The Daily Briefing: May 13, 2020

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Jim Benton was joined by Michael Erickson, Associate Director Sales Enablement at AT&T, on this morning’s Daily Briefing. They discussed how AT&T is navigating a work from home culture and adapting their coaching programs to enable success across their inbound and outbound engines.

Here are the numbers:

  • Cold call dials are +11% week over week, though own 32% since COVID-19
  • 68% More Leadership Attendance on the Selling-side
    • 54% Execs, 78% Directors
  • 65% More Leadership Attendance on the Buying-side
    • 63% Execs, 66% Directors
  • Calls in which empathetic conversations last 1 - 3 minutes has increased from 15% to 30%
  • A widening gap between first calls and discovery meetings indicating a process shift

Jim got his start at AT&T and was curious how AT&T has changed over the years.

“Sales Enablement at AT&T is a fairly new process,” said Michael. “We’ve always had people thinking about our tools and how people use our products, but we’ve really changed over the past year. We want people to be the most effective, so which tool is it that improves efficiency. It’s exciting to be on the front of that for such a large company. It’s really exciting to be able to provide these tools for people coming into the sales development program.”

Michael is proud of the strides and development that these new recruits have been able to accomplish. “It’s really cool to be able to give them this training,” he said. “For many people, it’s their first job. If we hit the nail on the head, we’re able to develop advocates from our own class. It’s a really great experience to be able to outfit them in this way.”

Coaching remotely requires adaptation of new tools and methods


Chorus data shows a promising uptick in rep productivity this week. Overall cold call dials are down 32% since January, but they are up 11% since last week.

“Right now we look like what it looks like right after the holidays,” said Michael. “We look like January versus what May should look like.”

When asked about Michael’s outbound force at AT&T, his pride in their accomplishments shone through. “Our sales dev program is currently about 150 people strong,” he said. “We’re starting another set of sellers on June 1, so I imagine our call volume is going to spike just from that.”

It’s also clear that their success comes from who they are reaching out to. “We’re addressing small or medium businesses who are more likely to close right now. For larger deals, we’re having a harder time getting a hold of decision-makers.”

There’s a pre-COVID funnel that no longer exists, and post-COVID funnel of people that have a compelling reason to buy because they have a need for connectivity, technology, and security.

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Is it impacting initial conversations?

A compelling reason to buy


Honing in on who you are selling to has been consistent, steadfast advice from industry leaders. You have to believe your product is essential to them and their success.

“There are businesses who are deciding to make infrastructure moves as their offices are empty,” said Michael. “There’s a pre-COVID funnel that no longer exists, and post-COVID funnel of people that have a compelling reason to buy because they have a need for connectivity, technology, and security.”

Coaching from home


As sales teams pivot and react to the market, they rely on coaching and enablement like never before. But coaching remotely has its own challenges and requires yet another pivot to new tools and methods.

“It’s been quite a change,” said Michael. “We sit in the center together so our sellers can learn from each other and their managers can provide support. We don’t have that right now. Before Chorus, we would literally set up another phone next to them to hopefully hear a coachable moment.”

“Or,” he added, “You can use a tool like Chorus where you can have those moments identified and insights are found for you. If I were a manager I’d know how I’d want to spend my time.”

Selling is a human business. We have to be responsive. Authentic empathy. We have to be able to engage in a way that doesn’t sound forced.

Authentic empathy may not be coachable, but hiring is


Calls in which empathetic conversations last 1 - 3 minutes has doubled from 15% to 30%. This reflects what we’re all hearing in calls and reading in our emails. We are all going through similar struggles and we want to connect. The key is to be authentic and genuine.

“Our messaging has changed significantly in guidance to our sellers,” said Michael. “They know that we want to be more collaborative at this time. There are still customers that we can offer a solution to. The value of that solution hasn’t changed, but the messaging has. Selling is a human business. We have to be responsive.”

“Authentic empathy. We have to be able to engage in a way that doesn’t sound forced,” he added.

But how do you teach empathy? It’s not an easy characteristic, but Michael has a few suggestions. It starts with hiring the right people.

“We hire people who have the quality to be able to have these conversations. We can provide guidance around words to use or positioning, but there’s a limit to that,” he said.

We're encouraging people to join early calls with video. It's a little different. but you can see who you're talking to.

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Creatively motivating teams to keep the engine running


Everyone has transitioned to remote overnight. It can be easy to lose sight of your goals and your momentum without a leader board or daily challenges between friends and colleagues. But Michael and his team at AT&T are experimenting with motivational strategies similar to other leaders in the industry: Creative challenges.

Among the games, they are also challenging people to get creative with their calls. “We’re encouraging people to join early calls with video. It’s a little different, a little awkward. But you can see who you’re talking to,” he said. “So long as you’re appropriate to the medium. This is what we do. We coach and we develop and we learn.”

“There’s so much going on right now,” he said. “There’s so much creativity. It’s been spectacular seeing how they’re keeping the team engaged.”

Ultimately, Michael is impressed with his team. “It hasn’t been seamless, but it’s been a good transition moving to working from home. They’ve made a quick change and they’re doing a great job at it.”

How is the tone of sales calls changing?.

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