EP193: Thriving in Market Turbulence - Tech Tango and Global Jigs
In this episode, Chris Beall, CEO of ConnectAndSell, discusses various challenges faced by B2B sales leaders in the modern business landscape. With Corey Frank, CEO of Branch49, absent from the co-host chair, Chris invited ChatGPT to take a seat. He starts by introducing the idea of asking ChatGPT about challenges in B2B sales. He touches on the challenge of coaching sales reps, particularly their first failure points in conversations. Chris explains how technology, such as the one developed by Symbl.ai, can help identify these first failure points and support reps in improving their performance.
Chris stresses that addressing these challenges requires a combination of strategic thinking, technological proficiency, people management skills, and deep industry understanding.
Some of the challenges covered include:
Adapting to Technological Change
Understanding Customer Needs
Compliance and Regulation
Maintaining Quality Lead Generation
Managing Sales Team Performance
Pricing Strategies in a Competitive Market
Cultural and Geographical Differences
Integrating Sales with Other Business Functions
Full episode transcript below:
In this episode, Chris Beall, CEO of ConnectAndSell discusses various challenges faced by B2B sales leaders in the modern business landscape [00:00:30] with Cory Frank, CEO of Branch 49. Absent from the co-host chair, Chris invited ChatGPT to take a seat. He started by introducing the idea of asking ChatGPT about challenges in B2B sales. He touches on the challenge of coaching sales reps, particularly their first failure points in conversations. He explains how technology such as the one developed by Symbl.ai can help identify these first failure points and support reps in improving their performance. Chris stresses [00:01:00] that addressing these challenges requires a combination of strategic thinking, technological proficiency, people management skills, and deep industry understanding. Join us for this episode of Market Dominance Guys, thriving in market, turbulence, tech tango, and global jigs.
Chris Beall (01:24):
Hey, everybody. Chris Beall, CEO of ConnectAndSell and co-host of Market Dominance [00:01:30] Guys. Corey Frank seems to be otherwise occupied today. And so I've decided to go ahead and do something we haven't really done before, which is to ask ChatGPT a question, we call them prompts, and see what it has to say about the challenges that are being faced by B2B sales leaders today. And who knows, maybe as I go through these, I'll have something to say. I just got primed for all of this by wonderful lunch with [00:02:00] Dan Nordale, who is the chief revenue officer over at Symbl.ai. And he and I were talking about one of the challenges which is coaching, and specifically the challenge of coaching first failure, so I'm going to put that one out there, is coaching sales reps helping them become better is very, very challenging.
And one of the reasons it's challenging is that it's very difficult to find that moment where [00:02:30] they have a first failure in a conversation and just coaching that moment and doing so in a way that allows them to repeat the performance under pressure. So think about discovery calls, if we were to coach a discovery call and point out, "Hey, the first point where you actually failed, where you came up short was about 37 seconds in. And the issue is that you went ahead and plowed forward into the value that your solution [00:03:00] provides without having the least idea of whether the other person has made that transition from their initial emotional state, which is apprehension to some other emotional state that might be suitable and supportive for them to listen to what it is you have to say as an expert." So we were talking about that and how the technology that they use a symbol could help with that because it listens to conversations and shows [00:03:30] that first failure rate if you choose to have it do that.
But then how long before they get to repeat the performance? If I'm teaching somebody how to serve in pickleball, for instance, well, I can have them serve and then I can note their first failure point, the place where they could try something different and they could try another serve. It's just a matter of hitting the ball again. But in discovery calls, our next opportunity might be tomorrow or it might [00:04:00] be later in the week. And so that's even in a good case, right? So how do we get that situation set up where we not only can provide feedback as to the first failure, but we can actually have the person perform again and by the way, perform under pressure. And so that's very difficult. Now, here at ConnectAndSell, we have the ability to help folks have lots and lots of conversations. And so these are not discovery calls, these are first conversations, [00:04:30] we call them ambush calls or cold calls, whatever you want to call them.
And we have an opportunity to coach that first failure point and then have them go right back in the batter's box and try again. And within two or three minutes there they are, another shot at trying out the first seven seconds, that conversation to see if they can get trust. So that's one of the things Dan and I were talking about and the technology that they have developed at Symbl.ai is particularly suited to supporting [00:05:00] that kind of, "Hey, find out where the rep needs help." And by the way, why first failure point? Why not get all of the failure points? Well, it's pretty simple. The first failure point is generally the root cause of the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth and so on. That is, it's not that the rep needs different technique later, they just need to avoid screwing up earlier.
