The Customer Experience Podcast
The Customer Experience Podcast

Episode · 3 years ago

13. Sales Strategy Mistakes, and How to Fix Them w/ Jeremey Donovan


Your sales strategy is as much science as art. The secret is to understand how to improve the way customers buy, renew, and get retained.

Jeremey Donovan, senior vice president of sales strategy at SalesLoft, the leading sales engagement platform, is an expert in sales strategy.

His top level priority, especially in B2B, is about ROI. A prospect needs to trust that you are the right partner to help them achieve whatever their most pressing business initiative is.

We discussed:

  • The Definition of Sales Success
  • Finding a Needle in a Haystack
  • True Personalization Pays Off
  • What to Do
  • What Not to Do

I'm not talking about dynamic tag based personalization where you just drop generic stuff in there. I'm talking about true personalization where you spend, you know, does not to be a huge amount of time, five or ten minutes, going through their their social media, going looking with their company initiatives are you're listening to the customer experience podcast, a podcast dedicated to helping today's growing businesses restore a personal human touch throughout the customer life cycle. Get ready to hear how sales, marketing and customers success experts surprise and delight and never lose sign of their customers humanity. Here's your host, Ethan Butte Hey. Thank you so much for clicking play on this episode of the Customer Experience Podcast. My name is Ethan and I am so pleased to be joined by Jeremy Donovan. He's currently the senior vice president of sales strategy at sales lost, the leading sales engagement platform. He also runs their New York City office. Jeremy, welcome to the customer experience podcast. Thanks you for that's such a pleasure to be here. Yeah, and it was really excited to have you on your have such an interesting, wide ranging background in marketing, sales, a variety of product roles. You're all the also the author of five books, including predictable prospecting and how to deliver a Ted Talk. I don't know if we'll have the time to get into all of that, even though I really want to. In addition to your adjunct, faster work at Nyu, would love to talk about that, but we may not get there because we're talking customer experience today. So and before we get into that and before I ask you to define it, tell us a little bit more about yourself and about sales loft for folks who may not be familiar. Yeah, just at a high level as you described, I guess I'm a Jack of many trades and probably master of none. For the last few years I've focused really on sale strategy and what drew me there was the I have an analytical background and what drew me to sale strategy is sales, as as many disciplines before, it has become as much art, sorry, or say as much science as art. So that's really the draw for me is how can I apply analytical techniques to understanding, how to improve the way that customers by and then the way that customers were new and get retained. So that's what drew me there. And then for sales loft, to the you had a great a great overview. I was a customer of salesloft for three or four years before I joined. Love the product and what it could do to help our to help people basically orchestrate their workflow via phone, email and social and so on. So that's what drew me here. That's excellent. We are also customers of sales loft and that's chatting with one of our marketing team members out there. So I love it. He uses our chrome extension, the bomb bomb chrome extension, to record videos, drop the html into some of his emails, as the you know, as the cadence recommends, and and then that video play as a link click. That then stays in sales lot. So we love it as well. We find it really useful and so really appreciate you being on again. I always like to nail down your definition of customer experience before we go forward. I've received many really great and interesting answers, and interesting again for the variety of them. So from your perspective, when I say customer experience, where was that mean to you? Jeremy Yeah, I mean I was peeled the onion, I guess. So my top level thing in customer experience is really about about especially in B tob is really about Roi. I mean I could get touchy feely about it, but I think at the end of the day the customer experience is whether or not you actually receive the return investment that you're looking for, whether that's x x, ten X, whatever it happens to be. If I peel the onion on that, where I think maybe my answer might be a little more nuanced is I think about a pre sales customer experience, I think about a post sale customer experience and at the end of the day the measure for me is in the pre sales part of it. I really want to make sure that a prospect trusts that I am the right partner to help them achieve whatever their most pressing business initiative is,...

