As someone who sees thousands of companies on the sales and marketing side, what shifts in buying behavior are you seeing this year?
This survey [I was reading recently] was really talking about what are the products that are resonating in the marketplace and the thing that they saw, and I see this in our own business in a big way is companies went from saying, okay, I’m going to evaluate this product and they’re going to tell me about the value that it brings me over six or 12 months and that’s how go to market teams pitched. And that’s a lot of how companies were buying or looking at products. That changed quickly to what do you do for me in the first 90 days? How can you impact my business in the first 90 days? And even the Fortune 10 were only forecasting 90 days out. They couldn’t see past then. So as go to market teams, how do you react to that? You have to be able to talk to them with what they care about at that moment. How do you pivot and talk about your product and the impact it has immediately. What happens on day zero? What happens on day 30, day 60, day 90. And so we saw a lot of companies start to pivot to be able to react to buyers and what they were looking for from that perspective. It was an interesting dynamic that happened because of this, but obviously something that was really surprising to me as you started to look at how we need to think about our go to market activities.
What shifts in buying behavior are you seeing this year? (continued)
I think the market really tried quickly to get self-educated, which I think is really positive because there is a whole new era that is coming for go to market teams. And if you don’t understand the technology to process what is happening out there, because you can stick your head in the sand going, we’re just going to do what we’ve always done. Change is hard and it’s scary for everyone always. And so teams do tend to stick their head in the sand, especially if you’re doing well. Well, all of a sudden, if the market changes on you, you start to really take a step back and go, what could I be doing better?
And I think the other thing we saw, which was encouraging is even industries that were really impacted, people who serviced retail or restaurants, the travel industry. They’re all taking a step back going, how do I change my processes, my technology. So I’m ready when the market comes back. So it doesn’t catch me off guard. So I don’t go, okay, now it’s back now. What do I do? They really took a step back and invested, which is a hard decision to make. When scared as people were about financial situations and obviously the business challenges they were seeing and just the numbers that were coming through to say I’m going to go invest and actually take this time when it’s a little slower, because of all of this to actually pivot my team, pivot the way our go to market team operates. Super proud of teams who did that.
Mistake 1: Showing the engine vs. how fast the car can go
I still remember telling Manny, our CEO… ‘Manny, you guys keep showing them the engine and all they want to know is how fast is the car go and how soft is the leather. And when can I get in and drive?’ I said, ‘So let’s not scare them with the engine. You can show them the engine later, at some point in that, that travel that they have in your car. They’re going to ask about the engine, wait, let’s just give them the three things they need to know today.’
Founders do that because they’re so excited about their product. They’re builders, right? And so they’re so excited about showing everybody the engine. Nobody wants your engine. They want to solve their business problem. And you always as a go to market team and we’ve made this mistake. You get excited about what you’ve built and not what they need. And so how do you train your team to ask about business challenges? How do you focus and make sure you’re figuring out how you go get that information in as many different venues as you can, that you teach your team on not just going, we call it… showing up and throwing up here. So [not] everything you would need to hear about me, you need to spend a lot of time understanding them.
Speeding up deal cycles: Selling with me (not to me)
We were just, our CEO, myself, and Hilary Headlee, who’s the head of operations at Zoom on the go-to-market side, been a big customer of ours. We did a webinar a couple of weeks ago talking about to kind of 2021 predictions. Obviously they have, you know, not budget problems right now. They have the opposite because like, how do they catch all the inbound that’s coming in. And one of the things that she really highlighted and I was asking her this question, I said, ‘This market is challenging. How do you look at how buyers are buying?’ She goes, ‘I took a step back and I look at it as you need to not sell to me, but to sell with me. She said, because one of the challenges that is slowing down deal cycles is that there are 10 to 15 people now in play.’ 10 to 15 stakeholders who have to approve a deal. And she goes in, so it is harder than ever for me to get to those 10 to 15 people, because they’re also all working remote in back to back meetings. So she said, ‘For me to be able to understand your pitch, your product, take it to those 10 to 15 people to get people to “Yes”, we want to move this forward’, she goes, ‘I need help.’ She said, ‘I’m crazy busy. They’re crazy busy.’
