October 7

Channing Ferrer on Building Strong Teams


Channing is a proven Go To Market leader, an early stage investor, and an advisor to scaling businesses. He has extensive experience developing and growing international teams, implementing processes & systems across global technology companies.

He has experience across both start-up and mature organizations. Developed inside sales and field sales teams and processes for multiple Saas companies. He effectively evolved processes to see consistent double-digit year over year growth, which resulted in market leading revenue growth. Built global sales teams through hiring and a defined personnel development plan. Designed international growth strategies that consistently overachieved by up to 200% of desired results.

Channing currently works for Hubspot, a fast growing SaaS company that is transforming the way companies grow through a unified CRM, marketing and customer servicing solution. The company has been awarded the Best Places to Work over multiple years. Channing has a passion for developing high performing teams that lead to career growth and individual over-achievement. If you're interested in joining a fast-paced and dynamic environment please contact me!

Specialties: entrepreneurial manager, global sales leader, startup and scale-up experience, sales strategy, sales operations and planning, sales enablement, inside sales


Contact Channing:

[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 limit 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 0:42
Hello, everybody. Today, I'm really excited to be chatting with Channing Ferrer, he's with HubSpot. He's the VP of Ops and Strategy, and oftentimes, both of those things don't go together. Channing, welcome to the show.

Channing Ferrer 0:56
Thanks. Thanks for having me.

Umar Hameed 0:58
So it's kind of interesting, right strategy, what's your definition of strategy? Because I think there's so much confusion out there on what is strategy? What are tactics? If you can define both of those for me, please?

Unknown Speaker 1:07
Yeah, sure. So I'd say very simply put, strategy is a set of choices. And I think a strategy team ultimately helps you to make those choices. So as we think of strategy, I actually think strategy and operations are different things, there's overlap. But they are fundamentally different things, because of that set of choices, the Strategy Team need to help to define those choices and understand the the different factors within those choices and operations, again, is a little different.

Umar Hameed 1:38
Yeah, it's kind of interesting, because in my world, strategy is very much you know, what is the purpose of the organization? What is the overall thing that we're trying to achieve? And this is the most elegant way to achieve it? And then tactics are, "What are the things that we do to get the results that we want?" And how does that relate to your definition? Because you're going very specific to your organization, and what you do in strategy and ops choices? How did the two relate or support each other?

Channing Ferrer 2:07
Yeah, so strategy is ultimately how do we, where do we want to go? And how are we going to get there. And again, those are the choices that we're making. So when we think of strategy, we're ultimately trying to define that end state first, and then we'll, we'll build a roadmap, build a path for how we get there. And that path usually has a variety of choices, decisions that need to be made. So strategy helps us to make those decisions. And we usually think of strategies starting with a strategy. And that strategy evolves over time, as well, because as you're making those choices, you're testing different elements and factors. So strategy as a whole, the concept is, again, 'Where's the direction we're gonna go? How do we get there?" but I do think it's really important to understand strategy needs to evolve, ebb and flow, it doesn't always necessarily stay on a straight line to get to that end state.

Umar Hameed 2:54
I think one of the great philosophers, Mike Tyson said, you know, "Everyone's got a plan to get punched in the mouth."

Channing Ferrer 2:59

Umar Hameed 2:59
And so we have the strategy, and we need to be able to adapt it to the current situations on the ground.

Channing Ferrer 3:06
Exactly. And that's, I mean, you look at a sales rep will say the same thing. I love that Mike Tyson quote, it's one of the few times I think I ever quote Mike Tyson. But I love it. Because when when your sales rep and you get onto a discovery call, it's kind of the same situation, you've got a game plan, you know, all the things you think you're going to ask, and then all of a sudden, a curveballs thrown at you. And you've got to be able to react and adapt. And again, that's the same concept of strategy.

Umar Hameed 3:28
Brilliant. So tell me about don't name names, unless they embarrassed, no, don't name names. Tell me about one of your clients, a HubSpot client that had a particular strategy that they were using that was not as effective as it could have been. And then they started interacting with you and your team, and you guys help them evolve the strategy and get better results. Can you think of a client like that?

