The verbal approach to coaching has never been considered highly efficient. And with sales teams working remotely, the approach is failing sales leaders even more. In this webinar, researchers from Forrester and TOPO examine how digital coaching addresses three common challenges for sales leaders.
Research Director, Forrester
Senior Analyst, TOPO
Founder, The Salesborgs
CEO & Co-Founder, RevenueGrid
Sales reps will always prioritize closing deals over entering
data into CRM. As a result:
Verbal coaching is not enough to help reps understand what actions they
should take at key moments.
Reps are unlikely to retain information from verbal training, especially
if there’s no formal coaching process in the organization.
Sam Jacobs: All right, folks, let’s get started. We’re really excited to have everybody here. My name is Sam Jacobs. I’m the founder of Revenue Collective and the host of the Sales Hacker podcast. And today we’re going to have a lively conversation about digitalizing deal coaching using Guided Selling. And we’re going to be talking about what is Guided Selling and how do we make sure that we know what we’re talking about. We’ve got a really great panel to have this conversation. So let me introduce everybody.
First, we’ve got Seth Marrs, a Research Director at Forrester. Meanwhile, from another analyst firm, we’ve got Dan Gottlieb, a Senior Analyst at TOPO. Justin Michael, who’s the founder of Salesborgs. And then we’ve got Vlad Voskresensky, the CEO and co-founder of Revenue Grid, which is a really exciting company in the space of Guided Selling. So welcome, everyone. We’re excited to have you.
Now we want to kick it off, and I’m going to hand the microphone over to Vlad because we want to say: what is the circumstance? What is the situation where Guided Selling is even a framework? And it would be helpful to define Guided Selling because I think there are a lot of different definitions over there.
So, Vlad, I’ll ask you, what is Guided Selling, first, and what are the conditions that are driving it to become such a prominent framework?
Vlad Voskresensky: Thank you so much, and thanks for having me here. In our company, we have been working with sales team for decades, and not only in consultancy and helping them with automation. We listen to them, learn from them. And it’s obvious that recently sales teams are asking not just for fixing their existing routines… They are loudly, clearly asking for guidance through the sales process which is a nice foundation for a Guided Selling. Why does it happen? I truly believe there are a few factors.
First, CRMs these days are huge databases. That’s the database that knows it all about my sales process. It knows my past pipeline, it knows my past activity. And it’s supernatural to expect a CRM to answer my question: “How do I behave in my current opportunity, in my current challenge or problem I’m facing? So we want insights from one way or the other.
Then, you know, obviously deal cycles are getting more and more complex, and B2B and figuring out what’s the best next step, if you would. Nobody wants this to be an art. Everybody wants to be assured that that’s the very right decision. So, again, the feeling is that the technology can do that, and that’s the expectation sales teams are having towards the automation.
Another big factor we have been seeing is that sales coaching for leaders and for sales guys — it’s an important topic to make sure that everybody is playing those playbooks, rules, or methodologies, which we have agreed on. And we don’t need to sync up every day to make sure we’re on the same page. Again, technology can help here. I believe it’s a fundamental part of the guidance on going forward.
And I would probably wrap up with a super interesting insight. We have been learning what I personally call a Generation Z effect, but right now it can refer to pretty much all of the ages of the people we work with. So here’s the thing… Our level of trust in those tools which are guiding us through any process is super high. We listen to Spotify, and we trust the new music that it offers us. YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn do the same. So people are expecting the same from the sales automation tools: “Hey, guide me. Maybe there’s something I don’t know, something others are doing successfully. Why don’t I do the same?”
So I think these are the fundamental things that are creating demand for Guided Selling. And these explain its definition. I would answer that way.
Sam Jacobs: Vlad, one last question before, and I want to bring in the rest of the group. It seems to me that COVID itself is something that is driving the rise of Guided Selling. If I’m imagining all of these sales teams and all of these reps that are working from their apartments, that are not sitting next to their peers, they probably need more structure from their technology platform, given that they’re not sitting next to their manager every day. Would you agree with that?
Vlad Voskresensky: I would agree. It’s a nice catalyst of what’s going on, though I would not limit just to that only. I mean, the concept is so broad that even once we’re back to the office working shoulder to shoulder, it’s super important to be guided going forwards rather than keep sales as an art, relying on the skills of a sales rep, who’s the best and who is going to win. But obviously, being remote and not being able to sync up in a normal mode, like we all used to pushes us a lot and helps Guided Selling to open up.
Sam Jacobs: Yeah, great. So let’s go again to the point of definitions because Guided Selling is frankly a phrase that was new to me as we started prepping for the session. So, you know, Seth, talk to us about how Forrester views the definition of Guided Selling and then would love to hear from Dan and Justin as well.
Seth Marrs: Yeah, I mean, Guided Selling is used in a lot of different ways. When I first started looking into this subject, we used the term on the sales operations side or dynamic guided selling, and that’s more around augmenting. I think it’s more around what Vlad was talking about and really augmenting the sales rep, using technology, using AI, using different tools to be able to help them sell more.
