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Design the Sale
33 minutes | Mar 25, 2019
"People want to buy from people in their neighborhood”: Ian Markowitz (The Grommet)
Episode notes: you don't always know how to help someone, at firstOn the latest Design The Sale show, Ian Markowitz from The Grommet joined me to talk about how their sales team builds customer relationships for the long haul.In case you missed it:Listen on iTunesListen on OvercastListen on the webAt The Grommet, the Wholesale sales team helps independent makers and entrepreneurs promote and sell their products by connecting them with brick-and-mortar retail stores. Their relationships with both entrepreneurs and retailers are built to last, because they have to be.As Ian points out:…It’s not just the one-off sales process that most B2B sales traditionally is. It’s a much longer and continuous and evolutionary sales process, where even if you lose the opportunity on one product, we’ve got a catalog of hundreds of different product lines that we can continue to be selling into. And oftentimes part of it is just surfacing the right product to the right retailer at the right time… it’s a little bit art and it’s a little bit science, and it’s also a little bit of knowing the accounts that you have, and working with them closely to drive that sales process even further.The cliché is that it’s easier to sell to the customers you already have than it is to sell to a new one. After talking with Ian, I wonder if that’s less about the customer knowing you, and more about you knowing the customer. Knowing when to show up, what to bring to the table, and how to drive the conversation is not something that you can do easily in a brand new relationship. It takes time, and maybe even a few calls and meetings that don’t go anywhere.In the early stages of designing a product, you “optimize for learning.” You don’t get (too) sad or frustrated when your initial concepts get negative feedback from users, because the feedback itself is the point. As you learn more about what your users want, you’re able to refine your offering and come back with a different design approach.Similarly, in a long-term customer relationship, there are two things that you’re trying to build over time: 1) Your customer’s knowledge of you, and 2) your knowledge of the customer. Sending “just checking in” emails (guilty!) does neither of these things. Sending over white papers, blog articles, and other content marketing helps with the first. But giving your customer time to talk to you about the challenges they’re facing, in a non-sales, zero-pressure context, might be the gold standard to achieve both at the same time — and bonus points if you can add value to the conversation through your expertise, without always pushing your product or service as a solution.Individual relationships don’t scale. But knowing your customer does. If you bring what you learn back to your sales team and feed it into your shared brain, you’ll make them better at helping to identify common customer problems. If you bring it to your marketing team, they’ll get smarter about how to find customers, and about what messaging will resonate. If you bring it to your product or services team, they’ll create solutions that address customer needs more effectively.Of course, that assumes that you can get anyone to listen. But that’s probably a topic for another day.Design the Sale is a show about selling smarter using lessons from the worlds of design and technology.Subscribe to get post-show notes (like what you read above) and episode updates in your inbox every week.
35 minutes | Mar 18, 2019
"These people know a lot about pillows": JH Forster and Erin May (UserInterviews.com)
Episode notes: customer interviews & the listening mindsetOn the latest Design The Sale show, John-Henry Forster and Erin May from UserInterviews.com joined me to talk about how sales teams can use customer interviews to improve the sales process.In case you missed it:Listen on iTunesListen on OvercastListen on the webThe conversation got me thinking about how much we miss when our customers are speaking to us, because we aren't in the right mindset to hear it.On the show, Erin talked about how the Head of Sales at UserInterviews.com began sitting in on UX research interviews with their users and customers.Now, sales people talk to customers every day — often more than product and design people do. What could a sales person have to learn from a UX research session?But turning off that "sales lens" put him in a different frame of mind. He was able to hear things that he'd never heard before, and feed that knowledge into improving how his team approached customers.In a way, he had been falling into the same trap as design teams do during user testing: we want our design to be the right one, so too often we subtly guide our user toward giving us the answers we want to hear. But then, when it comes time to use the product, it doesn't work the way that it should.Similarly, when you're selling, you're probably listening only for problems you have a ready-made solution to. Instead, try spending some time with your research hat on: what are your customers really saying? What are the root causes of the challenges they're facing? And, most importantly, what can we do better as a company to help?That could mean refining your sales process to help your customers make decisions. It could mean updating your marketing materials so your customers come to you with a better understanding of the problems they have. Or it could even mean