January 15

Appeal to Your Sales Team Heads and Hearts


Sale Leadership Awakening
Sale Leadership Awakening
Appeal to Your Sales Team Heads and Hearts

David Hennessy, the VP of Sales at Kite Pharma, delves into his transformative moment as a sales leader, stressing the significance of active listening and strategic questioning. He underscores the necessity for a well-defined and compelling strategy that is effectively communicated to the sales team. David also highlights the crucial balance between the strategy’s rational and emotional facets, resonating with intellect and emotion. Offering insights into execution and key success indicators, he emphasizes understanding the underlying purpose of the strategy. Throughout the conversation, David underscores the need for self-awareness and the flexibility to adapt leadership styles for diverse individuals.

“I don’t care what you’re selling. There is an emotional argument to be made for every single product sold.” – David Hennessy

The insights shared by David Hennessy have significant implications for sales leadership. Leaders can foster alignment, engagement, and motivation by understanding the “why” behind a strategy and effectively communicating it to the sales team. The role of self-awareness in leadership allows leaders to leverage their strengths and seek support in areas where they may be less inclined. A balanced approach that appeals to both the head and the heart ensures that strategies are executed effectively and resonate with a broader audience.

Follow David Hennessy on LinkedIn

Follow host Steven Rosen on LinkedIn

Follow host Colleen Stanley on LinkedIn



[00:00:00] David Hennessy: It does help. All right. 

[00:00:02] Colleen Stanley: Hi everyone. And welcome to the Sales Leadership Awakening podcast. I’m Colleen Stanley and joining me today is my partner, Steven Rosen. Steven. Good to see you again. 

[00:00:15] Steven Rosen: Good to see you, Colleen. Thank you. It’s my honor to welcome, was gonna say my good friend, but my friend, David Hennessey, vice president of sales of Kite Pharma.

[00:00:25] Steven Rosen: Overall, nice guy and what I would call an enlightened sales leader, David, if you can share a little bit about yourself, your role type of sales, a bit about your sales team. And really what I love about Kite is the amazing technology, that they’ve brought to market. And maybe just share a little bit of that with our audience.

[00:00:43] Steven Rosen: And then we can get into a little bit more 

[00:00:44] Steven Rosen: about what you’re doing. 

[00:00:45] David Hennessy: Hi, Stephen. Hi, Colleen. Thank you for having me. I’m happy to share a little bit about what we do at Kite and my journey here. So I’ll start with probably the most important thing is what we do at kite. And we’re very fortunate to work in the oncology space.

[00:00:58] David Hennessy: And Kite is all about in pursuit of a mission for a cure. And how we do this is with our technology and our amazing people, of course. So the first thing we do is we collect a patient’s white blood cells. So Those are the fighting cells that you have in your body. We isolate and activate what’s called a T cell.

[00:01:15] David Hennessy: And then we engineer that T cell with what’s called a chimeric antigen receptor or CAR. So CAR T is a chimeric antigen receptor T cell. We engineer those to fight the cancer you have in particular lymphomas and certain types of adult leukemia, mantle cell lymphoma, those types. Then we grow outside of your body the number of those T cells that have been engineered and then we infuse them back into you.

[00:01:38] David Hennessy: So your cells, get engineered and given back to you to fight the type of cancer you have. I joined the company about two and a half, almost three now. Let’s see, I’ve been in a variety of commercial and biotech pharma spaces for the last almost coming up on 25 years, which just feels crazy because I guess your day and then a variety of roles, whether I’ve carried the bag as a sales professional or as a sales leader, marketing on a market access side and the last 15 years have been leading national teams in a variety of capacities.

[00:02:06] Steven Rosen: That’s great, David. Thanks for sharing. 

[00:02:07] Steven Rosen: And, let me ask you a very important question. When you look at your many years in sales leadership, what would you say your awakening moment was that shifted your leadership approach or your thinking or how you went about leading your team? 

[00:02:22] David Hennessy: Sure. I can remember the day, not the date.

Awakening Moment in Sales Leadership

[00:02:24] David Hennessy: I was on a field ride. I was a brand new sales leader. This is when I was at AstraZeneca, a fine organization, and I was a brand new hospital manager and I was responsible for the West Coast at the time on our injectable and pill products. And I was riding in the field with a 25-year experience hospital rep, who I think had suits older than me.

