Today’s post is by Cara Vollmer, content strategist and copywriter at Oracle, who conducted the interview below with Dennis Michalis, global vice president, Oracle Customer Experience. Hear Michalis speak at the Sales 2.0 Conference, July 18 and 19 in San Francisco, where he will present, “Elevate Your Sales Game: How I Am Building a High-Performance Culture.”
Achieving growth, profitability, and fanatical customer loyalty is easier said than done at a time when digital technologies, data and analytics, and new coaching techniques are raising the competitive stakes. In this exclusive interview, Dennis Michalis, global vice president, Oracle Customer Experience, weighs in on the importance of managing technology for efficiency, how he’s driving productivity and inspiring greatness, and the one thing every high-performing sales team has in common.
Cara Vollmer (CV): How should sales leaders help salespeople balance their use of technology with their active selling time?
Dennis Michalis (DM): There’s one big challenge that often goes unspoken. Anyone managing a sales operation at scale asks for a lot of each salesperson’s time. We demand their participation in meetings and events, in account planning, in forecasting and pipeline, in discussions and reviews, and other corporate activities. So I worry that, as we keep throwing technology at the problems, it becomes an even bigger tax on their time. We want our sellers to be part of this highly orchestrated machinery – to feed the “machine” with information – but they also need room to run their business. When implementing technology, we have to be mindful of efficiency and agility. That’s what I am pushing for in my organization. We have an advantage because our CX Suite is designed for efficiency.
CV: What are your best tips for motivating your team?
DM: I use gamification. If I, as a sales leader, do a good job of attracting the right talent, then I have a team of type-A go-getters who have an instinctual need to achieve and be on top of that leader board – gamification appeals to their frontal lobe. But gamification is just a tactic. In sales organizations, it does what a fitness tracker does: it gives you a tap on the shoulder to say, “Hey, you haven’t gotten up and moved around in a while.” What’s even more important today is the need to learn from others. Through storytelling, I share competitive scenarios in which we prevailed, and let the drama of the pursuit unfold. I’m a big believer in modeling winning behavior. When you can illustrate what a successful scenario looks like, that’s the way adults learn and are inspired. It’s also important because, many times, people aren’t aware of the innovation going on in their organizations. Let’s bring it to the forefront so everybody can learn.
CV: What tools are most important in building a high-performance sales team?
DM: Our Sales Cloud is by far the number one thing – it is our central nervous system and our brain in terms of giving us ready access to everything we need to know about our business. Our sales portal, which houses all of our content, has also become critical. Everything we do lives there, so we’re able to drive the team to this one-stop-shop environment. I’m willing to bet that a lot of organizations have a complicated infrastructure for sellers to navigate in order to get the messaging, sales plays, and other content they need to be successful.
CV: What one thing should sales leaders start doing tomorrow to drive productivity?
DM: In meetings or workshops, I often ask if anybody has left their sales job to do something entirely different – only to come running back. People always raise their hands, and, when I ask why they came back, the answer is the same: “I missed the thrill of the hunt.” It isn’t about the money. You want productivity? Give them an environment where they can hunt. Give them the infrastructure to activate the hunt. Give them the support and the culture that says it’s okay to get knocked down 50 times before you win…as long as you have a plan to get back up.
CV: What makes up the core DNA of a high-performance sales team?
DM: Alignment. Nobody in my organization peels off and runs their business in a spreadsheet. There’s alignment in a system of record, and there’s alignment in the playbook. We are all operating in the same environment; we are able to facilitate by way of the same tools and technologies; and we can make smart decisions because all of our information is in one place. When you are running an organization of scale, performance starts with alignment.