Gary Braun, Pivotal AdvisorsGary Braun
Gary Braun proudly says he is a ‘lifelong salesperson’! This relentless passion led him to be an integral part of every organization he worked for over the last 20 years. Climbing up the ladder, Gary learned that the skill sets required for a sales leader, which included developing sales plans and managing a team, must be cultivated in order to perform the job effectively. This thought was cemented when he joined a small e-commerce company that scaled from a million to 400 million dollars in revenue, and the need for efficient sales leadership became even more apparent.

Discussing with his brother Mike Braun, who was facing a similar hyper-growth stage with his employer, the brothers came up with a business plan. In 2008, Gary and Mike started Pivotal Advisors to help small businesses drive sales performance through the implementation and reinforcement of systems, processes tools, and effective leadership while upscaling. Today, 13 years later, they have worked with over 300 companies to implement the foundational structure that has a flawless track record of replicating growth and success.

In an interview with Manage HR, Gary Braun, Partner of Pivotal Advisors, talks about the sales leadership development space and how the company’s solution model is designed towards helping businesses upscale efficiently.

What are the issues your clients face with regards to leadership development?

One of the problems is businesses get to a certain point in their growth because they have a good product or service with a core of good people who wear many hats. After that threshold, they are unable to scale and don’t know how to address that and fix it. They try to rely on a few of the top salespeople to carry the load, and the rest of the team struggles along.

Companies try to patch up this problem by bringing in technology to fix it or going into sales training and the like, trying hard to figure out how to grow. These companies fail to identify their ideal customer and chase prospects that don’t give them a chance to win, they don’t leverage their differentiation well, they don’t have repeatable processes in place, and they struggle with accountability. So, our framework is built to address these foundational challenges and help them get to the next level.

Another challenge with businesses upscaling is, oftentimes, their sales leader was a good salesperson who got promoted. But the skill sets that make a salesperson effective are not the ones a good sales leader requires. For sales leaders to perform efficiently, they have to know how to hire well, how to train people, coach them, set direction, provide accountability, and how to motivate them. But few sales leaders, even experienced ones, ever get any training in these areas.

One of the problems is businesses get to a certain point in their growth because they have a good product or service with a core of good people who wears many hats. After hitting that threshold, they are unable to scale top-line revenue and don’t know how to fix it

The team at Pivotal addresses both these problems. One involves getting the process structure in place for scaling, and the other involves assisting in the transformation of a sales leader, providing them with the resources to better themselves.

What are the services Pivotal Advisors offers, and how do you go to market with it?

We have a foundational framework that looks at six areas. We look at the client strategy, how they hire, onboard, and retain talent, their processes to know if it’s documented and repeatable, the measurements they look at, the reward and management systems, and how it all ties together. Analyzing these filters and how the sales leader drives it all, we build a framework to engage with clients to address their problems.

We typically engage with clients in three ways. Sometimes, a company might not have a sales leader at all, or the CEO might be filling in the job role. In such situations, we appoint someone from our team that acts as the sales leader for a period of time until we can help them hire someone permanently while implementing process, systems, and structure.

In other cases, the client company has a sales leader who might need help implementing the things the organization needs to scale. We work with them one-on-one for over a period of nine to 12 months to help build sales leadership skills and address the six foundational areas.

Lastly, we also have a community of sales leaders. It’s a peer group that gets together once a month, learning best sales practices of sales management and solving issues together. Proactive approaches like this also better the efficacy of the strategies we plan and help us stay relevant in the market space.

Could you elaborate on a successful client story?

The sales leader for one of the organizations we worked with was an unconsciously competent, effective salesperson. Though she herself was very good at carrying out sales, she struggled with teaching others and knew she did not spend enough time with her team. There wasn’t much structure to what she did, and she knew she needed help.

We started working with her to help formulate a systematic, proactive management system and to transition from not just giving them answers but to coaching and developing them to set a proven and repeatable sales process. We taught her how to manage metrics and implement changes to keep the processes on track. We helped her develop into a good leader and coach.

In the next two years, the company that had been flat for almost four years in a row started growing, with about a 40 percent increase in sales—all because she was good at her job and her team became much more disciplined and effective. Seeing the growth, private equity came in and bought a huge share of the business in which the sales leader was part-owner. Eventually, she cashed out and left, replaced by a new person who did not feel the need for the things we had helped implement in place. Predictably, the growth slowed and declined, and the CEO called us in to work with the new sales leader. The new leader did not buy into our philosophy or our framework and left the company. The person who came later on re-implemented everything that had taken the company to success in the first place, which resultantly put them back on a growth trajectory within a short period.

What do you think are the key factors that separate you from the market competition?

To begin with, we bring a holistic approach that encompasses the entire sales trajectory of the organization, helping the sales leader solve problems. Secondly, our solutions are not an overnight fix and therefore endure the long run. A typical engagement takes almost 12 months until things are defined, involving implementation, buy-ins, and ensuring that people are doing what they need to in the right way instead of just giving the client a binder that sits on the shelf. As we come on board as a team, we have the point person that’s working one-on-one with the sales leader, but we also have a team of people who specialize in strategy, planning, compensation, or on the sales process, or some that can help you hire on board to assist the sales leaders in making that leap to the next level.

Our training in behavioral science also helps us to motivate people into adopting the right behaviors and getting things done. We know how to set the expectations on the front end and reinforce it on the backend.

What are the future plans you have envisioned for the company?

2021 has been a good year for us. We are up about 34 percent from where we were in 2020. We have been expanding our team and building a very good engine to help our clients better. With our system in place, we have been continuing to package it up to make it even more consumable by our clients. We are also expanding geographically — moving outside of the Twin Cities to now working in 12 -14 states— and will continue to expand because we know the system works, and it’s easy to transfer from one area to another.