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Justin Dauer, Empathy, Accountability, The Sales Evangelist

TSE 1143: Building a Culture of Empathy and Accountability

Justin Dauer, Empathy, Accountability, The Sales EvangelistEvery organization needs a culture of empathy and accountability no matter what it’s doing. Sometimes, we only have empathy and neglect accountability but it’s important to have both. Justin Dauer is with us in this episode to explain to us how to get both and give recommendations on the right way to do it. 

Justin is the VP of the Human Center Design at BSwift, a healthcare and benefits management firm owned by CVS Health.  He is also a writer and a public speaker when he isn’t in his 9-5 job, and he enjoys talking about humility, empathy, and accountability. 

Discovering agency culture 

Justin’s entire career revolves around agencies primarily in the creative direction. In his 10 years being in the business, he observed that agency culture tends to burn people out.

In some cultures, the driving factor is perceived by who went out the door last, regardless of the reasons why others left earlier. Maybe they went to pick up their kids from school or went to a doctor’s appointment. Meanwhile, whatever their reasons are, someone else in the firm is tapping a wristwatch noting the fact that they left early.

This buildup of passive-aggressive situations in the agency space resonates to many because they have experienced it too. 

He got a tremendous amount of feedback so he knew it was an important topic, which prompted him to write a book about it. 


Burnout has a domino effect that is detrimental to an organization or an agency, partly because agency space is often about making money. Most times, a name on a spreadsheet doesn’t equate to an individual. The name has to do the work and that’s all there is. 

Justin shared the same experience before he was in a senior position. He’d come to the office and face a stack of papers, printouts, and a load of work with red lines on them. His value for the day depended on the quantity of work he could do for the day, without regard for quality in the process. 

There is no room to pause in some agencies, so employees can’t do anything not work-related, even in their free time. They fear that if their supervisor walks by and sees them, he’ll ask why they aren’t working. Employees are constantly on the edge, which isn’t healthy and wears them down. But as human beings, we all need to pause and calibrate. 

Another example of burnout is the cost of hiring people over and over again, which takes a toll on the organization’s morale. 

Addressing the issue 

Solving this takes action, not lip service. It’s good to start by demonstrating respect and humility. Humility is baked into both empathy and accountability. Humility is when a leader admits a mistake and follows up with an action plan. 

Dialog is a two-way street, which means less oration and delegation but more of a collaboration. Once a mistake has been made, admit it. This is what accountability is about. 

People who work in high-stress environments have little pockets of culture. They might gather in a kitchen and talk about something related to their craft. Saturating the culture from the top communicates that when they make a mistake, there’s a culture of support where people will rally around them and help them improve.  

Leaders must set the tone

Leaders have to set the tone. They should be the first to trust that their employees have done their job before they leave work for personal errands. Consider, too, that some may be single parents taking half the day off to pick up their kids from school. The simple concept of trust is something that’s taken for granted when it shouldn’t be taken for granted at all. 

Some organizations have a culture of fostering growth where leaders are truly leaders rather than taskmasters. When they find a problem, they ask questions, and they open a dialog to discover solutions to the problem. 

The same thing happened to me in the past where my team members share stuff with me. I made a culture of discussing things with each other and it proved to be a good move. Team members share their brilliant ideas that I couldn’t have conceived on my own, and it made the work more efficient. 

Everyone has value

It is ideal to have everyone be involved in the thought process when running a workshop. The same is also true in business. You want people from C-level to people who are answering the phone in the room because everyone has a voice and that voice has value. Hierarchies should be thrown out the window. 

In business, everyone’s viewpoint is important, from the stakeholders to the other people in the room with different perspectives. 

Sales leaders and managers must be cognizant of what the new hire thinks when they come in. They have to be aware that they won’t be scoffed at and demanded to go back to their desks when they get coffee from the coffee machine. They need to know that they are not chained to their desks and that they are allowed to work on another floor or to take their laptops outside if it’s not against company rules. 


Another way to create a culture within the organization is through simplicity. People will more likely engage with things that are simple and easily understood.. Simplicity is also clarity which is one of Scott M. Cutlip’s  Seven C’s of Communication. What you’re saying should be exactly what you mean. 

Government Digital Services in the UK fosters this kind of cultural sense. They put up signs that say ‘It’s okay to x’, that it’s okay not to check their email after work, that it’s okay to have a day-off, and that it’s okay to pause and talk to their coworkers. These are simple and clear and people engage in them. It makes sense for businesses to do this as well but it’s still put by the wayside.  

Top-to-bottom approach

We did this in one of the companies I worked for where they gave us a Wii. It was super cool and we could play the Wii to destress and have a good time. The company was a small organization and we got all the people to be in the break area for 10-15 minutes and play Wii bowling. But then the sales leaders saw us playing and told the CEO about it. They told us that we could play it either before work or after work, and nobody touched it since. 

