Sales mastery takes center stage in this podcast, where David O’Neal, Director of Sales Training at Integra LifeSciences, and Nolan Hout, Senior Vice President of Infopro Learning, weave a captivating tale of learning and transformation. David’s message resonates loud and clear: practice makes perfect, especially in the high-pressure world of inside sales. Frequent skill sharpening unlocks expertise at lightning speed. But mastery demands more than hustle.
David champions data-driven decisions, aligning with today’s discerning customers who crave personalized, consultative selling. He paints a vivid picture of sales success built on trust and loyalty, fueled by interpersonal finesse, communication magic, and the art of the deal. This podcast is your roadmap to a thriving sales career with insights and inspiration. Learn how to build training programs that fit your reps like a glove, embracing mobile-first convenience, bite-sized microlearning, and the positive impact of AI on modern methodologies.
Listen to the Podcast to learn more:
David O’Neal is the Director of Sales Training at Integra LifeSciences. He began his career as a public-school teacher and coach and spent nine years in education. Intrigued by adult learning, he transitioned into sales, working his way up at a K-12 education software company. With a degree in biology and a knack for sales, he bridged the gap between education and technology. Joining Integra as a sales manager, he’s been instrumental in the company’s success for five years, showcasing adaptability and continuous growth. David’s story is one of unexpected turns, ultimately leading him to the dynamic intersection of education, science, and sales training.
Nolan Hout is the Senior Vice President at Infopro Learning. He has over a decade of experience in the L&D industry, helping global organizations unlock the potential of their workforce. Nolan is results-driven, investing most of his time in finding ways to identify and improve the performance of learning programs through the lens of return on investment. He is passionate about networking with people in the learning and training community. He is also an avid outdoorsman and fly fisherman, spending most of his free time on rivers across the Pacific Northwest.
An excerpt of the discussion follows:
Greetings, everyone, and a warm welcome to the Learning and Development podcast sponsored by Infopro Learning.
I’m Nolan Hout, your host, and today, we’re delving into one of my favorite topics—Sales training. Our discussion will encompass various aspects, ensuring valuable content for everyone, even those outside sales training.
I’m joined by a distinguished guest today, an expert in sales training, David O’Neal, who currently serves as the Director of Sales Training at Integra Life Sciences. David’s diverse background provides a unique perspective many organizations and sales professionals seek. With firsthand knowledge of the intricacies of sales and a substantial background in hands-on corporate training, he brings a wealth of experience to our conversation.
I’m genuinely thrilled about this podcast, and without further ado, let’s dive in and get to know David.
Welcome to the podcast, David!
It’s good to be here.
Before delving into today’s podcast topic centered around sales training, I’m intrigued by the journey that has brought you to your current role as the Director of Sales Training at Integral Life Sciences. Your career has undoubtedly been successful, and I’m curious to learn about the path that led you to this management position, as it likely wasn’t your initial job.
Could you please take a few minutes to share some insights about the beginning of your career and the path that led you into this field?
It’s quite amusing. I often jest with my colleagues in this field, pointing out the irony that none of us pursued a college degree specifically for our current roles. I’d humorously ponder, “How does one earn a degree in being the senior cleaner?” We all stumbled into this profession through various paths, each journey distinct. Mine, for instance, commenced in public education, where I initially pursued a college education with dreams of becoming a teacher and coach, set on changing the world.
I was a public school teacher and coach for nine years, actively shaping the educational landscape. As my career progressed, I found myself mentoring students, teachers and engaging in peer-to-peer interactions, unveiling the realm of adult learning and training beyond the traditional classroom setting. This realization prompted my transition out of teaching.
The next significant chapter unfolded when I joined a K-12 education software company, immersing myself in the sales world. Starting as an inside sales support specialist, I eventually ascended to the role of manager of sales operations, navigating through various positions such as field sales, key account manager, and leader of a customer success team. Along the way, I delved into the intricacies of Miller Heiman’s sales methodology.
