David Baker is a learning machine. Perhaps not coincidentally – he is a sales leader in an industry that utilizes a variety of very sophisticated machines. Baker has enrolled in six executive education programs within Kellogg Executive Education’s constellation of offerings, beginning with Mastering Sales: A Toolkit for Success. The program put Baker on a trajectory for lifelong learning and career growth. Emeritus partners with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management to deliver Mastering Sales: A Toolkit for Success, among other programs, in a fully online environment that meets learners where they are.
We spoke with Baker to discuss the motivations for his enrollment in Mastering Sales: A Toolkit for Success and the meaningful results it generated for his company.
“We went from flatlining to 20% growth.
That’s a brand promise from Kellogg that was delivered.”
Can you give us some background on the company you work for?
CleanMark was founded in 1978 as a family-based label manufacturing business in Oregon. The company is an ISO-certified label manufacturer specializing in controlled environment applications, such as cleanrooms, that require very rigorous standards. The company pioneered the label technology that is now standard for cleanrooms today. The business is at the forefront of engineering solutions for advanced research and production processes.
CleanMark’s expertise in print technologies and material sciences is highly trusted by technical teams operating in critical environments such as the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and semiconductor industries.
“As the new VP of Sales and Marketing, I needed to ignite growth.”
Why did you feel the need to expand your skill set, can you give us some context?
When I joined the company, CleanMark’s growth stagnated, and its sales approach was largely reactive. They worked with many Fortune 1000 companies, but they were struggling to gain traction and break through the small-to-medium enterprise barrier.
As the new VP of sales and marketing, I needed to ignite growth.
Most importantly, we needed to adopt a more strategic, disciplined, team-based approach to business development. I wanted to learn more about best practices for recruiting, training, and managing a high-performing sales team and wanted to create a systematic approach that removed the guesswork from our processes. I wanted more growth with bigger accounts.
After you identified your learning goals, how did you decide which program to enroll in?
I was on LinkedIn and discovered a program developed and taught by the Kellogg Sales Institute, Kellogg’s academic center dedicated to the development of sales professionals and their teams. That sounded intriguing.
I learned that the program was 10 weeks, completely online, and was designed to help salespeople reach breakout performance. The framework was focused on developing individual knowledge, skill, and discipline throughout the entire sales process.
Even though I have a graduate degree, I recognized that great leaders never stop learning, so I enrolled in Kellogg’s Mastering Sales: A Toolkit for Success in September 2020.
What were some of the program elements that were important to you and your career growth?
My workload is demanding, I usually work between 50–60 hours a week, so fitting the sessions into my schedule was key. The fact that I would watch the video lectures of Kellogg faculty on my own time, in small bites, made it flexible. There were also several live sessions with Craig Wortmann, one of the program’s faculty members.
But perhaps most compelling was how I could apply the learnings in real time. I could learn something on a Monday and implement it or test it out that week. The immediate applicability of the material was where this program shines, for me at least. Reaching company sales targets was my primary goal, and we reached that goal!
What tools from the program proved to be most beneficial for your organization?
As I’ve spoken with other sales leaders, especially those who lead inside sales groups, I’ve realized that the entire structure of our model (for example, dedicating time every single day for proactive sales activity) is a direct result of this program. Every day, we’re building our pipeline, and we’re at the point now where we have substantially more sales-related activities, follow-ups, and closed deals. We do cold calls and it’s working. We’re busy but efficient—and that is Craig’s sales system in a nutshell.
Tell us more about the outcomes. How did the lessons impact your company?
Some outcomes were expected, but others were not, as a happy coincidence or serendipity. Here is the list of outcomes:
- Operating as a disciplined, fine-tuned sales machine
- Using stakeholder mapping for approaching large new accounts
- Developing an ethos of listening and asking great questions
- Improving synergy between marketing and sales departments
- Leveraging automation to allow the sales team to focus on the highest value-add efforts
- Achieving 20% growth in a rapid period
- Spreading a mindset for growth, discipline, and skill development throughout the entire organization
What advice do you have for other firms in the B2B space?
For sales organizations that have traditionally done outside sales, there’s the question of how do we move towards an inside sales model, what does that look like, and how do we scale our sales engine most effectively?
This program is truly unique in the way that it offers a holistic, systematic approach to the sales process, while also teaching sales tactics with such specificity that anyone can implement the tools discussed. I would recommend this program to anyone who needs to ignite growth and work smarter. I recommended the program to an electrical manufacturing distributor, and they’ve put 75 of their team members through it, with plans to add 150 more!
Any final thoughts?
As soon as you stop learning, your career growth stagnates, and so will your sales. For me, career growth and business growth go hand in hand. We went from flatlining to 20% growth. That’s a brand promise from Kellogg that was delivered. I went on to take several more programs with Emeritus and Kellogg, including Digital Marketing Strategies, Customer Loyalty, and Strategies that Build Winning Brands. The learning never stops.
Learn more about the program, explore Mastering Sales: A Toolkit for Success.
To read more inspiring learner stories, click here.
By Michelle Massa