changing something in your product itself to make it easier to buy.Sales and product are both trying to solve problems by talking to people and learning from them. They have a lot to learn from each other, too.Design the Sale is a show about selling smarter using lessons from the worlds of design and technology.Subscribe to get post-show notes (like what you read above) and episode updates in your inbox every week.FULL TRANSCRIPT:Erin May: Hi, I'm Erin May. I am the VP of Marketing at User Interviews, and we are a toolset that helps researchers, product managers, designers, anyone who wants to talk to their users, to do that through recruiting, logistics, we have a CRM to build your own panel, lots of cool stuff. So that's what we do. John-Henry Forster: And I'm John-Henry Forster. I'm the VP of Product at User Interviews. And Erin already explained what we do, so, I think I'm good Geordie Kaytes: Cool. So, how does User Interviews come in to the sales process? Where do you guys, where have you seen the talking with users and — or customers — and understanding their perspective, how do you see that fitting in, in your experience? John-Henry Forster: I think in the simplest sense, user research is cool in the sense of, it has a title now which kind of elevates the craft. The downside of that is, I think, it can make it seem like a little intimidating. Because really, at its simplest, if you want to learn something about somebody, a good way to do that is to speak to them and listen to them.And so when you're thinking about any sort of process you're trying to optimize, going out and talking to the people affected is a pretty good way to get more context on how you might be able to go about doing that. And so I think sales falls into that bucket very cleanly for me: if you want to understand someone's motivations, what their problems are, and so just going and finding a way to talk to them is a pretty good way to level up your understanding of what they care about.Geordie Kaytes: Do you guys have a couple of examples that you have seen sales being enabled or helped by talking with users or customers through your platform?Erin May: Yeah, I think traditionally — and what still you're seeing a lot of which is great — is that sales is kind of the department always talking to users and customers, and would-be customers. And so ideally they're bringing in a lot of signal and feedback into the other teams that way. But we're starting to see feedback loops happening across teams in a sort of omnidirectional fashion. So you're seeing when a user research team might want to go out and talk to your prospects, or people like the ideal customer who isn't already a customer, they're then bringing that feedback back to the sales team, so that they can use those insights to inform the language that they're using, how they're selling, and things like that.So you're starting to see, I think, the different feedback that different teams are getting through their various processes, all coming together so that everyone can take advantage of it.Geordie Kaytes: And what's the difference between the feedback that product people will get on a user interview, versus what sales people would get just from talking with prospects and customers? Obviously, besides the fact that prospects and customers are not necessarily same people as users, is there any difference in the nature of the conversations in the types of things that you're trying to understand?Erin May: Well, I think that one thing that sales teams have really started to borrow from product teams is a focus on listening, and on value selling. So, starting with understanding what are the underlying problems and needs of the customer, and then getting into kind of what's the right solution, given that reality?And so I think that demos are starting to take more of a consultative and a listening format. But to your question, you're going to get different information based on the goals of those different kinds of interviews. A demo is still, you know, a sales opportunity, and so that is kind of the underlying agenda there, whereas in a product setting, I think the agenda really is to learn and to validate, and so I do think that gives you sometimes broader and less biased insights. Geordie Kaytes: Do you ever run into cases where someone who's used to doing a sales call will be trying to do a user interview and try to sell them? Or vice versa — I actually find myself doing this a lot, where when I'm actually trying to sell, I'm so used to doing user interviews that I find myself not really... Not really selling. I find myself doing a lot of just pure information gathering, and then the person kinda walks away being like, "Well, I feel like I didn't learn very much from that conversation."Erin May: I say we've done a lot of research at — we call it "Research at UI" which is our initiative where everyone here at User Interviews participates in user research to the extent that they have time and interest, and so our Head of Sales has been part of that, and has spoken to how kind of disarming and enlightening and cool it's been to turn off that sales lens, and to really only focus — and he's like the coolest sales guy, you know, not a not a pushy person — but, you know to kind of have to, you know, turn that voice down and not try to sell. And that when you do that, you do open yourself to learning. So I think that it's been really cool for him, not just to learn more about our customers without trying to sell at the same time, but also to inform future demos based on those