The Daily Briefing: May 12, 2020

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In today’s Daily Briefing, Jim Benton was joined by Ian Foley, CEO of the Center for Sales Excellence. They discussed the most relevant tactics for sales teams to ensure they come out on top.

Here are the numbers:

  • Overall cold call dials are down 32% since January, though even week over week
  • Connect Rates maintain pre-COVID levels
  • Gradual return to 30-day payment terms - 4th week in a row
  • Timeline risk mentions are still far above pre-COVID levels but have held flat week over week

Jim and Ian discussed a few surprises that have cropped up over the past few months, especially in terms of how people are working right now.

“I think everyone has become a lot more understanding,” said Ian. “We are all navigating how to navigate a home environment and still do a good job.”

Ian is no stranger when it comes to navigating new situations. When he started the Center of Sales Excellence, it was precisely because he saw a need for more startup support.

“When I was going through my own startup,” he said, “I wished I could talk to someone regularly about what we were doing. Something like 60% of startups is led by super smart technical people who have never sold before. So we built 450 tactics within Guru, Gmail, Slack to help them get started.”

Top levers sales leaders are pulling to adapt to the new normal


There is an arsenal of variables that a sales leader can tinker with to create a powerhouse revenue org. While always relevant, there are some strategic levers that are more essential now than ever before.

Ian offered three right off of the bat:

  • Pricing
  • Compensation
  • Outbound Messaging

Ensure that we’re signing customers for the long term. I’d be more open to having a promotional price for the long-term. You have to retain your customers, that’s going to be the most important thing.

How should sales leaders address pricing in this environment?


Not a new question by any means, but sales leaders are experimenting with new pricing strategies.

“Deflation is starting to occur,” said Ian, and sales leaders are grappling with serious questions. “Why would a company commit to pricing right now when everything is so uncertain? How do I go out and create a pricing strategy? How do I use surveys to determine what’s mutually valuable right now? It’s about keeping people engaged for the long term.”

Chorus data is showing a slight, gradual return to normal, but Ian said that he has yet to see that play out in the market.

“One concern we have,” he said, “is ensuring that we’re signing customers for the long term. I’d be more open to having a promotional price for the longer-term. You have to retain your customers, that’s going to be the most important thing.”

It’s possible that the 30-day payment terms are lengthening in the long run. “As we’ve been sharing the data,” said Jim, “I don’t think companies had a strategy for net-30, it’s just what happened. I think there are now more deliberate packages put in place. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ll start seeing people incentivize net-30.”

Ultimately, it’s about rounding out the year and planning for Q1 2021. “How do you sustain yourself through Q1 2021. That is the one to prepare for.”

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Is it impacting initial conversations?

The reaction time has passed. Now it’s ‘How do I build a business at this time?’ Appeal to the core business drivers, speak to how we can build a great business together.

Empathy transitions to business building in outbound messaging


Everyone has a new outbound messaging strategy. A new tactic or pivoting tone that speaks to the current climate. But the successful outbound teams will not only speak to empathy, they’ll speak to how to help build a prospect’s business now.

“It’s changed to how can I help you, how can I build your business,” said Ian.

Empathy is always relevant, though it’s used in sales calls should always be authentic and sincere. And now that we’re months into this, teams are adapting yet again to accommodate new needs in the market.

“It changes day to day,” said Jim, referring to the way that sales teams address the impact of COVID-19 in sales calls. “We can’t use what we used last week because it’s not working anymore.”

Ian agreed. “The reaction time has passed. Now it’s ‘How do I build a business at this time?’ Appeal to the core business drivers, speak to how we can build a great business together.”

Share insight or knowledge. Send something with ‘I thought this might be interesting to you.’ It’s a very light touch. That’s the Give. And that can naturally shift to what you’re selling.

Cut through the noise with Outbound Messaging


Ian shares key advice he was given: Give, give, get. “You can’t hit someone over the head with your pitch. You need to engage with someone.” He said that people are often different between their work-self and social-self, but that a good outbound strategy is to marry the two. “It’s surprising that people have that dichotomy. Your prospects want to engage and talk to people.”

And when you’re engaging with prospects - with authenticity and sincerity - you must also give something without asking. “Share insight or knowledge. Send something with ‘I thought this might be interesting to you.’ It’s a very light touch. That’s the Give. And that can naturally shift to what you’re selling.”

Ian warned that this tactic shouldn’t be universally applied without considering the psychology of your prospect and your ICP.

“If you’re in complex enterprise sales,” Ian said, “you must think about the psychology of it. What do they care about, show them you understand them. Let them know you can help them.”

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Deals are getting delayed, set expectations from the very top


Timeline risk mentions continue to make an appearance in calls, and we see that sales cycles are lengthening. While that’s no surprise to industry leaders who have been watching the trends, it’s essential that expectations are aligned from the top, down.

“Sales cycles are doubling. Things have changed,” said Ian. “You have to set realistic expectations at the board level and on the ground. The CFO needs to understand what’s happening on the ground so we can adjust the overall company. This is the listening component of sales. You have to listen to the customer so then the entire company can understand what’s going on at this time.”

Keeping industry experts and leaders connected to what’s happening in the market is why Chorus started the Daily Briefing. “People are doing incredible work right now and it’s important to share information in the market,” said Jim.

To get the tactics that Ian mentioned in today’s Daily Briefing (there are 450 of them!) contact him at ian@antler.co or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Longer payment terms starting to be discussed.

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