The Daily Briefing: May 28, 2020

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On this morning’s Daily Briefing, Jim Benton was joined by Jon Perera, the CMO of Highspot.

They started the day together by discussing their shared joy for helping to coach teams and how much they miss the energy of the sales floor.

Jon’s Zoom virtual background was a snapshot of Highspot’s office in Seattle. While both have adapted to being distributed leaders, they are excited to get back into the office.

“I think we’re all going to figure out that there’s a hybrid way to come back into the office,” said Jon. “We’re learning new muscles.”

With that, they dove into the data to discuss how distributed leaders are adapting their teams and preparing for the next phase of selling.

I think, particularly in the world of B2B selling, there's a pent up need to create better coaching.

Coaching at scale


Jim began with their shared passion: Coaching.

The data shows that managers taking more coaching actions on calls, up to a 53% increase since before COVID-19 hit. There’s little wonder that managers of now distributed teams are seeking ways to stay involved and connected, but Jim and Jon both wonder if there are other reasons Managers are spending more time in calls.

“This data is fascinating to me for a couple of reasons,” said Jon. At Highspot’s Dreamforce event called Soiree, they discuss what the state of the art sales looks like. “And the top panel was coaching. How do we coach the coach? I think, particularly in the world of B2B selling, there's a pent up need to create better coaching. Maybe it took this horrible situation for people to take advantage of these tools to get where they need to go.”

Jim agreed. “Yes. Now it’s about coaching precision,” he added. “Having managers get in on that and at scale to move us forward as an industry.”

And tech is a big reason why this is more accessible than ever. “One trend that we’ve seen loud and clear,” said Jon, “is that companies that invest in sales enablement perform way better. Name a professional athlete that doesn’t have a coach. We’re seeing a shift that tech enables coaching and people enable coaching.”

Is it impacting initial conversations?

Role of marketing to build pipeline and demand


As the data shows, people are picking up their phones. There are significantly fewer dials, but the connect rate holds steady.

Likely, people are at home and more willing to take a call.

That being said, there have been a few shifts.

Jon listed three:

  • Empathy
  • Community
  • Building demand through marketing

“Everyone is going through a really tough time,” Jon said. “The more we focus on helping the better we do. In terms of community,” he said, “we’re competing for digital attention. You need to develop peer to peer advocacy.“

“Another is building demand through marketing,” Jon added. “Customer experience is everything. How do you make it great for that buyer to interact with you digitally?”

People are still buying… right?


We are in uncertain times.

“For Q2 and Q3, no one knows what to expect. What we’re seeing is that for organizations using Highspot, the deals are there. Pipeline is there. But it’s choppy. SMB and MM are taking a lot longer, Enterprise may need it so they move faster.”

Like the varied success across segments, Jon said they are seeing some unexpected gains. “We’re seeing micro-verticals taking off that we didn’t expect. Logistics and Fin-Tech, that’s a micro-vertical that’s taken off in a big way.”

“Anything that’s tech-enabled is ripe for high growth right now,” he added.

You better come with real, hard data with how you’ll drive value. CFOs are asking for data and how it’s worked for companies that look just like them.

Pivot your value to match the CFOs priorities


As CFOs join calls at an alarming rate - 91% above pre-COVID levels! - it’s more critical than ever that revenue teams come prepared to talk brass tacks. Jon spends a lot of time with his CFO and understands how he thinks. He brought that insight into today’s Daily Briefing.

“They’re thinking about things like how we retain the base and customers today. Or, how we will drive growth, and how we can mitigate risk. Any investment they do better be able to prove demonstrable ROI.”

Ultimately, there is much more deal visibility. “You better come with real, hard data with how you’ll drive value,” Jon advised. “CFOs are asking for data and how it’s worked for companies that look just like them.”

ROI calculators are in vogue again. Do they work?

Jon is realistic about the value of an ROI, and their limitations. What’s more, he provided some options to get around those. “ROI calculators,” he said, “love ‘em, they’re great. But they’re still met with skepticism. The customer needs to see their own data in there. You have to align your ROI calculator with what their business goals are.”

“Pivot the ROI calculator to align with that CFOs priorities,” he added, “and if they’re still skeptical, cut that number in half.” You will likely still be able to show value.

Jim added that much of the value comes from utilization and adoption, so being able to make the case that both are easy, will be essential for success.

“Connect to the above the line leader,” said Jon. “The C-suite person trying to drive change and what they are focusing on... pivot the entire value against that.”

Playing by the rules of the sandbox


The data shows that leaders are joining more meetings as well, not just the CFOs. For Highspot, this is a relatively steady state. “We have a fairly engaged executive team overall,” he said.

But they found one really interesting shift: You have to coach your buyer on the competitive buying process.

“The buying team will tell us to stay within this sandbox,” he said, explaining how buyers will typically outline the appropriate buying committee and ask that you not go further above the line. “But if we play by the rules set by the buyers, our competitors likely won’t. The thing is that we win a lot of deals because we play by their rules and respect them. They appreciate it. But we also lose some deals because our competitor goes above the line, outside of their sandbox. So, there’s tension there.”

But, Highspot maintains that it’s better to do business this way and play by the rules.

The other side of coaching is coaching the buyer. You have to coach your champion. Arm that person with the champion kit so that they can take the case above the line. You have to win that person first.

Heightened importance of coaching


To the point the sandbox exists at all, is the need to educate and coach the buyer as well as your own team.

“The other side of coaching is coaching the buyer,” said Jon. “We say: ‘Sure, we can play in the sandbox, but here’s what’s going to happen. Our competitor won’t play by the rules.’ So you have to coach your champion. Arm that person with the champion kit so that they can take the case above the line. You have to win that person first.”

The key is to coach the buyer on what’s going to happen and give them the tools to parry what your competitor will bring up. It’s about building trust in the relationship.

Leaders learning from each other


Both Jim and Jon value transparency and share an eagerness to learn.

“I want to learn. I want to know what’s working for you, for real. What didn’t work,” Jon said. “When you create a strong desire to share those connections, that creates more trust in the vendor.”

Jim agreed wholeheartedly. “Selfishly, this daily briefing we kicked off was entirely to share the incredible data we’re seeing. And I learn so much from these. I quote what I’m learning to my teams all day long.”

How many CFOs are joining calls?

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