learnings. John-Henry Forster: We have one user of User Interviews I'm not going to name, but I think it depends on the business. They have a very specific target customer that they need to find in a very specific stage of their life.And so, we're able to help find them for them, and they're able to get great feedback, but I've spoken to him afterwards and he's like, "It's really hard at the end of it not to be like, hey, do you want to follow up with like some real stuff?" Because the targeting of their profile is really hard. And so, you know, that's where our tool is useful. But I think if you're in that case, where it's really hard to find your exact user, it's hard to turn off that instinct. Whereas if your users are more common, like anybody can maybe use your service or app, I think it might be a little bit easier to resist that urge.Geordie Kaytes: Sure. Yeah because you're not — you don't feel like you don't have a scarcity mindset around, "Oh my God, if I let this person off the phone, this is it for the week."John-Henry Forster: Yeah, exactly. If you're if the leads aren't kind of flowing in, it's hard to let one slip through your fingers. Geordie Kaytes: Yep. Yep. Do you ever notice a difference between — when you're trying to get product and sales to talk to each other and do that great interchange of contact with customers and learning from from their conversation — is there any cultural divide or difficulty in that communication? Just based on the way that salespeople and product people differ, and how they like to approach conversations, and the tooling that they like to use to talk to each other?John-Henry Forster: That's a great question. I think... I think we've heard some of the guests on our podcast Awkward Silences, where they've shared the notion of just starting together. Like if you're starting down a path of learning, or a new product feature or research, getting everybody in the room from the start, even if they're not going to be involved throughout the process, does a lot for shared understanding and feeling like you're on the same team later. And so I think to the extent that you want to offset it, that's one strategy, but it's... I think where you see it a lot, at least in my experience on product stuff, is when you start getting into anything to do with pricing. Like how you might package a set of features, or how you might let users use them or trial them. I think that's where you can get pretty different perspectives between those those
36 minutes | Mar 11, 2019
"Put your face in front of your customer's face": Networking and knowing your customer with Nicolas Warren
Nicolas Warren has had a long and diverse sales career, most recently with Valencia Realty Capital. In this show, we discuss: How the real value of networking is about understanding your customers, not collecting business cards What to do when your company's sales culture doesn't match your personal values and priorities Whether product and engineering teams are doomed to think in decibels and megapixels, instead of in the terms that customers actually care about FULL TRANSCRIPT:Geordie Kaytes: Nic, I’ve known you a long time now, and it seems like you’re always working on something new. Can you kick us off by introducing yourself and what you’ve been up to in your career?Nic Warren: I'm Nicholas Warren and I have had a variety of professional experiences.I started a software company right when I graduated college and took a software platform through a venture-backed accelerator and continued a career in software, from digital agencies to eventually working at SCVNGR which evolved into LevelUp here in Boston. And while I was there, I began a consumer retail product called Perfect Fuel, which we scaled in the New England area, eventually into 34 states before selling the brand to a holding company, and since then have wanted to focus on the real estate industry and alternative investment specifically. And, I feel that moving across these these different industries, these different types of business has really been an interesting learning process for me on how different sales methodologies are still relevant to each one, but implemented in different ways. So it's a pleasure to talk to you today Geordie.Geordie Kaytes: Yeah, you're underselling the Perfect Fuel a little bit. You had quote unquote "healthy chocolate," that you managed to get carried by Whole Foods, if I remember, right? Nic Warren: Yeah, it was. That's definitely a good, a fantastic customer. I respect them a lot. They are certainly all about what... They practice what they preach, and having chocolate, something delicious, and then something that's healthy, they definitely picked up what I was putting down. Geordie Kaytes: That's awesome. So your latest role is in real estate investing. What makes that industry unique or different from where you’ve been before?Nic Warren: It is the relationship business of all relationships, where people, to be really successful in this, is you know, after several years, five years even, of hard networking and laying the things in order. Like joining the right exclusive social clubs, joining the right athletic clubs, vacationing in the right places, and building years of networking, and that your success is a combination of of putting yourself in the right place, putting yourself in a lead's way.Geordie Kaytes: Yeah, that's interesting because I would think that that would be a pretty... Not just a long game, but also a not very reliable game. In the sense that... Nic Warren: A volatile game, yeah.Geordie