But when we initially looked at it, the response that I would get was “Oh, it’s content management, it’s the way that I feed content to reps.” Or if you look it up, you’d see a lot of references to e-commerce. But the area we’re focusing on and are really excited about is around Guided Selling and Augmented Selling because that to us it is the true definition of where it could be really valuable to reps. They need all the help they can get, especially as we’re seeing them involved less and less in the sales process, but required to be just as important.
So the tools that you can put around to help them understand what’s going on in their environment really can help them win more and eventually be a distinct advantage over a rep that’s not doing that. Similar to what you see in sales engagement today with cadences.
Sam Jacobs: Dan, what’s your perspective from the world of TOPO?
Dan Gottlieb: Well, it’s funny, I think I’ll probably say some similar things to what Seth said, but maybe with a different spin. I think that guided selling is a term that the analyst community came up with in order to better make sense of the value proposition of AI sales. There’s a wide variety of use cases. And for the past few years, a lot of vendors have been coming to the market saying “We have AI as a huge part of our value prop,” and sales leaders look at us and say “What do you mean?” And, so Guided Selling has been this umbrella, a business process type of term, to say.
There are a lot of different actions that we can take every day. How can we simplify the number of decisions that a seller makes and give them some suggestions around the best ways to spend their time? I think the key is the relationship between the insights and the seller having an autonomous choice over how they spend their time.
One of the big reasons why we’re even talking about this today is because we’ve just added so much tech into the way that we sell, we’re generating so much data as a result of it. And so it was only a natural progression for us to use AI in order to study patterns across all these disparate systems sales, engagement, opportunity, pipeline, forecast management tools, conversation, intelligence, video conferencing, CRM — can’t forget about that. So I think that it’s just this umbrella term that’s given us a way to understand it and talk about it. And that’s why we’re here today.
From my point of view, Guided Selling is about being able to take action on some of the internal operational stuff behind the scenes and service ideas to sellers. There’s a variety of use cases for it. One of my favorite use cases is, and every seller’s familiar with this, where they’ve got between 7 and 10 a.m. They’ve got free time, but then they’re busy the rest of the day. What’s the best use of those three hours? What should I be doing today? Should I be following up with my short-term stuff trying to get people on the calendar for next month? Should I be trying to think about two, three quarters out if I’ve got a more strategic deal? And the answer is always a combination of all the above and somewhere in between. Selling is a way of having a prescriptive approach to “here’s what I think are the best use of those three hours,” for example.
I think it’s a really compelling use case, an example of the power of Guided Selling and the potential for it. And I’m excited to go into a little bit more detail with the panel.
Sam Jacobs: Justin, how about you? What are your thoughts?
Justin Michael: I’ll chime in. Salesborgs is like an online discord server, so I speak with a lot of front line reps and AEs and VPS.
There this big term around the Dunbar Theory, which limits the neocortex in gorilla and human societies. How many nodes you can store in the human brain? Naturally, about 150. The problem when you’re running a sales team and have an elaborate pipeline, it’s very hard to track all those data points. And machine learning and AI can surface insights and reminders.
To Dan’s point, imagine getting a text message because a deal has aged 46 days. Six months in and I’ve got a pipeline of 17 opportunities. If I’m managing a team of about 90 opportunities, the data points become too vast for me to guide myself. The machines can play this role.
The other analogy I love is driving a European luxury car. You have the heads-up display and suddenly a tire goes flat. It alerts you it’s flat or it could alert it and refill the tire with pressurized gas. So there are things that can passively and dynamically help you to do your job on the front line or managing a team that is kind of beyond the limitations of neuroscience. And that’s really powerful to impact a lot of effectiveness and efficiency. So this idea of algorithmic Guided Selling is having algorithms and machine learning that gets smarter across the entire revenue chain and informs the human to augment their approach to executing revenue.
Sam Jacobs: Before we dive into some of these cases because we’ve got some great data that we’re going to present, Vlad, I’m curious from your perspective and really to the rest of the group, what’s the comment? What’s the most common actual interface to present information to us as managers or to the reps that help make decisions? Is it a CRM plugin or is it a browser extension or is it a text message? What is the most common way that the information is being presented from a tactical perspective?
Vlad Voskresensky: I would say it’s a combination. Obviously, we all prefer to work in the unified UI. So when it’s more strategic thinking, like, “Let me think about what I have,” then it should be somewhere around CRM, either melded into the UI of CRM if CRM allows this or a sidebar. But somewhere next to CRM so I can analyze my sales data, my pipeline opportunities, and then I get the Guided Selling insights right there.
At the same time, you know, messengers, integrations with Teams or Slack or any other kind of a messenger where I get those signals pushed on me. When I’m on the road, when I’m not being focused on what’s going on, I get instantly notified so then I can react. That’s another very common UI. So I would say a combination of those two.
Sam Jacobs: That makes a lot of sense. So let’s dive into some use cases. One of the things that we know, thanks to Salesforce, despite the fact that this is their platform, they’re saying 91% of CRM data is incomplete. That’s a number that, frankly, calls for AI and machine learning to automatically input data. But one of the things that lead to this is a lack of pipeline visibility. So, you know, Seth, bringing it back to you, talk about some of the implications for the fact that 91% of CRM data is incomplete, leading to a lack of pipeline visibility and how that manifests itself as a huge opportunity for Guided Selling?
