Ralph Barsi: Attracting & Developing “A Players”

If you have ever worked in an environment where you are celebrated and not tolerated, you know it increases your productivity, profitability as well as overall engagement and loyalty to your company. Learn how Ralph Barsi of ServiceNow approaches attracting and retaining early career "A players".

Ralph Barsi is the VP, Global Inside Sales at Tray.io. Ralph Barsi leads the worldwide sales development organization at ServiceNow. Ralph regularly speaks and writes about sales and leadership and is recognized among the top inside sales leaders in the technology industry. He publishes most of his material at https://ralphbarsi.com/show-your-work/.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

The Transcript - Attracting & Developing "A Players"

Welcome to the Next Generation Rockstars podcast. If you are trying to figure out how do you recruit and retain this next generation of rock star talent or you are in the right place.

Amanda Hammett: 00:14
All right, so today's episode of the Next Generation Rock Stars podcast. I interviewed Ralph Barsi of service now out in Silicon Valley and man, he brought it to this interview. So you need to go ahead and just get your pen and notebook ready because you're going to have to take lots of notes. Ralph really believes in developing that early in career college. Uh, and, and he doesn't just believe it and say these things. He actually is doing it in the trenches like day to day. And he gives you some really practical and actionable steps that you as a leader can take and implement within your company today or your team today. And I think that leaders who have been leading, you know, who are brand new leaders, leaders who've been leading for 20, 30 years, I mean, this is some really good stuff that Ralph brings to this interview. And I really hope that you really listen and take it all at.

Amanda Hammett: 01:07
I in fact loved this interview so much that after the interview I asked Ralph like, Hey, can we do around too? I really wanted to talk to him about mentoring. That was the original reason I reached out to him was to talk to him about mentoring because I personally know some of his mentees and they are killer and we'll talk a little bit about them during the interview, but man, we didn't even get to it. I mean we just didn't have time so I expect to hear more from Ralph Barsi just beyond today and I hope you enjoy this interview.

Amanda Hammett: 01:40
All right, welcome to the Next Generation Rockstars podcast. I have an amazing guest for you today. His name is Ralph Barsi and he is my service now, so let's all welcome Ralph, welcome to the show.

Ralph Barsi : 01:51
Thank you so much Amanda, how are you today?

Amanda Hammett: 01:53
I am fantastic working on a little bit low level of sleep, but otherwise great.

Ralph Barsi : 01:59
Oh good to hear. Good to hear. Well, I'm looking forward to talking with you.

Amanda Hammett: 02:02
Me Too. So this has been a long time coming. You were actually nominated to be on the show by two people. One was a rock star that I had on season bond Morgan J Ingram, who is if anybody watched the show last season, you know, Morgan knocks it out of the park every day. The second person will actually be on the show next season for season three and her name is Nicola and I don't want to give anything else away about her, but she's awesome.

Ralph Barsi : 02:29
She is.

Amanda Hammett: 02:30
So let's hear a little bit about you Ralph.

Ralph Barsi : 02:34
Sure. Hello everybody. My name is Ralph Barsi. Today on the global sales development leader at service. Now we're a cloud computing company. We're based in silicon valley. We started 2003, 2004. Our focus was on servicing it departments and streamlining the workflow of help desk environments. But over the years we've really evolved into servicing all business units in the enterprise. So essentially our technology digitize those workflows and makes the experience of fulfilling reclass pretty smooth and simple. My job in service now is to oversee roughly 200 what we call atrs or account development reps. They have a two fold objective. Number one is they drive revenue pipeline for the company by booking qualified meetings for our field organization on their second objective is to become our future sales reps for service now. So we really drive a revenue pipeline as well as a talent pipeline. And it's a blast. I've been here just about four years. I started here in Q four of 2015 and it's gone very quickly. As you can imagine. prior to that I have a little over 20 years experience close to 25 now in sales. The first half of my career was spent as an individual contributor, whereas the latter half has really been leading and scaling sales and sales development teams.

Amanda Hammett: 04:08
Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, one thing that I know about you in the sales world that I'm actually gathered from, you know, looking at sales organizations and, and associations, but also the people that are really influencing the market, is that when I'm talking to those influencers in particular, those younger influencers, I'm like, well, who are you looking at? Who are you following? Who, who's mentoring you? And low and behold, it is Ralph Barsi.