Kaytes: Yeah, I mean you're... ok, well, we're going to send people over to join this country club or you know, whatever but that like almost feels like, are we even guaranteed that a single customer is going to be at that place? You know, I maybe it's... If you're just doing you know, if anyone who has investable assets could potentially be a customer then maybe that's a little broader and might work a little bit better. But, you know a lot of a lot of B2B or complex sales have extremely tightly defined customer targets, so maybe that would be less appropriate for that kind of thing. That's interesting, because I think a lot of people don't think about putting themselves in the context of the customer or the potential customer in an informal way. And do you think there's something there around just immersing yourself in the customer's life, and actually understanding them a little bit better, so that you can sell to them? It's not just physically being there, right? I think if you join the right clubs and do networking in that way, the goal isn't just to put your face in front of the customers face, right? It's... There's something there around trying to...Nic Warren: Trying to build trust. It's trying to somewhat be there physically. And there are certain adages that are shared within the industry about how simply, in sales, just showing up as 90% of the job. And making the call, the sale is half done. But I guess put you at 95% there, then there's only that last five percent that is actually executing, and making sure you have a proper product-market fit, and closing a deal. So these are these are less products, and they probably are even looser and less less adherent to defined methodologies for a sales process, and much more about understanding the soft skills, relationship skills, and the things that probably separate the people who are are in the "relationship and trust-building consultative" sales, and the "try and call the right people to get in on the right phone number to get to an executive and do B2B" sales if you're trying to meet someone at a Fortune 500 company, right? Some things have to be done in person physically, face-to-face. Geordie Kaytes: Yeah. Yeah, you talked about spending some time really getting deeply integrated into the community with your customers and knowing them on a social level, but does that work when you are trying to make hundreds of sales per year? Do the numbers add up, or in cases like that are you just going to end up spending too much time on on developing social relationships maybe that could pay off a couple of years from now, but aren't quick enough turnaround or scalable enough to deliver on the numbers that you need in the shorter term?Nic Warren: So I think it is quantifiable. And lists are made, lists of touch points are created even for long-term multi-year opportunities, and I see that where I observe rules of thumb. People talk about how long they've been in commercial real estate, and even talking with companies that that are hiring and the way they hire people, they set clear expectations. For example at one top-tier investment brokerage firm, i t is very well known that salespeople could have one deal, one sale a year, when they begin. And that to get that falls anywhere between 12 and 24 months, and they further set the expectations with people by saying, so just so we're clear, we all know it's that that long. So after nine months if there hasn't been one, no one is worried. And furthermore, as many people as are in your Rolodex, we will compare by: after a year, you should have a certain multiple of how many people are there, so you can check in and make sure you're doing all right, but it's only a matter of time. And and that's one of the reasons why they they set people's expectations by saying, expect to save up before you come and work here, have the expectation that you want to have six months, twelve months of — or greater — of money in the bank to support your sales process. Because your your time is up to you. So that, I believe, is a different numbers game. You can check in with rules of thumb about all the lists you're making, but that when you're relying on not an accumulation of small sales, it's up to the people, the experienced people in the industry, who are going to let you know if you're doing well or not based on based on the much larger numbers you put down.Geordie Kaytes: Yeah, the idea... I think some people might be uncomfortable even with the idea of trying to develop really deep social relationships with people ultimately that you you hope to sell to. Do you ever run into that, or feel like you're kind of "using" people, instead of actually developing genuine relationships with them, or how does that work in the mind of someone who's really able to do this successfully? How do you balance that?Nic Warren: So, that's a good point. It's not so much an idea of whether or not you're "using" people. A lot of the time that you're thinking in your head, what's processing is, "how can I help someone?" Because obviously there's a deal to be made, and people are actively networking with an agenda in mind.But I do believe in order to be successful, you have to have a certain degree of discipline in knowing whether or not I'm wasting my time, or I'm wasting the other person's time, because if you were hard-selling someone onto something — and it's very difficult to talk someone into allocating a portion of investment money towards something new — if they're not feeling it, they're not going to do it. But also