Make relationships your rocket fuel
Andrew Metz: This business is a contact sport and when I see the ivory towers, I call it like, you can't sit around and refresh Salesforce all day to see if deals come in. You need to go roll up your sleeves and get in the trenches and find out where you can fix problems and add value. And if you can do that, your team will run hard for you.
Devon Reed: This is Reveal, the revenue and tell intelligence podcast. Here to help go to market leaders do one thing, stop guessing.
Sheena Bedani: If you're ready to unlock reality and reach your potential, then this show is for you. I'm Sheena Bedani.
Devon Reed: And I'm Devon Reed coming to you from the Gong Studios.
Sheena Bedani: When was the last time you got in the trenches with your team? You started where they are now. You know the grind all too well. You know how hard it can get. But when was the last time you got down at eye level with them personally and professionally? Andrew Metz is a huge proponent of getting in the trenches with your sales team, especially when you're the boss. Andrew is the VP of Sales at Zywave, which is a digital insurance agency platform. On this episode, we talk about how you can get in the trenches with your sales team by getting out of your comfort zone, being candid with your teams and setting an example with your own actions. Here's advice from Andrew on building relationships that will last. Andrew, what's your philosophy in regards to your career and how do you think it can help other sales leaders thrive?
Andrew Metz: I've always built my reputation on street credibility because I started as a BDR and made cold calls. And I think in my career as foundational in the sense that I made cold calls for a year and a half, then I took those meetings and I carried a bag, then I had a quota, then I was a frontline manager, and then I manage managers, and now I'm a second line manager and I manage VPs. But because I had two or three years at each one of those stops, I feel very confident that I could go down to my direct reports or their direct reports or their direct reports and show them how to do the job. And I think what we forget about at times is just the buy- in from the team that a competency level that you can add value to their universe. And if you can do that, then you're going to be valuable to your team.
Sheena Bedani: I'm sure that really helps in just building trust and building relatability with folks across the entire organization.
Andrew Metz: Absolutely. A big part of my job now is recruiting. It's like I'm running for mayor or something. I'm out coffee, breakfast, lunch. I definitely use LinkedIn as a profile to try to crack into new relationships. And I'm looking for people that are all stars that are happy in their position. And I think building trust is a huge part of that, especially if someone's going to make a career move. It's like they can look at my story and they might say," Wow, it's fantastic." And I'll say," I'll point you to 10 other people that have moved through the ranks as well." My story's not that unique at my organization. But it's great to, as a salesperson, I'm all about storytelling. The functions and the features of a product that anyone could show off, but who's going to weave the narrative that takes someone to an emotional state of why they're going to make change. Change management is someone buying software and change management is someone changing their career too.
Sheena Bedani: You talked about spending so much of your time building relationships now, and that's one of the most important aspects of your job. Tell us a little bit more about that. If you had to peel back the onion, what are the key components of building these powerful relationships?
Andrew Metz: I think of it in a few ways. There's a trust component that comes over time. There's an empathy component of me understanding where they're coming from and that's easy because I've moved through the ranks. There's a vulnerability component. I told the story recently, we had a leadership academy last week, which is awesome and I got to present a little bit and I told the story about when I left the organization and I had a brand new manager and I thought," Man, how am I going to make friends with her?" And she was kind of like arms folded, not sure about me, who's this guy with long hair? And she worked with someone for 12 years prior that now I was replacing so I understood the emotional, but she was a yogi. And I don't do yoga, but I was like," Hey, when I'm coming to town, when I'm coming to Duluth, Minnesota, we're going to do yoga." And she invited me to her yoga class as an instructor and I showed up, let's do it. And I walked in the door and it was an all women's retreat. And I was like," Here we go. No turning back now." And I think the reason I tell that story is I put myself in a vulnerable spot. I was uncomfortable. It was not easy, but I go through it and then relationships change in those moments. An hour later, we are in a different place relationship wise than we were prior to that. And I think there's pockets and opportunities like that all the time. I also think we were on our Presidents Club trip in Jamaica three weeks ago and for some people that's a party, and for me, I'm wired a little different, but it was, I don't want to say work sounds bad, but it was an opportunity for me to sincerely look spouses, significant others, guests in the eyes and tell them what their husband, wife, or boyfriend, girlfriend mean to the organization and how much I appreciate them. And it wasn't phony, it's real. Because I know what the opportunity cost is to do a job for 50, 60 hours a week. I have three kids and a family myself. And so I think when you get those opportunities, people shy away from those. Maybe it makes them feel uncomfortable, but I've found that that's really what moves the needle is if people genuinely feel like you care about them and they can sense when it's phony and fake. And I'm all about like what you see is what you get and being transparent.