Channing Ferrer 3:52
Yeah, I mean, I'd say a lot of our a lot of our clients actually fit into that exact example that you're talking about where they think they have a strategy, they think they have a game plan. And ultimately, the end goal is usually fairly consistent. It's to increase lead flow, improve rep efficiency, improve the output of the overall kind of go to market engine. And often what we'll find is, is companies don't really know how to make that happen very effectively, or at least the strategy and approach that they're taking isn't the most effective, effective approach. So there's a company on working with even now where, you know, their approach to creating demand isn't really working all that well. And as we've started to kind of dig in and explore, what we're realizing is the value messaging isn't isn't really there. So we need to help them kind of think through how do they build up that value prop that value messaging, and then how can they articulate that through the various channels that they have inclusive of their sales team. So there's the marketing element, but also the sales element to that now our job isn't necessary to build the value prop but it was to help identify where the problems were and from there They get that value prop and value messaging, right? Then they can understand how to articulate that to that ideal customer profile. How does the sales rep work most effectively, or the sales team even work most effectively with that ideal customer profile? to, you know, to bring them on board as a customer?

Umar Hameed 5:17
So Kenny, let's take a backup a little bit here. So this company, did they realize that their strategy wasn't working, when they came across you guys? Or did they think it was working and you just show them what the possibilities could be?

Channing Ferrer 5:32
Yeah, they knew they were they were struggling, they knew they were struggling. And it was really more market-oriented, they had a great value message down market, they were struggling with kind of how do they go to market more up market into the enterprise segment. And what they what they're struggling to do is really to identify where the gaps were, what was working and what wasn't working. And they're looking kind of more for a data-driven approach to understanding those gaps. So again, what we were able to do is work with them to better analyze what's working and what's not working, and then run some experiments and test. And ultimately, you know, tools, software kind of helps you in those sorts of ways. And then they could kind of refine that, that go to market messaging that value messaging, and really improve how they were selling up market.

Umar Hameed 6:20
Brilliant, and I like that, you know, experiment and test because we don't know, we need to actually get it tested in the real world, so that's cool. So, Jenny, have you ever heard this expression? You know, "When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail?"

Channing Ferrer 6:36
Yeah, I think I've heard it here and there. I've never used it myself, but yeah.

Umar Hameed 6:39
So you've got, how large is your sales team? and support team?

Channing Ferrer 6:43
Yeah, we don't publish numbers but it's it's a pretty big, pretty big group, I mean, we're doing over over a billion dollars in revenue these days. So and really nearly all of that flows to our sales and support team.

Umar Hameed 6:55
So brilliant. So how do you help your reps listen to what's happening with the client? Because it's so easy for them to go, "Oh, I know how to solve this and this is, you know, we all do it." So how do you get them to actually have the patience and the skill to really dig down and see what the real issue is that they can provide a solution? What does that look like, for you training your staff?

Channing Ferrer 7:19
Yeah, so I'll start on the sales side and then I'll extrapolate this into how we think about from a customer success perspective as well. The first thing that we do within the sales org is we actually really want our sales team to understand our product. So before we even start trying to understand the customer problems, um, and how to do that discovery, we spend the first two weeks of every every sales rep joins, they spend the first two weeks learning product, and they they build components. They use HubSpot really to build different things within the product, they'll build workflows, they'll build websites, they'll do different things like that, so they can understand the day to day life of one of our customers. And then we'll also teach them a bit more about kind of marketing and sales and CRM and ops and, and success even. So they understand a little more of that business life of the customer. So they do that for the first few weeks. And then coming out of those first few weeks of fundamental training, then they'll begin to get into right now how do I find and understand the problems that people are having, but by understanding the day to day life and understanding the software that helps them to really hone in on what questions to ask. So I think that's one of the frankly, one of the advantages that that we've been able to build up at HubSpot is our our reps are very knowledgeable on our product. And from there, it leads into, again, understanding the questions they need to ask. So we focus a lot on discovery in the weeks following that the upfront fundamental product training,

Umar Hameed 8:47

Channing Ferrer 8:48
and discovery is all about asking good questions. So we take them through scenarios and how best to ask those questions. Learning again, we have various products, we have our marketing products, or sales product, and so on. So kind of looking at it from from different angles on from a product perspective.

