#041 Elevate Your Sales Game with Adam Carroll
Transforming Leads into Gold
Guest & Host
Adam Carroll & 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. Join us in this episode of Speak Revenue as we unravel the secrets of sales success with Adam Carroll, a seasoned sales leader and entrepreneur. Delve into the world of high-impact coaching, practical training, and the art of evolving sales teams. Learn from Adam's journey as he shares insights into the root causes of success and the importance of consistent, actionable training. Don't miss this insightful conversation that goes beyond results to explore the core elements of successful sales strategies.
November 15th, 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 their 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, Adam Carroll. Welcome, Adam. So great to have you here. Welcome to the show.
Adam Carroll: Great to be here.
Thomas Miltschuh: Awesome. So let us know. Let the audience know. Who are you, what do you do? Why are you so successful?
Adam Carroll: Yeah. So I'm originally from Australia. I'm based in San Diego, California now, and after a decade plus building and scaling SaaS sales team, I recently launched a sales coaching and training business. So I help SaaS companies better equip their sales team with the skills and the techniques to move deals forward and to close deals.
Thomas Miltschuh: Great. So a lot of experience you can share now with your own business or with other teams. What are the goals for this year as it's a pretty new business and where would you like to be next year?
Adam Carroll: Yeah, I've been lucky that I've got good traction with this business already and have a handful of companies that I'm working with. So that was really my goal for this year, was to start working with my initial clients, continue to fine tune the programs that I'm delivering with them, and then next year will be more about expansion and scalability. And I guess just . Becoming better and more effective at what I'm delivering for my clients.
Thomas Miltschuh: Nice. Sounds exciting. So how, why did you follow this path? And why exactly do you focus on coaching?
Adam Carroll: Yeah, so couple of parts of that question, but the big reason why I went down this path is that I've been, in SaaS sales and leadership, as I said, for a long time in the last five years at companies I've been at, talking to peers, I could see a skill gap emerging and companies are being forced to do more with less. And, managers and sales leaders are being stretched. So what's what I've seen being neglected is consistent high quality sales training for the sales team and also the coaching and guidance that comes along with that. 10 years ago there were a lot of them. Consistent training in companies I saw in companies I was at, there were a lot of role plays for a number of reasons. That's fallen by the wayside and to some extent, salespeople are now having to figure stuff out for themselves and they're just not getting that repetitive quality training. So that's why I've gone down this path from an opportunity point of view, I've always been passionate about coaching and one thing that I think is unique is that I've managed over 40 account executives, probably closer to 50 in my time, and I've had the luxury of being able to observe What the very best account executives do at different parts of a deal and cherry pick their tactics and their techniques and package that up into training. So my training programs are designed to be very actionable and practical and stuff that's proven in the real world and less so theory.
Thomas Miltschuh: Sounds great. Is there a specific framework you're following? Is it completely developed on your own?
Adam Carroll: Yeah, I mean that's a good question too, for the most part, it's developed on my own and I've done all the different sales methodologies. I've read all the different sales books, and I find them useful. But what I've found much more useful and effective is just. Seeing in the real world, what do you know Jess did at this part of the deal that made her successful? What does Tom do at this part of the deal that made him successful? And packaging up that, that real world stuff. And also from my own experience as a salesperson, so there's no set methodology that I'm coaching or following. Probably subconsciously I'm, I'm borrowing and picking from some of those methodologies. But for the most part it's looking at what they're doing and I'm building frameworks and tools and templates that make it easy for an account executive to know, alright, I'm at this stage of the deal. I've got these things in place, but here are now, the other, the gaps or the opportunities or the things I need to focus on for this current stage of the deal.
Thomas Miltschuh: Alright. Do you think coaching, consistent continuous coaching is underestimated by many sales leaders?