Seth Marrs: Well, I think this is the beginning part of Guided Selling where we’re seeing a lot of companies focusing on the operational end of Guided Selling. So the table stakes type feature that’s required for any of the revenue intelligence tools is taking things like email and calendar invites and auto importing them into the system to make it easier for the rep. So this is a real opportunity with Guided Selling to not only get better data that you can use to derive insights, but it’s also an opportunity to take work off of the rep, so they can spend more time understanding the insights and driving sales.
I believe this is kind of a beginning step that everyone’s focused on. It’s very tangible and something that you could sell from the manager’s perspective. This is just an enabler to a lot of the other things that you’ll be able to do once you get started.
Sam Jacobs: Makes a lot of sense. Dan, what are your thoughts?
Dan Gottlieb: I completely agree with Seth. The mission-critical, I call it the sleeper functionality, is the activity contact capture. Without it, we’re still relying on subjective CRM data for Guided Selling. And that’s a big problem for entrepreneurs and vendors like Vlad. But that’s just step one.
Let’s take the use case of managing opportunities. Once we have an idea of pipeline visibility, what we continue to find is that in the early stages of opportunity the actual two-way engagement is this really critical data point for a better understanding. It just makes sense. Are they talking to you? Are you having conversations? It feels obvious and hilarious to say it out loud, but it’s actually hard data to get. Are you having two-way conversations? How does that compare to everybody else? And can we make any sense of that and help you figure it out again?
Now, when you think about more strategic selling or longer sales cycles, how am I supposed to convince the seller? A head of VP of sales asked me this literally. She said, “How do I convince my team that six hours this month will help them two quarters from now?” And that’s a really incredible example of where Guided Selling can help service those kinds of pipeline gaps that we don’t normally talk about unless you’ve got a killer ops team today.
Sam Jacobs: That makes a lot of sense. And when you talked about two-way conversations, I guess the other comment might be the latency period. Are people interacting, and how long is it taking them to respond? And then we also found the structure and formality of the messages to be an interesting indicator of the strength of the opportunities. Is that something you’ve seen?
Dan Gottlieb: Definitely, I mean, it’s sort of the fundamentals. I know Justin’s got a very strong point of view on that in his work, too. But a short answer is yes. I would love to see Justin’s point of view on this because he’s got a whole book on this exact topic.
Sam Jacobs: Justin, microphone over to you, sir.
Justin Michael: Brevity is the soul of wit. I’ll say one of the biggest issues I see is single threadedness. A platform starts to surface that there are five or six people on an email thread, but it’s appearing in Salesforce with one contact, the wrong one. And you’re having a deal review with your manager where’s a lot of anecdotal storytelling. But what is the hard evidence? What is actually occurring with your aging, as you mentioned, multi-threading analysis of the text itself, sentiment analysis?
There’s quite a bit of futuristic stuff that’s possible right now that could be informing the health check of those opportunities. So when I think of pipeline visibility, it’s velocity of pipeline, health of the pipeline, even the tone and sentiment of the pipeline. Reps get happy ears, but we’re seeing negative sentiment in the interaction, single thread. And there’s a lot of vital signs where the pipeline could be less qualified. This technology could be surfacing more of that so that it has more credible, hard evidence versus a qualitative picture and then more slippage.
Did I hit that, Dan? I’m not sure that’s what you were asking.
Dan Gottlieb: You always exceed expectations, Justin.
Justin Michael: You’re kind.
Sam Jacobs: All right, so we know that a lack of pipeline visibility is a critical part of the sales process where guided selling can really make an impact. We’ve got this other stat that I want to show everybody. And this is sort of what Seth, and Dan, and Justin were all talking about. That’s that extra three hours in the morning. Who should I reach out to? Only 25% of reps can correctly prioritize who to reach out to right now and how they should reach out to them.
And all of this just speaks to the fact that there’s a lot of selling happening, but not a lot of structure happening within the sales process. So, Justin, I’ll take it back to you, talk about what is the importance of setting a unified approach. And also I’d love to hear from Vlad’s perspective on the issue there and how Guided Selling might help solve it.
Justin Michael: There are ways to leverage technology systems to prioritize the order of operations versus having it be mythology or a hunch. I can think of closing a six-figure, seven-figure two-year deal where I had an email thread with 236 interactions, many different events, onsite and Zoom meetings. A lot of that data could be crunched. What if it’s being transcribed? What are the insights that we’re missing from that? People often believe that a certain opportunity is qualified and it’s not. But sometimes when a manager and rep are in a meeting, it’s two hunches. Both have imperfect information. The more information you have, the more power. Vlad, I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.
Vlad Voskresensky: Well, absolutely. What I love about Guided Selling is that it’s very adjustable. So you may start small and then go bold. If I get back for a second to the first case, which is a lack of pipeline visibility, I would not generalize. Every sales team is super different. But I would say that the common problem statement from the sales leaders once we talk to them, would be the following: “I know more from talking to my team than I know from looking at all of the reports we build in CRM. So that’s why my pipeline meetings would be interviewing my salespeople, understanding what’s going on in reality, and then coaching them, suggesting them what to do next.”