And this is true of almost everything in the world of what I'll call ballistic athletic activity. That is if you're doing [00:05:30] something, throwing a ball, hitting a golf ball, you watch Ted Lasso, you're taking a pass downfield and you're catching it with your foot or your chest and getting that ball under control, these things are happening pretty fast and if you screw up part of it, instead of taking that ball with your chest and stopping it, it bounces off of you. Now it's going upfield. Well, your next failure is going to be because you failed on the first task, the first subtask, that first moment. So in stuff [00:06:00] like cold calling, especially when you fail in the first 3, 4, 5 seconds, you're playing catch up in a game that you literally cannot win at that point, there's no way to recover. So you may as well take that failure, take that input, and use that input in order to attempt to perform again.
At some point you're likely to actually nail it, and once you nail it, the cause of the second failure has been removed because it wasn't you. It was the first [00:06:30] failure. But let's go into the list that's given to us by ChatGPT. I love how we can just ask ChatGPT a question and get an answer. I need to call it my faithful dog. It just goes ahead and gives it a shot. So I asked, what are the top 10 challenges facing B2B sales leaders? Now, ChatGPT normally talks about how it's back in 2021 in September and it doesn't know very much anymore, but it didn't give that warning to this particular prompt. [00:07:00] It just started right in after saying that it would give me a list. So here's number one in the list, adapting to technological change.
With the rise of artificial intelligence, big data and other technologies, sales leaders must continuously adapt their strategies and tools to remain competitive. I think this is both true and false, true in the sense that things do change. You've got to keep up. False in the sense that what's really underlying [00:07:30] sales and sales success and therefore some of the things sales leaders should be considering are the following two things. One, as a sales leader, are you supporting your sales reps to be able to execute in the circumstances in which they find themselves? That could be actually in a sale. They're working with a customer, trying to understand a problem, trying to put forth a solution, trying to negotiate a transaction, trying to work through the complexities [00:08:00] of the buyer buying process or trying to get approval internally in their own firm or getting what they need, the investment from their company in the form of maybe discounts or extra help in order to get this particular deal across the finish line.
So all of those kinds of things are not actually technological in nature. They're rather ancient, and they have to do with how human beings work and particularly how they make [00:08:30] transitions from one dominant emotion to another one. If you think about sales in general, sales is the process of helping someone else on an emotional journey make the move from a dominant initial emotion to one where they can consider the possibility that you, your company, your solution might be worth exploring further and then making a decision together to take that next step. So that emotional [00:09:00] journey doesn't have a lot to do with technological change except to the degree that folks' emotions can be triggered by technological change because it might scare them or make them feel inadequate or feel like they don't know what they're doing. Or in fact, they might not know what they're doing.
Right? Try to use ChatGPT without a little experience doing prompt engineering, and you'll find yourself at C fairly quickly. But a little bit of experience goes a long ways. Two, understanding customer needs. [00:09:30] B2B sales typically involve complex solutions and understanding the precise needs and pain points of each business customer can be challenging. That is simply a universal truth. That's not just now. That's forever. And the primary reason we don't understand customers' needs is we're too concerned with our own need to get a deal done, get a transaction done, and for some of us, it's venal enough to get a commission or keep our job. So [00:10:00] it's really difficult to take a stance and take the actions to understand customer needs when we're too busy paying attention to our own needs. Complexity is not our enemy. Complexity is inevitable. Customers have complex needs because there's a lot of moving parts to almost any business.
We don't understand those moving parts in advance, even if we are experts in some element of doing something about them, fixing them so to speak, or making [00:10:30] them work better. So we have to have these conversations that basically allow us to get a feel for the customer's needs and then to check to see whether that feel, that sense is accurate before we move on. It's actually a version of the first failure problem. That is our first failure in understanding customer needs is when we assume we know that what the customer needs before we have both assessed it, we've gotten it out of the customer and validated it in [00:11:00] some conversation with them. So number three, ChatGPT says, is compliance and regulation. Adhering to industry-specific regulations and global compliance standards can be complicated, especially when selling across different markets and jurisdictions. So this is a matter of both what you do and what you're perceived as doing.
There's a lot of branding that goes on with regard to compliance and regulations. And let's face it, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet, whether it's [00:11:30] something like SOC 2 compliance or whatever it happens to be. If in your industry you need it, you need it, and hopefully you have the supportive folks who can see that compliance and regulation adherence is actually a product feature. Number four, one of my favorites, and this is because of bias, maintaining quality lead generation, generating high quality leads is essential for sales growth, but doing so consistently in its scale can be very difficult. [00:12:00] Now, I'll speak to this. The issue with lead generation actually goes back to technology.
So we have technology that makes it very inexpensive to believe that we are putting an opportunity in front of somebody, and if they only were to read that ninth email that we sent in the sequence or to accept that offer to connect on LinkedIn, if only they would do that, well, then we could get into a conversation with them, help them. In fact of the matter [00:12:30] is the technology makes it so cheap to send that information out that all of that information simply becomes spam.