you, yourself, are you wasting your own time? . So are you are you "using" someone? No, because you're coming with an offering of something that could potentially give them an opportunity, and opportunity is not a bad word. If you say, "Hey, here's an opportunity. Obviously, I will facilitate it, because often there are licenses and jurisdictions and things in play." There are very clear terms of engagement. And if this is an opportunity for you, I can only help you. If not, then then we'll just have beers but because we're in the same place having these beers, we can have a genuine experience and then you'll think of me when you are in need of a new opportunity, and I might just have one. And you know the the specific area of my practice where I could potentially give you an opportunity that you would like. So you can all go taketake a day on the boat. You can all go have beers and develop the relationships, because it may be yours in the future. And it's not disingenuous to to have a good experience and be the one who someone has in mind when they're in the mood for an opportunity. Geordie Kaytes: And so I'm kind of hearing that you have to believe in the product, right? You have to genuinely believe that what you're offering is an awesome opportunity for someone, and selling it is more a matter of helping out a friend that you've developed a relationship with, rather than trying to close a prospect. Nic Warren:
30 minutes | Mar 4, 2019
"We're gonna sell our way right to the apocalypse": AI in the sales process with Adam Honig (Spiro.ai)
Adam Honig is the CEO and founder of Spiro. In this show, we discuss: Why Adam hates old-school sales CRMs (and why you should too) The role that AI-enabled tools like Spiro can play in the sales process Why salespeople (and podcast hosts!) shouldn't worry about AI taking their jobs anytime soon FULL TRANSCRIPT:Geordie Kaytes: Adam, can you give us a quick rundown of what Spiro does? Adam Honig: Sure. So, you know, we really hate the term CRM, and I think anybody who's ever had the misfortune to actually use CRM probably hates it as well.And so we don't think of ourselves as a CRM is matter of fact, we think of ourselves as a software application that's designed to really kill CRM. And what do we mean by that? We believe that any time that the sales rep is doing data entry is wasted selling time. We believe that if you know the software is not proactively doing data entry reminding salespeople who they should be following up with and basically making their life easier so the sales team can be much more productive, you shouldn't be using it. And that's what's Spiro does, and it was kind of born from the the idea that using all this great AI technology that's out there today, we can read a sales reps e-mails back and forth with customers we can use that data to create contacts, to create companies, to update opportunities. When you send a proposal to a customer, why can't the sales stage just be shifted to "Proposed," for god sakes, and stuff like that. And so basically doing all of the CRM "shit work," basically, the salespeople have to do, automatically for them in the background with a platform that then learns from that, and makes great recommendations about who the next person that you should call and email is. That's, in a nutshell, kind of what we're about.Geordie Kaytes: Cool. And how did this all come about? I know you sounded like you had some frustrations with the basic CRM throughout your career? Adam Honig: Well, it's true. I mean I so I've been working in CRM for about 20 years at this point, and my last company grew to be one of the largest consulting partners of Salesforce.com's before I sold that company 2012. And we worked with thousands of companies, you know and the story was the same, you know, they would spend millions of dollars trying to get Salesforce to be customized for their needs, and then months later, like 10% of sales people would be using it! And it would be the same complaints over and over again. We had a whole army of people who focus on what we call "change management," which was basically tricking salespeople into how to use CRM, it was terrible. You know, I would present at conferences, and I would say, "Hey, how many people are using Salesforce? How many people like it? And you know, some guy threw something at me. That was kind of like level of — it's terrible — what this one guy said to me, "I feel like I'm in a bad relationship with Salesforce. All it does is take." You know, and I'm like God, so you know I spent 20 years of my professional life focused on this one thing that everybody hated it. Ugh! It was terrible.And so then you know, I sold the company. And that was fine. And I went to go see a movie. I don't know if you're familiar with the movie "Her" at all? Geordie Kaytes: Yes, oh, with Joaquin Phoenix? Adam Honig: Joaquin Phoenix, he plays a man in the not-too-distant future who downloads a new operating system onto his phone which is all AI. Now, of course, it's played by the voice of Scarlett Johansson.She doesn't actually appear in the movie, it's just her voice is enough to make Joaquin Phoenix fall in love with her. And, basically, she reads all this data, gives him advice, helps them out throughout his life, and it's an amazing experience for him. And I'm watching this movie and I'm like, "Oh my God, this is what sales people need. They don't need Salesforce, they need Scarlett Johansson telling them what to do all day," and so that's how we started Spiro, with that vision. Unfortunately ScarJo wasn't available. She