#036 From Sales Leader to Executive Coach with Thomas Hartman
Sharing the Keys to Success in Sales Leadership and Challenges Faced
Guest & Host
Thomas Hartman & Thomas Miltschuh
Welcome to Speak Revenue, the podcast where we emphasize that revenue is not just a goal; it's a result. In this show, we shift our focus from the output to the inputs. We engage in conversations with sales leaders and entrepreneurs about their remarkable journeys. Our mission? To uncover the true root causes of success. In this episode of Speak Revenue, we're joined by Thomas Hartman, an experienced sales leader and executive coach. He discusses the challenges sales leaders face in a rapidly changing market, how to hire great talent, the importance of understanding product-market fit, and strategies for effective time management. Discover valuable insights to boost your sales leadership journey. Don't miss this episode with Thomas Hartman, and gain new perspectives on sales leadership and growth.
November 7th, 2023
Thomas Miltschuh: Welcome to our new episode of Speak Revenue. Remember, revenue is not a goal. It's a result! But a result of what? In this show, we turn our eyes from the output towards the inputs. We speak to sales leaders and entrepreneurs about the journeys. Join us on our quest to uncover and learn the root causes of success. Let's unpack what works for them. And what didn't. Today with our guest, Tom Hartman. Welcome Tom! It's a pleasure to meet you. Thanks for taking the time.
Thomas Hartman: Thomas, thank you. I'm really excited to be here and appreciate the opportunity. I've listened to several of your prior podcasts and I learned something from each of them. So really excited to be here, and talk..
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah, there's already a lot of material. Thanks. Thanks a lot. So let's introduce you. Who are you? What do you do? Why are you so successful?
Thomas Hartman: So thanks. I am a longtime sales leader first in media, then in technology associated with advertising. So from big companies like the Walt Disney Company to Condé Nast, and then segued into technology sales. You probably know DoubleClick, which is now owned by Google. And really have made my way through a number of different roles. So from multi-billion dollar companies to startups. And currently I am an executive coach. I launched this business in February of this year, Hartman Executive Coaching.
Thomas Miltschuh: Awesome. So a lot of experience. And you're able to channel this now in your own service with your services, right?
Thomas Hartman: Exactly. Throughout my career in management, I've always loved to help people thrive and grow, and being an executive coach to sales and marketing leaders and CEOs brings that part of my work experience, which I love. And then I don't have to do performance reviews or look at Salesforce dashboards. So it's really a pure play on what I love.
Thomas Miltschuh: It must be an exciting journey. Just started the business this year. Would be interesting to know what are your goals for this year, for the first year, and maybe also next year.
Thomas Hartman: Yep. So I have been very fortunate that a number of former colleagues and clients have reached out and are now either clients or they've referred clients to me. So the business is going very well for the first year, but my next stage of growth is to look at corporate clients. So have companies bring me in to manage their needs for executive coaching for their team.
Thomas Miltschuh: Great. So I think that's really challenging. In your business area, handling both opportunities with people that are relevant for new positions, but also the hiring companies. How do you make sure there's enough pipeline on both sites? What's your plan?
Thomas Hartman: Yeah, so I think it really draws upon all those areas of expertise that you and your listeners have in sales, right? So I have one persona who is the individual person who contacts me directly, and then I have the corporate hiring decision maker who's a different persona, has different needs and so for the corporate person, it's the first step was doing research in the marketplace. What do they care about? There are two primary hiring people: the CEO and the head of HR. And then where are their needs not being met currently? And what we find in early stage tech companies, and by early stage, I mean under 75 million, is they don't have the resources either from management or from HR to grow their best people into great. That is one area of focus. Identify the need, identify the pricing and packaging and then support those clients. And the next is, somebody who has high value and very defined needs for growth. And so often those are the two models of where I'm brought in.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay. So maybe we could talk a bit about sales leaders now. circumstances sales leaders are struggling with a very dynamic area, especially after different crises and maybe new developments, also tech developments. What do you think are the main challenges sales leaders are struggling with today?
