June 3

Alex Bartholomaus on Effective Sales Objectives and Key Results


Alex Bartholomaus started People Stretch Solutions, a DC-based management consulting firm, in 2009 to help CEOs scale their organizations.  Alex is a published author and professional speaker on the topics of OKR, Sales Effectiveness, Elite Business Performance and Emotional Intelligence.

Alex began his career at Billington Imports, a family business which he grew from $1MM to $37MM in revenue over a 15 year period before a successful exit in 2009.   Billington was a category leader in South American wines and during his tenure Alex started the Big Tattoo Wines project, donating over $1million to hospice and breast cancer research charities.

[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]

Umar Hameed 0:01
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello everyone! My name is Umar Hameed, I'm your host on the No Limits Selling Podcast where industry leaders share their tips, strategies and advice on how you can become better, stronger, faster. Just before we get started, I've got a question for you, do you have a negative voice inside your head? We all do, right? I'm gonna help you remove that voice and under 30 days guaranteed, not only remove it, but transform it. So instead of the voice that sabotages you, there's one that propels you to much higher levels of performance and success. There's a link in the show notes, click on it to find out more. All right! Let's get started.

Umar Hameed 0:41
Hello everyone. Today I have the pleasure of having my friend Alex Bartholomaus join us today, he is the head honcho at People Stretch. Alex, welcome to the program.

Alex Bartholomaus 0:50
Oh, thank you Umar.

Umar Hameed 0:52
So interesting times that we live in and sales has never been an easy thing to do generally, because a lot of sales has to do with mindset of the salespeople and how they relate with money, how they relate with actually selling because in our society, we have these negative beliefs around both of those things, but probably more troublesome now with the pandemic, thoughts?

Alex Bartholomaus 1:13
Yeah, well, I think one of the things that we've seen, so just to contextualize we've, we've been working in the sales effectiveness space for the last 11 years and we spend a lot of time assessing people. And so we got a chance to look at assessment data going through like, the last time there was financial turmoil in 08 and 09. And so there was this big shift in how people were motivated, where people went from extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation. So as we think about kind of the last great, like shift in the marketplace, and going into the pandemic and what people have been dealing with, I think what you were talking about this notion of self management. And before, people were finding themselves, and this concept of self-formed with self-regulation, it's not a new concept but the pandemic forced people out of their comfort zone. And when people were forced out of their comfort zone, they started to really stress started going up. And all of the things that you mentioned, any self limiting beliefs, were exacerbated because of the level of stress and fatigue that people were going through. And so I think, to me, the pandemic was clear that they needed to work in this area.

Umar Hameed 2:46
One of the things you mentioned, when you started explaining this, is people went from extrinsic to intrinsic. And that's an easy thing to say, but extremely hard to do, because what's living inside sometimes is, "Oh my God, we're gonna die." And so how do you help clients actually tap into that right intrinsic motivation because intrinsic, no one can take that away from you, so how do you guide your clients to do that?

Alex Bartholomaus 3:12
So I think one of the key things around tapping into their intrinsic motivation is first them, helping them have a good understand relationship with money. So, so in sales, historically, there was an assumption that all sales people care about money, and that's not a correct assumption. So I think, what if you're trying to help someone really tap into their intrinsic motivation, they just have to understand what how they feel about money, power, and and where people get to. And this is kind of what we've seen, this is the moment they get to a point that they make enough money, other things start to matter, learning matters, autonomy matters, working with like minded people. I'm not suggesting there's a right equation there, but if you start to see...

Umar Hameed 4:09
It's the right equation for you.

Alex Bartholomaus 4:11
That's correct. That equation is different but intrinsically, those are some things that people care about. The last thing I'll mention, out of that group is purpose and mission, so, you know, you see a lot of great organizations, attracting people, not because they have the best comp plan, but because they have a great mission for their product or their service. And so there are sales people that are very motivated by that.