So literally some tactics that she talked about in this meeting, which I loved because it’s some things that our product also looks at, she was, ‘Can you please send me a summary of the notes? What in the meeting that we talked about so that I know I don’t have to go try to document what you said. You’ve told me these five things you think will benefit my organization because you’ve done the research walking in. You understand me and my teams. You understand what the company is saying about where we’re focusing and then you come in and say, here’s the way it’s I think I can help your business. And you send me a summary of that after the meeting so that I can use that to take to those 10 to 15 stakeholders, because otherwise it’s going to stall. So it is funny, but it is these simple things. It’s [not] like, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s some big revelation of how you speed it up your deal cycle.’ It is how are you helping them sell internally? How are you coming, prepared and researched into those meetings? So you make that first meeting as impactful as you can because getting a second one in this environment is almost impossible.
Mistake 2: Not speaking to the right person
One is you thought you understood their business challenges and you didn’t get high enough in the organization. So the person you were talking to does not understand what their VP or their SVPs are actually also focused on. The bigger, the organizations that you deal with there’s multiple agendas, there’s multiple strategies going on, and that is what we call MTMP. It’s multithreaded multi people. Multithreaded on their side, multi people on our side, talking to those different people so that we are aligning across different areas. Our solutions consultants are talking into their engineering and IT people. Obviously our sales people talking to sales leaders, we have obviously our ops people talking to their ops people if they are needing education. Our leaders are talking to their leaders. So MTMP is a big thing for us for our sellers to make sure that they are getting as wide across the organization with as many perspectives as we can. We don’t miss something because you have one stakeholder going, like, ‘No, that’s not the plan. That’s not what I wanted to do. That’s not my priority.’ And that can derail your whole deal.
Build a working backwards action plan
When you have a champion, work with them on how do we work back from a close of this deal to today who has to be involved to approve, let’s get that discussion early. Does the person you talked to have ability to influence. Is their budget freeze total, and they have no ability to change budget? Is their budget allowed only for the things that ROI and how are they looking at that and how do they justify that? Or are they feeling good because the company is doing well in this environment and there’s more flexibility. It’s one of those three typically. And so understanding where you sit and who you’re talking to how they understand how the business is looking at is also pretty critical.
Mistake 3: Surprised by ‘no’
You’re helping them sell internally and volunteer to do that. How do we help pitch your CFO? You know, what’s going to the CFO, let’s start that discussion early as well. CFOs used to be way at the end of the process, they are the way at the end of the process sometimes still in there, the one that says ‘no’, and you don’t have another opportunity.
You need to start educating them early so that you are getting into their thought process about budget and where you would fit in and the ROI that they’re going to see in the business. So they aren’t just the ‘no’ at the end, they’ve been educated through the cycle. People leave them to the end and are getting surprised by the ‘no’ when they thought the business owners were all ‘yes’. So how do you help educate those stakeholders, those 10 to 15 people, especially in larger deal cycles that are going to be involved in saying ‘yes’ and getting them in early.
Mistake 4: Time kills all deals
We say that time kills all deals. The more people you have, the more time they have to get nervous or get distracted. And in this environment, it is so easy to get distracted. You lose the momentum in a deal cycle and there’s 50,000 other things on people’s plates. And you think it’s about you and it doesn’t have anything to do with you. They just need to go address these other things in their business. And so it is how are we making sure that you’re getting to a deal close quickly. What is the timeline? Why are they making this decision now? Why are they talking to you? What is it that’s creating that compelling moment for what we could have done a year ago. We could do it a year from now. Why now?
And then work back from why now and what is the impact they’re trying to have for their businesses. And what does that timeline so that you are working into a timeline that actually impacts what they’re trying to impact. And how do you use that to your advantage to get the deal closed in that timeframe?
New era of GTM – less data entry, higher velocity
As you start to put technology enablement around how go to market teams have talked to their customers and what their customer journey was like, you have to obviously really get to the quality of your messaging fast. And so what technology is going to enable is understanding business outcomes. How do you talk about the business outcome that you produce? When you look at the go-to-market teams and what message they put into the marketplace, they are the loudest marketing voice you have.
