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#063: Julie Mann – Your Nurture Strategy Should Deliver 40% of Your Sales Revenue
Welcome to Scale Your Sales Podcast Julie Mann a 4x Sales Leader, known for building and scaling top-performing sales teams in rapid growth environments. Julie has built and led award-winning teams at many of the top Austin tech companies like Vrbo/HomeAway, Spredfast, Optimizely, and now Upland Software.
You are going to love this episode, Julie shares fantastic tips on the best growth strategy, which is your nurture campaign. She said that almost opportunities should be 40% of your sales revenue if you systemise it. Listen and find out how and let us know what you think?
We were talking about the elections plus we’ve got black lives matters and in London, we’ve gone back into the second lockdown so there’s a lot going on. You’ve got these high growth companies that are really all primed and ready to go, how are you managing your sales team to stay relevant to their customers, to stay motivated and to keep the company growing? Yeah, it’s definitely a challenge in a pandemic for sure. I think there are two things that I think about; one is we’ve got to change the way we communicate to our customers and our prospects when we’re not face to face. We have to be able to be engaging in the small amounts of times that we have in front of them and be relevant and focused on what they care about/. Two, and where I probably have spent most of my time as an SDR leader, is making sure that we’re connected as a team. People feel emotionally supported and people are engaged and able to learn and be educated on products and selling knowledge throughout all the crazy things going on in the world. As well as just having a space to talk and vent and be supported. I would say one of the things that we do on our team to just help the connection with the team make sure people feel supported. We do a couple fun happy hours a month where we’ll do a costume contest or we’ll do pets and babies get to come and people just get to share about their life and vent and have that human connection in such a weird time. Then from a training and learning perspective, something that I’ve realized, the attention span of humans is now I think lower than that of a goldfish. We can’t just put a deck in front of people and say hey, learn this their eyes glaze over and it becomes really hard for people to retain info. What we’ve done is we’ve really gamified most of our training so I use a tool called Kahoot where you can have people voting, you can set up teams and matches. We do a lot of prizes and fun things to keep people engaged. Those two things I think have helped let the team feel we’re all in this together, we’re going to get through this together, there’s a safe place to talk about relevant issues and unwind a little bit with the group you work with every day. We can still hone our craft and get better at things, we just have to do it in a little bit of a different way.
Have you changed the targets in light of the environment we’re in? I will say we had our best quarter ever during the pandemic. In the first quarter of the pandemic which was really challenging for most people and there wasn’t really a need at Optimizely to change the targets. We did have to get really scrappy and we did have to meet people where they were because just trying to roll over and throw out a sales pitch to people who have some pretty real concerns on their mind now is just not the way to go. We tried to meet our buyers and our customers where they were and what they wanted to talk about. How can we just help you, how can we add some value or give you some advice, what you’re trying to do whether you go with us or not? That tactic really worked.
It’s interesting because you’re having to do that with your team and then your team are having to do that with their customers. I wonder how much of this will continue after the pandemic?
I think some of it will change the way we do things. I think some of it is for the better. Sometimes you get wrapped up, I know for me personally I do in just quantity and volume of things and there’s always that balance between quantity and quality. It’s really important but you sometimes lose sight of, let me just think about this as this person as a human, like what do they care about? What do they need help with? Let me stop the process for a minute to just try to be a human who can help another human. I’m hoping this part stays I’ve seen some really great things come from people just offering help and resources without expecting a return. I’m hoping that stays for sure. I think we’ve also learned that you don’t have to jump on a flight or fly out a million people to go meet somebody face to face, that there are efficient ways that we can use the time to get the same things accomplished. Allow people to also be at home with their family more and not be commuting back and forth all of the time. It’s that real integration of personal and business that I think we’re finding a sweet spot on during this, which is a silver lining in a tough time.
