Zach Heiner is a seasoned sales professional and Senior Manager with Vivint. He started his sales career knocking on doors for Cutco Knives back in 2009, but quickly ascended through the ranks and was leading his own office by 2010. He transferred to a Sales Manager role at Vivint in 2014 and is now their Senior Manager of Direct-To-Home Training.
Zach is exactly the kind of guest we love to have on The Rep’s Journey Podcast. He is a seasoned sales veteran with experience in door-to-door direct sales, sales management, sales training, and software. We had a ton to talk about with Zach, and we highly recommend checking out the full podcast video above.
Don’t have the time? We’ve included what we think are the key takeaways from Zach’s conversation with our CEO, Stephen Rhyne.
Grow Your Skillset
One thing that became immediately clear about Zach in our interview was his willingness to become a jack-of-all-trades for his company. After making a name for himself as a manager with Cutco, he opened an office for Vivint and found himself knocking on doors again. While running all of this, he went back to school for software development. As a result, Zach can bring a unique perspective to his role as a Training Manager. He’s gotten his “boots on the ground” in every aspect of his role - he understands door-to-door sales, he understands sales training, and he has the technological expertise to tie it all together with a piece of software like ConveYour.
Zach never thought he’d go back to knocking on doors for a living, but he found that the sales training and experience he received helped him in every other aspect of his job. While learning software development, a professor reinforced this by telling him that the best thing he could do, even in software, is to go get sales experience.
“You can be an absolute genius, but if you can’t sell your ideas to the people you’re working with, you’re never going to get anywhere.”
Get Your Boots On The Ground
This ties into the above lesson - if you are going to ask your team to do something or are providing your team with experience, then you should probably have an understanding of what you’re asking of them. In the sales world, that means not being afraid to go out and do some door-knocking with your team. At the very least, it’s helpful to be a shadow and observe your team as they do their thing, but if you can get involved directly, even better.
When we talk about The Rep’s Journey, we are talking about the experience of your reps from their perspective. The best way to get into that perspective is to walk through it yourself as if you were a new rep. When you knock doors and talk to customers, what skills are you using? What is required of you to be successful? Take all of that knowledge and reference it as you build out an experience for your reps.
Go From Reactive to Proactive
When Zach first entered into his role as a Training Manager, he found himself in a very reactive position as he tried to build out training for them. He realized there was an almost cyclical pattern to how training was done - management took most of the year to prepare training for the team, and then it was all released around the same time. Zach realized that this worked fine for some types of corporate training - required harassment courses, internal training - but the world of sales was simply too fast-paced for this.
If you can take the time and adapt your training content to be results-oriented instead of simply crossing off a checklist, you can make the change from reactive to proactive, solving problems and quelling concerns before the issues even arise. Pay attention to when certain skills or knowledge are required and adapt your training to accommodate that. If you’ve got your boots on the ground with your team, these opportunities will be easier to identify.
Show You Care
The old saying goes, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Having effective, streamlined, and proactive training for your team is going to make it obvious that you cared about their experience. They need to know that you have skin in the game and want to see them succeed in their role. Make something that can produce results for them.
As you go through your training, ask yourself, how am I going to take this person and make them better? Am I inadvertently standing in the way at any step of the process? If you start seeing patterns in problems that arise, they are probably tied together by a common cause. Having a thoughtful process and addressing the root cause of issues will show your care and commitment to the process.
Be Real With Your Team
In his time as a sales trainer, Zach has heard a key phrase more than once: “Sometimes training can be fake.” Fake training is training that doesn’t truly feel applicable to the rep’s job. Perhaps the sales sample in the training is too unrealistic, or your training is only issued once and just covers the obvious, baseline information. If reps catch on that you aren’t being totally “real” in your training experience, they will tell others to blow through it quickly. “Fakeness” can be felt, and reps are good at picking up on it.
If you’re only issuing basic training once a year, it’s safe to assume your reps will only retain about 10% of that information. The most important, results-producing aspects of your training should be ongoing, reinforcing your team’s skills as they grow into the role. Of course, your sales leadership should provide ongoing guidance and direction, but you can make their job easier by having a system that is set up to automatically do some of this.
Bring In Other Parts Of Your Business
In bigger companies, there can be rigid lines between departments. They become like self-contained units with their own standards and goals. Often, businesses will have each department determine how their piece of training plays out. This can make a dissonant experience with all of the different agendas coming to the forefront. When your rep goes through training, you want to blur these lines for them. Just because your internal departments are separate doesn’t mean that they should feel separate to a rep going through training.
Don’t just take training from other parts of the company and plop it in front of your reps. If you can partner with training leads and ask about how you could integrate their training with a results-oriented mindset, you can develop a streamlined experience for your reps that keeps their attention. It takes work and collaboration, and you have to show you care. Weave the “job to be done” in with all of the other things that are required.
Make Training Shorter and More Effective
Make it easier for the reps to get things done by making their training as bite-sized as possible. This will also reduce the barrier to entry for the position and make training content easier to understand and retain. Use your training to meet your reps where they’re at, and get them where they need to be.
Be mindful of the type of content you’re working with, and what it’s needed for. The essential functions of the job need to be digested and understood by reps with regular reinforcement. Compliance-type content is often one-off and performed on an as-needed basis. More advanced tips and techniques lend themselves to bite-sized modules to be kept available if a refresher is ever needed.
Show Your Value + The Value Of Training
One of the key lessons that we take from our conversation with Zach is this: Get yourself noticed. Find out what metrics are most important for what you’re doing, and track them. This data will serve as a demonstration of how effective your work is. When it comes to training, you aren’t going to see an overnight difference in results. The changes are subtle at first but tend to correlate to massive swings in performance over time, so be patient.
While you’re doing this, demonstrate your value by being proactive and showing you care. Solve problems people don’t know they had. If you have an area of expertise that you think is valuable, articulate your insights and document them. Zach told us during our interview, “if you can innovate yourself out of a job, you will always have a job.”
In the sales world, there is a dominant perspective of “you can make crazy money if you work crazy hard.” This perspective gets lost in the corporate world, where performance and compensation aren’t so directly tied. In corporate settings, you need to solve problems or create revenue. This will shine a huge spotlight on what you’re doing.
Take Your Time, Make It Right
Of course, if you’re just coming into a new role or new company, you’re going to need to start somewhere. You won’t magically have the perfect training experience right out of the gate. Zach recommends a two or three-year model.
During the first year, just get training going. Get a system set up, even if it isn’t pretty. Just make sure it works for your team. In the second year, improve your system based on what you learned from the first year and make that training better, more efficient, and more streamlined. In the third year, take the people who have gone through training and help them to become better leaders. Develop management within this framework so that the engine you build can sustain itself.
We love talking with sales professionals as part of our Rep’s Journey podcast. Every guest we have on the show leaves us with valuable new insight, and Vivint’s Zach Heiner was no exception. Zach’s dedication to providing timely and useful training to his team, along with his willingness to branch out and learn new skills, is something we admire.
If you’d like to get your Rep’s Journey set up to provide an above-and-beyond training experience for your team, you can book a meeting with the ConveYour team here. We’d love to work with you!