Thomas Hartman: I would look at them from a macro level, a company level, and a personal level. So from the macro level, the market and technology are changing so quickly. There are two things that my clients are focusing on. One, how do they advance their learning when they don't have enough time? Because let's take AI. AI is in everything including Zoom, right? But it's certainly in your CRM system, it's in your sales management system, and how do you understand how it's impacting your opportunity for growth and your clients. So that's a learning agenda. Second is, as your markets have changed, and Thomas, you mentioned this as we've spoken, like markets are changing so quickly, how do you bring your management, your senior management along to be aware of the journey? And how their market is changing. And this is important for product people. It's certainly important for your finance team, your CEO. And so those are two sorts of macroeconomic challenges on the company level. It's related, which is how do you bring your product and marketing people into alignment with what you're seeing into the marketplace? And make sure that you're serving the company by bringing back that information, but also getting it heard, right? So the CRO is out there every day getting beat up either by their clients or their staff, and how do they bring that information back? And on a personal level, I think that it is the biggest challenge. People face in these markets is maintaining credibility with their three customers, their senior management, their sales team, and their clients. And I think from a personal point of view, if you think about executive coaching, which is what I do, it's to create a confidential space where the CRO, he is an expert in all these things, has a moment and a partner to figure out what they wanna do next. And I think in our fast-paced world, what executive coaching offers a CRO or a CMO is a space and a partner in which they can safely determine their best next step.
Thomas Miltschuh: How do you know any framework or any framework you apply to this? So they are able to develop themselves the best way.
Thomas Hartman: Yes. So I started training in executive coaching in 2017. I have a fair amount of training, which I combine with my experience in multiple sales leader roles. But the framework first is what is the challenge that the client brings to our partnership? And delving into whether that's the challenge they really are most in need of addressing, or is there something underneath it? And what I would say is that it's a truism in executive coaching that the first ask is never the real ask. In the course of conversation you uncover the thing that really is in the way of what the client is trying to achieve. And so the first step is what are we really talking about? And then the second step is building a plan. And I have a project plan process that I take my clients through. So there's discovery, then there's the project plan design. What's the objective? What are you trying to achieve by when? What resources do you have? Who can you rely on to build that, to help you in that journey? And then what are the rewards and benefits of achieving it? One of the things that we do is we tend to approach problems or opportunities on our own the same way each time. And a coach brings both a process and a point of view to that journey to help you.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay. I think it's still true that sales leaders are in their jobs for about 17 or 18 months on average. What are the advantages or maybe even benefits of this, or maybe disadvantages or Are there good things about it or how, what is your view on this?
Thomas Hartman: So I think that people are best served by thinking about their career, not their job. So if you think about the career as the journey, every time you get better, you'll be both more successful in your current job. And more successful at the next job. And while people tend to stay in these jobs for far too short, there are lots of examples of people who stay there for four or five years. And so can you know, what is the benefit to you as a leader of staying an extra year or year and a half in a job? And to be quite frank, it's that much more income. Because every time you change jobs, unless you're recruited, you have a period between jobs in which you're not earning money. So the cost of the executive coach is far less than what you lose or might gain by extending your tenure in a job by another year because by extending each job another year in five years, you've got at least a year less on the street.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Yeah. Understand. I think we've talked a bit to prepare for today's episode, and I know especially for sales leaders and for new CROs, you in their positions. Time management is an issue. Calendars are full. Do you have any actionable advice on how to prioritize things to get as much traction as possible? From the start? When they are onboarding?
Thomas Hartman: Yep. So I think there are two pieces of that question, which is first determining what you want to learn? And who do you wanna connect to? The who and the what of what you wanna get, right? And the second piece is how are you gonna match your calendar to your goals? So you need to start with the goals first and then have those manifest in your calendar. So I work with my clients a lot on this topic. And this next thing is to realize that no one cares enough about your calendar. No one, but you care as much about your calendar as you do. And if you don't control your calendar, you will be at the mercy of other people's priorities. And so it's easy to open up your calendar, let anyone put time on it. And as sales managers, we want to be accessible and open door policy. You have to figure out how to create time to get what you need to be done. So don't be shy about controlling your own calendar.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Yeah. It's also very important to be aware of personal goals or team goals, company goals to know how to organize the calendar.
Thomas Hartman: Absolutely, and I would say something else is if that becomes a challenging area for you, you may not be communicating to the people who want more of your time. How you're using your time. So once you identify the goals, once you implement the calendar, don't forget to explain, this is why I'm doing what I'm doing. Here's where we can engage. The benefit of me having time to support you without you in the room with me is important to you.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Transparency with the team. So especially for executives as you are coaching executives, those are people who need to be able to hire great talent themselves. Are there any signs or any specific qualifications you see there to be able to hire great talent.
