Love Your Team is a conversation-by-conversation survival guide for sales managers who want to thrive in a world where their top talent can walk out the door without taking a single step. My next guest provides wisdom on how to shift focus from merely hitting sales goals, to putting sellers first.

Welcome back to the Author Hour Podcast. I’m your host, Hussein Al-Baiaty and I’m very excited to be joined by author, Helen Fanucci, to celebrate and talk about the launch of her new book, Love Your Team. Let’s get into it right now.

Well, hello Helen. Thank you so much for joining me today. I’m super excited to learn more about you and your new book but I want to start by giving our listeners an idea of who you are and sort of your personal background.

Helen Fanucci: That sounds great.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Let’s dive in.

Helen Fanucci: Yes, I’d love to. So do you want me to talk about my background right now or how do you like it to work?

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, you can share with me your background, if there’s education, experiences, how you got to this work basically?

Helen Fanucci: So I have an engineering degree. I started my career in high tech for IBM in Silicon Valley as an engineer and about a year into being an engineer, I realized that the action was happening out with customers and instead of being in the backroom making technology, I wanted to be helping customers use technology for business value and so I was able to pivot my career from engineering into marketing and then ultimately, into sales.

So I had been leading teams for over 25 years. I’ve been in sales both in the US as well as in Europe, I’ve led teams remotely. When I say “remote” I always had some of the team members in the office that I went to but other team members might be in other parts of the US or even other parts of the world. So I have a, I guess, long history in high tech and in management and with the world changing the way it is to hybrid work, I thought that I had a story to tell and the way this came about actually is in July of 2021.

I was asked to do a keynote at a conference for sales leaders on the topic of hybrid work and what that means to sales leaders and at that time, if you recall, there was a lot of talk about the great resignation and four and a half million people were leaving their jobs. So I really focused on retaining talent because if you’re a sales manager and you can’t retain your top talent, you’re in big trouble — and I have statistics on that, I’m happy to share as well.

But in that presentation, one of the things I was talking about is, “Okay, how do I capture what I think sales managers must do to retain top talent?” and I thought care for your team, support your team but what was authentic to me was really, love your team. I’ve got to say, I was really nervous to put that as my first bullet on a slide on retaining top talent, “Love your team”.

Because this is a business conference and using the word “love” in a business conference made me uncomfortable but I got such a good reception from the audience and I said, “Yes, you nailed it. That makes a lot of sense.” and then after the presentation, over the next day or two on breaks and things like that, people would ask me, “Well, how do you actually go about loving your team or caring for your team or what do you actually do?”

As I reflected, I realized that the things that I’ve been doing I have developed over 25 years and that clearly, there was an audience for it and I thought, “Okay, I have a book in me and so I’m going to start writing a book.” And that’s how I came to meet Scribe and work with the book coach and that’s kind of how this all came about.

Love Your Team

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Wow, it’s so powerful, and sometimes when we’re asked to bring our wisdom forth, we are uncomfortable because the reality is, like when you said, “Look, this is a business conference” but to say the words “love” and then your team, is interesting because in reality whether we’re working for a business or building a business or we are a business, we use the word “love” quite a bit.

Because if you’re not passionate, being involved in this work, this is going to be more difficult. However, your team is just as important as whatever it is [that] you’re building, if not more important. So developing that relationship is crucial and by using those words, love is such a powerful word around your identity of team is remarkable.

I’m so glad you brought that forth and I’m so glad you brought that sort of knowledge and expertise and you decided to say, “You know what? I do have a book in me. I have something to share that could help people.” So who did you write this book specifically for, would you say?

Helen Fanucci: The audience for the book are sales managers. Sales managers are critical for retaining talent and as we’ve — common knowledge is people tend to leave their managers, not their company and the sales managers can really make or break a company’s opportunity to grow their revenue and business and let me give you a quick example.

Let’s say a top seller has a quota of a million dollars and they leave on the first day of the fiscal year, which is typical of when they would leave, and let’s say it takes three months to replace that seller. That’s $250,000 of quota that wasn’t made because the seller had left the company. Let’s say it takes another six months to have that seller get up to full strength, that’s $500,000.

