The Sales Engagement Podcast
The Sales Engagement Podcast

Episode · 9 months ago

Pandemic Leadership Skills: Optimism & Positivity w/ Hugh Ghods


It’s been really tough to keep positive, especially in, yes, a pandemic.

But positivity pays dividends.

In this episode, I interview Hugh Ghods, Sr. Sales Leader at Hootsuite, about the best of the COVID-19 workplace changes and how we can all practice optimism about the future.

What we talked about:

  • The frenzy of the first 2 weeks
  • Shifting from video calls to phone calls on a walk
  • The importance of nurture
  • Hugh’s hopes for 2021

For more engaging sales conversations, subscribe to The Sales Engagement Podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or on our website.

Welcome to the sales engagement podcast,this podcast is brought to you by outreach, the leading sales engagementplatform, helping companies, sellers and customer success engaged withbuyers and customers in the modern sales era, check out sales,engagementcom for new episodes, resources and the book on sales,engagement available on Amazon and Barns and noble or wherever books aresold. Now, let's get into today's episode. Welcome everybody back or ifthis is your first time welcome to these sales engagement podcast. This isone of your hosts Alex cremmer. I am incredibly excited for today'sconversation. We have the one and only Mr Hugh God's online Hu welcome to thissow. My friend looks great to be on the show and and much appreciate theyinmight never been introduced like that N, and I love it. I can live with that.We can. We can hopefully make this a repetitive type of thing yeah, so so sohugh you live in the Beautiful Toronto Ontario Canada, which you just taughtme a little bit about provinces, and you are a senior sales leader todayat who suete you come with a meoriad of different types of stales leadershipand sales, professional type of roles and I'm Exsensi IV. This conversation,because we're going to take this a little bit of a different route whichis very relevant to today's world in terms o of what is it like in todaysworld living in this quarantine, based era of selling to companies and leadingteams and all the fun things that go along with that. But before we dive inthat Hue, I would love for you just kind of inter yourself of who are you.Where do you come from? And what do you care about? Yeah Tet, let's De that in thirtyseconds, if we can... yet I live in Toronto. I wasn't bornor raised in North America. I was born in the Middle East and grew up inEngland. So there's a there's, an English accent that POPs out once in awhile, usually when I'm speaking to a Brit or or having a few adult pots, butbut I, like most of my life, I've lived in Toronto and I'm very privileged to be married to mywonderful wife for the last thirteen years and got a couple of kids, a boyof twelve and and a girl who's ten yearsold right now and yes, we do, we do live in this beautiful city.That's you know if you're not familiar withToronto, I hope that the rap juice Hav put us onthe map last year when in theNBA Championship- and you know you look at up drakes actually from Toronto- notmany people know I love it. I love it, and so now youare youare leading a sales organization over that WHO sweets wo. Give us littleback in terms of what do you do in that particular role, yeah, so so I'v BeeterHo Street for the last three years now and it kind of came aut an interestingtime about three and a half years ago, and it's funny. If you look at my, ifyou look at my career eit's one of those things that I say, I don't quit-companies companies quict me, and by that I mean I've gone through multipleacquisitions and it's like it's like the door shut on the company and I'vegot to move onto the next thing and that's kind of meen the theme so threeand a half years ago I left this great company called Exinda because it wasacquired and the Doorbas shut and what was different about it. That time wasprior to that. Just do the strong network that had built in some ofe somegreat leaders, I'd worked for. It was one of those you know by invites. Iwent to the next company was by Invit. You Know He. We need you to come tothis company and do expliancy, whereas three and a half years ago it wasn'tthe case it just there. It wasn't seeing to be sort of my next leade andit kind of forced me into Ha behavior.

