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Case Study Two

Brenda Dohring Hicks | CEO, RealWired

For more than 20 years, Vistage member Brenda Dohring Hicks successfully ran her software company, RealWired, with only two or three salespeople on staff. The model worked — until one of her salespeople started underperforming and another quit.

Hicks, who had growth ambitions for the Tampa, Florida-based company, thought to herself: “There’s got to be a better way to do this.”

The solution was to hire a sales manager who would bring rigor to the sales process and team. Hicks hand-selected someone for the role who was experienced and trained in sales management, coaching and communication. Then she taught them about the “code of ethics” of selling — a concept she learned through Sandler sales training that was now a cornerstone of RealWired’s culture.

“Salespeople have a moral obligation to help people make decisions,” Hicks says, explaining that RealWired sells software to valuation professionals in commercial real estate. “It’s all about building a relationship based on trust and making that relationship work for both parties.”

Another priority was to set expectations for revenue growth and build a system for monitoring progress “so we always know where we stand and when we need to make adjustments to meet goals.” To that end, Hicks and the sales manager collaborated to develop metrics-driven solutions and processes for the sales team. This included setting expectations for what each salesperson needed to do in a day, such as the number of calls and appointments to make, and how and when to provide demos. With those expectations in place, it was easy for the sales manager to hold them accountable.

The sales manager was also tasked with hiring three salespeople based on character — as opposed to industry knowledge — and training them on the “social science of selling,” says Hicks, a member since 2019. “As a salesperson, you’ve got to be authentic first and foremost. You’ve got to be trustworthy, and you’ve got to be curious. It’s about knowing your customer, not knowing the product.”

This insight, which stems from Sandler, is foundational to the company’s sales training and coaching, Hicks adds. “The old adage of ‘people buy from people they like and trust’ is our belief and mantra.”

The approach has paid off. In the last 18 months, RealWired has doubled its sales volume and personnel, despite a sluggish market for commercial real estate. In 2022 alone, sales of YouConnect™, RealWired’s automated appraisal workflow software, increased by 75%.

Hicks is proud of those metrics but even prouder of how her sales team acts with integrity. Recently, a colleague in her industry approached her with a compliment for one of her salespeople.

“She told me, ‘We were at a meeting in Washington, and every single person there loved him. He took the time to ask how we were doing, he knew our families and he just seemed sincere,’” Hicks recalls. “When I heard that, I got chills.”

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