Why your Top Rep is probably not your Top Manager

Kevin Dorsey

The one and only Kevin “KD” Dorsey joined us on the latest episode of the podkast. When it comes to sales and leadership, there are quite a few similarities. Actually, the things that make you a great salesperson are the same things that make you a great leader.

But why top reps generally fail is they remain deal-focused, not people-focused. Your behaviors should remain the same, it’s just where you apply that skill or behavior. You are trying to change minds to change behaviors to change results.

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Greg Reffner 0:00
Hey everybody, this is Greg on the Abstrakt Podkast. And I’m pretty excited today, the person we have on as our guests as somebody that I’ve been following on LinkedIn for a while, and I still have a little bit of goosebumps, the fact that he’s our guest today. And so I’ll take moment introduce Kevin, Practice Lead sales leadership and advisor at winning by design. Kevin, please take a moment say hi.

Kevin “KD” Dorsey 0:28
Yo, what’s up, my man pumped to be here should be fun.

Greg Reffner 0:32
Yeah, it’s gonna be awesome. So when Clare approached me with your LinkedIn post that had some data points around why the best sales reps don’t always make the best sales managers, it instantly brought me to a point in my life, actually multiple points in my sales career, where I’ve been witnessed to the best sales rep on my team got promoted to lead me as my manager. And in every situation, it turned out horribly. And so I’m sure I’m not alone with that experience. And we’re going to dive in to that topic today. So the post that you wrote on LinkedIn, it was pretty lengthy. And so we’re not going to kind of dive into all the specifics. But let’s start with a little bit of what was the genesis, or the catalyst, I would say, a couple months ago, that made you dive into that research and kind of start bringing some of those things out into the light.

Kevin “KD” Dorsey 1:32
Um, I was, so I was reading, as most of my ideas start to come is like, I’m reading something. And it spares something. So I was reading a book called The connector manager, phenomenal read, highly recommend it to anybody listening. And actually funny enough, I was at the barber shop. So full picture, I’m at the barber shop, I’m waiting for my hair to get cut. And I’m reading on my Kindle. And I gets to the part where it’s where finally drops the stat where it actually has the data to back up what happens the vast majority of teams, when a top rep becomes the manager had the data to show that it was a decline in results. Why your top rep is probably not your top manager.

Kevin “KD” Dorsey 2:11
And so I’m sitting I’m like, yo, so like, I don’t normally post on the weekends, I stay off social media, I was like, I just quick post, like, Yo, check out this stat. So the posts you saw was the follow up. So if you actually scroll back a few days earlier, I actually posted the screenshot of the part of the book where like it came up. And I was like, there’s finally some data to this. But I’m also a, I’m a data geek. So I’m like, Okay, let me verify this. Let me get in here. Let’s read it. And actually, funny enough, the results from the actual study were worse than what was presented in the book. And so that was the, I guess, the trigger point, am I okay, need to put this out here more, because it’s one of those. There’s a lot of things on LinkedIn, and in sales advice that are very, like, they’re just, they’re just social media fodder, like you say, and it’ll get people fired up. There’s no backing to it. You know, you see the posts all the time, like, Oh, your top rep, maybe shouldn’t be your best your best manager, I was like, yeah, oh, there’s always one person argues it and but no one ever backs it up with anything. So this was something that I just was like, it finally backs it up, it finally puts it into a price is like, Yo, you need to be very cognizant of this to make sure that that you’re setting people up. So that was the trigger, and I was reading, I read it, I’m like, I need to go into this little bit further. Like where I saw shared it with the world, here we are

Greg Reffner 3:33
nice. And I think the data point was the seven and a half percent drop in team performance. And then and then average is 6.1% Drop in per rep performance following that promotion from top rep to manager. When I saw that. My first question was, okay, is that in the in the next quarter? Is that in the next month? Is that in the next year? Does it kind of level back out after a period of adjustment has occurred? Was there any data around that?