Umar Hameed 9:05
So one of the challenges is being a leader is when you see someone on your staff that you know, could be doing so much better than might be doing a really good job, but you can see greatness there and the rep themselves can't see that in themselves. Can you think of an example of someone in your organization that you could clearly see that could do better and how you help them not only see it, but to actually execute upon it?

Channing Ferrer 9:33
Yeah, yeah, I'll say I'm, I'm actually going to use an example of a non rep for a moment here.

Umar Hameed 9:40

Channing Ferrer 9:40
The learnings are probably fairly applicable across rep the non rep and again, I run a mixed team of ops and strategy as well. Yep, yep, exactly. So there's, there's this big human element to you know how to be successful and, and I'd say just there's a fundamental belief that I have is really success breeds success. So if you are successful, you'll have people around you successful, you'll believe that you're going to be more successful and you will be more successful as well. But that first step is, is seeing success and feeling it. And then that, you know, again, build your confidence and you can grow from there. So there's one individual was spread too thin, and they had a lot of skills, they were very, very strong contributor, but they're spread too thin, and it was leading to extreme amount of burnout. So to the point where their key stakeholders were not really appreciating the work they were doing, because they were kind of surface level, it was surface level work, because it was too he, he or she was spread too, too thinly. So what we did was we narrowed down the focus, we said, "Let's really focus in on just these, these (garbled) tasks, and really, really pulled some of the other work off of this person's plate. And in doing that, and focusing on those tasks and pulling it off. And it was hard at first, because at first that this individual felt like it was a step backwards, you know, they had less of a remit, they were being some stuff was being taken away from them.

Umar Hameed 11:03
So pause right there just for a moment if I may. Since kind of human beings are meaning-making machines, and when stuff happens, we need to make meaning out of it and our mindset determines that meaning. And you are helping this rep with the best of intention to help them succeed, and they were making the meaning of, "Hey, wait a minute, I'm being demoted or," so how did you get them to cross that, that chasm to kind of see it like, "Hey, wait a minute, we're going to help you be frickin awesome."

Channing Ferrer 11:30
Yeah, yeah, it was hard. It was a lot of conversations. It really was it was a lot of one on one conversations, we'd have them nearly daily, actually, at one point, where we talk about prioritization, we talked about how the, you know, this carve out of some of the work, what it meant for for them being successful and the remaining work, and that's where the conversations would would focus. I, of course, can frame all this up, but then when you're living through it, it does feel bad as a human to feel like...

Umar Hameed 11:56

Channing Ferrer 11:56
...you're on less. So, but again, the goal was to get through this change curve, and often things change is a curve. And whenever you go through a change curve, you start with a negative, you move yourself down to the bottom of the curve fairly quickly, and then you have to dig out of that curve. So acknowledging that we're going to be sitting in this trough for a little bit of time was important, and acknowledging that it was difficult, but then beginning to see those winds. And that was what was helpful to dig out of that trough. If you can't see the winds, you stay in that trough for a long period of time, so we had to begin to see small wins. And that's what we focused a lot on upfront, was just a really little wins, and those little wins lead to more wins. And this comes back to success breeds success. As you begin to get wins, you begin to build momentum. And that helped this individual dig out of the trough. And I think the same concept works so well with a sales rep, if the if a sales rep is struggling, yy approach, often working with them is saying, "Let's find those little wins." Let's that win doesn't even need to be a closed deal. It can be a meeting, it could be a conversation that goes well. But once you begin to get those little wins, you got to build on those wins, and build up momentum to dig out of that trough.

Umar Hameed 13:02
Yeah, it's all about mindset. Many years ago, my sister was telling me about one of her clients, she worked in retail, and they had gone to China to adopt a little girl. And of course, it took several months to do that. And when they came back to the store, you know, they were going to introduce this little girl to my sister. And this girl threw her arms out wide and said, "Hi, I'm adopted," like, this is the best thing in the world, and the, and other people, of course, "Hi, I'm adopted." And so how do you help your sales team as a collective, keep a positive mindset, because if they've got a positive mindset, those little losses are not as impactful. And we can also really savor those wins, little ones and big ones.

