Singapore Roadracing to Vidyard Partnerships

Building Relationships Creatively with Radical Transparency

This is Part 2 in my interview with Marcus Jung, Partner Manager at Vidyard. You can read Part 1 here if you missed it.

Partnerships is still selling, but it’s about communicating the value of winning together. Partnerships are critical for any startup.

Marcus’ role with Vidyard is a new one for him. He has always focused on building partnerships with his clients, but now it’s the focus of his job. “Partnerships is still selling, but it’s about communicating the value of winning together. Partnerships are critical for any startup. If we are going to hit our growth targets we can’t only do it as a direct sales team. It means we have to build programs that enable technology, agency, and distribution partners to be on our side when we’re speaking with customers. That’s what I manage.”

Having worked on the partner ecosystem team at Hootsuite, I’m familiar with the impact a strong and values-based partner program can have on brands and product. In today’s SaaS software world partnerships enable stand-alone products to compete with full-stack solutions, offering the customer a range of additional functionality to simplify workflows and improve efficiency.

Marcus is focused on building strong partnerships that leverage Vidyard’s brand recognition. “When we speaking with potential partners we have to come to the table with something that will help the other party,” he says. “We want to give them tools to sell more of what they do. We have to make them sticky.”

I discovered that a competitor was working the same deal, so I cold-called [them]…

If your responsible for technology, reseller or channel partnerships you should know that you can sometimes run into challenges that are somewhat unavoidable. Marcus agrees, “internal conflict is the biggest challenge we run into. There’s a natural tension and reps don’t always trust that partnerships are going to benefit them.”

He continues, “there’s an extra layer of complexity when partners are involved. You need to find a way to work together, a mutually beneficial way to work together, and sometimes it can be a major hurdle to figure out what that thing is. What’s interesting about Vidyard is that we can coexist with our competitors. Someone on the outside might see one of our partners as a direct competitor, but everyone has an edge somewhere, and we strive to find a way to work together.”

To illustrate, Marcus tells me a story of how he took a different approach when he was trying to close a deal with a customer. “I discovered that a competitor was working the same deal, so I cold-called the competitor, and said ‘hey, we’re both in this account, and here are my notes.’ I shared all the other people I had connected with in the account. Then I said, “I think we can with this together,’ and in short we became partners and we won the deal together.”

Partnering can shorten the deal cycle dramatically.

That’s a pretty confident thing to do, and I can just imagine sales manager reading this and panicking about any of their reps using this approach, but it does show the power in partnering. Marcus continues, “partnering can shorten the deal cycle dramatically. In this case, we shared budget numbers, figured out how we could both get what we wanted out of the deal and presented our solution to the customer. It worked and more importantly we shortened the deal cycle to a week.”

Sharing info is something a lot of old-school managers don’t want you doing, but in the world of SaaS, it’s almost necessary. Marcus is a big fan of his current boss. “She’s the greatest. She’s remote, and sometimes remote bosses can be challenging, but she’s fantastic. She’s a magician because she’s always there when you need her and she’s always supportive. She listens to me and really hears my ideas, and she knows how to motivate me and the rest of her team. The best thing is that she trusts you, and lets you do your thing.”

So how would she respond to Marcus’s radical transparency approach? “Sometimes you have to take the chance. It’s a high-risk game though. It can blow up on you. With partnerships, its a trust exercise. You learn quickly who can you trust. If it’s not a huge corporate risk, I think it’s a risk worth taking. I’ve had it succeed more times than its failed.”

Every vendor in our space was already wining and dining him, and there wasn’t anything we could do that was going to impress him.

Speaking of high-risk activities, we should probably get to the story of the car race challenge. Marcus had re-located to Hootsuite’s Asia HQ in Singapore, and had set himself a personal goal of owning the logos dotting Singapore’s incredible skyline.

He explains, “I was trying to find my way into one of the largest bank accounts in Asia, who’s HQ is in Singapore. I was very persistent, and one day I did manage to connect with the right VP at the bank. He was really transparent with me, saying that every vendor in our space was already wining and dining him, and there wasn’t anything we could do that was going to impress him.”

He continues, “so I thought about this for a moment, and then I went to work. I did some research on the prospect. I discovered that he is a big car junkie. He loves cars, he collects them. He races them. He writes about them on blogs and social media. So I got back in touch and said, ‘I bet you’ve never been challenged to a race before.’ He responded immediately, saying ‘when and where?’

The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my sales career is to find a way to immediately differentiate yourself. Be different, but in a smart way.

This story is awesome in so many ways, and it demonstrates the power of making yourself relevant and unforgettable. Marcus explains that he was “looking for something to humanize me with the prospect. I had to find something that he is passionate about, and find a way to connect. People remember how you make them feel. In the case of the bank, my customer had never been challenged to a race—and race we did. Of course he destroyed me, but more importantly, I broke through. I built a human relationship, and he is still someone I speak with to this day.”

From affiliate marketing to social media to personalized video communications, Marcus Jung is someone you can always count on for a great story, and a killer close rate. I’ll leave the final word to Marcus: “the biggest lesson I’ve learned in my sales career is to find a way to immediately differentiate yourself. Be different, but in a smart way.”

The Challenger Sales Model With a Twist

Connecting, Human-to-Human in Customer Interactions

What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve done to get a customer to notice you?