Ralph Barsi : 04:35
Wow. That's flattering and humbling. Thank you. I hope I'm adding value to the marketplace. I appreciate it.

Amanda Hammett: 04:42
I would say so. I would say so. So, um, so let's talk a little bit about your role and how you see it. Because I would assume, and I'm making an assumption here and let's clear, clarify this for the audience, but particularly when you're driving that talent pipeline for service, now you're looking primarily at early career, correct?

Ralph Barsi : 05:04
Oh, sure. For the most part we have a relatively young group of atrs and when I say on, so if it helps, I'm 48 years old today. And so young to me is between 20 and 30. And that's largely the demographic of our account development reps. They're relatively early in their career as well as that service now. So we feel that, you know, the leaders here, we feel this time is precious and it's finite and it's a, it's a privilege to be able to develop the skills and the competencies and the accusation that these future salespeople and leaders need to succeed. It's quite a project and exercise, but we're blessed and excited to be the ones to do it.

Amanda Hammett: 05:50
Okay. I love this outlook. Because I know that so many people struggle with the attraction of young talent, but also keeping it. I don't, I think that they're missing a few important foundational items. One is really getting that attraction piece correct, but also the people who are leading them, once they're there, they need to be the right people. So let's talk first a little bit about how do you go about attracting the right talent?

Ralph Barsi : 06:22
Sure. So of course, Amanda, there's different levels of talent that we need to attract. And I'm really happy we're talking about the word and the whole concept of attracting. I think a lot of companies and teams who struggle with finding talent are focused on pursuing that talent. They chase people down, they spray and pray their job descriptions all over the internet and they just hope great candidates come in. Instead, they need to reverse that whole process and they need to focus on them. And I don't, I don't usually say that I'm usually talking about focus outward versus inward. This is different when you want to attract top talent, you have to keep in mind that a players want to play for a player. Coaches, yes. And they want to go to environments where they are celebrated, not tolerated, and they want to learn while they're in these companies so that they can add value and be the best versions of themselves in the workplace.

Ralph Barsi : 07:24
So you as a leader, you really need to focus on what's that bad signal that you've just cast into the sky for people to learn more about. You learn more about your team, learn more about your company and your industry. You know, what's your branding effort like whether it be on Linkedin, whether it be out and about in the marketplace. Can we read some of your content? Can we see you on Youtube? Can we learn about you as a leader to make our decision and discern whether or not we even want to apply to a job on your team at your company? And I think a lot of leaders, I don't think I know a lot of leaders really miss that they are out there focusing on their own brand for whatever reason and top talents going elsewhere.

Amanda Hammett: 08:11
I would agree with that wholeheartedly. And one of the other things that I see in, you know, maybe you agree with this, maybe you don't, but a lot of companies especially, and I don't understand this in a sales organization, but they rely on HR completely. Yes. The machine. And I'm like, I don't understand if your numbers depend on the talent, why aren't you driving this process?

Ralph Barsi : 08:35
Exactly. I mean a lot of, I mean a lot of leaders with all due respect are heads down driving the revenue that they're primarily responsible for. And also people have a hard time writing content, being on youtube, appearing on podcasts like this one because there's maybe a, an inherit fear that they're going to be disliked by the marketplace. So a lot of people out there feel that what I'm doing right now is very self-serving. It's all about Ralph Barsi when it's the complete opposite. I'm just trying to shed light and expose the good things that we're doing at service now, particularly in global sales development, in hopes and with an intent that top talent out there is going to say yes, that's the type of team I can add value to and I can also learn from how do I get there?

Amanda Hammett: 09:28
Absolutely. I would agree with that wholeheartedly, but I would like to add that additionally, I think that other leaders can learn from you whether they're in sales or not. I think that this is something that every leader at any level needs to hear.

Ralph Barsi : 09:43
Awesome. That's even better. Great.

Amanda Hammett: 09:46
All right. So let's talk a little bit about, um, you've done the work. You've done the background work that you needed to do to attract that talent into you and you get in this new early-career employee. What happens from there?