[00:02:43] David Hennessy: And, at the time. I Had all the great ideas I knew exactly the way it was supposed to be done. Cause that was a successful sales rep. So of course, everybody does it my way. And that awakening for me was I need to listen to a heck of a lot more than me yammering on about what I think they should be doing and learn to ask me questions.

[00:03:02] David Hennessy: And this particular rep, who’s a dear friend of mine today, still just gave me some blunt and direct feedback around, Hey, you just need to listen to a lot more about what we’re doing. Cause you got 13 reps that are kicking butt and we all do it different ways. And you could learn a lot from listening to what we do and see how we do it.

[00:03:18] David Hennessy: And what we need you to do is share the best practices that you see that I do that somebody else should be doing and vice versa. It started me on my journey of really becoming a servant leader listening a lot more and asking some questions. I could talk all day long about that, as most sales leaders will tell you, we can talk about ourselves all day.

[00:03:33] Steven Rosen: Shifting from telling people what to do to asking great questions and listening is the core of coaching. It’s the core of leadership. It’s, the nice thing about the individual is they share that with you early on in your career. So it may have saved some bumps along the road.

[00:03:49] David Hennessy: It did make lots of bumps along the way. I was very thankful that I must have done something right and that she thought it was good to invest in me. And that’s how I think about it. I did enough right that she’s listening, we can do a lot of work here. And, I look back years later, the team put her up to it for sure.

[00:04:05] David Hennessy: I was driving them bonkers. You’re going to tell them. You’re going to spend all day with them driving them to Sacramento.

[00:04:10] Steven Rosen: I think it’s you tell them, please.

[00:04:12] David Hennessy: Yeah, pretty much. I’ll never forget that because it’s something that I’ve always tried to pay forward is that, all kidding aside, feedback is a tremendous gift, no matter where you get it, you might be in the right headspace to hear it, and you certainly may not agree with it.

[00:04:23] David Hennessy: The fact that the team at the time chose to invest in me is something I’ll be forever grateful for. And hopefully, I was a better leader in the second half of our experiences in the first half. 

Importance of Feedback in Leadership

[00:04:32] Colleen Stanley: Absolutely. And, there’s a saying out there, that when people care, they share.

[00:04:37] Colleen Stanley: And I’ve always said to, any member of my team, the day I quit you know, giving feedback, that’s when you should get nervous because I’ve gone into what I call apathy. So I commend that. I’m glad you guys are still friends here and continuing on this theme, but I am taking a little bit of a right turn here on an awakening moment.

[00:04:54] Colleen Stanley: I know with your background, you’ve been involved in a lot of conversations around strategy, setting the strategy, changing the strategy. And, since this podcast is focused on really bridging the knowing and doing gap, Where’s the gap from your perspective and experience where you’ve seen people set the strategy, but then there’s this lack of execution? Any thoughts there? 

The Gap Between Strategy and Execution 

[00:05:16] David Hennessy: Sure. I’m a subscriber of the philosophy that a mediocre strategy violently executed is better than a perfect strategy poorly executed. In other words, doing something in the marketplace sometimes is better than nothing. And in my experience, whether I was on the marketing side or whether I was on a sales leader side, what I’ve seen is that in many cases, the people that are creating the strategy, they don’t necessarily, they’ll spend three, four, five months creating strategies.

[00:05:39] David Hennessy: So what’s in their head is longitudinal. It’s big. Then they try to put it down to two slides and say, here’s the basis for why we’re doing the strategy. And here you go sales team are two slides. We’ve just convinced four months of work into two slides. And I think that does the strategy development a disservice.

[00:05:57] David Hennessy: I’m a big believer that if the sales team knows what the strategy is based upon, and why it’s important, they will get behind it. If they see how it’s going to help them grow their sales and help them grow their business. And so in the biotech space, it’s really about what’s your product positioning.

[00:06:11] David Hennessy: What are the merits of the product? What are the messages you want to deliver in the marketplace? What’s the patient type? That’s the best fit. And where I’ve seen strategy fall apart is usually. Where we’re going to position the product is either unrealistic or unattainable, or it’s, not today, but maybe it’s a five-year strategy that we’re trying to discuss today, which doesn’t help the Salesforce five years might as well be, 5, 000 years away.

