Teach, Motivate, and Get Out of the Way: With Woody Klemetson

It doesn’t matter how good you are. It only matters how good the team is. So make them better and get out of their way.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Woody Klemetson the Director of Inside Sales at Jive Communications. Woody is a results-oriented leader, who is both client- and employee-focused. In the past two years at Jive he has expanded the inside sales team to five times its original size, and he has overseen three times the manager growth — often promoting high-performing sales representatives. He has a passion for fostering career growth for his employees and building a tightly knit, collaborative team. In the past two years, his efforts have resulted in a 174 percent increase in MRR, and new accounts per month have tripled.

Thank you so much for doing this with us. What is your backstory?

I started my first sales job knocking doors selling homemade bread as a kid. My parents couldn’t afford a summer pool pass, so I figured it’d be a great way to make a little extra money. I quickly grew to love sales, and I have been addicted ever since.

My first real job was going door to door pitching and selling gray water sprinklers conversion to cable, internet and VoIP companies. After that, I took the job to the phones to sell websites, personal coaching, tech-support, SaaS, and now UCaaS.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you entered your role with Jive?

Our team is built of rockstars, and it’s fun to incentivize them when they reach big goals. Over a year ago our graphic designer helped us create custom science fiction posters of each of the inside sales reps that had big wins. The results are awesome.

What do you think makes your team stand out?

Our mentality is what sets us apart. What I mean by that is that it isn’t “my” team, it’s just “the” team and everyone gets to be a part of it. Every rep on the floor shares this mentality. Additionally, we have people from marketing, finance, sales operations, and setup and support that are all fighting for us to hit the next goal. This takes “the team” mentality to an even higher level.

After all, sales can’t reach its full potential without breaking down cross-departmental silos. Every month we have finance walking around talking with reps about their next bonus tier, HR jumping over the tallest reps, marketing sitting next to a rep helping with a new email, and CI on the phone with a client showing them how we rank #1 and are breaking records.

What advice would you give to other sales directors and managers to help their employees thrive?

Like I said before, sales departments can’t experience record-breaking success if they’re not experiencing cross-departmental collaboration and support. Culture is king and sales will follow. Hire for cultural fit and work on developing relationships with other teams and scheduling meetings and events to help build unity.

Also, make an effort to teach individual responsibility so you don’t have to discipline with accountability.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful for who has helped you get to where you are?

Back in 2013 I got some advice from a friend to go work for Abe Knell. That was the starting point for me in learning how to be a successful leader. Abe and his network took me under their wings and taught me how to look outside myself and see people. They also taught me how to look at failures as opportunities for growth, and how to appreciate—and even get excited about—them. I now see how every failure has moved me forward rather than backward, and I try to teach the same to the sales team.

What is your best leadership tip?

Leadership is about 3 things:

  1. Being yourself. People can tell if you are being fake. Everyone wants a boss that they feel is transparent and shows the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  2. Knowing the reps personally, and not just hiring people to do a job. Hire people who are the job! This means that during an interview, get to know candidates for who they are — their work ethic, goals, and drive — not just the job. If the job can help get them to where they want to go, they will work harder, faster, and smarter, because they are working on themselves rather than the job. After all, leadership doesn’t mean control. It means helping others succeed and reach their goals.
  3. NEVER taking credit and always taking blame. Credit is due to the team’s unified efforts — it is not yours to take. Blame on the other hand, is free to take. Focus on how you could have made something better rather than pointing fingers. People want to win. Give them a game they can play and be successful at if they work hard!

What are your “7 things I wish someone told me before I became the Director of Inside Sales,” and why?

  1. NEVER give up. There will be many times that you feel like quitting and giving up. People may hate you and individuals, departments, and even your own mind may fight against you, making you ask yourself if you are doing the right thing. It’s during these times that all the effort won’t seem like it’s worth the struggle, but nothing else will matter if you give up.
  2. Don’t go at it alone. Start with selling your vision and building a group who believe in the end goal.
  3. Understand that people have already gone through battles and have ups and downs.
  4. Assume nobody knows your back story. Ask yourself daily what am I doing right now to help. When you join a new company, most people — if not all of them — do not know who you are, so it is crucial to not only get to know them, but help them get to know you.
  5. Information is power. Make sure your reporting is right and everyone agrees. Have KPI’s and goals so you know if you are getting better or worse. What is the outcome to the changes you are making?
  6. It doesn’t matter how good you are. It only matters how good the team is. So make them better and get out of their way.
  7. Don’t preach. Instead, facilitate learning. Create a community of learning. Everyone should be learning and teaching.

Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote?

“Be someone who chooses to do good when there are clearly other options.” -Unknown

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Ellen DeGeneres, because she is the only person my wife loves more than me.


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If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.