Kevin “KD” Dorsey 4:06
So this study was very, very well done, like all the attributes, you could think all the control aspects I’d like to go through. So the decline was not because the top reps revenue left, that was not why there was a decline, the decline with it was within six to nine months and maintained at that point. So within six to nine months was when you would see that decline, and then would maintain that it did not come back up. They study this over a two to three year time period. So like they really broke down all the different elements and I wish off the top of my head. I can’t remember the stat but interesting enough, like the stat you mentioned, there’s like 6% per write that said, 7% team, that’s actually not what the study showed the study showed like a 27% decrease in team so I don’t know how it got Switched in the book 13 impact was actually even more significant than how the book presented it going into the actual data. So like, it was really intense stuff.

Greg Reffner 5:12
That’s crazy. Okay. So when I think back to the times in my life where I’ve seen that happen, in bullet point, one you made, leadership and management are not the same. As often as I would love for manager to be synonymous with leader, they’re often not. And so when I think of what makes up very, very successful reps, and I’m gonna generalize here, this isn’t a, you know, kind of an all encompassing statement, but they’re generally very selfish with their time. They’re very dedicated and focused on the specific tasks associated and move revenue forward. They have a way that works for them. And they’re there intentionally or they’re consciously conscious, they’re intentionally conscious with how they spend their time, the actions they take, as it relates to their success. When you look at those things, those don’t translate well to leadership at all. There’s often a huge disconnect. So why do you think companies still make this this, these decisions, like, you don’t even need the data in the book to back this up, like you just look at behaviors, and then kind of translate that to what makes them successful manager says, this shouldn’t be a surprise.

Kevin “KD” Dorsey 6:36
So well, what’s interesting, right, and that’s what we’ll go into a little bit, lists those behaviors, again, lists those behaviors from here.

Greg Reffner 6:44
They are, I don’t want to say they’re selfish there, but they’re selfish with their time. They are intentional and very conscious of the actions and tasks they need to do, to be able to help close deals and win revenue, as it relates to what works for them. They have perfected their craft their sales cycle again, as it relates to them. And they’re conscious that that might conflict, you know, how somebody else sells. So let’s kind of mainly focus on those two pieces.

Kevin “KD” Dorsey 7:23
Well, because the reason I want to call that out, right is because actually being selfish with your time is a great leadership characteristic. Okay, it’s just what your goal is, right? As a leader, I am very selfish with my time, but where my time is going is to my team, I don’t let things take me away from my team, not like there’s behaviors, it’s just what the end goal is, right. So where most people when they make this transition, why they fail, and you hit on the key is one their deal focused, not people focused. The things that make you a great salesperson are quite literally the exact same things that make you a great leader. It’s just what you attach them to sales and leadership are the exact same thing. You’re trying to change minds to change behavior to change results. Like that. A great salesperson is great at Discovery. Don’t you have to be very discovery to be a great leader, Why your top rep is probably not your top manager.

Greg Reffner 8:18
you need to find what motivates your team, you need to you need to know their whys, you need to know their pain points to get them to change their behavior.

Kevin “KD” Dorsey 8:26
So because I don’t I don’t like it when people call out saying the behaviors that made you a great salesperson or not what make you a great leader, it makes it sound like the behaviors are that different. They’re the exact same behaviors, think about what it means to be a great salesperson discovery that applies to leadership, listening, that applies to leadership, connecting the dots, problem solving, creativity, empathy, follow up account, like all like all of that is quite literally what sales leadership is to the difference is where you apply that skill. And that’s where people mess up is new manager is still thinking about the deal. Whereas if you took the exact same skills, and applied it to your people, and the new thing you were focused on was making them better. The same skills will take you a really long ways as a leader.

