The Daily Briefing: May 29, 2020

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On today’s Daily Briefing, Jim Benton ended the week with Skip Miller, President of M3 Learning. Jim and Skip go way back from Jim’s days at ClearSlide and were eager to jump into the data together.

They started by looking at productivity across the country. Specifically, meetings and sales productivity since pre-COVID. Skip has operated on an in-person basis for years and is now having to adjust.

“In February I was in Japan, Australia, I was everywhere,” he said. “Then in March, everything came to a halt. Now everyone is taking advantage of Zoom and other tools to get the job done. I think you’re going to see calls pick up, but everyone is still wondering what to do.”

Changing the way we hold meetings has changed, true. But the more significant change, Skip noted, is the structure of those meetings.

“The sales process has changed,” he said, “because we used to do in-person demos or meetings, and not everyone’s old process works anymore. They’re figuring out what to do with what they have rather than getting new logos.”

The problem is that the sales reps have the old sales process. Sales executives says: ‘Let’s do it,’ and the rep says ‘Great, let’s do a demo.

Making Q2 but facing the Q3 cliff

Everyone is doing what they can to close the quarter in the black. But the future is less optimistic for H2, Skip warns.

“In Q2, they’re going to make it,” he said. “They’re going to come close. The problem is Q3 because there’s no pipeline.”

It’s because they’re focusing on this quarter’s success at the expense of the next quarter.

“To make Q2 happen,” Skip said, “they’re adding more value and better packaging. I think as the quarter ends, you’ll see flailing discounts. No one is doing a good post-COVID sales process.”

And, ultimately, the sales community is using the old playbook and process for new problems. “The problem is that the sales reps have the old sales process. Sales executives say: ‘Let’s do it,’ and the rep says ‘Great, let’s do a demo.’”

Above the line and below the line buyers

The old sales process worked like this: Salespeople will typically prospect to Below the Line buyers, and work their way up. They then give the exec, or the Above the Line buyer, an overview. But now, that’s flipped.

“Now you’ve got the Above the Line buyer in the beginning,” said Skip, “and the seller doesn’t know what to ask them. The sales team comes in underprepared.”

Preparing for these calls requires more structure and more intentional internal alignment than before.

“Salespeople need to take control of the call,” Skip said. “But the exec wants to take control of the call. They need to talk about business outcomes. The selling executive has to let salespeople sell, and then validate what they’re saying in the meeting.”

Skip drew on his experience with Jim at ClearSlide. “I still remember at ClearSlide, people would bring you into the call because you were sharp and charismatic and could get it done. But the best reps would set you up first.”

How many actions are managers taking on calls to support deals and rep training?

Companies to offer 10% value, but less upsell opportunities

Looking long term, there’s a gap coming. Companies are having to give 10% more value to customers to get the deal across the finish line. Upsell opportunities are drying up, so companies need more new business to offset the extra value they’re offering.

Skip agreed. “I think the cliff is coming in Q3,” Skip said. “Hot companies are good. But normal companies are bringing Q3 deals into Q2. You’re seeing a lot of new value-sales and packaging, but it’s coming at the expense of potential Q3.”

To avoid the Q3 cliff, companies need to start drumming up new business. So what do we do? Skip says to boldly ask for referrals.

“Referrals. Being very clever and meaty on referrals. When you close a piece of business, write a thank you note. ‘Thanks so much, great to do business with you. And if you know anyone, could you forward this email on?’ People may not give you a name or a number, but they’ll forward an email.”

I think people are getting a hold of BTL buyers, but the second calls may not be happening. The Above the Line buyers need help, this is a huge opportunity. We have to train our BDRs to talk about risk, investments and have higher business acumen so they can talk to ATLs.

Anticipating epic outbounding in June

Outbound isn’t working. The vehicles to prospect have been whittled down to social or email, maybe mobile. And those hit rates have not been known to beat the phone or in-person introductions.

Every way you look at it, the BDR function is evolving.

“Typically BDRs talk to Below the Line (BTL) buyers,” said Skip. “There’s talk about products and benefits and then they throw it over the wall. When a BDR or SDR calls a Below the Line buyer, they don’t have the answer. I think people are getting a hold of BTL buyers, but the second calls may not be happening. The Above the Line buyers need help, this is a huge opportunity.

We have to train our BDRs to talk about risk, investments and have higher business acumen so they can talk to ATLs.”

Another way to reinvigorate your outbound motion may be to align your AEs with your BDRs and bring them all to the front lines together.

“Great sales managers are coaching to this,” said Skip. “Managers are coaching with their A-players. Don’t try to get the whole ship turned around at once. Get your A-players out there first, then get the rest on board. All ships will rise together.”

Mid-year adjustments are great to process around. The old sales process has to get broken

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Proactive coaching to gain momentum

We’re seeing more proactive coaching, and managers are taking 53% more actions on calls that before the crisis struck.

“Your A-players are saying they’ve got it,” Skip said, “ but they don’t have it. Get your A-players going. Get them out there asking for more referrals. Take 20 minutes to coach. Spend more time on your outbound messaging.”

And now is a great time to start. “Mid-year adjustments are great to process around,” he said. “The old sales process has to get broken.”

Enterprise is moving quickly

In enterprise, decisions are being made quickly. “You have to get in that fight,” Skip said. “You have to go for the ATL. Go for the sub-C-Level, the Senior Director. Those people are moving fast.”

And know your new buyer. Know what they care about. “CFOs are going to join because they need to mitigate risk,” Skip added. “If you can mitigate their risk, they’ll buy. They don’t want to see a demo.”

Final words: Break the process

Skip left us with a final word of advice: Break the process you followed in January.

“Cut your sales cycles in half,” Skip advised. “Set a new bar. ATL buyers need something now. Buyers are willing to move fast. They’re bringing execs into the meetings. Cut your sales cycle in half and break your process.”

How is it affecting productivity for revenue teams?

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