Ralph Barsi : 10:03
Sure. So a great question. A lot of it has to happen preemptively before they even come in. So during the recruiting phase, you have to, first of all, think about the job description that you have out there in the first place. You know, what's the size of the job description? It's okay to have a long job description if it's a killer copy, you know, and it's enthusiastic and compelling and informative and has calls to action where someone can't wait to apply. So think about the verbiage you're using. Think about what audiences that, that verbiage will resonate with or not. So be very mindful of the language that you're using. I mean, for example, some companies who are looking for people to come in and just crush quota, that's going to appeal to a much smaller audience than

Ralph Barsi : 10:56
Then words that would say, hey, come here and grow and develop in your career, sharpen your skills and your competencies. Be surrounded by people who have very high standards and want to move the needle from a to B. That's way more exciting and compelling than the former verbiage. So think about that kind of stuff. And then when they do come in the door, hopefully by that point, during that recruiting phase or interviewing phase, you've all really already talked about the well-lit career path that's ahead of them. If they put some skin in the game in this very role, you know, if they, if they really optimize and maximize the time they have in the role they were hired for and really work to master that role, knowing that it's going to carry them forward in their career and more opportunities will surface the better they do in this existing role.

Ralph Barsi : 11:49
You have to have those types of conversations very, very early on. And then of course when they come in the door, you got to teach them, you know, specifically for sales development reps, the average tenure is maybe 15 to 24 months as an SDR, ADR, BDR, whatever you want to call it before they're up and out into hopefully in other business function within your own company, and even if they go elsewhere, leaders have to recognize that, look, everybody on your team today is eventually going to be an alum of your team. So when they go out into the world, whether it's in your company or elsewhere, they're going to be representing you and they're going to be representing your team, your brand, your company up from the time that they worked for you. So you want to put your best foot forward so that they learn enough to go on and pay it forward down the line. And remember you and the time that, that they had on your team and all the great insights they learned and the experiences they had while they were part of your team. And you want those little reflections and rep represent representations of view out into the world doing good versus the opposite.

Amanda Hammett: 13:04
I just have so many questions.

Ralph Barsi : 13:06
It's right. I mean I'd like to talk about it all day. Say you're in dear to my heart. It's really important.

Amanda Hammett: 13:13
I think that this is super, super important. I think that one of the things that really struck me about what you just said was that about really taking in developing that, you know, first time, you know, this is their first job out of college or university or whatever. That is a hard leadership role and a lot of people are not well suited for that role. And I was wondering if you could share with the audience. What kind of characteristics, what traits would you say would be somebody who would make a good leader for someone who is just right out of college or university? This is their first maybe the second job.

Ralph Barsi : 13:52
Someone who would be a good leader would have a fabulous attitude. They're enthusiastic about the work they're doing and life itself. They walk into a room and they light that room up. They don't suck the life out of it. They see the good in everything and you know, they stay in the sunlight that said they're living by very high standards, high standards that they, they themselves set for themselves versus standards I'm going to set or anyone that I work with is going to set a, they work harder on themselves and they do on their job. They are selfless. They are humble. They are teachers and coaches. They love the people that work with them and for them, they see everybody on their team two years out and they picture them as already successful account or successful team leaders or successful business owners five, 10, 15 years from now.

Ralph Barsi: 14:58
And they understand that in this little pocket of time that they have, they've got to give those people the best up from their experiences. You know, their best insights so that those people can, can go on and pay it forward later. It's attributes like that that I look for when I'm hiring leaders. And then there's the flip side. We're running a business, so you have to have an understanding of the outcomes we're after, how we measure our progress against those outcomes, how to be decisive, how to have intestinal fortitude to sit at a conference room table with a bunch of type a executives who also have numbers to hit and understand that there's a many times throughout your day that you must detach from the emotional aspect and the sunshine, beautiful time that we have here. Developing people to get to work and to understand the performance indicators that we're measuring against, et Cetera, on how you're making a contribution to the business. Let's not lose sight of the business side of things as well.

Amanda Hammett: 16:05
Of course, and that's the whole thing that makes everything move and continue. You can't continue to develop people. There's no business that you're putting them into. So...