The solution to that could be layered. It may start from small, like “Hey. let’s do an activity capture. Let’s just make sure that we talk.” And then it goes up and up. Then we mention that not only activity capture is important, but also if we are engaging right. Are we engaging with the right people? A Guided Selling platform should be able to give that response. Who are we talking to? Are they decision-makers or just technical specialists? Are they budget owners, etc.? And then how do we engage? What language do we use? What objections are we addressing?
When comes the second use case, which is a unified approach across a sales team, it’s the next step. Sales leaders hate micromanagement and sales reps hate to be micromanaged. But in the end, it’s still your playbook, either formal or informal. And we all want to play the same game if we’re in the game. So technology can help to make sure that those small details are being automatically checked and maybe even played. Yes, the system may tell you that probably it’s time to send this message to engage with this guy. That’s just a suggestion that may come from a Guided Selling platform.
At the same time, sales technology may even do that step for you. And a perfect example is a sales engagement platform — you have the cadence and email templates. Technically, it’s an aspect of Guided Selling: if there’s no response, send this email based on that template. So the system even does it for me automatically. This, first of all, makes sure that we have a unified approach: the language, timing, the guy to reach out to. But then it helps a sales rep not to do it manually and thus increase velocity.
So this is the perfect combination. And this is how I prefer to explain the value of Guided Selling. Layer by layer, you start from small, use the data you already have. You can see the footprints and then try to automate those efficient parts of your routine to make them faster. And then you can focus on those parts of the routine which you think may be more productive. You can change them by communicating with your sales reps while the platform tries to automate that.
Sam Jacobs: Vlad, that was fantastic.
I want to say to everybody that’s on the call, if you have questions, drop them into the group chat, if you would. We want to make this as interactive as possible, and we want to make sure that you get your questions answered.
I’ve got a quick follow-up question. How difficult, in your experience, is the implementation of a Guided Selling platform? Is it a lot of work or is it fairly straightforward?
Vlad Voskresensky: I would give a controversial answer: it’s super easy and it’s super hard at the same time. Super easy, because you can start with small steps like you connect those data sources and some obvious signals, like “No contact with that customer within a month.” It’s a Guided Selling signal. It may be available for your pipeline. And you may claim, at least to yourself, that you’re using that Guided Selling technology.
Then obviously you want something bigger, and for that something bigger, you need to digest more and more data sources. You need to make sure that you tie the Guided Selling signals to your playbooks.
You may not have playbooks as of now. Then you’ll need to develop, define, roll out.
So it’s kind of continuous project. If you want to cover it all and get to the maximum level, it will take effort and time. It’s like tailoring because another part of Guided Selling is that you set up a signal, you listen to those signals and then you understand that they don’t really help you in your sales process. So you disregard that type of signal and you come up with a new idea and try that out.
From that standpoint, it’s an endless process. But the starting threshold is really low. You can start with simple things and their benefits and go step by step.
Sam Jacobs: I love that. Seth, I’m going to take it over to you. We’ve got a question from the audience. The question is ,
“If I have Salesforce, should I look at Einstein or other tools better? Any recommendations will be useful.”
Obviously, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Revenue Grid itself is a solution to some of these issues. But, Seth, from your perspective, how effective are the built-in capabilities of a platform like Salesforce? Is Einstein a lot of hype or it is actually very useful?
Seth Marrs: I mean, it depends on what you want to do. Guided Selling is combining, and Vlad hinted to it, all the data points that you can possibly bring in to analyze, understand, to be able to derive insights that you can give to a rep.
And Salesforce doesn’t have all those insights. There are tools across platforms and vendors where the insights are not included. They may be attached.
Einstein is an evolving thing and it depends on what you want to do. I haven’t seen use cases where Einstein can do the things that we’ve seen other revenue intelligence providers do. But it doesn’t mean they’re not working to evolve there. It really depends on where you want to start.
I think the biggest thing with these types of tools and with Guided Selling is we’re at step one, arguably step zero, moving to step one. So where we’re going to be in the next year, I think this is one of the most exciting spaces. A lot of this is going to evolve very quickly over the next year.
One of the biggest problems with making Guided Selling a reality is all the data that is spread across a bunch of different vendors, a bunch of different segments, and none of them wants to be second fiddle to any of the other tools. Everyone wants to be the face of this. So they’re trying to build platforms that are sucking everyone else’s data or visibility or information into their tool. And it’s going to be interesting to see how that all plays out.
Salesforce is obviously a giant, and they’re likely to win the data hub where all the information lies. But they’ve proven to be very poor at a user interface and building and overlay that filter up easily. So I think it’s touch and go on whether they’re going to be able to build something quick enough to lead in that environment.
Sam Jacobs: Dan, what are your thoughts? And Seth, to your point, Einstein to me feels a little bit like Watson from IBM in the sense that it’s like a branding exercise. But I don’t know if I can buy Watson or how it might impact my life. Dan, what do you see?
And I guess the other question that I want to surface from the audience
“If everybody adopts this Selling and is guided by tech, does what it tells us to do and when, how might that impact the experience the buyer has? And will it all look and feel the same for everyone?