Umar Hameed 4:38
So if we take a look at, let's say, being a man, there's certain social norms and certain things that we absorb, like a real man, whatever that is for us, and we get the sense of we're supposed to do and how we're supposed to do it. I think the same thing would be true as a sales guy is like, you know, "Hey, money is really important. We need to be driven by money," but they may not be. So how do you get people to let go of what society says or what their sales manager says, because sometimes we buy into that illusion, only to find out later on is like, 'No money wasn't the motivator, it was something else." So how do you get people to realize that you work with people where they kind of go, "Oh, my God, thanks Alex, I had, I had no idea this was going on for me." Can you think of a specific example maybe a past client, you can change the name to something else like Fred diamond?

Alex Bartholomaus 5:32
That's a, that's it, that's a, that's a friend is a friend? And I know...

Umar Hameed 5:36
A mutual friend, yes.

Alex Bartholomaus 5:37
Yes, he's a mutual friend. So let's think about John, and John was, you know, very focused on kind of living in the Washington DC area, I know you're up in Baltimore, but we've seen real estate, and the cost of living is just gone up, I mean,

Umar Hameed 5:59
Um, big time.

Alex Bartholomaus 5:59
it's, it's not nearly as expensive as New York, but it just feels a lot more expensive. And so being in a sales organization, feeling the pressure of making money to keep up with the Jones's. And I think one of the key things, when we work with John not too long ago, is what mattered to John was to be successful but he, what he wanted, it was less about keeping up with the Jones's and it was just more about being able to provide for his family. And I think there's, there's, and that applies, regardless of gender, there's this, this desire that I want to be successful, I want to provide, and that motivates me more than the money itself. Now, obviously, the money can motivate for different reasons but I think in just for multiple conversations, about being able to stay focused, not on the stress, but on the opportunity, that if you do all the things that you need to, the payoff at the end is feeling good that you were able to provide, that you were able to save up for college, that you're able to go on vacation that you wanted to. And that was not things that were frivolous, but were very thoughtful and meaningful.

Umar Hameed 7:28
Absolutely. And Alex, one of the things we were chatting about was before we started recording, was this relationship with the sales and OKR so tell me more about that.

Alex Bartholomaus 7:39
Yeah. So, so, OKR is an acronym for Objectives and Key Results, it's a goal framework. And so go sales, the world of sales and goals, no stranger, but what we found in the world of sales is that most, I would say only about 6% of sales, people have goals written down, and a plan to get there, okay, another 20% might have them written down, but they don't have a plan to get there. So there's kind of top 6%, you know, plan, have them written down plan to get there, the next 20 just have them written down. So Objectives and Key Results is a goal framework where every quarter, you're setting your objectives, and the objectives are, what you're trying to accomplish and why it's important. And so the why something as important as Bakhtiar intrinsic motivation,

Umar Hameed 8:39

Alex Bartholomaus 8:40
So any time you can tap into the why it helps someone, maybe have more near term motivation because financially, there's not always a financial payout, each time you do something positive. But if you connect those positive things, work allows you to connect with your why you're actually doing an amazing job of nurturing your intrinsic motivation, so that's the objective, the O of the OKR. The Key Result is something that's very measurable and so sales is no stranger to having things that are measurable.

Umar Hameed 9:18

Alex Bartholomaus 9:19
The important thing is that after in OKRs, after you set the objective and key result, you actually have to develop the plan to get there every quarter. And you tend to talk about this at a team level, and at a one on one level every week. So all of a sudden, you have this built in accountability, that oftentimes, sales people crave a certain amount of structure and accountability,

Umar Hameed 9:51

Alex Bartholomaus 9:51
and often times they prefer it to be self-directed like give me a program to follow and I'll follow it If you're checking in and keeping me honest, that's kind of work for me a lot. You know, we've seen because of the amount of assessments we do, we've seen a big shift that people want, they put more pressure on themselves, so they don't need or want the sales manager pressuring them, they put enough pressure on themselves. So when we go back to this framework, this framework is helps people understand every quarter their interceptor OKRs, you're going to set those goals, and then they're going to connect to the why and then once they start going into the quarter, every week they're checking in. And then at the very end, they're going to do a retrospective and celebrate all the things that they got right, and they're also going to hopefully, if the leaders have done a good job of creating a safe environment, you're going to be very open and honest to transparent about their losses, and what did they learn, and what are they going to do differently?

