Jim and Craig have worked together in the past - in good and bad times. They reflected on past economic downturns, how they pulled through, and the lessons learned that they apply today.
Lessons from past economic recoveries
“In 2000 it was a 5-year recovery, we didn’t know how to kick start business. 2008 was a crazy shock to the system, but we rebuilt relatively quickly when you look at the numbers,” said Craig.
During the 2000 downturn, Craig became a consultant, learning from leaders in the industry on how to pull ahead. “It made me better because I consulted inside sales teams for a few years afterward when it was really hard to sell.”
“And in ‘08 and ‘09, I was with Scott Albro, the founder of TOPO, where we were delivering leads through syndicated content,” he said. “The nuclear winter that year was scary.”
Jim shared his experience during those years as well.
“I chose a great year to start ClearSlide,” joked Jim. “We rode it out from September ‘08 to March of ‘09. And you know what, we built a great product. Because of the way things were going, the market was ours for 3-4 years and we could just go for it.”
Craig shared Jim’s optimism. “It’s like when the elephants come out from the rain even better,” he said. “2008 was a great lesson. Studies from Gartner and the like all show that those companies who came out of 2008, they came out even better than they were before.”
“This time is a bit different,” Craig added. “The issue with this one is that we just don’t know. The stock market bounces off the bottom but doesn’t reflect the main street.”
Opportunity for Reinvention 1: Mass tech enablement
The markets are facing an incredible transformation overnight. And the struggles felt across the market are undeniable. Success in segments vary, but in every segment, there will be stark differences in the way they do business pre-COVID and post-COVID.
“We’re coming out of an unstable phase,” said Craig, “and companies are starting to figure out what three, four, six months from now looks like. People are starting to reinvent themselves.”
You can see this in the sales productivity data. “We’re down a bit this week,” said Jim, “but there’s not been any wild downshifts in sales activity.”
And, when looking at the meeting volume per segment data, you can see some patterns emerge. “The companies that are empowering working from home,” said Jim, “they’re seeing success.”
“This data is on meeting rates?” Craig asked, “This is incredible data.”
Craig wasn’t surprised by the numbers. “In the new buying environment, there’s pockets of opportunity. Collaboration is killing it. And in sales tech, we’ve had to completely transform.”
He surmised that this data starts to tell a story about who is best equipped to come out on the other side of this in better shape than when they went in.
“When we look at the folks who have technologically adapted, they’re doing a lot better,” said Craig. “People are peeling back some sales tech stack, but are investing elsewhere. CI [Conversation Intelligence] is essential now because we need a fact-based understanding on what’s going on and what to coach on.”
Jim agreed that technology is enabling some of the best salesmanships in a decade. “There’s great salesmanship in the market,” he said.
You see that the people who are willing to call are doing better.
Opportunity for Reinvention 2: Reinvigorating the outbound motion
Jim shared that while cold calls dials are down close to 30% since pre-COVID, the connect rates are holding relatively steady.
“Connect rates are actually only down 2%-points,” said Craig, looking at the data, “which is really remarkable. You see that the people who are willing to call are doing better.”
Effective outbound must be personalized and has to stand out. “What’s the thing you said?” Craig asked Jim, “That we’re becoming numb? I love that.”
“In my opinion,” said Craig, “this is part of the reinvention. I don’t think I could find a CFO that doesn’t agree that you need to show extreme value right now.”
Every company wants their best and brightest in the digital field. Salespeople are incentivized to become the cream of the crop, the clear winner on the leaderboard.
“The thing is,” said Craig, “that organizationally we need to be the cream of the crop. There’s one Tom Brady. But can you create a system that will deliver with each player?”
“You need to understand your value,” Craig added. “Everyone agrees that we have to deliver value. But the fact is that the definition of your value has changed overnight. If you don’t have the tech to learn fast, oh wow.”
Teams are learning quickly and moving faster than ever to keep up. “The algorithm works and then it doesn’t,” Craig said. “You have the opportunity to think about value. The value of SDR and outbound work during a bull market is different. Things are different now.”
Craig maintains his optimism and said that a dip is expected, but not where we’ll end up. “My prediction is that you’re going to see a little dip, and then you’re going to see a big spike because everyone will be performing better than ever,” he said.
In the past, you could make someone a champion. Now, you have to find the person who has been what we call ‘deputized’. You have to find the person who was deputized by a C-level person to find the mission-critical solutions they need.
Opportunity for Reinvention 3: Prepare for a new buying committee
Jim shared Chorus’s latest data that has confirmed what salespeople everywhere have been intuitively noticing for weeks. CFOs are joining calls at a 91% increase from pre-March levels.
“You shocked me with this data,” joked Craig, “this isn’t even fair.” Shocked or not, Craig says that this has a profound impact on the way that people buy and the way that sellers should ultimately sell.
“Think about this,” he said, “Your buyer can’t have a gigantic buying committee right now, but they can have an impactful buying committee. The more passive members of their buying committee are now having to step in.
Everything we did to sell into buying committees used to be based on influencers. Now we have to build a quantitative view on how we can help them accomplish their business priorities. In the past, you could make someone a champion. Now, you have to find the person who has been what we call ‘deputized’. You have to find the person who was deputized by a C-level person to find the mission-critical solutions they need.”
There’s a really interesting shift to new buying committees. And the opportunities - and challenges - they represent.
Sellers have a big adjustment in front of them. “The great ones are going to rise,” said Craig, “and they’ll come out of this better.”
Jim agreed. It’s all about mission-critical solutions. “Otherwise,” he said, “your deal won’t get done.”
Craig took to the next step. Products need to be critical or else companies are not buying.
“I keep hearing that sales cycles are getting longer,” he said, “No. Deals aren’t taking longer, those are dead deals. If you’re good at identifying that, your sales cycle should shorten.”
Technology has made it easier. We are going through a reinvention phase and everyone who comes out of this will be better. We will sell better than ever because we’re coaching. And now it’s at their fingertips. Most people have changed their messaging in the past few months. You have to coach them up! You have to listen to those calls and coach them up.
Creating a system to create a team of A-players
At Chorus, we love to coach and we help managers and leaders do it. And in fact, we’re seeing a 53% jump in coaching activity from before COVID-19 took hold. Managers are really stepping into their role as coaches.
Jim is a firm believer that it is the system that creates A-players.
“When you mention B-players,” said Jim, “it’s the system's fault for not lifting them up. What we’re seeing here is the system being engaged.”
Craig wholeheartedly agreed. “Coaching is one of those layers. I don’t think I could find a sales leader who thought coaching wasn’t important, but it’s just hard to do,” he said.
“Technology has made it easier. We are going through a reinvention phase and everyone who comes out of this will be better. We will sell better than ever because we’re coaching. And now it’s at their fingertips. Most people have changed their messaging in the past few months. You have to coach them up! You have to listen to those calls and coach them up.”
The frontline managers are the true captains of the sales floor. Keeping them at the top of their game is essential for the entire revenue org’s success.
“Coaching is motivating,” said Craig. “How many times have I seen a frontline coach and a player having issues before, and then leave feeling better and more connected after a coaching session. We always wanted to do it, and now we know that we can. And the benefits are incredible.”
Jim echoed his mantra over the past few weeks: “We’re going to see the best sales in a decade,” he said.
Craig agreed. “We are going to be better coming out of this. This has been a reinvention. This is going to be great for the business community.”