinkedIn to get a ton of articles into my feed. Sales Hacker has some good stuff as well.
Sales Assembly: What's the best advice you'd give to someone just starting a career in sales?
Chris: I would ask them 'what is your ultimate career aspiration'. Many people see sales as a quick win for cash or something that is easy. I typically get that they want to be a sales manager before they have ever spent a week making dials. Are you willing to grind it out and do whatever it takes to be successful? Sales can be super rewarding, but easy...no.
Sales Assembly: Do you see any interesting future trends as it pertains to sales?
Chris: This goes back to my current mindset of simplifying our process. Tech stacks and options are growing rapidly, but I see many of them as fad diets. At the end of the day, every diet is the same: don't eat junk food, don't drink, exercise. Same with sales - the most successful salespeople are not successful because of the tech stack. Aggressive and savvy salespeople win every time over the new shiny Google extension that closes the deals for you.
Sales Assembly: What is the one quality that every sales manager can work on?
Chris: Empathy and Leadership. I think too often leaders get caught up in the data, the numbers, the ego. It is important to pause from time to time and think and ask yourself this question: "If I was working for me right now, would I be happy, productive and setup for success?" About once a quarter, I spend an evening with a journal and just write out the state of my department. Not from a numbers perspective, but a people perspective. I try to be as critical as I can on myself to think about what it is that makes each individual rep successful and happy at their job. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that all sales leaders need to have a cocky swagger or think that people will respect you by being Blake from Glengarry Glen Ross. The numbers and benchmarks are still there, the expectations never change. Nothing can destroy a sales organization quicker than a leader who is more interested in their own ego/success over their employees.