...and I'd love to talk more about that because that gets into differentiation. And then the measure, obviously, of success there is whether or not they buy. And then on the post sale side is heavily tied to renewal, but it's about achieving the results that they were expecting and my measure whether or not you delivered a great customer experience is whether they were new. That, to me is the ultimate test of success. And you know the I guess there's there's renewal and then there's like evangelized renewal. Right, those NPS equals ten people. Those are the ones you really want. Yeah, it's great this achieving the result. I think we're a lot of people kind of miss a little bit of the most important piece there that you offered is achieving the desired result. You know, you can do a lot of crazy, fun, over the top stuff and produce really good comments, but to your point, at the end of the day, if I'm not getting a return on the investment I made in your product or service, I'm not getting the experience that I paid for. So it's easy to fall into the like the love trap and the in the all the crazy stuff that people ca can do, but it's all of that combined that produces the experience. I want to go into your specialty here, which is again that pre sales side in particular. Talk a little bit about sales prospecting, that balance of the data driven side of it along with you know, you said trust is one of the single most important things there and there's an opportunity to differentiate. Give me a little bit on your approach to sales prospecting. Yeah, I'll probably split those, those things into two questions and I'll start with the piece, which is which is all about trust. There was a kind of popular book out right now called sales differentiation. It's one of the better books I've read in a while, and I read, I'm a book a weak person, so that one probably one of the I think Lee salt's essay, L Z is the author that one, does a really great job of saying the following right, which is think about four levels of value. The first level is is your products and features. And you know, just in our space we have competitors, in your space we have competitors and the competitors often look pretty similar. So it's it's darned hard to compete on on features and on the features of the platform. The second thing is is actually, in some ways, customer success, like everyone says they have the best customer success and and if you're a prospect, I'm on both sides right, like I buy and I sell, and it's hard for me when I'm buying to really know who has the ultimate best customer success unless you've experienced it. Then the third is Roi. Right, everyone's gotten Roi calculator. The Roi calculers pretty much all look the same, they say the same thing, they can be manipulated or even if you put in your own you know, put in your own data, it comes up with crazy great Roi. Otherwise you probably wouldn't be talking to them. So those first three levels are relatively undifferentiating and what the author talks about is the fourth level, which is he doesn't exactly put in this words, but these are the words that I put in based on my experience when I was a gartner. We should talk about it this way. We used to say that the way you truly differentiate is is for the prospect to again trust that you are the right partner to help them achieve their most pressing business initiative. And for me, if I relate that to the storytelling world, that's all about it's a show, don't tell right, you hear about that storytelling. It's a show, don't tell things. So like, how do you show somebody that you really are the right partner? A good example of maybe the way that we would do. That is today actually, I was on a call with the with the prospect and while I was on the call, I went to their website and I hit their requested demo button and then I began to track how long it took me to get a response from them and then, once I get the response, so that I can benchmark that versus all the Times I've done that, and then, once I get the response, I can actually give them constructive feedback on tuning their messaging in ways that we more effective, given the data science that we've done. So it's along with an...

...answer, but like if I deliver that report to them on their inbound response, both benchmark and best practice, I am showing them right, I'm not just telling them that I'm going to help them achieve value, I'm showing them in the pre cell process, that I can absolutely crush what they're doing. And if they if they, I'll summarize it by saying if they trust that I'm going to help them during the pre cell process, they can only imagine how much more I'll do from the for them, from an experience point of view, once they become customers. So that's kind of my take on that. That's great. How, like when in the relationship do you go to that step? Right? So the call you were on today, just kind of reverse engineer at for a minute, like what led up to that, kind of diagnosed this in and prescription and demonstration of real value. I mean, I try to do it as early as I possibly can, because right you're in a your. We are all on, with maybe the exception of, I don't know, linkedin or something like that, or Google, like we're all in and had to had competitive battle, and the earlier you can start to establish authenticity, the earlier you can start to deliver value, I think, the better. I mean, you could argue that if you try to give too much value to early that your might be wasting your time, that you're giving free consulting. You know, it's not like I'm going to go crazy to do this the but I think you should do it as early as possible and and to the extent that you can find. The Holy Grail, right, is that you can add value in ways that are relatively lightweight but high value. I think back to you know, hub spot got a great we had great traction with like they had this hub spot marketing greater or website greater. It probably still exists out there. When I was a CMO I thought that was insanely valuable because I could just put our website in and it would tell me what to do and that was a zero right. I mean they put it was, it had some fixed cost that they had to develop that, but once it was out there they got tremendous lead generation out of it and it gave a lot of value to people. So I'm always looking for things like that and to me hitting a requested demo button and benchmarking is relatively, you know, lowish effort. It's not completely audit emitted, but it's extremely high value on the other side. That's excellent. And I loved hub spot as your example there. I got matt like a decade before I was ever in a position to to subscribe to their service. I was receiving value from them. Great Name Brand, great experience all the way along and I've also used that website greater. Talk about how the team does sales prospecting for sales loft. Talk about talk about the sales loft sales team. Obviously you have a great software platform and again we're customers. What does that process look like and how do you use your home tool in that process? Yeah, sure, so, as you would imagine, given what we do, we're pretty structured and and how we do things. So I guess it starts with targeting accounts, that we have an ideal customer profile that we that we go after, right, and that's geography, size, region, the usual, sorry, geography, size and industry. That the usual con triumvirate of things, but then also things like their text ACC and and other factors. So we start out with that ideal customer profile. And then we are account based, so we assign all of those accounts out to individual sales people to engage. It's not a not a kind of a random thing there. We're very intentional about that. Then, within those accounts, right, we want to find the people within those accounts that we want to go after and we use, you know, a lot of different data platforms to identify the right people. Lately, all the day, the platform seem to all be converging, right, because discover org has been buying everything up. But my favorite for years and years has has been Zoom Info, which they too just got acquired by discover work. So all roads all rose lead there. We also obviously huge users and fans of linkedin sales navigator. So those are our basically two major people finding platforms, and then we drop those into our cadences.

