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Streak Pot with Chris O'Connor

Head of Sales Development at Ambition, Chris O'Connor, shares his crowd-sourced momentum game. We learn the value of great team culture.

Check out Ambition and find Chris on LinkedIn.

Episode Transcript

Andrew Phelps: Today, my guest is Chris O'Connor, the head of sales development at ambition. Ambition is the leading sales coaching and gamification platform for mid-market and enterprise sales teams. Thousands of sales managers across the globe use ambition to get real-time performance insights, coach reps to success and drive long-term behavior change with competitions. Chris, thanks so much for coming on the show.

Chris Oā€™Connor: Yeah, thanks for having me, Andrew.

Andrew Phelps: Chris, you've opened remote from the last year due to the pandemic and curious, what's been the hardest thing about that for your team?

Chris Oā€™Connor: Yeah, certainly was a challenge to all of a sudden move from an in-office team to fully remote. And I would say the biggest challenge in my role was maintaining that balance of, you know, accountability with my team but then also not becoming a micromanager overnight, right. Really trying to understand what's going on in their world and keeping them accountable to sales metrics. And that's definitely been a huge benefit of our own product ambition is just bringing, you know, visibility into what's going on and then being able to coach and game-ify around your revenue-generating activities.

Andrew Phelps: So, we've heard about ambition before, we've heard about it on the last episode, but with just one. What about ambition helps you keep that accountability, but not turn into the micromanager, which is my biggest fear?

Chris Oā€™Connor: Yeah, for sure. So, each of your reps, depending on their role, you've got to STR, you got AE, you know, no matter what role you're going to have, you're going to have a different scorecard for them and really paint the picture for what a good day looks like in that role. And so, you can use many different metrics to make up that scorecard. You can weigh them differently. And then once you have that scorecard again, it brings real good transparency for the rep and for the leadership team, and then allows you to game-ify on those different metrics. So easily spin up competitions but then you can also use that to coach as well. So, it helps me see really quickly where my reps may be veering off course so that I can jump in and course-correct pretty quickly.

Andrew Phelps: That sounds really cool. And so, you know, I'd love to see more of it in action, especially as we hear more about it. You know, I asked her on the show today because you told me about a game that I'd never heard before and you guys affectionately it streak pot. But I would love to have you share with our listeners the background of this game and how it works?

Chris Oā€™Connor: Yeah, absolutely. This is definitely a company favorite and it's, it's fun because it came about very organically. So, one of the reps on our team, his name is Nolan he's an SDR and his main goal is to set meetings, right with qualified opportunities. And a few weeks ago, he had three meetings set in one day and there were still a couple hours left of work. And so, our recognition channel which is powered by ambition is blowing up in our slack instance and everybody can see that Nolan has set three meetings today. And then very quickly some other folks within the company chimed in and said, wouldn't it be cool if he set four, and then someone else chimed in and said, well, I'll give 20 bucks if Nolan can get his fourth meeting. And then all of a sudden, we had many, many people chiming in from different you know, departments across the organization and there was a pot of about $350 they're available if no one said his fourth meeting. And, you know, the end of the story is at 7:00 PM Eastern time Nolan set his fourth meeting and so he won that pot of $350. And so, after that event, we thought, well, there's a lot of power in, you know, incentivizing these streaks. And so, we want to create a pot of money, you know, that's always going to be there so that there's that extra incentive to hit these streets. And so now we have an ongoing pot, it always starts at $50. And then you know, people within the organization can contribute to it. Other reps on the team, my team just recently created where if they don't set a meeting in the day, they have to contribute to the pot. And so, there's always money kind of going into this pot and incentivizing people to hit a streak.

Andrew Phelps: Sounds really cool. And I love that it came about naturally, right? Because you can look at what's already happening in your organization. What's already going on in your culture? What already makes people tick? RD makes your people tick, you know, and then you can kind of build on it and make it something that you're doing from a management level. Now this one is I think risky or tough to get it right. You know, how would you kind of help our listeners understand, you know, that you guys have a healthy attitude about this pot and that people don't feel pressured to participate if they don't want to put their money on the line?

Chris Oā€™Connor: Yeah, for sure. That's a great point. Yeah, I think this could get also tricky with a much bigger company, you know, we're about 55 or so. And so, you've got a lot of different people in the organization, different departments who are really tuned in to what's going in sales and are willing to jump in and recognize and things like that. So, yeah, you definitely have to be careful about making it seem like you're asking for money from other departments. And so, yeah, so we primarily just you know, send messages around it just in our recognition channel. And so, you know, people can choose to opt in whether or not they want and really the idea around the reps themselves contributing to this pot was their idea. You know, they want it, they said, we love this idea so much. We're willing to, you know, potentially, you know, give at least $10 a month out of our own, you know, bank account just to make this game work and feel really fun.

Andrew Phelps: So, I really love that. It's, you know, it's so important to have team members that are invested emotionally with their time, but in this case, they're actually financially invested in one another success. But I think the key thing you said here is that it was their idea. It's not something you can probably bring to the table from the top down. And maybe if we're replicating a streak pot at one of our organizations, you know management or ownership can get the pot going and you can let other people participate. How often do you get one of these $50 pots going?

Chris Oā€™Connor: Well, the game's only been running for about three or four weeks now and so we've only given out the pot once but we've had a couple of close calls. We actually had last week, someone hit three meetings a day and they didn't, they weren't able to get their fourth. So as of yet, we've only given the pot out once. So, the pot amount is growing. I think we're over a hundred dollars right now.

Andrew Phelps: That's so cool. So, is the metric always getting these three meetings or has there been something else on the table or in the past three weeks?