So, Dan, what are your thoughts on the rise of Guided Selling platforms, how they interact with the CRM? And will that commoditize the buying experience from the perspective of all our customers?
Dan Gottlieb: Look, a comment one: I think that Seth was being polite. Honestly, what we’re about to enter into is a period of what I would call sales tech mayhem. It’s all about the data. I think a lot of sales tech vendors have realized that in order to be the next-gen Guided Selling, whatever, mobab, you have to have access to the engagement data. You have to have access to the CRM data, the conversation data, the sales enablement content interactions. Only if you have access to all of the data, are we going to be able to make really realistic and accurate predictions and then surface those insights to the seller.
So you see this happening all over sales tech. You see sales engagement getting into conversation intelligence. You see conversation intelligence getting into opportunity management. You see opportunity management getting into conversation intelligence. You see all these different vendors swirling around each other. And the people who suffer the most are all of you sitting here saying, “I’m just trying to get to the next quarter. I’m just trying to get to six months from now.” I think that it’s going to get more complicated over the next year or two.
There are two schools of thought in the vendors. School of thought A says, “Our job is to enrich the CRM, help you get the most out of your investment in CRM.” The other school of thought says, “The CRM is a necessary evil. We’re going to enrich it so that we can enrich our capabilities.”
And I think that those two dueling points of view are going to be the two ways that folks are going to be evaluating tools. Look at sales engagement as the perfect example of a market for that. Should I duplicate my database or should I just drop a tool on top of the CRM? I think that the market is still sort of defining itself. It’s amazing that Vlad is creating a space for us to have this conversation when he’s a vendor that’s trying to solve this problem. And I think we should all compliment him for that because it’s very difficult.
Now, I want to transition to the question about buyer experience. I strongly encourage if anyone’s ever heard of Tiffany Bova. She’s a former analyst and now she works at Salesforce. She has this incredible point of view on the value of employee experience to drive by her experience. And I think that the real value of Guided Selling is actually about creating a much more productive and supportive environment for sellers who are frankly operating in a period of utter chaos in terms of the number of sales tech platforms they have to use, the challenges they face with engaging buyers. Some of these are our own doings.
So the summary of it is, I don’t think that Guided Selling is going to tell everyone exactly what to say and make everything perfect and easy. It’s just going to remove a lot of the low-value activities and noise in my day so that I can just evaluate the insights that I’m being given and then decide what to do with them. So ultimately, I think every AI is all about training patterns and every company’s instance is going to be different. And so I think the only value for buyers will be more relevant messaging, more accurate timing, more on pace timing, and a better understanding of what their needs are. So that’s the end of my diatribe.
Sam Jacobs: I thought it was great. Guided Selling as a concept is very broad. I think about a company like Sixth Sense that is focused on account-based marketing and account-based interactions, and that’s also Guided Selling. They have a dash for the login and you can figure out who’s in the market for your solution. So there are a lot of different ways that people are going to be engaging with buyers.
And to your point, Dan, I think the good thing that will happen is that people that are indicating that they’re not that interested will get a lot less attention because the Guided Selling platforms are going to say, “Listen, this person’s taking five days to respond to every email and it’s not a multithreaded deal. So maybe spend your time on somebody else.” Which I think is good because with more relevant messaging more engaged people are more likely to buy.
Seth Marrs: Real quick. You brought up Sixth Sense. I think that’s the whole other discussion around a lot of what we’ve been talking about is the echo chamber of what we do in our daily work. In order for this to really work, you’re going to have to pull in marketing intent data to work through Sixth Sense because they’re a great example. They’re doing their own dashboard on account management that doesn’t integrate with the scoring that Einstein’s putting in Salesforce. But that intent data side and what customers are thinking outside the echo chamber of the internal company is going to be the only way you can really make this hugely beneficial for the rep.
Sam Jacobs: Totally agree with you, Justin. I’d love to hear from your perspective, and I also want to just make sure that we have some pace through the presentation. So we’re going to be talking about coaching challenges. But just what about this question from Walter in the audience?
“I see the value of a sales rep as a high volume of accounts. And so, you know, it’s a mid-market or SMB sale. But how does guided selling work with enterprise or complex sales motions?”
What are your thoughts, Justin?
Justin Michael: Yes, this is a passion of mine. As everyone was talking, I was thinking about Microsoft’s attempt to do Clippy and how much people disliked Clippy, you know, and how cool it would be to be like the movie Her.
I think about Augmented Intelligence and just how many things I can keep in my head. Complex enterprise selling is almost the perfect use case because there are so many stakes to keep track of: their job changes, there are email addresses that go bad, there are new people that join threads. It’s omnichannel, there’s complexity, there are various milestones on timing. And as you’re trying to track a dozen or half dozen deals across all these data points, people-process-technology, it can become complex.
So the augmented intelligence is assistive. It’s surfacing alerts, it’s surfacing things to personalize on, it’s giving you recommendations. However, it’s still up to the human to strategically leverage that info. So I don’t see this is a command and control system, but it’s giving you a series of “choose your own adventure” crossroads so that you are better informed to make the decision. It’s actually improving human decision-making in one way of looking at it.
