The Bar Mitzvah Episode
Collabria launched this episode because we enjoyed listening, learning and collaborating with others who come from different roles, places and perspectives. We’ve grown and been challenged on this journey with you, and feel better for it. As we mark our bar mitzvah (13th) episode, we couldn’t think of a more fitting guest to feature than Yaacov Cohen. Yaacov is the Chairman & CEO of harmon.ie girded with 20+ years in enterprise sales and his reputation as a high-tech entrepreneur and serial innovator.
Yaacov offered a fresh perspective on how the field of sales has developed over time and what the future can, should and will look like.
What was it like getting started in sales?
Yaacov entered sales from the tech side from his CTO position. He had to learn on the job to be a CEO with a 20-person sales team. Yaacov has seen sales change from the lone wolf opaque sales culture to today.
What’s changed since then?
“This lone wolf model for me wasn’t the right model. As a product person I wanted the sales team to understand the product. I wanted the sales team to pitch the product and the value for the customer derived from the product.” Back in the day there was a lack of consistency and knowledge of the product. This model doesn’t work. Focusing on the customer and product is easier said than done.
Covid has made the team element more important. Salespeople are no longer wining and dining in the same way. Relationships are now less important “The relationship is a means to deliver the value. The world is becoming more and more complex with more regulation and competition and customers are savvier because they can research products and services online.” This reality means that you need to have all the answers whenever you are able to meet. You need to have your team fully on board.
“You have to have the team perform as one body. It is not natural. We are all self-centric. Collaboration is not natural- it’s not the default.” In order to put the customer first, you need to shift your perspective.
You can acknowledge the reality and give permission and recognize that we all have blind spots as weaknesses. “As an individual if you develop this type of self-awareness and understand where my strengths start and ends, you are more willing to let someone in.”
How do you convince lone wolves to become a wolf pack?
Hire the right people. Don’t hire lone wolves. Doing so will limit your company. Hire people who are genuine, interested in the product and team players who will listen to customers.
How do you teach consistency and industry knowledge?
Yaacov has employed team sales role playing. This requires honesty, openness, transparency and a culture for open feedback. Actors were trained to perform and assist in these simulations. Interactions were recorded so that team members could rewatch their performance and teammates’ performances to learn and improve. This training covered everything from small talk, listening to pain points, making the pitch and closing the deal.
How do you deal with losses?
Losses are a part of the business. Yaacov learned early on that “you can’t win a deal that you aren’t willing to lose.” You won’t close every deal. What he has internalized in his own drive and that of his staff is that if you lost because you didn’t listen or didn’t provide the right solutions and lost the deal because you didn’t do your best, that is what would upset him. You can and will lose. But you should lose with integrity as a team. Learning from those losses will make you stronger.
What does the future of sales collaboration look like?
It is not just with team members and fellow company employees. You won’t only be collaborating with customers. You should ALSO be collaborating with sales partners. Partners can be game changers in the short-term and long-term. “It is a network of collaboration. It is not just about the money. The money becomes a side effect on the exchange of value.”
“No matter how many sales you close you still have a lot to learn. Your experience can be baggage or an asset.” Your experience and ego can easily hold you back if you let it.
When you work as a team and with sales partners you can learn from them if you are able to employ a sense of humility. They might know more about different sized companies in sales or cultural norms in different regions.
What is the new dogma of sales?
It is no longer ABCs ala Alec Baldwin, “Always be closing.” Today it is “Always be collaborating.” “You need to make that shift internally and externally. We need to always be collaborating. We need transparency. You need to be able to expose yourself. Only once you’ve exposed vulnerability can your teammates help you out.” You need trust first to set the stage to allow for vulnerability. “Your customer will not open up if you, your company and your brand are not trustworthy.”
How do you nurture teamwork and individual responsibility and accountability?
Everyone is more successful if the pie is larger. “You can fight over individual slices but everyone will have more if the cake is bigger. Our instinct is to be focused on our piece of the pie. I used to think that way. I couldn’t speak, I was stuttering. I was too focused on my own interest. At some point I realized I needed to let it go.”
Who do you follow/read/listen learn from in order to go.
The Bible. “That has been my primary source of inspiration.” You can learn negotiations from Abraham from his deal with securing burial ground for his deceased wife Sarah.
Ultimately, “If you want to be a better salesperson, or leader. You need to refine yourself.” Everyone has personal and professional baggage, and you need to work through it to become the person you want to be.
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Looking for more to listen to? Join Menachem Pritzker and Sharon Weiss-Greenberg, hard core Collabrians, as we drink coffee and learn from collaborative leaders in sales, customer success and account management.
Ready to get started? Customer Café by Collabria: Sales Collaboration Tips for Pros is available wherever you listen to podcasts.