Kevin “KD” Dorsey 9:19
So I always want to call that out. Because sometimes I think, you know, again, and I know you weren’t trying to do this, but this is what gets done is like it becomes fodder, right? Like, oh, well makes you a great rep isn’t done. No, actually, it’s the exact same thing. It’s just what you’re trying to do with it, why they generally fail, because they’re still focused on the deal. And the second part and then the book is what caused this out. They’re focused on their way. And that is generally where things start to fall apart is because it is their way it actually they fall in generally they fall into what’s called the teacher category of sales leadership. And they talked about this in the book of where it’s like you’re teaching your way. But that also those creates is then your team stops trying to do things their own way. They start trying to figure things out, it creates a culture of dependency. And there is always a massive gap between what a top performer can do and what someone else can do. So they’re teaching things that are too advanced. Right?

Kevin “KD” Dorsey 10:21
So I see like, I see, I see a saxophone behind you. Did you play a saxophone? Oh, no, I’m actually really horrible at it. Love it. All right, I was gonna try to see if I could find something in the background. But I see baseball behind you. So you understand the concept of baseball. Okay, whether you’re good at or not, it’s, it would be the equivalent of Kershaw trying to teach me how to throw a backdoor slider, when I haven’t figured out how to throw a fastball yet. Alright, that tends to be what top performers, they’re talking about shape that other, they’re not ready for UX, the fundamentals aren’t there. So I’ll pause there. So I’m sure we can unpack that a little bit. But like, that’s where a lot of times it fails is they’re trying to create themselves and other people and teach themselves versus getting the best out of people with the exact same skills that they applied as a salesperson.

Greg Reffner 11:13
All right, so bullet point, one there, that kind of skills. I think you did a much better job of articulating what I was going to get to, kind of as a follow up discussion would be, how do you translate the skills necessary to be successful in sales to leadership. And so we kind of already button that up there. I want to focus and kind of unpack that second point you made around kind of that a top rep is so advanced, that there is now a disconnect when we go to train, maybe that bottom newbie. And I often hear when I talk with sales leaders, when I’m demoing abstract, they use the word repeatability a lot, we want to make our reps as repeatable as possible, where we can hire somebody. And we know in three months, they’re going to be doing this, this and this. And this, do you feel like that is leading to some of these tops, reps, top reps wanting to kind of recreate themselves in lower kind of more junior reps.

Kevin “KD” Dorsey 12:18
So some know and this is where we get to go to the next level, the real problem behind this are the knees of the world, the VPS. Man, like I said, this is why I’m doing what I’m doing right now, by the way, and why I’m on like this mission around manager enablement, and coaching and training. No one teaches them any different. In fact, most of these top performers that become managers, I can almost guarantee you their VP sat them down and said those words, make your team like you. Yeah. That was why they were put into leadership because that was one of your other questions. Like why do companies keep making this mistake? Yep. It’s not necessarily that it’s a mistake. It’s just a mistake, the way it’s being done. You’re also not teaching them how to be a manager. That no one’s teaching them how to be a manager. How do you replicate yourself? Because Funny enough, y’all, I was the number one rep. Every role I had, I was the number one rep. Every time does that mean, I couldn’t succeed?

Kevin “KD” Dorsey 13:28
Because that’s I think I even said it in the post or somewhere in the comments of saying it doesn’t mean don’t, this is not a stop sign that you can’t promote your top person, you need to promote them with the tool sets the skill sets to succeed, right? So repeatability you do you want to replicate your top performers. Yeah, you do want to replicate that. But the way you do it, no one’s teaching them how to do it. If you want to replicate anything. That’s through repetition, practice and coaching. That’s not where managers are spending their time. They’re not coaching, they’re not practicing. They’re not giving feedback, they’re doing the job of the individual. That is not how you make someone repeatable, right. But then the last part of this, again, is the VP, there’s a lot I blame the VPS more than I blame the managers because the VPS are the ones putting them in this spot. The VPS are the one not training them. But then also, most VPS don’t know what makes their best person their best person,

Greg Reffner 14:33
other than they hit their quota, or they hit 110% of their quota. Like that’s the metric they use to determine the best person

Kevin “KD” Dorsey 14:39
right? But why are they hitting 110%? Because if you don’t know why you’re don’t know what you’re trying to make repeatable, right, so that that you can’t make results repeatable. You make behaviors repeatable, anyone listening right that shutdown, results are not repeatable behaviors are So if you don’t know the behaviors of your top performer that’s leading to the results, you don’t know what you’re asking to make repeatable,

Greg Reffner 15:08
valid point, valid point.

