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A strong, high-performance sales team is critical to a successful business. But what makes a sales team truly great, and what strategies can leaders use to create a team that's highly successful? To address these questions, we're talking to CROs, sales executives, and coaches about "How To Turn a Good Sales Team into a Great One." As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Evan Tzivanakis.

Evan Tzivanakis

Evan Tzivanakis is an Award Winning Accredited Executive Coach, L&D Specialist, Management Consultant, and an Online Visiting Lecturer at the EU Business School, Switzerland.

Evan specializes in helping professionals develop the skills and strategies they need to succeed. With a wealth of experience managing more than 500 employees across eight countries and leading companies to expand across the Asia Pacific region, Evan is well-equipped to help you navigate your professional journey.

His work has been featured in numerous articles, videos, and podcasts such as Ivy Exec, Marketing In Asia, The Coach Foundation, Finance Feeds, CEO Secrets for Executive Strategy, and EU Business School.

Thank you for doing this with us! Before we begin, our readers would like to learn more about you. Can you tell a bit about your backstory?

I have always been driven by a passion for helping professionals achieve success in their careers. Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to manage teams and lead companies to expand across the Asia Pacific region. This experience has given me a wealth of knowledge and skills that I am excited to share with others.

As I progressed in my career, I found myself increasingly drawn to the field of executive coaching and L&D. I saw first-hand the impact that effective coaching and development can have on individuals and organizations, and I was eager to help others access the same opportunities for growth. I have always been interested in learning and development, as I strongly believe that this is the key to success.

This led me to pursue formal training and accreditation in executive coaching and L&D, and to establish myself as an expert in this field. I specialize in helping professionals develop the skills and strategies they need to succeed. Through one-on-one coaching sessions, I work with individuals to identify their strengths and areas for improvement and develop personalized action plans to help them achieve their goals.

Can you share an interesting or amusing story from your career so far? What lesson or takeaway did you get from it?

One of the most interesting and amusing stories that I've encountered in my career so far is when I was working as a management consultant for a large retail company. The company had been struggling with low morale and high turnover among their employees, and they had brought me in to help improve the situation.

One of the things I discovered while talking to employees was that many of them felt unappreciated and undervalued by the company. They didn't feel like their contributions were being recognized, and they didn't feel like they were making a meaningful impact.

To address this, I suggested that the company implement an "Employee of the Month" program, where one employee would be recognized and rewarded for their exceptional work each month. The company was a bit hesitant at first, but decided to give it a try.

To our surprise, the program was a huge success. Employees were excited about the opportunity to be recognized for their hard work, and they were motivated to go above and beyond to earn the title of "Employee of the Month."

The morale in the company improved drastically and employee turnover reduced significantly. The company was also pleased with the program and continued to run it even after my contract was over.

The lesson I took from this experience is that sometimes the simplest solutions can be the most effective. Recognizing and valuing the contributions of employees can have a huge impact on their motivation and engagement. It was also a reminder that it's important to listen to employees and to be open to new ideas.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? Tell us about it!

I'm currently working on a new project focused on helping high-potential leaders in the technology industry develop the skills and strategies they need to take on larger leadership roles within their companies. This project includes a series of one-on-one coaching sessions, as well as a customized training program that includes workshops on topics such as effective communication, strategic thinking, and leading teams.

Additionally, I am providing access to a network of successful leaders in the technology industry who can serve as mentors and provide additional guidance and support. I believe this project will be beneficial for professionals looking to advance their careers in the sector by providing them with the knowledge and resources they need.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a person who you're grateful for who helped you get here?

There are many people who have helped me get to where I am today. But one person who has been particularly influential in my career is my mentor, John. He was a senior executive at a large multinational corporation and took me under his wing early in my career. He taught me the ins and outs of the industry and provided valuable guidance and support as I navigated my way through the corporate world.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned from him was the importance of building and maintaining strong relationships. He taught me the importance of being a good listener and how to communicate effectively with people at all levels of an organization. His guidance and mentorship were instrumental in helping me develop the skills and strategies I needed to succeed, and I am grateful for his support.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience leading sales teams? How many years of experience do you have, and what size teams? 

