Clarify MD and co-founder, David Meyer, took to the hot seat to answer five burning questions on the latest Sales Leader Series podcast from Dealpad.io. Watch the interview in full or read on for a glimpse of the insights he shared on personalisation vs. relevancy, surviving three downturns and owning your number…
Q1. “When thinking about how you’ve grown revenue over the past 20 years, what frameworks or ways of thinking have made the difference in growing that revenue?”
One guiding principle that Clarify has always applied with our clients is to focus on the situation from the customer or prospect’s perspective. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what we can do to solve a problem when, to a larger extent, they don’t really care. It’s all about their world and understanding that context – the external influences on their business, the pressures of their particular role, their strategic goals and so on. Then you can come up with ways of selling and engaging that respond to the context.
Even if you’re not entirely correct the first time around, you’ll have differentiated your approach from others. Plus the customer or prospect will appreciate the effort and likely continue to talk with you. But there is still a big difference between this level of relevance and the standard type of personalisation you see every day.
Q2. “What are the biggest challenges facing your sales team?”
Clearly, the macroeconomic climate is a major challenge facing just about any sales organisation. Especially in B2B tech and SaaS sales where there is an on-going shift from ‘growth at all costs’ to a more efficiency-oriented approach to the market. This has a knock-on effect on the kind of messaging Clarify creates.
So for our clients we’re focusing much more on efficiency and productivity value propositions and sales messaging. While for Clarify, we’re talking much more about outsourcing and how this helps reduce risk for clients by taking problems off their balance sheets.
Q3. “What do you think is the most important factor in B2B sales in the next 12 months and the next 5 years?”
Over the course of the next year or so, the ability to pivot to an efficiency, cost or ROI based message will be crucial. Being able to adapt your sales messages to meet customer expectations is important here.
Looking further ahead, AI will start to have a significant impact on B2B sales. Artificial intelligence will allow us to aggregate information much faster than ever before. It will also help us process that information into sales insights and even start to formulate the hypotheses that you can test with customers. For example, gathering financial performance data from a prospect’s website, showing the areas of decline and proposing a clear strategy for reversing that decline.
Q4. “Sales is an emotional career, with lots of ups and downs. What’s been the toughest moment in your sales career, how did you deal with it and what advice would you give to someone hoping to build a similar career?”
It’s hard to look past the spring of 2020 because everything hit at once. There was the inability to talk to customers. The meltdowns in their own sectors. The internal decisions about furlough. And the changes to our own messaging.
In a more general sense, the toughest moments for any sales leader are the big deals you’ve lost. Especially the ones where you thought that because you worked well with your key contact that you that you were home and dry. Without realising there were blind spots like there being a much bigger buying circle than you had anticipated. Or that your access to the other sales influencers was restricted by the relationship with your key contact. One way around this issue is to put in place a robust qualification process.
By distilling all the knowledge you’ve built up over the years and arming salespeople with a scorecard they can use themselves, you can avoid the blockers. You’ll never get to a perfect 100 score but 70-80 usually means you can breathe a little easier.
Q5. “How do you get your entire executive team to take ownership of the annual forecast number?” [posed by previous SLS pod guest Cliff Simon of The Caribiner Group]
There are no simple answers here but we can probably all agree that a single source of truth is important. However, it’s also a question of leadership. By getting your executive team together on a regular basis you can look at the number and evaluate where you are over- or under-performing.
Instead of people pointing fingers, it’s about what you can do together to get to the forecast number. This kind of collective accountability isn’t always easy. At Clarify, we’ve done a lot of work based on the books of Patrick Lencioni. Especially around team structures and understanding some of the dysfunctions that can exist within a group.
The crucial thing is to get people to recognise which team they’re actually on and how it can be very different from the one they lead. To use a sports analogy, there are distinct areas of the team (defence, attack, etc.) where you can optimize. You may hope that doing so would lead to the best result but often that isn’t the case. Sometimes you have to compromise a little in one area to win overall.
David Meyer is Managing Director at Clarify and has over 20 years’ experience helping technology companies and scale-ups create sustainable revenue. To chat more about sales leadership in a tough economic climate, get in touch with David Meyer via DMeyer@clarifyb2b.com Alternatively, here what David had to say in the podcast below.