Love Your Team—Helen Fanucci, Transformational Sales Leader, Microsoft

How do you love your team at work? I don’t mean in a romantic way. I mean, how do you show your team that they are valued and cared about? And more specifically, how do you love your sales team that does not include their bonus or commission? Showing compassion and love to sales people seems to be the last department in an organization someone would think about giving love to and our guest today, Helen Fanucci, is setting out to change that.


Helen Fanucci is an MIT-trained engineer who has built her reputation and career managing teams responsible for billions of dollars of quota. She developed the Love Your Team system of sales management over a 25-year career on the front lines at top tech companies including Apple, Sun Microsystems, IBM, and Microsoft. Helen’s first book, Love Your Team, A Survival Guide for Sales Managers in a Hybrid World, is available on Amazon. She also hosts the Love Your Team podcast, which focuses on retaining top talent and building high-performing teams. 


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Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:01):

Welcome to the Multiply Your Success podcast, where each week we help growth-minded entrepreneurs and franchise leaders take the next step in their expansion journey. I’m your host, Tom DuFore, CEO of Big Sky Franchise Team. And as we open today, I’m wondering, how do you love your team at work? And I don’t mean in a romantic way. I mean, how do you show your team that they are valued and cared about? And more specifically, how do you love your sales team and how do you do that, that it doesn’t include their bonus or commission? Throwing compassion and love to salespeople seems to me to be the last department in an organization someone would think about giving love to. And our guest today, Helen Fanucci, is setting out to change that. Helen is an MIT trained engineer who has built her reputation and career managing teams responsible for billions of dollars of quota.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:56):

She developed a love your team system of sales management over a 25-year career on the front lines at tech companies, including Apple, Sun Microsystems, IBM, and currently at Microsoft. Helen’s first book, Love Your Team: A Survival Guide for Sales Managers in a Hybrid World is available currently on Amazon. She also hosts the Love Your Team podcast, which focuses on retaining top talent and building high performance teams. This interview is jammed full of great information and just golden nuggets of practical tools and tips for you to use and apply with your company right away. So let’s go ahead and jump right into my interview with Helen Fanucci. Helen, thank you so much for being a guest on the Multiply Your Success podcast. And just by way of introduction, it’d be great for you to list your name, your title, and your company.

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (01:49):

Sure. Helen Fanucci, and I’m a Transformational Sales Leader at Microsoft.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:55):

Thank you very much. And I love this title, Transformational Sales Leader. So give me an idea of what does it mean to be transformational in that role?

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (02:04):

I picked that title for a very intentional reason. There are roles that I’ve had at Microsoft where the emphasis has been helping customers transform their business. Right now I am in the midst of cultural transformation within Microsoft. We have layoffs, we’ve had some reorganization, and so to be able to really attend to the needs of my team and create high performance is my focus. And so transformational can mean different things in different contexts and so that is actually why I picked that title.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (02:44):

I love this idea of transformational and you have a book out as well that I’d really like to spend some time talking about. Give us a little summary of your book just for the folks as they’re listening in here.

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (02:57):

It’s called Love Your Team: A Survival Guide for Sales Managers in a Hybrid World. And the reason I wrote this book is in July of 2021, I was doing a keynote at a conference for sales leaders about retaining top talent. And when I got to the point about how do you do that, I thought sales leaders really need to love their team. And I was nervous about using the love word in a business context, but I got such good feedback. And then people ask me, “Well, how do you actually do that when everyone’s remote and hybrid? They’re not in the office.” And so I realized I have been leading teams for over 25 years in a hybrid remote fashion, and then I had something to offer. So I started down the journey of writing the book and it’s really a how to book, how to retain talent, how to build high performing teams, and really how to multiply your own success through your team. So my orientation is all about my team and helping them be successful and that maximizes business and revenue impact along the way.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (04:10):

The whole idea of loving your team and going through that, I love that concept. I’ve heard similar types of things used, but I can’t ever recall it being used in a sales setting with sales people. It seems all other departments and organizations, but the sales people are kind of out there hitting quotas or supposed to be hitting quotas, very numbers driven. So we have a lot of business leaders and entrepreneurs that tune into our program and sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in looking at revenue, top line, gross profit margin, whatever metrics they’re using in their sales organization. So this concept of love with your sales team, I’d love for you just to talk about that and changing our thinking on it.

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (04:53):

There’s a lot that leaders can do and in my opinion should do to support their sellers achieving their metrics and outcomes. So I have hard metrics like quota attainment revenue, but soft metrics as well. But let’s talk about the hard metrics for a minute. So if a seller is struggling with delivering a deal, is there a tension and a fear relationship with their manager? Sellers have told me, “Hey, I’m afraid to even pull back a deal out of forecast because of the consequence of that,” and they’re under pressure. Well, a fear relationship with a manager isn’t going to maximize results. The manager is missing the opportunity to be able to support that deal by having early insight that something might be going off the rails. And so bringing kind of takes a village sometimes to close a deal. Managers also have a network. They have positional power to get to senior leaders in an organization that sellers often aren’t able to get to.