Have you ever challenged someone to a car race? This week I sit down with Marcus Jung, Vidyard’s Partner Manager. I’m pleased to share some of his great stories, ones that will provide you with insight into his talent for finding unique ways to stand out in his customer’s mind.

 

Marcus Jung, Vidyard Partner Manager
Marcus Jung, Vidyard Partner Manager

 

My original career path was going to take me into Hotel and Hospitality Management.

When you meet Marcus, whether that’s in person or on the phone, one thing becomes immediately clear—he’s a naturally gifted storyteller. He also loves board games. Actually, games of any kind. And, he loves to share. He’s going to cozy up to you as you get to know each other.

His manner, while direct, doesn’t manage to offend, because somehow he puts you at ease while getting up-close-and-personal, metaphorically speaking of course. Marcus has worked in the tech sector, and primarily at startups for the past eight years. When I asked him how he got into sales he naturally has an interesting story to share about co-op interview day.

“My original career path was going to take me into Hotel and Hospitality Management,” he explains. “My school program included a co-op placement, and because I was late handing in an assignment I missed the opportunity to study the placement opportunities. When I showed up at school on co-op interview day I had to scramble to find an available spot. I kind of crowd-sourced my choice by reviewing which companies were generating the most interest with the student body.”

I won janken and got the last co-op interview spot… that interview completely changed my career path.

He continues, “I went to put my name down under the company that seemed to be generating a lot of interest, and as I did that I literally crossed pens with another guy vying for the last interview spot. We both wanted it, so it was only fair that we janken for it.”

rock-paper-scissors-156171_960_720If you’re not familiar with Janken it is Japanese for Rock Paper Scissors. Saisho wa guu—janken pon! While kids play Rock Paper Scissors, Janken is a serious conflict resolution tool widely used in Japan to settle disputes, or to make decisions.

“I won janken and got the last co-op interview spot, and that interview completely changed my career path. The job placement was with an affiliate marketing network for dating sites. The company had one rule—no porn in the referrals. Since I was the intern, it was my job to search for porn in any of the search results for advertisers. My job forced me to watch porn.”

 

I had all this porn open on my computer, and all the pop-ups started coming up and going crazy, and I panicked!

 

“My first week on the job I was walking down the hallway at work and the CEO of the company was walking the other way towards me. Because of my job, I had all this porn open on my computer, and all the pop-ups started coming up and going crazy, and I panicked! It just didn’t feel right. It definitely felt like it was a hazing process. Thankfully it wasn’t long until I moved from compliance to data tracking, which is where we tracked which ads worked best. I worked there for a year.”

Working on the data tracking team provided Marcus with on-the-job training in the power of data, and it ultimately set him up for future success in his sales career. “I was 25 when I started working in enterprise sales,” says Marcus. “I was talking with big companies, Fortune 500 companies, and I was speaking with very smart people. I looked around at the other reps, and I knew that I didn’t have the sales experience of more seasoned salespeople. But I knew I could be different.”

​Cold-calling sucks for everyone involved, but I’ll do it because it can work.

Marcus believes that email is still the best channel for communication with a prospect. “I still cold-call but I prefer email. Cold-calling sucks for everyone involved, but I’ll do it because it can work.” He explains his approach to email, “I strive to be more personal in my outreach. I try to be human. I try to inject humanism into my email and messages, but I also take a heavy data approach to targeting my leads. I learned that from affiliate marketing days. When you combine those two things, statistics and personality, it’s being different but it’s also being smart.”

Being personal with your customer only really works well when you’re authentically interested in building a relationship. Marcus agrees, “customers are fiercely educated and knowledgeable today—they know what they’re getting into. They know the competition. It’s really hard to bullshit. They will call you out on it immediately. It’s a good thing.”

People are always looking for a new and innovative ways to communicate with people.

Working for Vidyard, Marcus has first-hand experience with the impact new communications tools can bring to customer engagements. “People are always looking for new and innovative ways to communicate with people,” he says. “Things are cyclical. Cold-calling is dying, or nearly dead. Highly personalized email was a new thing until it wasn’t. Social selling became a thing. Then it was abused. Buyers are savvy. Sellers abuse the channels more than they should until the next thing comes along.”

When I ask Marcus which tools he absolutely needs to do his job he responds without hesitation, “email. It can be either Outlook or Gmail. A phone. That’s all I need. I could live without a CRM. I like using SalesLoft for cadence. It organizes your templates and tells you when to follow-up with a prospect, which is helpful when you’re working a lot of deals. One of the big challenges in sales, because it’s still a largely a numbers game, is remembering what happened on your 3rd or 4th follow-up. SalesLoft helps you position where you are in the cycle with a particular customer.” And finally, his secret weapon: “a cup of coffee. Meeting in-person is still great.”

“The cool thing about video though,” he continues, “and in particular about Vidyard, is that it’s a really great way to cut through the noise. It’s something that stands out and enables you to connect. Video is here to stay.”

Next week we get the full story of how the car race challenge went down. Here’s a sneak peak: ‘I bet you’ve never been challenged to a race before.’ He responded immediately, saying ‘when and where?’

Read Part 2 in this interview with Marcus Jung here.

STIR Demo Day in Vancouver

British Columbia Startup-in-Residence Program

I had the opportunity to attend Demo Day for the inaugural cohort of BC STIR companies in Vancouver. If you’re not familiar with STIR it stands for Startup in Residence program originally conceived in San Francisco as a means of transforming government through entrepreneurship. STIR is a 16-week residency program designed to create effective and impactful public-private partnerships.