Channing Ferrer 13:48
Yeah, I'd say one of the first things we do, this is, it's pretty unique to HubSpot, but I'm (garbled) to become a big fan of it, I was a little concerned about it when I first joined, is we actually assume over performance in our plan, we assume our reps need to be over 100% for us to hit our overall annual number. And any finance person that is listening here is gonna say, "Wait a minute, that's backwards, what what's going on?" because typically, a sales plan assumes reps are at 80%-85% or so. Now, we're going to assume attainment and for that matter, sometimes even over attainment. And what that means is that our reps are hitting their number and you have a much higher percentage of your reps sitting over at 90-100%. And they builds their confidence and they see that success and then they get to the accelerators and they see more success and the reps around them say, "Wait a minute, I want to be like that person, how do I get there." But again, it's a very simple concept and it's a little scary at first because ultimately plans usually are built the other way. But it really has led to I think it's been one of the key drivers to leading to our success overall. So I think that's probably one of the first core tenants we have that helps, helps in this area.

Umar Hameed 15:00
So let me share an idea with you and let's equate it back to what you just described, which is totally brilliant. What's interesting is if you have a C-student in an advanced class, if they go down to a regular class, they should, you know, deliver better results. But what's kind of interesting is, a lot of students still deliver the same grade in the lower class, because at some level, they're trying to fit into the class, "Where do I fit into this class? Because that's where I feel comfortable." And if they go from an average class to an advanced class that will up their game to stay at that C or B level, and not fall below. Any thoughts on that? That idea?

Channing Ferrer 15:40
Yeah, I mean, I think I could apply something similar, similar here is to my attainment point of view, which is, I want to be the middle group, I want to be in the middle of the pack, maybe four. And, um, I don't want to be in the bottom quartile, but I'm okay. And maybe if I'm not in the top quartile, and some reps, typically reps actually often want to be in the top quartile. But I think at a minimum kind of being in the in the middle of the pack is is important to reps. And that middle of the pack means you have to be at 105%, then, okay, I've got to be 105% to be in the middle of the pack. And then again, I think often there's an element in sales of competition that drives reps to be even well above that. One of the things we find with our sales team is they're, they're maniacal and looking at one another stats, and it's not that uncommon reps,

Umar Hameed 16:30

Channing Ferrer 16:30
the reps are doing. But we provide a ton of visibility there, because what we find is they learn a lot, they it creates a little sense of competition, even if you're not intending to do so, it does. But they learned so much from one another and they see where that middle of the pack is they see what those top performers are doing. And then they begin to replicate that because they, they see the potential upside in it. So it's one of the best reports that we have, we used to call it the Rat Pack, we've kind of changed around the naming of it. But it's, it's still the same concept, it shows you all the key metrics per rep and you can go through and and identify what's working and what's not working. Along with you can see who's attaining and who's not attaining. So I do think I it's an interesting concept that people will kind of keep themselves at the middle level, I think that makes sense but if you raise that bar up to say that middle level is fairly high, then I think you see people continue to perform at a high level.

Umar Hameed 17:23
Absolutely. And the same thing is true, if you've got someone that's a top performer, and that's where they their self-worth is I need to be in the top 10% if you raise that bar up, they're going to be in that top 10% it's almost like a compulsion to do so, which...

Channing Ferrer 17:37

Umar Hameed 17:37
...is pretty brilliant.

Channing Ferrer 17:39
Right. Right, exactly. I mean, you know, as I'm sure you know, Dan Pink, and his, you know, he's got his his intrinsic drivers that he's talked about autonomy, purpose and mastery. And this idea of mastery, I think plays so well into the sales, sales world where reps and people around sales in general really want to master the skill set that they have. So as long as they have the autonomy, which sales ultimately gives you a lot of autonomy.

