Clubhouse’s Playbook for Building Sales Teams
Guilds by FirstMark / 04.26.21
Guilds by FirstMark / 04.26.21
Connor Fee is the CRO at Clubhouse.io helping build the Sales, Customer Success, Customer Support and Operations teams. Before Clubhouse, Connor served as the CRO of Clearbit, leading the GTM teams. He joined the FirstMark Guilds to dive into how he thinks about developing knowledge & skills in his front-line Sales and Customer Success teams. (Note: the Clubhouse discussed in this post is the project management Saas tool, not the social audio app.)
Training ≠ Coaching: What the Old Playbook Gets Wrong
The traditional playbook for training front-line teams (Sales & Customer Success) is pretty cut and dry: recommend a selection of classic books (Never Split the Difference, The Psychology of Selling), hold Sales Kickoff sessions (SKOs) with external speakers, have managers run 1:1 call reviews, etc.
While these methods are usually considered tried and true, there are a few challenges that they don’t address:
“Your team needs to practice, because if you’re not practicing with them, they’re practicing on customers.”
A 5-Step Playbook for Developing Knowledge & Skills in Front-Line Employees
1. Start with A Clear Map
The essential foundation for developing knowledge and skills in your front-line teams is outlining exactly what members need to be successful, rather than assuming implied “general Sales skills.” At Clearbit, Connor designed the concept of Skills Trees. A Skills Tree is a visual representation of the skills that a front-line rep must master in order to grow in their role. For example, the Skills Tree for SDRs is divided into “Prospecting Skills” and “Having a Conversation.” Within each category, there are ~10 skills a rep needs to achieve mastery.
2. Focus on Adoption
Once you communicate to the team what skills they need, you have to also give them the tools to master them. For front-line teams, that means practice, practice, practice. For example, the Sales team at Clubhouse has mock call sessions twice a week. The team is broken down into groups of 3 to 5 and each person in a group is given the role of the customer, the salesperson, and the coach. The groups then rotate who plays each role and get the opportunity to practice rapid-fire mock calls.
3. Build Manager Skills
Managers are the main coaches of a front-line team, and there are distinct skills managers need to be able to lead their team successfully. The primary skills a manager needs to hone are the ability to execute an effective 1:1, a team call review, and a practice session. In Connor’s experience, coaching in groups rather than 1:1 is orders of magnitude more effective. At Clubhouse, team members submit calls to the manager every week; the manager then comes to the team meeting with snippets of the calls to review and get group feedback on.
4. Create Comfort & Encourage Engagement
The key to making this practice exercise successful is to make everyone feel comfortable enough in the space to participate. A few tactics Connor uses to encourage engagement:
Level 1: Communicate the skill and explain how it should work
Level 2: Demonstrate the skill during roleplay and other off-call interactions
Level 3: Execute the skill 1–2 times per week with some issues
Level 4: Execute the skill 80% of the time, expected with minor issues
Level 5: Execute the skills 80% of the time, expected with no flaws
Level 6: Teach the skills to others
Level 7: Coach others practice and develop the skills
5. Hire for the System
Once you clearly map the skills needed to be successful on your team, you can build them into the new hire interviewing process. Similar to the Levels Key, Clubhouse scores candidates on levels of mastery for each skill they’re hiring for. The interviewer judges the candidate on their question-based selling, where do they fall on the leveling system, what their existing skills are, and how that maps to the skills needed for the organization.
Bonus Hiring Tip: Testing for Coachability
Another practice Clubhouse uses in the interview process is that they have the candidate run through a mock sales call — but in a slightly unique manner. In order to test for coachability — one of Connor’s most important traits to hire for — the interviewer will provide feedback to the candidate, give them ~30 minutes to incorporate it into their language, and then have the candidate re-do the sales call. The level to which the candidate is able (and more importantly eager to) incorporate the feedback that was given, the more coachable they’ll likely be if hired.