It was the culture that killed it. We could have had that 15-minute break and then go back to our desks afterward but the culture says that you can’t have fun. It says that growing a business and growing sales can’t be fun. This goes to show that when you don’t have the culture built from the top then clearly, you’re in trouble. 

The danger in perks is that sometimes it can take away one’s individuality, too. Some big tech companies have sleeping pods where you can zone out for a little bit. They get you a cab or buy you dinner if you work beyond 9 p.m. or they send someone to get your laundry at home. These perks look good on paper but they keep people in the office and squeeze more hours out of them and marginalize them and take their individuality away. They think of these people more as a production line who is there to work and sacrifice their personal life. So we must all be wary about perks like that. 

Be observant 

If you are someone looking for a job in any industry, maybe in tech or in sales, keep your head on a swivel and be observant. When you’re looking for a position, really poke in on the culture and see the things that are important to you. Are the people validated and supported? Poke in on their level of accountability as an organization.

Be involved and have a dialogue; you’re just not there to be grilled. Ask questions or talk to people who have worked there or who are working there. The manner in which your questions are received is a huge indicator of the validity of their response. Do these things before signing because you’ll never be able to do these dialogue and transparent conversations when you’ve signed the papers. 

In the end, it’s important to respect people ultimately because that goes beyond being a good person and being a good human being. Respect, humility, and empathy go far in the workplace. It permeates innovation, office dynamics, and creativity. It permeates everything. The golden rule always applies – treat others the same way you want to be treated. This permeates so many things at the business level, the profitability level, and the quality of work level. 

Building a Culture of Empathy and Accountability” episode resources

Connect with Jason (@pseudoroom) by following him on Twitter, and his online portfolio at He also has a book entitled Cultivating a Creative Culture and a second edition that’s coming by next year. 

You can also connect with me at or try our first module of  TSE Certified Sales Training Program or free. This episode has been made possible with the help of  TSE Certified Sales Training Program, a training course designed to help sellers in improving their performance. 

I hope you like and learned many things from this episode. If you did, please review us and give us a five-star rating on Apple podcast or in any platform you’re using – Google Podcast, Stitcher, and Spotify.  You can also share this with your friends and colleagues. 

Audio provided by Free SFX and Bensound.

Stacey Hanke, Donald Kelly, The Sales Evangelist Podcast

TSE 1006: Immediate Steps You Can Take To Begin Growing Your Influence

Stacey Hanke, Donald Kelly, The Sales Evangelist PodcastIn today’s episode of The Sales Evangelist, we discuss the immediate steps you can take to begin growing your influence.  Whether you are in sales or not, everyone, at one time or another, needs to increase their influence.

I’m reminded of a coworker of mine who really knew how to connect with people. Tom had that ability to influence others.

He just understood people and prospects and he knew how to speak to them. He could point out potential problems before they became problems. As such, when he spoke, his clients listened. He was respected.

My guest today, Stacey Hanke, is here to talk about how we, like Tom, can grow our influence. [00:01]

Stacey is the author of two books, a Certified Speaking Professional, and CEO of StaceyHanke, Inc.

Stacey and her team work with directors, to C-Suite, and with sales professionals to make them more aware of the level of influence they really have versus they level of influence they believe they have. They accomplish this with keynotes, with mentoring, and through workshops.

They increase awareness by giving practical how-to advice so their clients know how to use both verbal and non-verbal methods of influence every day of the week. [03:25]

Influence: What it is and what it isn’t

Stacey has worked with a lot of individuals and organizations over the past 16 years. And though she sees it happen quite often, Stacey believes that influence is not something that you should turn on and off.

For example, you’ve got a high stakes phone conversation, meeting or sales pitch and you decide to ‘turn it on.’

There’s nothing authentic about that. There’s no integrity to it. [04:46]

Influence is when your verbal and non-verbal communication remain consistent at all times and in all situations. It is congruent with your priorities and purposes.

Influence is having the ability to move people to take action long after the interaction has occurred.

It takes discipline and hard work. It is hard because we often get caught up with worrying about how we are perceived. Will they like me? Am I going to say the right thing?

Switch your thinking. What is important to my client? What is their experience with the topic? Why is this conversation happening?

To really drive home the value of your product or your service – whatever you’re trying to influence the person to act on – it first has to resonate with the client. [05:36]

So, be genuine.

Stacey recently helped a client to realize that he was putting more time into marketing materials and PowerPoint slides than into the actual delivery of the product. It is not the experience his clients were looking for. [06:46]

Feedback: Why you need it.

As a sales rep, one of the first steps to increase your influence is to ask for real feedback. You have to plan for it and ask for it.

Ask someone who you can count on to tell you the truth to listen to you as you practice. Ask them to listen, pay attention and give you feedback. When you can prepare in this way, the person providing the feedback is more likely to be direct and constructive with their comments.