[00:06:33] Colleen Stanley: Especially today. 

[00:06:34] David Hennessy: Exactly. Give me today’s positioning, not where you want it to be in five years. And the other thing is that a lot of times you won’t get agreement on the patient type. That’s the appropriate one. They’re like, my doctors will never buy that. So how do you help them see that not only will your doctors buy it, but this is what they probably should be using it for?

[00:06:48] David Hennessy: And so that’s the, it’s a robust Why that I want to see come through with our marketing colleagues. Now, as a sales leader, I don’t just say. Hey, bring it over the fence, and let me do it. I should be partnering with you from the beginning on the strategy where I get to pull what I know about the marketplace and our customers with that strategy development.

[00:07:04] David Hennessy: And then I want to make sure that I’m the one also talking to salesforce with marketing. We’re both on stage together talking about why I believe, why we believe this is important. And so where I’ve seen it go wrong, Colleen is when it’s, one department versus the other. It’s too aspirational.

[00:07:17] David Hennessy: It’s not specific enough. And we just don’t invest enough time in the Why. And we assume everybody heard it from the front of the room at the national meeting for seven minutes, so they must get it. Do you want to give me an hour? I can give you a lot of other hours. Maybe give me a strategy primer before the meeting. Maybe the NSM, we do a refresher after that, maybe we should talk about how strategy shows up in action. Like we got to work with these folks.

[00:07:38] Colleen Stanley: And this is, it’s, I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but a lot of times you’ve got your chief revenue officer, sales managers, they’re doing the ride alongs, whether it’s a virtual call or in-person call. I don’t think I see enough of the marketing department doing right along, is that part of the disconnect? Because, as you said, we’re all in the same stage together, but I’ve said marketing needs to be out there in the field because it’s like when you hear it firsthand or see it firsthand, it becomes real. And I think the messaging becomes more authentic or frankly on point. 

[00:08:07] David Hennessy: I gotta tell you, there’s a couple of best practices that I’ve seen organizations do. One was Genentech Roche, who did this incredibly well. They created marketing buddies, and so every sales team had a marketing lead who would be with them for the year.

[00:08:23] David Hennessy: And they would be the ones that go to the regional meetings. That’s what they would do on their field days. That’s who they saw at conferences and congresses, the customers in those regions. And that formed a tight relationship. And I saw that. Colleen, so that’s how it worked very well in that sense.

[00:08:37] David Hennessy: That’s something I’ve carried forward with Kite that I think is, until you see your cell sheet or your patient type in front of a customer getting beat up, you don’t live, the other best practice I saw was when the marketing team would create field input teams.

[00:08:49] David Hennessy: More specific teams. So they’d say, Hey, we’re thinking about redoing strategy. Let’s get three or four salespeople to at least listen in on a strategy development. It’s good for their development. And more importantly, we’re getting a real customer view on here, or what’s a new sales piece or patient, patient type, or we’re going to go after, whatever it may be forming two or three like small teams to get people into the headquarters and get that experience that has been really, very powerful. And Kite does that incredibly well, so does Genentech. AstraZeneca also did that well, but in a much more focused fashion because the discipline there at AZ was much more of a marketing-first, marketing-led organization.

[00:09:25] David Hennessy: And I respect the heck out of that because there was very clear direction almost always. Did I agree with it? That’s a whole nother story.

[00:09:30] Steven Rosen: Interestingly, you say that because I come from a pharma background as well. The process within the pharmaceutical industry of building brand plans and building all their marketing plans is probably.

[00:09:43] Steven Rosen: Two to three months in length until it’s presented to different levels of management and finally gets approved and what I have found in many cases, and yes you may have some folks who sit in on it and who can, lend their opinion. Sometimes your physicians are brought in as part of that planning process.

[00:10:01] Steven Rosen: But then all of a sudden it gets lobbed over the fence, the national sales meeting, maybe in January, or whenever you’re doing a quarterly plan of action, the sales team doesn’t have a lot of time to work through the execution component, because in most cases, there isn’t a refined.