Leveraging my teaching background and biology degrees, I returned to the sciences. The software company primarily focused on language and writing, allowing me to reconnect with my passion for science while integrating my sales experience. This convergence of diverse skills and experiences eventually led me to the field of sales training.
Upon joining Integra as a sales manager, I seized the opportunity to progress by crossing over divisions. Reflecting on my journey, I realize it’s been a rewarding five years here, weaving together my educational roots, sales insight, and passion for science into a fulfilling career in sales training.
Could you help me understand this? For those unfamiliar, you initially began as an inside sales representative, engaging in cold calling, scheduling appointments, and conducting demonstrations.
The entire cold calling metrics revolved around making specific daily calls and securing a set number of meetings. Essentially, I found myself scraping lists of superintendents on white pages and reaching out to them unexpectedly, discussing topics related to education, writing, and assessment.
I’m unsure if you’ve encountered this, but that’s where my career commenced in the same cold-calling role. We had this interesting setup where the names of all the cold callers were projected on a white screen. If you didn’t make a call for two minutes, your name would start flashing in red for everyone to see, a total boiler room scenario.
I was in that position for around 9 months, maybe even less, before transitioning into a hybrid role. However, I always perceive that period as an excellent introduction to what I eventually pursued in my career. This foundation proved invaluable in every subsequent job, whether progressing in sales, transitioning to marketing, stepping into management, or joining an executive team. It feels like it laid a solid groundwork for me.
How did your early roles, such as cold calling, influence and prepared you for later sales, marketing, management, and executive positions?
While I wouldn’t say I liked it then, I must admit I did a lousy job in that role. I wouldn’t recommend it as a long-term career choice. However, it circles back to the fundamental idea of necessary repetitions for skill development. You read a lot about like Ericsson and things like that where it’s look in order to be expert it’s something you have to iterate it over and over and over again. Despite its challenges, inside sales offers a unique advantage in this regard. The sheer frequency of practicing the talk track, refining questioning skills, mastering discovery techniques, and perfecting messages like the value proposition or company story allows for rapid skill development. In contrast to field reps, inside sales professionals become experts faster due to the repetitions in their craft.
One common pitfall in inside sales processes occurs when organizations strictly adhere to scripts, stifling creativity and making the experience monotonous. Fortunately, I was fortunate to work for a company that encouraged script customization, promoting agility and refinement.
This process served as a valuable stepping stone for individuals transitioning from inside sales to field roles. In face-to-face interactions, adaptability and navigation skills are crucial, and the inside sales experience becomes a rich source of lessons learned at an accelerated pace.
During your time in inside sales, with the inherent quota pressure, did you always have the mindset of using it as a stepping stone towards a coaching, mentoring, or training role, or was that realization something that developed later on?
Did you think you would be in sales and then stumbled back into training like you weren’t?
As I initially delved into sales and found my rhythm, I anticipated a prolonged stay in that field. However, as I gained experience, I transitioned into a role where I coached new sales representatives entering the software world. Due to our lean structure, I became involved in professional development and various responsibilities, eventually leading the customer success team. Managing an inside-based customer success team felt like a return to my roots, specifically to inside customer support between support and sales.
This shift was driven by my innate desire to teach and assist others. I realized that sharing my knowledge and expertise could have a more significant impact and contribute to the organization’s growth. Many people have come to understand that moving into learning and development allows them to bring greater value to the organization by guiding others in their skills rather than solely focusing on their expertise.
The conversation in the podcast extended to the following questions:
- When we look at sales training today, where do you think that landscape is?
- How do you find that balance and promote that exploration within the sales team?
- How do you go about what you have found to be a good first step for alignment?
- What is the first step that you would recommend to somebody who’s trying to follow in those footsteps?
- What are the things that you are saying? Let’s start with what things you think people are focusing on that they should not focus on.