What practical strategies can you offer that has enabled buyers to buy more and for your sales team to build long-term relationships? I am a huge fan of really using nurture tactics to help your customers and help your business. I would say tangibly what that looks like is so many times we spend so much effort trying to figure out who a buyer is and we find that they’re interested, we find we’re talking to the decision-maker maybe and we have a meaningful conversation with them and for whatever reason, they don’t end up buying. What do we do, we go back and we say okay, let’s go find different people from different companies. We just isolated a needle from the haystack and we basically just throw it back in the pile of the haystack and go try to find a different needle. That tactic just isn’t very effective and you spend a lot of money and waste a lot of time if you’re not really thoughtful. About, let me collect this needle and I’m going to put it in a pile of a bunch of other needles that I can tap into at the right time so using nurture tactics where someone’s an almost opportunity meaning you are talking to the right person they have a really big need they’re looking at vendors and shopping for something that your solution also can help them with but maybe the timing just isn’t right or budget isn’t right. Instead of giving up on that whenever they fall out of the funnel and trying to go get something new, keeping that group together and just being human there. I totally understand that this wasn’t a fit for you today just curious so that I can learn and get better, who did you go with? What were they doing better than what we did? You start to build a relationship and trust with somebody and then you check on them throughout, is it going like you thought? I thought of this because we talked about this very specific thing and I wanted to send it your way. People love to buy from people that not only they trust but that did take a genuine interest in trying to help them, as opposed to you’ve got a pain point I have a solution. It’s deeper than that and so having really thoughtful nurture processes set up to help you facilitate that type of relationship, is huge and can be a really big part of a company’s growth. It reminds me when I spoke to Alice Kemper, she was saying that she was the top salesperson and that was exactly her tactic she nurtured relationships and stuck with them, she said she won a huge portion of my business because of that that, they weren’t ready now but they became her friends and even when they move companies she stuck with that relationship. So often they make a decision it’s a big decision but they’re not always happy with the decision they made and they’re looking to get out of it. If you stay close to them then often you can win back and it seems crazy that salespeople don’t do that, after nurturing that relationship you’ve got them to a peak level and then walk away from it so I think that’s a great tactic. The reason why I found that most salespeople don’t do that is not because they’re not thinking this is a great idea or they’re not smart enough to do that, or they don’t know that there’s value in it, it’s because there aren’t systematic processes in place to help them do that. Something as simple as, any time you have a meeting let’s say an AE holds a meeting and there’s something missing, there’s timing or budget, something’s missing, just having those clear criteria checked there and having an AE say this is an account we should nurture in checking a nurture box. Now you can run reports, you can have this visual of what was missing when was the time of this, is a high priority account for me to nurture and then you start to be able to do it in a systematic process-oriented way. Lori Richardson said to have a third list and that’s the third list. Nurturing is where you win a lot of deals as well rather than the acquisition side.
Let’s talk about diversity. You’re at a senior level and there must have been some challenges that you found moving up the ranks and moving around companies? I think we’ve made progress, if I look over the time that I’ve been in sales over the last 12 years, seeing leadership groups that were solely men, to women creeping into different ethnic backgrounds being invited in a bit more, we’ve made some progress. I don’t think we’ve made enough at all and I’ve certainly had those experiences especially younger in my career that really shaped my point of view on things and maybe not for the better. I saw environments where it was really all men making the decisions in leadership and in sales and it was a boys club where not only was it inside of the office it was outside of the office and at team events and team outings. You would see behaviour where it really from leadership people were setting the precedent of this behaviour is okay you can get wild and party. I feel like some of that has become unacceptable and people have said that out loud, others have adapted the way that they behave but we’re not there yet. Where we’re getting an equal amount of voices. Anytime I make a decision that’s a big decision the first thing I do is, how do I get context about what exactly is going on from different types of people because that always shapes. Maybe they’re a loud voice that wants me to go do something I’m not going to go do it but that will shape my judgment and my opinion of what’s going on and inform my decision. There really isn’t enough of that going on I think people there are a lot of allies in men and in people who are sort of that majority where they are now speaking out and inviting women, inviting people of culture and different backgrounds, a different diversity of thoughts, to come into the equation and the decision-making process but it’s just not happening enough yet. It’s interesting because our customers were all in a global economy and our customers, therefore, are very diverse and it seems crazy that knowing that the way e-commerce is moving forward and commerce is moving globally that we haven’t thought about that, we are still kept it pretty linear and non-diverse. There are lots of barriers that are still in the way when it’s the smart business decision.
I think for one, you have to start at the beginning what are the entry-level jobs that are being hired for today that in five years these folks will be in leadership positions. Like if we don’t do the work early, I’m fortunate enough that I get to run an SDR team that is the entry to sales and I really pride myself on hiring people that will progress and maybe my boss one day. I think being really thoughtful about diversity from that point is super important. It is a natural tendency for anyone to decide to appoint somebody that relates to them in certain ways and we’re used to thinking about they look like me, they sound like me, they act like me but there are other things that we can all relate to that have nothing to do with gender and race and we have to just be really intentional about doing that. I don’t think people are really coming into the interview room coming into the decision-making process about a candidate with. what can we relate to and let’s take these other biases aside and are they going to be able to give me an opinion that’s totally different than mine? We’re just not conscious enough about making that decision, so we’ve got to start from both ends when you’re someone in the room hiring being really thoughtful about getting that diversity of thought and diversity. Then when you’re somebody who is the feeder for lots of other roles that are re going to be influential in the company making that a priority.
What tried and tested strategy would you offer listeners to scale their sales? It’s the nurture strategy and there are two ways to do it. a successful enterprise SAS company should have 40 percent of its revenue coming from an account that at one point was interested in buying, fell out of the funnel and then was captured back in. That’s how you work smarter not harder and so I would say there are two things to think about to make you successful as an individual seller that will scale your organization. Really aid in tremendous growth, it’s the almost opportunities, the almost sales funnel opportunities that come in but they’re missing timing budget maybe it’s authority you’re just not quite high enough in the org, being able to isolate those and really workshopping them and building relationships there. The other one is the full-on close loss opportunity, the ones that were in the funnel had great conversations started progress really thought it was a close to becoming a deal and fell out because they went to a competitor or usually that’s what happens or decided that the budget was too high. Trying to learn and not for the sake of pushing and peddling your number but for the sake of actually learning what is it that your product didn’t have, what is it that made the customer go with someone else. If you can catch these, as well let it inform your process and your sales cycle. Then be sure that you’re reaching out and building those relationships in a timely fashion, I guarantee those are the two keys to scale your sales.