[00:10:17] Steven Rosen: Execution process or a building process to build the execution plan. Can you share anything you do to help the sales team execute it incredibly well? 

Keys to Successful Strategy Execution

[00:10:27] David Hennessy: Well, we have to make sure we have any of this is not just farming or any organization. What do you expect of your sales organization, I go back to the basics of any strategy.

[00:10:35] David Hennessy: So whether it’s a marketing strategy, or in this case, a sales execution strategy, the components are, the who, the what, the where, the when, and the how. And if you have those checked off, then your strategy has a really good shot at being successful. So who should I focus and spend my energy on?

[00:10:51] David Hennessy: What customers? What segment of the customers? Is it everyone who does plumbing or just certain plumbers? Is it every physician or certain positions? And why is that important? Where do these people reside? Should I drive five hours to see that high-value customer out in the middle of nowhere?

[00:11:05] David Hennessy: Or am I better off staying here with some medium value, but saving 10 hours of my life? That’s a trade-off decision that you have to guide people on. So who should I call on, Where am I calling on them? What do you want me to say? Marketing? You’ve done the message.

[00:11:17] David Hennessy: We’ve given what’s the core story we should be telling. Why should I use this product? Don’t let me create my version of that for goodness sake. Let’s put some science behind it. And then, of course, there are other attributes that kind of go with that. So the who, the where, the what, and then the how is our attitude, how we show up as individuals, and how we are excited about this.

[00:11:34] David Hennessy: So we moping around throughout the day. A hundred percent controllable by the way, by us. And then each one of those has a why behind it. If you hit those elements, then your execution will be good. And when, in my experience, Stephen, whenever I’ve seen poor execution, it almost always falters on one of those. I didn’t realize that customer is that important. I didn’t realize that’s what you expected of me. 

[00:11:51] Steven Rosen: I was going to ask, always one of the challenges, once you’ve rolled it out is keeping execution on track, how are some ways that you know that the team’s doing a good job, a great job, an amazing job executing? 

Measuring Success in Execution

[00:12:04] David Hennessy: It goes back to the basics of any execution. There are excellent books written on this one. And by the way, around execution, some people could PhDs in this, I’m sure. But for me, it’s, you find a few basic measurements that tell you’re on track. And those are what I call lead indicators.

[00:12:20] David Hennessy: They tell you where you’re putting the ergs of energy into the marketplace. And is it in the right place? Is it in the right customer group? And then on the pharma side, we also can contract the messages that we’re talking about. So are we talking about, what we’re supposed to be?

[00:12:34] David Hennessy: The quality of this is only what you put into it. So you want people to be truthful because we need to understand. And then obviously the real indicator is, do you see the results change? And so execution for me is where do you put the activity? What are you showing up and executing against?

[00:12:49] David Hennessy: And then the results should follow. And if results don’t follow, then you go back to the age-old question. What did you deliver the message and the story? Or is it a bad story? And if you don’t have decent data, you can’t answer that question. That’s why the data is so important to understand. 

[00:13:02] Colleen Stanley: The presenting problem is generally not the real problem. 

[00:13:05] David Hennessy: That’s right. 

The Role of Heart and Head in Leadership

[00:13:05] Colleen Stanley: So you’ve got to dive into all of those things that you’ve mentioned there, something you have to go back up. Your conversation is, I love that process. Like you’ve got to have these points that you hit, but something you mentioned when we connected the first time was your team understanding the why.

[00:13:20] Colleen Stanley: I don’t want to give away the plot, but you mentioned something about heart, I’ll just leave it there for your leadership style. 

[00:13:26] David Hennessy: Yeah. Fair enough any strategy, you have to spend the time on the why behind it, right? We all know this, we talked about it I found that in my experience.

[00:13:33] David Hennessy: Every why should have two components. One is the head, which is your rational thinking about it. Is it a numbers game? Show me the strength of the market, you know, all that. The other one is the heart. In this case, in my industry, as I talked about Kite and CAR T, we’re offering hope to a lot of patients.

[00:13:50] David Hennessy: If you can’t get excited about that, and that’s not your why, then you’re in the wrong business. And everyone’s wired differently. For some people it’s never 50-50, some people are all heart and limited on the head, and others around the other way around. And so as a leader, you want to make sure that every argument you make the basis for the why has those two components.

