An Interview With Justin Hiatt: Empowering Your Sales Team to Solve Their Own Problems

By: Teresa Weirich

October 15, 2018

Justin Hiatt, VP Digital Sales, Workfront

At Costello, we love highlighting unique points of view and showcasing true innovation in the world around us. When we heard about the creative way Justin Hiatt, VP of Digital Sales at Workfront, was motivating and empowering his team, we knew his story had to be shared.

After graduating pre-law in college, Justin went into sales for the opportunity and ended up staying after he realized his natural ability. After five years in financial services, he joined Oracle, which marked his first foray into technology sales, and he’s been in the industry ever since. Justin joined Workfront, an online work management platform, about a year ago to head the sales development (known as Digital Sales) team.

“Usually, people are happy doing what they’re doing if they’re leveraging their strengths,” Justin said, “and I was lucky to find that in a sales role.”

The strength of sales experience

As Justin grew his sales experience, he transitioned from a quota-bearing sales rep to manager to VP, all the while learning new ways to manage people and inspire teams. One of the biggest surprises along the way? Managing people is not easy. Sales managers must be able to keep their teams engaged and align output to the overarching organizational goals. It’s focusing on the success of a team, but also on the success of individual reps.

As a VP of Digital Sales, knowing the strengths of your team members and being able to delegate tasks is even more critical.

“Sales leaders should be able to trust their team to get things done, and to get them done right,” Justin said. “If you want to do everything yourself, what’s the point of even having a team? It’s all about delegation.”

On top of knowing how to delegate, sales leaders must also be able to work efficiently with the time they have. This means having clear priorities and knowing what needs to be done. Additionally, communication plays a large role in how Justin manages his sales leaders and individual reps. Moving priorities forward means communicating out, up, and over to other department heads, executives, and to your own team.

Empowering team members

With a strong sales background and education, Justin brought a unique approach to problem-solving and team governance to his role at Workfront.

“Coming from Hubspot, one of the most transparent tech companies out there, I wanted to instill a sense of transparency and communication early on at Workfront,” he said. “When people as a whole know where our problems and gaps are, we can solve issues more efficiently, instead of me just standing on a soapbox the whole time.”

This group problem-solving method started with Justin identifying five main ‘focus areas’ in the sales organization: 1) culture, 2) the ability to hire and retain employees, 3) professional development, 4) go-to-market strategy, 5) and the technology stack. With these areas clearly identified, Justin’s employees are able to sign up and ‘volunteer’ for the group they’re most passionate about.

When it comes to problem-solving and dealing with large-scale issues, these groups come up with the answers themselves.

“The happier someone is at work, the harder they’re going to work,” Justin explained. “And the harder they work, the higher they’ll perform. It’s a win/win for all parties involved.”

One of the biggest impacts this new type of group-led decision making has had on the Digital Sales team is the transition to a more targeted, more specific outreach process. Previously, the digital sales program had been a bit staid and ‘vanilla’. There were too many processes and to much managerial focus for the reps to actually be creative and try new things.

Once management and process development fell to the reps themselves, however, the team started performing at a higher level. Now, the Digital Sales team pushes out a new cadence per week of highly targeted, persona-specific emails that are A/B tested and focused on a specific industry.

“Workfront is a pretty agnostic platform that can work with many different industries,” said Justin. “This means we have to have very specific, personalized cadence messaging for prospecting, which is something our reps were able to figure out themselves with this group decision-making process.”

Putting metrics in place

As with any great sales leader today, Justin is data-driven and leverages metrics and insights to make better decisions for his team. Instead of leading with numbers, however, he tries to inspire his reps to hit their quotas by reverse-engineering the sales funnel. This shows business development reps what they need to be doing now to help sales reps a month or two down the road. It’s all about the culture and community as a sales team, even with numbers and comp plans involved.

Further learning opportunities

For sales leaders looking to recreate this unique approach in their own organizations, Justin’s biggest advice is not to recreate the wheel.

“Customize your approach to your unique culture and company,” Justin said. “Replicate what works from what you’ve experienced and work with your internal team to garner support for your program.”

“Sales leaders need buy-in from both their superiors and their employees to make a process like this work,” Justin commented. “This means asking for ideas and input from all sides. Some sales leaders might be surprised at how many creative ideas their employees have. You do not need to incorporate every idea, but giving people the chance to share these ideas is the mark of a great sales Director or VP.”

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    Teresa Weirich

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