Umar Hameed 11:04
Brilliant. So the reason I like that is this is, you know, an old quote comes up, you know, you know, "Success is just a matter of luck, ask any failure." And what you're sharing here is, I can have a good quarter, I can have a bad quarter but if there's no structure around it, it's just a, you go with the tides. And when you have this structure, and you've got somebody not only holding you accountable, but somebody supporting you on that journey, all of a sudden, this becomes the foundation that lets you be free as a salesperson that you can trust in the process to succeed and it takes a lot of stress off rather than if the salesperson is like, "I've got all this stuff I need to monitor," that's not the intention.

Alex Bartholomaus 11:44
Well, I think oftentimes people dread the CRM that, you know, they feel monitored. With OKRs, there's a certain level of monitoring and so when it's discussed at a team level. The interesting thing about that dynamic is that the it's pure accountability, and pure accountability is really healthy because oftentimes, at the beginning of the quarter, you actually communicate to your peers, "Hey, this is what I'm committing, this is what I'm going to commit to for the quarter," so someone is making a public commitment about what they're going to do for the company. And that's very powerful because through the quarter, you actually get encouragement, more encouragement, we've seen by having the constant review of understanding how well are you doing, and, and people, you know, as human beings, we're more in a communal environment, our first intent is to help when people need it. And so to me, I think that's a subtle nuance that I can describe it to you but until you've been in that team meeting, where you see someone getting picked up, or you're the person that's being picked up, it's, it's, it's magic and it's the type of kind of X factor that OKR, objectives and key results brings as a goal framework.

Umar Hameed 13:09
But Alex, the reality, at least from my point of view, is this is that if you went into an organization, and you're a really talented guy, and the culture is not a healthy one, where there's where they use truth, not as a way to bring people together, but as a weapon, you first have to do that shift in the culture that allows people to feel safe and know that my teammate has my back. So how do you ascertain that a culture for an organization is healthy enough to do this? And if it isn't healthy, what do you do to kind of go, go to the CEO and say, "Well, wait a minute, we need to do some fundamental work first?"

Alex Bartholomaus 13:46
Well, so for most organizations are never where they want to be, so let's start there. So, so often times, there's three components that we look at, when we think about culture and if someone's thinking about objectives and key results as a means for helping it improve. The systematic nature of OKRs will help it improve, but first, it means a committed executive stakeholder so the President, the CEO, or maybe the business unit lead needs to be committed, that there will be a period of hard work to work through some of the things that you've said. So first, an executive decision maker needs to be aware that the problem exists and is committed to working through the, the pain and suffering that will be required to work through that challenge. Second, there needs to be a leadership team that is aware. And if a majority of the leadership team is aware and committed, then this, the executive decision maker has reason to believe that it's a worthwhile endeavor. Ideally, you want everyone bought in, but you can't always get done.

Umar Hameed 15:05
So let's pause there just for a minute before you continue, oftentimes, you know, when you go to a leadership team and say, "This is what we're doing," and they say, "Yes, we're committed," and saying, yes, we're committed, and actually, when it comes down to actually doing it are two different things sometimes. So how do you help them stay true to what they, because it's easy to say yes, but actually to do, so how do you support them to actually live up to what they said?

Alex Bartholomaus 15:28
So there's, for OKRs there's, there's a couple of things to consider in the human dynamic of how a commitment breaks down. So in that instant, when everyone agreed to being committed, they have desire, now, did they truly have commitment, we design, we did, define commitment as the people's behavior that supports what they articulated from a desire perspective.

