Sales Communication: The Most Important Thing
Our very own Conrad Bayer recently spoke on Sales Pipeline Radio, a radio program that is fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals, about the importance of sales communication.
Hosted by Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
Matt: We’ve got a great guest today, Conrad Bayer, who is the CEO and founder of Tellwise, a fantastic sales enablement, sales productivity tool.
This is episode #3 now for Sales Pipeline Radio. We’ve had a couple great guests already. We now have guests booked for every show up until March. The feedback from the show has been fantastic. We’ve got some great momentum. Joanne Black, who is a referral selling expert will be on the show in January. We’ve got Meagan Eisenberg who is the CMO of MongoDB, and is really a pioneer in marketing technology and helping sales and marketing teams work together. So really, really excited about what we have coming up.
Let’s get right to it. Conrad, really excited to have you on the show. Maybe give a little bit of background on you and a little elevator pitch on what Tellwise is all about.
Conrad: Sounds good. Thanks, Matt, and thanks for having me be a part of the show. I’m excited about that. Yeah, as you mentioned, I’m the CEO and co-founder of a company called Tellwise. We’re focused on innovating the actual communication channel between buyers and sellers. How do we make the actual interaction more personalized, faster, better? And the way we’ve done that is to essentially reinvent email. We’ve added instant messaging, phone, and live presentation directly into the email experience, and that just means that you can get things done a whole lot faster.
I’m thrilled to be here today to talk about the industry in general and how we see the buyer evolving. There’s a whole lot going on in the sales ecosystem, and it’s always exciting to get to talk about it.
Matt: So, let’s talk about why this tool is so important. I think sales people are inundated with tools and technology and new, shiny widgets, and it can be hard to discern which are important, which are needed, and which are just noise. You and I were talking about the whole issue of sales productivity, and sometimes it’s the little things that keep sales reps from being more productive, being more successful, when it comes to how they are executing on their communication.
Conrad: That’s a key point, you’re absolutely right. There are a lot of tools out there that distract the sales person from doing the most important thing. The most important thing is to communicate with your customer: have a conversation, get to know them, understand their pain points. Really, really understand how you can add value to that. And really, to do that, you have to communicate with them. Unfortunately, though, we’ve got a lot of different choices of how we communicate. We can use the phone, we can use email, we can use instant messaging. There’s web conferencing… A whole bunch of tools, and some spend a lot of time bouncing between those tools and trying to manage how they navigate those different experiences. And the buyer has a similar challenge.
So we kind of look at the problem and say, “Why don’t we aggregate all of that into a single solution?” If we do that, we can save the seller time because they do everything from the same place. We can also give the buyer a better experience. So, it’s really about: how do we increase active selling time by allowing the seller to focus just on the communication aspect of what they need to do with their customer. We think that’s where the real value is. That’s where you develop the relationship, where everything you build on comes from that communication foundation. We’re just about making it easier so you have to go to less places, and focusing in on that as being really important.
Matt: What you’re saying is important, but I think it even gets a little deeper. This is something ninety-eight percent of sales managers and sales operations people we talk to don’t really think about and therefore don’t prioritize. It’s not just having the right communication tools. You have to increase the flow and the efficiency of how sales reps use them. You can introduce five different tools that, individually and together, create better communication, but if you have to toggle back and forth between those different systems, if there isn’t continuity in not only how reps execute but in the progression of message and story that those tools allow for the rep and for the buyer, you’re not only failing to reach the value of efficiency, it might actually be counterproductive. You might be slowing your team down, ironically using tools that are meant to provide greater efficiency and productivity.
Conrad: Absolutely. There’s only so many things that they can deal with at any one time, so if you can integrate and aggregate the experience, a lot of interesting things start to happen. One is, they obviously get to spend more time actually communicating, but then you get to start to have interesting conversations internally about what’s working and what’s not working. As you improve consistency in terms of tools you’re using, you also improve consistency of the data you get out.
So we, for example, take all the data that we get in terms of buyer behavior, and we synchronize that seamlessly into Salesforce or your CRM system. So we’re getting better data into the CRM system, while at the same time not needing the rep to do it—the system does it on their behalf. There’s this very positive feedback loop that starts to happen.
You get to spend more time thinking about the customer, communicating with the customer, giving everybody a better experience, and then the data you get out of it starts to become more useful. You can do much more insightful analysis of what messaging is working, what messaging isn’t working, why did this deal close and that deal not close? You can just get much more quantitative in how it is you operate. The benefits start to compound on each other.
Matt: Well, and what’s cool about your story is not only have you built a lot of this important nuance into the product, but you’re also eating your own dogfood. As your business grows and as you guys bring on new clients, you have a sales team that is using Tellwise as its communication tool. What are some of the things you learn by managing that, by watching what your team does, by managing those efforts both related to using Tellwise but also just related to communication with today’s busy prospects in general?