So that’s $750,000 out of that million dollar quota that’s potentially at risk, not to mention the momentum that seller had, the new business that they might have brought in above and beyond what they were working on, because they’ll be continuing to mine for new business during those nine months.

That is all at risk and what if that seller doesn’t work out because not every seller you hire will work out, then you’re back to ground zero. The sales managers become the pivot point to retaining talent and my book is focused on the 17 critical conversations that sales managers must master in order to retain their top talent.

I think it’s super relevant in today’s world because talent shortage as well as managers getting accustomed to their teams being remote or hybrid and so I talk about that in the book too and strategies for managing teams that cover whether the team’s in the office or remote.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I love that so much because I feel like at every level in sales, especially management, we need help. We need resources and help and I’m so glad that you sort of wove your wisdom together and brought forth this book. I’m really excited.

So tell me about this approach. The love-your-team system, it is powerful and it’s something you’ve been cultivating and developing for some time. Can you share with us what that is and how a team manager can implement that in their work?

Helen Fanucci: Yes, a really great question. So the love-your-team system really is all about the conversations to have with your team, the sellers. Typically, historically, in fact, I’m not sure of any other book like this because historically, all the sales management books are about conversations with customers or closing techniques or how to grow your revenue or cold calling and it’s all customer-focused and this book is literally intended to be a handbook or a survival guide so that a sales manager can look at it and go to the chapter that’s relevant for what they’re tackling with their team.

So let me give you an example. Those 17 conversation chapters are broken into five categories. The first category is called conversations of connection because I think that’s the first thing a manager needs to do when they take on a new team is make sure they’re connecting with their team because it’s their sellers and their team that are the ones that are going to be able to amplify the manager’s success.

So the first chapter and conversations of connection are, how do you introduce yourself to new team? You haven’t hired that team, you got the job as a new manager for an existing team, what are the things that you need to focus on when you have your first team call? I talk about the three slides I put together.

Number one is, who am I, a little bit of a background about myself, kind of what I’ve done career-wise, what I like to do for fun, my family. The second slide is my management philosophy and how I approach management and what they can expect of me. So that slide — and I list in the book what’s on that slide.

For example, people first and team first. Strong culture, deliver results, no surprises. If you have bad news, I want to hear about it upfront and early. I don’t want to have surprises and then the third slide is all about the next time we meet. So it’s my first one-on-one with each of them.

So I lay out in every chapter the same structure and what the structure is, is what a traditional sales manager would do, what a love your team sales manager would do, how to recognize the need for that conversation, how to conduct the conversation, how to know if it worked and then considerations, things to think about.

It’s really focused on a philosophy of empowering the team member’s success and understanding what they care about and helping them achieve their goals because if your sellers are achieving their goals, not only financial goals in achieving quota but career goals, they’ll want to continue working for you and you’ll become what I like to think of as a destination organization.

A sales manager who attracts talent, who wants to come and work for me because my sellers are satisfied and happy working and successful and so that’s really what the book is about.

Trust and Pragmatism

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Helen, I just love your approach and the idea of creating those deep meaningful conversations. It’s like, “Here’s this approach” which is all traditional, whatever may not work for you or serve you anymore “And here is this new philosophy” or this new approach that I think could really help benefit you and your team, specifically your team, which you know, the byproduct of your team doing great is you doing great.

So I love that you really sort of zoomed in on that, helping the team manager in creating and really, what is a good connection? It means good communication, good conversations, healthy ones, ones that may be uncomfortable but then you kind of bring them into that comfort zone, right? After doing them a while, there is a level of trust that starts to build up and I think that is a very rare commodity.

It is a precious metal, right? Trust and patience with your team and your team leader are very crucial in getting those goals, getting those outcomes. So I love that. I love that your approach and kind of creating a philosophy around that. Can you share a little bit about why it’s important to amplify your team’s success?

Helen Fanucci: It’s also really a pragmatic approach. COVID changed the expectations of employees and what they are looking for. They expect flexibility in physically where they work, what hours they work. They want more out of their work-life balance. They want their manager to understand them. That’s all kind of data coming out of the pandemic, the changing expectations of employees.

