Great Sales Team Culture

Great Sales Team Culture with Joe Arko, Jeff Brandwein, and Adam Robinson

This week our featured guests are Jeff Brandwein, Sales Manager at Hireology and Chief Motivator at, and Joe Arko, a Hireology Sales team member. Jeff Brandwein is known in the office for having a distinct team culture within Hireology, Joe and Jeff discuss what makes a great sales team culture and what interests top-performing sales candidates during the interview process.












































Adam Robinson: Welcome to the Best Team Wins podcast where we feature entrepreneurs and business leaders whose exceptional approach to the people side of their business has led to incredible results. My name is Adam Robinson. For the next 25 minutes, I’ll be your host as we explore how to build your business through better hiring.


Today, on the program, we have a special episode featuring two of our superstars here from Hireology, Jeff Brandwein, one of our sales leaders and Joe Arko, who is a sales professional extraordinaire on the floor. Pulled them off the sales floor today, don’t tell anyone on my board and into the studio to talk about culture and growth, so I’m so excited to have you guys here. Welcome to the program.


Joe Arko: Thanks for having us.


Jeff Brandwein: Thank you.


Adam Robinson: All right. Guys, so we are a couple of weeks away from the end of the year, and as you know, we’ve got plans to grow and do some big things next year. I know what our listeners care a lot about is navigating that growth in terms of the right people and preserving the culture, and so I want to get it both from you: leader’s perspective and from the team member perspective. Jeff, how do you … You’ve been here since employee six or seven.


Jeff Brandwein: Yeah, five and a half years.


Adam Robinson: You’ve been here a long time; the whole time. Let’s call it the whole time, been here the whole time.


Jeff Brandwein: Yeah, pretty much.


Adam Robinson: We’re 140 people now; we’re adding 25 heads next year. Right out of the gate we have 25 rows we got to fill. What is your approach to making sure you’re able to do what you do with all of these new faces?


Jeff Brandwein: I think it’s a lot of what … I think I’ve actually learned from you in terms of the culture that we have and I think it’s getting everyone focused in on that end goal, which is, obviously, being a sales leader is that quota: that number that you have to hit but then, importantly, what is the team vision. As a team, what do we believe and what do we value in and getting everyone to buy into that.


Those are the things that do with the new people that I’m adding to my team is trying to get them bought into those specific core values for a team, beliefs, visions and where we want to go as a team. We center around that along with the quota, and if we can get everyone on the same page there, that’s the most important thing for me.


Adam Robinson: When I come in the morning and I see your team sitting in Indians, I say, crisscross apple sauce now on the floor having a team meeting in a circle; it makes me wonder, what’s actually going on over there? Will you tell me what that’s all about please?


Jeff Brandwein: We have a team trophy that … Actually, this started about two, three years ago where we give out a trophy to the reps who previous got it the month before, gives it to their coworker as the one who showed the team’s core values over that month.


Adam Robinson: Core values like what?


Jeff Brandwein: One of our core values would be day-one attitude.


Adam Robinson: This is team core value. You’ve implemented different from company core value, which, by the way, I think is awesome. Go …


Jeff Brandwein: What we do is we have … We don’t believe in first place, so there is no such thing as a team member finishing in first place for the month. Basically, we have a second place medal that we give out and we have a third place cap that says, “Superhero in training.” The idea of it is that, if you’re showing those core values and the beliefs that we live in throughout the month, then you’ll get awarded that from somebody on the team.


The trophy itself is basically … It’s actually funny, one of the reps on the team had a trophy that he stole from high school that is a dance trophy for the Indiana State High School Association of Dancing or something, and he actually brought it into office and so now that’s our trophy, which is actually configured with our old trophy that somebody broke down.


What’s actually cool about that story is that the old trophy got taken down by somebody else we don’t know who, but instead of just getting rid of the trophy; we actually just built a better and bigger trophy.


