Building Trust & Transparency for Sales Team Success with Dr. Nadia Brown

In this episode of the Straight Talk About Sales Podcast, I dive into the importance of trust and transparency when building a successful sales team. Join me, Dr. Nadia Brown, as I share personal experiences and insights on how to create an environment of openness and honesty within your organization.

Go to Show Notes here.

Here’s the transcript:


When building a team, one of the things that really helps set things apart is trust. I was recently working with a team as we were working to equip team members with sales skills in their particular roles. So for this particular organization, we didn’t necessarily go out and hire a sales team. Initially, it was equipping the existing team members with sales skills.        


But as a part of this process and really kind of understanding what questions or concerns people had about this particular shift within the organization and the company culture, we realized that there were some concerns about this shift and some very strong concerns. And so part of the feedback that I provided to the founder was, you’re going to have to look at how you share information and the level of transparency that you have around certain things. Now, it doesn’t mean that you share everything, but I do recognize how a lack of transparency breeds mistrust. And that is one of the last things that you want within your organization, particularly when you have a smaller business, it spreads like a cancer and your company just really can’t withstand that level of drama and mistrust within the organization. And so when you want to look at creating that environment of openness and honesty and really having it flourish within the organization, what are some of the things that you need to consider?        


One think about reminding people of your big vision and your why. Like, why are we making this change? I’m the mom of an now eight year old, and one of the questions I get all the time is why? And when I pause and take a moment to look at things from her point of view, because there are moments in my point of view, I’m like, look, we don’t have time to discuss the why.        


However, to create that trust, to create that sense of openness that I desire for that particular relationship, I do often have to pause and explain my why. My reasoning, so that she can better understand that A. we are on the same team and B. I’m often doing this for your protection, or it just means be a not now. Like, I need us to focus on this so we can get to this. But I realized that when she understands where I’m coming from, a lot of times it quells that sense of I don’t understand and it breathes more cooperation. Now I get she’s eight.        


However, a lot of that also translates over to when we’re working with our teams, like, why are we making this shift? So instead of just bringing in this random team because it feels like randomness to them, because they weren’t part of those conversations, start to explain or share a little more insight into the bigger vision and where you’re wanting to take the organization and invite their participation. I’ve seen similar things even within actual sales teams, where you start to see people respond a certain way. And it dawns on me sometimes it’s like, oh, there is a lack of trust here because there’s a lack of transparency. Not that they don’t trust the person they’re working with, the leadership, but there’s a lack of transparency.        


So they don’t necessarily understand a why or why all certain things are happening and how all the pieces go together. So as a leader, as a founder, one of the decisions that you get to make is at what level of transparency do I want to share certain things within the organization? A few things, that one thing that I definitely recommend is the bigger vision. The bigger vision for where you want to take the company, how you’re taking the company there, and why you’re making certain decisions, particularly when they impact people’s everyday roles. Now, how you share that, you get to decide.        


But I think sometimes that we as founders forget that this is our vision and we sometimes forget to remind the people or continue to share. It’s not a one and done. So choose those periodic times throughout the year where you have a meeting and you share the vision, you share your progress, right? Like you think about those fundraiser goals where they have the big thermometer and they’re tracking how their progress on how they get there. So sales definitely lends itself to that because it’s an easier role to track because there’s revenue.        


Either you have sales or you don’t, right? There’s revenue coming in, there’s dollars. So you can definitely track that. But I think sometimes we have to take a step back and really look at what difference or how much more information might I need to share to just kind of help connect some of the dots. And here’s why this is so important.        


When you do that one, you get people on board. So now they’re not distracted and having these sidebar conversations about what’s really going on, right? Because they know no one’s trying to guess, no one’s trying to fill in the blanks because they are clear on what the vision is, where the organization is going, and how their role impacts or plays a part in accomplishing that. And when you said that create the culture, that this is just how we do things, it does help to bring in a sense of calm, a more sense of peace, and creating more teamwork amongst the team. Another thing is it just really creates this environment where people are now more open to share challenges, concerns, ask questions.        


When we work with teams, and we’ve had leaders that have done this, especially as you’re starting to shift your culture. So if you haven’t had a culture where everyone is kind of involved in the sales process, let me rephrase that, where everyone is now aware of their involvement in the sales process, it does really take some time to help people to embrace this change. The teams where this has worked really well, sometimes smaller teams. So I worked with a team a few years ago, and I don’t know if it was the fact that they all worked in an office together, so they weren’t all virtual, so that probably definitely helped. But one of the things that happened is as we were working through this process and really helping people understand how they fit in this, we had people to begin one.        


We had people that were like, wait, we do that. So that was funny. It was like, you guys all work here together. Did you not know? But no, they didn’t know because that wasn’t a topic of conversation.        


Like, people were kind of just focused on their role and then their little silos. But the other thing is, people started to actually raise their hands when they understood what we were attempting to do and why the founder was wanting to make this shift. People were like, oh, I can help with that, or, I want to learn more about that, or, that makes total sense. I get that. And so you then had this team that instead of being overly resistant to the shift, who were excited, they were excited, they were ready, they were volunteering.        


They were like, teach me what I need to know so that I can be a support to where it is that we are going. Right? And so that founder, I recently had a chance to catch up with her several years later. She’s like, Nadia, I’m not even involved in sales very rarely. And this is a thing to note for this particular organization, she really didn’t create a formal sales team like her actual team,        


In their everyday roles, they get how they impact sales and they know what they need to do and how to do it in order to move those things forward while maintaining relationships with clients. So no one ever feels sold because they’re focused on relationship and because there’s a culture of sales and everyone understands how their individual roles impact sales, it just drives things forward. And so as you think about your organization, whether you decide, you know what, I do really want to build a separate sales team, and that’s their only focus is really working with our clients and generating revenue, great. And you could also decide, you know what? Over here we have a great team.        