Speaker 1 (12:40):
We'll be back in a moment after a quick break. ConnectAndSell, welcome to the end of dialing as you know it. ConnectAndSell's patented technology loads your best sales folks up with eight [00:13:00] to 10 times more live qualified conversations every day. And when we say qualified, we're talking about really qualified like knowing what kind of cheese they like on their impossible, whopper kind of qualified. Learn more at connectandsell.com. And we're back with Corey and Chris.
Chris Beall (13:23):
This is where there's an irony built in to the entire world of lead generation. We need to do it at scale, [00:13:30] not at arbitrary scale, by the way. We don't have the ability to consume an indefinite or infinite number of leads. We need to pay attention to quality, that's targeting really. We need to assess timing, which we can only do in conversations. I don't care what anybody says about high intent, that's something people talk about like we can tell your intent from your internet behavior. Well, I can tell your intent and you can tell mine in a conversation much more effectively. And we need to do so [00:14:00] with scarcity as our friend. So by using something that's scarce, which is human to human conversations, live, synchronous that means I'm talking, you're listening, I'm listening conversations. We actually can cut through most of the quality issues that are brought to the fore because of technology, making it so cheap to put a message in front of somebody else, and therefore so common for them to ignore that message and move on.
[00:14:30] Then we have my wife, Helen Fanucci's favorite, managing sales team performance. As some of you know, she's written a book called Love Your Team, a Survival Guide for Sales Managers in a Hybrid World. And her point is pretty simple. As the manager, you're not the performer. Your sales team members are the performers. Are you supporting them in a way that allows them to perform and that means in their professional world, but also in their [00:15:00] life and in their emotional world? So ChatGPT says, "Training, motivating and maintaining a high performing sales team requires significant time and resources. Dealing with varying performance levels and ensuring alignment with company goals is a constant challenge." It sure is. Now, training's fairly straightforward except we don't know if it sticks, most of the time it doesn't. Motivating, motivating is actually mostly a matter of supporting [00:15:30] and getting out of the way and helping where it makes more sense for you to be the actor than for them to be the actor that is recognizing they have limits.
Can you pitch in? One thing Helen does is she takes notes at meetings where her reps are presenting. Why? Because then they can focus on their presentation and she is actually getting a deep view, a real-time view, and for herself, a motivated view of what it is that they're [00:16:00] trying to achieve in the presentation. And between the two of them, they have something to talk about afterwards. And maintaining a high performing sales team actually means dealing with change. We sometimes act as though employees who are working with us as our colleagues, may be reporting to us, are living what I might call a flat life. That is, it's always the same the next day. Now in fact, their worlds are changing every day. And there's not just varying performance [00:16:30] levels, there are varying circumstances for each person. So if we don't allow and help them to adapt to their world, they're not going to be able to perform in the world that we're working in together.
And that's a big part of managing sales team performance. So having those conversations and making sure that you have them regularly, that means mapping them out, putting them in calendar, taking the time to have them, and then being efficient about them. That's really key. So then we have number six, pricing strategies. In [00:17:00] a competitive market, defining the right pricing strategy that aligns with the value delivered and also considering competition can be a complex task. That is for sure. There are small differences in pricing that can make huge differences in outcomes. It's very rare that it's the price. It's often the perception of what this particular offering delivers value-wise compared to others and how it compares to what folks have paid in the past. So there's [00:17:30] actually a disadvantage sometimes in being an incumbent. Your own future pricing is tied to your past pricing. That's fantastic in one way, but it can be a problem when a disruptive market entrant shows up and says, "Hey, I'm going to use price as a weapon.
I'll price at one third of your price and offer something that is almost as good." And being able to respond to that in a way that works, especially when you have a big customer base, is very, very challenging. Seven, [00:18:00] long sales cycles. B2B sales often involve lengthy decision-making processes, necessitating persistent follow-up and a long-term strategy. So persistent follow-up is actually fairly easy. Talk to people until they're ready to buy. So when you look at this dynamic, this is what Market Dominance Guys is all about. As a podcast, the dynamic is 1/12th of your market is in market right now in this quarter, 11/12ths is out in the future. Why? Because the replacement [00:18:30] cycle for B2B products is about three years. It's not the sales cycle that you need to pay attention to first, it's the replacement cycle. The replacement cycle of three years means 11/12ths of your market is out in the future.
If it's five years, it means there's 20 quarters in five years. 19 out of those 20 quarters are not this quarter. And following up, being useful, being there and also learning what's going on in their world [00:19:00] through those quarters it takes until they're ready to actually make a decision to replace their current solution, that's key to market dominance. Then there's eight, cultural and geographical differences. Navigating cultural nuances and understanding different business practices across regions can be perplexing, particularly for organizations that operate globally. Yes, yes and yes, and it can come down to a single word. Do you know what the word revert means? [00:19:30] It depends. Revert means go back to what you were like, but in some cultures it means get back to somebody. It means reply. So even knowing those nuances is absolutely crucial. And then there are many, many more. There is of course the question of male and female diversity.
