James Picks Brains: Empathetic Leadership With James Bawden

James Bawden is one of the hot talents in the sales development world right now.


James Bawden is one of the hot talents in the sales development world right now. He’s in the trenches, on the frontlines every day. Prospecting into new accounts, following up, doing his best to exceed his number and get his team to do the same. He’s got a killer podcast, a great personal brand and has an interesting story of how he found his true passion in an inside sales job, after working in retail sales.

It’s our pleasure to interview James on what his average day looks like and to find out how he has built and adapted his empathetic leadership style from scratch, as a first time manager in sales. Here’s “James Picks Brains, episode 2″…

Morning Routines

James: Routine is important for every sales professional. Tell me what your average day looks like.

James Bawden: Yeah, so for me it starts, uh, about 6:30 in the morning. I get up and I’ve been up for maybe an hour, check my email and then I send out the daily schedule. So I run a client SDR team. Each SDR is calling for different clients every day. And so in the morning it’s me reaching out to each rep and saying, Hey, here’s the plan for the day. Here’s what the objectives, all that good stuff. So that’s a really good start to my day for getting the message out of what we need to accomplish.

And then from there, it’s typically a mess sometimes of getting kids to school and going here and going there. Then it’s coming in and I do the same exact thing at the beginning of my day, every day. That is go through priority followups. So, having those anchors of, Hey, I’m going to send this communication early in the morning and then by 9 I’m going to be getting after it, doing the priority followups. Those anchors help me because I don’t know about anybody else, but mornings aren’t always the nice, peaceful, meditative time that we all want it to be. So I’ve found that those two anchors work well for living among the chaos.

James Buckley: I love that answer, it’s good. And I liked the way you use the word anchor there. That’s really important because some people have to have that solid routine, whatever it might look like. And for some of us, our mornings are chaos and that routine can’t start until after that chaos subsides. Especially if you’re like us and you work from home a lot, right? You have to have that routine.

Work/Life Balance

James Buckley: Salespeople historically struggle with work life balance and that’s a huge buzzword in our space. People call bullshit on it. My boss, John Barrows, notorious for saying it’s not a thing. People think it’s a thing because we construct it that way. Our minds and there are other ways to look at your work and your life in a way that is much more productive. Tell me what your thoughts are around the concept of work life balance.

James Bawden: I can only speak from my own personal experience, it’s been a struggle to feel like I’m filling all of the right buckets all of the time. The personal, the relationships, the children, the work. So it has been a struggle for me. The one thing that I will say is that the more that I started to think about them as not separate, but more of just part of one whole, right? That’s helped.

And also I believe, you know the folks that I look to, that have it down have fantastic communication. If their inner circle, their personal friends, their family, their spouses, their children, they all understand the mission and they understand why you have to spend X amount of time doing this. But it feeds into it this way. I think that helps. I’m not there yet personally, but I’ve identified that as a way to kind of melt away some of that struggle that I’ve dealt with. I don’t think it’s a thing. I just think it’s something that you need to be extra, extra open with your communication about how you’re going to deal with it.

Leadership Style

James Buckley: Every sales leader has a style. You are director of client SDR at The Sales Developers. What do you think your leadership style is like?

James Bawden: I’m going to avoid the term servant leadership because I feel like I didn’t even know what that was until a couple of years ago. But what I identified early in managers that were great to me as a rep was that they were compassionate, they were empathetic, and they saw me as more than a number. They saw me as a human. They got to know me as a human. And the only LinkedIn article I’ve ever written is about emotional support for salespeople. How important it is to support people emotionally at work, not just let me support you to make sure you book more meetings. So for me, it’s always about how can I support this person, right?

So if rep a is dealing with like real life personal issues, I want to know about it. Not because I’m nosy, but so I can support them in the appropriate way. You don’t need to tell me everything, just let me know you’re struggling. And that’s going to be my first priority is to take care of you as a person. So I think empathy and compassion are at the top of my list for how I try to, do my leadership thing.

Climbing The Career Ladder

James Buckley: Everybody climbs the big ladder a little bit different. How’d you get this job?

James Bawden: Yeah, I think my ladder climbing has been quite probably more a mixture of like rock climbing and ladder climbing. I spent the first six of my years in an industry, wireless retail that I figured out I didn’t want to be a part of. I didn’t want to continue to move up. And so I made a pivot kind of late in my career. I didn’t get involved with B2B inside sales until my late twenties. And I’ll tell ya, uh, the way that I broke into a new industry, the way that I found my first inside sales job and the way that I found this job was through content creation and being active on social media.

I got my first inside sales job from a YouTube video that the VP of sales saw and you know, previously wouldn’t have given me the time of day cause I had only ever sold cell phones. But he saw me and he saw my energy. Got the job. The job I had before The Sales Developers, they shut down the sales department but within 48 hours because of my work and building my personal brand on LinkedIn, I had a job.

Your Biggest Influence

James Buckley: Everybody has somebody that has influenced them in some way, call them a thought leader, a mentor, an influencer, whatever fancy buzzword label that you want to stick on it. Who are the people that influenced you?

James Bawden: From afar, in the virtual mentor category, Victor Antonio was one of the first people that I found that was a sales trainer that was making content. They had YouTube videos. So when I began my kind of journey of self development and professional development, he was one of the first people I’ve found. And I’ve continued to listen to his content. He produces a great podcast, he’s written fantastic books, and, I was actually lucky enough to have him on the podcast last season for the season finale. So that was a huge kind of bucket list thing for me, a huge mentor for me.

Some folks that through again building my personal brand and being on LinkedIn, folks like Mark Bodner. He lives in Raleigh. We’ve met up and he’s just such a genuine guy and somebody that I look to. Seth Weinstock is another person that anytime I need something, need advice, he’s there for me. I’d have to say Morgan, he’s somebody who really helped me figure out how I was going to continue to build my personal brand. So right off the top of my head, those would be the folks that have had a really big impact on my journey.

That’s a wrap. Join us next time

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