Adam Carroll: I think any good sales leader understands that training and coaching is important. I think what's happened, which is unfortunate, is that budgets are really constrained. In the last couple of years, and there's been a lot of layoffs in the tech industry. As everyone knows, sometimes, internal sales training or enablement, people might have been let go. There's not extensive budgets for external training, so that's part of the reason it's been neglected, but I also think that, and I've talked to a lot of sales leaders and they say, we've been burnt before because we bought on some expensive third party sales consultant or trainer. And, it wasn't effective. And that's again, going back to what I was getting at a lot of training is theory based. You know, it was developed 15 or 20 years ago and it needs, and it's, the training's delivered and then it's forgotten or not really applied. So everything I do is practical and it's applied and that's the key to any training and the advice I'd give to a sales manager or as a sales leader out there, whatever training you are able to deliver, make sure it's put into practice and you're doing. And that means doing role plays, that means doing activities where, you know the AEs need to take an action and record themselves doing that in Gong or Chorus or whatever it might be, so that it actually becomes habit and it drives behavior change. That's the most important thing. Yeah, it is repetition and practice.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay. Yeah. So probably in many teams they're not in just not enough resources to make sure there's enough training. What differs high quality training from yeah, maybe bad approaches?
Adam Carroll: There's a few things. Consistency is number one. I've seen, I've been part of really good training where I've done a 2 day bootcamp with an exceptional sales trainer and, but that was it. It wasn't followed up. So consistency is the key. It needs to happen regularly. Secondly, what I was going back to before, it needs to be Practical and actionable. You are at this stage of the deal. Here's the checkbox of things you should be looking to get out of this call or this stage of the deal. Here are some questions, sample questions that you should be asking. Or here are some sample talk tracks. So make it practical and make it easy to follow and easy to implement. So that's a really big part of it. I know working with a lot of account executives and a lot of different sales teams. Account executives love tools and templates that they can use, whether that's something they use on a call with a prospect, whether it's something that they just use internally. So that they can have a system and that they can have a process. The practicality part of it is big. And then this kind of ties in with consistency, but practice. So if you are a musician, you practice, if you are an athlete, you practice. If you're a standup comedian, salespeople don't practice very much. So you need to set up regular call reviews. You need to set up regular role plays. You need to set up regular one-to-one coaching sessions, and that's when it really brings it to life and makes coaching and training much more effective.
Thomas Miltschuh: What do you think are the most important skills of AEs to make those coachings successful?
Adam Carroll: So that's a slightly different question, like, what are the most important skills of AEs overall versus what are the most important skills of AEs to make coaching successful? You've gotta be wanting to learn. You've gotta be ambitious. You've gotta leave your ego behind. And actually, it's funny because the AEs that have... this is more going back to when I worked at companies. The AEs that were always bugging me in a great way like: Adam, can you listen to this call and give me feedback? The ones who are really leaning into coaching, the ones who know that they're doing well, but they can always keep growing that attitude to just absorb as much information as possible to get as much feedback as possible. That's the AEs that benefit most from training and coaching and in general, they're the AEs that grow and evolve and become the most effective AEs.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. There are team members who actively ask for coaching or any activities to improve further. How do you take, let's say, sales playbooks into account? How important are they for your approach?
Adam Carroll: Yeah, I've got a slightly controversial view on sales playbooks where I've been at a couple of companies and just talking to peers and seeing, hearing what they do around it too. The old way of doing things was to, when a company was formed, go to market leaders, sales customer success, marketing, whoever would get in a room and flesh out this extensive sales playbook. And the last two companies I started at had a thick hundred plus page printout of the sales playbook put on my desk. That's not useful to an AE who's trying to figure out how to close a deal. That's important information that the company should capture and document and have somewhere as reference. But sales playbooks should be really simple. And they should just guide an account executive on what to do. At every stage of the deal. But again, even just having a really good sales book that might be 10 pages and simplifies everything, that's still not gonna be effective unless you've got training around that, but also the onus is on the sales leaders and the sales managers to actually make sure that the account executives understands the playbook that they're using, the playbook and they're getting guidance and advice on, putting it into play.
Thomas Miltschuh: Right. Yeah. You can just put it on the desk and hope everything goes well.
Adam Carroll: Yeah. And That's been the problem I think the last few years, and I don't think it's through anyone's fault, but just that there hasn't been a lot of resources. Companies are growing but stretched on resources that there's an assumption that, oh, we'll give Johnny who just started the playbook and it's got every single detail he needs to know and he's gonna be able to flip through that and then, in a month from now start selling. And it's just not realistic. It needs to be a much more holistic approach than that.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah, would be rather a coincidence because if, just because of this one document the AE would be the superhero salesperson.