Resident companies work closely with their government sponsor departments to co-develop a solution that addresses the specific requirements of each department and its mission. The goal is to develop customized tools that fit their unique problems, along with an opportunity for startups to learn how to provide products that can be easily adapted and scaled in a cost-effective and resource-efficient way.

Five BC tech companies formed the first BC STIR cohort: Arkit, Big Bang Analytics, Design + Environment / App-Scoop, Latero Labs, and Purpose Five. Each startup was paired with a government department and was tasked with co-developing a technological solution to a real-world problem encountered by each department.

The demos showed creative solutions that addressed challenges such as finding placement locations for children under the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Latero Labs solution turned a process, that usually takes hours or even days to complete, into a 10 to 15-minute digital process.

Another innovative solution was delivered to the Ministry of Education by Big Bang Analytics, which developed a tool enabling school district staff across the province to have easy and flexible access to a comprehensive aggregate dataset of student educational performance. District administrators can compare their district’s educational performance to the provincial baseline, and identify at-risk students. A range of filters provide the ability to drill down on data points and ultimately result in the development of personalized student programs to ensure each at-risk student has access to programs and information that could enhance their chance of success in the education system.

I was impressed with the immediate real-world benefit of this residency program, and it was encouraging to hear both the public and private partners in the project rave about the opportunity to collaborate. STIR demonstrates that government can act quickly to solve issues when its staff members are empowered to work with innovative and nimble startup companies in the private sector. I look forward to future iterations of this program and the impact it will have on our community.

The Province of British Columbia is the first Canadian government sector organization to utilize the STIR methodology, and I look forward to the day when other regions adopt the principles of this program to solve their real-world challenges with innovative public-private partnerships. Government could use the injection of Startup Thinking, and the startups could use the experience and credibility a government partnership brings.

For more information on the BC STIR cohort visit BC Gov.

Building Trust with Radical Transparency

How Social Media Has Transformed This Reps Approach To Sales and How Radical Transparency Builds Trust

This week features an interview with the fantastically fun and insightful Beth England. Beth has worked in CPG, technology, social media, and she now runs her own social media agency as Principal at 3rd Coast Digital Consulting. Beth and I worked together for several years at Hootsuite, where I had the great fortune to be on Beth’s team, helping land what at the time was the biggest deal in company history. I learned a great deal about her approach to sales in working that deal, and I’m pleased to be able to share her methodology with you in this post. It’s a post about social selling without specifically talking about social selling.

bethengland-final

So when did this food-obsessed Cubs fan learn the most about the art and science of selling? “I’ve been at five startups and it was probably my first one that taught me the most,” she says. “It was called Efficient Market Services (EMS) and I worked there in the 90s. It was a rowdy, crazy, fun time in market research. That’s where I learned to ask forgiveness instead of permission. In fact, it was encouraged.”

Beth says that EMS’s product was far ahead of its time and this made selling it to customers sometimes challenging. “It was all new so, and we had to figure out a way to get deals done. You tried everything, and it might not be a repeatable process, but if you are delivering for a client, you find a way to deliver. Once you’ve closed the deal, then you go back and retro-engineer your actions into a repeatable process.”

 

If I look at all my sales experience from the 90s onwards, the key piece has been personal relationships, whether I was selling cookies to grocery stores, or software to Fortune 100 companies.

She continues, “my first sales job was in 1990. If I look at all my sales experience from the 90s onwards, the key piece has been personal relationships, whether I was selling cookies to grocery stores, or software to Fortune 100 companies. It’s about building trust. It’s about becoming a trusted advisor. If you’re genuinely looking out for your clients best interests they will seek you out.”

It’s a tragically misunderstood point in sales, but being upfront and honest with your customer is how you build trust. The old bait and switch might work once or twice, but people catch on fast, and in a world of social networking and review sites, your reputation will suffer very quickly. Beth says, “you have to be willing to tell the customer that they don’t need your product if they don’t need your product. If they’re buying a Ferrari, but only need a VW bug then tell them to buy the bug. You might lose out on the sale today, but you’ll win that customer down the road.”

Building trust starts with asking questions that enable you to learn as much as you can about your client. “I believe the first point of contact with a prospect is all about setting the context for dialogue so that it is about the client. You need to understand what the client is trying to accomplish. Ask them ‘what’s working? What’s not working. Who do you aspire to be?’ Getting them talking and opening up is key. But your first discovery session should be no more than 30 minutes. Any longer and you’ll lose them.”

2000px-Facebook.svgSo how does Beth connect with customers today? “I’ve used to have hard and fast rules that I adopted when I started using Facebook ten years ago: I didn’t invite my current co-workers to connect, but as I moved from role-to-role I would invite my colleagues or clients, people that I’d built a personal relationship with, to connect and be part of my Facebook network.”

Today, Beth has changed her approach. She relies on Facebook to build an integrated personal and professional network. “I’m very active on Facebook. Social media is a big part of my personal brand. I don’t have a website, so I rely on being very candid with my followers, and I make sure that I’ve cultivated a wide and varied group. It’s people that I’ve worked with in the past, that are important to me, and that have a vested interest in my personal life and success. Make sure that you’re connected to those people, and be very candid with those people about what’s going on professionally. It’s the number one way I’ve sourced clients. It works better than LinkedIn, and I’m doing it through my personal page.”