Devon Reed: I love that man. And I see a pattern between the yoga class to that last conversation you were sharing, because putting yourself out there, it sounds kind of cliche, you know what I mean? And I think having again been in sales, like a lot of sales leaders, I think don't want to be seen as vulnerable. They want to be seen as sometimes like I have to have all the answers or I have to be that guy, that gal to be the know all. And I can only imagine, I'm recently getting into yoga, so I hope to God no one on my team asked me to go with them because I'll embarrass myself. But at the same time, I would definitely want to go for the four mentioned reasons that you shared. It's like, wow, if you're willing to go make time, put yourself out there in a yoga class, and you're the only guy, imagine what that shows when it comes to work what he's willing to do and the lengths you're willing to go. And like you said, that builds a trust that will go beyond just the current role, but probably afterwards too, kind of like that lifelong bond and a trust.
Andrew Metz: Yeah, absolutely. And I think finding those opportunities, you need to seek them out a little bit because you're not naturally going to go there. But there's a confidence level too of being vulnerable and saying, I was doing literally this week with our entry level SMB AEs, I was doing cold call objection handling. And there's three layers of management between us or whatever. And at the end of the day, I'm like," Hey, I'll fail. I'll take a shot." And A, it shows them I'm willing to put myself out there. They should feel comfortable. And B, not to say I'm great, but I've done it a lot. But I also want to showcase not on an ego standpoint, but" Hey, this guy's got some chops and he can help me be a better cold caller." So kind of accomplishes two things. But this business is a contact sport. And when I see the ivory towers, I call it like, you can't sit around and refresh Salesforce all day to see if deals come in. You need to go roll up your sleeves and get in the trenches and find out where you can fix problems and add value. And if you can do that, your team will run hard for you.
Devon Reed: I really liked that part where you had mentioned you'd left your current company because you felt like you had plateaued. I respect following your own advice there. I'm curious as a leader, how do you enable your sales professionals to continue to challenge themselves?
Andrew Metz: I understand what their goals and aspirations are outside of just everyone wants to hit goal and make the Presidents Club trip. But I have a VP that reports to me who has a desire to publicly speak. And I think she has an incredible story. And a couple things I've done for her is I introduced her to the president of TEDx at UW Milwaukee here in the area, which was a connection I had. In addition, I'm carving out time with her where we're talking about LinkedIn content and LinkedIn strategy, which is something I've done a fair amount of over the years. I'm trying to find opportunities to both be an accountability coach outside of work things, but also if I can open some doors or make some connections or share some value, I know my relationship with that individual is going to grow if she achieves her dreams and I can help in some way, shape or form. But I really encourage people to have balance, whether it be other hobbies and things that they're, you know, this whole work hustle, grind, Wolf of Wall Street stuff, I get it. It's romantic and cool in some ways. But the truth is I know I'm a lot better leader when I get to run five miles at lunch like I did today and I blocked out my calendar. Three people were like" Metz, I need you." And I'm like," Sorry, can't. I've committed this time to myself and you get a better form of me." I've also talked pretty candidly through LinkedIn about my own journeys of fitness. I was about 30 pounds heavier four years ago, I ran a full marathon 18 months ago. I quit drinking alcohol two and a half years ago, which is somewhat controversial in the sales space. And I've talked openly about how I've challenged myself and things I've done outside of my own comfort zone and I think it creates a very welcoming environment for people. I always want to be approachable and I want people to be able to come up to me and go," Hey, I just want to run something by you. Here's something I'm thinking." And it's easy to support people, challenge them tactfully, give them things to think about, but that's where the relationship goes well beyond selling user names and passwords. I have so many people that have left the organization that I still have great relationships with and I still do coffee and lunch. And I think once our time together is past when you sell things I get paid and three years after that, we're still friends, that means something to me. It means there's something genuine there beyond just you're my boss, so I'm telling you what you want to hear kind of a thing.