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (06:14):

So in my opinion, leaders really do themselves a disservice to maximizing revenue if they’re not leaning in and supporting their sellers. And I call it loving the team. There’s a lot more to unpack about loving the team, but that’s a pragmatic revenue oriented orientation to why it’s so important for leaders to really be figuring out how they can reduce sales friction and helping support their sellers to maximize results.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (06:49):

So then when you are working with a sales team, you’re working with your sellers and the folks that are working with either current clients or bringing on new accounts into the organization. Talk a little bit about some of these steps or maybe processes or suggestions you might have. What’s maybe just a few nuggets you could share about some best practices to help support and love our sales team.

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (07:14):

So for example, if you’re doing a deal, and in many companies including Microsoft, customers are looking for the best price or they’re looking for investments to help them be successful, and that requires a deal review to the senior sales leader at Microsoft. Who has the power to say, “Yes, we’ll move forward with those investments,” particularly if it’s a large deal. I have my sellers do that presentation to the executive vice president of sales so that they have the experience, the visibility to the sales leader. And I turn my video off, I’m in the background taking notes, taking actions so my seller could be present in that conversation. It gives me the opportunity to also debrief with them. And I know many sales leaders look for the opportunity to be the one that’s visible in front of doing the presentations in front of either their internal executive team or customer executive team.

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (08:24):

And you rob your sellers from the ability to grow their skills and work independently. That’s what I do. And I know that sellers have told me they’ve never had managers that are in the back taking notes for them and actions. I also do that when they’re presenting to a customer and conducting a customer meeting. I’m always looking for opportunities to make sure that I’m supporting the growth and skills of my team. So that is an example. It might seem kind of odd, but it is, and I know foreign to many leaders, but I think if you’re not empowering your team to do the full job and you take over a piece of it because you want to be large and in charge or whatever the motivation might be, I think you rob an opportunity to maximize impact.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (09:19):

That’s a great point. And I know I can say I have definitely been that person who has been a great salesperson in my career, and then I get promoted and I get moved up to more of a management role, and now I’m not maybe in the thrill of the sale anymore. And so in that position you just described, it’s easy for someone who’s used to selling and the thrill and excitement that comes along with that. This becomes for that manager. Like you said, it could be a power thing. It could just be the thrill of presenting again because you don’t do it as often anymore. So I can see very quickly how that is an easy thing to fall into having done it myself. Let’s talk a little bit about some of these skills that are great for sales managers to be leading salespeople with today. Can you talk through some of those?

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (10:07):

So the pandemic really shifted the expectations of employees and sellers. They want to work in a flexible way. They also aren’t satisfied just going to work doing a job. They also have their own personal ambitions worthy of their manager’s attention. And so it’s become much more critical that managers have the skills to connect with their team on a human to human basis. So building trust, building empathy, understanding what matters to your sellers on their terms, and figuring out how you’re going to help them achieve it. And that orientation is critical. Managers actually have a huge role in whether their top talent stays on board or leaves and goes and takes another job. And so back to the skill piece is that those skills of building trust, empathy, connection, relationships are exactly the same skills that sellers need to have and demonstrate with their customers.

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (11:19):

So it’s not like I’m doing something that is off of left field, but if you’re not having the human connection and understanding what makes your seller tick, you’re robbing yourself of that ability to support the seller and to keep the seller on board. And so people, sellers, employees, they’re going to go to where they can grow their career, they can achieve the results that they’re looking for, whether it’s maximizing revenue, work-life balance. There’s all sorts of motivations people have, and also the data shows that they are looking to work for leaders and companies that share their values, have a purpose. Purpose driven is more important than it has been in the past. There’s a lot of research that says that many managers aren’t actually prepared for having this more holistic relationship with their team members. And so it becomes really critical that managers kind of figure out what they’re going to do to adjust in order to retain that top talent and keep their sellers on board.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (12:37):

You mentioned the hybrid situation where we have remote salespeople now. Oftentimes, depending on the industry, salespeople may have always been remote or working out in the field. If they’re in the office, there’s an issue, right? They’re supposed to be out in the field and whether it’s networking or having meetings with people. But as this hybrid situation is changing and more and more companies are adapting to this, what are some strategies to effectively manage a sales team and sellers as they’re out in the field each day?