I have a wealth of experience managing teams across different countries and leading companies to expand across the Asia Pacific region. I have a strong background in sales and have led sales teams for over 15 years. I have experience leading teams of various sizes, from small teams of 10-15 people to large teams of more than 500 employees. I have a deep understanding of sales strategies and techniques, as well as the ability to lead and motivate teams to achieve their goals. Additionally, I have a proven track record of success in sales and have helped many companies achieve significant growth and expansion in the Asia Pacific and European regions.

What do you think makes a sales team great? What strengths or characteristics do you try to cultivate?

I believe that a great sales team is made up of individuals who possess a strong combination of skills, characteristics and mindset. A great sales team is composed of individuals who are highly motivated, resilient, and persistent.

First and foremost, a great sales team is made up of individuals who are skilled at building and maintaining strong relationships. This is essential in sales as it is all about building trust and understanding the needs of the customer.

Secondly, a great sales team is composed of individuals who are able to communicate effectively and persuasively. This includes the ability to listen actively, ask the right questions, and present solutions in a clear and compelling manner.

Thirdly, a great sales team is composed of individuals who are able to think strategically and creatively. This includes the ability to identify new opportunities, develop innovative solutions and think outside the box.

Lastly, a great sales team is composed of individuals who are able to work well under pressure and able to handle rejection. Sales can be a challenging and demanding job, and it requires a lot of resilience and mental toughness.

As a leader, I try to cultivate these strengths and characteristics in my team by providing them with the necessary training, resources and support to develop these skills. I also lead by example and demonstrate these traits in my own behavior.

As with any department, there can be a lot of different strengths, weaknesses, and personalities. How do you manage such diversity on an individual basis? Is there such a thing as a blanket motivator?

I believe that managing diversity on an individual basis is essential for a sales team to be successful. Every team member is different, and they have different strengths, weaknesses, and personalities.

To do this, I first try to understand each team member's unique needs, preferences and motivations. I have regular one-on-one meetings with each team member where I ask questions, listen actively, and try to understand their perspective. This allows me to tailor my management style and communication to meet each team member's specific needs.

In addition, I also try to provide each team member with the necessary resources, training and support that they need to be successful in their role. This includes providing them with the necessary tools, training and resources that they need to develop the skills and knowledge that they need to be successful in their role.

While there is no such thing as a blanket motivator, I do believe that setting clear goals, providing regular feedback and recognition, and creating a positive and supportive work environment can help to motivate and engage the team members.

In order to keep the motivation high and alignment on the same direction, I also make sure to communicate the company's vision, mission, values and objectives frequently, and make sure that the team members understand how their work is contributing to it.

What strategies have you tried to increase motivation, engagement, and productivity? We want to hear it all

I have tried several strategies to increase motivation, engagement, and productivity in my sales teams. One strategy I have used is to set clear and measurable goals. This helps team members know what is expected of them and provides a sense of direction.

Another strategy I have used is to provide regular feedback and recognition. By providing regular feedback, team members know how they are performing and where they need to improve. Recognition shows team members their hard work and effort is appreciated.

Another strategy I have tried is to create a positive and supportive work environment. This includes fostering a culture of teamwork, trust, and mutual respect.

I have also tried to give my team members more autonomy and responsibility, by giving them more ownership of their role and by giving them more decision-making power. This helps to increase their engagement and motivation, as they feel more invested in the success of the team.

One of the more unconventional strategies I have tried is to organize team-building activities and events. This helps to foster a sense of unity and camaraderie within the team. These activities can range from team-building exercises to off-site team-building events, to social activities outside of work.

Additionally, I have offered my teams opportunities for professional development, such as mentoring programs, training, and education. This helps to increase their skills, knowledge, and motivation as they see opportunities for growth and development.

Lastly, I have tried to implement flexible working hours and remote work options to increase the work-life balance of my team members, which I have found increases their motivation and engagement levels.

Of all the strategies you've tried, which did you find to be most effective? How did this have a direct correlation to sales? 

I have found that several strategies have been effective in increasing motivation, engagement, and productivity in my sales teams, but the most effective two have been setting clear and measurable goals and providing regular feedback and recognition.

This combination has had a direct correlation to sales. The team members were more motivated and engaged (which led to an increase in productivity) and they were more accountable to the ownership of their role (which helped them develop a sense of commitment to the company's goals and objectives).

