Rob Smith is our guest on the podcast this week and he is here to help you discover your company’s growth potential. A 20 year corporate vet and fractional sales leader, Rob is now the President and Founder of 5S Sales Consulting and works with SMB companies to revamp and map a path for greater sales growth. His insights include:

  • Why businesses struggle to scale (and how to avoid these mistakes)
  • Why your best customers aren’t always who you think they are
  • How fractional leadership is changing the landscape of business
  • And more

Don’t wait another minute to take stock of your business, set your sales goals, and watch your business grow! Listen now.

Mentioned in this episode:


Voiceover: You’re listening to the Conversational Selling podcast with Nancy Calabrese.

Nancy Calabrese: Hi, it’s Nancy Calabrese. And yes, it’s time for Conversational Selling. The podcast where sales leaders and business experts share what’s going on in sales and marketing today. And it always starts with the human conversation. Joining us today is Rob Smith, president and founder of 5S Sales Consulting. 

As a former small business owner, it is his sole mission to help small and medium sized business owners grow their companies. He draws from over 20 years of broad and deep corporate experience in global and national sales leadership, p&l management, engineering and business development. Nothing excites me more than developing and implementing impactful plans and strategies that have clear, measurable and attainable objectives that ultimately build top and bottom line growth. Rob is going to share his expertise in assisting SMBs and adding to their bottom line. I am so glad you could join us today. Rob, welcome to the show. 

Rob Smith: Thanks Nancy. Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.

Nancy: Yeah, and you know, I think this hits home. For many small and medium sized businesses. It’s just the frustration that entrepreneurs face, I think is how to scale and grow their business. Why is it a struggle for so many companies?

Rob: You know, oftentimes the the companies that I engage with Nancy are, you know, they were started by an entrepreneur, that entrepreneur had an idea for differentiating product or service. And they were really, really good at doing that thing. But they’re really not good at sales. You know, maybe maybe they’ve been successful, they’ve hired a couple of reps. Oftentimes, I find that that entrepreneur is trying to act as the de facto sales manager. You and I both know that most times, you know that a business owners never spent really a day of their life in a formal sales function. So they really don’t know what they don’t know about getting the best out of their sales teams to propel their business into that next stage of growth.

Nancy: Yeah. But you know, the other end of it, though, there are some entrepreneurs out there that happen to be really good in sales, and maybe not as strong in other components of growing a business. But even, you know, I’m thinking about small businesses, the owner is good in sales, but they can’t grow it because they can’t do it all. What do you say to those folks?

Rob: Something that I’m sure you’ve heard before, is, you know, stop working in your business and start working on your business. You know, if if they are particularly skilled in sales, then, you know, maybe that’s where they should spend their time and off, offload some of the other stuff that tends to, you know, can be distracting, and could keep you in your own way, so to speak.

Nancy: You know, it’s funny, because I love selling, and somebody told me a long time ago, do what you hate doing when you have the most energy during the day, do what you love doing when you peak out if you would, and since I’ve applied that theory, in my own day to day, it really makes a difference, because you can come to life with what you’re passionate about. Would you agree with that? 

Rob: 100%. Absolutely. Yeah, you know, we think we have to do that we don’t like doing. And I agree with you that you should do that whenever your energy is highest. Because the stuff that you’re good at, you know, doesn’t require as much effort energy. You’re not as prone to procrastination, doing the stuff that you’d like to do. 

Nancy: Right. Right. So what are some of the key strategies in growing your business? I mean, how does the company get started?

Rob: Well, I think the first thing to do is to really take stock. You know, every company has assets, whether it’s, you know, physical equipment, or, you know, maybe it’s, you know, relationships in a particular market segment. I would say, you know, take stock, and maybe even before that, I’m not sure how many business owners you talk to who are like this, Nancy, but like when I sit down with a potential client, it’s really kind of a triage and I’m asking a bunch of questions and trying to figure out if I can help them. 

And one of the first questions I ask is, tell me about your sales goals. And oftentimes I just get the general answer, well, we want to grow. But that growth needs to, you know, needs to be a number, and I needs to be a dollar in the front, or a percentage in the back. So sometimes it’s as simple as saying, Hey, you know, I want to hit $5 million in sales this year, whatever that number may be.

Nancy: Well, how do you know how do entrepreneurs know what a reasonable goal is for growth? How do you determine that?

Rob: I think it’s, it’s in that taking stock process that I mentioned, and then just kind of backtrack and set a goal first. Through that, exercise through that, you know, just kind of taking a look at what you have to work with, that will give you a pretty decent idea as to how outlandish or how achievable that particular goal may be.

Nancy: So this is kind of where you stood step in, right. So you provide that kind of strategy for businesses? Is that how you help?