Adam Carroll: Exactly.
Thomas Miltschuh: How do you take into account interdependencies between sales and marketing as well as customer success? Is this something you are taking into account as well?
Adam Carroll: Yeah, I think it's really important and it's a kind of a feedback and collaboration loop that can often be broken, but obviously it's been spoken about a lot that there needs to be a strong synergy between sales and marketing. Not just in terms of, the obvious place to go there is lead flow and you know what leads are being passed to sales, what feedback is coming back from sales to marketing, and that's important. I think what's often overlooked is the synergy between sales and marketing to both share insights on what's working in the market. What are the actual types of clients? Are getting closed, but what are the reasons that they are? And that's something that marketing needs to factor into what they're doing. And sales. And in a similar vein, customer success is probably one of the more untapped areas where the customer success team is working with the client day in, day out, week in, week out. On solving the client's problem with your company's solution so that they've got an enormous amount of insight that they can share, that should be passed back to sales. And it happens in a, I think, in an anecdotal ad hoc way, but companies should try and systemize that so that there's an actual process for insights coming back from customer success to the sales team to help them sell and to help position the solution better.
Thomas Miltschuh: What do you think are signals to realize I need to improve my sales coaching strategy or sales team coaching approach? How do I realize I need to hire Adam Carroll to improve things? Are there any patterns you would mention?
Adam Carroll: I think the obvious one would be just to think about how frequently are your sales team getting. Actual proper sales skills, deal mechanics, training, and if it's less than a couple of times a month, then. It's something that you need to lean into because like I said, musicians, athletes, everyone practices on a weekly basis. It's not good enough that salespeople practice once a quarter at the sales kickoff. So that's the obvious signal. But thinking more deeply about it, I would encourage sales managers and sales leaders to think about their team and how they're selling and how they're going to market and are they evolving? Are they doing different things now than they were 6 months ago, 12 months ago? Because if you are not seeing the team evolve and experiment and get better and fine tune, that's a signal that they're static. They're doing the same things because they're not getting coached and trained and elevating their performance. So that's the biggest one. You can, if you're smart about it, you can put in place metrics to see... Not the standard metrics like revenue booked, close rates and those kinds of things but going a little bit deeper than that, like how many impact questions, for example, are salespeople asking on a discovery call? And this stuff can all easily be tracked these days with Gong and Chorus. What percentage of deals have a micro commitment in place and concrete, at least three concrete next steps agreed on all this kind of stuff. And if you see those metrics are static or below where they should be, that's a signal that you need to get lean in more to coaching and training.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. It's like the topic of our show. Look at the root causes, not just the results.
Adam Carroll: Exactly. Yep. That's a great analogy.
Thomas Miltschuh: Talking about the tool stack or tech stack, you've already mentioned chorus and Gong. Anything else you Would like to mention or recommend?
Adam Carroll: I think tool stack's important. Obviously, you're gonna need the right CRM for your company and what CRM you go depends on your, a whole range of things. But you need a solid CRM. I think tools that indicate intent, like 6sense and those kinds of things are helpful if they're used in the right way. But again I'll just go back to it because, and you've already heard it mentioned a couple of times by the Chorus, and there's a whole range. There's even a new tool I've been experimenting with called . Fathom, I think these have been the most impactful technology to, for sales teams, easily in the last decade, if not of all time, to give the manager the leader to give marketing product, the ability to listen to live not live, but recorded sales calls that actually happen and hear what prospects are saying. To hear what customers are saying is incredible. And then to have the analysis and insights behind it that you can pinpoint that Sarah's doing really well, but her deals are stalling at this stage. Let's go in and look at some analysis and, okay, she's not asking these questions. She's not positioning the next steps in the right way. Whatever it might be. That's just it. It's those tools and they're all good. They're so powerful, especially if you use the full kind of scope of what they do.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah, maybe some team members even ask better questions and to get some inspiration on how to develop your sales playbook further.