Adam Robinson: Our stolen trophy was replaced by a bigger, better stolen trophy.


Jeff Brandwein: Exactly.


Adam Robinson: I like that. Joe, what’s it like to work for this guy?


Joe Arko: To work for Jeff Brandwein? Well, it’s a bit culty. Sometimes you feel a little like you’re in a cult but one that’s really good for you. If there was a cult, then it was all focused on performing at your best, eating well, coming in fire up and selling a lot of product. That’s the cult that Jeff Brandwein is.


Adam Robinson: Sign me up for that cult.


Joe Arko: It’s pretty great.


Adam Robinson: Eat right, sell more.


Joe Arko: That’s about it. At certain times, you do detach from a situation and laugh at yourself; a little bit, you are sitting crisscross apple sauce on the floor with a bunch of other grown human beings listening to Enya. By the way, that’s something you may not have caught is it’s Enya on repeat throughout the entire ceremony.


Adam Robinson: You’re all in on this.


Joe Arko: For sure. It’s well put together. I think, if Jeff does anything better than anything else he does, it’s to build these rituals in, and so everything is circled around the core values. I mean, that’s the same that you run the company is the way that Jeff runs his department. Again, you have the trophy that gets given, then you add the medal, the cap in there and you add in these other daily and weekly things. I find that Jeff is really good at building rituals in whether it’s on a daily cadence or on a monthly cadence or on a quarterly cadence that make people feel  they’re part of a bigger unit than themselves that they’re accountable to the other people in that unit to do their best and to get their job done day in and day out.


There is some tongue-and-cheek to it. We know that we’re sitting on the floor listening to Enya talking about how much we like one another’s characteristics as human beings. It is a little silly at times but, dogging it on, it gets us in, fired up and ready to work most days.


Adam Robinson: Remember back when you were new, what was going through your mind the first time you sat through one of Jeff’s, it’s called a meeting experience.


Joe Arko: Trophy ceremony.


Adam Robinson: Trophy ceremony. For listeners, what I want them to understand is this is completely by design and we’re joking about this now, but this has worked for a long time for us. You came from a challenged sales environment the last time.


Joe Arko: Yeah.


Adam Robinson: I think you were selling medical waste disposal or something.


Joe Arko: Yep. Under the gun, all day, every day.


Adam Robinson: We’re glad to have you here.


Joe Arko: Glad to be here.


Adam Robinson: What was it like walking into a trophy ceremony type selling environment and what were you thinking? What did I do?


Joe Arko: Well, it couldn’t have been any further removed from the world that I was coming to. We’ve got another guy on the floor with me who was selling copiers before this, and I think he was in a similar environment: very tight control of everything that every salesperson is doing.


I can’t even call-to-mind the first trophy ceremony, particularly. It’s just the way that the whole team is run. It’s relaxed and it’s fun, but because you have a number that you have to hit and you’re constantly reminded of that number, we get emails about it. Jeff’s doing his managerial job to make sure everybody knows where they’re at: to their quota and whether or not they’re performing on it.


Because it’s so ubiquitous; because everybody knows what that is, we can almost forget about it. We, almost, on a daily basis can then drop back down and have fun with one another. We can sit and have these funny moments or these jovial things. We’re not talking about numbers at the trophy ceremony. First, the guy who hits his number; the guy who’s 160% of his number, doesn’t even get rewarded at that ceremony. That’s not what it’s about. It’s, “Hey, we have these things that we really value as an organization and we trust you to perform to the things against which we’re measuring you.” From there, if you don’t like coming into work every day, then I’m not doing my job right as a manager, and I hate to speak for you Jeff but that’s what it feel like and to be in that environment is fantastic. You can enjoy it, you know what you’ve got to do and you know that you don’t have somebody breathing out of the back of your neck to get you to make phone calls all day.


