← see all podcast episodes...

"Culture and Leadership" with Steve Hollingsworth

The Selling Excellence Podcast: Episode 3

On this episode of the podcast, Tim interviews Steve Hollingsworth a Sales Leader of Leaders. Steve has been everything from a bag carrier, to a sales manager, to a CRO. You name it, he’s done it. He is currently a consultant for CEOs and sales leaders in the areas of sales, sales operations, marketing, business strategy, and development. Steve will discuss the best and worst sales organizations he’s seen. You don’t want to miss it!

Rather watch this episode? Stream here!

Episode Transcript

Tim Geisert (00:06):
Welcome to The Selling Excellence Podcast for business executives, presented by AuctusIQ. We all know B2B selling is not getting any easier and what’s worse, it is getting more expensive. Hello, I’m Tim Geisert, your host and partner at AuctusIQ, a selling excellence as a service company. Our goal today is to give you some insights, some learnings, that help you turn your sales organization into an asset. A company asset, not a pain in the asset.

Today, we have a special guest, it’s really our second episode with Steve Hollingsworth who’s a partner at AuctusIQ. And Steve has just been around a lot of sales organizations. He came up through carrying a bag, worked his way into sales management, and has been a consultant for many years with executives, CEOs, and private equity companies. And Steve’s been working his whole life here on something that is really quite special and it’s called Growth IQ. Steve, welcome, and tell us a little bit about this Growth IQ.

Steve Hollingsworth (01:06):
Thanks, Tim. Yeah. So as you mentioned, I came up kind of a normal progression through a sales career, right? I was a sales rep and did well and got an opportunity to be a sales manager and landed that job and realized I was wholly unprepared for it and was lucky enough to kind of figure out how to do it and eventually do well there. And as you know, in a sales career, as you demonstrate your ability to do one job, then a lot of times you get a chance for the next. So I got a battlefield promotion into sales leader one time and it’s a really different job than sales manager, right?

Tim Geisert (01:42):
It sure is, isn’t it?

Steve Hollingsworth (01:43):
You got to build a system, you got to optimize a system. And I quickly realized that there’s no framework for this, right? There’s no playbook for how to be a great CRO. So I just kind of set about thinking about the different jobs to be done, the different things that I now had to have accountability for, and just looking at “Well, what’s best practice there? And how do I identify best practice there and then start moving my organization in that direction in those areas?”

Tim Geisert (02:12):
So it was kind of your own self need to figure it out, right? Which is true for a lot of people walking into a sales leadership job from coming up from carrying a bag, right?

Steve Hollingsworth (02:23):
Yeah. That’s how it started and then when I started consulting in sales excellence about 12 years ago, I started working primarily with private equity-owned portfolio companies that were having growth issues. They would put me in touch with the CEO and the CEO would basically have two questions, he’d say, “Well, can you help me understand kind of the current state of the revenue organization, the revenue machine? Where does it compare to others in our space or in our level of maturity?” And the second question would always be, “Well then, where do I make focus investments to grow faster?” So that work was really where I think we put a lot of labor into optimizing the framework so that it could be used ubiquitously across organizations to answer those two questions.

Tim Geisert (03:15):
Steve, this Growth IQ framework really sounds very intriguing. So tell me more about it. What are the key elements of it?

Steve Hollingsworth (03:25):
Yeah. Great, Tim. So in the framework, there are eight core pillars, right? And then there are sub-processes that happen underneath that, but just at a high level. The first thing we look at is how well we understand the market, right? So TAM, SAM, SOM, personas, ICP, that sort of thing. Then we look at the capture strategies, right? Revenue model, coverage model, those sort of things. Then we look at core processes, right? Just our selling motions, opportunity management, account management. Then we look at differentiation, right? Our value prop, our offerings, our positioning, buyers against competitors. Then we look at enablement, right? Things like compensation quota, proposal, CPQ, the motivation reward systems. And then we look at the data and visibility, right? The sales and marketing tech stack, the KPIs, the reporting, the dashboarding, the forecasting. Then we look at leadership and management, right? And then we at how we’re doing from a talent development perspective, those would be the eight key pillars.

Tim Geisert (04:26):
Well, and it probably helped you almost write your job description as you figured this out in that role, right?

Steve Hollingsworth (04:33):
Well, as I started to learn this is the role of CRO, and these are the things that I’ve got out to have my eye on, and then I’m responsible for the processes underneath here to enable the team to be successful, it was really kind of a light bulb moment for me. And I feel like it’s a missing link for a lot of folks. It’s that we can hire great people and we can hire great managers, but if we don’t put them within a growth system that’s functioning, they’re going to have a hard time succeeding and certainly succeeding at a high level.

