Modern Performance Profile: Philip Galligan, Global Manager of Sales Development at Eventbrite, Discusses Managing Staff by Leveraging Data, Communicating Culture, Setting Goals, and More
For nearly a decade Philip Galligan (Linkedin) has worked within a constantly evolving sales field. As new technologies and methodologies have been adopted, Galligan’s data-driven approach to solving problems has paid dividends. He began his career as a business development representative, quickly moving up to senior account executive and then to SDR team lead. Results-driven and personable, Galligan now works as the global manager of sales development for Eventbrite. In this interview, Galligan shares hard-earned insights from his career in the industry. On staff management and team building he reveals an individual-centric approach, emphasizing the importance of understanding the needs and motivations of team members. Always with an eye on data, Galligan highlights how data and such an individual approach intersect, explaining how we can use qualitative and objective data together to effectively manage.
What’s the secret to hiring for high performance? What are the most important characteristics you look for?
I don’t think that there is secret to hiring for high performance. If there was a secret formula, then every single sales development team would be high performing and every rep would be knocking it out of the park. That being said, there are obviously things that we look for beyond someone who says, “I played football in college which means that I’m competitive.”
First, we look for is someone who’s self-motivated. We look for a self-starter, for someone who’s diligent. If an individual is not self-motivated, not a self-starter who controls his or her day, not thoughtful, can’t self-supervise, and isn’t diligent enough to follow through in every task, then that person will never be successful.
Second, we look for general conversational competencies like the ability to adjust on the fly in an interview.
“We want someone who gives thoughtful responses, someone who can actually flow with the conversation and doesn’t just rely on pre-canned answers.”
The entire interview is geared towards teasing out a certain attribute or characteristic that we’re looking for. If we’re looking for someone who’s self-motivated, then we look for past examples of self-motivation and really dig into those. We also test for conversational competencies.
“Basically what we want to know is: are you going to be able to do this job without freaking out on the way to work because you have to cold call all day?”
We also do role plays in order to put everything into practice and simulate the day-to-day environment. We give documentation, such as a basic overview of how to qualify an opportunity, so that the candidate can prepare. Then we conduct a formal role play, provide some feedback, and conduct another one to see if the interviewee can put that feedback into action.
The secret to onboarding is to have a plan.
“When I first started at Eventbrite it was, “Here’s your computer. Here’s Salesforce. Here’s Google. Figure it out; listen to other people.” Since then a lot has evolved.”
A sales enablement team with a member focused solely on onboarding was a game-changer for us. We created a two-week program where we go through everything that the rep will need to know. After that we have “train the trainer” exercises and check-ins throughout the quarter during which the team leads do certifications in order to ensure that the initial onboarding stuck.
There’s a regular cadence with the team leads to hold reps accountable and continue to implement what was taught during the training. We find that if education on the topics taught in the first two weeks is not continued, then they’re immediately forgotten, and that’s when the bad habits build.
There’s an onboarding piece, which really gives a view of the entire company, where we feature different speakers. The SVP or the VP of marketing comes in and talks about marketing, their goals, and what they do. The Engineering Department, and every other organization within the company does the same. This gives the reps a line of sight into the bigger, broader picture.
“So that the reps really get a glimpse into who’s who in the zoo—and the company culture as a whole—we assign buddies on the different teams and provide resources within the larger sales organization.”
“The secret to an effective one-on-one is that there always needs to be an agenda and the rep needs to own that agenda.”
When a rep starts there are three topics that should be covered in a one-on-one, but it’s up to the rep to come with his or her own thoughts, own questions, and own concerns. If the rep does not put thought into the conversation, then it can go dry or not happen at all.
First and foremost we cover metrics and quota tracking. How is the rep’s performance relative to the plan? Then we talk about making changes, areas to focus or improve on, et cetera.
Second, we check for conversational competencies. How are the conversations on the phones going? What’s working? What areas can be focused on? What can we do to fill the gaps?
Finally, we cover career progression and general open questions. The last thing that we want is for a rep to lose sight of his or her ultimate goal. That doesn’t mean that in every conversation we talk about pay, a raise, or when they will potentially move up. Instead, we maintain that conversation because the career ambitions of SDRs or frontline sellers on their first job could change.
In team meetings, there’s always going to be an agenda, and there always should be an agenda. The agenda is controlled primarily by the leader or by me. There’s also a portion of the agenda that’s controlled by the reps so that they have ownership.
So that we can give perspective and make the reps feel that they’re always part of the bigger picture, any updates coming from the company or the sales team always drives the first section. Then we discuss any potential changes that have happened in the business or the sales organization, and I give my perspective on how it could potentially impact that team. After that discussing metrics and quota tracking is very important. Those are the biggest things to get out of the way immediately, in my opinion.
“We like to put some sort of onus on the reps.”
We’ll do something like a “good call, bad call,’” or some sort of exercise where the reps present. If there is a new product release, then the reps present it and teach the team about that product. If they had a good call, then they present on what happened. If they had a bad call, then they do the same thing.