 You’re covering, the majority of humanity with those. 

[00:14:09] Colleen Stanley: How have you done that? Because, again, the knowing and doing gap with all the literature we have out there growing, people talk about empathy a lot. So what’s the reason a leader only focuses on the heart maybe or ignores the numbers?

[00:14:23] Colleen Stanley: I’ve seen that, or they just focus on the numbers and go after just the heart. What is the disconnect happening? 

[00:14:29] David Hennessy: I think people are wired a certain way. Like when I look at my family, they’re just, I got a data-driven kid and I have a non-data-driven kid. And there’s, I think people are wired that way, or at least they gravitate one or the other.

[00:14:40] David Hennessy: And I think as leaders, it’s our responsibility to appeal to the broadest audience possible because I have an audience full of people that will be both one or the other versions of both. And so I think in many cases, I don’t think people intentionally say, we’re gonna make it a rational argument and stick away from the emotion.

[00:14:56] David Hennessy: I just think they’re wired that way. Our job as leaders is to know who we are and understand who we are and where we’re leading from. And then from there, either balance it out with somebody else who could help you balance it out or find a way to balance it yourself. And I tell people, if you can’t find the heart and what we’re doing, that’s okay.

Self-Awareness and Balancing Heart and Head

[00:15:11] David Hennessy: There’s somebody else, you can bring on stage that’ll help you with that, or the data part of somebody else. 

[00:15:15] Steven Rosen: Patients are very persuasive in terms of how it’s impacted them. Patient success stories, physician success stories. 

[00:15:21] David Hennessy: Even it goes beyond healthcare though. Healthcare, I think the why is easy at times because you could have, a better life, improved life, keep people alive, but I don’t care what you’re selling.

[00:15:31] David Hennessy: There is an emotional argument to be made for every single product sold. It’ll make your life easier, which translates to you’ll have more time with your family if you choose to write, and you’ll be able to get work done to do something else that you enjoy doing. The more efficient mousetrap allows you to have a cleaner home, free of pests.

[00:15:48] David Hennessy: Like you can think of any emotional argument you want to have. And I think anytime you don’t rely on both the head and the heart, you’re leaving yourself open to a competitor, perhaps doing that. 

[00:15:57] Colleen Stanley: Absolutely. You remind me of this. I can’t believe this is something 15 years ago and I had a colleague and I don’t even remember his area of expertise, but he was facilitating a workshop with RTD bus drivers and you’re there kind of like it goes.

[00:16:12] Colleen Stanley: And I think he was trying to get to the Y and they’re all looking at him like this. And he’s finally started saying, do you get people to doctor’s appointments? Do you get people to visit their aging parents? Do you get people to school? And all of a sudden just the difference in the emotion when these people realize I’m not just driving a bus and I think it goes to your point.

[00:16:32] Colleen Stanley: You can find purpose in almost everything. So I appreciate it. 

[00:16:35] David Hennessy: That’s exactly right, I know Simon Sinek specialized in this area, he’s extraordinary in this area, I’m sure you are familiar with his work. He talks about a variety of framings of how to kind of get at this and I’ll paraphrase him poorly on this one, but he says something to the effect that people don’t necessarily remember what you say. They remember how you make them feel.

[00:16:53] Steven Rosen: So it’s interesting because in many cases we talk about hard measurements or metrics for sales, and here we’re talking about the heart having a purpose in what you sell. As being key drivers for what gets people going and what makes them execute better.

[00:17:09] Steven Rosen: Colleen, could you summarize any, is there any points that you feel? Hey, this was phenomenal. I know I’ve got a couple, he said, David, thank you for sharing this with us. 

[00:17:19] Colleen Stanley: Well, the one that did grab me is because everyone, as you said, David, talks about the why, but when you framed it up as the heart and head, but then what you just said, certain people are wired certain ways.

[00:17:31] Colleen Stanley: That’s why they default to that. And in fact, it’s interesting at our house. My husband is logical and analytical, he can build a rocket ship. Me, I’m flying at the 50,000-foot level. But the next thing you pointed out, and I think this is important if you didn’t catch these listeners, viewers, self-awareness.