Rob: That’s how I help. Part of it. Yep. The strategy, mapping out the process, you know, what is the sales process? There is one, it probably just hasn’t been documented, or maybe it’s not all that clean. Execution and accountability. Measurements. Because if you’re not measuring it, it’s probably not going to get any better.

Nancy: Right? You know, I said earlier that you have experience and leadership, p&l management and engineering. What do you mean by engineering as it relates to sales?

Rob: Well, nothing necessarily as it relates to sales. But that’s, that’s where I started my career. I’d like to say I’m a recovering engineer, turned sales guy. Which is not something that you find all that often.

Nancy: Yeah, how did you manage to get into sales?

Rob: Well, I was I was a young engineer, my mentor, was the VP of Engineering at the at the little company that I was working at, and he took me out to lunch one day, not too far into my career, and, you know, looked at me across the table and said, Rob, you’re not an engineer. And I thought I’d messed something up. I thought I thought I was gonna get fired. But you know, so he can clearly see that I was flustered. He’s like, No, no, no, relax, relax, you’re a fine engineer. 

You do good job. But you’re just not you’re not wired to be an engineer. I said, okay, well enlighten me. What what am I? And he immediately, you know, came back, you’re your sales guy. And I was kind of offended by that. Just because there can be a little bit of tension on a company, especially manufacturing between the technical guys and the sales guys, and that kind of thing. But I on boarded that, and a couple years later had an opportunity to transition into sales at an entry level. And really the rest is history.

Nancy: How do you find your engineering background, though to be helpful? I would gather I mean, engineering is all step by step, isn’t it? Understanding the process?

Rob: Absolutely. Yeah. I think that’s, that’s where it helps me a lot is. Well, I mean, you ask the question, you know, before, how do you how do you figure out if a goal is attainable? I mean, engineering is problem solving. A lot of sales is problem solving. Just a different kind of problems. So you just break it. I think the training and breaking things down into small pieces, which you can solve the whole thing I think that really helped, has helped me and does help me on a daily basis. Yeah.

Nancy: So what would you say is your unique idea that is different and sets you apart?

Rob: You know, I think it’s just in sort of the holistic approach to fixing the sales problem. You know, there’s a lot of sales coaches out there, there’s a lot of sales trainers out there. There’s not as many folks like me who actually roll their sleeves up, get in and get dirty, and get in the weeds. 

Nancy: So, you know, like we talked to earlier, you set the sales goal, right? What would be the next step as it relates to creating the sales function and controlling it?

Rob: Sure. Well, I think it’s getting you’re getting your head around where your customers are currently. And so again, that taking stock kind of approach, the first thing that I do generally is try to build a client, like a two year sales plan. And in that you get into the numbers you get into the customers and, you know, it’s funny what you’ll find there. Sometimes you’ll find, you know, opportunities to take care of a particular customer, sometimes you’ll find that you’re, you know, your biggest customer is way, way too big and, you know, your portfolio isn’t diversified enough.

Nancy: Right.

Rob: There’s a lot to be ought to be learned in that identifying, you know, adjacent markets, that maybe you sell your product into, you know, this particular vertical but there’s one right next to it. That is unpenetrated and I suppose those are all really good sources for upside under taking, you know, more share from your existing customer base or expanding into, you know, different or adjacent markets? And a lot of times, you’ll find that who you thought was your best customer is really not from a margin perspective, for example,

Nancy: Okay. How long would you say it takes an organization who has zero sales structure? To get them to a point where it’s becoming a well oiled machine?

Rob: About 90 to 120 days. Give or take, but, you know, if you just want to, you know, general answer, I’d say, three months, is generally what it takes, because there’s a lot of heavy lifting a lot of infrastructure to put in place.

Nancy: Right.

Rob: If you have an existing sales team, there’s, you know, a period of winning hearts and minds, because you’re asking them to do things that they’ve probably never been asked to do, at least in that particular company. There’s a lot of kind of, there’s a lot to do.

Nancy: Yeah. And then after the three months, what’s your recommendation? I mean, it’s all good on paper, right? But how do you make sure that it’s being implemented daily, weekly, monthly, and so on?

Rob: Yeah, and that’s, that’s where the kind of the rigor and the discipline comes in. Because, you know, we can put all that work in, and then if everybody’s just allowed to kind of go back to what they were doing before. And, you know, that old muscle memory kicks back in and, you know, your efforts are probably, your you’re better, but you’re not as good as you could be. If you don’t have that follow through that kind of thing.

Nancy: You know, for my listeners out there, you know, you describe yourself as a fractional sales leader. Why would a company be interested in engaging you versus finding their own sales leader, internally?

