Today’s Dynamics Have Challenged us for the Better!
- A conversation with Rob DiPangrazio, SVP Sales for AZEK Building Products
We have all been showered with today’s pandemic news which is understandable. As we reflected, we saw an opportunity to reach out to Sales Leaders to learn how they are adapting in the current climate. Today’s conversation is with an accomplished Sales Executive, Rob DiPangrazio, Senior VP Sales for AZEK Building Products.
Carlos: Greetings Rob! Let’s get started. How would you categorize your sales team’s MINDSETS today, in light of Covid-19?
Rob: Overall, the mindsets of our salespeople are positive. As a team, we adapt each day. The sales teams felt like fish out of water initially when not being able to do face-to-face selling. We began by challenging everyone to come up with ways to stay in contact with their customers. And we are doing quite a bit. For example, we are conducting online learning with end users. We are doing lunch and learns online with architects, and it is working remarkably well. We are also doing live training sessions with customers, and while it is taking a bit of adjustment for some, the impact is very positive.
Carlos: What are your Sales Managers doing to stay connected, maintain momentum, drive energy?
Rob: Most are doing biweekly sales huddles, and some even more often. A new trend is being much more diligent around tracking activity of the sales team. We came to agreement on what is important and we have set up the tracking mechanism to summarize what they have done each week, particularly on these online learning initiatives we have started. This builds accountability. We have also increased the frequency of “ALL SALES” calls to keep the team informed of what is happening and started to share best practices from the sales team. This has kept everyone involved and created some competition within the sales team to be selected to present their best practices
Carlos: Considering all that is in play, what is possible in the future, e.g. what do you see as the possibilities going forward, recognizing that businesses may not operate the same once we begin to recover.
Rob: In the past, everything was face-to-face. With our experience thus far, we see an opportunity to have a potentially wider impact, since we plan on doing a lot of the coordination from a central location. This is reducing costs. We are also looking to a strategy to get more customers up to speed quicker with our solutions, by having many more classes and online resources for both our customers and end users to tap into. This time improvement has also helped us identify a wider range of potential targets and challenged the sales team to increase the number of conversations they are having.
As the pandemic subsides, we see our having a more balanced model between in person and online. We are finding that the way we did things in the past is not the only way to do things. We can make a quicker and stronger impact.
When the salespeople are able to visit again, we envision expanding our inside sales team, maybe by as much as 50%, to offer more training and reach out to a wider group of end users.
We are planning to schedule online “cocktail parties” or “meetups” to have customers talk and share what they are seeing. We are doing this with people from different parts of the country, who do not compete locally with each other.
We are being more consultative in helping our customers and builders run their businesses more effectively. Guidelines and how-to information guides on how to improve their business have the potential of helping them be seen as more professional.
Carlos: What other silver linings are you seeing?
Rob: Communications are better now than they have ever been. The level of insights from the salespeople is providing us with much better real time info on what they and the customers are seeing. We are also seeing a big reduction in travel expenses which will help as we invest in these other areas.
Carlos: You have been a successful sales leader at many companies. Imagine you are speaking to a group of Sales VPs and they asked you on where you would focus to shape and influence the Sales Culture of their respective companies. How would you respond?
Rob: Here is what has helped me in the past:
I believe the first step is to SET PRIORITIES for the sales organization and crystallize what are you trying to accomplish. It is important that you limit your priorities to no more than 3-4, to ensure focus and traction. For example, in some companies we have shifted the sales force’s focus from PUSH to PULL to convert end users.
Step 2 is MEASUREMENT. You need to find a way to track salesperson and sales manager activity and performance to their objectives. Then those behaviors need to be linked to their compensation in some fashion as it helps communicate their importance.
Step 3 is to ensure you have a strong PEOPLE orientation. You may need to invest in education to help them adapt. Some people do it naturally and are indeed agile and flexible. Some adapt, and some never will, and then you have to either find other roles for them or replace them. Instilling discipline is hard at times, but it is essential if you are going to have a high-performance sales organization.
Step 4 – Finally, have a strong commitment to RECOGNITION. It is time to celebrate, but not just celebrating accomplishments once a year, but frequently. We recently have created an online version of “Ringing the Bell” – that is seen by the entire company – to salute specific successes and results. Salespeople like that recognition.
Carlos: It has been said that sales leaders have to balance the Art of Selling with the Science of Selling? How would you characterize that idea?
Rob: One of the things about salespeople is that they are all different. We have done assessments in the past and we have found many personality types in play. In most cases, we have learned all successful people have DRIVE, a COMPETITIVE drive, that also spans across personality types. Many sales managers also focus on shoring up salespeople weaknesses and that is good, but up to a point. We have learned that leveraging each salesperson’s strengths is where we get much more traction. From a science of selling point of view, we believe that having sales process in place is helpful, and then aligning that language within your CRM helps promote the language.
When all is said and done, you must prepare. Preparation builds character and character shapes the culture.
Carlos: You are absolutely right. Shaping a high-performing sales culture takes time, and what you have outlined today are principles that all sales leaders must focus on. Thank you, Rob, for your insights and perspective!
Rob: I enjoyed it!