People are excited, they get it. And I can see how we can all work together and create that culture of sales either way, being transparent, sometimes being vulnerable. So we have a vision, we have a goal, we set it out there, and it’s like, okay, here we go, right? And sometimes it doesn’t work, right? It just doesn’t happen.        


There could be a lot of different reasons why. And sometimes as founders, we just kind of like, sweep that under the rug. I don’t want to talk about it, but I think it’s important that whether we win or lose that we have those transparent conversations and we invite feedback. I think sometimes there’s pressure to feel like we need to know everything and we don’t.        


And ideas and feedback and input from other team members because they have different vantage points of what’s going on within the business. Right. That it really does help everyone understand what shifts might need to take place, how we might make this better, should we continue down this path. And there’s a shared sense of ownership in different projects and making things happen to help achieve certain goals within the organization. And that is the power of being transparent, to really build this sense of trust.        


Trust me, I’ve gone into organizations and you can tell when people trust leadership and when they don’t, and when there’s a sense of trust and there’s a sense of camaraderie and there’s a sense of shared ownership and people are excited about the vision, things happen much differently than when there is not. And it’s not that you can’t achieve your goals, but the journey to get there is just a lot harder when you don’t have that shared sense of trust. So here are a couple of things that you can begin to do to really lay that foundation. The first thing is I really want you to get clear on your vision.        


We’re now at the end of a calendar year and we’re looking at going into the new year. So many of us have started looking at what are the goals for next year, how are we going to achieve them, what are those sales or revenue numbers or number of clients or whatever you’re looking at. And so taking time, whether it’s at the end of the year or the beginning of the year, to share that with the entire organization and when possible, to really break down how your role here’s, how you, Nadia, in your role, whether you’re in sales role, formal or not, impacts and plays a part in us getting here. And then what are those milestones and what are those check-ins as you’re sharing progress throughout the year? So we don’t want to set this big vision and set these goals at the beginning of the year and then no one hears from you until the end of the year.        


And you’re like, we didn’t hit our goal right. So you have to look at what is your communication plan? So that would be number two. What is your plan for having clear and consistent communication? It doesn’t mean that you always need to have a big meeting, but if you have a smaller team, it may help to have that conversation, or especially anytime we can get people in person.        


It makes a difference. I know we are doing our zoom and it does make the world smaller and it’s more convenient. But there is something about the power of being in person. So anytime you can make that happen, I strongly encourage you to do. So the other thing, number three is to embrace vulnerability.        


Earlier I talked about how you set a goal. Did you get it? Did you not? And sometimes when we don’t get it, I don’t necessarily want to talk about it, but I think it’s important that you do share. So we don’t just share the highs and the wins.        


We also share in the losses. And again, invite people’s feedback, invite people’s questions because you just never know who might have an information or who might ask that one question that’s like, oh, that’s it. And it just really sparks conversation and brainstorming that really begins to shift things. And then the final thing is equip your team with the tools and the data they need to excel. So this goes back to looking at your training process, your SOPs, what systems you have in place, what tools does the team need to be successful, what things do you need to really look at in terms of sharing communication?        


So again, if you haven’t already completed your end of year reviews, your sit downs with people, then ask what type of training, what type of skills would you want to gain in the coming year or coming years? But then also looking at the role like, what do you need in order to be successful? This is really key when we start asking people to expand their roles. Like, you know, that whole thing around quiet hiring, right? When we are asking them to do that, we also need to make sure we’re equipping them to be successful.        


Otherwise we are just setting them up for failure. And that is not what we want to create within the organization. So what tools do you need? What systems might you need to put in place? How often do you need to check in so that you can put together your training budget for the year to make sure that everyone has what they need?        


And sometimes it’s really simple. One team that I was working with, simply, all they really needed was a list of what the offers were and what the investments were. Like they just didn’t know. They didn’t know what they didn’t know. They didn’t know that it was more going on and they wanted to be a part.        


So they were like, I just need to know what it is that we are offering and how in my particular role I can engage. That was it. It wasn’t this massive thing that needed to happen. So sometimes what they need and the tools they need are so simple and other times, obviously, it’s a little more complicated and complex and expensive. But then having that conversation, if it’s an expense, you’re like, oh, okay, we gotta figure this out, then say that right, don’t start being all weird about it.        


Like, okay, let’s figure this out. Let me circle back with you. Give them a deadline or time frame when you will revisit this particular conversation and then see what you can do in the meantime to make it a win-win so that they can still feel confident in what you’re asking them to do. And you can still feel confident in them being able to deliver on what it is that you’re asking them to do. So as you’re looking at your company culture, as you’re planning for the new year, I want you to really look at how well am I communicating the vision?        


How well am I creating a sense of trust within the organization, within my sales team, and what changes might I need to make in order to make it better for the coming years? Trust me. Not being transparent, not sharing certain information. You don’t have to share everything, so that’s why you want to share. Figure out within what parameters do you want to share?        


Figure it out and then begin to share. Share consistently. Share openly. Share the wins, share the losses to help create that sense of shared ownership, teamwork, trust, honesty, openness. It may feel impossible, but it is not.        


It just takes some work. And depending on what’s currently going on within your organization, it’s not going to be an overnight thing. Some teams I’ve worked with have been fairly quick. Other teams have taken time. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible.        


It just means that you just need to assess where you are, I am where I am, this is where we are. And commit. Start from there and continue to do the work. All right?        


All right. I look forward to seeing how you’re sharing, building trust within the organization and how you are creating those levels of transparency. I’m Dr. Nadia. I look forward to seeing you soon on another episode of Straight Talk About Sales. Take care.