Kevin “KD” Dorsey 15:10
So we saw at least once a quarter at least once a quarter with my managers, they had to do what’s called a studying greatness exercise. Okay. Who has the highest conversion rate? Who has the highest, you know, close rate? Who has the highest ACV? Who is the booking the most amount of meetings? Who’s booking the best meetings? Who’s making the most amount of dollars? Do you know why? What is it they’re doing? You need to study greatness just as much as you try to fix the things are broken? And that’s when you build repeatability? Why does Julia have the highest ACV? So I’m gonna go listen to how she prevents pricing on 30 of her calls, and I go, Oh, Julia always presents it as a package, not as a line item. Now I can scale Julia, this is what Juliet does, that leads to her ACV. Now I can teach that and coach people to it.

Greg Reffner 16:00
These are the behaviors that lead to that outcome. So let’s just back this up just a little bit. And we talked about teaching leadership. And so I’ve had a couple buddies that got promoted into like, SDR manager or director of sales development roles. And there has not been a single like Leadership Initiative or coaching initiative for them, it’s, here’s your next level of permissions in Salesforce. Here’s your admin credentials. You know, here’s access to these Google Docs. So you can change the playbooks and the battle cards. Why aren’t Why aren’t companies helping? Coach leadership?

Greg Reffner 16:45
You know, so I asked this question a lot. And eventually, I stopped asking the question, because like, why they’re not at this point doesn’t matter to me. Right? Like, it’s, I don’t understand why they’re not. But I do think the core of it, and this is so systemic, in sales, and I don’t, same idea. I don’t know why this is so systemic, but it has a very, like, you know, sink or swim mindset, like you got to figure it out on your own. You know, why most managers aren’t taught. And this is, this is truly where it comes from. Most managers aren’t taught, because their VP wasn’t taught. You know, why the VP wasn’t taught. Because the CEO wasn’t taught, you know, why the CEO wasn’t taught, because no one teaches this. So really, it’s this never ending chain of like, well, because I wasn’t taught how can I teach you. And then also in sales is is really weird. Like, I don’t know what the right term is here.

Kevin “KD” Dorsey 17:40
But like, because I wasn’t taught you don’t get taught. It’s almost like it’s a sense of pride, like I had to figure it out. So you go figure it out. And we wonder why the sales industry is what it is, right now. It’s this never ending chain of no one teaching anybody what to actually do. And then just trying to figure it out. No other career operates this way. I cannot fly. Most fast food restaurant workers get more training support systems and processes than an SDR an AE, have you seen the McDonald’s Management Handbook?

Greg Reffner 18:18
No, but I saw this thing on Walmart store manager, and now they’re struggling to fill store managers, and how they’re now going to comp like, pay, I think it was pay Walmart employees to go through like a Training Management Leadership type course, because, like, they don’t have enough qualified candidates to fill that manager role. And they’ve realized they need like an academy to bring people into that skill set.

Kevin “KD” Dorsey 18:46
It’s crazy. And this is, um, what I’m trying to look it up here real quick. But like, what some what we’ve gotten away from some things like in the industry like you like these to send you into like management school, right? Like IBM would send you to a campus for six, eight weeks to be taught how to be a manager at IBM, right? Like, they did the manager like handbook for, for, you know, Walmart is a thick, thick sea, please don’t do that for sales. It’s crazy. To me. It’s absolutely crazy. And that’s what I’m trying to change man. Because like, you change a company with the managers, you don’t do it with the reps. And you don’t do it with the VPS you change a company with the managers, because the managers are who are actually going to make their people better.