Ralph Barsi : 16:15
That's right. So I find myself referring more and more to Ray Daleo his principles and what he speaks about in that book and what his philosophy is, is that you have to almost see yourself as well as your business or your team as a machine. And you are an engineer that simply operates that machine gene. And oftentimes that machine's going to break down in certain areas. Certain parts of the antigen are going to become faulty and you have to be able to identify those faults or gaps and you have to build systems that allow you to look at problems as, oh, we've seen this situation before, we have contingency plans in place based on our experience. So we're going to pull a lever a, lever B, Lever C and we'll get through this thing. No problem. Versus completely freaking out at the gap or the fall and going, oh my God, all hell is broken loose. We're going to slide off the rails here at any moment. It's really just having the wherewithal and the understanding of going, okay, this is a quick little recalibration or modulation that we need to make. And we're back on the rails and we're heading north again. It takes leaders like that to be at the helm.

Amanda Hammett: 17:33
I agree with that. I agree with that and we've all had leaders in the past, or at least I'll speak from my own experience where any tiny thing goes wrong and they are just losing their mind. It's like, how did you get in this role? Really?

Ralph Barsi : 17:46
We've all, unfortunately, we've all been, well, most of us have been exposed. Those leaders in, I avoid them and people like that at all costs. All of a sudden, all of a sudden I'm getting blamed and all of a sudden I'm being berated in front of others and it's just, it's such a whack way to lead people and in fact, over my career, I've kept journal notes in a document that I've kept for many, many years now that I add to on a daily basis on what not to do as a leader. So when I've been exposed to crummy leaders, I've written it down like, hey, Barsi don't do this. Don't do that. Approach it this way. Do the opposite and I'll refer back to it more often than not to just remind myself, you know, how, how you're coming across. You've got to be very self-aware of, of the brand and, and how and a persona that you're showing up with on a daily basis. Because whether you like it or not, you are setting an example and people are taking note. Whether they tell you or never tell you, you're setting an example. So set the best one you can.

Amanda Hammett: 18:51
Absolutely. You know, that's funny you brought up self-awareness. I was actually with a sales team just last week and we did a self-awareness exercise where there's like 400 sellers and you know, you, they have different categories of impression. Little Post-it notes that they had to go write one word and their impression of another person. So somebody, they work with, somebody that they know but don't work with directly and then someone they have seen in the halls but don't actually know what is their impression of that person. And it was funny because people were very like, oh, everybody said I was quiet and shy and I'm not at all. And it was just like, well, what, what are you putting out there? Because it's not just the people you work with, it's your clients, it's your higher-ups. It's everybody. What are you putting out there?

Ralph Barsi : 19:37
Yeah, absolutely. And it's that it's duly noted that, you know when you walk into the workplace thinking that everybody knows something that you don't, or everybody carries a little nugget of value that you can learn from and grow from. It just, it completely changes your perspective on the people you work with. You start to see yourself as really a member of a team that you need to make a contribution to and add value to. And it's just, it's a game changer. Once you realize that, that people likely know something that you don't or have gone through something that, that you have it and are just a little wiser than you think they are. Yeah, it definitely makes a difference.

Amanda Hammett: 20:18
It does. So I'd like to switch gears just a little bit and I'd like to talk about, you mentioned this briefly earlier, but I'd like to talk about those career development conversations.

Ralph Barsi: 20:31

Amanda Hammett: 20:32
When do you start having them? How often do you have them? What walk us through, what, what that looks like for you.

Ralph Barsi: 20:39
You start having them at the very beginning of the relationship. So for leaders on the front line, for example, with sales reps or sales development reps, it's important to earmark a one on one per month or per quarter. I recommend maybe once a quarter where we actually talk about, you know, personal and professional development. A lot of the other one on one should focus on day to day operation, et Cetera and getting to the goal. But early in the relationship, you know, have the rep do a self-assessment, have them talk about and literally write down, they could share what they'd like or just share excerpts of this exercise because it's personal. But what are your short term, midterm, and long term goals? How do you define short term versus midterm versus long term? Short term could be two to four weeks for some people you know, or they could be six to 12 months.