Adam Robinson: Jeff, I want to talk to about what you say to potential new hires in your interview with them. That’s what we talk a lot about on this podcast are tactics or techniques shared by other business owners or leaders on how to get the right person in the door. You’re out there doing it every day. You’re talking to people every week. What expectation do you try to set with them so that they don’t walk in the door and go, “Oh my God, what did I do?”


Jeff Brandwein: I think one of the things that I definitely do when I’m interviewing or talking to a candidate, I actually try to … I’m really honest with them about what the job is going to be, so I’m very upfront. In a way, it’s almost like I’m trying to not sell or trying to tell them, “Hey, be careful because this is what you’re getting into.”


Adam Robinson: Give me the pitch. Let’s hear it.


Jeff Brandwein: I tell them how many phone calls you’re going to make. I mean, you’re going to have to be making 30 to 50 phone calls. We’re very metrics driven, so you’re going to have to set 12 meetings around 8; we have an accountability meeting, you’re going to be putting your numbers up in front of the team.


If you don’t want to be making cold calls every single day because your job is not going to change; your job day-to-day doesn’t really change and Joe can attest to this. It is coming in, you’re hitting the phones, you’re calling the same people in and out every single day, so if you don’t want to do that, this is not going to be the job for you. I will say that authentically to a candidate when they’re asking me questions about the job itself.


Adam Robinson: I’m the candidate here. I hear that, I say, “I’m willing to put the time in. Jeff, what happens next?” Let’s say I do a good job, what’s my opportunity? How do you message that in a way that is not a potential false promise?


Jeff Brandwein: I think, what I will tell people is that I always focus around the four things. I always tell them, “Look, the number one thing that sets apart all the great people here is their mindset.” If you have a great mindset, you come in with your beginner’s mindset, growth mindset and really try to work hard, that’s the most important thing. Then, second, we talk about attitude and grit is an important trade. Then, talk about business acumen. Business acumen is really important to talking to owners every single day, and then, four is just having a high EQ. You’re talking to different types of people every single day.


What I’ll tell them is, “The job’s really hard but here’s the thing, you don’t have to be a great salesperson.” I don’t really believe that’s what it’s about. It’s doing those four things really well, you’re going to wildly successful here. That’s what the best reps, in our company since I’ve been here for so long, I’ve seen. If took any out of our top reps, I would say those are the four traits they have.


I tell them, it’s like, “The thing is that I can help you and guide you to those four things, but you got to come in and want to do those four things. If you think you can do those four things, you’re going to be supersuccessful here.”


Adam Robinson: Joe, from the candidate perspective, we don’t have to talk about Hireology specifically, but what I want you to help give our listeners is the mindset of the jobseeker or the person consuming this information as you evaluated this organization and heard those kind of messages. How does that lineup with what you and even extrapolate that out to what you think others, like you, want or look for and how can our listeners leverage that to be better at building trust and winning hearts and minds of people that might want to work for them?


Joe Arko: It’s interesting to think about … Granted, I’ve been here for a year and a half, so it’s been a while since I went through that process and then, in the interim, I’m talking to business owners all day about what candidates want to see, so that may influence my …


Adam Robinson: Some would call you an expert.


Joe Arko: Yeah, some. I don’t know, if all would quite yet. It might be a few months away from totally understanding everything that goes into the hiring process. But, I mean, putting myself back into those shoes coming in here, it’s really the things that you wouldn’t consider or what struck me the most.


It was the way that the sales floor looked; the way that I saw people interacting with their coworkers. I mean, most of what comes to mind from two Augusts ago are the things that did not transpire in a conversation with the person that was interviewing me. It was, does this seem like a place that I want to work? Did I get along with guy that was interviewing me? It was much less about the logistics of my conversation with Jeff and much more about how I felt about him being my boss. I met him; we talked for quite a while about what the job entails: is this guy a smart guy? Do I think that he’s going to be able to lead me to do more than I could, if I were on my own?