So this book addresses that because it puts the team at the center and the philosophy also is that you need to set clear performance expectations. This isn’t just all, you know, happiness and roses. If someone is not performing, you’ve also got to address underperformance because you can’t build a high-performing team unless you are setting standards of expectations, setting what I call outcome-based performance expectations.

Because some sales managers had been accustomed to seeing their sellers in the office working and then they know they’re working and there’s this anxiety among some managers, “How do I know my team’s working?” Well, it’s not the activity per se that we should be focusing on, it is the outcome and whether it’s building a pipeline that’s 3x the revenue goal or building stronger executive relationships within your customer.

So I make my focus my team and helping with their success because I know that I can’t be successful unless my sellers are also successful and I know this might surprise people but one element of the system and what I do, I call it servant leadership and if we have a big presentation and the seller needs to make a business case as an example to get investments or a discount, the seller is front and center and I’m in the background.

I ask the seller, “Do you want me to take notes and actions for you so that you can be present in the meeting?” and you know, I always turn my camera off. The seller is front and center and then at the end of the call, it gives me an opportunity to debrief with them. “Did we achieve the objectives? Did we get what we’re asking for? What went well, what didn’t go well.” But it also enables the seller to get more visibility with senior leadership in the company.

So I think that’s kind of an unusual orientation because there is a temptation sometimes for managers to be the one in the spotlight. Well, that is limiting in my view. I think a manager can’t scale themselves and you got to scale through your team. So part of what I also include in the book are the skills required for managers to have to be able to be successful in really connecting with their team.

Like you mentioned a number of them like building trust, strong communication skills, having empathy, those kinds of skills are also outlined in the book. The conversational skills and kind of attributes and principles of the love-your-team system to make this work.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, it’s so powerful because it’s so rounded, right? It’s the idea of focusing on and putting that spotlight on your team and allowing them to grow and that in and of itself means scalability because if they’re successful, they are going to attract more people that want to share in that success or work with them and therefore you attract people who want to be there and there’s nothing better than that, I think, in my opinion.

People who want to be there and are treated well and are respected, they’re set up to succeed and I think the manager’s role is very interesting. It is the idea of not just taking credit, it is basically placing the credit where it needs to be in helping your team grow and I love that you really set up a guide system here for a sales leader to be able to take on what you sort of packaged up in the book and apply it almost directly, which I think is just so powerful.

Writing a book is a huge feat, so congratulations. I mean, it is a huge accomplishment and for all the team managers out there grinding away, what’s your message to them and what’s one thing you would want them to take away from your book?

Helen Fanucci: It’s to focus their energies on their team and that is the core of it. I did the math. It takes about 15% of my time to have regular one-on-ones with each team member. I have gotten the feedback that, “Wow, this takes too much time and energy” to meet with team members on a periodic basis. So I outlined in the book the schedule and what I do and how it works and what happens in those conversations and it is about 15% of my time.

So I don’t quite understand what sales managers are doing if they’re not focused on removing obstacles, helping their team be successful, and supporting the business growth. I would say the one thing would be, focus on your team. Love your team.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yes, that’s so powerful and like you said, the word “love” comes with so much energy and it’s placing that energy in the right places by, I mean, by simply removing an obstacle from your sales team is so huge. You are 100% right. I remember when I owned my own print shop for apparel printing and all those good stuff and I had a team of about two people who made the phone calls and the emails and all that good stuff to generate sales.

We would have a meetup every couple of weeks or so and my whole thing was, “What’s in your way?” You know, what’s in your way? Is it a fear, is it technology? What’s in your way? What creates friction? How can we reduce that? So I don’t know, for some reason, everything you say just deeply resonated with me and I hope people can take away these tips and gems and go pick up this book because I think it’s super crucial in helping people really achieve those sales outcomes by focusing on loving your team.

Helen, I learned so much today. Thank you for sharing your stories and your experiences. Love Your Team: A Survival Guide for Sales Managers in a Hybrid World. Besides checking out the book, where can people find you?

Helen Fanucci: I’m on LinkedIn, that’s the best place. Helen Fanucci on LinkedIn.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Very cool. I love that so much. Thank you again for joining me. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you, your book, and your work. Thank you for putting this out in the world, I know it is much needed and I’m sure it will resonate with so many people. Thanks again for coming on.

Helen Fanucci: Well, thank you for having me.