How does this other culture think about men and women with regard to their roles? You're a little bit stuck sometimes. You've got a notion of what you believe [00:20:00] and your notion may be both morally and culturally correct where you live, and it might not fit in where you're trying to do business. So being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes, so to speak, and at least understand where they're coming from, quite challenging, quite important. Then there's integrating sales with other business functions, ensuring that sales strategy is aligned with marketing, customer service, and other departments requires seamless communication and collaboration, which is often easier [00:20:30] said than done. Man, is that correct ChatGPT. First of all, sales and marketing alignment. I have an idea. Sales and marketing align within the humble cold call. Why? It's simple. When we talk to somebody, when we ambush somebody in a cold call, we're going to follow up.
What we're looking to do is to see whether it's time to initiate a sales cycle with someone for whom a sales cycle would be advantageous, both for them and for us, at least we think it might be. [00:21:00] Well, none of that is marketing. The marketing question is, can we condition the market so that more sales cycles arise out of it and those that do are successful? So some combination of targeting and stimulating interest and activity in the market is needed. Interestingly enough, the primary thing that happens in an ambush call, in a cold call or in a follow-up call is that person in the modern world, let's go back to technology for a moment, [00:21:30] they actually go to your website most of the time. They actually will respond to an email that you send them most of the time, especially if you send it immediately after the conversation.
So there's a case where technology, not yours, but the technology of the world comes together with the potential for alignment in order to make things work better. But only if you think about it correctly. Same thing with customer service or customer success. [00:22:00] I mean, one simple thing is try not to offer things that you can't deliver. Now, I know this is tempting in sales, there's always a temptation to say that one extra thing, that one extra piece of value that you believe is going to get the deal done. You might be overstepping the situation with regard to can that really be delivered. And a lot of times I see customer success blame for churn. I was in an event the other night where a customer success expert, [00:22:30] a legitimate one, one I really believe in, she said, "Look, if you're depending on customer success to do something about deals that are about to renew but might churn, you're too late.
You need to take care of that in the initial engagement. You need to make sure that what they're buying is what you're selling and that you have clarity around that." So seamless communication and clarity is yes, easier said than done, but super important. [00:23:00] Finally, ChatGPT says, "Economic uncertainties. Global economic fluctuations can have a direct impact on B2B sales. Sales leaders must be nimble and act to adjust strategies quickly in response to changes in economic conditions." Well, let me tell you, not just sales leaders, but business leaders. We've been through a simple change. It was about 15, 16 months ago. We are out here in August of 2023. So in the spring of 2022, [00:23:30] the Federal Reserve changed interest rates from zero to something else, a positive number. Tech valuations immediately collapsed, money dried up. Runways were, well, shall we say, shortened. And suddenly there was pressure to do things that might or might not be possible.
We're now starting to see where that pressure leads. So companies are now for sale that thought that they would be able to raise and raise and raise, get more money and [00:24:00] go out into the marketplace and dominate. So is that an economic uncertainty? You bet. One way to buffer against uncertainties of course isn't a sales function, it's just a function. It's called cash. Another one is to actually be capital efficient in your sales. Capital efficiency means you actually acquire net new customers and net new dollars in a way that doesn't spend that many. Most sales leaders don't think very hard about that one, capital efficiency in their sales process, [00:24:30] but it's capital efficiency that gives you runway when your company is under economic pressure because of global macroeconomic fluctuations. So seek capital efficiency and ask yourself in sales and ask yourself, "How little can we do in order to acquire that next customer?
And are we trying to acquire customers that aren't really great next customers who at the margin cost quite a bit both to get and to serve?" So ChatGPT [00:25:00] wraps it up and I'll wrap it up with the same. These challenges require combination of strategic thinking, technological savvy, people management skills, and a deep understanding about the specific industry and the broader business environment. By addressing these challenges head on, B2B sales leaders can position their organizations for success in a complex and competitive marketplace. Now that sounds super challenging for one individual person to come to the table with strategic thinking, technological savvy, [00:25:30] people management skills, and a deep understanding of specific industry and broader business environments.
Wow, sounds like a team game, doesn't it? So being able to work with other members of your team, some of whom might be better strategic thinkers than you are, some of whom might have a better handle on the tech than you do. Some people in your team could be great at people management and setting up situations where folks who you really need, who have deep skills want to stay with you and apply those [00:26:00] skills. And then there's the deep understanding of the industry and the broader business environment. And I would say specifically of what you can bring to customers that they can't do for themselves. Because that's why us, B2B businesses exist. We exist to do for customers what is too expensive or too inconvenient for them to do for themselves.
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