Then, from there, all of the questions that I was asking myself were around, am I going to fit in here? Does this place mesh with my personality or am I going to land in another position where I’m struggling to fit in and I feel uncomfortable when I come into work in the morning, I sit down at my desk and I put my blinders on because I’ve got 10,000 things to do and at the end of the day maybe I talked to somebody about golf for five minutes. Is this somewhere that I can come in and be happy 45, 50 hour a week every single week indefinitely and am I going to enjoy for this guy?


I sat down with Jeff; I sat down with Max, our Vice President of Sales, and I couldn’t have enjoyed the conversations that we had more. Those were two guys that I knew I wanted to work for. I loved the way that the sales floor looked and I said, “Sign me up.”


Adam Robinson: What about the look of the sales floor. Could you describe to us in a way that would help our audience understand what that was for you? What can entrepreneurs do to set the floor so that it’s a desirable place for someone whose pretty good at selling wants to actually give them their time?


Joe Arko: Sure. It was a delicate balance between people shooting the breeze. I saw people up from their desks sitting at somebody else’s desk having a conversation, it may have been work related maybe not. At the same time, I saw a ton of people on the phone. What that told me is nobody is going to crack a whip, if you have an anecdote that you want to tell to the guy sitting next to you, but at the same time, this is a culture where everybody is got numbers to hit, everybody knows exactly where they’re at on the month and they know what their activity needs to be in order to get there.


Again, maybe I’ve got some glasses on from having been here for as long as I have, but that’s what I value about the sales floor. Speaking with hindsight is there’s some autonomy to have a good time at work and everybody knows where they have to be at the end of the month. You have everything that you need to get your job done and there’s nobody beating you over the head with a 2 by 4 to try to get you there.


Adam Robinson: Jeff, as a leader of people, philosophically, how are you approaching that job? What do you believe that you think is a mutable truth as it relates to hiring and managing sales professionals or revenue generators?


Jeff Brandwein: I think the biggest thing, like I went back to, I mean, you hear about and I read about them all the time like the greatest coaches to ever coach, teachers and everything. They all have a vision, the values that they wanted the team to work towards but it’s all about the amount of the effort, working really hard and whether you win or lose.


I think, to me, what that means to different and how you portray that to the team, you can do that in many different ways. For me, though, like I said, the biggest thing is the core values and the vision statement. During the interview process, I have some questions around some of the core values that I have because I want to see, if it’s something that’s within line with what this person’s like.


For example, with my team, and Joe knows this, you got to have a ton of energy because you got to make a lot of phone calls, you got to come in here excited. One of the best questions I love to ask people is, what are you most passionate about? I really try to dive deeper into once they tell me what that is, like, “Tell me more about that? Tell me why. How long have you been passionate about it?” Things like that because I want to know, if somebody is truly a passionate person or they’re passionate about something and personally or professionally. I want to know that because that can tell me that that person has a ton of energy. They’re optimistic; you can see how optimistic they are about something. That, all, relates to the core values.


If I was going to interview people and bringing people on, you just want them to see, if they’re already bought into those core values that you’re already thinking. Are they just going to come in and just work hard? Because at the end of the day whether they win or lose it really doesn’t matter, it’s all about how hard you work and that’s the kind of message that I try to get out of them and see, if that’s what they’re looking for.


Adam Robinson: What, then, is one thing you want to do differently or improve upon to take your management game to the next level in 2018?


Jeff Brandwein: I think, for me, I think it’s … Though, I do a good job from a team perspective of getting everyone on the same page, one of the things that I’m trying to work on is trying to guide more the individual reps to things that motivate them because I think everyone can buy-in. I mean, it’s been three years. Everyone seems to buy-in to these core values that we have, which is amazing, but I also understand that they buy into that but to take them to the next level, and then also me to help them in our team. Each person, though, is driven by something else, and so I need to do, or I want to do a better job of trying to guide them to the little specific things that motivate them the most to try to get the best out of them because just because we have these core values and people buy into them doesn’t mean that that’s the only thing that motivates them every single day, and so I want to help to try to position them to be better salespeople and in turn I believe that that will come back to me as a leader and help our team grow.