Rob: Sure. Well, you get me first and foremost, Nancy. And I say that kind of tongue and cheek, but there are a lot of good sales leaders out there, you know, but I think what is different with me, in this particular space, small and medium sized businesses, generally up to about 50 million in annual revenue. Is you’ll get, you know, my 20 years of corporate sales experience and everything else that comes along with it for a fraction of what it would cost to hire somebody like me full time. So you get, you know, expertise, you get, you know, burning insight in from outside the company. Not that you wouldn’t get that with a new hire. But, you know, generally speaking, a small and medium sized business owner can’t afford a guy like me.

Nancy: Yeah. And then going back to what I asked before, so it takes three months, right, to get this program together. And then what what, what’s your role after that?

Rob: Sure, oftentimes, I stay on is that fractional sales leader to make sure that we’re establishing their muscle memory. We’re following through on the weekly sales meeting cadence. And, you know, the metrics are up to date and that kind of thing. So generally, my engagement over the life of it as a fractional leaders about 12 months. 

Nancy: Yeah. Okay. So is there something you would like to spotlight for the audience?

Rob: Um, you know, I think a lot of people just don’t understand fractional leadership. And it’s, you know, I focus on the sales, I try to keep my lane, pretty narrow and pretty well  defined, but there are others, say, in finance, or marketing, or HR, who kind of do the same sort of fractional functional leadership that I do. And I think it’s, I think if I can highlight one thing. It is just that as an option to a business owner, because these other fractional folks are generally coming from a background similar to mine, where they run a big, complicated organization and, you know, had an executive level type type role with them. 

Just any amount of expertise that you can bring into your company, for, again, at a fraction of the cost that it would take to hire a full time person on any of those functions. It’s really a great way, I think, to scale your business while you’re still trying to build that revenue. It’s just, I mean, in my humble opinion, it’s it’s a bargain for the for the quality of leadership that you’ll get. 

Nancy: Yeah. And I you know, I think more and more businesses are looking to outsource functions nowadays, especially SMBs versus having to engage full time candidates or employees. And you and I both know, hiring a sales leader and for that matter, sales reps often is a crapshoot, right. They could have the best experience in you know, on paper and actually could have had great roles, but it’s never a guaranteed it’s going to be a great fit within an organization. 

Rob: Exactly. So having a fractional leader in any of your functions within the businesses is a way to kind of de risk. If you don’t like the relationship, you can, you can end it. Right. But I want to key in on something you said just a minute ago. And I think especially now, as hopefully we’re starting to emerge from the economic funk that we’ve been in. Fractional leadership I think is going to be more and more in demand, because there’s a lot of companies who aren’t in that great of a spot, you know, they’ve kind of weathered the storm, so to speak. And now it’s time to start growing again. And fractional leadership is really a good way to kickstart that.

Nancy: Yeah, I don’t know if I like the word fractional, I think we can come up with a better word, it sounds like you’re getting the whole you for maybe, you know, reduced amount of time, but also reduced risk, right? You know, what you’re doing, and you don’t have to be trained by people internally. So we got to think of another name rather than fractional. And it’s not only you out there, I’m just saying.

Rob: I also say I’m, I’m an outsourced VP of sales. Does that strike you better?

Nancy: Yes. Just a thought. Anyway, what is one takeaway you would like to leave the audience with?

Rob: You know, I think it’s, you know, good enough isn’t good enough. You know, I think what’s so fun about what I do is a lot of times, it is sort of a turnaround type situation, and, and I’m still kind of surprised how many business owners will just live with what they have though you don’t have to. Right, I mean, I don’t care what you could do could be better in some way. Maybe it’s not sales, maybe it’s something else. But, you know, never be satisfied with the status quo. I think, you know, and that’s got a lot to do with, with just mindset, I think, you know, challenge yourself. Do better.

Nancy: Hey, sales is a sport, you got to train and be on top of things all the time, no matter how good you are. You know, we’re at the end of our program, Rob, and this has been a great conversation, how can my audience find you? 

Rob: Sure, you can find me on LinkedIn, you can find me on the web. You can email me. I don’t know if there’s a way for me to convey that just through audio but you can email me at

Nancy: There you go, everyone. So I want to thank you all for listening in. I know that I’ve walked away with a couple of nuggets. I’m sure you have. Thank you Rob for joining the program today. And you know, remember to reach out to Rob when you are ready to grow and you want an expert. I would say boots on the ground right away. Make it a great sales day everyone and Rob I hope you come back.

Rob: Absolutely will if you’ll have me Nancy.

Voiceover: The Conversational Selling Podcast is sponsored by One of a Kind Sales. If you’re frustrated that you don’t have enough leads or your sales team complains that they just don’t have enough time to prospect, we can help. To work with Nancy and her team one on one to help you manage your sales team, install her proven outbound sales process and create more bottom line results, email her now at To learn more about Nancy and her outbound sales secrets, grab your free copy of her book, The Inside Sales Solution at