Sheena Bedani: I just love how much humanness is oozing from this conversation. And I saw your LinkedIn profile prior to our conversation and you write a lot about your kids and your family and it's real, you're the real deal and the way that you engage in that way with the folks on your team and your colleagues is so impressive. I think a lot of folks can really learn from that. Speaking of living a balanced life, that's something that you were just speaking about and carving that time out for yourself, how do you make sure that folks on your team are also living a balanced life?
Andrew Metz: I encourage them to take time, take personal days, carve out time to work out. I try to lead by example too. Presidents Clubs a good example of there's wild times, we're at an all inclusive resort. I mentioned I don't drink alcohol so that's part of it. But I also think, how do you carry yourself and a lot of people, a lot of spouses were like," Wow, you run every day." And I'm like," This is who I am." I'm not telling the world through social media something and then I'm not. With the kids thing too, I think that's part of it as well is just being true and honest to who you are. And I think that's a form of confidence. So encouraging people to pursue other things outside of just this because I think it will make them better at this. And I'm also very aware and concerned of burnout. All three of my direct reports I've worked with for nine years plus, which is really unique. One of them I hired nine years ago, the woman I was talking about that I made the TEDx introduction, I hired her as an SMB rep. She's a vice president right now and she reports to me and that relationship is so sacred to me, but she knows I have her best intent and I have a tremendous amount of respect for her and I think she has respect for me and that's what makes it work. But showing time after time that you have people's best interests at heart will build trust with them.
Sheena Bedani: It's telling that Andrew has created such long lasting relationships with his direct reports. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employees between the age of 25 and 34 stayed a company for an average of two and a half years. Today's employees might stick around out of necessity, but they're always looking for something better. And when they find it, they typically leave quickly. That's why it's so important to create a work environment employees love. If you can make them happy, they'll stick around for years. Andrew has clearly cracked a code in making his employees not only stick around, but love their jobs. Here's more on how Andrew focuses on making his employees happy.
Devon Reed: My hunch is like some people might be hearing your story and being inspired, but where do I start with that? I'm curious for you, how did it begin? Was it the first time you blocked, maybe it was a three mile run, I don't know if you jumped right to five.
Andrew Metz: No, it was like a quarter mile run.
Devon Reed: You know what I mean? How did it start for you? And then maybe graduate to now you're head of sales at a large company running five miles for an hour with no guilt, but I would also say with absolute confidence, like this is part of my operating system and you should do the same. Can you help me understand that a little bit more?
