At OnCourse, the makers of your favorite sales automation software, we’re focused on helping sales teams automate many of their sales processes through the use of our powerful sales CRM.

However, we go beyond the use of technology as a means to help sales professionals succeed. We’re big believers in sales related education. Therefore, from time to time we bring in sales experts from around the world to help educate you, our blog readers, about various ways you can improve your performance as a sales professional.

Today, OnCourse had the opportunity to speak with Santiago Rivera about his experience as a sales team manager.

We have an exciting interview planned for you today, so without further ado, let’s jump in!

The Interview

💬  We're thrilled to have you with us today so we can pick your brain about your involvement in the sales industry. Can you kick off the interview by telling us a little bit more about your journey towards becoming a sales manager? How did you get to where you are today?

I'm an electronics engineer, bilingual (Spanish, English), with a passion for electronics. I started my career as a service and installation manager with a security company. Then I moved to tech support with a distributor of electronic security equipment. When I realized I could make complicated engineering language simple and I had the skill to explain electronics, I moved to a technical sales trainer position with Tyco. Then I was promoted to sales manager.

💬  Tell us a little bit more about your industry’s specific sales process and how they are different from other industries? What special challenges does your industry present to you?

The sales process here is very simple: I have distributors where I need to place my product and check inventory levels that are accurate with the region's demand. Then I need to talk to the dealers and be sure they buy at distribution, bring the ones that are not buying my product to the distributors and train them to use the product. Then, I assist them if they have any issue with my product using my technical sales trainer or my tech support group. I constantly visit/call/email my current dealer base. I develop tools to make the dealers quote easily my product.

Right now the main challenge is a general shortage of inventory since supplies to manufacture are also shot due to Covid-19. I constantly talk with upper management regarding the shortages and how this is affecting us. I keep in contact with customers and try to make them use other products that can replace what they are currently using.

💬 Let’s talk about building a sales team now. What underlying philosophies need to be in place within your hiring processes in order to ensure you’re onboarding the best sales people for your team? What are some hiring filters that you use to help ensure you keep the wrong people from joining your team?

First of all, I need to know that the candidate has the ability to work in a team.

"Social skills and good values are more important to me than knowledge. Social skills as values are very difficult to develop, or you have them or you don't have them."

Knowledge can be acquired. Assessments, interviews, and role games are some of the filters I use to hire people. Assessments usually ask about hypothetical situations and answers provided by the candidate combined with the assessments and the role games provide me enough information for the selection.

💬 What’s your sales interview process look like?

First an assessment, then an individual interview followed by a group interview and a role game. After that, I get the top 3 and repeat the process with different interactions. The score depends on the assessments, interviews, and observation of the individuals during the game.

"I look for an emotionally stable person, with social skills, motivated and fast learner. The candidate also needs to be self-motivated and with clear life goals. I try to identify the liar during the process, I do not like liars in my team."

💬 What’s harder to fix? Correcting sales team behavior or results?

I would say behavior. Results can easily be fixed.

💬 Tell us a little bit more about how you go about letting go of people who just can’t meet your sales expectations? What sort of timeline do you give people to turn around their track record?

"I sit them and show them the results, my expectations, the team expectations, and the company expectations. Then I give them an opportunity. I put some pressure and try to help, also I make a top performer help the person."

This usually wakes him/her up. If that does not work, usually I have a second or third meeting similar to the first one. 80% of the time this strategy works to bring the team member back to productivity. When it does not work, usually it is because there is something more affecting the person. Most of them understand after seeing the results that they should leave the team. It's not working for them, it is not working for me and they make the decision.

💬 How important is sales training to you? How do you personally go about developing better sales people?

"Training should be constantly done with real-life examples. I show people what to do and what not to do with real-life situations within my company or with external examples."

Developing people is one of the things I love to do. You need to get involved with your team on a personal level. You need to know the likes and dislikes of the salesman, you need to know about their family, habits, hobbies, schedule, and create a trusted relationship.

Knowing the person you will know his/her limits, skills, and personality. This way you know how to help him grow. This combined with training and motivation is the best way to develop a team in my opinion.

💬 How big of a role does technology play in your sales training process?

Technology is very important. The team needs to know about Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Internet, and Social Networks at least. I work for a technology manufacturer, so they need to know how to use our product.

They also need to know different systems like Oracle, and other software our products use. During the training, I need them to reach a minimum level using our technology and other software they should use. Software and in general technology provides the tools to work smarter.

💬 How do you personally go about motivating your sales team?

Collaboration points are given by a member of the team to any within the team that helps. Sharing collaboration stories and providing points to the team motivates everyone to help each other and improves results. The low performer of the group is always coached by the top performer for a couple of weeks. This helps the low performer to improve, and also the top performer since teaching is the best way to learn!

💬 How important are sales scripts to you? How do you approach people on your team who want to “wing it”?

Scripts can be helpful initially for new hires, this way they accelerate the knowledge about the product, they help to show confidence in front of the customer, and also help them to sell the way we want and not their way. After 2 or 3 months that they have internalized the script, they may start to modify the script to their style and provide feedback on good practices that should be added to the script.

💬 Let’s talk a little bit more about measurement and accountability. How do you approach accountability? Do you do it daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly? What’s the logic behind your approach?

Accountability should be done once a week through a conference call and a written report. Following up with people is important to make them feel that they need to deliver something weekly. Providing feedback to the report is important and discussing positive things on the report with the group helps to make the other imitate the good actions others do.

💬 How important is it to you to create a competitive work environment? Do you believe that competition and peer pressure help make your sales team better? How do you go about creating a healthy competitive environment within your sales office?

Not important at all. Competition and peer pressure make people act by fear and not by will. I prefer a collaborative environment where my team competes against other teams/regions. Having a united team where the team members collaborate with each other is way more productive than competition within the team and fear tactics.

"What's really healthy is collaboration. I've seen that when sales people (which by nature are competitive) stop competing and instead collaborate, productivity rises as well as friendship, morale, and results. Also this makes people grow at a personal level and create indestructible bonds for life."

💬 Lastly, if you could go back in time and give a younger version of yourself three pieces of advice about what it takes to succeed in sales, what would those three pieces of advice be?

Training is important so constantly train and practice, coach someone in your team and find a coach for yourself.

Thank you greatly for taking the time to chat with OnCourse’s blog readers today Santiago. We really appreciate it. To our sales blog audience, if you’d like to learn more about Santiago and the work he  does, you can follow him on LinkedIn here.