September’s Sales Smackdown brings us Ryan Waldron, a sales leader at Republic Services. We discuss the value of time vs. money, Costco memberships, and simplicity in leadership.
Ryan, one of the reasons I was really intrigued with interviewing you is because you seem to be a turnaround expert. You seem to do things right and get your teams performing well. What’s your secret?
People are busier than they used to be, and we’re all attached to our electronic leashes. So I think teams require a leader to simplify a sales professional’s life at work by making transactions easier for them. I view my role in sales leadership as removing obstacles, training and mentoring our team, and most importantly- protecting my team’s golden hours by giving them the time they need in the field to succeed.
That’s the approach I take. I look at the all the things that could be hindering my reps during those golden hours, and I do everything I can to remove them. If I can establish a rhythm where they can have a predictive schedule, complete with some regular meetings, some administrative time, and build in large gaps of time in the field, then I can feel good about the team’s chances of success.
How did you come to adopt this philosophy?
I think it’s when I was selling. My base pay didn’t cover the bills. Everyone who’s been in sales knows that feeling… the feeling that you’ve got to produce or end up in financial trouble. At that time our meetings and calls always took place in the middle of the day, and for me that was very aggravating because I felt like it took money out of my pocket. I wanted to be in the field making sales.
I knew that when I moved into a leadership role, if I could surround myself with like-minded people who wanted to spend their time in the field, we would have a good recipe for success.
How were you able to improve your new team at Republic Services so fast? Was it your new philosophy or did you bring in new talent?
It was a combination. We kept 70% of the existing team, 30% came from outside of the company, and one of our top performers of course came from West Coast Careers. So, the majority of our current team was already there and found it refreshing to have their time valued. I received feedback from Sales Reps that it felt great to hear that their time was valuable and their time was best served in front of our prospects and clients. Even some of the team members who weren’t labeled as high producers were able to perform at high levels once they were able to receive time and mentorship during field rides.
There’s a quote I have in my office from General Patton. I love it, and I show it to everybody. “I want you to know that I do not judge the efficiency of an officer by the calluses on his butt.” I love that quote because he’s saying you need to lead from the front. Even the experienced professionals wanted to improve and they really benefited from our field rides. I think I can attribute that approach to our lower turnover as well.
What would you say the best rep on your team did differently than the rest?
I’m looking for someone with ambition, confidence, passion, independence, and positive & persuasive attitudes. But the “It Factor” for me is integrity. Authentic integrity. I think that’s what the best people in sales have today. Somebody can jump on the internet and google your company in less than 30 seconds. What people are really selling is an experience with your company, and it’s hard to deliver a top experience if you don’t come from a place of integrity.
How do you reward your top performers?
Time and money. It’s really strange; I’ve always heard that sales professionals were only money motivated, and that’s true to an extent. But I’ve found that time is more precious than money. Time to run their business, freedom from me and all of the “check-in” phone calls, freedom to prioritize their time between work and family.. That kind of freedom – with the right rep- should result in a 10-fold return. Time is a precious commodity and people appreciate their time being valued.
The company has President’s Club, Winner’s Circle and all sorts of awards and trips for performers. Bur for me personally, I really think time as a motivator has been successful for us.
What about handling under-performing reps?
It starts out in interviewing and discussions with the team. I believe in what Jack Welch believes. We’re really clear upfront about team expectations and individual expectations. There aren’t any surprises when someone is under-performing. Everyone knows where they are at all times. Once somebody is under-performing the first approach is finding out the reason why… especially if they have performed in the past. Those things can usually be flushed out in a field ride. You’d be surprised what you would find out after spending 4 hours with your rep. If it’s something personal in their lives we can work through the issues. If it’s purely a performance issue, and they aren’t willing to take the steps necessary to improve, then there are steps that a sales leader has to go down with corrective discipline. But what I find is that in those candid discussions from meetings and field rides, by the time we get to any corrective discussions they already know that they either aren’t the right person or they’ll tell you something is really a roadblock for them. And then I’d just deal with it accordingly.
Earlier, you told me about a leader that didn’t work well for you. What about managers who served as mentors to you. Who are some mentors that helped shape you into who you are now?
So many. An individual mentor I can think of right now is our current VP of Field Sales – Stephen Mohan here at Republic Services. He told me not to be just challenged in my career- but to be stretched.
Here’s what he said. “If you’re challenged, you’re working in your strengths and you’re working hard to get a tough number or tough result. When you’re stretched, you’re working hard outside of your skill set and still expected to achieve results.”
He really taught to me about how to stretch myself by volunteering for change groups. He also taught me to cut through the facade and really get to know my team and create a working relationship with each member of my team. Once I did that, I think I earned the respect that really resonated with my team.
Do you have a preferred leadership methodology?
Jack Welch did a lot of great things. He was named CEO of the century. If you read his book, ‘Winning’ you won’t walk away thinking you learned something earth shattering, but you will learn tons of simple lessons in business. For example, “How do you get promoted? #1 Exceed your job performance. #2 Make your boss and colleagues look smarter.” It’s so simple, but it’s so true. I think his leadership philosophies are so simple and they resonate with me.
Every employer has some “secret sauce” questions. What are your?
It sounds old-school, but I make candidates sell me a pen. Anyone can sell a pen, but what I’m looking for is an experience. Can this candidate engage me in a dialogue? How deep do we go? How shallow do we stay? What questions am I being asked?
I also like asking them what their current supervisor would say about them. I’m looking for someone with candor and reflection- someone who can admit their areas for improvement. Everyone can talk about what they do well. Weaknesses tell me more.
Tell me about the best and worst responses you’ve received in an interview.
I asked a candidate why he wanted to work here. He said he had done his research on the company, he had done his research on me, and that it was clear to him that they had a vacancy for a reason, and that he wanted to work here to sell and make money. I really appreciated his candor. He went right for the jugular and I appreciated it.
And the worst?
I asked someone what organizations they were a part of, and they said Costco and Bi-mart. Yeah. I didn’t know what to say.
Ryan, if you could take advice from any leader on the planet- past or present, who would it be?
Martin Luther King Jr. I’d like to see how he responded to challenging situations, and I’d want to hear his advice on adversity. Here’s a guy who had to have known his fate, yet he kept going.
You’re moving to Arizona to accept a promotion. What will you miss about Portland?
I’ll miss the Blazer games, but honestly I love the culture in Portland. It’s such a fun city. Everything Portlandia is so fun. I’ll miss the ability to go out on the weekends and hit the coast or the mountains, or go hiking and camping, and of course all the restaurants here.
Give me an example of Portlandia that you experienced.
I was taking a couple of executives to Pok Pok and they had heard that people were strange and weird here. I was trying to dispel that and tell them that Portland was like any other city. We stopped at a red light, and in front of us was a guy on a unicycle juggling and wearing a kilt. He was being followed by a bunch of clowns. The timing was perfect.