Can you tell us about a time that your sales team outperformed their targets? How high over did they go, and what was that like for everyone? 

One of the most significant instances was when my team exceeded their target by over 35%. It was an exciting time for everyone involved, and the team was ecstatic about their performance. The team members were motivated, engaged, and had a sense of accomplishment. They felt proud of their hard work and dedication, and it was evident that they were committed to achieving the company's goals and objectives.

Overall, it was a great experience for everyone involved, and it reinforced the importance of setting clear and measurable goals, providing regular feedback and recognition, fostering a positive and supportive work environment, and providing the necessary resources, training and support to the team members.

Great things often take time. What do you think is a realistic timeline to take a sales team from good to great? 

I believe that it takes time to take a sales team from good to great. The timeline can vary depending on factors such as the size of the team, the complexity of the sales process, and the level of expertise of the team members, but typically takes a minimum of 3-6 months. This time frame will allow for the implementation of the strategies and processes needed to achieve the desired results.

That said, it's important to note that it is an ongoing process, and not a one-time effort. Continuous improvement and adaptation to changing circumstances are needed to maintain and improve the performance of the team. It's also important to understand that every team is unique, and some teams may require more time.

What are your 5 strategies to turn a good sales team into a great one?

1 . Clear and consistent communication: Establishing clear lines of communication and setting expectations for the sales team can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals. For example, I had a sales team that was consistently underperforming. After implementing weekly team meetings and setting clear targets for them to reach, they were able to improve significantly.

2 . Training and development: Providing ongoing training and development opportunities for the sales team can help them stay up to date on the latest industry trends and techniques, as well as improve their skills and knowledge. For example, I once worked with a sales team that was struggling to close deals. By providing them with training on effective negotiation techniques, they were able to close more deals.

3 . Incentives and rewards: Offering incentives and rewards for meeting or exceeding sales targets can help motivate the sales team to work harder and achieve more. For example, I had a sales team that was feeling demotivated, so I implemented a performance-based incentive program which helped them to become more motivated.

4 . Lead generation: Implementing effective lead generation strategies can help the sales team generate more potential customers and increase their chances of making a sale. For example, I once helped a sales team that was struggling to generate leads by implementing a targeted digital marketing campaign which helped them to generate a large number of potential customers.

5 . Data and analytics: Using data and analytics to track the performance of the sales team and identify areas for improvement can help make more informed decisions and optimize sales processes. For example, I had a sales team that was using a CRM software to track their performance and identify areas for improvement, which helped them to increase their sales numbers by 15% in 3 months.

Lastly, you're a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

A movement that promotes education and access to knowledge for all individuals, regardless of their background or circumstances, could bring a significant amount of good to the greatest amount of people. Education is a powerful tool that can help individuals improve their lives, break the cycle of poverty, and contribute to the development of their communities and society as a whole.

A movement that focuses on increasing access to education, particularly in underprivileged and marginalized communities, could have a tremendous impact on individuals, families, and entire communities. This could include initiatives such as building schools and libraries in low-income areas, providing scholarships and financial aid for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and implementing programs to improve the quality of education.

Additionally, a movement that promotes lifelong learning and encourages individuals to continue their education throughout their lives, could also have a positive impact on society as a whole. With the rapid pace of technological change and the increasing importance of knowledge and skills in today's workforce, lifelong learning has become essential for individuals to stay competitive and adapt to changing job markets.

Overall, promoting education and access to knowledge can be a powerful force for positive change and can help to build a more equitable, just, and prosperous society.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can send me an email or follow me on LinkedIn.

By Phil Gray

Philip Gray is the COO of Black and White Zebra and Founding Editor of The RevOps Team. A business renaissance man with his hands in many departmental pies, he is an advocate of centralized data management, holistic planning, and process automation. It's this love for data and all things revenue operations landed him the role as resident big brain for The RevOps Team.

With 10+ years of experience in leadership and operations in industries that include biotechnology, healthcare, logistics, and SaaS, he applies a considerable broad scope of experience in business that lets him see the big picture. An unapologetic buzzword apologist, you can often find him double clicking, drilling down, and unpacking all the things.