We do exercises like “good call, bad call” so that the reps get used to celebrating each other’s victories, learn from any sort of trials that they’re going through, and become comfortable talking about those trials together.
“We involve a lot of the reps who are currently on the floor in some of the trainings to help everyone develop rapport.”
And, of course, we sit next to each other.
I use the one-on-ones as check-ins to ensure that my communication is where it needs to be with everyone.
“Everyone is different. Some people don’t need me to explain why we do certain things in great detail. Others need a more in-depth perspective.”
So I want to make sure that I’m aligned with every individual and know how they prefer to be communicated with. I try to make myself as transparent as possible.
I like to use the team meetings. They’re open communication points on everything, from how successful we are to perspectives on the broader business.
This is something that is a constant struggle. You want to empower the people who you work with to grow their careers and to take ownership of certain tasks or certain initiatives, yet you want to make sure that you are confident that they’re going to be able to handle those responsibilities appropriately.
“The biggest thing is to get a good understanding of what that individual rep wants to get out of his or her current role.”
Get a good understanding of how the rep wants to progress, and what sort of ownership the rep wants to take so that you can figure out—if something comes across your plate—who you will go to, who can complete that task.
We work with marketing and sales leadership to figure out what the opportunity goals are for SDRs, and it’s very easy to just take that and say, “Here you go. Good luck, thumbs up.” Prior to doing that we need to figure out what motivates that individual so that we can provide context on the goals—what they are, how they are set up, and why.
“Once reps have this context, then the goals are connected to something that they care about and are motivated by.”
Next, we clearly spell out how we are going to work together to get there so that there’s a clear plan in place to actually achieve the goal. That’s the base: what we can do, from a sales leadership perspective, to support that individual—but the responsibility does ultimately fall on the rep.
I make a point to always go back into it. For example, if we were to say, “The sales team has x quota, and we need to make up a percentage of the team’s total pipeline; here you go.” It wouldn’t be that meaningful to them, and it’s really tough to get behind—other than to say, “I just need to get my job done, and if I hit my quota, then I can move from an SDR to an account executive.”
Instead we can say to our teams, “Here’s how critical we are to the overall sales number. If we do our job, then we will provide eighty percent of the pipeline to the greater sales organization which will put us in a position to achieve our goals as a business.”
“It’s important to fill in the gaps for whatever the business is doing like if it’s positioning itself for a huge year of growth, for example.”
Then people become motivated and can get behind the growth and success of the company, though obviously, one has to be at a company that’s doing well.
Any sort of metric that tracks conversational competencies is tough. For example, we look at talk time to see if reps are being efficient, but it’s a fine balance. There could be reps who are on the phone for a qualified opportunity for six to ten minutes, and one could say, “You did really well.” In that case, that’s the threshold that rep needs to get opportunities because he or she is controlling the conversation, getting the information that’s needed, and qualifying them out quickly.
There are other reps who may be on the phone for the same amount of time, but don’t see near the amount of success as the first rep—because the second rep can’t control the conversation.
“It’s difficult to compare apples with apples because people control conversations differently.”
There’s no set amount of time for someone to be successful when they’re on the phone.
What are the aspects of qualitative performance that you like to pay attention to which are hard to instrument?
The aspects of qualitative performance that we pay attention to are effective uses of different value propositions, ability to control the conversation, ability to get over objections at the beginning of a call, and objection handling throughout the call.
Those are tough to instrument because a manager can sit with a rep for an hour, shadowing them, and they might not get anybody on the phone. For the sake of the rep and the manager’s time one needs to be able to say, “Here are five, six, or seven examples of something.”
We just hope that we catch those when we listen to them on the phone.
“That’s the toughest thing: being able to consistently hear and listen for conversational competencies when shadowing.”
Our job is to pass qualified opportunities so I look at opportunities that go to unqualified. I look for reasons why and I look for trends. That’s pretty easy to do. I look closely at opportunities that we’re passing, at the notes on those. Did the rep carry the conversation and get the information that we need out of that opportunity?
“Sometimes the difference between selling into someone that doesn’t offer much resistance and actually selling into someone is obvious; I think there’s a huge difference there.”
In other words, one can tell the quality of the opportunities that are being passed.
We do exercises throughout the quarter in certification, which are also great opportunities for coaching.
In the weekly one-on-one goals are set for areas that the rep wants to improve on, and then we use the shadowing times throughout the week to listen for those specific areas. So if someone is struggling with objection handling, then that’s something that we will specifically look for and inspect their work for throughout that next week and beyond.
How do you do feedback where the answer is measurable (“fewer bugs in the code please”) versus less measurable (“You come off as aggressive, Bob.”)
“Data is king, so if feedback is on something that is measurable, then it’s something that the rep should be able to control. So if it is measurable, then we just point to the data.”