We don’t need to be told how great we are.

We have to figure out our weaknesses in order to grow. It takes discipline to handle feedback and even more discipline to act on it. Don’t sabotage yourself by asking a subordinate or someone who is likely to tell you what you want to hear, instead of what you need to hear.

Put your pride aside. Strive for honest answers. [07:39]

Stacey has encountered many in her workshops who are hesitant to pursue feedback. She attributes this to the stigma that surrounds feedback as meaning you’ve done something wrong.

Feedback instead means that you are already doing well. You wouldn’t be in the position you are in if you didn’t know what you were doing. Feedback provides opportunity to become even better. It encourages constant growth. [09:41]


In a study conducted by Joseph Folkman of over 51,000 leaders, it was realized that leaders who frequently ask for feedback rank in the top 86% for leadership effectiveness. On the other hand, leaders who rank in the bottom 15% for leadership effectiveness are in the bottom 10% when it comes to asking for feedback. [10:20]

So how does this translate to working with a prospect?

Stacey reaches out to her clients every three or six months to find out what has been working for them during that time. She frequently asks her clients why they continue to work with her team. What keeps them coming back?

Then she flips the coin. What can her team do to make things easier? How can they provide more value on a long-term basis?  This allows the client to tell you how best to upsell them by letting you know what other services they might want or need.

Your clients can disappear at any point but if you deliver the value that you promise and you truly care about your clients, then the ability to upsell based on their feedback provides a service to them. [11:31]

Being influential is not the same as being manipulative. The more you practice asking for, setting up, receiving, and dealing with feedback, the more you’ll start to crave it.

It sounds crazy but sometimes the feedback is completely different from how you felt during the conversation or how you thought you came across.

Sometimes feedback can be harsh.

But the toughest feedback often comes during periods of growth or transition. You might hate it at the time but it will help you grow. [13:42]

Get comfortable with becoming uncomfortable

Feedback can be hard to embrace if it requires a change that takes us out of our comfort zone.  Make feedback common practice. You can apply it to everything in life. The more uncomfortable you get, the faster you grow.

Once you get over the hurdles, once you stop hitting your knees every time, you will start to see improvement.

Staying in our comfort zone only makes us lazy. Resting on our laurels or believing that we already know everything comes across in our performance.

When you are feeling strong and landing deals, Stacey says that is the time to feel uncomfortable. Work hard even when times aren’t tough.

Imagine going to the gym only when you want to lose weight. It isn’t going to last. It is too painful.

Instead, be consistent to get consistent results. [17:09]

Talk to your clients like you would talk to a friend. They don’t need somebody pushing a product down their throat. They want someone who is trying to meet their needs so ask how you can do that for them.

  • What is the best way to communicate with them?
  • How frequently do they want to hear from you?
  • When can you call or email them next?

To have more influence from a personal standpoint, try seeing yourself as your audience does.

Record yourself on your phone. The level of awareness that develops from observing your own verbal and non-verbal cues can be truly eye-opening.

Everything about our behavior translates into the experience that people have with us. Influence doesn’t happen during the conversation. It happens after the fact. Focus on your thoughts. [20:26]

No eyes? No talk.

Focus your eyes on a single point and practice as if you are speaking to individuals there.

When you focus your eyes, you become focused in your thoughts.  When you lose focus on the point, you will find that you also lose your train of thought.

Make every interaction purposeful.

When you are trying to connect with someone, only speak to them when you can see their eyes. Make it a meaningful conversation.

Anytime you need to look away, stop talking. It creates trust. Without trust, nothing else matters.

You save time when you stay focused and speak less. [22:30]

Many of us forget that the people we are trying to influence may not be as excited about our years of experience or about our product as we are. If you only have two or five minutes with a client, think about how to provide the greatest value in the shortest time.

Make it memorable for them. They don’t have to say ‘yes’ today but you can increase their interest today. Let them know how to reach you tomorrow. [24:31]


If you want to use social media to increase your influence, be sure to be consistent among the platforms.

Stacey cites the common problem of using cellphones to send emails, namely, that disclaimer at the bottom to ‘please forgive any grammatical errors.’ Why would you ask a potential client to do that?

Influence comes through with everything we do.

Be sure your messages are consistent. Don’t bash other companies. Remember that your tone of voice does not convey to the written word. Avoid the risk of coming across as unprofessional.

Think before you post.

“Immediate Steps you can Take to Begin Growing your Influence” episode resources

Connect with Stacey and check out her available resources at

This episode is brought to you in part by, a powerful sales automation platform that allows you to build highly personalized, cold email campaigns. To learn more, go to It will help you with your outbound to expand your outreach. It allows you to set it and forget it. Your prospecting will never ever be the same.

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