Frequently, sales is something that people simply “fall into.” Even among stories told by individuals with prominent positions in successful sales departments around the world, many salespeople started that path on a whim. It’s unfortunate, but sales is often considered just a job, not a career. Brian Bar and Victory Lap are hoping to change that.
Bar himself leveraged early roles in s ales and business development toward a satisfying career. As head of s ales onboarding at Groupon, Bar created a sales onboarding program for the Internet coupon organization. The project proved to be successful and was eventually scaled to train, develop, and strategically onboard more than four hundred sales reps and seven sales managers in his tenure, resulting in a major strategic and financial benefit to the organization.
“We are passionate about helping individuals and companies be successful, and we know that a diverse team is a successful team.”
That experience proved to Bar the impact that a properly trained and educated sales force could have on organizations—as well as the effect it could have on the individuals. “Sales, when viewed as a career, is a pathway to personal and professional success, enjoyment, and fulfillment,” he says. To instill potential salespeople with that belief, Bar founded Victory Lap, an organization that provides tuition-free education and training to prepare individuals for successful careers in sales.
Bar spoke with Profile about the mission that guides the organization, why each sales job is different, and the impact that Victory Lap-educated salespeople can make on an organization.
What kind of needs can Victory Lap fulfill for other companies?
Companies are able to tap into a significantly higher-quality talent pool, and candidates have the skills and confidence to succeed in their next role. So, when you put it together, Victory Lap is curating, training, developing, and connecting high-quality people with the right companies. It’s not difficult to hire a salesperson, but it’s really difficult to hire great ones, which is a problem that impacts a company’s success and sometimes survival. If you can’t sell and grow revenues, you don’t have a business.
I’ve personally lived that pain point: you make bad hires, or you work really hard to try and develop those who weren’t performing to a certain level. No matter how much time and effort you put in, it rarely works out. That’s not only painful, but it’s also extremely costly, both culturally and financially for organizations. The need we fill is access to a higher-quality sales talent pool. This pool is a constant streaming flow of candidates, so you’re able to hire better talent faster.
Was experiencing that pain point the genesis of the idea for the organization?
Yes. The epiphany was that a large part of the problem can be solved through high-quality education. When I was at Groupon, we were hiring hundreds of salespeople each year from across the country. Most of them were recent graduates and came into the role unqualified, unprepared, and uncertain. Shouldering that burden while taking the time to invest and get people up to speed was pretty difficult. It’s worse for the candidates, too. Imagine going into a job and never being taught, trained, or exposed to how this job was supposed to be done the right way.
That, to me, was the biggest concern I saw, so I wanted to build something that was able to educate people and make them more aware, confident, and skilled going into this role. The mission behind Victory Lap was to have more people achieve success sooner in their careers. If you’re struggling to find that right fit and you’re bouncing around from job to job, it often takes quite a while to find your footing—if you ever do. That exposure to hundreds of entry-level sales reps and thousands of training and coaching hours was the genesis: witnessing their struggles and wanting to help them be more prepared. It just so happens I can do that really well.
I find it really interesting how focused you are on the word career; a lot of people take on sales jobs as a stepping stone. Focusing immediately on sales as a potential career seems like a really key differentiator.
You nailed it. Sales is a default career, and it’s been this way for a while. Due to the lack of exposure in academia, too many people go into sales only when they can’t get the job they want. You’re typically pushed into the role because someone says you could be good at it, like it’s in your blood or something. What people fail to realize is that sales is actually a phenomenal career and that it can be taught. I was a history major, and I got into sales because that was the only type of job I could get. There is a lot of consensus that sales is a human skill, and no matter what our career, we need to know how to do it. So, sales professionals come from all walks of life and majors. It doesn’t hurt that you’re making more money than your peers who go into other jobs.
When you speak to an employer about what a Victory Lap candidate can offer, is there a way that you define how that person will help the company?
Hiring salespeople is really difficult—not only because there are people who want to do it and don’t have the skills, but also because there are individuals who don’t have the skills to be successful in a specific organization. Someone could work for one company and be terrible and then go somewhere else and be extremely successful. There aren’t many career paths that are like that.
When someone comes into Victory Lap, they are not ideal sales candidates for everybody. However, they are candidates who have connected the dots that sales could be a meaningful career. That’s important because when they go through Victory Lap, they’re going to be even more excited to pursue this path. These are high-integrity folks, and they’ve demonstrated sacrifice, discipline, and success in their past, which are all things that we vet for. If these people have the right character, I can teach them sales.
What can having the right salespeople do for an organization?
Financial, cultural, and long-term growth: those are the big three. Beyond the crucial financial benefits, there are also huge cultural and recruitment costs around high turnover. Eventually, that’s going to catch up to you from a recruitment standpoint because you’re now going to be known as this place where people go and don’t plan on staying.
In addition to working to find the right candidates, how closely do you work with the companies at which you’re placing them?
We serve two customers: candidates and employers. So, we work closely with employers to ensure they are hiring the right person. There are things that are fundamental to companies making the right sales hire, and we do a good job of identifying those and serving up the proper talent. It’s been a very effective model; we’ve spent two weeks with these individuals, while a company might spend only a few hours with them in an interview. So, not only can we make really good recommendations, but every month our class is pumping out new individuals who are excited, skilled, and ready to go into a sales role across a variety of different industries. To have this talent served up on a platter for organizations is a huge value-add. We also consult with companies, helping them build these internal tools to scale their team-building efforts. Organizations will look to us on all things hiring, training, and onboarding for their sales teams. Also, sales management training has been an area where we’ve seen a lot of interest, so we will be helping companies in this area, as well.
The program is free for potential salespeople and generally seems driven by a powerful mission: the betterment of businesses and better careers for individuals. How important was it to you personally to have that mission driving the focus of the organization and how do you see that as a success factor?
Our goal is to create a platform where anyone who is willing to work at it will have an opportunity to get world-class development in the sales career path. Our curriculum is world-class, and I want this to be available for both individuals with an Ivy League degree and those without a degree. Since it’s not covered in K–12 or higher education, no matter your background, there’s somewhat of an even playing field to start on when pursuing sales. That’s powerful, and I think it’s a tremendous way to create one of the most inclusive professional communities in the world. I don’t know many careers in which that could be the case, and we think a lot of people could benefit from that. For us, it goes back to your integrity, character, and drive that will lead to your success, and we want to help those people achieve it faster. The Victory Lap alumni network is already very diverse and resembles this, and it’s something we’re really proud of.
Having free education open to all must lead to a diverse group of candidates. Does diversity have an impact on sales? Having more unique viewpoints involved surely adds value.
Yes. That goes back to our mission making sure that we’re exposing people to a different candidate than they’re used to seeing. Of all of our cohorts to date, we’ve made it a mission to put diversity at the top of mind. Because of that, 51 percent of our alumni would be a diverse hire for companies. We are passionate about helping individuals and companies be successful, and we know that a diverse team is a successful team.