This week I was chatting brown bags and the importance of clean data with Sales Leader, Brent Peacher. For those of you looking to get tighter simpler processes and workflows in Salesforce and articulating that value to the team, this one’s for you! Brent was setting up camp in Washington, and kindly took the time to join me early on WebEx. The interview began…
Rory Brown (RB): Can you tell us more about Brent Peacher and your career to date?
Brent Peacher (BP): I have been in sales for over fifteen years. I was an individual contributor for many years, so I have seen good leaders and bad leaders. I just guest-wrote a piece about leadership on About Leaders where you can read more on that topic when it’s published next month. I moved into sales leadership around 8 years ago.
RB: In the previous roles, did they have sales operations functions or were you doing both again yourself there?
BP: At Cyveillance, we had a Director of Sales Operations I worked closely with and he put all the processes in place. At Brazen and BlackMesh that was all really on me, although I worked closely with the senior leadership who had a lot of input as well. When they brought me in, I showed them how to properly implement Salesforce, how to track activity, and how to manage without micro-managing, which is a big point. As a leader, you can’t look through the scope of your gun and also survey the field at the same time. One of the pitfalls that new leaders fall into is wanting to micro-manage their folks. You have to hold them accountable, while at the same giving them room to grow. It’s important to motivate while seeing the big picture.
My strategy in sales operations: putting processes in place for people who may not be able intuit the next move. It’s important to be agile, but you also have to have processes that people can fall back on when they don’t know what to do. It’s important to have a balance. Too much process takes away from productivity, but people can get stuck when there isn’t a process to fall back on.
RB: How do you ensure that people are onboard with any new processes or technologies that you implement, and how do you make sure those processes get used as intended?
BP: I generally will do brown-bag lunch sessions to get people trained up. After that it’s about holding people accountable. Salespeople will try to do as little process work as they can, which is understandable because they want to spend time on things that make money. But you also have to educate them on the fact that things like putting in clean data is going to increase marketing efforts, which is going to get them more leads. You must spend an ample amount of time educating them on the importance of clean data in tools like Salesforce, but also on training them on how to do things efficiently so they are not frustrated and feel like they are taking away from sales time by constantly updating Salesforce.
RB: If you were to work with a sales operations person, what are the key things that they would help you to do, and enable you to do as a leader?
BP: Setting me up with easily accessible reporting and dashboards is the first thing. Also, having reporting that is delivered at certain intervals. I would want them to hold people accountable for following processes, while still giving them the leeway to make exceptions. Sometimes you have a situation where a hot lead comes in and you need to skip a step. They need to be the go-to person to make those exceptions and to expedite things. They also need to be the person who goes to a sales person and says, “You didn’t close this out correctly; you didn’t fill in the information correctly.” I don’t want to be having those conversations.
RB: As a sales leader, how do you establish where someone needs to be coached and how would you go about coaching them?
BP: Well, one thing I believe is: You should record every single sales call. As a salesperson, listening is the most important skill – on any sales call, listening and getting the pain points from the prospect is more important than telling your story, at least on the first couple of calls. It’s difficult to listen actively when you are taking notes, but if you record it you can have the conversation and then go back and listen to it again several times, and use it for coaching. This way, you can be forward thinking on your feet, about what question do I ask next, where do I take this conversation, as opposed to just trying keep up taking notes.
And if it is a really good call, play it for the team so everyone can learn from it. If it is a bad call, it’s best not to embarrass the person, so use it for individual training, and speak to the team in general terms about best practices.
Doing role plays is also important so people can practice their story out loud. I also encourage folks to practice at home in front of the mirror, their child, the dog – whatever it takes just to hear themselves say their story out loud.
Another thing to bring to the reps’ attention is how much they are talking and how much the prospect is talking. The prospect should be talking a minimum of 60% of the time on an early call. You can talk more later on at the demo stage. But during the demo, you shouldn’t really be talking about the features that don’t map back to those pain points which were uncovered in the discovery call. It’s critical in the initial calls to identify all relevant pain points, which you can’t do if you are talking the whole time.
RB: In your experience, what makes a good SaaS demo?
BP: I’ll start with the disco. The first thing: set expectations for the meeting so that they agree to you asking them a load of questions. And you gain their agreement by saying something like, “I know your time is valuable and my time is also valuable. In order to make the best use of it, I need to ask you a couple of questions so I can focus on what is going to be important to you.”
At that point you start asking them questions. You can tell when they perk up on a certain pain point, so at that point you need to drill down on it, and find out as much as possible how the issue is affecting them personally as well as the organisation.