Tim Geisert (05:09):
Yeah. You’re so right. Yeah. This is fantastic. So let’s just kind of pull on that thread a little bit. I’m going to go back to what you said earlier that the CEO, when you took that job, he or she said, “You want to understand your current state. And then, you want to be able to really identify those investments or improvements that you need to make?” So take it all the way through, how did this then help you bring it to life in a story that people can kind of understand how this gets applied?

Steve Hollingsworth (05:40):
Yeah, great. So the leadership in an organization, they know the big rocks, right? They know the big rock [inaudible 00:05:48]

Tim Geisert (05:47):
Those are obvious, right?

Steve Hollingsworth (05:49):
Those are very obvious, right? But what isn’t always obvious is how to solve it, right? So let’s say the big rock problem is, “Hey, we’re having a really hard time with top-of-the-funnel demand generation. We’re having a hard time getting enough leads, enough first meetings to load the top of the funnel.” So that’s a big rock problem. It’s obvious, right? We know that. So I don’t have to tell you that, but the question is, “What are the root causes within that framework that might be contributing to that problem?” So I know I’ve got a top-of-the-funnel problem. Well, couple of questions, “Do we have a defined lead generation process? Is that working or is it a leaky pipe? Are we just missing handoffs? Do I have a differentiated value proposition in the marketplace that’s getting a response? Do I know my buyer personas? So am I speaking in my outreach to a persona so that the message sounds like it’s relevant, it’s hitting home with them? Are my business development people trained? Do they know how to prospect and get a meeting?” So is it a training or enablement issue? So all those potential root causes would surface in the framework assessment and say, “Okay, so this is what’s probably causing that big rock problem. These are the things we should go invest in to improve.”

Tim Geisert (07:07):
Yeah. So that executive, the one you, of course, reported to at the time where you built this, and then subsequently as you work with executives on this, that’s got to be eye-opening for of them.

Steve Hollingsworth (07:19):
Well, it’s super helpful because if you have an ambition for growth and you have a willingness to invest, then the hard part is just knowing where to spend your money, right? So for a CEO, it’s very helpful to just kind of point their investment dollars in the right direction. For the CRO and the sales enablement leader, what it does is it gives you a benchmark, right? And then now we go run some improvement initiatives and we can actually measure progress within the organizational competencies in selling. We can measure progress and is the organization getting better while we’re waiting for the numbers to get better, right? Because the results are a lagging indicator, whether that takes one quarter or two quarters or three, depends on the sales cycle. But we can tell you a quarter of a quarter, we are getting better with confidence because we know we’re better in these areas than we were last quarter.

Tim Geisert (08:14):
That’s an amazing way in which to bring to life what’s under the surface and get to it and get working on it. And you said something kind of a couple times in this podcast, organizational competencies. We talk about talent competencies or individual competencies, but what you’re talking about is really personifying the organization into identifying those competencies and going to work and improving them. That’s got to be quite rewarding, right?

Steve Hollingsworth (08:44):
Yeah. It’s super fun and it’s fun because I see it making a difference and it’s like getting the visibility into what’s happening in your organizational competencies, in this kind of growth engine that you’re building. Yeah. So it’s been good.

Tim Geisert (09:02):
All right. Man, thank you so much for talking about this today and any other parting thoughts before we sign off on this podcast?

Steve Hollingsworth (09:11):
No, thanks for having me, Tim.

Tim Geisert (09:13):
All right, Steve, thanks a lot. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of The Selling Excellence Podcast for business executives. I hope you’ve gained some insight on how to help turn your sales organization into a company asset versus a pain in the asset. Don’t forget to subscribe to The Sales Excellence Podcast wherever you get your podcast. And for more information about AuctusIQ or to schedule a discovery call, visit our website at auctusiq.com. Until next time, this is Tim Geisert, your host and partner at AuctusIQ, here to help you sell more and grow your company.

Speaker 3 (09:49):
A Hurrdat Media production.

AuctusIQ means smart growth.

“Auctus” is Latin for growth. “IQ” means smarts. Combined, AuctusIQ means smart growth. AuctusIQ is a sales data and science company. Our mission is to provide the right data, on a technology platform that allows you to put talent in your tech stack. Doing this solves your three biggest challenges: selecting and retaining exceptional talent, coaching to ensure readiness to meet or beat quota, and most importantly making sure everything you do is tied to winning more deals.

If you’re looking for a proven way to energize your sales force, let’s talk.

Speak with a Specialist