Thomas Hartman: I think it's no different than sales in many ways, which is you want a disciplined process. So do you take the time in advance of opening the job, not just to write a job description, right? AI can write you a job description, but what are the things that matter to you as the hiring person to the team and to your clients, right? What are the three things you need for those three groups for this person to succeed? I consider hiring a great responsibility because I'm asking someone to make a change, right? They could be unemployed, they could be in a job, but I'm asking them to come on a risky journey with me. And so I wanna understand what that person will do. Add to those three audiences and what will they get from those three audiences?
Thomas Miltschuh: Alright, so do you also cover the capabilities on how to hire the right talent? Or…
Thomas Hartman: Yep.
Thomas Miltschuh: …is there a specific approach on that as well?
Thomas Hartman: So the first step in this specific approach is really understanding what you need. And to do that, you both have a look at your business, like where do I have a gap in hiring? In one of your earlier podcasts, one of the people was talking about the fact that player coaches don't work, so you wanna hire managers. So what type of manager is gonna fit for the sales team you already have if you're bringing them in from outside. The second piece is what is the personality type that will thrive for your stage company? So if you are an early stage company where every day the world changes, you need someone who is resilient. So what is the personality type that will fit with your company stage? And if you're way far along and you need someone who thrives on individual achievement that might be a better fit. Because they're gonna follow the rules, be self-interested, and you've got a machine into which they can fit. So the company stage I think is a big part of that. Goals, team and company stage. Then I think there's, people say you can teach skills, but you can't teach salesmanship. And by that I mean you want the energy of a seller. A positive energy, each person adds to the vibe of your team, and so you want someone who you think other people will appreciate.
Thomas Miltschuh: Just another different question, different topic. What do you like to share with us? Something that just didn't work in the past.
Thomas Hartman: It's a great question. In a couple of roles I've had, I, as a sales leader, I was starting a new division, right? Or attacking a new customer for a company. And that is an exciting challenge for someone who likes to sell like I do and likes to manage. But what doesn't work is taking someone else's word for how easy it'll be. Or the product market fit. And so what I would, what I have learned is that you want to do your own research so you are invested in and informed about what you're taking on. And I think that sounds simple, but you know, you're a hard charging person at a company, they'd say, Hey, we have a new job for you. We've always sold ice cream. Now we want you to sell chocolate sauce. Great. But you have to understand that decision. And then the second is you wanna make sure that the management team understands and is a partner in how long and what it will take to succeed. And I think one of the biggest things I would have learned is if your management team, that is to say the bosses, have not tried to sell another. Customer profile or launch a new division, they don't have the learning to properly support you, so understand the experience of the people who are offering you the opportunity.
Thomas Miltschuh: That's really interesting. Our expectations that something should work nicely and should be appreciated by the market. But as long as you haven't tried it yourself, you don't know. So how would you delegate it and make sure there is success? How do you communicate this? Might be challenging maybe in some cases to communicate it to the board and really insist on maybe, measurable insights or any measurable goals. How do you overcome it? Maybe there's some hesitation on the sales leader side or maybe skepticism on the board side.
Thomas Hartman: So good coaches ask questions. Rather than give advice, right? Because neuroscience is, if someone comes to a decision themselves, they are four times as likely to actually follow through and do it versus telling them to do something. And that's by the way, true for sales leaders to think about with their teams. So I think the first thing you have to do is ask the questions to understand how the company, whether it's the board, CEO, came to the decision. Understand what diligence that they went through to make the decision. And I think one way is if you see gaps in that, you can help them understand the need for more product market fit research, or. Compensation, new compensation plans or marketing materials, right? So I think I would start by aggressively questioning in a collaborative fashion, right? And then if that's not working, it's always good to bring in an outside expert, right? Someone from another company that's launched another division to be part of that conversation. And third, you have to stick to your guns. There's two opportunities here. One is if you've done your research and you have a point of view that this may be the right decision, but the wrong metric for success, or it's the wrong decision, you're better off stating that upfront, then going out into the marketplace, failing and coming back and saying I knew this from the start. Stick to your gun. Stand up for what you believe.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah, this can be a really hard position or situation for any sales leader. You are advised to follow a new strategic way. Maybe sell a new product, but you don't know, the foundations are it of it or the basics? No measurable goals. Really hard. So yeah. Seems as long as you are aware of it and let the responsible people know you should be on a good path.
Thomas Hartman: Yeah, and let's be honest, right? If you're being asked to take on a role, you may not have a choice, right?