Adam Carroll: Yeah, that's exactly that. That kind of thing is yeah, learning from each other. And when I do my coaching and training sessions with my clients, in most cases, they give me access or share calls. From their sales team, we do a lot of call review sessions where we'll listen to snippets in different parts of the deal. And the biggest thing that the sales team gets out of that is being able to hear what their teammates are saying and oh great. That was a really cool way of asking that question. One of them might say, but the way you asked it, Johnny, is really interesting. And I'm gonna start putting that into place so they start to feed off each other and everyone just makes these fine tunes and everyone becomes more effective.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Yeah. That's really interesting. You could even ask the same questions in several different ways. Some might be successful and the others are not.
Adam Carroll: Yep. Absolutely.
Thomas Miltschuh: Let us know if you let's talk about things that have not worked. Anything you would like to share that did just not work in the past.
Adam Carroll: I think this has happened multiple times. I don't think it's anything groundbreaking or that people wouldn't have heard before, but when I think about times at previous companies when things didn't work and what we were trying to do. And over focus on activity. And it's the easy thing that sales leaders gravitate to and pipeline's not where they should be. Let's look at activity numbers. And for me, that's never worked. It causes a whole lot of frustration with the team. Activity on its own low quality activity means nothing. It's more important to focus on high quality, high impact actions rather than activity. And this will be right up your alley. So managing activity never works or not if it's just done in a generic way. I think the other side of that is also just looking at outcomes, and not looking at the KPIs and the micro steps and milestones that led to those outcomes. And that's another thing I've tried to focus on at previous companies and also now in my coaching is like: What are the things, the signals and what are the that we know salespeople are doing these things well, that it's gonna lead to the right outcome. And that's…
Thomas Miltschuh: If I may step in there, sometimes there's a focus on many activities and maybe closing a lot of deals. But I've also seen examples where sales team members with less activities and less deals achieved more customer or higher customer lifetime value. And produced less churn. So that has to be taken into account as well, right?
Adam Carroll: Yeah, that's a really good example.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah.
Adam Carroll: Yeah, and I think the most basic example I could give there is you can set an activity goal for your sales team of however many prospecting touch points they need to make or calls they need to make. A lot of the time they're gonna. Game that, or it's gonna be low quality and they'll just blast emails or LinkedIn messages. Whereas, to your point an AE who's more thoughtful about it and might be doing less activity, but every activity they're doing or every action they're taking is high quality and thoughtful. They're gonna get the better outcome, even though they might not look as good on the activity leaderboard that the CRO shares every week.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Talking about, or let's have a look at Adam Carroll five years ago. Is there any lesson learned you would like to share with the audience?
Adam Carroll: Oh, that's a good question. I think one thing that I'm probably doing better now than I did five years ago, that I think all, whether you're a sales person, whether you're a manager, whether you're a leader, is to trust your instinct and experiment more. I was always a little bit, you know, there was the sales playbook or the process or the way things were done and I wanted to be really good at doing those things. I think there needs to be room for people to experiment a little bit, and then I think people need to have the confidence to go with their gut. Not, not go rogue and do whatever they want, but just try different things and know that not everything's gonna work and you know that, that. Experimenting can happen in a whole range of different ways. But yeah, just try things 'cause that's how that's how people evolve. That's how you figure out something that worked that you weren't even thinking of.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah, you really need to be aware that there will be failure. Actually. You need to embrace failure and not be anxious about it.
Adam Carroll: Yeah. The other thing, so I'll just give another part to that, which is related, but I think there's a pressure at a lot of companies to go after every single client or potential client or opportunity. I get where that comes from the CEO down. You want to be driving as much revenue, but. Thinking about what advice I'd give myself five years ago. And also thinking about your earlier question about what works and what doesn't. Being laser focused on the right prospects that are gonna get value from your solution, that are going to be long-term prospects. it's something worth reiterating. Because it's not always put into practice.
Thomas Miltschuh: I would like to elaborate on those topics with you much longer, but I think we are at the end of the episode. I want to thank you Adam Carol 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. And if you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever we go for your listening needs, it 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 and keep listening.