I hope that’s helpful because I could go on the topic for an hour, but I won’t.
Seth Marrs: Buying groups are a huge deal. And this is where understanding what your buyers are doing in a complex buying situation. I agree. It’s a perfect place for Guided Selling where it’s needed more than anywhere.
Sam Jacobs: Yeah, I agree with you, Seth, I mean, complex emotions are actually giving as many signals oftentimes as a mid-market sale, so you just have to interpret them and parse them differently. So I do think it’s a really relevant use case and maybe the perfect use case.
So we’ve got a few more slides, just data points that we want to share with the audience. Coaching challenges are a huge issue, and we can see only 13 percent of training and coaching is used after just one month. And that’s a perfect area where Guided Selling can come into play to make sure that the rep is following the appropriate process.
So I guess to the panelists, maybe starting with you, Seth. I guess there are coaching challenges, but how important do you think it is also that sort of a sales methodology or idea or philosophy, whether it’s MEDDIC or spin selling or something like that? Do you need a framework built into these platforms in order to deliver the right level of coaching?
Seth Marrs: I don’t think so. I mean, I think this is the beauty of a Guided Selling platform as what we’ve been talking about and where it can be. It will be just like a rep likes it. If it’s going to add value, it’s going to surface that opportunity to add value and that insight to help.
But it’s not going to bring them through a rote process that works for one client and not another, works for one industry and not another. If anything, methodologies will become completely dynamic and beholden to Guided Selling or insights, because that’s the real value. It goes back to that augmentation piece giving the rep what they need when they need it to make the most of that opportunity with the client. And that is not a rote set of sale stages or a specific methodology that you have to follow.
Sam Jacobs: I think that’s a great point. Dan, what do you think?
Dan Gottlieb: I completely agree with Seth. From a coaching point of view, it’s actually simple. In essence, how can I rely on tech to help you make more everyday fundamental decisions such as follow-up with X or reach back out to Y. But then I think that there’s a new wave, there’s another follow-up question, the chat about this.
If you think about new reps, in particular, one of the coaching challenges that’s available is the immediacy and the need for immediate feedback through their development. And, so I think Guided Selling can help accelerate ramp depending on what you sell and how you sell, etc. by providing some bumper results and some suggestions around how to think about spending your time.
And then lastly, I think for the front line manager, that job is going to change probably the most as a result of Guided Selling. I’ll give you a really good example from one of the conversation intelligence vendors, and Justin mentioned this earlier. “How do I prioritize my time on where to coach?” That should hypothetically be the highest impact use of their time, which is partnering with their sellers on deals and helping them think through going after deals.
And as for coaching challenges, I can identify skill gaps from the sales enablement world and I can get a list that says “Here are the five most important calls you need to listen to today, this week.” Ultimately, the major theme is about decision-making and where is the best use of human time. And I think that’s no different for coaching as it is anywhere else.
So that was my long-winded way of agreeing with Seth.
Sam Jacobs: Fair enough. The questions are coming in nicely from the audience, and we love this engagement. It makes it a lot more fun for these conversations. So Jason’s got a question.
“That moment regarding methodology flies in the face of decades of sales research demonstrating the impact of activity-based coaching with defined, verifiable outcomes, which is what methodologies provide.”
So I guess, Jason, if I understand correctly, is your question, why do you think methodologies are not as important as they might be? And I guess I’ll give that back to you, Seth.
Seth Marrs: I think it actually really is. The thing is, it’s the speed with which the methodologies have to work under the constraints that they were built. If I only had a CRM that could take me through stages and I only had visibility to a rep clicking from one stage to the next, it was the best you could do with what you had.
What is Guided Selling platform going to allow you to do is put that into overdrive and have 150 different stages that are fully customized to the industry, to the segment, even to the buyer to enable you to sell in the best way possible. So I don’t think that it flies in the face of sales methodology. I think those have always been valuable. Well, I think it does put it into overdrive. It allows you to have a methodology almost on a customer by customer basis because you have all the data to be able to see how they interact.
So it just takes it to another level, which does make the rote setup stages a lot less valuable over time.
Sam Jacobs: I think to your point, there needs to be an evolution, because so many of these things are built in response to technology. And that technology is sometimes the telephone itself. So as technology evolves, the methodologies themselves need to evolve as well.
Alex has a question. I’m actually going to give this one to Vlad.
“In enterprise sales especially, the focus is on the buyers’ process for evaluating and purchasing, not necessarily the sellers’ process. How can Guided Selling take the buyers’ process into perspective as well as it tries to give reps the insights they need on what to do next in the deal?”
Thanks for that question, Alex.
Vlad Voskresensky: It’s a perfect question. Absolutely, Guided Selling can do that. So you have a complex deal. You have an account-based mapping, your ideal customer profile, your potential buying persona. Proper signals within your Guided Selling platform can hint to you what you need to be doing next.