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (13:07):

Really great question. So it becomes more critical than ever to have outcome based performance expectations. So for me, I have hard expectations, metric oriented. So achieving quarterly and annual revenue attainment, 3X pipeline coverage, forecasting within plus or minus 5% accuracy. Those are metrics that are easy to measure, but I also have what I call soft metrics that are equally important. So my sellers work with a cross-functional team. Are they effective leaders? Are they building a strong team culture? Are they able to delegate? Those kinds of skills and abilities get assessed through conversations with other managers and feedback across the team. And then finally, I’ll say another one that is super important is are my sellers getting higher in the organization? Meaning really developing relationships with decision makers and are they getting broader? Are they staying in IT as an example, or are they going out to lines of business, finance, HR, manufacturing, wherever, engineering?

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (14:28):

And so quarterly we look at a relationship map. Then the question is, “Okay, where are you going to go to next?” Where are you going to build your relationship?” So you can assess that relationship building and often they’ll need help getting access to a senior executive because sellers have a hard time doing that. So we strategize about that. Who’s the bait in the bucket that we know they’ll take a meeting with that maybe works on our side or look at LinkedIn? Do we know somebody who knows that executive? So in a hybrid world, you’ve got to have outcome-based performance expectations. I do biweekly every two weeks, a 30-minute one-on-one with my team members and checkpoint progress against goals; obviously monthly forecast calls, pipeline reviews, things like that as well. And it takes about 15% of my time and any given month to do kind of the rhythm of connection. Those are practices that I’ve developed over time.

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (15:38):

I don’t worry about what my team members do on a day-to-day basis. I know I’ve heard managers say, “Well, if they’re not in the office, how do I know that they’re working?” Well, what’s your system for check pointing progress? That would be something I would recommend managers develop if they don’t already have that.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (15:57):

Great feedback there and great suggestions. And one of the things I’d like for you to talk about here is just we’re talking about retaining and providing a pathway for your sellers to be successful within your organization, but what’s the cost here? What does it actually look like if someone actually leaves if you’re not providing this kind of an environment for them to flourish, providing this supportive, loving environment that you’re describing?

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (16:22):

It’s expensive. It’s three quarters of a year’s quota attainment. So here’s the math. Let’s say on day one of the fiscal year, your top talent, your top seller leaves the company and they have a million dollar quota. So it takes three months usually to replace a seller and so that’s $250,000 of quota attainment missed. There might be some residual momentum, great, that’s fine. And then you get a new seller, it often takes six months for them to get to full strength. So that’s another $500,000 of court attainment that you’ve missed. So $750,000 out of a million. Now that assumes that new seller works out. So it’s very disruptive and it’s very difficult for sales managers to be successful and make their number if they can’t retain top talent. I will also add this in. If you’re not performance managing your poor performers, top talent won’t stay either. And so there’s a lot of elements to what keeps people on board and satisfied. So those are a few things that I do, and that’s the cost.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (17:44):

As you are describing that I think that three quarters of a year is worth of production or in terms of sales that they would be bringing in. Seems to me like that would be the low end. It seems like it could just be so much greater than just that three quarters based off of just what you said.

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (18:01):

Well, it actually, probably is. But that math is simple math, but often there is momentum. There’s relationships that seller has. They’re top talent, so they’re probably going to exceed their quota. And so there’s a lot of things that come into play, and I’m not even talking about recruiting costs.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (18:22):

I love the simplicity of it, makes it really easy to understand and quantify quickly to say, “Well, it’s probably going to be a lot faster and more cost-effective to just shore up some of these items internally to support them and put some of these things in place for retaining people.” Well, Helen, this is a great point in the interview here for us just to make a transition and we ask every guest before they go, the same four questions. And the first question we’d like to ask is, have you had a miss in your career and something you learned from it?

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (18:55):

There’s several ones I could mention, but when I first started managing teams, I thought my job was to tell my team how to do their job. And I quickly learned that it was much more effective to talk about what we’re trying to accomplish and then let them come up with a how. And I was blown away because they could think of things or they approached how to do the job in ways that I never could have imagined. So that ended up being a super important lesson learned early in my career.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:33):

Thanks for sharing. And how about a make?

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (19:36):

Well, I have been fortunate to have huge impact in achieving revenue and being promoted. So being able to retain talent has been key to it. And if you actually read my book, you’ll see blurbs or endorsements from about 12 different people, and those are people that have actually worked for me over the past 25 years. And so I’ve been able to maintain relationships, which has strengthened my network and had people want to work for me again. And that just has enabled me to just be in a position where it’s much, much easier to hire and retain talent because I have that reputation.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (20:25):

It’s always telling, right? When people who worked for you are willing to come back and provide just great feedback or a glowing testimonial for you. That says a lot. Let’s talk about a multiplier that you’ve used to grow yourself personally, organizations you’ve worked for over the years.