They’re talking to people every day about your company. And so it is a channel for marketing that you have to get right. That you have to have the right messaging. That has to be the messaging you want to put out there, but it also has to be the messaging that buyers want to hear. What technology is going to do is give those, go to market teams both the consistency of the messaging you want them to say what you want them to say in response to an objection, what you want them to say on a call when they ask about a certain product we have all heard the stories where a sales person said the wrong thing about the product and it actually doesn’t do that thing.
It is now that your go to market team not having to spend all their time entering data or rehearsing information as much so that they can actually focus on what needs to be human, which is relating to your customer, understanding their challenges, and figuring out how to get your product into their company. Those are the things that we’re trying to give to go to market teams back with the technologies that exist today, so that those sellers don’t have to go, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to now go stop and prepare for this next meeting with my manager because I have to tell them these five things.’ I just heard those five things are already been loaded up into the system and your manager can look at them any time they want. You can send an email saying here’s the five things that just happened on that big call you wanted to hear about. And you as the sales person don’t have to do a thing. Same in customer success, when you’re looking at the sentiment, the emotion of buyers – we’re reading that now as we look at emails.
So how do you think about positive or negative, but what kind of negative and how should you respond? We call that guided engagement. and it will become more of that as the machine learning gets more and more sophisticated, we’re in step one of that journey. But those are the things that the go-to-market teams will be able to do.
So how do you enable them as a founder to make sure you’re giving them those technologies and creating a culture of embracing that. Because the more you do that, the more effective, efficient, and the faster your company’s going to grow. I think that is just a reality.
Prioritization and focus for startups
You talked about self-service earlier and I’ll put Manny on the line from this one. It was from when I first started. And Manny as an execution machine. And he’s also very visionary and there’s things that he wants us to have done two years ago that he still thinks we are going to do tomorrow. But I still remember I took my first vacation when I started with Outreach, this was back in 2018 and I came back here.
It was like, ‘Anna, Manny announced to the whole company we’re going to do self-service.’ I’m like, ‘What?! Wait, wait a minute. What happened?’
And so I sat down with Mandy and my senior vice president of customer success, who came from Zendesk, a very big self-service company. And we stopped and said, let’s talk about what self-service really means. And we actually spent some time and mapped out the friction on the customer journey and said, you can’t just open it up at the front end because the whole customer journey has to be self service. We have to make sure that we don’t just create the pain. I would say it’s like a boa constrictor swallowing a pig. You might’ve gotten it in, but you have to get all the way through. So things get stuck. And if you just move the pain from the beginning to three quarters away through the journey or halfway, you didn’t solve the pain, you just moved it. And so you really have to look at the whole customer journey and say, ‘How do I take a step back and understand am I really fixing this?’
But that was two years ago. We still don’t have it. So it was absolutely something that we could have gotten really distracted on.
Mental health is top of mind
Mental health, honestly, is still an incredibly huge top of mind thing for me. As business leaders, that is not something we were trained how to do with our teams. It was not something that you’re supposed to talk about even in the workplace, but keeping my team mentally healthy is the thing that helps drive our business, and so I have to.
And when you look at the team that sits at Outreach today, and I would say this about but every go-to-market organization, the teams that are existing still, who made it through these last nine months have incredible empathy, perseverance, grit to have stayed in, in play and trying to focus to doing the right things in the business in one of the most difficult times, they will probably experience in their entire lives for all of us.
Take time to create mental space
Commuting is a beginning and an end to a day for a lot of people. And it creates a mental space where you are processing, you’re processing, what you’re going to do for the day in the morning. And you’re processing what happened to the day on your way home. We have no processing time anymore. And so one of the tips was you have to create a fake commute. And there are some things you’re going to, going to go walk around the neighborhood for half an hour before work starts. You’re going to go walk around the neighborhood again for half an hour at five thirty or six or whatever the end of the day is. So you create that mental space to process. Because when you go from back, back, back, back, back, no processing time and then continue to work 30% more often so with some of our team members, you are never having that mental space.