Sometimes I ask them, “We’ve uncovered these three pain points. On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you rate this one?” It sounds tedious but, in my experience, they generally appreciate it. At the end of the call you can say, “well, I told you at the beginning of the meeting that we would decide together if it was worth our time to move to a demo. You said you were an 8 on this one, a 10 on this one, a 6 on this one. Generally, if someone is above a 5 on any one, it is probably a good idea to do a demo.”
For example, if you uncover that they have weak reporting and they are getting dinged at the Board of Directors meeting, you can show them how a feature would nip that conversation in the bud. The more information you have, the more you can map back when you do the demo.
The biggest mistake I see reps make on demos is they run it like it is a product training.
The only things you should be drilling down on are the ones that map back to something they told you is a problem because with anything else they are going to get bored; they are going to start checking their email.
(Read more about delivering the perfect SaaS demo.)
RB: I like the notion of ranking the problems 1 – 10. It makes a lot of sense. Why do you think it is a useful or powerful tool?
BP: In sales we are becoming more and more metrics driven, and in business in general. That way, you can come back to them and say, “by your own rating you said that this was an 8. You said this is a 10. Obviously, based on your metrics, doing nothing is not an option. Whether you go with us, or someone else, the longer you wait the worse it is going to be when you have to make the change – the farther you fall behind.”
RB: How you go through the platform in relation to what you found out in the discovery call? And how do you make them want to spend time with you again?
BP: You have to gain their agreement. One of the ways that you can really move some of those next steps forward and get them to agree is through scarcity – don’t make it seem as if it is too easy. Say, “I know your time is valuable. I really want to bring in my top resource to work on this, but they are extremely booked up. So, in order to get them in a reasonable time frame, we need to get this locked in.” Make it sound like you are doing them a favour by scheduling something.
RB: You talked about recording calls and using that as best practice for the team. Do you implement the same technique with demos?
BP: Yes absolutely. I insist on recording everything. And again, with the bad ones, those are for individual coaching. The good ones for team coaching.
RB: You are particularly keen on the people side and the coaching side. Are there any specific areas around that that are a big subject area for you?
BP: Yes. I would say as a sales leader the most important thing is to inspire and motivate. You can’t do that by being a bean counter boss – someone who is just counting calls and emails and saying: make more calls, do better.
The way you do that, in the beginning you get in the trenches with them. With my SDRs, I will sit in a conference room and I will make cold calls with them. They see that even though I am a leader, I’m willing to get punched in the face and keep moving forward. At the AE level, it is the same thing. I go with them to as many appointments as I can, particularly when they are new. We celebrate when we win, and coach when we lose. The number one reason sales people fail is not a lack of talent or a lack of training. It is giving up, and people give up long before they actually quit the job. They give up believing they can win; they give up on prospecting.
They say it takes six touches before you get somebody to agree to a meeting on average. But very few salespeople actually touch a prospect six times before they move on. So, a lot of it is just perseverance and persistence. And as a leader, you have got to show them that that is your attitude; show them you did that in the past and are willing to do it now. Once you get them bought in, the other stuff is icing on the cake: teaching them how to be a little bit more polished, how to run a correct discovery call, how to do some closing techniques. These are things they learn with time.
The key reason sales people fail 95% of the time, is that they give up right before they are about to reach success. I truly believe that.
RB: One of the things sales leaders struggle with, is when you are at an interview and you get the showman’s version of the truth. Are there questions, go to’s, topics, and scenarios that you use to understand whether someone has actually got resilience?
BP: I think part of it is asking questions that they are not expecting, which illustrate those qualities. “Tell me something in your personal life – something that was an obstacle that was very difficult to overcome, that you are proud that you did.” Some people are going to have to think hard to come up with something, other people will have something right on their tongue. Body language is important. You can tell if somebody is confident or aggressive. Also, qualities like charisma and humor are hugely important, which unfortunately, some salespeople just don’t have. You can tell if somebody is charismatic right off the bat. You can be a good salesperson without some of these innate qualities through hard work. However, to be truly excellent, they have to have the whole package. In today’s world, clients are looking for a consultant. They are not looking for someone to sell them something. Consultative selling is a skill that not everyone can master.
In order to be a really great salesperson you have got to have charisma, intelligence, fearlessness, resilience. It’s not an easy combination to find. That is why there is usually only one of two of them on a sales team.
Want to get more insights from sales ops leaders? Check out our other posts in the sales ops interview series.