[00:17:49] Colleen Stanley: Just be aware of where you’re going to default, but be aware that we need both, especially in driving forward execution strategy and solutions. So that was an aha today for me that we do tend to default to those, but having that self-awareness. So thank you for that.

Communication Styles and Effective Leadership 

[00:18:05] David Hennessy: I got to tell you, I learned for myself, that I can orient heavily towards the heart. I just that’s the way I wire. I know that. So I spend extra time on the head. I have to make myself do it. I got to make myself look at the spreadsheets. I have to have a regular time when I do it. I have an analytical team that helps me out with these things. It’s not that I can’t do the work. It’s just, that if I have 15 minutes, I’m going to spend 12 on the heart stuff. So I can make myself do the stuff that doesn’t come naturally to me. 

[00:18:28] Steven Rosen: Good for you. That’s great self-awareness. I’ve been working with many leaders and working on communication styles. And we use different terminologies, but it’s people who are people-oriented, who like to know the excitement part, and people who are factually oriented and you find most people are wired one way as opposed to the other.

[00:18:47] Steven Rosen: But the most effective communicators are ones who appeal to both. And if you’re naturally people-oriented or, heart-oriented, then find a way to toggle up on your house or your details so you can win both parts. So to me, one of the I think insightful points here is, that you have to understand the why.

[00:19:08] Steven Rosen: And understand the how. As effective sales leaders, being able to communicate across what you said, the what, the why, the how, and maybe even the who, who’s going to do this creates a full level of people understanding because you’re communicating to four quadrants. As a result, you get better buy-in, better execution, and better performance.

[00:19:30] David Hennessy: Steven, I think everyone at least in sales leadership, fancies himself a strategist, we can strategy all day long, especially if it’s the wrong one you’re executing that somebody else created. But all kidding aside on that, I think that framework of the who, what, where, and how, I learned that at AstraZeneca, which did amazing strategy.

[00:19:47] David Hennessy: I will tell you, they are good at that work. And if you can’t put your strategy on a single piece of paper with your basic positioning, your who, what, where, how, and why then it is overly complicated. It is at risk of being executed poorly. And so I always ask for the one-pagers from my marketing team.

[00:20:03] David Hennessy: They’re driving bonkers because I want to have it. And then I’ll share with my sales leaders, this is what it’s supposed to look like, is it this way every day? Of course not, but this is what you should be striving for. 

[00:20:12] Steven Rosen: David, I’m in line with you and one of my beliefs, and I’m not wired for strategy.


[00:20:17] Steven Rosen: I’m wired for tactics. Colleen is much more strategic than I am, but I believe that if you want to execute with a large sales team. You have to boil things down to simplicity to get effective execution. And one page to me is about simplicity because you’ve taken a while. It takes a long time to boil down three months of marketing activity into one page. It’s not a binder anymore. It is marching orders. 

[00:20:44] Steven Rosen: David, I want to thank you. I think it’s been great as we wrap up another insightful episode of the Sales Leadership Awakening podcast, we hope you gather some valuable strategies in terms of how to effectively communicate to your team to ensure great execution. We know we have to do it, but I think David has shared some really good ways that he goes about bridging that gap. And if you like what you’re hearing, I suggest you take the time and subscribe to our podcast to ensure that you get every week’s edition out and it helps awaken you that we provide tools and really great leadership through some of our wonderful guests to transform and make you a better leader.

[00:21:22] Steven Rosen: Thanks very much.

[00:21:23] Colleen Stanley: Thanks, David. 

[00:21:24] David Hennessy: Thanks, Colleen. [00:21:25] David Hennessy: Thanks, Stephen.


Colleen Stanley, communication style, data, David Hennessy, effective communicator, emotional intelligence. soft skills, empathy, executive coaching, head and heart, interview, lead indicators, metrics, physician success stories, podcast, purpose, results, sales, sales burnout, sales coach, sales coaching, sales execution, sales goals, sales leaders, sales leadership coaching, sales leadership development, sales management training, sales manager training, sales managers, sales training, self-awareness, selling, Steven Rosen, strategy development, strategy execution, success stories, top skills

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