“What happened to him?” … “Has he gone mad?!” “Should we get him a sandwich for lunch?”
For Chris’ new colleagues passing by the glass-walled meeting room, it looked like he is from another planet. He was so indulged and deeply immersed in calls that the outside world ceased to exist for him.
A good 45 minutes ago, on their way to lunch, the same sight had greeted them when passing by: Chris. In there. By himself, on the phone. Hammering his laptop’s keyboard. And on the phone again.
You could tell, Chris was in state. Relaxed, yet his energy: intense, radiating. And he was crushing it.
As Chris emerged from the meeting room just as the sun began to set, it’s like he has just fought and won a huge battle; shirt-sleeves rolled up, hair jazzed, breathing heavy. A little beat-up, but in a heroic, positive way, feeling like one does after an energizing workout.
The restrained smile tells it all: Chris won and was happy - and had every reason to celebrate. He went on a roll to qualify and convert three VP’s and a CxO - all from Fortune 500-sized international companies - to a solution sales meeting with a client of ours. Based on our client’s closing rate, we know that one or two of these sales qualified leads will go on to generate millions of dollars per year revenue for the company.
Millions of dollars in pipeline converted in an afternoon by just one 28 year old sales developer (SDR) happens only when the sales organization is doing many things right. There is a system with several components that ensures consistent results, but the foundation of high performance SDR work is the right mental state: beast mode.
Because Chris was in beast mode, work was effortless, and the rep is devouring targets as if there were no tomorrow.
What is flow - and beast mode?
We call beast mode a special flow state peculiar to SDRs and sales people, when they are in a peak state. Flow, as you may be aware, is “a state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity” - as per Wikipedia.
Flow state is when the highest quality, most productive work gets done and - this is important - with great enjoyment. Reaching the peak state of flow is the means to an end in all professions from the arts through sports, science and business.
When sales professionals get in flow, the outcome is usually devouring targets with a feeling of being unstoppable - with a huge sense of accomplishment accompanying the experience. The SDR, like Chris at Infinityn (which by the way, is his real name) literally rolls up their sleeves, gets intense - and feels like a victorious gladiator by the end. That’s how we came to call this state beast mode.
It is an axiom at Infinityn that flow - and in our case, beast mode - shouldn’t happen by accident. For that reason, we’ve been intensely studying the science behind flow, so that we may help our colleagues achieve the state predictably, on a regular basis.
When deadlines are tight and the target seems impossible to reach, the only way to motivate SDRs is if they have experienced peak performance states and know first hand, that it is feasible to hit goals that seem “logically impossible.” Like getting 36 C-level execs to attend a corporate event in under five weeks.
An SDR in beast mode is also of value to the prospects she reaches out to. Prospects want and need to be challenged, as Gartner has uncovered:
“Challenger rep behaviors build constructive tension. Challengers teach, offering a unique perspective and maintaining two-way communication.
They tailor their approach according to customer value drivers and economic drivers.”
It's easy to see how an agent in beast mode is very much in state to do this. The latter part of tailoring the approach doesn't seem to be related to our topic of flow, but the flexibility implied here is a key component to it, as you will shortly see.
How to get an SDR to step into beast mode
Helping our SDRs regularly achieve peak states of performance is a key determinant of our clients’ success - so it is of utmost importance to Infinityn. The good news is that getting in flow is definitely not a mystical thing - there is no magic, shamans or any shenanigans involved. This peak performance state has been 100% scientifically explained and verified; which also means that it’s possible to “step into it” purposefully. It’s possible to almost “manufacture flow” - or beast mode, as we call it with SDRs.
There are a few components which we have “inserted” in the work-environment, injected into our culture that help our SDRs and other colleagues step into beast mode.
- Hiring. It all starts with having the right people on board. The reason is that for flow to happen, one has to be involved in an activity which genuinely excites and engages them, where the level of challenge is adequate.
We hire for culture add and personality, making sure that the work will engage and excite the candidate over the long run - and get them in beast mode easily.
- Supportive environment, creative freedom. While SDR work is typically not considered creative, SDRs do need a certain degree of freedom of expression to work in their own style.
A typical mistake that sales development companies (and sales organizations!) make is having their outbound reps confine to a strict, standardized playbook with scripts, prohibiting diversion, and discouraging reps’ personality to shine through in conversations.
Such strict, standardizing policies gets the representatives to focus on following precise instructions and puts them in robot-mode, which is the opposite of the flow state.
- Culture. It’s one of the three pillars of our SPS3 methodology. Business people in general feel good in intense environments of competition and tough challenges, but this needs to be balanced with a sociable, humanistic backdrop - where it’s OK to make mistakes, where everyone feels safe, where emotional intelligence prevails. Where it’s encouraged to experiment, share knowledge and to cooperate.
For flow to emerge on a consistent basis in a business environment, people need to feel a strong sense of support and belonging - and have emotional incentives to perform. While we have strict guidelines on quality and very concrete KPIs for our reps, we also allow them freedom to “live” their personalities and flexibility to diverge from the plan if the prospect and the business objective justifies it. Because freedom of expression is a fundamental prerequisite for flow, and besides, it just makes for good company culture. A bonus tip: for generations Y and Z, providing this freedom of authenticity (while adhering to business objectives) is vital in keeping them around.
We are lucky to have a Happiness Manager on board, who oversees the cultural aspects necessary for reps to experience flow, to step into beast mode on a regular basis.
- Training is another key aspect. We are enrolled in a program with The Flow Research Collective led by Steven Kotler and get an enormous amount of knowledge and insight on how to build flow into the DNA of organizations.
The opportunity to work in beast mode has probably been a key component of success, and also contributes to a low turnover rate at Infinityn. We highly recommend all sales organizations to consider what it takes to create an environment of peak performance for their reps. It’s not only a performance-question, it is an employee-turnover-question, and therefore a strategic issue.
As a side note/fun fact: the father of flow-theory, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi is Hungarian - and so is our company. We're proud of these common roots. Talented people from all over the globe come and work with us in our Budapest headquarters.
If you want to get started with additional resources on the topic, we recommend a few reads:
- The original book on Flow by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi;
- Here is an HBR article by Steven Kotler about creating a work environment that fosters flow;
- There is no business like FLOW business - this short and sweet Fast Company article’s title speaks for itself.
If you’d like us to share our experience on creating sales organizations, where reps are crushing targets in beast mode, enroll for a discovery session with Infinityn. You will talk to a customer success manager, who has much more under his belt besides beast mode - and can introduce you to the complete framework for sales development success. Click here to schedule an SPS3 discovery session.