Greg Reffner 19:33
Yeah. Yeah, I would agree with that. I would agree with that. Well, let’s um, I want to kind of keep this around that 20 minute mark. And so we only dove into I think one out of two out of maybe six of the of the topics two and five. So really I halfway through the kind of the the talking points but honestly, the takeaways for me are, you know, behaviors are repeatable results are not so If you’re in moving into sales leadership, and you’re kind of looking back to see what you can make repeatable focus on those behaviors, and maybe it’s doing an analysis, every quarter of what those behaviors are that are leading to the outcomes that you’re ultimately trying to achieve. I think if companies are not going to help managers get that coaching that I think those individuals need to take that upon themselves to get that coaching, and we have the internet, like, there’s really no reason to not go and get coaching and figure some of this stuff out on your own. And kind of piggybacking off that, like, don’t, don’t have animosity against the world, just because you’ve had to go figure it out for yourself, right, like pay it forward. And I’ve often learned that when you pay stuff like that forward, it’s repaid back to you tenfold. Because when you’re going out and you’re teaching your team, they’re going to take ownership of the outcomes much more, and they’re going to feel a certain sense of loyalty and responsibility to you as a result of the fact that you help them achieve something that they probably wouldn’t have gotten without your help. So, Kevin, anything that you think we missed? And kind of high level bullet points from our conversation is takeaway items for our listeners?

Kevin “KD” Dorsey 21:27
I mean, it kind of depends on the listener, right? So like, if you are thinking about getting into leadership, like really asked you, I asked the same questions, anyone that ever came to me and said, Hey, I want to be a manager asked me the same questions. First question is, okay. Are you ready to put your paycheck in someone else’s hands? First question, as always, I hit him right off the bat. And I would always catch people. I’m like, Are you ready to put your paycheck in someone else’s hands? Next question, are you ready to punch potentially make a less working harder? Next question, are you ready for me to be upset with you, because of what your team is doing? If the answer, those are not all strong, yeses, then maybe management isn’t what’s right for you, you can still be a leader, you can still be an example. You can stop insolence over people, but management is responsibility. So that if you’re thinking about getting into management, ask yourself those questions and make sure that you’re ready for it. If you’re in it, think about what made you a great salesperson. And think about how can I apply those same schools to make my people better? Not how to close their deals? How can I use discovery, listening, note taking problem solving, selling, leadership involves a lot of selling, sell the right thing, sell the ideas, sell the training, sell the coaching, right? Like sell to your people to help them get better. And then if you’re a leader of leaders, same idea, the same thing you expect your managers to be doing to make their people better you should be doing to make your managers better. Are you role playing with them? Are there checklists for them? Are there scripts for them? Are you reviewing their calls? Right? Like how are you enabling your managers to improve, right, this goes all the way up the chain. So those would be my big three kind of buckets or takeaways here.

Greg Reffner 23:17
I want to add to that fourth quote, maybe a fourth question you should ask like, you know, if you’re Are you willing to take responsibility when your team’s not doing? Well? I would also say, are you willing to not be not get the rewards and recognition when your team performs? Because as a leader, when your team does? Well, it’s because of them? When your team fails, it’s because of you. And so you need to be okay, not you’d be the one handling the gong and not getting that rep of the Year award. Even one year on those deals work in them with your reps. Absolutely. So, Kevin, if anybody wants get ahold of you learn more about what you’re doing. Maybe you know, wants to maybe talk to you for a little bit about how you know, your services might help impact their company or them individually. What’s the best way to get a hold of you?

Kevin “KD” Dorsey 24:05
I mean, definitely, you can hit me up on LinkedIn. I’m at that stupid connection limit right now. So you can follow me there or shoot me an InMail but also shoot me an email KD at inside sales. excellence.com Shoot me an email if you think I could be a resource or be helpful for you. But hopefully this had a positive impact on at least one person listening.

Greg Reffner 24:26
Love. It was my pleasure having you on Kevin, and thanks for joining us on the podcast. We’ll talk soon. Sounds good bye.

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