The Daily Briefing: May 18, 2020

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Jim Benton started the week with Anthony Cessario, the VP of Enterprise Sales at Clari, on this morning’s Daily Briefing.

Excited to start the day, they jumped right into the data.

  • Meeting volume up 4%
  • Less risk language on calls
  • Gradual return to net-30 payment terms

We want to be sure that as there’s an uptick in meetings, that people are also taking care of themselves.

Remarkable sales execution


One reason that Chorus started The Daily Briefing was to showcase the phenomenal sales execution that revenue teams are developing in light of the current climate. The markets are down and the world can seem bleak, but sales teams are bringing their best into every day.

Balancing a productive revenue culture with self-care is essential to keeping the sales motion moving.

“We’re seeing a lot of uptick in the meetings,” said Anthony. “For good and for bad. We want to be sure that as there’s an uptick in meetings, that people are also taking care of themselves. After having 10 chorus meetings, your head starts to hurt a bit. We want to make sure that people are taking care of themselves and scheduling non-screen meeting time too.”

As we come close to three months of sheltering in place and working from home, sales leaders are experimenting with tactics to improve work-life balance when working from home.

“We’re challenging our team to try new things,” said Anthony. “As more meetings come on your calendar because you’re available, ask yourself if you need to be in that meeting and what you could contribute. We’re challenging the team to take walking meetings so you’re not on video all the time. Or to work on paper or blackboard so you’re not in front of a screen. We’re challenging teams to schedule non-meetings as a team for creative time.”

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How is it affecting productivity for revenue teams?

They’re looking at how to categorize pipeline into risk adjusted categories. They want to know what other committed revenue has been impacted by COVID-19.

Make working from home remarkable


Remarkable is a constant theme at Clari. “We talk a lot about ‘remarkable’ at Clari,” said Anthony. “It doesn’t change when we’re at home.” They are constantly asking customers and leaders for feedback on how to improve every step of their interaction with Clari.

“This validates that as a sales community, we’re seeing phenomenal sales execution,” added Jim.

Forecasting by building revenue confidence


The data shows that Decision, Rejection, and Budget risk language is down on calls, flattening the curve that spiked a few weeks ago.

“This is great data,” said Anthony, “I love it. We’re looking at a company’s process for predicting revenue. Companies are looking for revenue confidence.” To Anthony, it’s about providing the resources to your team to make sure they can speak to revenue predictions with confidence. “All the way down to the rep level,” he added, “they should be able to relay with some confidence how much revenue is going to come in and from where.”

“Revenue teams are replanning their forecasting right now,” said Anthony. “They’re taking it to a new level of detail into what is going on in deals right now. We’re going into calls and asking if we have actually met with the CFO or if we have presented how we’re going to help them replan.”

The kind of detail going into deal review is changing. “They’re looking at how to categorize pipeline into risk-adjusted categories,” Anthony explained, “They want to know what other committed revenue has been impacted by COVID-19.”

Companies are iterating on this kind of data. “Is this tailwind or headwind? We’re seeing this kind of conversation come up a lot more often,” said Anthony. “You’re starting to see more of that data.”

Experimentation in the face of a new marketplace


This is the thing Jim is most excited about now. “We’re seeing incredible sales innovation and execution. The best of sales is really showing up.”

Anthony agreed. “I’m a big Challenger fan. When it came to the market it changed how people sell in a positive way. It was born in 2008, during the market downturn. I think you’ll see something similar in this pandemic,” he said. “The thing I’ve seen the most is empathetic selling. This is an exciting thing to watch and carry forward with us.”

Revenue teams are getting creative


“We’re in a whole new world of selling,” said Anthony. And one way that they’re bringing some creativity to their calls is by adding their pitch deck to their Zoom backgrounds. “We’re playing around with backgrounds. It’s a ton of fun,” he said.

And they continue to iterate on new experiments. “We’re asking our sellers, what are you doing every day? What’s working, what’s not? We share the wins and rally around them.”

Moving forward with empathy into a new, steady-state


A few weeks ago, empathy was in a new territory. People were scared and were more unsure than ever. The empathy was more than just a tactic - it was real. Jim had to ask: “How do we execute with empathy today, and how do we continue to do so as we move into a more steady-state?”

For Anthony, empathy starts with your team.

“Empathy for me starts internally,” he said. “If your team is empathetic, you’re going to bring that to your customers and future customers. If we meet for the first time, I would ask how your weekend was, but now I actually mean it. You have to bring these empathetic practices to your team internally. Bring it to the way you sell. For me, it starts with hiring. I’m certainly going to ask candidates I screen moving forward, ‘How did you sell in the pandemic and how will that continue with you?’”

Jim agreed. “Work is a lot more fun if you can be real.”

Sales leaders just want to get together and talk. We want to see how we’re all doing.

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Net-30 day payment terms on the rise


Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen shifts in payment terms, deal forecasting, and the role of the CFO. As we see a significant improvement in net-30 day payment terms, we wonder if things are gradually returning to normal and what that means moving forward.

“You talked about reps becoming world-class sellers, and that’s what we’re seeing,” said Anthony. “We’re seeing a whole new sales motion into finance right now. We have to always get sign-off from the CFO, even in renewals.

I think what sellers will bring with them is becoming masters of revenue and the ability to have meaningful conversations with finance. How do you tell your value story in the sales cycle? Things like payment terms are part of that value story. As we work with finance groups, we see way more requests for longer payment terms. And we now have the ability to be creative and flexible.”

There should be some coaching and incentives for teams learning to talk through payment terms more adeptly. Anthony says it’s also simply about being open.

“It’s still a negotiation,” he added, “so even if we're being empathetic in our terms, we need to create creative deal structures. There is definitely some training happening, but overall it’s just being open to the circumstances.”

Jim and Anthony ended their conversation with more tactical ways that people can take care of themselves - from blue light blocker glasses to engaging with leaders in the industry.

“Sales leaders just want to get together and talk,” said Anthony. “We want to see how we’re all doing.”

How are deals being affected due to the crisis?

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