Marylou Tyler: Women in Sales Talk Productivity
In this series, we delve into the personal and professional dimension of female thought leaders from the world of high tech sales to explore their views on productivity and sales effectiveness.
This week, we connected with Marylou Tyler, renowned author and founder of Strategic Pipeline, a Fortune 1000 outbound sales consulting group. A internationally recognized thought leader and prolific writer, Marylou is the co-author of the #1 Bestsellers Predictable Revenue and Predictable Prospecting.
Marylou, what can you tell us about yourself outside work?
I was born in New York and now I toggle my time between Des Moines, Iowa and Huntington Beach, California. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with family, walking my dogs, and have all types of gardening projects in the works.
How long have you been in sales and why did you choose it as a career?
I’ve been in sales for 35 years. I’d have to say my career chose me. I am trained as a computer engineer (software developer) specializing in operating system and transaction processing programming. A big piece of my job was translating client needs into detailed design specifications for the programming staff with whom I worked.
At the time we were moving clients from analog systems to digital systems. The client-facing roles I was asked to perform eventually moved me into sales support, then into sales when our sales-team was fired because they could not sell the disruptive, technical products my company produced.
What was your first sales job?
My first sales job was selling $500K+ digital telephone equipment. Our products would anchor to 1A2 telephone wires (a 25-pair cable that used to feed multi-line telephones) and transformed companies using analog phones to ones that supported digital voice, RS-232 data terminal protocols via 1MB ethernet connections.
What factors do you think contributed to your success?
My commitment to the process. To the programming protocols of design, measure, analyze, iterate, and improve. I looked at the sales pipeline from an engineering perspective, chunked down the pieces into repeatable tasks, and mechanized those tasks into measurable units that I could continually improve.
Has sales changed in the last 5 years? If so, how?
Yes and no. Yes, more tools and more communication channels. No, because we’re still selling to humans. Human sentiment, emotion, and logic cycles are similar now to what they were 35 years ago when I started in sales.
In your opinion, what are the advantages or disadvantages of being a woman in sales?
Regardless of the role I played, I have always been ‘the woman in’. I was the only woman who graduated out of the College of Engineering – Computer Science at UC Santa Barbara. This was an advantage in terms of getting hired – I was the anomaly. I never felt gender-bias in any of my roles, whether it be engineering or sales.
I know there are inequalities out there, but I have never been subjected to them. I was taught I could achieve anything I set my mind to, and never felt that being a woman held me back.
That being said, we are working hard to bring awareness of opportunities in sales for women. The sales role today is mostly dominated by men. If there is bias, it might be because they don’t feel they are qualified for sales roles, as evidenced by the number of women in marketing vs. sales due to the [seemingly] aggressive nature of the role.
How can sales teams increase their productivity and effectiveness?
Commit to a process. Leverage technology where it makes sense, such as repeatable tasks that do not require your authenticity and human-ness to dominate. At top/middle-of-funnel, where I specialize, the sales process is akin to a high-velocity assembly line. There are places along the line where mechanization makes perfect sense and can speed the cycle time. There are also areas that require specialization, for example hyper-personalized emails. Find where these spots are, measure the effort and effectiveness to mechanize, and then mechanize as much as possible. That is the best way to increase your productivity and maximize your return-on-effort.
Where do sales leaders often fall short?
I often see that best-performing sales executives are pushed into leadership roles and lack certain qualities required for leadership. There is little formal training given or sought out to be a better leader.
A good leader is not necessarily a good sales executive, and vice-versa. Different strengths are required for each role, and one cannot assume that just because you hit your numbers quarter-over-quarter you are going to become an effective leader as well.
What KPIs do you recommend sales leaders track to ensure a highly productive sales team?
The waterfall at top-of-funnel to mid-funnel for conversing with influencers and targeted prospects could look like this:
- # of record yields
- # of meaningful conversations (e.g. conversations which advance you into, or out of, the active pipeline)
- # of high level fit calls (we call them AWAF – Are-We-A-Fit calls – 15 minutes or so in length to check-off your top-level disqualifiers)
- # of scoping calls (disqualification calls made by connecting with point people from the prospect company and determining whether you want to allocate resources to push this to the opportunity phase)
- # of opportunities
Thus the KPIs are:
a) # of records [LEADS]
b) meaningful conversations [MC]
c) conversation types [AWAF, SCOPING]
d) opportunities [OPPS]
These KPIs map out and track only those meaningful sales conversations that advance you within the active pipeline from initial conversation to qualified opportunity, or out of the active pipeline to long-term-followup or do-not-contact.
How do you see artificial intelligence impacting the way sales teams work?
AI will improve the human conversation we have with our prospect. It’s an aide for helping us maximize our return-on-effort in getting the conversation started and continuing the conversation as we advance through the sales pipeline.
What advice would you offer to other women to be successful in sales?
Do not fear this role! There are plenty of opportunities for women in sales. Join women sales groups (e.g. Women Sales Pros – based out of Boston, MA) and find a mentor to help guide you to the role that best fits your personality and the way you like to work.
What does your sales stack look like?
My stack is lean:
- Database for storing & querying records for segmented sales conversations.
- Follow-up software to help manage multiple talk tracks, by segment.
- Simple tracking and measurement.
- Simple reporting tool to chart progress relative to my goals and accentuate hot-spots where improvement is needed.
Of all the tools above, the only one I pay for is the follow-up software. The rest are using standard tools readily available, and at no cost, via the Internet.
Is there a particular female sales leader or influencer you admire? Why?
Yes. I admire the women in sales who work tirelessly to assist other women in joining our ranks. One woman who comes to mind is Lori Richardson – founder of Women Sales Pros.
What publications, sites, podcasts or books about sales do you enjoy?
It seems I have on my shelf or have downloaded every sales book written. Now that colleagues can self-publish, my reading list is extensive. But the books I have on my desk are SPIN Selling, by professor Neil Rackham, my books, and The Ultimate Sales Machine by the late Chet Holmes.
My interests are in podcasts and publications devoted to sales and marketing processes and mindset.
If you weren’t in B2B sales, what would you be doing professionally?
I toggle back-and-forth between sales & market research. I’ve been a market research analyst for over 25 years and still work in the field part-time). If I wasn’t in sales, I’d spend more time programming – specializing in predictive analytics dashboards, data analysis, and reporting.
What should the sales community look out for from you in 2018?
I am spending the majority of my time preparing my sales process improvement knowledge for online courses via my educational website: predictableEDU.com. I teach a college-style, 12-week certification course on Predictable Prospecting for Sales Executives. The class is hands-on with live lectures and full access to me during the 12-weeks.
I am also an adjunct professor teaching sales process to Executive MBA candidates.
About Marylou Tyler
Marylou Tyler is Founder of Strategic Pipeline, a Fortune 1000 outbound sales process improvement consulting group. Her client list includes Apple, Bose, Gartner, Talend, Prudential, UPS, Orkin, AAA and Mastercard.
She’s also the co-author of the #1 Bestseller Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into A Sales Machine With The $100 Million Best Practices Of Salesforce.com. Her latest book, Predictable Prospecting: How to Radically Increase Your Sales B2B Pipeline, is already a worldwide best-seller. In addition, she is the host of the Predictable Prospecting Podcast.
You can connect with Marylou on Linkedin.