How do you catch those when you say catch those what do you mean, what you need in place to make sure you don’t lose them? You need some really good flags and identifiers in your salesforce process or whatever CRM that you’re using. Whereas soon as an account executive is getting that signal that somebody isn’t on board anymore they’re going with a competitor that you are able to indicate on those fields this is what’s happening the sale isn’t going to go through, this is why and is as much detail as you can possibly have. There’s an art to creating four or five fields that capture exactly what you need, the date of the contract that they are signing with, the new company, what competitor did they go for, what was the price, like get as granular and specific. People won’t give you that information unless you’ve done your job and you’re coming from that place of, listen I’m trying to be better and improve and I would love your help on that, tell me what I missed. Capture that information and then set up a view or a fuel line where you can see all of those at once. You start to see some correlations that you can deliver to decision-makers in your company, to either get better or to solve problems. Then you have a list of people that you will regularly connect with maybe in two, three or four months to just check on and genuinely say how’s it going? Is there anything you still don’t have not from a sales perspective but just from a human perspective and a developmental perspective where did I go wrong? I think you start to form some great relationships if you have a process that captures those three pieces and a way to view them all in front of you. When I say to catch the problem, we see an email come through that somebody fell out of the funnel or whatever but no one’s just piling those emails and able to run a scalable process to make sure that you do the work so that there is a salesforce view of every single person that’s happened to and there are reason codes that you’re learning from.
I think about it in two ways, one is the process component which you need to see the history of everything that happened in one place, it needs to be your source of truth and you can’t do that if emails and communication aren’t logged. Ensure you have a really clean salesforce or whatever CRM you’re using so that you can visually see the life cycle of sales and marketing there. We sent a million emails to somebody who is already signing a contract about have you heard about our product, that’s not a good experience, so visually being able to map that out. I think getting the context is the other piece and being able to hear so tools like Gong.io that can record every single call so that you can coach in live time so that you can really understand where reps maybe didn’t deliver the value they should have or didn’t say the things that that customer needed to hear at the moment and went off the rail a little bit which we’ve all done. Those two pieces together they tell the full story. I wrote her a post about Gong.io, nothing personal but this is just sounding like salespeople are going to be robots and I can see the sense in it but actually, we’re moving away from the relationship because we’re so focused on the data and dehumanizing sales and I wonder how far is too far? Yeah, I hear you and I think you could overuse a tool like that and make it very check boxy and prescriptive and let’s make sure somebody does this or that, but then I think you lose sight of what the tool is really designed for. My favourite thing about a tool like that is that I can create these libraries of what good looks like, what is a great value proposition and there’s probably 30 flavours of it, it’s not just one, everybody has their own style. Especially to somebody new in their career, to showcase this is what good sounds like and this is what bad sounds like. No finger-pointing or hard feelings but it’s good for us to get context about what’s resonating and what’s not. The ability to curate that sort of library and have those sound bites I think is the most valuable part of a tool like that.
It’s probably a popular answer but it is definitely true, I would say Brene Brown is my Shero. She is incredible I think just her point of view that she has about incorporating the human aspect of who you are and bringing that to work or anything you do. I can’t tell you how many times when I started in sales it was there’s personal and then there’s the business side and like be sure that you’re bringing your corporate side and for a long time I did and it was very buttoned up and I tried really hard to be this person that I thought I was supposed to be. There’s a lot of strength in being vulnerable and being human and some of the things that people are fearful of letting out in the office place actually facilitate the biggest amount of growth. With my teams I’m transparent as I possibly could be, we call each other out very politely and appropriately. I want to live in a place where I can be vulnerable, where I can share things about my personal life like there are things to me that are way more important than work. I have a two-year-old daughter that is my life and it’s important that people know that that’s some of what drives me. That’s a big part of my motivation and to get up every morning and be the best I can be. Without incorporating who I am authentically and the things that scare me and things that make me feel nervous, then you’re only getting a flavour of me that I’m trying to curate just for someone else, not the real deal. I really encourage people that I work with to be their true selves and I think there’s a huge place for that in the office and I’m seeing more and more people do that which I love. I feel like Brene Brown really inspired a lot of that change.
You can reach out to me on LinkedIn Julie Mann. I’m currently at upland software about to build out another SDR team and which I’m super excited about. I would love I meet with lots of people from all different types of sales and marketing and different types of backgrounds just to learn and to share best practices get better at our craft. Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn send me an email and I’m happy to have a conversation. So you’re recruiting? I am recruiting if you’re an SDR or want to be a part of a cool program also reach out on LinkedIn. I’ve loved talking to you, you have shared such great insights and been very full and frank, so thank you for being a guest on Scale Your Sales podcast Julie. Thank you Janice I really enjoyed it.
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