That was a little different while itwas in transition between jobs, and you know I took a step back and took a lookat really. What is it I'm looking for is at you know I kind of put that downthe top to or three things that are important to me, and then I went towork with my network to try to find a company and an opportunity that fitsthat long story shorts. I came across food sweet that was looking. It was atransitional point in the company where they were looking to really go afterthe midmarket, so to the small business was, was takng care of the largebusinesses were being addressed, but that sort of middle part that thatcommercialmid market was was right for the picking. So I met theglobal VPS sales, an incredible gentleman and a big reason. Why am atwhosweet Liam Servi ses, er VP of commercial sales, and it was prettyevident to me what I met him, not just him as a leader and a person, an avisionary, but also the way it was laid up to me. The the opportunity at handthat this is exactly what I'm looking for and three years later, I justcrossed that three years, not a day goes by that. I don't regret that thatdecision and it's being an incredible ride. We took a commercial businessthat was literally nonexistent three years ago and we are now a viable partof the reme revenue generating O r arm of food sweet, so that's kind of whereand how I came across and happy to be Prard of the the NASTTA on sweet.That's a great background. I appreciate you kind of walk through. Iparticularly like it said that your VPO corporase sales leam. I think it wasyea you really bought into his vision or how he led in and wherehe was taking the company and it's awesome to see that you've been able to.You know after three years still be boded to that, and I think actuallythat transitions to the topic. I want... take this conversation of you know,I think, during this time everybody has gone through a roller coaster ofdifferent feelings and emotions in regards to both the world. Ind regardsto their job and their career, and just what everything is happening here andI'm curious. You know in n your experience and you leading the salesteam. How have you adjusted right? This is a remote life right now. What haveyouve been doing? Keep you guys producing what you'retrying to produce yeah. That's a that's a great questionand Interestini enough. You know it's a bit of Haneso now because we're nowseven months into the pandemic. So it's weird to say that we can not look back and there's a bit of you know, there'sseven months worth of data that we can reflect to since the world changed. Youknow initially when this happened, and you know I always preded myself andit's hid to private myself or it's the fact that you know I'm older and I'vebeen around the blocks that I've seen it all th. You know. Typically, I saidI've seen it all. You know throw it at me. You know see it all. I know how tofigure it out, but this one kind of caught us all off card right. None ofus have gone through a pandenic, so it was one of those where, as a leader,you don't blink as a leader. You typically don't blink and you knowpeople who are working for you. They look at you and as soon as you blink,they panick right when you're on a plane and that plays going throughturmulence and that you know you got rattling going on and suitcases arefalling. Just look at the flight attendant. That's your leader, theflight attendants, not panicking you're, fine, the flight attendantis justmoving along it's fine. They start panicking, I'm going to start panicking.So, first to foremost S, I didn't blink, it's it's! I don't know what's coming,but people are looking at us for answers. You Know Global Pendamic,where you got to go own. Businesses are...

...shutting first and foremals. Yehad got ta stay the course. You got to stay as a leaderand just encourage everybody that thingsare going to be fine. Now, in the background, Youre scrambling you're inthe background, Os scrambling and Watt just happened. It's. How do you ssolve this and you'venever seen the likes of it before there's a couple of sort of aspects tothis right? There's the business side of it. So you look at the business. Is Thebusiness crumbling? Is there still, you know? Is there going to be business andthen there's the personal aspect of it? It's it's. The mental side of it is thepersonal side of it is. How do you keep that going? So so, when the pandemicappened, the personal side of it, took a big effect. This was a big shock toeverybody. People had to go home and work from home and they couldn't go togrocery stores and they can do what the normal stuff was and everyone. So initially we had to make sure thatwe kind of address that and make it it's the empathy side of how Itypically approach things. I typically approach empathy. First, let me makesure that the people are okay. Let me make sure people are good, so we focusdour energy on our people and making sure that they are in the right state of mind tomake sure that their mental health is top of mind for us to make sure thatthey know they're not alone and what they're going through, and then weswitched over to the business side. Now, we've been very lucky that we're in ain an industry. That's a bit repession proof. If you want to call it it's abit pandemic, proof we're providing a social media management platform andmore and more companies are going to more digital and social marketing, sowe're privileged in honor to be part of a solution that really wasn't affectedby this pandemic. Now, having said that, it doesn't matter what business youwere in that first couple of weeks,...

