Executive Q&A: Build a High-Performing Sales Culture for Managed Service Growth with Kevin Donovan, SVP, Global Sales

January 23, 2018  By Kevin Donovan

Inspired by the upcoming winter Olympics, Autotask executives get candid in this new blog series, MSP – Go for the Gold! Featuring product and industry insights, advice and expertise, this series gives MSPs and ITSPs an inside look at how to seize opportunities and build a winning team to go for the gold in 2018 and beyond.

Q: Why is a strong sales culture so important? 
Strengthening your sales culture is crucial to long-term sustainability and business growth. Today’s fast-paced business environment requires salespeople who know how to consistently deliver a great experience that reinforces a customer-first mindset. Successful global brands recognize that the first step toward achieving a winning sales culture is building the right foundation. Offering a product or service is simply not enough—customers want to know that any company they partner with will help them maximize their investment. 

Q: What advice can you offer about hiring sales talent?
A: Hire the same type of successful sales people. Define the attributes most important to your sales strategy and prioritize them. For example, work ethic and willingness to be coached could be the most critical, followed by passion, adaptability to change and propensity to be highly prepared. Weigh these attributes and score each candidate based on your defined criteria. During interviews, have all interviewers test for these core skills and rank potential candidates according to their fit to your desired attributes. Don’t compromise on candidates who don’t fit the profile you defined. This will help you consistently hire the right salespeople to work within your culture and get the job done for your customers.  

Q: How do you maximize the potential of your sales professionals and foster their growth? 
A: Develop sales teams and select team leaders. Teams of five to six people are best, nestled into larger teams spearheaded by the ultimate player coach, an experienced rep to help with major negotiations and a mentor who rides with reps to provide real-time coaching in the field. This team approach can allow you to scale the sales team and ensure every rep gets the attention required.

Sales managers that can develop and drive consistent performance within their respective teams can mean the difference between managing a team and leading a world-class sales organization.

Q: What’s the best way to motivate and retain sales talent?  
Create a motivational environment. Communication is the most important aspect of motivating sales people, so weekly team meetings are essential. Other motivators include goal setting (self-set and shared objectives) and monthly and annual awards. Link your sales reps’ everyday tasks to a bigger team goal; everyone wants to be part of something bigger . Consistent coaching, training and career development are important to reps and shows them you care about their professional and personal growth. Invest in your employees, and you’ll see the return. Often, people don’t leave companies, they leave bad managers – always ensure the coaching relationship within your sales structure is one that enables your staff to learn and grow individually and as a team.

Q: Why is it important to coach rather than manage a sales team? 
Little gets done in an IT services firm without a team effort. At its best, your team is highly productive, engages in constant communication and has a diverse set of complementary skills. 

Managers who take a hands-on approach with a small, hand-selected team can usually accomplish this best . 

Q: How can MSPs avoid the trap of unprofitable customers? 
In our personal lives, we are hyper-aware of balance. We’re constantly balancing work and personal time. So it’s surprising that many companies are out of balance, especially when it comes to servicing customers.

There are many excuses for why an otherwise successful IT company over-services certain clients:

  • The client came on board early with your company, and there’s a sense of gratitude
  • The client is perceived as a flagship account with an aura of prestige
  • There is a strong customer/supplier relationship that borders on friendship

But the true reason companies over-service customers is they don’t have an accurate picture of the amount of time being spent on the account by the various technicians servicing it . 

MSPs should ask themselves, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” Often MSPs see a customer with a high revenue and attribute that as a profitable customer, but that’s not always the case. It’s important to have a PSA tool to give you a deeper look at how profitable a customer really is. 

Q: What’s the best way to manage a sales pipeline ? 
Establish a disciplined sales process to uncover customer needs. It’s important to continue to qualify and validate that the needs of the the customer’s business are consistent with the products and services that your company provides. Then, consistently requalify. 

It’s also crucial to foster a team environment – incorporate managers and other team members into the relationship early on to create a more consultative nature rather than making it feel like a transaction.

Q: Why does selling require more than the ability to close a deal these days? 
Apple and other major brands have changed the game for salespeople. We’re operating in a world where customer experience is king. It’s not enough to have a great product or solve a particularly complicated business challenge for a customer. Customers want to know when they invest their money it’s going to deliver a strong return and that the company they choose to partner with is going to help them maximize their investment. This starts right at the initial point of sale and means the salespeople representing your brand need to be highly qualified to ensure your customers’ success. 

With that and given the high degree of competition in today’s IT provider market, creating a winning sales culture has become more important than ever.

Kevin Donovan
SVP, Global Sales

Kevin is an exceptional relationship builder highly skilled in helping businesses understand how technology can help them succeed. He is responsible for the development and execution of Autotask’s global sales strategy and works closely with Autotask’s worldwide network of solution provider partners and resellers to drive significant growth opportunities for Autotask and its partners.

Prior to Autotask, Kevin was Vice President of Vertical Sales for Pitney Bowes Software (formerly MapInfo Corporation & Group 1 Software).

Kevin attended the State University of New York at Potsdam, Potsdam, New York.

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