Umar Hameed 15:59

Alex Bartholomaus 16:00
And so there's an important for OKRs, an enablement so they need to spend time getting comfortable with the system. In the absence of systematic rigor, it's hard to adopt any kind of framework, I mean, it's, it's just very real, that...

Umar Hameed 16:19

Alex Bartholomaus 16:19
...that's the dynamic nature takes you have to work through. The next thing is that you have to build in just reinforcement points, so this is traditional change management, because you know, that you're going to have to communicate early and often, you're going to have to reinforce early and often, and you're going to have to plan for resistance management. So we take up that change management approach in order to help us, you know, prepare, and we, the more time that we can allocate through this process, the higher probability of success that we've been able to predict and, and realize,

Umar Hameed 17:02
I think one of your strengths, Alex is this, is when you're almost like a frickin' scientist, so it's very process-driven but then you also have compassion for the people that you're leading. And it's that combination of rigor and compassion really kind of sets you apart from a lot of other consultants out there.

Alex Bartholomaus 17:20
Thank you, I mean, I think that's, I think the, the compassion, and I think there's a certain aspect of, of empathy that I've I've worked on. And I think, when, when we think about empathy in sales, I think often times, not a lot of time is spent, so to me, empathy is powerful at the sales level, the sales management level, and the leadership level. And, and what's important is being able to understand and meet the person where they are because, you know, we're all on a journey, and if we understand that, and and, and if we start from the standpoint, we're on a journey, if we give everyone the benefit of the doubt and when we always remember that we're on the same team, then, then it becomes a lot easier to work through some of the challenges if we go back to your culture example, where the truth has been weaponized. You know, it's easy for an organization to lose its way, because it wants results and I think you just have to be thoughtful, that in order to sustain results, it can't just be about the results.

Umar Hameed 18:37
Absolutely. And one of the questions I asked people, before we end our conversations is, Alex, what's one trick or mind hack that you use to be more productive or get better results that you could share with our viewers and listeners.

Alex Bartholomaus 18:53
So my mind hack that I've been using, for the last roughly two months, has been a dedicated 10 minutes of breathing, because I used to think that I did that much and what I realized is when I actually took a timer, and started timing myself, as opposed to looking at a clock, I could feel the difference. And and so that what that hack does, is it allows me to start every day from a place of calm and I think, you know, the pandemic disrupts every single day. And so if we can't start from a place of calm, I think we're going to, you know, we're going to, we're going to struggle. So to me, that's been the hack that I've seen gotten in the last year, probably the biggest, biggest left, it's been most impactful for me.

Umar Hameed 19:52
Brilliant. I like that timer idea because you know, in the past like, "It's got to been 15 minutes, peek at the clock, only four, damn it," and that distraction gets in the way of you actually calming down, so you can just let that go, it makes it a lot easier.

Alex Bartholomaus 20:07
Absolutely. And there's, there's a lot of great resources out there, but just you know, belly breathing, just being able to work on your diaphragm, and breath holding, those are the variations of breathing in case people are wondering, building your lung capacity. You don't have to be an endurance athlete to benefit from greater lung capacity, it actually helps you sleep better. And one of the key things on self management, sleep has been suffering in the pandemic. And so I'm not sharing anything people don't know, but a lot of people don't think about building lung capacity in order to improve their sleep. And so,

Umar Hameed 20:53
Does not seem like a logical connection but it is. Alex, thank you so much for being on the program, I really really enjoyed our conversation.

Alex Bartholomaus 21:00
Awesome. Thank you Umar.

Umar Hameed 21:06
If you enjoyed this episode, please go to iTunes and leave a five-star rating. And if you're looking for more tools, go to my website at nolimitselling.com. I've got a free mind training course there, that's going to teach you some insights from the world of neuro-linguistic programming and that is the fastest way to get better results.


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