So we try to follow best practice. There, you know, were you're drinking our own champagne. I guess that's the way you're supposed to say it now. So drinking our own champagne. The cadences that we have follow what a certain you know, what some experts have recommended, like Topo, who's a in sales engagement specialist research of advisory Firm. But then our own data science team. We're approaching a billion interactions that our customers have had and we comb through those, those interactions and figure out what are the best things to do. So we are tuning. We tune our subject lines based on what works. We tune our greetings based on what works, we tune the body of the email based on what works. We even tune the sign off. So I'll give you a couple of examples of that. On the subject line, we know that one word subject lines are actually the best and you shouldn't exceed for on the greeting, we know that saying saying hey and then the person's first name is better than hello or high or just using the person's for his name. So I might say Hey Ethan in the body of the email. We know you want to keep the body of the email as short as possible, but certainly no more than about a hundred words, and we know not to use bullets in the body of the email, things like that. And then in the sign off, we actually looked at all kinds of different sign offs, things like High Hey. Sorry, I think of sign off. So cheers, regards, thank you, thanks, and so on. I use regards for about twenty years and, Lo and behold regards as the second worst thing you can do. The best. The best thing you can do is actually use the word best. So now all of our emails start with hey, Ethan, a short body and then best, best, Jeremy. So that's so. So we're using those sorts of things to tune the individual language. And then we also tune what step to do, when right, when to email, when to call, when to do a social touch. So we're tuning all those things constantly. That's excellent. Talk about now how you balance the hard and soft side. I mean you're obviously deeply aware of it. You've used words like authenticity and trust, which I think we can call kind of the soft side, because it's difficult to quantify those things, although you obviously see it in the results. What's easier to see is the hard side of email reply, return, phone called, Demo set, Demo held closed one, whatever all that may be. How do you balance in this, like where do you see or experience or can you measure? Are then no, like trust, comfort, confidence, part of the particularly and in Presale? How do you balance those two in terms of you reverse engineer the trust out of what seems to be working? Yeah, I guess not. In some ways, not really. I mean I'll also split into two pieces. Right there's the top of the funnel stuff where you really don't have a lot of opportunity other than the messaging that you use to establish to establish trust, and then there's midden late funnel, where you're actually managing an opportunity and you have a lot more opportunity. You have a lot more chance to do that. So in the early part the authenticity comes from through personalization. We're without something we're especially big on. You know where we are anti mass blasting, where anti we support automation, but, but I guess we would say we support thoughtful automation to do that when it's appropriate. But if I, if i's kind of blend numbers and the hard side. In the soft side, we know that personalizing up to twenty percent of a template that you start out with for an email leads to a nearly too x higher response rate. So that just proves that that personalization right is the is the authenticity and it's I'm not talking about about dynamic tag based personalization where you just drop generic stuff in there. I'm talking about true personalization where you spent, you know, does not to be a huge amount of time, five or ten minutes, going through their they're so social media, going looking with their... initiatives. Are Looking at a k or en Q, like really doing something that a that most machines really can't possibly can't possibly pull off. It's like what you did before. We talked looking at my linkedin profile and the books that I've written and so on. Like you know, you can learn a lot about me with my with my digital footprint. So we'll try to we'll try to do that. I think once you're engaged in the opportunity, like yes, there is sales process that you need to follow. But what does it people say that you know people, they buy on emotion and they justify on, you know, on Oro I and data, and I think that is very true. I do think you buy from people that you you know, you know and like and trust, even when you know, even in the business to business context, if I'm buying something, especially if it's something big, I know that my job might depend on the success of that purchase. So I got to really trust that you're going to be there for me. Yes, they're. They're just deeply, deeply intertwined. That's a great passage with a ton of great takeaways. By the way, I'm going to have to double back on that just to pick up what you've learned from a billion, a billion different interactions and touch points. So again, you've led teams in marketing, sales, product strategy, new product development, product management, market research acquisitions. I think you're in a unique position, relative to myself and some of my other guests to kind of see holistically the end and nature of the customer experience and where all those connections and handoffs are. Do you have any tips for folks on structuring or managing or measuring or deftly handing off from one person to another inside the organization is the relationship evolves. Do you have any kind of high level just from your from your per view over several functions that deeply affect the customer experience? Do you have anything to offer there is as a high level ideas or strategies or even a specific story? Yeah, I mean, I like that question to the bout. A bunch of thoughts were coming to me during the you know, during the course of the of the engagement that you have with someone for the whole life cycle, I guess, Customer Life Cycle from even before they buy. I think the most critical one that I would assume you know, your listeners and other guests have probably talked about in the past is that handoff from sales to customer success or from hunt you know, the hunters, to the farmers, to account management, whatever you call the function, and I think that's so often broken and the frustration on the customer part is to make sure that that all the stuff that they shared with you during the presale processes communicated afterwards. I used to work for a company called CB insights and I thought they were really great at that handoff process, and one of the things that they did was that they had basically a dossier that the account executive would have to fill out with a prescribed set of questions of things that they had learned during the sales process, and they handed that off to the customer success folks. And, you know, in that handoff they would do a meeting in advance to make sure that the customer success person was fully ramped and wasn't asking the same questions that had been asked before. I think having some sort of structure around that as incredibly is incredibly powerful, whether that's just in a we know, we tried different things when I was there. We tried it in sales force, we tried it in documents and I think in the end, like the document was was perfectly sufficient. Better that it's in sales force for the long term, but but, you know, less clunky or yeah, in some ways less clunky in a document. So I think that's a that's a critic. That's probably the most critical handoff. Two more came to mind. The second one that came to mind is is I lived through times where we moved accounts, you know, like, let's say you went from a non geographic or non end it less industries, even better, and non industry based Customer Success...