If it’s not measurable, if it’s observational, then it’s tougher. There’s no real clear line of sight into it. What I like to do is flip it. So if somebody isn’t creating a lot of opportunities and the reason that they’re not creating opportunities is because they’re not making the dials, then what I’ll do is point to that, and say, “The reason why we’re behind in opportunities is because the dials aren’t there. If you actually hit the number of dials that you were supposed to, then you would have seen your opportunity number grow by x and you would be the leader right now.”
It’s the skill versus will thing. Why aren’t you hitting those dials? And from there, if you actually had done this, then here’s the result that you would have seen.
It’s probably the most important thing. Our sales development representatives come in green, or, maybe, they’ve had a few months working at another job. They’re looking to become successful SDRs so that they can move up to the account executive role and develop professionally—even outside of sales. We’re lucky that we have a learning and development team here at Eventbrite, so there are opportunities to grow as an individual beyond the sales organization.
“I encourage any additional development that reps want even if it takes time away from the floor.”
I encourage them to go to any internal talks that we have or any opportunities that they source themselves, such as going to a trade show because marketing needs to send someone. I make those all options for them if they really want to do that.
And I utilize our one-on-ones. I focus on what the rep wants to do, what he or she wants to work towards, and then we create a game plan from there. If the rep wants to make a transition from an SDR to an AM, as opposed to an AE, then what’s the development that they need to do to get there? And then I work internally to make sure that those meetings are set up.
If a rep is not consistently up to snuff, then I address it. That’s the point of the one-on-one: to look at performance and figure out if it’s skill or will.
If it’s skill, then we have a conversation about how to upscale them and make them successful. If it’s will, then we tease that out. What are the reasons behind that will? Sometimes it’s something that happened outside of work.
“We just need to understand what the root of the performance issue is.”
I also like create a plan moving forward, that we both agree on, on what the rep needs to do to be successful. That plan can include the activity that the rep needs to put in on a day-to-day basis, the production that we’re looking for, or simply attitude and conversational competencies. How are the phone conversations being handled? How is the rep focusing on improving certain aspects of that call like objection handling or delivering value propositions? The rep needs to show that he or she is working to improve. We align on that plan together.
If we see consistent behavior, then we utilize plans with an actual formal agreement on what the rep needs to do on a monthly or a quarterly basis, to make sure that it will be a good fit.
Performance and attitude, those are the two big things. If reps can demonstrate success in their roles and that their work is being done diligently—that they are consistently putting in the right behavior and the right work, and not just getting lucky on a few deals—then when they take the initiative to have the conversation about building up their own skill set, about their own development towards being an account executive, that lets me know that they’re ready to be on the path to be an account executive.
“What we see a lot nowadays are people who come in to just do the work. They work to get out of 5:00 p.m.”
They put in the right amount of dials, hit their number or come close to their number, but they’re not doing anything above and beyond.
An account executive is someone who’s going to come in, work hard, go above and beyond, and start looking for opportunities outside of their core day-to-day responsibilities to grow or add value to the business. Those are the individuals who are really going to drive the success of their career.
I think that a lot of organizations provide the opportunities to move up in that team or organization, but a lot of the onus on the rep. Either the rep drives conversations with the managers or drives his or her progression within the organization. That’s what we’re looking for.
I live by data, so I pull up the data and I look at trends. Then I point out the morale issues to the individual—whether there’s someone dragging down team meetings or someone who’s not as active as before. I may ask, “What’s the root of this? How do you feel about your current role? What do you like about it? What are the areas that you think can be improved? What do you ultimately want to do? Is sales something that you still want to be a part of? How do you feel about the organization as a whole? What do you need in order to feel that you’re being supported?”
Often sales reps get caught up in the day-to-day grind and that can wear people down and hurt morale.
“The important thing is to dig in and understand—beyond the surface level—what the root of that morale issue is.”
Once we’ve done that we can provide perspective and hopefully align on whatever is needed to get morale back up.
That could be painting the path to a potential career progression, creating goals to work towards, showing appreciation, or reminding the rep of the value that he or she adds to the company. The perspective can vary, but unless that conversation happens, unless the issue is addressed, that morale problem is going to remain.
For tracking team morale, one option is to open up the end of team meetings to any larger conversations that people want to have like gripes with what’s going on in the business, or whatever. But this is dicey; it can spiral out of control. So one’s success depends on how much influence he or she has over the team or one’s ability to handle that conversation. I do think that it’s a good exercise, but it’s something to be very careful with.
In terms of instrumenting individual morale, the instrument that one needs is to know what makes people tick—whether it’s finding new programs for them internally, changing the way that they approach their day-to-day, or giving them more perspective on the business.
“If the individual is on a good level, then it will directly reflect on the team.”
I think that pulling people out of the office to take a break and socialize benefits the team. Also, any time that the larger organization like the SVP, CRO, CEO, or the president mentions the team in relation to successes on a larger level—that’s huge. I think that people get lost as an SDR at the bottom of the sales team, as an intro-level sales rep, so to get acclaim is so helpful.
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