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah.
Thomas Hartman: It's not a yes or no. I'm not gonna do it.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah.
Thomas Hartman: It's a, how can I increase my likelihood of success? What steps can I take to advance the moment when we succeed? So it, I, I don't want to pose it as I'm not gonna do it. Because that's not probably an option. But what you can do is set up an expectation of reality and communicate early. And by the way. Whether or not your management or board agrees with you, you are on the record as someone who stands up, does their homework and states what they believe in, and that's a pretty strong character value that most boards recognize and reward.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Maybe you're the guy who destroys all the excitement and nice new expectations, but it's just professional.
Thomas Hartman: Yeah. One of your guests talked about one of the important, most important things a CRO can do is decide who you're not gonna go after.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah.
Thomas Hartman: And the same thing can be said about a new market. It could be, yes, we should go after it, but a, in six months or a year, it could be, yes, we can go after it, but we need this product enhancement, or we need a different type of seller. It's generally not a no, it's a here's how we need to shape the effort.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. So When did you realize it's product without real market fit, and how did you realize it when you were in this situation?
Thomas Hartman: So I, every technology company wants to be SaaS. right? One of the most common things is an early stage company that says, oh, we're SaaS. Right? We're self-service, right? And I've been in a situation where a company is claiming we, my company is claiming to be self-service and it just isn't. And so the product was terrific, but the feedback from the clients clearly showed that they couldn't use it, right? And so the product market fit as a SaaS product there wasn't that fit. And so we had to go back and refine the product so that the interface and some of the functionality fit better for an inexperienced user.
Thomas Miltschuh: I think that's true for many new companies at the early stages. They try and maybe think they've released a SaaS product, but it's still a lot of manual tasks still. And a lot of yeah, a journey to be done until you are really at the SaaS product stage until then, it's maybe rather do it with you or do it for you service. Something like that.
Thomas Hartman: Which, which boards hate. Boards want to hear that everyone can adopt the product, that it's completely self-service because they want the higher multiple. You can end up learning a lot by, in a managed service solution, what your clients actually need and use to improve the product more quickly. So if you look at it as a benefit versus a failing right? You often can move to a SaaS solution much more quickly, but if you're constantly fighting that market fit challenge, you're just gonna delay your actual goal.
Thomas Miltschuh: Do you remember how much time it took to go on the right path again after you realized it doesn't work to correct it and be more successful again?
Thomas Hartman: So in this case, I'm thinking of two stages. There was the stage of senior management understanding that there were unavoidable changes that had to be made. And then there's the process for the product to be built.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah.
Thomas Hartman: Right? It took almost a year for senior management to adopt the feedback. And then it took another nine months to roll out the product.
Thomas Miltschuh: Alright.
Thomas Hartman: It was difficult. And think of, maybe the product could have been rolled out faster, but imagine if that year in an early stage company could have been cut to three months because the management team. Was in a position to learn and move more quickly
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah, that, that's so important. So a lot of suffering and a waste of money could be avoided.
Thomas Hartman: and a lot of suffering for CROs in particular.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Yes, exactly. So as we come to the end of the episode, maybe one last question, is there any additional lesson learned you'd like to share with your audience? Maybe especially focusing on sales leaders.
Thomas Hartman: Yeah, so whether you hire a coach and my company is Hartman Executive Coaching. You could find me on the web. Thomas Hartman Tom Hartman. Through LinkedIn or on my website, or whether you find a mentor or partner, another CRO, it's critical not be isolated in your journey,
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah.
Thomas Hartman: Right? It's not that you don't have the answers. The assumption of executive coaching is you do have the answers. You just don't have the space and the partner. Will allow you to hear the answers and act on them. And so my biggest piece of advice is you cannot afford not to have that partner because it will accelerate and the speed to goal and it will reduce revs where things didn't work.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah, you are not alone. You don't need to be alone. You shouldn't be alone. If help is needed, just visit Hartman Executive Coaching. I think that's a nice finalization of our episode. Brings us to the end of the Speak Revenue episode. I want to thank you Tom Hartman for joining us today, sharing such valuable insights. Huge shout out to all our listeners. Your support means the world to us. Remember to check out our website: speakrevenue.com for a full transcript and additional resources. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever we go for your listening needs really helps get the word out. Also, follow us on LinkedIn, at Instagram or on YouTube. We'll be back soon with another great guest. Until then, stay curious. Keep listening.