Conrad: Right, that’s an excellent point. We’re absolutely our first and best customer in terms of driving innovation in the product and everything we need to do. You know, such a big thing with working with buyers today is about immediacy. We’re overloaded with information and attention. We’re in this attention-oriented economy. And what we’re able to do is that we’re sharing content with customers, and we know exactly through the platform when they’re interacting with it. We’re actually instant messaging with them while they’re reading that white paper or whatever communication they might have. And then we can ratchet up the communication channel.
So the immediacy of being able to interact with a customer when they’re thinking about your solution, which is a wonderful thing, not interrupting them necessarily with a call. They’re reading your content, you instant message with them. Very low friction. If the conversation of the instant message is progressing well, you can move it up to a call, if you want, and do it all through the same experience. The key thing for the buyer today, they’re doing their research, they’re engaging. You want to engage with them when they’re thinking about your solution and find ways to do that. Because they are overwhelmed otherwise. So if you do that well, there’s lots and lots of quantitative data out there that shows how you can improve conversion rates when you do that. So we absolutely practice that.
Matt: I think as great as these tools have become, one of the things I fear is that our accessibility to prospects and our ability to engage our prospects on multiple channels implies a level of interest that some prospects don’t yet have. And so, I think being able to use these tools to get engagement is great, but quickly before we hit a break, talk about what that means in terms of still having a customer-centric, outcome-oriented storyline built into these tools that is really the backbone or the foundation of driving that engagement as a sales professional.
Conrad: Absolutely. When we think about customer and being customer-centric, we think about hierarchy of communication channels to work with them. Some are more invasive than others. Email is pretty lightweight and you can sort of move up from there. When you get started with phone calls and asking people for their time, that’s a pretty invasive thing. There’s got to be enough value there for them to actually commit to that. So we introduce interesting ways to build that relationship before you even ask for that call.
So, for example, being able to instant message, which is very lightweight, very simple for the customer (we have a very high engagement rate of about 30%), before you move into the call is a very important, powerful thing to do. There are some modern approaches you can apply to help build a relationship, and as you build a relationship you can get more intimate in terms of how you use the communication channels to go deeper. I think a lot of sellers need to understand that. You need to appreciate the fact that you start with nothing, build, and as you build you can ask for more and more as the relationship evolves. Its’ definitely not right for the touchdown right away.
Matt: One of the things that I’ve been particularly impressed with Conrad is just how flexible his platform is. I use it myself, I’m a sales team of one, and honestly I’m not just using it for prospecting, I use it for a variety of communication with people in my network, with partners. It helps me prioritize follow up; it helps me engage with the people that are ready for engagement. We were talking about sales productivity before, sometimes those little bumps in productivity, moving from 25 to 30% productivity– Knowing exactly which prospects are engaged and which prospects are ready for a conversation to increase the likelihood of getting them on the phone and having a direct line of communication right now is important.
I’ve had a number of great customers and I know my network here in Seattle has been a good one. I’ve been particularly impressed with the way Paul Leto at F5 Networks runs the inside sales team in North America, particularly impressed with how they are integrating Tellwise with other systems and database tools to really hone in on their productivity. Can you talk a little bit about what they’ve done and what’s made them so special as an early adopter and leader in this space at this point?
Conrad: Yeah, they’ve been a wonderful customer, and Paul is a leader in the space as far as building out a modern inside sales team. One of the most interesting things about inside sales nowadays is it’s becoming a very data driven, quantitative, almost scientific operation. It’s really understanding not only the performance of your team and the number of dials and emails and things they’re sending, but also starting to understand the engagement from the customer’s side. Paul has had a lot of vision in terms of creating a very seamless workflow for his team, and it’s an honor to be a key part of that workflow.
It starts with the team working in their list generation tools. They work with tools like RainKing, InsideView, where we’re able to research the prospects we want to work with. Tellwise can then come in and actually start their campaign directly from those tools. We have some interesting integration that allows them to start immediately there. And again, just focus on delivering the right value proposition to the prospects that they’re working with. And we will do all of the synchronization of creating the contact in Salesforce and synchronizing all of the activity that happens with those contacts as the relationship progresses.
The key thing for Paul was, “My reps need to spend time with multiple tools, need to spend time with the list tools, Salesforce, email, all of these various tools, deliver the communication story that we want to deliver,” and Tellwise just sews all of that together as a single platform. They do it from Outlook actually, we have an Outlook integration, so they can start these campaigns directly from outlook, dial directly from Outlook. They can do everything they need to do all from that one simple interface. And for him, that’s driven a lot of productivity, but it’s also started to give him much better data, again, in terms of what his customers are actually doing, what his engagement rate is, which in turn is helping his forecasting situation. His forecasting can now be much more data driven in terms of buyer activity and buyer behavior, rather than solely the opinion of the seller. So it introduces a whole lot of new conversations within the organization and better predictability. That’s been a wonderful organization to work with.