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (20:45):

Well, first and foremost is the team is my multiplier. So I mentioned that earlier, so I’m going to pick another one. A multiplier is my network. Always be building a network and always have a pipeline of candidates that you might want to hire should you have a job open. So I can’t underemphasize the multiplying effect of having a strong network in order to be able to navigate sales opportunities or hiring people or even prospecting for new jobs.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:21):

I love networking, and in fact, it’s one of the reasons I have the podcast. It’s a way to just continue to build a network with other people. You never know when your paths might cross and another opportunity that might be presented, referral relationships, all kinds of things that develop out of it. I really like that a lot. Well, Helen, the final question we ask every guest is, what does success mean to you?

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (21:43):

Success means to me growing my team so that they achieve their ambition. So I had three people from my team who wanted to be managers, and all three of them got promoted and are now first level managers, which then creates an opportunity to backfill. But that to me is gratifying and successful if I’m supporting and helping my team grow.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (22:08):

Helen, as we bring this to a close, is there anything you were hoping to share or maybe get across that you haven’t had a chance to yet?

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (22:14):

One of the things that you talked about where sellers are out in the field talking to customers, what I’ve learned is customers aren’t in their offices either, so it becomes less critical to higher sellers that are co-located “where the customers are located”. So that’s something for managers and leaders to think about is when you’re hiring your team, where are the customers that you want your team to meet with? Timezone is much more critical than physical city or co-location.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (22:50):

Well, Helen, what’s the best way for someone to get a copy of your book and find out more about what you’re doing?

Helen Fanucci, Microsoft (22:55):

My book is on Amazon, and I have a audio version of the book coming out soon. My publisher hasn’t given me the date, but hopefully sometime in the first half of February and I’m on LinkedIn. That’s the best place to reach me.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (23:12):

Helen, thank you so much for a fantastic interview and let’s go ahead and jump into today’s three key takeaways. So takeaway number one is when Helen said that empathy, connections and relationships are the things that you need to add new customers, but they are also the things you need to retain top talent, especially top sales talent. And she said, think of this, the cost of sales member leaving your company is going to cost you at least 75% of the annual quota for that sales rep that might be leaving. Think of how long that’s going to take to replace that person. So you may want to reconsider, should we try to retrain this person or try to do things to keep them on board. Take away number two is from her multiplier when she said her network is her multiplier and describe the importance of having strong network people.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (24:12):

And if you’ve been in sales leadership roles, you understand how important that network is. And one of the little tips she gave and suggested for helping your sales people find new business or find the decision makers in a company is that she looks at a relationship map with the sales team or salesperson to see how they can get connected with the key decision makers in tapping into their network and the other network of sales leaders, managers, other members of the team can do that. And she described it at one point that it takes a village to get a deal. So I thought that was great and well taken, and I’ve seen that happen many times throughout my career. Takeaway number three is what she said right before we ended the episode. And I thought this was a phenomenal nugget of information because it’s something I hear regularly from current customers, perspective customers or just business leaders in general. Where they’re worried if a salesperson is not present in the territory that the sale is looking to happen in.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (25:21):

And I found this fascinating when Helen said that it’s less important to hire salespeople in the geographic area where your customers are, and it’s more important based on timezones. So timezone difference or reducing that timezone difference is going to be more important. And she said that the reason why and this is important is because that customers aren’t working from the office as much or they’re working from home, which means you’re not going to knock on the door at someone’s house. You’re not going to be meeting them in person as much as we were pre-COVID here three years ago. So I thought that was just a great nugget and takeaway, and now it’s time for today’s win-win.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (26:09):

So today’s win-win is love your team. Love your team. It’s the title of Helen’s book, it’s the title of her podcast. And remember, like Helen said, your sellers and your salespeople, they want to build trust with you and understand what’s important to your salespeople. I promise you, it’s not just commissions and bonus. That might be part of the equation, and for some sellers, it’s the primary of that equation, but it’s not for all of them. I can promise you that. And so here’s some things that she does with her team and her sales leaders and sellers. She does a biweekly meeting for standard things, pipeline reviews, quotas, reviewing how they’re meeting their numbers certainly, but also to understand connections where she can help. And she doesn’t worry about what her team does on a day-to-day basis. That’s less important. She’s focused on how they’re progressing.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (27:09):

And what’s most important is having checkpoints and progress points for those biweekly meetings. If you’re worried about what your team’s doing every day, all the time, she said you probably haven’t established those checkpoints for your team. So I thought that was just a great takeaway because that’s going to be a win for your sellers. It’s going to be a win for your organization because they’re probably going to be happier and perform better and stick around longer. And it’s going to be a win for your customer, for your client, for that person coming on board. And so that’s the episode today folks. Please make sure you subscribe to the podcast and give us a review. And remember, if you or anyone you know might be ready to franchise our business or take their franchise company to the next level, please connect with us at Thanks for tuning in, and we look forward to having you back next week.

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