Transforming seller productivity with AT&T
Devin Reed: Welcome to the show. You are now part of Reveal: The Revenue Intelligence Podcast powered by Gong. We're your hosts, Devin Reed.
Sheena Badani: And I'm Sheena Badani. Revenue intelligence is a new way of operating based on customer reality instead of opinions. It's an unfiltered view of your customer reality. In other words, making data- driven decisions based on facts instead of opinions or guesswork.
Devin Reed: It's made up of three success, pillars: people success, deal success and strategy success, the things all revenue teams need and care about. Every week we interview senior revenue professionals, and they share their stories and insights on how they leverage revenue intelligence to drive success and win their market.
Sheena Badani: You'll hear how modern go- to- market teams win as a team, close revenue with critical deal insight, and execute their strategic initiatives, plus all the challenges that come along with it.
Devin Reed: Before I asked if you were ready to hit record, you were real confident and dare I say a little smug, Sheena, so I'm expecting a pretty great answer here.
Sheena Badani: Okay. Now I'm on the spot.
Devin Reed: I'm heating up the seat. So I'm curious, Sheena, what's your number one productivity tip for our listeners?
Sheena Badani: Maybe it's a little bit cliche, but I would say that if you're trying to do something that requires a lot of thinking, it is to turn off all your other apps and distractions. I don't always follow this. This literally happened today where I was trying to build a new deck on something, and at the same time, my eyes are going over to my other screen that had Slack on it. Afterwards, when I was done with that hour, I was disappointed because I hadn't accomplished as much as I wanted to, and I knew it was exactly because I was getting distracted. So my main tip, and again, you've heard this probably a million times, likely need to be reminded, is exit out of everything else if you're trying to really focus on something that requires your full attention.
Devin Reed: That is a great tip. Even if it's something people have heard before, being reminded is not a bad thing. Our good and mutual friend, DJ Waldow wrote an article, I think it was from monday. com, talking about multitasking and it always stuck with me because he said," There's no such thing as multitasking. There's only task switching." So you're not really doing two things at once like maybe a robot can do. What you're actually doing is just going back and forth, back and forth really quickly, and it exhausts you. So if you do that a lot in an hour, you're going to be much more tired than if you'd just done those things individually.
Sheena Badani: It happens so much more often now that we're all virtual because you could be on a Zoom call and doing four things on the side and you think nobody knows. There's just a lot of ways that that can happen when you're sitting in front of your laptop and your iPhone at the same time doing all these different things. What about you? Anything to add?
Devin Reed: Mine is... Over this year, I spent a lot of time being more aware of kind of two things. One, what gets me in the zone. So when you know you're in that deep work or you're just firing on all cylinders and there's a comedian that says," Firing on all syllables," and I think that's me because I write a lot. But understanding what gets you in that place. Is it a lot of rest? Is a little rest? Is it a little caffeine? A lot of caffeine? Stretching? Music? Everyone kind of has their own little regimen, if you will, that will get you in that mode. So I think perfecting that is a great productivity tip. Mine is either stretching for 10 or 15 minutes to get the blood going or a little walk before work if I can swing it. That's been big for me. Then the other one from talking to Dan Pink a couple weeks ago was knowing what time of day you're most aware and kind of when you're most productive. So you're a morning person, you should be doing deep work or at night, are you more analytical and you should be doing certain tasks. So the best you can, and I know it's tough in sales because business hours are business hours, you've got to meet when people will meet with you, but if you can block your day as best you can, I think that'll help a lot. If you're listening and going," Okay, great. What does this have to do with the interview today?" Well, we talked about sales productivity with our new friend, Alex Shumway- Jones, who's the AVP of Omni Channel Sales at ATT. I'm not going to tee it up anymore. We just gave you some productivity tips. Alex has a handful for you. So Sheena, what do you say we go hang out with Alex?