Team, and you wanted to segment them by industry, right, because you thought that was a better thing to do. One thing I've learned over the course of my career is like don't if you're going to do that, do it gradually, right. Don't just move all your customers because that's going to break so many relationships and you're solving an internal problem but not so necessarily solving an external problem. So what I've tended to do with those kinds of transitions is to say, okay, you know, I've got customer success person. You know Wilma, Fred and Bam Bam. I'm going to use the Flintstones, I guess, and I've got those three people and maybe Wilma's going to be tech companies, Fred's going to be pharmaceutical companies and Bambat's going to be financial services companies. As new accounts come on, I'm going to assign the new accounts based on those industries to those people, but I'm not going to do a big move of all the existing accounts to align that overnight. That I've seen go badly too many times. So that that's another kind of handoff. Thing, is that you just don't assume that you can hand off so easily. And if you do need to do it, handoff after the renewal happens, right. You don't want to hand off made contract. Do it after the renewal. The customer still pissed. I mean, I know I've been handed off post renewal and I don't like it, but I understand it. You know what I mean. And there and and that new person has a year to deliver value to me. That's too and then I promise three. The third one, which I think is still broken almost everywhere is the relationship between product and the customer. Righte the the product team really needs access to customers, either directly or indirectly through the sales team, to get feedback on what's going on, and I think far too often there's a big disconnect between between those, you know, between those folks. I think the Best I've seen that MIS sales, sales. I don't want to overtalk sales loft, so I'm trying to use other examples from the other part of my career. One of the Best I've seen. That was definitely a gardener that we were extremely intentional about getting directly to the customer to understand what was working what wasn't working so we could make improvements. But what was still missing, though, and what's often missing, is that link between between the customer, successor sales team and product and I don't know if you have an answer that I'd loved. I'd love some insight on on how to do that better. But that's a universal problem. I think I completely agree. You know, we tried just by we try to break down while so we're about a hundred and twenty people here at bombomb and certainly we're not expert at that either, but really it just starts with breaking down silos through exposure and communication. We don't really have any formal processes, but product is we evolved product and put some product managers into place specifically for everything that is to be and another manager over everything that already is. You know, one who's forward looking and building in the other one who is maintaining and improving and revising. Once we got that nuance and got a couple great women in those positions, that really kind of opened it up for more and better feedback. But it's still as you said, extremely difficult. It's broken in most places. Yeah, Hey, I would love to do an entire episode on presentation skills. You've written books on it. I'm sure it plays a major role in the sales function as well as probably the CS function. Just some basic skills that are transferable throughout someone's Day or week. But in honor of letting people go at the end of their workout or at the end of their run or their lunchtime walk, you know, we try to keep this to about twenty to thirty minutes. I always like to give people because relationships are our number one core value here and I always like to give you an opportunity to think or mention a person or multiple people who've had a really positive impact on your life or on your career and and to give a shout out. You've already given a couple with hub spot and CV insights, but give a shout out to another company that you think is doing customer experience very well. Yeah, I mentioned Gardner just before... well. I'm in gardeners is both is maniacal about process driven customer experience and they know when to engage a customer in order to maximize the probability of the customer will renew. So I think from a from a data driven point of view, that's a good one. And I was trying to remember. I had like the great be to see customer experience lately where somebody