 

​If you’re putting out content that people can engage with personally, in all likelihood you can port that over to professional engagement.

She continues, “if you’re at a phase where you’re thinking about developing a social media led sales strategy, you ought to go and look at your Facebook profile and make sure you have the connections you need and make sure that you’re publishing content that is representative of who your public face is. So, no pictures of you getting drunk and stay away from politics. My personal content themes are food, travel and my home life. If you’re putting out content that people can engage with personally, in all likelihood you can port that over to professional engagement.”

It may seem counter-intuitive to fully integrate one’s personal and professional lives, but for Beth, it’s how she builds trust. It’s her take social selling. “Using Facebook professionally is a definitive change in how I used to approach sales, but I’ve always been honest and open about where my life is at.”

She builds on the idea of transparency, “ethics are very important to me. I stay away from companies with questionable ethics unless they’re asking for my help to fix an issue—that’s a situation where I would take the time to consider the request.” She continues, “I wouldn’t necessarily work for a company in an industry that I know absolutely nothing about. You need to be judicious. Look at the company’s mission statement and values. Are they aligned with yours?”

 

I use a blend of many sales methodologies…

For experienced sales professionals, a sales methodology that fits your personal style is more about creating a system that reflects who you are as an individual while providing a structure to guide your activity. It should be authentic, and it shouldn’t feel regimented or put on. Given her transparent approach to an integrated personal and professional life, I was curious which sales methodology Beth follows.“I use a blend of many sales methodologies,” she says. “Take from each of them what works for you. If you do that you’re going to be successful. My sales template has bits-n-bobs from everything.”

She continues, “Some sales models are way too complex, and if they’re too complex that means you’re not going to do it. Simplify things, dumb it down, and pick three to five elements to execute against. I use bits from SPIN and Challenger.”

Beth offers young sales reps a tip: “as young salespeople we’re looking for the client to tell us ‘what are the steps we need to follow’ or ‘what are the benchmarks we need to hit?’ But, you don’t need to do that.” She continues, “you need to ask your client one question and one question only, and that is:
‘When do you see yourself going live with my solution?’

And, that’s where you get all the information that the client may know, but may not have shared yet, and the best part is they will tell you all about it organically.” Reframing the conversation to have the customer visualize an ideal situation is something you’ll recognize if you’ve studied the Challenger Sales model.

 

Under promise. Over-deliver, always!

Setting expectations with a client is another misunderstood or under-utilized technique that establishes trust. “Under promise. Over-deliver, always! It’s also about being comfortable to ask your client ‘what’s magical about a date.’ Managing expectations is really important. We often forget to manage our client’s expectations. Taking a closing date as gospel. You need to challenge clients. Why do you think you need that then? What’s magical about that date? I always teach my teams to ask that question.”

Setting yourself apart as a trusted advisor to your clients helps you win in the short and long-term. Clients want their suppliers to be looking out for their best interests. Can you save your customer money? Can you make their lives easier? Can you help your prospect get a promotion? Showing your customer something they didn’t know helps you stand out from the competition.

 

When you are who you are every day it increases the likelihood your clients are going to trust you.

Beth believes you need to “challenge clients as to why they need, or think they need, something. Push them when they want something that’s wrong. You have to be able to say to a client, ‘you hired me for a reason, let me help you.’ I see a lot of salespeople that don’t show their real personalities, they’re basically following a script—it comes off as insincere. When you are who you are every day it increases the likelihood your clients are going to trust you.”

Integrate your sales process and methodology into your daily routine. Sure, it’s a commitment to a ‘sales lifestyle’, but if you do, you’re going to find that you’ll become much more effective in asking questions and listening because it will feel natural. Beth agrees: “I always follow the same steps with prospects because it’s part of my daily repertoire. It is what I do because it is who I am. I use discovery questions at cocktail parties! It’s a great way to get people to open up.”

In Radical Transparency Part 2 we continue our discussion with Beth, getting her take on selling into the C-Suite and other strategies she uses to build trust with her clients.

Startup Selling – Part 4 | Social Selling

Social Selling, Storytelling, CRMs and Tools

In this final post with Ethan, we continue the conversation about his approach to social selling, his take on CRMs and wraps things up with a review of some of the tools he uses to do his job.

With all the talk about social selling, it’s easy for a sales rep to get caught up in the feeling that you have to get on board or miss out on hitting your targets. However, the worst thing a sales rep can do when attempting to sell socially is to push out sales offers through Twitter or LinkedIn and call it ‘social selling’—that’s called Spam.

It’s 100% not going to work and is in fact just lazy. Take the time to think about your prospect. What makes them tick? What is going to get them excited about your product? Now find a way to build a story about your product and the solution you’re offering that your prospect will find absolutely irresistible. Next, find a way to authentically connect with your prospect. Social Selling is all about communication, and that involves both talking and listening.

Storytelling is a great tool but it’s hard for me. I have to work at it because it doesn’t come naturally.​

Ethan continues, “a lot of good storytelling comes from experience and good sales reps will find a way to adapt their experience with other customers, whether that’s objections or challenges that the product has helped the customer overcome, and make that relevant for the prospective customer. I’ve been selling software for more than ten years now so I have a good repertoire of experience that I can draw on, but it still works.”

The good news for today’s sales reps is that the number of tools at their disposable is virtually endless. Much to the chagrin of the IT department, we live in the age of Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD). As discussed earlier, this has shifted how tools and software are purchased and deployed and it’s no different for sales reps, as they determine what works best for them in their process.