Matt: I mentioned our lineup for Sales Pipeline Radio. We’ve got a great lineup of guests heading into 2016. Our next live show is actually going to be January 7th. We’re going to take a couple weeks off. January 7, 2016, we are going to be featuring Jim Keenan, who’s been in the sales consulting space for a long time. He runs a company called A Sales Guy Consulting and just published a new book called Not Taught, and it’s his lessons learned, in some cases the hard way, in how to be successful in sales and in business that you don’t hear, don’t get in business school, don’t hear from others. If you know Jim, you know he is a unique voice, and he has a lot of very important things to say that sometimes come across as controversial, but I have yet to learn something from him that isn’t important, that hasn’t impacted my business in some way. So, definitely make sure you check us out here in a couple weeks when we get into the New Year.
Conrad, let’s talk a little about 2016. Let’s talk about the increasingly complex world of sales technology. I know you, like us, get a lot of questions from companies that are trying to make sense of the landscape, trying to make sense of what is now literally over 3,500 sales and marketing tools. I think in many cases it’s really easy for the tail to wag the dog, for companies to sign up for and get excited about certain technology and not really have a plan to implement it, not really do enough work to roll it out, to reinforce it, to make it any core part of your behavior.
What are some of the questions you hear from the market, and what are some of the recommendations you give people in terms of how to prioritize and make decisions and then successfully launch the right components of their sales technology staff?
Conrad: That’s a great question and great conversation. In fact, one of the first things we get to when we talk to any new customer is, “What are your priorities for 2016? Let’s understand those a little bit more. What are some of the impediments to you reaching those objectives and goals?” And that always raises up all kinds of interesting conversations. Typically, everybody struggles with pipeline, you know, keeping the pipeline healthy, etcetera, etcetera and all the way through to close. Every sales manager, every year gets a lovely revenue increase they need to deliver, and they’ll get head count associated with that. They have to perform some magic. So we spend a lot of time talking about how they need to close more business, which is kind of universal stuff.
And the questions we get are: “What kind of technology do we need to use to help us do that?” And we kind of say, “Well, stop. What’s the most important thing for you to deliver to get new revenue for your business?” And it turns out the answer is typically, “We need to talk to customers more. We need to have a conversation. We need to understand and add value to an organization.” That all comes through communicating.
There’s tons and tons of technology out there that’s going to analyze this or various widgets that’ll do various things, but what you really need to focus on is, “Get my sellers more conversation time with my customers.” What technology is going to help us to do that? There are various ways of getting more active selling time, that’s a good thing, by optimizing in a variety of areas. But they really need to focus on technology to get them communicating with that customer, understanding that communication, getting more analysis about what’s working and not working and then building from there. So we kind of go back to basics. We say, “Look, how much active selling time do you have? How are you using that active selling time in terms of how you’re communicating?” and that’s what we need to focus in on.
Matt: I love your answer to that, and I think it’s amazing how many people are looking for these giant leaps of productivity. They’re looking for the silver bullet, the one system or the one tool or the one strategy that’s going to get them to come in and transform their results. I’ve never seen that. Despite the fact that that is clearly some kind of purple unicorn from a distance, we continue to look for those. What you’re describing is a much more realistic, a much more attainable strategy, which is: Look for the incremental gains, the ones which over time and across your entire sales organization give you very material increases in productivity, give you the opportunity to engage more prospects.
Like you said, simply having more conversations a day across twenty selling days of the month across however many sales reps you have, that makes a very material difference without hiring new sales people, without spending riding on new leads. And so the ROI on that gets pretty interesting pretty quickly.
Conrad: Absolutely, and there are some side benefits that you just start to have as a result of that. To sell your product, you’ve really got to be a leader in the industry. There are a variety of ways of doing it, but realistically if you’re going to be a long term business you need to be a leader in the industry. And the way you do that is by really understanding it. And I talk about how I’m a student of my customers’ problems. While I get value in each individual relationship in terms of understanding their challenges, I also get an aggregate benefit.
If I talk to ten customers, and I talk to ten different problems, there are often common patterns between them. And I build on that information, so when I’m talking to customer one I can say to customer two, “Hey! In working with this customer over here, this is how they solved that problem.” My value proposition gets stronger and stronger every time I have those kinds of conversations. So on an individual level, absolutely, you’re getting better, but overall, across all of your customers, you’re going to get a whole lot stronger as well. And it all just comes down to being a student of your industry, a student of your customers’ problems, and then you build from there.
Matt: Awesome. First of all, I want to thank Conrad Bayer from Tellwise for joining Sales Pipeline Radio today. If you want to learn more about Tellwise, you can go to www.tellwise.com. If you are new to Sales Pipeline Radio, first of all, where the heck have you been? Second of all, we’ll give you a little break because this is only episode number three. But if you want to catch up on our first couple episodes, you can just go to www.salespipelineradio.com. We have all current and all future episodes on the site. You can download the episode. You can listen live streaming if you want to hang out at the office and listen to some of our speakers in the past.