And especially, as Seth mentioned, if you combine marketing data, internet data into the mix, how cool would it be when you’re facing the need to close that big deal and then you realize that we’re not engaging with the decision-maker frequently enough. And that’s the signal just to say “Hello’ or maybe jump on a goal, etc. At the same time, somebody from our company knows and works with that company, and it may be a back door for me. And Guided Selling may signal to you that based on conversational data, looks like we’re being engaged in another project. It may or may not be relevant, but it’s a piece of information for you to digest.
At the same time, you may get the signal that somebody from that company I’m trying to sell to is actually browsing the Internet and looking at my competitors. So maybe it does make sense to gently touch base and provide that collateral we have which compares us with those guys they are looking at.
Yes, we need to guide a buyer through the process, but that guidance actually means a lot on our end, how exactly we guide. The best guiding is not very close guiding. We are in the shadow hinting people how they go with our company, but putting in their hands the right content and the right messages and the right answers even before they ask us. They just need the data. Understanding the processes may help a lot.
I’ll probably also bring up a couple of use cases to the previous question about the sales methodology. It doesn’t mean that we’ll be like just like robots doing the same.
Not to oversimplify, but I would probably bring an example from sports. We have a game like soccer, and the methodology there would be rules like “We don’t play with our hands.” But then the real-life situation is that I’m on the ground, I’m getting a pass from somebody. What do I do with that? My coach told me that we play, you know, defense or offense, like, who do I pass to next? And those decisions I need to make right there on the field. And this is where Guided Selling can help. Knowing the methodology and knowing the rules of the game, it may start hinting that probably you should consider this and this. Or you have those two options, pick one of those.
And when it comes to enterprise sales, it’s very thoughtful, laser-focused hinting. When it’s more high-velocity sales than is just a database: your number of leads is dropping, your number of calls is not there. So it’s really adjustable to the process you have.
Sam Jacobs: I love that. We’ve got a few more slides, a few more minutes. One of the questions is “How soon will this become the framework?” Vlad, I’ve got a follow-up question from what you just said. To the point about buyer behavior and the evolution of methodologies, you even mentioned this concept of the champion or the decision-maker. But then when we look at some research from places like Forrester, Gardner, TOPO, and other places, we see that there are actually buying committees now.
MEDDIC tells us that there’s an economic decision-maker, the person that is actually making the decision, but buying preferences and patterns may evolve. And I guess this is sort of a softball.
Do you think Guided Selling can also inform us when the ideas we have about how people by themselves are changing? When it turns out that we used to think you needed four people in the buying process and now you need eight. Or we used to think this particular position was important for making the decision, but actually, it’s these two other positions — we’re using machine learning to understand they are more and more involved in successful outcomes. Does that sound like something Guided Selling cans help us with?
Vlad Voskresensky: It definitely can, but it’s all up to the involvement of more and more data sources and checking under the hood. Guided Selling is like a set of wisdom that offers suggestions. They may be super evident, such as if you didn’t contact the guy, it’s time to do that. There is no intelligence around that. But it could be super smart, magic intelligence based on all the data which was processed. We think that we should do this.
So my point is, yes, the behavior of buyers is changing. To see it, you need to analyze that behavior on your website or maybe from other data sources.
Or maybe you just have that idea and you want to run it by your team, which is another perfect part of Guided Selling. You’re a sales leader, you think you should change your sales SLAs, or sales process, or playbooks that way. That’s just an idea you want to try and see if it works or not. What you do as a leader in the next pipeline meeting, you introduce that idea to the whole team. You ask your sales-people to do that.
Next, you don’t know if they’re doing this or not. Guided Selling can help them track that — yeah, we started doing that. Instead of emailing, we started to call people. Instead of jumping on a demo in the first five minutes, we are delaying the demo till the last part of the conversation, things like that.
Guided Selling can track if your teams are actually trying to see if it works or not. Then you have an opportunity to analyze it and if you like the result, you keep them as a part of your playbook. If you don’t like them, you just disregard them and try something else.
Yeah, it’s not a magic silver bullet that will magically tell you “Hey, you know, do nothing except for this one approach, and you’re going to buy an island tomorrow.” No, it’s nothing like that. That’s a tool for you. But it’s a very valuable tool.
And that’s why those figures on the screen are so amazing. I truly believe that every business should be relying on Guided Selling just like any business cannot exist without CRM these days.
Sam Jacobs: Getting exactly to that point. You know, we see that Guided Selling is becoming the industry standard. We know the Guided Selling helps close deals faster. Seth, in your opinion, speaking of Christine’s question:
“What are the biggest mistakes that companies make in implementing Guided Selling? And what are the factors in evaluating the health of that in your organization?”
I would assume that the second question is really related to the efficacy of your sales efforts before and after. But what do you think the biggest mistakes companies are making in implementing Guided Selling?
Seth Marrs: Honestly, I think in a lot of cases today companies are thinking they have a Guided Selling platform right now. I think at this point in time it’s very early.
The first step before you can have any of this stuff work and talk about it, this being a key definition or a key thing is to talk about AI. And AI requires data. So if you don’t start with data and getting that structure in place, getting information flowing that you can analyze, and having a plan to pull all that stuff together to get insights, you’re never going to be able to get this going to where it needs to go. It’s very complicated and it’s going to be one of those things that vendors are going to come up with simpler ways to aggregate data.