...everything halted. So during the firsttwo weeks it was a bit of a shut down of the business, a lot of focus on the employee's mental health and makingsure that noone Wan as panicking D D and calling it you know quicts and itcreated a bunch of weird behaviors right. It created a lot of sort of overindexing on the people, so we just spent a lot of time on video. We wereon video aron conference calls every day. You know we try to like make it asfun as possible. We started introducing you know daily happy hours like on anormal basis. We had one happy hour. It was a Friday afternoon. All of a sudden.We had a happy hour every day and it was like, let's start the morning off,so we had we god a we had a morning, leadershipconference fall and then we switched OWA staff. You Know Conference Gall andthen halfway through the day each team had conference calls and then, at theend of the day, we got together and had a happy hour conference fall and it wasjust like conference fell. HEAVN, everybody was on the camera, everyonewas talking and you know it was important at the time because everyonehad to share their feelings together and everyone had to not feel alone. Youknow I'm privileged, I'm home with my wife and my children. Not everyone hadthat people. You know people were at home away from their families andparents, so we made sure we did that that was kind of the initial first twoweeks we spent a lot of time on seeing each other on camera, makingsure refine on the business side of it. We quickly switch to a nurture mode, because it was justwrong to approach people to try to sell them something it was not the righttime to call people and ask for their business and as a business. We allagreed that this is the time to not...

...only do that sort of nurturing with teR, reps and staff. We should do that with our clients as well, so we startedproviding value to our clients, so we had a strong pipeline of greatprospects and customers who weere ready to on board who, all of a sudden theirbudgets were frozen and could not make decisions. So we switche the game, anstarted, providing services and insights into their business and someof sort of the the quality data that they would get if they were to buy ourproducts for free to allow them to not only see potentially what they can getin the future, but allow them to make some decisions based on theirreputation and their brand and and their sort of reach at the time. So, just to summarize it, the first twoweeks was a lot of staff time on video and a lotof nurturing or customers vie the tools that we had for free provoe. I resonate a lot with that. I rememberwith we neraly start. We had a seventhirty, am video meeting everysingle day and then it was were doing pictionarity happy hours viazoo and we, you know you were trying to be creative and it did really makepeople feel good and engaged, and then it turned into people saying. I think I have a zoom problem. You knowI'm back to back and I don't really know what normal life is now and in away Tersi heard one person say it's actually gotten more intimate now,because we now have a little window into people's lives at we see theirfamily in the background, their young kids, coming in a screen. I have arelationship now with one of the guys on my teams, kids, because he's alwaysin the screen, I'm always like, Hey, what's not being? How are you doing and... was tough after a while, though- andI love what you say about when a plane is going down, people lookat a flight attentnt or if there's turbulens people like the flightattendent, and they say how is how is he or she acting right now? So how did you maintain that stay the course we are good. Yet I haveempathy. Yet we have a number to hit when you have all this stuff happening.In the background that you're trying to figure, I t out, you yourself- aredealing with tomental issues, because you alsoprobably have a zom problem that you are learning how to have a relationshipwith. How do you deal with that? Will stillmaintain that facade of got this? I can maintain the heart andsouls this team yeah, it's it's a bit of you know,experience being in Tou tough times throughout your life, switchingcountries and under weird circumstances, you kind of have this half full glassmentality. Always and second, this is not an individual thinthing, I'msurrounded by incredible positive people in the leadership, especiallythat that we leaned on each other and encurased each other on a regular basis.That guns we're okay, we're in a business, that's healthy and we're makesure we're healthy and we make sure our staff were healthy. So it was a TAsport for sure, and it was something that we all genuunely believed in anygreed upon, so that just that that just kept our spirits up and that that justkept us going on a regular basis. We other companies are having a way worsetime than we are, so we knew what bad's going to look like. We were 't in thatposition nd and we just kept encouraging ourselves: businesses, fine,it's going to bounce back and from a you know, mental perspective. If I washaving a bad day, I had my colleague or my boss to pick me up and if they werehaving subsequently so we had a great... that kept each other up andmake sure that our rest always see the good side of it. I think that's really important ofhaving that strong cohort amongst the leadership team, especially because youknow it is important to keep that that faith in that leadership sort of thing,even during those hearttess, especially during the hard times. That's what youneed leadership, the most during the easy time, the Gid Times it's easy tobe ablet leader, Hell Yeah, put me in coach Im ready to row out witheverybodyy, but it's thraiing. Those hard times is like no. This is this iswhen you step it this, when the got, but when the going gets tough, the tough gets going right. You gottait's you're right, it's easy when things are sailing and it's swillsailing, but it's real cersonalities and leadershipthat really rise to the occasional one times a tough yeah. Well so so you kindof started out ITA very empathetic lead. You were very much with your reps andyouere talking a lot about them. How have you now transitions? So now weare like you said, seven months into this pandemic. We are now in theclosing ends of two thousand and twenty leading into hopefully n, an optimistic two thousand and twenty onerebound sort of thing. What is your methodology now that your knee deepinthiss that you're trying to go forward with yeahI'll go back to again the privilege of being in the Organization Im in and thesolution that we're part of it definitely helps because, because, ifwe're in an industry or a solution that we're selling that was really affectedheavily by the pandemic, he just wouldn't have been, as I don't want tosay. As easy as it was for us, but it definitely wouldn't have created theenvironment for us to be successful over the last seven months, but youknow quickly, you know once we got on e got into that sort of first month andthe organization as a you know, wasn't...

