Owner Stories: Lee Goren, Fractional Sales Leader and Coach, Goren Management Inc., Montreal, Quebec
After profiling Jamie Goren a few months back, it was time to offer the same opportunity to Lee, our brother. Lee’s experience in sales and business has been honed for over 30 years, starting as a salesperson, growing into leadership roles at major corporations, as a partner in a multi-million dollar business. Today, he applies everything he has learned into a successful consulting career. Lee loves teaching, coaching his clients to listen and learn, and he particularly enjoys mentoring younger salespeople who are looking for guidance.
Our interview with Lee is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Local Business Owner Spotlight series.
Interview with Lee Goren, Fractional Sales Leader and Coach
10|20 Marketing: Thanks for agreeing to do this! Can you provide some context for our readers about your background? How did you get into sales? Where has your career taken you before launching Goren Management?
Lee Goren: I was one of the few people I knew that saw himself having a career in sales rather than sort of falling into it. I had been working at an Aldo store through CEGEP and University and realized I loved the interpersonal aspect of selling as well as the thrill of the deal, no matter how big or small. After graduating from Concordia with a BA in Economics, someone I knew who owned a grocery distribution company in Toronto asked if I wanted to take a crack at opening up the Quebec market for them. I started with one active account and grew the territory to be the largest by sales volume in the country. After 10 years I got the opportunity to join Ericsson Canada (later Sony Ericsson/Sony Mobile) where I held progressively more senior roles, culminating as the head of sales for Canada. Landing with a large global corporation showed me another side to sales, which I refer to more as large account management.
In dealing with the Big 3 Telcos at the time, structure, contracts, and relationship management became as important as the offer, and selling internally became critical. This is really where I learned that selling is at least 50% internal in most large companies. It was during this period that I was fortunate to receive great formal and informal training, learned to work under several different managers and management styles and got to build a literally worldwide network of contacts.
10|20 Marketing: All this must’ve really made a difference when you went into business back in 2010 with your partner.
Lee Goren: All these assets became invaluable when I left corporate life to go into business with a partner back in 2010. By leveraging my knowledge and the vast experience my partner had in operations, importing and small business, we were able to build a multi-million dollar business by leveraging our complementary skills. Fast forward to November of 2020 when I exited the business and decided that my very unique set of experiences with both small and large corporations, my passion for mentoring and coaching young sales talent and my desire to focus on what I loved led me to form GMI (Goren Management Inc) as a full-service sales management consultancy, offering Fractional sales Management, Sales Coaching, Training and Go To Market consulting.
10|20 Marketing: So as a sales leader and consultant, what would you say are the skills you would look for if you were hiring for a sales position? Or, looking at it from a different perspective, what are the skills you would want a sales team to learn from you should you have the mandate to train them?
Lee Goren: I think that the biggest mistake companies make when recruiting sales talent is hiring qualifications and specs only, without taking into account the soft skills that are required to be a successful account manager. At the point where a candidate has made it through the vetting process for an interview, anyone you meet will have the minimum requirements specified to get the interview. What I look for are things like:
- Do they listen more than they speak?
- Do they make you feel comfortable when engaging in conversation?
- Is there a fit between this person and the customer base he will serve?
- And one of the most under-appreciated and most important factors when building a team… is there a fit with this person and your culture?
Earlier in my career, I went for an interview for a role that on paper was designed for me. I showed up in a suit. When I got there every single employee was wearing shorts and flip-flops. I knew within two minutes of coming in the door that this would never work – and so did the hiring manager. I bowed out gracefully and moved on.
10|20 Marketing: Looking at it from a different perspective, what are the skills you would want a sales team to learn from you should you have the mandate to train them?
Lee Goren: As far as some of the skills I train for, I think listening is the biggest. I try to instill in all those that I train how to penetrate a customer organization, look at the situation from their side and understand through the relationships they build within their customers what drives the customer decision. If you understand what keeps your customer up (or his CEO), then you can offer solutions to their problems and move from commodity seller (selling only on price) to becoming a trusted partner. There is nothing more powerful in sales than helping solve your customer’s problems as opposed to focusing only on what your company needs.
10|20 Marketing: Can you describe how you go about customizing your program to fit prospective clients? And perhaps give some details on how you measure the results of your work?
Lee Goren: There are 2 very distinct kinds of services I provide.
For coaching, I often have a mandate to work with an employee or the owner to help them talk through issues or situations, or in the case of employees work with them on specific areas to improve upon. A recent example of this is a mandate to help a new hire with great sales experience understand the consumer products world and work with them on an ongoing basis to coach them on the dynamics of the industry as well as specific situations as they arise.
For consulting, I typically take a few sessions to really understand the company culture, vision, mission, structure, and more. This is done through interviews not only with management but also with key stakeholders from every division of the company. This helps me assess the needs and gaps and make recommendations for improvement, growth etc… Once management agrees we move to implementation of the agreed recommendations. This is completely customized to the organization and their people and unique to them every time.
Results can be measured in increased sales, increased employee engagement/satisfaction, decreased staff turnaround, increased productivity, or margin improvement. Again this is often very specific to the nature of the engagement and the recommendations. An example of this is a company that is doing more sales but making less money. The recommendation may be to focus on the 20% of the business that provides 80% of the margin…or it may be that if they focus on the 20% of products that give them 80% of their margin.
10|20 Marketing: What is your favourite part about sales coaching and consulting?
Lee Goren: I love mentoring young sales talent and watching them succeed. And I also love that working with various companies in various industries satisfies my natural curiosity.
10|20 Marketing: One last question before we let you go. What advice do you have for clients or readers who are looking to survive the pandemic and come out of it in a healthy position?
Lee Goren: Great question. I think businesses of all types have an opportunity and an obligation to redefine their business approaches and processes as a result of the way this pandemic has changed the way businesses of all sizes must operate. For example, global supply chain operators need to reorient production, training, marketing, and other functions or like how a local doctor needs to support their patients through technology and communication. A business needs to look at its internal (employees, vendors, service providers, and others) and external customers in order to serve all the stakeholders better. Those that react first and most effectively have an ability to leapfrog the competition as the market resets itself.
10|20 Marketing: Great answer! Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions!
This interview is part of our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.