Ralph Barsi: 21:34
It's important to identify what they mean by short, mid and longterm. Because a lot of sales development reps, six to eight months into the GIG, they're approaching their leaders asking about getting promoted and it's way premature. It's way too early. There's still a lot more development and experience and time that needs to pass in order for them to incubate if you will, and really become masters of the role they're in and add way more value in future roles. So identify what those time frames are and then ask the person in this self-assessment, hey, who do you admire in the world professionally or personally? Who do you want to emulate? Tell us why. What characteristics or attributes to those people illustrate on a regular basis that you want to model that's going to give the leader a really good understanding of, you know, how this person ticks what this person likes, dislikes, what they're trying to accomplish or who they're aspiring to become.

Ralph Barsi: 22:35
Another thing in the assessment is, and there's really, there are four questions. It's like, you know, what are your career aspirations? Short, mid, long. Who Do you admire? Who do you want to emulate? That's number two. Number three is what do you need to learn and work on to get where your going and then lastly, how can our company, how can me, how? How can we, how can I, how can others around you really help you get from here to there and you'll realize more often than not that, like you said, college students coming into the workplace. They have no idea what north is to them or where they want to be in five years or why they want to be there. A lot of people, especially in the sales world, they'll come in and go, I just want to make money. I want to make a ton of money.

Ralph Barsi: 23:21
Okay, well that's a trigger then for the leader to ask. Awesome. That's fabulous. Let's fast forward. Let's say the stars have aligned and you've earned all the money that you want to earn. What are you going to do with it? Now the leader's going to get a really good understanding of is this a person who's trying to care for alien parents? Because if somebody who wants to get married, do they want to invest in properties? Do they want to run their own business someday? Do they want to donate to a charity? And you know, put forward a philanthropic effort to do better in the world. Once they've got that money discussion aside, they can really get to the root cause of why they want the money in the first place, right? So I highly recommend doing those assessments, sharing them very, very early on and then doing, you know, periodically start, stop, continue exercises, Amanda, you need to start doing A, B, C you're not getting out there and networking enough. You're not on the phones enough. You're not falling on your face giving yourself enough experiences where you have to get back up again and dust yourself off. So do that. Here's where I think you need to stop doing. Here's what you need to continue doing because you're awesome at it. Like, let's get after it, let's go get it. And I think discussions like that pretty simple, not that difficult to have they just need to happen and they need to be put on the calendar to happen or they will not take place.

Amanda Hammett: 24:43
I think that that's, that is a really good point. They need to be on the calendar and almost like a standing appointment quarterly or monthly or however you do it. Because they're so easy to get, Oh, you know what, I've got to take care of this. And they're so easy to get pushed aside and then you don't ever do it. But especially in that early career, things are shifting and they're learning so much about themselves as who they want to be as a professional, who they want to be as a person, where they want to go. That that is shifting and changing and evolving quickly, much more quickly than at other points in your career that the leader really needs to be there to kind of develop and guide that. And if you're not doing it, you don't know and you're losing them basically

Ralph Barsi: 25:27
100% oh and keep in mind, as we just talked about, most of the people that are coming into the sales development world are recent graduates. So what does that mean? They have been on a schedule for their entire life. That's like semester-based. You know, they finish a class, it's onto the next class. They get graded in that class and they move forward after one year they go to the next grade. And so they've been on this cadence their entire life and they come into a company and a company is like, oh dude, you're not getting promoted for like two years. That is an unbelievable news to them. And they really have to adapt and you know, recalibrate how they're approaching their day to day work because they're just not used to that. So create an academy so that as soon as they come in, they understand that there are six month time frames where they're going to learn A and they're going to learn B, then they're going to learn C and over those six months timeframes they're going to be graded in this academy, for example, at service now we have a global sales development academy that's broken into guessing what?

Ralph Barsi : 26:34
Six-month chunks and we call it liftoff, launch an orbit, and by the time you're in the final six months or even a six month period after that, you're learning the competencies that are going to make you successful in the next role. So you're learning about the t's and C's of contracts. You're learning negotiation with high-level executives and committees who are making decisions at big companies. You're learning how the legal process works when lawyers red line clauses in a contract and what that means. You're learning about the time that it really takes to close a deal, especially in our world, in the SAS B2B world, selling into the enterprise sales cycles could be two years long. So you have to understand all the components and mechanics of moving a deal over the line. There's a lot of studying that needs to happen, and so we incorporate that into our academy.