Andrew Metz: I've changed a lot in the last five years. The real story on the running was Zywave had a 5k and I thought of myself as a good athlete, I don't want to go Uncle Rico here and talk about some highlights, but you would laugh if you meet me, I'm a small man in stature, but I had a good athletic career in high school. And I thought of myself as an athlete until we did the corporate 5k and I was like on the back half of it with a side ache walking. And I'm like," Man, what happened?" And to me it was just a rock bottom moment to go," Oh man, I've turned into the fat softball dad that drinks beer every night in the Midwest." It was literally I was living an absolute parody of myself. And I think that was the moment where I was actually really pissed off that I thought this is how far I've gone. And that next day I started running. Sales people, we're competitive and you want to be fit. But to me being fit was really, I had two children at the time and you want to be active and doing things. And to me I'm big like lead by example, both as a father, as a sales leader, as a husband, as a person in the community, as someone that wants to be generous and show others what it means to be generous with your time, your talents, your money, whatever. And so for me, it was very gradual and slow, but I'm a pretty committed person once I determine something. I've been with my wife, we're high school sweethearts. We've been together, we'll be married 15 years, but we've been together 25 years and I've been in my same organization, obviously I took a hiatus as I like to say or sabbatical, but for going on 14 years. And to me, it's knowing why you're doing what you're doing. And I could think back to that moment, that emotional moment of walking over the finish line at the 5k going," What have we to come here?" Like, is this what the future is? And that's still a driving force, just like my gratitude is I still imagine myself walking into Zywave as a BDR, just bright eyed, ready to conquer the world, but having no status, no one caring what my title was or who I was or where my cubicle was at the time and all that stuff. And it's easy for me to mentally get into those states and that's more powerful than listening to a song or a motivational speak. To me, it's like the more visceral it is, the more real it is to me, the bigger motivator it's going to be for me.
Sheena Bedani: So we've talked a lot about your unique philosophies around gratitude and challenging yourself and others. What do most sales execs get wrong about leading their teams?
Andrew Metz: Self- awareness. Assuming you have buy- in because you have a title. And I realize I'm in a unique spot, that I'll get side by side with someone and go" Let's talk about a cold call. Let's run a demo. Let's talk through a deal." That's a huge benefit I have and I definitely take advantage of that. But if people are saying something or smirking after you leave the room, you don't have their buy- in. Something I do often, I launched a sales leadership academy at Zywave last week. And one of the things I did, there was 30 sales leaders we invited and I presented, we had another VP present and a guest speaker present and I sent out a survey afterwards. I want to know if people think it's corny. I want to know if people think it sucks. And we got great feedback, which was good. But to me, I'm always trying to keep myself honest, not being like" Great job. You killed it." I want to go," Okay, well, how can we be better?" And so I think where it gets wrong sometimes is people kind of go" Make a hundred phone calls and set these means and do this and do that." And it's like, if they don't respect you, they're not going to run hard. They're not willing to listen or comply. And they're going to go find a new job, especially in this marketplace. To me, it's showing trust, it's showing respect, it's leading with empathy. And once we do all that, now people are going to work hard. I told my boss, the CRO who I report to recently, I'm like," I got really good people. And as long as they're happy and in a good spot, I'm going to look really smart. You're going to think I'm doing a great job." But at some point when you have a big enough team, someone else is doing the heavy lifting. It's that kind of servant leadership where I'm always like," You're my customers." I just said I ran a leadership meeting with my sales team earlier today and I said," This is my VPs and my frontline managers." And I said," Your problems are my problems." And if they feel like I'm in the trenches with them and I'm willing to roll up my sleeves and I'm not too ivory tower than you're going to get buy- in.
Devon Reed: I would love to hear Andrew if you're open to sharing what some of the feedback was that you got from that survey and it could be positive or constructive.
Andrew Metz: The feedback we got was they want tangible, concrete things so we're given real examples. There's a section on balance and working life happen. I did a section on building trust, which is similar to what we're talking about. And then Connie, my VP that I mentioned a few times, she did a section on radical candor and they love the radical candor because what do sales leaders have to do all day? You need to have hard conversations. And she was going through specific examples and how to do those. And I think the biggest thing is trying to connect with a problem I have today and how can I solve it? And if someone had a talk track or framed up something differently after that workshop, then we've been successful. I launched this leadership academy to have a closed door with leaders, not so we could gossip about people, but really so we could have raw and honest conversations. We talked about the trust tree. And I had a slide that said," Where is the trust tree?" And everyone's like," What do you mean where is the trust tree?" And I said," It's where the shit gets real. Okay, we're going to get into it here." And we had really honest conversations and it was different teams that usually don't interact talking about different scenarios they've been in. And it's one of those things where it's important, but not urgent. And we're always go, go, go, go, go. I was on the forecast call at eight in the morning this morning with my CRO and the CEO and they're like," What are we going to be at by Friday at 9: 00 PM?" We forecast every five days and it's very intense, and what deals came in today and where are the meetings at? And we're like any other sales organization, but it was cool to take two days offline just to go, all right, let's talk about some of these things. And the feedback was positive. We got to do it in person too, which people loved.