My company uses Salesforce as a CRM, but I use it as infrequently as possible. It just gets in the way of my process.

There’s no doubt that Salesforce is the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools. Salesforce changed the game when Marc Benioff launched his CRM as a SaaS software product in 1999. It took little time for the platform to become the default sales tool for sales teams. If you’ve sold anything in the past five or ten years then you’ve likely used Salesforce. As the platform has matured its complexity has increased exponentially. For sales managers, it’s a very powerful tool. For sales reps, it’s a nightmare.

“My company gave me a PC laptop but I use my own MacBook instead so I use iCloud Notes to keep track of my prospects, customers, and deals. Every customer gets their own note that includes a summary of their LinkedIn profile, primary contact info, contract, and procurement info. As I work an opp, I add relevant information to the Note, such as objections, POC requirements, anything tangible that will have an impact on the deal.”

Most sales managers will insist that their reps document everything in the company CRM so that the company has a record of what’s gone on in the deal and where the deal is at for forecasting purposes. Unfortunately, documenting a deal in a CRM like Salesforce can take away from the time a rep has to work opportunities. The intention of the mandate is good, but the execution exposes a flaw in CRM software design—most applications are built with reporting in mind and this is often at odds with the tools available to the rep.

Most CRMs are terrible products for tracking data. ​​Pulling basic info out of the data, such as the deal stage or the deal size isn’t that hard but that only tells you the basics.

“Most deals don’t follow a clean process. The customer changes his mind, dates get pushed, requirements change, contacts move on and new decision makers enter the picture. How do you track all of this in a CRM?”

What’s more, when a deal does eventually close and the customer relationship shifts from sales to Account Management or Customer Success, the details of the customer engagement captured in the sales process get lost in the CRM. Customers get frustrated at having to provide answers again to questions that they’ve already addressed with the sales rep.

When a deal closes, I hand over my Notes file to the Customer Success team so they know everything they need to know about the customer. When they engage the customer with a post-sale kick-off call they don’t have to ask them all the same questions over again that already came out in the sales process.

Selling SaaS is as much about offering a compelling solution as it is about instilling confidence in the customer that your product or service is going to deliver. There’s nothing as off-putting to a customer as feeling that the company they’ve just invested five or six figures with on software license is going to let them down because the sales and customer success teams don’t know how to talk to each other. The customer wants to know that they’ve been heard and the best way to build confidence and trust post-sale is to demonstrate that your company understands its customers.

Thanks to Ethan for his candour. Opening up about one’s individual process isn’t easy, but I believe the most successful reps are the ones that share. Why? Because for every opportunity for a rep to shares his or her experience there will be ten more opportunities to learn from someone else. Sharing ideas and discussing challenges builds a sales team’s capacity and resilience—and it’s something I believe every sales manager should encourage.

This concludes our session with Ethan. Next week the Startup Thinking blog examines Public Sector sales with an interview with Oren Friedman.

 

 

 

 

Startup Selling – Part 3 | Managing Pipeline

Managing Pipeline in a Shifting World

In the second Startup Selling post, we talked about pipeline and discussed the best course of action to avoid pressuring the customer as a sales rep works a deal through its various stages. But, in an ever-shifting world of startup software sales how does a sales rep manage pipeline to keep her customers and her manager happy? Ethan tells us how he approaches this challenge.

“I’m conservative with pipeline, but I’m comfortable with reporting up my numbers and standing behind the progress of those deals. My approach is to go into a quarter knowing that I’m likely to only close 2-3 deals. I look at what’s in the pipeline and what has a legitimate chance of closing. Once I’ve identified those deals I take half of the deal value and set that as my initial commit.”

So, how does this work with KPIs that sales managers rely on? Salesforce has gathered a lot of data, producing a corresponding set of metrics that many sales managers follow. Common wisdom suggests that more revenue in the pipeline results in more closed deals.

When you think about it, a rep can probably work a maximum of 10-15 opportunities at any one time—and a more realistic number is probably five.

“As I work through end-of-quarter I update my commit forecast as Stage 1 deals gets closer to close, or I move them out of quarter completely. Everything else gets moved out to pipeline, so it’s out of visibility in the quarter. It’s better than lowering your forecast and it works better for SaaS sales.”

Thinking more about sales metrics, another KPI that sales managers rely on is the number of touches a rep has with a prospect. The rule of thumb suggests that 10-12 touches are required to close a deal. Think about that for a moment—10-12 touches!

If we’re talking about total customer interactions that number might be reasonable, but if we’re talking about the number of touches applied to a prospect to qualify or engage them then that’s bordering on harassment. The sad reality is that many sales managers expect a prospect to get that many touches before there’s an opportunity attached to their name.

I believe the first touch should always be email. The customer doesn’t want a call out of the blue from someone they don’t know.

“I don’t even like it when my wife calls me out of the blue. I prefer it that she text me—otherwise, I think the house is on fire. Selling today requires a sales rep to be patient and wait for a response from the prospect. One thing I do that seems to work is to schedule an email that sends out at specific times in local timezones. Thinking like a customer, if they’re commuting into work why not hit them with a message on the way to work so they have time to digest it before they get in the office.”