Umar Hameed 18:05

Channing Ferrer 18:06
Is, is a core to I think driving performance.

Umar Hameed 18:10
Brilliant. So Channing, Channing is talking to me right now is probably way cooler than the challening that was there five years ago. (garbled)

Channing Ferrer 18:20
Yeah, I don't think I was ever all that exciting, or cool, but

Umar Hameed 18:24
So what's one of the things that you've learned? And tell me about one of the places where you may have like, screwed up or not done it well and that was a learning lesson that allowed you to just get better at what you do. Do you have one of those things where, "Oh, yeah, two years ago, I was doing this and this is what I figured out and now," do you have one of those lessons you could share with our audience?

Channing Ferrer 18:46
Yeah, I mean, I will say the only way to learn is to fall and get back up, you learn from that. So I've got plenty of examples of where I've made mistakes and gone wrong. And the key is learning from those mistakes. I'll just take a quick side note on this, I love to ski. And whenever I bring my kids out, or my wife skiing, my wife doesn't love this as much as my kids do. But I tell them, you got to fall a little bit because that's what's gonna make you better when you ski. So push yourself, you know, try this this area, try this run and it's okay if you slide out and fall, because that's how you learn how to get better. And again, I think that's been how I've learned over the years at HubSpot and beyond that. One of the I think a couple things, let me try one good example,I'd say this is a great lesson for any leader is when to take action, when you have someone who's struggling underneath you, and what sort of action to take. And I've had a couple examples where I have been too slow to take action. And that doesn't mean you need to fire someone by the way. Just i think that's that's often people think take action means firing, it doesn't. it just means you need to rethink the role, rethink kind of what that person is responsible for, understand their skill set, and maybe make some changes. So I've had a couple scenarios where I've been a little slow and taking action and it's a lead to indecision. And that indecision has slowed us down as a business. So I think you know, one of my key takeaways is always is, is often my action is not to get rid of something that's my first reaction is definitely this person is good, they've been here for a while, let me see what I can do to repurpose rechange, reorient the person so that they can be successful, but also, so we're not slowing down on taking actions ourselves to move, move something forward. So I think that there's a couple examples I can think of there, I'll give one other one with some more tactical examples. We run experiments, and I'd say one simple thing that I learned is, we used to go experiment to roll out. I actually learned you need to go experiment, pilot and rollout. And an experiment, by the way, and this is a key nuance and experiments different than a pilot, because an experiment is you're kind of testing something in a very simple, lightweight way, maybe one person doing one AB test on a certain topic or rep kind...

Umar Hameed 20:58

Channing Ferrer 20:58
...of a little different, it's a very simple little test. And that experiment could be successful. Great. So we have one rep that's done as well. Alright, now let's roll it out to our 100 reps, no, you have to go the next phase, which is pilot with a subset of people that's big enough for a geo, or region or segment or something, you know, that's sizable enough that you can really understand the impact and understand how it's going to impact your customers how it's gonna impact reps, the change in behavior, one person is just an experiment but a cohort is a pilot. So grabbing a large enough cohort to pilot something allows you to learn from it and roll it out more effectively. And we've had a couple examples where we used to go experiment rollout, and now the pilot has been probably one of the bigger learnings is always go to pilot first.

Umar Hameed 20:58
Brilliant. So Channing, before we part company, a couple of things, what is one mind hack that you would like to share with our audience that helps you be more effective or happier?

Channing Ferrer 21:53
So I'll tell you, I think this has been a COVID one for me. And we've all learned a lot and COVID. One of the things that I've found for me is I need to go for a walk every day, and have been very purposeful, say 95% of the days there's, there's a small 5% up here in New England where it's too cold and snowy and rainy.

Umar Hameed 22:14

Channing Ferrer 22:14
It's a walk inside, not outside, but I need to go for a walk outside. And it really clears my mind going for that walk. And I've read about this through mindfulness and other things, but it's just the idea of step back for just you know, 20 minutes, even throughout the day, some people even take naps when you can. But that idea of step away in the middle of the day actually helps you be so much more productive throughout the day. And if I don't do it, I just kind of get to this foggy slow mode that ultimately I lose a lot of productivity. So I think that's probably been one of my bigger learnings from COVID and more recently, in general.