was like having a baby or something like that. So, you know, we never really got her involved in the project. But that idea is how we came up with with Spiro. Geordie Kaytes: So I think there's a lot of misconceptions about — and given that you took it from a sci-fi movie — there's probably some misconceptions about what AI is capable of these days. Do you ever run into people think that it can either do more than it can, or they just don't even understand what it's capable of?Adam Honig: Oh, like every day. Like any time people say, "Oh, you're in AI! I need an AI to help me make better meals at home." I'm like, okay, that sounds great. Or you know, "I really need AI to be my assistant to help me do everything in my law practice," and I'm just like, whaaaat... You know, I don't know what that's all about. What we use AI for, let me just give you an example.So our AI, we use a part of AI that's called "natural language processing." And it basically, when you make a call with Spiro, it's listening to your call so we can take notes for you, and it can help you create reminders about things that you told a prospect you're going to do. And I know sales people should be able to do that by themselves, but it's great to have help. That's a difficult problem to solve, you know, and it's it's in a very narrow domain, because the kind of things that salespeople will do as a next step, I mean, "We're going to set up another meeting," you know, "We're going to send you some information," "We're going to prepare a quote," there's a finite number of things that will actually happen so at least we're playing in that, and that's a hard problem. But to have like this generalized AI C-3PO just walking around, you know, giving you advice and telling you what to do? That is some crazy town stuff man. That kind of problem is super hard, and I think it's going to be a long time. So if people are saying, "Oh, AI is going to take over my job. They're not going to need me to be a salesperson because there's going to be AI doing it," forget about it, that's going to be a long, long time before there's AI-powered podcast hosts who could just do your job here . I don't think that's coming at us anytime soon. Geordie Kaytes: This job's not that hard. (Laughing) So, the AI itself, how much you have to train it? How much do you have to tell it what your sales process is, versus how much does it kind of detect it and learn on its own?Adam Honig: Yeah, so the way that we built Spiro, so — all AI technologies, are essentially experience-based, and so they learn by building a model of what they predict is going to happen and refine that model over time — so we when we first launched Spiro, we trained it with 15,000 sales reps who are using the product for over a year to make sure that we had all of the algorithms tuned and everything working properly. And fortunately for those folks, they all got to use the product for free while we did it and and we'd literally quiz them on how well Spiro is doing.So every time we said, "Hey, you know, the data says you should call Joe," they would call Joe, and then we'd say, "How good was that recommendation?" We got the user validation up to about 93% and then we felt like that was very good, about as good as it was probably possible to make it. And that's when we decided that we were ready for Primetime with the product.So there was a very long training process, in your words. Now, when you start using Spiro right out of the box, the algorithms and the approach that it's going to be using is based upon that data set that we used. But, as you use it more, Spiro learns. And so, for example, if they take somebody who said — just a crazy example — somebody who's selling Boeing 777s, their sales cycle is probably like 10 years. Or, you got a guy who's selling cars, it's about a day. So, Spiro's going to learn that sales cycle by seeing when deals closed.And the frequency of interaction, just to give you one example, is going to change based upon how long that sales cycle is. Maybe if you've got a year-long sales cycle, you need to speak to your prospects every month or so, until it's getting closer to the sale. Maybe if you have a one-week sales process, you better be calling them every day, otherwise, it's never going to happen. So Spiro starts to learn those things about the individual sales team's approach to things, and it folds that into the way that it recommends action.Geordie Kaytes: How does it deal with when you've got to talk with more than one person over on the client side, when you've got a team of buyers?Adam Honig: Yeah. Well, this is really interesting. So, a very common problem in sales for for many many organizations, of course, is that you and I go meet with Staples, and we're trying to go sell them something, and there's five people there, but there's one person that we think is really the buyer and we focus on her. Now, what Spiro does, because it's automatically capturing contact information — like in this particular example, it knows because all of these other people were in the meeting invite for that meeting that we had, it will go ahead and create them as contacts in Spiro — and as you're starting your reach out to Staples in this particular example, it's rotating around the different people that it thinks that you should talk to, and it notices the responses that you're getting from different people, and it's making sure that you're getting the full picture of the deal. Now, you can basically literally say to Spiro, "Hey, listen this person, you know, they're not involved in the sale. I don't ever need to talk to them," whatever. But by default, it's going to make sure that you've got account coverage, to make sure you really know what's going on. Geordie Kaytes: So, when you've gotten Spiro involved in really complex multi-phase sales processes, it seems to be able to handle those just a