followed up with me for a service that they didn't even you know, really have to and I wish I could remember the tough off top of my head, but I think that's the I think that's the thing. Is like when you give that really human touch to people that they're not expecting. That, I think, is the are the breakthrough experiences. So I although I can't remember the one and I'm embarrassed, like Cax, I was thinking, wow, that was that was pretty insane and I was going to I don't know, I don't I'm very limited in the social media that I that I use, but I was going to somehow try to figure out to put it up on social media. But I think that's it. It's it's delivering unexpected value occasionally well, and that human touch piece is is the thing. We talked about it a little bit here and even a little bit more pre recording, about finding those spots when you did and you did it while here and talking about what are the things that add a lot of value or, in this case, of really significant impact, that aren't super heavy weight. It's going to be difficult to cost justify those in an immediate sense. Like if someone made a personal touched you. Let's just say you spent in the scenario you just offered fifty or a hundred dollars. You know, it might it might be difficult to cost justify it, but through word of mouth, repeat purchasing, etc. A systematic approach to that would be almost certainly roy positive. Oh yeah, I just remembered it, by the way. Okay, yeah, so it was I was just stalling there, so it would be. Yeah, it's great. So I just remembered as some I needed one of my son's was park somewhere and and the car got hit while he was inside, you know, inside the building, and so I needed some autobody repair. So it was actually the autobody place and it's it's, you know, just like any single, you know, owner, operator autobody place. You go into and they like I felt that they had my best interest in mind. Right. A lot of people worry about that kind of experience. I felt like the the owner operator. The guy's name is John scully. I thought that he had my best interest in mind, like he was finding ways to save money on the repair, because this one I was going to do out of pocket to, you know, to avoid affecting my insurance, and he found ways to do things that we're super unusual. And he was advising me on not to make certain repairs because because the car wasn't wasn't worth those repairs. Who Does that, right? That? So that to me was unexpected value, right, it was it. He was saving me money and he could have taken me to the cleaners because I was willing to do whatever he's he said. I mean that's kind of a I operate on a on a trust. Then verify principle most of the time, and maybe I shouldn't, but I think most people, I think you can read most people accurately and I think most people have a good heart, you know, like that guy knows that his business depends on referrals, even if I don't go back to him. So yeah, I think that's the sort of thing. It was like unexpected customer care. I love that story. It's exactly right. He'll take more money down the line by not taking unnecessary money. Today. This has been a great conversation. I've enjoyed it so much and again I would love to have you back to talk presentation skill bills, because they're so valuable. If someone wants to follow up with you and or with sales loft, what are a couple ways they might do that? Yeah, the best way to get me is definitely linkedin. I have one form of social media I use and that's it. So just look for Jeremy Donovan on Linkedin. I have three ease in my first name. A little unusual, but it's Jeremy, so connect with me there. I'll accept your connection and would love to love... get to know you. Awesome. Thanks, and I assume sales loft. Is it SALESOFTCOM? Yeah, super easy. Okay, awesome. Thank you so much for your time and your insights today. It was excellent. I really really value your time and I hope all the listeners do as well. Thanks, what a great pleasure than thank you. You're listening to the customer experience podcast. No matter your role in delivering value and serving customers, you're entrusting some of your most important and valuable messages to faceless digital communication you can do better. rehumanize the experience by getting face to face through simple personal videos. Learn more and get started free at bomb bombcom. You've been listening to the customer experience podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player or visit bombombcom. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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