Devon Reed: I'm wondering how you positioned this leadership academy to your CRO and CEO to basically say," Hey, I'm going to take all of the sales leaders off of the floor for two full days, and we're not going to do sales the way that you're expecting it to be done." I'm curious how you positioned that to say, like you said, I'm taking care of myself on my run to give you my best work. Is it kind of the same thing? I'm taking two days off with a team to make them better when they return?
Andrew Metz: I'm a sales guy so I'm always thinking about what's in it for them? Where's the ROI? And it is hard to justify. Not only was there cost of... We flew in about 20 of the 30 people flew in from around the country, so there's travel time, travel costs, hotels, all that stuff. And my CRO is a thousand percent in line. In fact, him and I have been talking about this as a part of me coming back was" Metz, you're going to own this, going to be your thing," and I love it. And it shows his commitment to the long term relationship building and coaching. But my biggest play and the biggest value we have is we've done open interviews for frontline manager positions and sales reps go and interview and sometimes they get the position, sometimes they don't. And when they don't we go," Sorry, you're not there yet, you don't have the skillset." And then their natural question is," Well, who's going to develop me? Where's the skillset?" I actually had 25 live managers, sales managers as a part of it. And then I invited six others that are top producers, but they're aspiring leaders. And it gives them some insight as to what it's about. It allows me to even evaluate them a little bit and see them interacting and we're coaching them. And to me, the bigger picture is I tell all my sales leaders," I want to give you skill sets that go beyond this organization. I want you to learn something today that you're going to think about 20 years from now when you're the CRO at some other software company," because it's fulfilling for me to feel that way. But if we come with that mentality, people want to stick around and see what other development can I get here? Our sales enablement bootcamp, we have a eight week bootcamp. I tell candidates it's an eight week sales MBA course, like buckle up your chin strap. We're going to mock demo. We're going to grade you. 90% of the people pass, but not everyone does. This is serious, but you're going to learn skills that are transferable outside of this organization. And I think when you come with it from that angle, it's an attractive place to be in because you're being poured into. You're being invested into.
Sheena Bedani: And the proof is in the results. You have folks on your team who have been with you for almost 10 years, so even though you're giving them those skills that can be applied anywhere, it's actually driving retention and developing their skills to continue to progress in the org so that's amazing,
Devon Reed: Andrew, this has been fantastic. If I was in person, I'd find a way to keep you for another hour and keep hanging out and learning from you. But all good things must come to an end. And we like to end these interview is in the same fashion, which is by asking all of our fantastic guests this question, how would you describe sales in one word?
Andrew Metz: Fun. If you're not having fun, you're not doing something right. It's hard work. It's a grind. But I view work, it should be fun. There's a huge opportunity cost to me doing something for 60 hours a week and life moves fast and time flies by and all those cliches is true. And if you're in a career that you don't enjoy, quit.
Sheena Bedani: If you want to continue growing your sales leadership skills, head over to gong. io for more resources. If you like what you heard, give us that five star review on Apple Podcast, Spotify or wherever you listen.
Success in sales is all about the relationships you build, both with your buyers – and your team. Andrew Metz knows the value of building authentic relationships and shares how it’s skyrocketed his career.
Andrew is the VP of Sales at Zywave, a digital insurance agency platform overseeing over 75 sellers. We talk with Andrew about how you can get in the trenches with your sales team – by getting out of your comfort zone, being candid with your teams, and setting an example with your own actions and boundaries.