61 minutes | Feb 25, 2019
"Put it in Jira please": B2B selling in a fast-moving startup with Ryan Fennerty (General Assembly)
Ryan Fennerty is an enterprise Account Director at General Assembly. In this show, we discuss: Selling a rapidly-evolving product to an enterprise market that may not always be moving at your speed Knowing how to balance "getting in the door" with a pilot, versus holding out for the big sale Keeping sales, marketing, and product aligned through good communication practices Creating and improving your B2B sales playbook over time FULL TRANSCRIPT:Geordie Kaytes: Hey Ryan, thanks for coming on the show. Do you want to give us a little background before we get started about who you are, what General Assembly is, and what you guys do over there?Ryan Fennerty: Yeah, cool. So I'll start with just what GA is and why it exists. So, General Assembly, the big picture problem it sets out to tackle is essentially what everyone calls the "skill gap," and it's particularly acute in roles in technology because the traditional higher education system hasn't really specialized in helping people transition into technology careers without a lot of friction costs along the way. So, for example, you used to have to go and get a Master's in Computer Science if you hadn't done it undergrad to enter that field. Data science, very similarly, anyone who wanted to be a quantitative researcher often was a PhD path. And so, where General Assembly started was a consumer business focused on helping people make the on-ramp into tech if they didn't have a tech background.And so probably the first examples of that were people who knew they were analytical, didn't have a STEM background, and wanted to become developers, but felt like their only option was law school. And so that's how the bootcamp business got its first legs, and GA was one of the early folks in that. So since then though, all the energy in the industry and the space has shifted towards Enterprise and B2B, and the reason is that we've had an incredible economic bull run, but then also digital transformation went from being a buzzword that everyone was keeping an eye on, to feeling like a really existential threat for companies.They felt that every part of their — whether it was their supply chain or their go-to-market model, everything was being disrupted and digitized and they didn't have the innate skill sets. Both hard skills, just like people who are able to do things like product management, data engineering, full stack web development, things that kind of were always well known within Silicon Valley and work core roles in digital-first companies that were natively digital, like Google, Airbnb, all these large companies were like now we need to build that skill set. And secondly they needed to understand, h ow do you get all the leaders, and the people are already in senior roles, understanding how to manage people with those skill sets as they come in, because that's not their core competency. So anyways, in the year and a half that I've been at GA, I would say that I joined a broader business that was pre IPO as a whole, but I joined the Enterprise business which really had like one or two anchor clients that were experimenting on how to do what we call reskilling, which is repurposing and changing the roles in an organization at scale, so we're talking about a thousand people at a time. And so I joined the Enterprise business when it was probably the equivalent of like a Series A start-up, if that. So I had a few anchor clients. We had a suspicion that like what we'd done in consumer could be grafted on to working with an enterprise directly, but that that was a model we had to test and figure out whether we could scale it. And so, for the year and a half I've been in an enterprise sales role we've been trying to figure out like what value do we uniquely provide to our clients? What's the best way to deliver that value? How should we price and package that? How do we find the people who believe in that value and want to buy it, and it how do we guide them to buy? And so we've got this entire process in real time, you know, in addition to figuring out what — like in SaaS, you would say is like one of the first things you need to figure out is — what's your customer success model?How do you make sure that once you get them into your ecosystem they stay, and they want to keep using you. Because I think one of the hardest things in B2B is, everyone is trying to get into the Fortune 500. Everyone is trying to target the same buyers. CIOs. CTOs. It is crowded. And so, once you get one, once you have their ear and you have their attention and they start working with you, you have to do everything you can to keep them in the ecosystem, because the cost of getting them to that point is so high.This is famously why large enterprise sales technology organizations had these big moats through sales forces, like Cisco and Oracle. They'd have these expensive sales guys who are paid $300,000 a year who just had incredible rolodexes, and were always there at the client site. And all the startups had to figure out, like, we're never going to be able to do that, so we got to figure out another way to get in front of them. So