Like many sales professionals, Cody Lamens had no intention of entering into the career after school. After four years playing collegiate football, however, Cody joined a startup tech company as one of the first 10 employees, which gave him unparalleled exposure and experience to the fast-paced sales lifestyle.
“While I wasn’t actively looking to be in sales, I definitely tried to make the most of it,” Cody said. “I started out as an individual contributor, leveraged my knowledge from my time as an athlete to create a niche approach to specific markets, and then slowly but surely built up my own team. This well-rounded background is how I got into sales leadership – and the rest is history.”
Today, as the Head of Sales for TINYpulse, Cody leads a team of empowered and passionate sales reps looking to help companies increase employee engagement and establish a winning company culture. We talked to Cody about the importance of company culture, how sales training can impact culture, and why employee feedback is so important.
We hope you enjoy the following conversation with Cody!
How do you personally define culture?
I think culture is best defined as a family dynamic. It’s about creating an environment where people can find the energy and passion to perform at a high level and then stimulating and maintaining this level of performance over a long period of time. If you can find the right way to do that, you’ll be able to have a high-performing organization with a strong culture as well.
What role does transparency play in building a high-performing team culture?
Actually, our own tool, TINYpulse, is huge when it comes to building this sense of transparency and culture. We’re able to collect and understand employee feedback, which allows us to have an open conversation and dialogue with employees.
Through this, we’re able to get a good pulse on where employees stand within the company and how the company culture is ‘performing’ as a whole, which allows us to be that much more transparent and understanding. Managers can have open conversations that help to uncover what is challenging for both individuals and the team as a whole. Transparency is about finding that point where everyone on the team knows that if they have feedback, they can speak up and share in a safe, open way. Nobody should be afraid of the repercussions from sharing feedback.
What makes the culture at TINYpulse so special and unique?
I think it’s the people that we’re able to work with. When we’re hiring, we look to hire ‘our kind of people’. This is something I stole from the University of Washington football program after Chris Petersen was hired as the head coach. When they are recruiting, they are looking for ‘our kind of players’, I just swapped ‘players’ for ‘people’. Doing so allows us to define success criteria for each role we are hiring which helps to make sure we are not only hiring for skills but for culture fit, too.
It all starts in the interview process and all comes down to, again, transparency and communication. We try to be very clear about our culture and what it takes to be successful at TINYpulse. For example, TINYpulse is a startup and employees who are the best fit have a certain level of scrappiness to them. The interviewing team understands that and knows what they are looking for in a prospective employee. That level of clarity across the interviewing team and transparency with the prospective employee allows us to hire people who will accelerate and improve the TINYpulse culture.
Building a company culture is all about finding people who will be a good fit with our culture and since we prioritize this from the very first interview, we’re able to fill our team with amazing employees. The team and the people are why I love working at TINYpulse. Everyone goes out of their way to support someone who needs help and to collaborate as much as possible. When people come into our office, they always comment on how friendly and open the office space is. We make it a point to make any visitors to the office feel welcome and appreciated.
Why should sales culture be prioritized as a ‘core focus’ rather than a ‘nice touch’?
If you don’t know how to help or support your employees, then you’re really missing out. This can add up over time and become a real problem. If they’re not understood or heard, employees will leave to find a place where they are appreciated. If managers and leaders don’t care about how employees feel, it’s impossible to connect with them on a deeper professional level.
My tip to sales leaders would be that you have to be getting feedback frequently, every week or two weeks at the most. From there you have to be committed to understanding the feedback, taking action, and then communicating the action you’ve taken back to the team. Do it consistently and it will pay you back 10 fold!
What does your sales coaching process look like on a day-to-day basis with your team?
There are a couple of elements here. First, we make it extremely important that every employee has a one-on-one meeting every single week and we value that time as much as possible. It’s a way for management and leadership to support their employees and bring personal issues to the table.
For team-based coaching, we have something called TINYcoaching. One way is with a functional group, such as our sales group, where we review calls, challenges, or blockers that impact the entire team as a whole. We use the Gestalt Language Protocol method and the Johari Window model to better communicate and collaborate as a group. It turns coaching sessions into a safe environment that actively removes any preaching or dictating for more education and discussion.
We also provide TINYcoaching for cross-functional groups. This allows for interdepartmental team building and gives all teams the chance to better understand the issues other teams and departments are facing. These have become so popular that people have started to bring personal challenges and other issues to the team. It’s a testament to the incredibly safe environment of TINYpulse that employees are able to eliminate any fear of judgment and focus on the problems at hand, both personal and professional.
How can people and data come together to create a world-class sales organization?
This goes back to having the right people on the team and being able to understand and interpret how to put these people in the best possible position to be successful. Additionally, Costello has enabled us to drive the data part of this equation. We now have data on our sales process that helps us inform and understand how our sales reps make decisions and how to better guide our prospects towards becoming customers. But we couldn’t do that without the right personnel in place. I’m really big on having the right people in the right position and then using data to inform the decision-making process.
How does your team actively work to put people ahead of processes?
You can have the best process in the world, but if it’s a process that someone doesn’t believe in or can’t actually execute on, then you might as well not even have it at all. It comes down to simplifying these processes and figuring out how to gather actionable employee feedback to position these wants and needs as a foundation to your processes, not as an afterthought.
I say this all the time, but TINYpulse is actually the first tool I’ve ever sold that I’m actually benefiting from. For example, we do a team-wide sales meeting every month and asked employees for feedback via TINYpulse. Our reps were beginning to think the content discussed in these monthly meetings was becoming stale and more of a time suck than a constructive exercise. Asking our reps directly what they want and need has allowed us to make these meetings that much more productive and informative. Without the ability to collect this feedback, we would have missed this opportunity and continued to deliver an uninspired sales meeting which could eventually lead to disengaged employees.
How do you ensure reps are focused on team goals?
Outside of financial compensation and incentives, the team has to clearly understand what the goals are. It’s not just introducing a goal at the beginning of the quarter and never mentioning it again, but a consistent reinforcement of these goals and numbers. Why are these numbers important? What is the team trying to achieve? There needs to be more context and explanation rather than just a ‘here is your number now go hit it’ mentality from leadership. When people understand how their daily contributions impact the entire organization, they feel like they are something bigger than themselves and are more motivated to hit and exceed their goals.
What are some resources and recommendations you have for building a great culture?
One book that I’m currently reading is It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried. The authors are the founders of Basecamp and the book itself does a great job of digging into how businesses and companies are having to adjust and meet the changing expectations of the millennial workforce.
Another concept that I’m trying really hard to focus on right now is the idea that, as a leader, I set the tone for so much with my team. If I’m feeling overwhelmed and I sit down at 9pm blasting emails, I might feel better about my own anxiety, but I’ve just passed this anxiety on to all of these other people I emailed. I’m responsible for this chain of events and for how my employees are feeling and spending time outside of work. I’m trying to make it a point for my employees to have this downtime outside of work because in the long run, if they’re not stressing about work 24 hours a day, they’ll come back to the office more inspired and motivated for the day at hand.
If companies want to start revamping their company culture, a good place to start is to figure out how employees are feeling. Gather this information and really understand what it’s telling you, and then make a commitment to taking action on this insight. Find out how you can actually evangelize and share how you’re using this feedback. This is how true impact is made and how a team culture is built.
Ready to Learn More?
For more information on best practices of great sales leaders, check out the Costello resources below. If you’d like to see Costello in action, request a personalized demo of our real-time sales playbook software.