How Sales Teams Can Make the Most of Their Meetings and Sell to the C-Suite

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On this week’s Briefing, Jim Benton was joined by Pete Kazanjy. Pete is the Co-Founder of Atrium, Founder of Modern Sales Pros, and the author of Founding Sales, among many other titles and achievements.

They came together to discuss the latest work patterns of sales teams, who’s joining their meetings, and how leaders can best support them.

Even with this lofty goal, they opened the conversation talking about their kids. One of Jim’s, like him, was starting their day on Zoom.

While this new normal has taken the world by storm, many surprises have cropped up for both Jim and Pete as they lead their teams forward. One element was not a surprise at all: The resilience of sales teams.

“We are all managing changes across the board,” said Pete.

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Implement a soft cap. Say we don't want to see people doing 29 meetings per week or work too many deals at a time. Make sure you don’t skip those 1:1s.

How Sales Teams Organize Their Days

Jim starts each episode with the latest weekly meeting volume trends for overall sales calls. This week, we can see that the current meeting volume in Q3 to date is down 5% from the Q2 average.

While 5% is something to keep your eye on, it is not surprising to most leaders.

“I’m not surprised we see that downturn at the end there because, hey, it’s summer,” said Pete.

The most important part of this meeting volume trend is to see how it’s broken down from day to day, and between teams.

What a Sales Team’s Day Looks Like

Meetings before 9 am are up 18% since January and meetings after 4 pm are up a dramatic 137%.

We can assume that part of this is due to the end of our traditional commuting, the adjustment to the new normal.

Pete shared that his own schedule has changed according to this trend. “It’s 8:30 [in the morning] now, and I was just on a call with a rep before this, because I can be.”

The Wellbeing of Our Sales Teams

We are fitting more into our days and making up for lost time in the morning and night. Jim asked the concern that leaders everywhere are trying to address: The mental health of their sales teams.

Pete agreed wholeheartedly that it should be a top priority.

“Sellers are activity-based,” he said, “they’re measuring themselves on activity metrics. And just like with any athlete, you have to make sure they don’t go too hard and blow their achilles. More is better until a certain point when you’ll start seeing the degradation of other metrics.”

And it’s not just actual sales performance, he said.

“You’ll see it from a personal engagement standpoint. Sales reps are malleable, extraverted people who want to be interacting with their peers and they’re not right now.

If you combine that with the overload of customer meeting volume, you’re going to start seeing a degradation in terms of email volume and the number of accounts they’re interacting with because people are just getting burnt out.”

Pete recommends that leaders take the nature of the economy and working life into account.

“Implement a soft cap. Say we don't want to see people doing 29 meetings per week or work too many deals at a time. Make sure you don’t skip those 1:1s.”

Jim agreed. “It’s important to keep human connection high internally.”

Pete shared that there was an adjustment period for Atrium, too. Everyone goes through it.

“We did a bad job on this internally,” he said. “I received some feedback from one of our reps. There are a lot of things that happen in the office: Say, a good call happens, people around you hear it, and it’s high fives all around. You miss those things, so you have to fill that.”

It takes some creativity to bring people together in this environment, and companies are facing the challenge and experimenting.

“We’re trying to create more face time with folks. We just did a team dinner with eight people over Zoom. It’s not the same as taking people to House of Prime Rib, but it’s something.”

Overall meeting volume

More Meetings are Required for Closed Deals, Lost and Won

Regardless of whether your deal closes won or lost, you and your teams are likely having to meet more to get there.

The amount of meetings per closed-lost deal is up 10% compared to this same time in 2019. Similarly, for closed-won deals, the amount of meetings per deal YoY is up 6%.

“This doesn’t feel like a knock on the remote environment,” said Pete, “it’s more of a knock on an economic environment.”

“When you have a distressed econ environment,” he continued, “you’re going to have more scrutiny and more incremental meetings to get you there. The thing to be mindful of here is the old truism: The best answer a salesperson can get is yes, and the second-best answer is a quick no.”

Ultimately, revenue leaders everywhere have to make sure they are not investing too many resources in sectors or prospects that just aren’t investing right now.

The important thing, said Pete, is to be intellectually honest about the steps you’re taking. “Are you spending time with good ops, or are you throwing money and time at it?”