anyways, that's the intro. My role specifically is I'm a senior sales representative on the team. And so I was one of the first people brought on to try and sell when we made the pivot to this model. There had been an existing sales team, to be clear, a lot of senior sales people had been there selling what essentially was like a workshop-type product.But then when I joined along with a couple other senior sales people, we were the first hired in to try and see if we could all sell this new concept of what GA was in the enterprise, which is focused more on scaled-up upskilling and reskilling. Geordie Kaytes: Okay. So the workshops used to be a little bit more one-off, and now you're doing more kind of deeply integrated with the companies that are your clients?Ryan Fennerty: Yeah, what I would say is, when the original enterprise business was focused on one and two-day leadership workshops, essentially what business schools do all the time with executive type audiences, focused on — it was literally called like, "Digital Mindsets." Like, "what are the things you need to be thinking about as a leader as your company gets disrupted?" And it was a very MVP product, it was basically taking themes across every direction, from digital marketing to data analytics, and putting it into one day which was like a crash course in what it means to be digital-first. That was the original product. And the idea was like, we would get all these Enterprises coming to GA and saying, "Hey, can we hire graduates? Oh, by the way, can you also come in and teach us some of what you're teaching them, just so we understand?" And then that's how that organically grew into a product concept. But then the real leap was like, the scale of the need is so high that people are coming to us and saying, "Hey, if we wanted to give you a thousand people to train in data science, how would you do it? Would you do it?" And that was when we first were like okay, there's a much bigger need, and we're going to have to create a model that looks probably a lot more like consulting and training than just training, right?So I think our latest statement about what we are as a company — because I think one of the challenges in sales, especially when you're in a high-growth startup-type climate, is that your startup, by definition, is trying to figure out what it is you are and what you do, and so you're selling that in real time.And so we've had a lot of evolutions of what we are, and sometimes I struggle when people say, "What is GA?" Because we're not a training company. We're also not a consultancy like Deloitte. We sit somewhere in the middle of helping you figure out how the heck you mobilize an effort like this, then how do you execute it well, and then we'll execute it with you. So I think now the latest thing we've been saying is, we're a "product-led professional services company."Geordie Kaytes: So the the trainings themselves, are they customized around the exact requests of the client? Or are they pretty much some stuff that's off the shelf, that you know are curriculums that work. How does that work? Ryan Fennerty: Yeah, I think it's a bit of both. So what we've learned, and I think anyone who's in B2B sales would probably agree with this, is it's very important to have a view, and know what you know to be true, and be able to say no to clients. And so for that reason, when I say, do we contextualize and align to the client? Absolutely, because that's in service of making sure that we're delivering real value, and the only way you can do that is to reduce the friction cost of applying anything you've learned. So ultimately the job to be done is to get these people knowing how to do the work, so that the next day, when they hit that desk they're doing the work. And so the work we do to customize and contextualize is more about making sure that that friction cost does not exist. W here we do have a really strong view and have expertise is, we've created what we call "standard boards," which are industry leaders in a given discipline, from Fortune 500 through startups. They work with our network of instructors, who are people are out there doing this every day in different organizations, to come up with what we think are the core skills and the core roles emerging in a profession. So for example, data science. When people used to hire a data scientist two or three years ago, they'd say, "I want a data scientist," and what they meant was they want a data engineer, quantitative researcher, machine learning engineer, all rolled into one.What GA spends a lot of time doing and working with partners is to say, "There are now essentially five categories of roles that are emerging in the market, with these kinds of core skill sets. And here's what we believe are the competencies that you
2 minutes | Feb 20, 2019
Introducing Design the Sale
In the design world, when we don’t understand something, we talk to people, we observe their behaviors, and we create prototypes to test their reactions. What if we could bring the same approach to designing a sales process? What if we could use design thinking to discover the ways customers want to buy — and build our sales processes around them? In this show, we’ll learn from leaders who are at the forefront of this new way of thinking, and see what ideas we can steal from the worlds of technology, user experience, and product management. Ideas like research, testing, prototyping, iteration, and data-driven optimization. Welcome to Design the Sale.
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