Adam Robinson: I’m going to do this to you, Joe, right now. What’s one thing Jeff can do differently that would make him a better leader?


Joe Arko: Well, he’s not my manager anymore, so I have absolute autonomy to say whatever I think is appropriate. Well, if Jeff does anything well, it’s his energy. It’s the passion that he brings into work every day. If I would give Jeff, looking him in the face right now, one piece of advice on how he could manage his reps more effectively, I think it would be to be a Pied Piper for that energy. He comes in and he’s fired up, he’s ready to go. He’s usually screaming at the top of his lungs and its Wednesday morning meeting with his team. Everybody in the company knows what’s going on with his team and what they’re doing.


I would say, having left Jeff’s team, I wish that I had taken more of that energy with me. I don’t mean that it had rubbed off on me and I left and I had this. I think, if Jeff could do anything better, it would be to better explain why he has that much energy, to get to the reps that are working with him, the ideas that make him excited as he is. Not just the energy itself but the generation of that and why it makes him as excited as he is to get to work so that, then, when they do go to a different team or they do go to a different company, it isn’t just, “Hey, remember how fired up Jeff was? Let’s try to be like that.” It’s more of an idea of, “Man, Jeff had all these fantastic ideas that went through his head every day and if I can just have a couple of those at the beginning of my day here, then I can be a little bit as fired up as Jeff was coming into work.”


Adam Robinson: Let’s take it home, then, with more of that type of topic. What is the most impactful book you’ve read recently and would you recommend it to our audience, Jeff?


Jeff Brandwein: A great book that I just read about leadership is Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull. He is the co-founder of Pixar. To me, I read a lot of books, and Jocko Willink’s book, Extreme Ownership, is probably number one in leadership books for me, and number two, I put Creativity Inc.


Adam Robinson: Joe?


Joe Arko: I’ve got two answers but it’s the same title, so Mastery is the title of the book. Robert Greene wrote a compilation on it and he talks about the lives of all these famous individuals and how they attained mastery in these different areas: it’s Da Vinci, Tiger Woods and Mozart, and how they became what they became. That’s an absolutely fantastic read.


Then, there’s also another book entitled Mastery written by George Leonard, who was a practitioner of Aikido, I believe. The whole point of his book is how to master something over the long term. Robert Greene’s is how to go from not knowing anything to mastering something and talking about the lifecycles of those individuals. But Mastery by George Leonard, the theme is to love the Plato. He talks about having, instead of practicing; it talks about having a practice. When you have a practice and you’re in a Plato, you’re just going to work. I’m going in today, I’m going to concentrate on this thing and, if I don’t get any better by the end of the day that’s okay because I’m doing this to do it.


It’s the process of working on things that is the rewarding part and, if you do that, then you’re going to continually improve but you’re also not going to … These peaks and troughs where you’re really excited about your progress, and then you’re feeling bad because you’re not on a hockey stick anymore. He just talks about love what you do every day, do it because you love it, and if you’re constantly working towards getting better you’re going to hit Platos, then you realize that that’s just another phase in your development. I think there are some really good messages in there.


Adam Robinson: That’s the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, you have been learning from Jeff Brandwein and Joe Arko, Hireology each, extraordinary individuals. Thank you both for participating in this extra special episode of the Best Team Wins podcast. Thanks guys.


Joe Arko: Thanks for having us.


Jeff Brandwein: Thank you.


Adam Robinson: That’s a wrap for this week show. This is the Best Team Wins podcast where we’re featuring entrepreneurs and business leaders whose exceptional approach to the people’s side of their business has led to incredible results. My name is Adam Robinson, author of the book, The Best Team Wins, which you can find online at Make sure to share this podcast with someone you love. We will talk to you next week.