Sales Metrics

Metric_Speed_ballonicon2.svgThis turns conventional sales wisdom on its head. Salesforce will tell you that 48% of sales reps don’t reach out a second time to prospective leads. I definitely do not recommend tossing out 50% of your leads, however thinking about how you would want to be engaged as a prospect is a good place to start developing sales management KPIs that reflect today’s busy and distracted buyer.

“Everyone today is so busy, so as a sales rep you need to understand that your sale is never going to be the highest priority for your customer. You cannot harass people with multiple calls a week or even a day to get them to close. Sales managers ask you to do this but it’s the completely wrong approach. Sales reps have better success to sit back and wait and let the customer come to you.”

You cannot force someone to buy something if they don’t want to buy it. You can try, you can call them, and email them and hit them up on Twitter or LinkedIn, but if they’re not ready to buy they’re not going to buy no matter what you do. If a customer is nervous, and not getting back to you or telling you putting off setting a close date, stop haranguing them and start thinking about the possible reasons why.

“You may not like what you’re hearing as a rep, but you need to think about the person on the other end of the relationship—the purchaser. They could be delaying a close for the simple reason that they’re nervous about making a decision because their job is potentially on the line. If a customer ever asks you why she should spend money on your product, I usually answer with the following ‘because it’s my job to make you look good and get you promoted.’”

If sales reps start thinking this way, you shift the conversation from something transactional to something personal. It’s a solid strategy to help your customer manage up. If you sincerely believe that by buying your product you will improve your customer’s chance of moving up the corporate ladder and you work to provide them with the tools to make the argument internally to their manager, and their manager’s manager, then you set yourself apart from the competition because you’re demonstrating that you care about the individual on the other end of the deal and not just the deal.

Social Selling 2

There’s a lot of noise about social selling. Like any other trend, social selling has lost its meaning as more so-called experts jump on the bandwagon, offering their personal take on how to sell with social media. It’s sadly become just another buzzword championed by sales gurus and positioned as an opportunity to get ahead of the competition. Really, what these ‘experts’ are doing is taking advantage of our collective propensity for laziness. Sales reps are always looking for an edge, and if possible an easier way to do things and social selling is often positioned as alchemists’ gold.

At the end of the day, social selling is about building relationships. Remembering that you’re dealing with human beings can be tough when it’s your job on the line, but if sales reps build relationships with people, real relationships, then their chances of success will increase exponentially. Understanding the person behind the lead starts before your first outreach.

I spend time to learn three to five things about the customer before I get on a call with them. LinkedIn is a go-to resource.

“I pay particular attention to how the customer describes themselves. Check out their role in the company, how has it evolved over time, what’s their background and alma mater? Also, make sure you visit the company website because there may be more intel there. Basically, do your homework. Try to understand what kind of person you’re interacting with before you call or email them, because it’s not hard, and it sets you apart from 95% of other sales reps.”

 

 

Startup Selling + SaaS – Part 2

Who’s Actually Buying SaaS Software?

In part 1 we looked at how changes in the software product model have affected the way in which sales reps are selling into organizations. Another major shift and one that has had a big impact on the predictability of revenue projections is how software is purchased and consumed today—and it has to do with the person who’s actually doing the purchasing. Our sales rep interview continues with Ethan providing real-life examples from his sales experience.

“It used to be that the IT department carried the responsibility for purchasing software for the organization. IT worked with the company executive to identify requirements, allocate budget and oversee an installation and maintenance process.

IT developed and followed a clear process and as a vendor, you worked within that process to fulfill requirements. As a customer, the IT team was a sophisticated buyer. As a sales manager, this made it much easier to develop a sales methodology mirrored on this process. But, that’s no longer the case.”

Marketing departments are buying a lot more software today and Marketing is a lot less evolved as a purchaser, and in fact doesn’t want IT to get involved in the purchase cycle, but that makes for much less predictable cycles.

“Sales Managers often push their SaaS sales reps to create a sequence of events and ‘hold the customer accountable,’ but that’s an old-school approach. Today, the purchaser is purchasing a tool rather than a mission-critical component of the business, so missing a purchase date isn’t a big deal for the customer.”

When you look at Enterprise companies, the complexity of managing the purchase, deployment, and training of staff requires a sophisticated process to ensure a solid return on investment. However, with the shift in organizational purchasing patterns from a traditional and predictable IT model to one that is driven by the requirements of a specific use-case or department then you end up with something that is much less predictable.

Consider this: how many times have you had a conversation with a prospect who tells you that they want to deploy your product in 4-6 weeks, which is great until your customer discovers that the deal has to go through procurement, adding six months to the sales cycle.

“In the good old days, the IT team would have been upfront about the purchasing cycle. Today, your sales contact may not understand or even know about their company’s purchasing policies.”

Sales Managers have a really tough job and it’s only going to get more difficult. I feel for them because their skill set, one built from experience based on an older and different model, needs to evolve rapidly to reflect their current SaaS reality. Thankfully, startups provide a good model for understanding how to address this new reality. And what’s more good news is that the tools for success are built around a sales methodology that’s repeatable, so maybe things aren’t as dire as they first seem.

“I was lucky to have an old-school IBM guy show me the ropes. He was taught a formal sales methodology at IBM, one with a structured pipeline that included specific stages and probabilities, which made forecasting much easier. He taught me this methodology and it provided me with a great foundation in sales without even knowing. I still use it today.”

If you would like access to a PDF outlining a successful procurement/close methodology sign-up for the CapacityFlux Startup Thinking newsletter and we’ll send you a copy for free.