...just us from the sale US standpoint. Itwas also the organization that was providing US monthly, monthly monthlyupdates, and it was literally one of these alrit for the next month. We'regoing to be at home, and you know they were providing some extra there's, an APP that we got access towhere it helps us with with healthy mindset. Everyone had access to. Therewas all these different sort of tactical support that was provided byby the organization as well. That kind of helps support us. But, as we startedgoing through months to three and four, we all came to the realization thatthis is not something that's going to end anytime soon, and so a couple ofthings happened as we started going towards the end of Arcue, to which wasJune a lot of the clients that we had nurtured throughout. That sort of Aprilmay period of time they were also finding their foot back the they werlfind their feet back again and getting their business back into motion. So wewere speaking to them again from a selling motion type activity so thatCet our team happy because now they're back into not just a nurturing mode,but also back into the selling mode and as an organization, the organizationmade a switch to from a tactical month to month type update to a more longterm strategic decision that you know what folks we are not going back intoany physical office until June of two Thousandy, twenty one, at least so letus help you so what they did was they provided every single employee withwheter som of money to allow them to go ond purchase an Home Office. You knowthings that makes their own off is comfortable and other sort of helpfulstrategic things. That would help more of a long term. So we shifted ourmindset. We shifted our mindset from that that short term gains to a more long term.Let's look at our qorter. Let's do a...

...proper, quarterly plan, Tet's doproblemmotion and we got into this routine. Now we got into this routime,where it's not as the frenzy that we got into at the beginning and- and wesettled into this new norm again thanks to the business wherei thanks to theorganization that were part of and thanks t to the team, the team's beenincredible, but it's become Alex, it's become a bit of a normal. Now it's likeit's normal. We have we're less on video, you know one of the things Iencouraged people was what I do Wan I want. Let's get off avideo, let's go for a walk. Why? Because back back prepandemic, we woulddo that physically. We would physically go for a walk on our one one, noteveryone. I wone requires to be about numbers, not everyone o one requores tobe about the business, a ono one with a rep cud and should not could should bebe also about them, see how they're doing see how ting, and so why do we dothat? So so I encouraged a lot of the LONNAL ones, but put yourself in yourair: Let's go for a walk, it's a phone call, it's not a video! So let's getoff a video. Let's do something different, so we change to morestrategic type activities that allowed for calminists versus that crazy frenzythat we had in the beginning of Saine, video of to video afto video. Weencouraged blocking the Times off. You know whenyou go into the office. Theire Book Ends Right. Your Day starts when you gointo the office and your day finishes when you leave the office physically athome, it kind of blended through the morning your computer was on and canlet me throwg you dinner wih through the night and when I get a responsefrom a rep and then you know ten eleven o'clock and night dowl encarrish them.Don't do this like just you need your time as say, switch that conversation.What are you watching at night and it's..., but I was trying to get in- Iahead that it's okay not to work at ten o'clock like I want you to watch someTV like wewat catch up, we a NE, Flix you'll, start emailing at ten. It was amind shift that we had to go through, but I think you know this is what thisis, why I said: We've got seven month of data and Hinnsid. It's easy. We arein our new nor and ar new norm is something that we can take. Whateverthe post new norm is and and we're all you know, you mentioned the optimistictwo thousand and twenty one whatever whatever that post two thousand andtwenty one no arm is. I would love not just from not just me not just my organization,not just our province, not just our country. I just hope everyone in theworld takes all the good from the pre covid blends it with all thegreat stuff. That's come out during covid and create a new norm that hastaken the good from the past, taken some from Neven Te. Now, becausethere's lots of things that we're not doing today, whether it's from a parpitstandpoin, a workstandpont or personal standpoint that is completely redundantlike we're not doing it, we haven't used it and we're not going to miss it.So what let's not use it in the new norm, I tend to ramble on Alex, but thethe point I'm trying to make is we're in that position where we're creating anew norm and we're learned from what we you know from the initial sort of partof the pandemic, and we've created this new arm. That's working, okay, rightnow ar reps are doing. Okay, we're doing okay and we're going to take abig element of this and implement it once we kind of go to this postpandenic norm yeah. I think that's unbelievably wellsaid of through all e the tough parts of coedthere is a...

