The story so far:
- Mike Mark helped gun.io get to $1 million ARR in 3 months, then $2 million ARR in the next 6 to 8
- He did it by accident because when he came into the business they didn’t have a plan beyond “sell a lot”
- Repositioning gun.io’s offer is what took the brakes off their revenue growth; they stopped attracting broke-ass “startups”
I know Mike Mark can sell.
I’ve watched him teach advanced selling techniques and break down negotiations word-by-word.
But that doesn’t mean he knows how to build sales teams.
Sometimes the best players make the worst coaches. Tiger Woods is the best in the world at swinging a golf club. He isn’t the best in the world at teaching people how to swing golf clubs. It was David Leadbetter who taught Tiger Woods his game.
“When was the first time you replicated your sales system successfully?”
“At Traffic And Funnels. Taylor Welch saw what I was doing, helping founders get off the phones, and reached out to me. He was like, ‘Yo, help us build our sales team.’ So, I flew out to Nashville for their company off-site and we planned the next year.”
First order of business: get Taylor off the phone.
So, Mike started taking calls and bought back Taylor’s time. At that point, it’s instinctual. But then something happened that brought their progress to a screeching halt.
“My next task was to systematize, delegate, and build the entire sales team. I had to build the CRM, all the sales management processes, all that. I also had to recruit, train, and manage the sales reps. And I fucked that up, like, so bad. I think I blew out, like, four or five reps. Hired them and…I made them worse.”
Mike had no idea how to hire, train, or manage sales reps. Being a good closer was of no use to him. They’re completely different skill-sets.
His first mistake: they weren’t using data in their hiring process. He was hiring sales reps based on gut feel.
“I was like, yeah, this guy feels like a good guy. Let’s bring him in. I see this problem with a lot of our clients. Gut-feel hiring as opposed to data-based hiring.”
His second mistake: he wasn’t talking to enough prospective hires.
“Another big thing was we had no pipeline of hiring prospects. Now, at CoachingSales.com, we’re talk to 200 sales reps a week to find 4 or 5 who are a good fit.”
What most people do is talk to 4 or 5 reps, pick one that seems like a good fit, and try them out for 60 to 90 days. And if the rep doesn’t work out they’ve lost an entire quarter. They’ll repeat that cycle 3, 4, or 5 times.
“I lost 9 months of my life doing that. Hiring someone and training them to a point where they show promise. Then they underperform. That’s the worst part. It’s like ‘God, they’re so close!’ you know?”
“And then you get sunk cost bias because you’ve invested so much time and money into them. So, you think they’re going to turn the corner if you just invest a little bit more. But they don’t, because they were a dud to begin with.”
“Surely, he can’t be that bad at teaching,” I wonder to myself.
Turns out it wasn’t what he was teaching, but the way he was doing it.
You see, if you take a good person and put them in a broken process, you end up with a broken person.
Plenty of talented sales reps have quit or been fired because the entrepreneur didn’t know their system was broken. Instead of trying to fix the system, they try to shove, squeeze, and stomp the reps through. Then scratch their heads wondering why a pile of useless mush comes out the other end.
“We put them through a training process that was way over-complicated. We were listening to every single call. Coaching them all day, every day. Correcting and correcting. After weeks of this, the rep wouldn’t trust their instincts anymore. And they’d get on calls with a complete lack of certainty and confidence. They wouldn’t even trust themselves to tie their own shoes. And it was all because of our broken process.”
“And then you have to cut the reps loose because they’re useless to you at this point. Now, you’re like ‘Oh no, not again!’ because you have to go back to taking calls all day. And you lose hope because you realize all revenue generation depends on you.”
So, how did Mike manage to turn it around?
“When we first got to 500k a month, I was pulling 200k on my own. But eventually we got to a point where we could do 500k without me taking any calls.”
“How I salvaged it was by stripping down the entire training process, allowing the reps to learn more based on their own judgement. And I spent a lot more time convincing the reps to trust their instincts and their judgement.”
This was a total 180 compared to what he was doing before.
By listening to and critiquing every call he was communicating to the reps he didn’t trust their judgement. That they didn’t have sound judgement. So they wouldn’t exercise it on calls for fear they’d fail.
Instead, Mike stripped down the training to focus on the emotional journey of the sale. It’s something he calls the Hollywood Sales Method (more on that later.)
Within 30 days, the performance of the team stabilized. And 60 to 90 days after that, Mike didn’t have to take calls anymore. He was fully removed from the situation.
That turned out to be both a negative and a positive for Mike. Because once you’ve built a self-sustaining system that can operate without you, you aren’t needed anymore.
“So, did you move on from Traffic and Funnels immediately after that or a while later?”
“Yeah, I left right after that.”
“Because I’m entrepreneurial by nature. Love the guys and still send them referrals often. But I just wanted to be the captain of my own ship.”
“So, between then and now, when did CoachingSales.com form up?”
- Hire based on data, not your gut feel
- Just like a sales pipeline, you need to have a hiring pipeline to grow your sales team
- If you put a good salesman into a broken system, you’ll end up with a broken salesman