 

 

 

Vancouver Startup Week – Day 1 Update

Monday, September 25, 2017

Vancouver Startup Week is off to a great start with 12 events happening in and around downtown Vancouver on what is arguably a toss-up weather day. A little rain didn’t dampen attendee spirits but it did slow them down a bit getting from venue to venue.

Stripe ‘Office Hours’

I had the chance to meet some of the team from Stripe, who ran an Office Hours session for Startup Week attendees. Alex Litwin, Govind Dandekar and Ross Rich offered attendees valuable one-on-one time to review all kinds of questions about the commerce toolkit.

 

STRIPE Team Office Hours
Stripe Team @ Office Hours

 

Even if you have never heard of Stripe I’m confident that you have used the platform without knowing it.

Stripe operates in over 25 countries, and enables both private individuals and businesses to accept payments over the Internet. Stripe focuses on providing the technical, fraud prevention, and banking infrastructure required to operate on-line payment systems. Stripe has greatly simplified the business side of eCommerce with a robust and flexible platform that makes taking payments easy and cost-effective.

Health Tech Transforming Healthcare

Next up, I raced over to Science World to take-in a panel discussion called Built in Vancouver – Health Tech Transforming Healthcare. The session moderator was Curtis Duggan, CEO of Blue Mesa Health, a company that has taken an innovative technology approach for diabetes prevention. The Panel included a mix of Vancouver Health-tech pioneers, such as Dr. Alexandra Greenhill, CEO of Careteam, a healthcare coordination platform; Erin O’Neill, Chief Advocate at nourished babe, an app designed to drive better health outcomes for both moms and babies through perinatal nutrition; Dr. Damon Ramsey, CEO of InputHealth, a company that uses electronic patient health records as a starting point for deeper patient engagement; and Elliot Stone, CEO of Alavida, an alcohol use disorder treatment platform.

Health Panel

The panelists discussed a number of topics but what got the room really engaged was the discussion around trends affecting healthcare. There was much agreement that this is an exciting time, although one bringing a lot of change to the healthcare sector. Trends highlighted:

  • Cloud Computing and the SaaS business model are major trends enabling innovation in healthcare. The ability to scale computing resources on demand leads to many more great ideas being pursued and developed without having to invest in complicated technology infrastructure.
  • Healthcare off the Grid – Eric Dishman offers a compelling TED talk on the issue if you’re interested. The idea of freeing healthcare from the framework of hospitals and driving patient innovation and interaction to the home.
  • Innovation Officers working at large US Healthcare HMOs, a positive trend that is bringing digital innovation to otherwise slow-moving entities through healthcare startups.
  • VR is an interesting trend with applications in phobia treatment and PTSD
  • Quantifiable tracking systems need to put data to work. Figure out how to use data and drive wisdom. How do we bring humanity back into data?

Though well attended, there were sadly no representatives from Provincial Health Authorities, which underlines another point from the session, that most of the innovation happening in healthcare is happening south of the border. The model for reimbursement for preventive behavioural change programs exists in the US but not in Canada. Yet, critically, it’s this model that is driving much of the innovation in US healthcare.

If you’ve attended any tech or business conference in Canada over the past 18 months you have no doubt heard the urgent cries from conference organizers and speakers for Canadian business to increase its spending on innovation. Canadian companies are very much focused on innovation—however, the ones that seem to find the greatest success are monetizing their creativity in the US and abroad.

I would love to see the innovation mantra adopted by all levels of government, and for that to happen we as citizens, need to encourage our elected representatives to start dog-fooding innovation with buy-Canada programs that seek out innovative made-in-Canada solutions. If technology startups have a shot at winning a pilot and subsequent contracts at the municipal, provincial and federal level then we’re going to see Canadian innovation quickly change our slow-moving healthcare systems as is happening elsewhere in the world.

So much happening! Off to my next event.

Startup Selling: How the World Has Changed

This blog series covers selling at startups. It will look at successful methodologies being used today and will examine how the sales profession has evolved in the age of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and startup culture. It will feature interviews with a variety of active sales leaders who share their perspective on what works, and what doesn’t.

The topics covered in the series are most directly related to selling software, specifically SaaS, with a focus on startups that sell into the Enterprise, but the ideas and knowledge should be equally applicable for a SaaS sales reps as for a sales professional selling hardware.
always-be-closing
If you are a Sales Rep I hope you’ll learn something, or even better I hope what you read validates your experiences. If you’re a Sales Manager take heed because a lot of what you going to read will run counter to what you are probably doing today.

 

You Do What?

For many people, sales is a mythical profession made up of incredibly talented, confident and influential people, born with the right mix of skills, charm, and chutzpah that enables them to close deals with even the toughest of prospects. The majority of people have a preternatural fear of selling. How many times has someone at a party, once they find out that you’re in sales, looked at you and said, “oh, you do sales? I could never do that.”

Hollywood exploits this myth, reinforcing our fear of failure by celebrating the extroverted, in your face and ruthlessly driven sales rep—usually a man—that has magical powers of influence that without fail overcome any objection thrown up by the prospect. They’re called ‘closers’ and they’re the equivalent of highly trained assassins in the Hollywood sales world.

Truth is, sales isn’t rocket science. Successful salespeople usually follow a methodology. There are many recipes you can follow to produce success. Diligence, perseverance, attention to detail—all of these things will bring reward because sales is a process. The closer you follow the process the more effective you will be at your job, and ultimately the more successful a salesperson you will become.