Ralph Barsi : 27:33
Secondly, we talked about this at the very beginning of our call today. Mentoring is critical. You have to have a coach or a teacher that's not the direct manager that can have those offline conversations with you. How are things going? Hey, if Amanda shows up like this, don't take it too seriously. This is probably why she's responding like this. Instead, focus on this. So we built a global sales development mentorship program here as well, where we have account executives and solution consultants and people from other business functions volunteering to mentor our Account Development Reps. It's a two-way street. The arts have to put, frankly, more skin in the game because what you put into it is what you're going to get out of it, right? But nonetheless, relationships are created that last way beyond the mentorship program. You make friends in the process and people that you'll probably lean on throughout your career. So it's a joy to watch, but it's so important to share that with other leaders that may not have stuff like that in place in their own organizations.

Amanda Hammett: 28:38
Absolutely. And I think that for some reason I think mentoring programs have, you know, they were put into place for a lot of companies, but they were in a lot of ways I feel over-managed. They were very, they were too systematized and it didn't allow for that organic growth of what that individual needs. And you know, what they can do together as a mentor, mentee. You know, I worked with one company and it was just very like, okay, on this meeting you talk about x on this meeting, you talk about why. And I'm like, but that's not what she needs. So what is your philosophy when you're mentoring someone? Let's say that you want to mentor me and that would be great. And I'm just, what would be your philosophy forgetting that relationship going and how would you judge on what do we need to talk about? What do we need to work on?

Ralph Barsi : 29:29
Sure. We would, you and I would first need to establish, okay, Amanda, how are we going to communicate with one another? Is it going to be like this where we're looking at each other, right? et Cetera, et cetera. How often are we going to communicate? I'm extremely busy. I'm sure you are too. So to avoid and mitigate any, you know, email, tennis back and forth, trying to figure out dates and times when you write to me, be very specific. Yes. Give me multiple-choice questions that I can just tick the box on and we can move forward. Let's see. Be Mindful of your writing. So if you're, if we agree that we're okay with texting one another, again, ask a question in the text so that it evokes a response. Otherwise, it's just information for me to read. When you're emailing me, made sure, you know, just like we tell sales development reps when they're prospecting into big accounts, you know, have a subject line that tells me what this email is about.

Ralph Barsi : 30:36
Make a brief, concise, break up your paragraphs, get into the detail of, of writing. You talked about, hey look, there's a lot of companies out there and I couldn't agree more that systematize this and that. It's very robotic if you will. However, if you really want to elicit that organic relationship, it's okay to preface a form that you're going to send the mentor and the mentee. If you're the owner of a mentorship program and you might want to say, hey, here are some guidelines that we've seen work in the past for people who are having a hard time getting started. You may want to do this, you may want to do that versus do this, do that and let people kind of figure it out on their own. Those are just a couple tips. Again, this is another one we could talk about all day.

Amanda Hammett: 31:22
It is, and unfortunately we are coming to an end of our time and I feel like we need to have a part two for this and start this whole conversation on mentoring because it is such an important part of developing particularly young talent, but I think it's valuable across across the entire employee life cycle. But Ralph, I want to thank you so much. This has been incredibly insightful. I took lots of notes today, but I want to thank you so much for sharing and being willing to share with others you.

Ralph Barsi : 31:54
It's my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me, Amanda. I'm always open to a part two. If you want to pin that on the calendar, we'll make it happen.

Amanda Hammett: 32:03
I'm going to take you off on that. All right, well thank you guys so much for joining us with Ralph Barsi today on the next generation rock stars podcast and we will see you in the very next episode.

Amanda Hammett: 32:14
Thanks so much for joining us for this episode of the Next Generation Rockstars, where we have discussed all about recruiting and retaining that next generation of talent. So I'm guessing that you probably learned a tremendous amount from this week's rock star leader. And if that is the case, don't keep me a secret. Share this episode with the, but really share it with your friends, with your colleagues, because they also need to learn how to recruit and retain this next generation of talent because these skills are crucial to business success moving forward. Now of course, I want you to keep up to date every single week as we are dropping each and every episode. So be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast platform of your choice, and you will see the Next Generation Rockstars show up just for you.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.