Chris Oā€™Connor: Yeah, up to this point it's mostly focused around meetings and what we're setting the bar at four. That seems like the right balance of... It's definitely a stretch goal, so it's not going to happen all the time. So, there'll be a lot of anticipation around that. So yeah, so four meeting set is the bar right now.

Andrew Phelps: That's cool. And I really love how this came about from, you know, pushing you to go further because Nolan had his three meetings and, you know, you were telling me offline that you could have just been done for the day, but this whole game is to help you ride the momentum and make a great day to an unbelievable one.

Chris Oā€™Connor: Yeah. And I'll add to some context I didn't give earlier, but another piece of this is there was so much excitement you know, in when Nolan was going for his fourth meeting that, you know, there was someone within the organization who made a LinkedIn post about it and said, Hey, is anyone in my network, you know who is of this persona, you know, be interested in taking a meeting of ambition and helping Nolan out. And it's so fun that, that kind of posts went a little viral as well. And so, there were multiple, you know, prospects joining in, you know, I've been meaning to take a look at ambition, like have Nolan, give me a call. And so, it was really fun that there was a little bit of a viral aspect around it too. And it just really helped Nolan know that a lot of people in the organization cared about his success, not just his manager or his boss's boss but some of his peers just really cared that he, you know, exceeded and hit his goal.

Andrew Phelps: That's really cool. And I think, you know, you, can't fake a culture like that to have people actually invested in one another's success. I'm curious. Do you have you know, any thoughts for our listeners about how you can cultivate a culture that's so giving and supportive?

Chris Oā€™Connor: Yeah. It's tough. It's, you know, a great culture is a culmination of you know, the behaviors of everyone in your organization. So, it's always flowing, it's always changing but I think, you know, especially from the sales context, I've always liked that my reps and people around the sales who work, know that we care about the reps, you know, more about them and their value that they bring to the team and less just around the numbers that are on the dashboard. Right? Because at the end of the day, they're going to want to work for people, they know, care about them and want them to succeed. And so, I think I learned that kind of the hard way from having a lot of bad sales managers who really just looked at me as a number on a page and kind of what my quota was every month. And so, I think instilling that kind of value system within your organization really helps you know, set the right tone for, you know, the sales org.

Andrew Phelps: I love it. Well, I'm really curious to hear what happens with this going forward. The pot's already back up to a hundred dollars. I'm curious if you're going to get in any situations where it's just grown to, you know, a magnificent high. I would imagine that with the culture you've described and the team that you've described, you know, the pot is fun, but it's really all the energy of is he going to do it or is she going to do it that it gets people riled up. And the money is fun, but I think it's so cool that somebody was on LinkedIn trying to help Nolan out. And that's the energy that you can't fake. That is people that are really invested in one another. And I love that this all came about organically. You know, I'm curious I think it's a great idea to use things you know, that are, that are happening organically in your organization. You can build on them and implement them as something that you do. You know, do you have any tips for managers who might be afraid to take ideas from the team or build upon what's already happening? I mean, what made you feel comfortable saying like, oh, well let's just make [inaudible]?

Chris Oā€™Connor: Yeah, it's a good question. I think it's helpful for a sales manager to really have champions throughout the organization. You know, of course you're going to be the biggest cheerleader for your team but it just having recognition come from somebody that's not your manager is so much more powerful. And so, you know, when appear in marketing or CS, you know, stands up and says, Hey, Nolan you know, you had a killer day, like, you know, I'm over here in marketing, but like, that's awesome, man. Like, I really appreciate your efforts. That goes a long way. And so, I think my advice would be to, as a sales manager is like, have some other champions within the organization who, you know, will raise their voice and just help when it comes to a recognition standpoint.

Andrew Phelps: No, I love that. And I'm not sure if you could assign a value to it, but I think recognition through a peer is probably 10 times better than a recognition from someone above you or someone in a leadership position.

Chris Oā€™Connor: Exactly. Yeah. When it comes from me, they're like, oh, that's your job to cheerlead me. But when it comes from someone else, they're like, oh, that feels like a genuine compliment.

Andrew Phelps: Awesome. Well, I'm going to recap some of the takeaways from what we've talked about with streak pot, and I'd love for you to let me know if I get anything wrong. So, the first thing I've taken away is that this occurred organically. You looked at something the team was already excited about and you decided to build it in as you know, something you guys are going to go continue to do and have ongoing. And this is an interesting game because you have employees invested in one another success, even financially because people are choosing to kick into the pot. And I think it's a powerful symbol, but one of the takeaways would be that, that sort of financial investment has to come from the employees themselves. And it's probably not something that you should dictate or even suggest as an option. You know, I love that you want to emphasize recognition from peers and that this game does that. And so, when you're building games, can you think about ways that you make to your team members, to leaders for one another and supportive of one another, because it's much more powerful than anything you can do, even if you're the best leader in the world. Is there anything else that I forgot to mention you think is kind of a key to success for street pot or games in general?

Chris Oā€™Connor: Yeah. I mean, I think you know, in general, you really want to just make sure that you know, we're also just incentivizing the right activities. Right. And so, for this one, I think we really want to create that culture of overachievement. And so, you know, I definitely would say whatever games that you create, be really intentional about the metric or behavior that you're looking to drive or change, that's always really the bedrock of a good competition.

Andrew Phelps: Great. Well, if any of our listeners want to learn more about street pot or gamification, where's the best place to find you online?

Chris Oā€™Connor: Yeah, definitely would love to connect on LinkedIn and have, you know, conversations around sales competitions, gamification coaching, all of the above would love to connect.

Andrew Phelps: Well, thank you so much for coming on the show, keep us posted how it goes in the future.

Chris Oā€™Connor: All right. Thanks, Andrew.