 

It’s a SaaS-y World Out There
Startup Selling requires a methodology and management style that understands the shift in buying patterns that SaaS has enabled. It’s no longer the case that Enterprise customers purchase all of the required software from just one or two large vendors. Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and similar trends that drive the SaaS economy have shifted how companies buy software.

Some of the most successful sales reps come from a non-sales background. They find themselves falling into a sales role only to discover that they love selling! In this installment, I interview a sales rep and former colleague about how his experience in sales and how he found himself running a multi-million dollar business unit. Because this person is actively engaged in selling to regulated industries, he didn’t want to publish his full name or that of his employer, so we’ll refer to him by his first name, Ethan.

“I came from the programming side of the business. I was at a company for ten years and transitioned to sales over time. I have a Computer Science degree from the University of Alberta and I was writing code, but then an opportunity opened up to work in a customer support role as a sales engineer. We sold a back office piece of interoperability software designed to assist developers in connecting desktop tools like Microsoft Excel with shared datasets. 

Before I knew it I was running an online business unit generating $2 million in online sales—and all of this was before most people even knew about the internet!”

When you think about sales today, so much has changed from even just five or ten years ago. What we call old school today is actually referencing a time just a few years ago. The rapid adoption of the SaaS model has changed not only how software is consumed but how it’s sold.

Old School vs. New School
“Old school software sales was very predictable.

Software

was sold and installed on a client’s centralized computer network or on the desktop, and pretty much every deal included a software maintenance agreement, which the client always renewed. It was like insurance. As a sales manager, you could map out the business based on historical revenue, find the trend line and apply it to the next year and there’s your revenue pipeline projection. Unless something catastrophic happened you would end up within 5% of projection.”

Today’s Sales Managers, who likely earned their stripes selling on-prem software (software installed on the customer’s network or computers) are struggling to adapt to this new reality. Today, most software is sold as a service and the old way of doing things doesn’t work. SaaS makes it much more difficult to predict revenue. The metrics and methodology that used to work are at odds with how customers purchase and consume software today.

“For customers, buying software-as-a-service instead of a locally installed version of code means they can switch on a dime. Moving on to a competitor’s product is a lot easier because there isn’t a hardware component to consider. In the past, it would cost the customer more to rip out software from their hardware. There’s very little friction to switching products today—comparatively speaking it costs nothing.”

Metrics that used to guide predictability such as Lifetime Customer Value (LCV) and Churn are still valuable indicators but they’re much more difficult to project. Ethan says:

“Churn rate can switch on a dime these days. The barrier to entry in the market is very low. You can be king of the hill today and tomorrow a new competitor can innovate you out of all your customers.”

Another major shift and one that has had a big impact on the predictability of revenue projections is how software is purchased and consumed today—and it has to do with the person who’s actually doing the purchasing.

To be continued in Part 2 of Startup Selling…

Does Your Business Think Like a Startup?

This series will examine the five key characteristics that define startups and explore how new and established businesses can take advantage of Startup Thinking to define or refresh their position in the market and build new lines of business that will sustain the company through an ever-shifting business climate.

So what is Startup Thinking? For the purposes of illustration I’ll start with an explanation of what it isn’t.

Startup Thinking is not an excuse for the bro-mentality that has come to define so many fast-growing startups. Though you will commonly find the ‘Brozo’ in startup culture this mindset actually runs counter to the spirit of Startup Thinking.

Nor is Startup Thinking a culture of entitlement and excess, as celebrated in the first dot-com bubble. Blowing investor cash on lavish parties, unearned bonuses and exotic trips is definitely not on then or now.

If you’ve seen the movie about a couple of old school sales guys that get a shot to intern at Google called The Internship then you might remember the scene where Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson’s antics are lauded by Josh Gad as demonstrating the ultimate ‘Googliness’ because they worked with their team to solve a problem in an indirect way. It’s not a perfect analogy for what makes Startup Thinking different but the idea that of finding a unique way of solving a problem hints at where I’m going.

Thinking like a startup means seeing opportunity where often none exists. You see how things could be and you are curious enough to investigate how one might get there. In contrast to established businesses, startups live on the fringe of a market and identify ways to radically improve an element in that market. If successful the startup is positioned to reap the rewards of radically disrupting that market and changing the status quo.

Take Apple for instance. It didn’t invent the personal computer but its founders understood that an intimidating box that required specialized knowledge to use made it difficult to entice consumers to purchase a computer for home use. Apple’s computers were much more friendly and approachable, most notably the Macintosh, and that’s one reason why its Think Different campaign was so successful.

Arguably, it took Apple many years to establish its vision, but the company’s commitment to its founding principles has created one of the most successful corporations on the planet.

So what principles set startups apart from established businesses? Five letters, BCDFV, sum up the differentiating factors of a startup. It stands for: Bold; Curious; Disruptive; Fast and Visionary.

Startups are bold, courageously fighting what might seem like an impossible fight. They are definitely curious, and ask a lot of questions such as why, what if, and how about this? By nature, startups are disruptive because their founders are usually change-agents. They move fast, which is perhaps the greatest asset of a startup–if something doesn’t work then figure out a way to iterate and improve the outcome. Finally, startups are visionary because they are thinking about ways to make things better.

How could your business benefit by thinking like a startup?