Hungry: it’s a word consistently used to describe successful salespeople. And it’s this sensation that drives the sales team at MessageBird to consistently order up high-value deals. Their messaging solutions aren’t just a side dish though. They’ve become a staple in the cupboards of companies looking to offer stellar customer experiences. In fact, if you’ve ever ordered takeaway, returned a package, contacted customer service, or requested a login code, your interactions have likely been powered by MessageBird’s technology.
Jakub Hon, CEO here at SALESDOCk, sat down recently with Rehman Abdur, the Head of Sales at MessageBird, to talk about the components that make up his team’s secret sauce. During the course of their chat, Rehman shared a handful of the ingredients he recommends for creating a stellar sales team—including hiring, educating, scaling up, and even saying goodbye. Here’s a brief recap of their insightful conversation.
What qualities do you look for in a candidate?
One of the first things I look at is if the person really wants to do the work. I believe in hiring hungry hunters; it’s a crucial trait. Separate from hunger is the capacity to endure—which can be best expressed through examples of previous achievements. And it’s ok if the examples are unrelated to software sales. For example, we have someone on our team that has received a high-level recognition in the field of science. This kind of achievement isn’t something that is done overnight. If you really want to develop, you need to do what is hard.
If you really want to develop, you need to do what is hard.
Another quality I look for is if the candidate’s personality matches that of the team. In other words, is this the kind of person with whom I’d want to spend my free time? Could we go out for drinks after work, hang out on the weekends or even travel together? This may seem lighthearted, but the chemistry within the team is crucial for success.
Although it’s not a quality per se, I ensure that candidates understand they will be well-paid and compensated. This transparency about remuneration helps set clear expectations and attracts hungry talent to the company.
So, to sum up the qualities: nice, intelligent people who are hungry and appreciate being well paid.
How do you continually educate your sales team?
First off, I must admit that I've made all of the mistakes one can make—which has been crucial to my growth and to understanding my own strengths and weaknesses. This introspection has shaped my strategy and approach for educating the team.
I've made all of the mistakes one can make—which has been crucial to my growth and to understanding my own strengths and weaknesses
I created a customized internal training program for my sales team here at MessageBird. One of the core components was inspired by Jeff Bezos of Amazon. Once growth exploded and his time became more limited he had to rely more on managers. Bezos found that he was saying yes to those managers that were effective presenters. This gave birth to the concept of narratives: these are six-page documents that thoroughly convey ideas through text only. The way that it is used here at MessageBird, narratives help our salespeople articulate the value of different products and services effectively while collectively shaping their way of thinking and growing together as a team.
Here’s how it works: on my team every salesperson had to create their own narrative, then had to create their pitch deck, and then had to convince someone else on the team to do a role play with them. These were long sessions that lasted up to two hours. During this time, we'd go through the narrative and the entire team would contribute feedback. In this way, together the entire team's thinking around a specific product, question or scenario was shaped. This is contrary to the typical approach to training that involves activities like working through checklists. Our shared understanding of the product's potential and market positioning empowers my team members to resonate more effectively with potential buyers.
Another important learning component is what I call the Four Eyes Policy. It may sound rather James Bond-ish, but it’s super easy: when you jump on a call, just make sure there are four eyes. One set of eyes is yours, and the other set belongs to a colleague from your team, another salesperson, or solution engineer partner manager. This additional set of eyes joins the call, looks at how you're performing, gives you feedback, and then you discuss next steps together. We also have an internal Slack channel that works in a similar way: it allows a salesperson to ask a question and for team members to share their experience, knowledge and advice. This approach fosters constructive feedback and collaborative learning within the team.
On top of that, I try to join as many calls and as many on-site meetings with my team members as possible. In fact, my last road trip lasted eight weeks.
How do you empower your team to take on high-value deals?
I am clear with my teammates that not every deal is worth pursuing, so I coach them to avoid closing deals that are likely to have less impact. Instead, their focus should be trained on the right prospects in order to ensure their efforts yield higher returns. We focus on sticking to deals worth $100k or more and pushing for high-value engagements.
I like to help and empower my people to become sales creators.
I am a big believer in outbound sales. In fact, 80% of my team’s revenue comes from outbound sales. The best salespeople I've met have been able to open their own doors. Typically, when a sales development representative (SDR) knocks on a door, it is with the mindset of interacting with the customer at the beginning of their journey and then closing some sort of deal. However, when a hungry account executive from my team knocks on a door, it will be the biggest door on which they can knock—which will lead to the biggest deal they can close. In this way, I like to help and empower my salespeople to become sales creators.
Although prospecting and calling are critical components for keeping enough high-value deals in the pipeline, I always stress the additional need for in-person meetings. The people that travel the most end up generating the most pipeline. My philosophy is that if you don't have pipe, you need to fly. And if you do have pipe, you need to fly. In either case you need to fly, and either build pipe or close pipe—or do both at the same time. And while you’re on the ground, you should be taking advantage of that time by generating an additional five opportunities. So there is an enormous amount of travel and in-person meetings for those on my team.
Another thing that we do to empower the team is to focus on local market verticals to ensure that the sales team is comfortable and familiar with a specific market's nuances. We also leverage local partners to enhance our reach and impact in various regions. For example, one new thing we will be doing next year is that whenever we have booths at events, we're going to have a separate portion in the same booth for partners. This will go a long way in making them feel like they're a part of the game.
In the end, it’s this multi-pronged approach that helps us to open doors to high-value deals, while simultaneously building relationships and maintaining both regional and global expertise.
When is it time to say goodbye?
I take into account the overall effort and approach of the team member. If they remain hungry, put in the work, and show the drive to improve, then they are given opportunities to progress. However, blatant misbehavior or misconduct, and those with negative attitudes are not tolerated on my team. Although parting ways with team members can be challenging for everyone involved, when it becomes evident that a team member is not meeting their targets or is no longer aligned with the company's values, swift action is necessary, but they shouldn’t be blindsided.
Get in on the action! The journey of a hungry hunter never ends. Stay updated on sales industry successes from our team and community of industry friends through our blog, webinars, and social feeds.