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Pipeline Adjustments from Q2 to Q3

The deals that your teams are now working with have adapted to the environment we find ourselves in now.

“In early May, orgs everywhere saw pipeline vaporization. You saw reps really pressing to make due with what they had.”

But, as he said, it’s not April or May anymore.

“The pipeline that reps have right now have the current economic realities baked in, whereas the pipeline they had [in Q2] had the previous economic reality associated with it.

So, now we can look at who is a good fit and who’s willing to buy. It’s just not useful for us to chase just anything with a heartbeat anymore.”

It is as Jim said it: It’s back to running well-run pipeline management processes for everyone.

How are the different sales orgs performing?

As your pipeline vaporizes, you want to bearhug your existing customers and make sure you’re fully embedded.

Team Performance Across Your Sales Org

When we look across the teams within a revenue org, we can see somewhat similar trends, but likely for different reasons.

Let’s take a look.

SDR Cold Call Dials are Up 1% Since the Q2 Average

Dials are slightly up, but there’s been a steep downward trend since Q1. Emails are ticking up slightly, and connect rates are remaining relatively steady.

Yes, the economic environment has changed from Q1 to Q3. But, as Pete suggests, this downward trend is likely due to the way outbound teams are managed.

“I don’t think it’s just because of the move from desk phone to cell phone,” he said, “because that’s been happening for a while. My hypothesis here is that it’s a management issue.

Cold calling is the least favorite thing for sales reps to do. If you send a bunch of people home, it’s not surprising that people stop doing something they don’t like to do.”

Buckle in and provide some support. “Refresh your implementation rigor there,” he said, and lightly added: “Call more.”

The Average AE’s Weekly Meetings are Down 5% and CSM’s Average Weekly Meetings are Down 3% Since the Q2 Average

AEs are meeting less, but they’re doing what they can with less pipeline. Just to underscore the importance of a healthy outbound and inbound funnel, Pete shared that: “I’ve found my AEs doing more meetings, but that may be because we have a good inbound funnel.”

CSMs meeting volume is down on average, but less than AEs and there are weekly spikes to offset the trend. This means that your CSM teams are likely kicking it into high gear to protect your churn rate.

“As your pipeline vaporizes,” said Pete, “you want to bearhug your existing customers and make sure you’re fully embedded.”

Creating Frictionless Cross-Collaboration

With the entire revenue org mobilized, from SDRs to VPs, how do leaders lower the friction between each team?

Pete shared that there was a little bit of friction between their teams at the very beginning. But a few things have really changed that.

“Our people do a really good job of Slack calls,” he said. “It’s easy to Slack each other, but the chat has lower fidelity than a call. Just use the Slack call button. You have to habituate people to it so they don’t feel like they’re interrupting people.”

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Selling to C-Suite

Leaders from Execs to VPs to CXOs are joining more calls. Let’s look at the numbers compared to January:

  • Buying-side Leaders join 108% more meetings
  • Selling-side Leaders join 65% more meetings
  • Buying-side CFOs join 92% more meetings
  • Selling-side CEOs join 29% more meetings

“This feels like a reflection of economically distressed times,” said Pete. “You'll have more scrutiny on calls and more incremental meetings. At meetings at the tail end, you’ll have higher level people join. There are higher levels of diligence there.”

When you’re faced with the economic buyer of your product - and even more critically, the CFO - you have to show up with significant strength to the call.

Extreme ROI and consistent ROI talk is the general key to speaking with an executive. The more nuanced strategy? Spotlight the use case that scratches that CXOs particular itch, even if it’s not your main use case.

“Atrium makes sales performance software,” said Pete. “Our primary stakeholders are sales managers and ops people. One of the things we’ve found is that if your product has a secondary value proposition that a CFO is interested in, provide the CFO with a helpful dashboard that scratches his or her particular itch. Even if it’s an ancillary use case and not the core business case.”

Ultimately, if you can make the CFOs life easier, you should spotlight that first. And if you need to make sure your value prop makes it to the CFO? Arm your champion to advocate internally.

The Entrepreneur's Guide to Sales

Pete Kazanjy literally wrote the book on how early founders can get their head around - and mobilize - a functioning B2B sales org. Check out the book at FoundingSales.com.

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