Umar Hameed 22:48
So my area of expertise is changing human behavior, you know, how we figure out where people are stuck and get them stuck really, really quickly to get them to do better. So I was doing a keynote speech in Rio de Janeiro. And when I've spoken in foreign countries is pretty much me on stage, and somebody's in a booth at the back of the auditorium simultaneously translating so anybody that needs a translation has ear but to hear me. I go to Rio and they've got somebody with a mic standing next to people. Basically, the person says something and then they translate, which means that my presentation was going to go from an hour to half an hour. And so I had to like scramble to change what I was doing. But one of the things I was talking about is, I take my clients in nature, often to to do change work. And I was saying, you know what's interesting is what animals show up as I'm doing this change. And I was working with this guy who had a mental block around creativity all of a sudden, like, and so as we were creating that change right behind him, this puppy came up was frolicking around like a Disney dog and was like, he's trying to find creativity and this dog was just showing up out of nowhere. So oftentimes, when you go out for a walk, and you pay attention to what you're seeing, what animals or birds or what you have notice, sometimes gives you an insight on whatever problem you're working on, that you wouldn't have gotten if you stayed doggedly hard working at your desk. Have you ever had one of those where something came up or an idea on on one of your walks?

Channing Ferrer 24:17
Um, you know, I gotta say when I'm going for a walk, I actually walk in the woods, I've got a nice trail behind my house.

Umar Hameed 24:24

Channing Ferrer 24:25
The whole walk is pretty much in the woods and I'll bring my dog with me and, and usually, you know, there's birds and stuff around which is kind of nice to look at. I can't say there's one individual thing but there's a ton of little things that pop into my head. And often I'll have my phone with me and just begin jotting down ideas as I'm walking you know, nothing's nothing much and then a couple of words here and there. But there's tons of little ideas and then I'll kind of bring those back and put them in a my I've got a big, big long Evernote that I keep a lot of notes and I'll just throw it in there and then the next morning I'll go and look at it when I'm feeling fresh and usually fresher in the morning I find. So I'll go and look at it and they'll begin to kind of formulate some of those thoughts into, into more structured ideas. And that can take those a lot of different ways. But I do find it right, there's a lot of just ideas that kind of like pop in my head. And sometimes it's just little pieces of ideas, not even complete ideas. And some of them, you know, something go nowhere, but some of them actually turn into really thoughtful, bigger projects initiatives.

Umar Hameed 25:21
So during COVID, I had this crazy idea, like, "Okay, what I'm going to do is I'm going to start running," but instead of do like the 10 miles, 26 miles, which would suck, I'm going to focus on one mile. And so the first time I went for a run, it was like a run and a walk, it was like 14 minutes and some odd seconds to do a mile. And then every day I started doing it, and I got down to about 11 minutes. And then I reached out to a friend who used to be a runner in college, and said, "I'm trying to get better any suggestion?" he says, "Yeah, Umar, I want you to run half a mile. And then take a one minute rest and then finish the rest of the half mile," which to me sounds like a really dumb idea. But right off the bat, I went from 11 minutes to nine minutes. Because as I ran continually for a mile, I thought I was making progress, whereas when I took a rest, I did the second half a lot faster. And I think that's true in business as well is taking those walks, or taking time out of your day, just to kind of rest a little bit, allow ideas to come in. Just make you a ton more effective.

Channing Ferrer 26:29
Yeah, yeah, exactly. It really is so true. If this sometimes slow down to go faster.

Umar Hameed 26:36
Absolutely. Channing, thank you so much for being on the show. I really appreciated it. I takes a lot of notes in what we were talking about, especially the experiment and pilot before you actually launch big time. And I like that the change curve sounded like an important concept. And last but not least, the small wins count.

Channing Ferrer 26:57
Great. Again, Umar, great talking to you. Appreciate it. Thanks again.

Umar Hameed 27:01

Umar Hameed 27:07
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 nolimitsselling.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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