A lot of the revenue intelligence vendors have started to do this with emails and meetings. Now with a lot of our meetings with clients or with buyers going virtual, you can put other overlays to look at actual sales conversations to help with that. But it all starts with data. And if you want it to be successful, it’s going to be built slowly to go fast later.
If you think this something you’re going to put in place tomorrow and it’s going to immediately have an effect, it will and can in terms of administrative support and being able to realign time. But to get the true value of a lot of the things we’ve been talking about, it’s going to take a very concerted effort to get your information flowing in the right place, understood, and aggregated in a way that you can provide good insights.
Sam Jacobs: I love that. A few more questions. And folks, I want to make sure that we have this wonderful QR code on the screen as we wrap up. I also want to make sure that everybody understands how to reconnect with Vlad at Revenue Grid, and also Seth, Dan, and Justin. But I’ll just ask you this question.
“One of the reasons for the explosion in the Martech industry was marketing holding the keys to the budget. It is the perception that sales don’t have a budget. Is that changing and time is ripe for sales tech or revenue tech?”
Justin, what do you think?
Justin Michael: Yes, so I’ll quote Lars Nilsson, formerly of Salesforce and Cloudera, now he’s a VP of sales development at Snowflake.
“In 15 percent of high growth companies that have advanced tech stocks, they’re spending a thousand dollars per month on the techs that there will be vendor consolidation and consolidation of point solutions into these guided selling systems. There will be an increase in investment into the sales stack for sellers because the ROI will be there. It’ll be table stakes. One team will try it. An ambitious leader will invest a little more. They’ll suddenly see this incredible ability right when you can make ten dollars at a time versus one.”
So I actually think it may seem like it won’t be, but some big wins and big case studies will cause a sea change. And I think that will fuel Guided Selling, which we can get to the technology, but there’s a lot that goes into that.
There wasn’t really a question about adoption. I think the biggest thing is management being bought in and reps being bought in and one-on-ones not being these check-ins from a single Salesforce list of how was your week or where’s the deal at. The rep and the manager are going into the software, looking at the data and then the data reflects benchmarking and predictive analytics.
So it’s not just a swag, a scientific wild guess, but we’re literally looking at all of the conversations across a million reps. This is actually hard evidence now of why you’re not asking enough open questions or why you shouldn’t be multithreaded. We can now talk about evidence-based coaching, how it unfurls with this technology.
Sam Jacobs: That’s exciting. And then let’s make sure that we know how to reach out to everybody. Seth, if folks have follow-up questions for you, do you have a preferred way for people to get in touch with you?
Seth Marrs: Yeah, just reach out on LinkedIn.
Sam Jacobs: And Dan, is LinkedIn the best way to reach out to you?
Dan Gottlieb: Yeah, definitely.
Sam Jacobs: Awesome. And then, Vlad, tell us where does this QR code take us.
Vlad Voskresensky: Absolutely. So I’ve mentioned in the beginning that 99% of what we do is actually learning from our customers. Not like we invented it. So we love to talk, and we love to learn. But we also love to share what we’ve learned already from others. And the link will take you to the very simple page where you can sign up for a fairly straightforward activity with us, where we can analyze your processes to hint you which aspects of Guided Selling may work for you right now and in the future. And we’re happy just to consult what may be the best parts of a Guided Selling concept for you before you even try it.
It’s a nice research/analytical exercise. We’re happy to do that for you. Obviously, it’s not a paid initiative, just go to revenuegrid.com/guide-me, fill out the form, and will be happy to work with you.
And you can always reach out to me directly as well. LinkedIn works well or simply email me at [email protected]
Sam Jacobs: [email protected], awesome. Justin, what about your preferred way for people to get in touch if they have follow-up questions?
Justin Michael: Yeah. Just hit me up on LinkedIn. Or if you send binary code out into space, I’ll probably intercept it.
Sam Jacobs: Well, folks, thanks so much for this conversation. I think it’s really only the start of a long evolution. And again, there’s going to be so much activity, there’s going to be consolidation, there’s going to be investment, and we’ll figure out who’s going to win. But I think hopefully one of the beneficiaries of all of this investment will be the reps themselves and hopefully the buyers for a better buying experience and better selling experience.
So, thank you to everybody for participating. If folks want to reach out to me, you can: [email protected] If you want to figure out whether Revenue Collective membership is for you, or operations collective for finance, legal, and HR professionals, feel free to go to operationscollective.com or revenuecollective.com.
And then otherwise we’ve got plenty of other great events. The last thing I’ll say is this Thursday we’re hosting a virtual off-site, completely focused on perseverance. We’ve got Ryan Holladay, the author of The Obstacle is the Way and Ego Is the Enemy, a big stoic lecturer and motivational speaker doing our keynote. So we hope you can join us.
Dan, Seth, Justin, and Vlad, thank you so much for your participation. I think this was a great conversation. It will be recorded. It will be available on-demand to Revenue Collective members.
Thanks everybody for joining us.
Justin Michael: Thank you.
Dan Gottlieb: Thanks, everybody.
Vlad Voskresensky: Thank everybody.
Seth Marrs: Thank you.