...blessing or r gift in it, and at leastyou have to choose to view it that way of I agreed there was parts of you know,quote Covid or quarantine that all I talked about was deals. All I talkedabout was numbers and it was exhausting both for the Rep as well as for myself,as your really work in your assoff at the end of Da to hit whatever numberyou're going for, and I think what this has taught us is. Oh, we need to beasking about. How are you doing? We need to be checking in on your mentalhealth, your heart, your Sol yew, you enjoying what you're doing to thisthese hard times. Where are you growing and where are you learning and I thinkthose stuff that either previously went by the wayside, or just naturallyhappened because we're being byin the office? A you see, somebody afterWeeken like how O we get out you crashes for a thing now we're forcingourselves to be ust more intentional with it, and I think that that's good,it's important to be more intentional with t and to be aware that, yes, wehave this number to hit, but we want those people that are hittingthose numbers to feel fulfilled by it and it's Costass to grow. I think aspeople as teams as leaders as whatever you want to call it, that's exactly itthat's exactly I mentioned to you at the beginning. We started nurturing ourdeals, nurturing ourdeals and then we you know this is something that weshould always hare. Trankas like this is not thit's, not rocket. Si It', justlike it's like take that the take that that incredible value that we'rebringing what you know, we look at our customers as our partners and and whenyou think of the definition of a partner. It's not you sell it's. Younurture and you create a bond with them so that nurturing. I is what the silverlining was from that early frenzy that were taking on and we're continuing toadd value to our prospect and that's to... it was the missing link to what wewere doing. BFOR, which was sell, sell, sell it's, never adding value to it. Tome, that's so! That's what you're talking about his perfenceand, it's amore holistic world. It was almost like a forceseen function of it's not just about making moneyanymore. You know for a long time T it's for a long time. I think it's beennot about just making moey and it's been a lot of intention around makingpeople feel fulfilled and rewarded in their job. But I think this is nowsaying: that's not a nice to have that's a a need to have that'stablestakes. Now at this point for your company for your team. If people don'tfeel engaged N in it, surrival Tho fittest, Anday, that's part of thatyeah! Well, cool Qu! This has been awesome. This wasexact sypic conversation that I was hoping to have with you and you totallycrushed it so appreciate you doing that. So, first of Swan to acknowledge youfor that, for your authenticty. You brought, though this through sharingyour learnings and your future learnings by no means is theyre asilver bullet for this we're all this together. One of the big things that Itook away from this conversation was having a cohort of leadership, isreally important and I love the flight attendant Anology, I'm like yeah. Ineed to Mayben need to say what good it's just a little bit of Turgus attimes as opposed to Oh, my God. This plane is going down. So I love. I loveyou sharing that. I really appreciate it. That's my last question for you andthere are many different types of listeners on this show between reftsleaders, sales, offs marketing, you name it if you had to impart one pieceof wisdom, one piece of advice, there's batter, show whether somethingcompletely else fut would that biece of advice with Sam b. You know honestly- and this is not silver bullet, but is just somethingthat's helped me throughout my life in...

...general, and it was a game. Changer forme is, is always lead with a positive mindset, and sometimes it requires youto take a pause. Sometimes it requires you to take a leap of faith, but if youalways take your positive mindset most likely, the outcome would be differentthan if you were to do the opposite. That's my piece of advice. It's helpedme and I hope it helps others to perfect. That's great great cap on uswell, Hugh. Thank you so much again for joining me today and for all of ourlisteners. Think you once again for joining sales. ANCAGEON PODCAST! Youdefinitely look forward to see in e next Hu. Thank you agetting. My friendthank you Alex and thank you to the listeners to listeing. This was anotherepisode of the Sales Engagement podcast join us at sales, engagementcom for newepisodes, resources and the book on sales. Engagement now available onAmazon, Barns and noble or wherever books are sold to get the most out ofyour sales engagement strategy, make sure to check out outrage the leadingsales engagement platform. So you on the next episode.

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