Sheena Badani: Let's do it. Alex, welcome to Reveal. We're so thrilled to have you on the show today. I am so excited for our conversation, but just to set the stage a bit for all of our listeners, you're currently the AVP of Omni Channel Sales at AT& T. So I'm thrilled to learn more about what that means. You have a pretty big team of inside sellers, about 600 + sellers on your team today. Your experience is quite unique. I was taking a look at your LinkedIn profile. You were a seller yourself, you had a stint in marketing, you kind of came back to inside sales. So tell us a little bit more about your take on inside sales versus outside sales.
Alex Shumway-Jones: I currently, as you mentioned, lead our inside sales practice for AT& T Business and that's inclusive of inside sellers who face off to small business customers, medium- size business customers, enterprise, public sector, and we've played around with a couple variated models of inside sales within that. But my background had predominantly been in outside sales. What's interesting is when I started in the sales arena, inside sales to me felt like this if you didn't make it in sales, you somehow made your way to inside, and it was somewhat lesser of the two evils. That was the probably preconceived notion I had throughout my career. Going in and trying a marketing role, as you mentioned, I was a chief of staff for our sales leader for a little while and then did some operational roles, but always felt myself coming back to a sales role or in the arena of selling and supporting sellers and our customers. But now leading inside sales, it's almost like the pendulum has shifted for me personally, but I also think the market as well as the profession. I think if you look back over the last, what two years now, there was a time when all outside sellers were inside sellers because of the pandemic. The environments we were selling in now all shifted overnight. I was already well on my way in inside sales to uncover the productivity advantage inside sellers had just because of the newer technology and readiness of data and our ability to absorb and then take action as a result of it. That just wasn't the case when I was an outside seller and looking at other types of sales professions differently than I do today. So I'd say now looking at inside sales, I just find it to be far more productive for a couple reasons. I think when I look at the customers we sell to, not all of them are in the office any more than I am. The decision makers' makeup and profiles are different, whether that be generationally, whether that be the hats they wear, that used to be businesses that were predominantly in an office setting who are maybe now hybrid or perhaps even totally virtual to where knocking on someone's door, there wouldn't be someone on the other end who could actually tell you yes. So finding customers and decision makers digitally, virtually is what we're finding to become very productive, not to say our outside sales team's not productive. I'm just more intellectually stimulated with the opportunity around looking at a seller resource and determining how to maximize that productivity of that resource. That's kind of how we're playing around with new technology, new models and comparing and contrasting and always taking advantage of what's happening with our customer base, what's happening in our selling environments, and how do we maximize on all that.
Sheena Badani: For you personally, was it some of these trends that drove your decision to join the inside sales and come to the other side of the house?
Alex Shumway-Jones: I joined inside sales by taking over our college hire sales training organization that I actually came through and started the company with 11 years ago. So for me it was a passion project of, I was a seller, I was a leader who hired graduates out of this program onto my sales team and had some perspective of as a seller in the program, what were some missed opportunities, and as a manager hiring, what were some gaps in the individuals I was hiring that perhaps I could create and fill those voids when leading this program, and it's like next chapter. So the premise of the program was a development program. We did pretty mass hiring and onboarding, but it was by and large, a training program first and a sales generation program second. In fact, we sat in HR organizationally. We didn't even sit in the sales channel. Our leadership teams got together and said," Now that we've got real good clarity on the mission of this program, let's think about how to make again, when you put the productivity first, how do we create even more productive sellers?" Well, perhaps we create less theoretical and more realistic scenarios for onboarding, like providing quotas day one and sitting in a sales channel, going through prospecting, carrying not only a target but also the act of transacting and all that comes with the process and the operational complexity of following through on a sale for day two and having customers stay with you. All of that was really good, practical experience that was transferable throughout the time after our sellers' time in this program. Then we realized after, let's call it a year or two into that kind of restructuring of becoming a heavy expense center to now a very unique revenue generating center, how do you then scale that? It was an inside sales program. Even though we were training for outside sales, we were inside. So then we started playing around with," Okay, well, what if we never send them outside? What happens if we create new roles where they just continue through in the very similar modality that they were onboarded and trained in?" Next thing you know, we're scaling inside sales and creating vertical teams, we're creating digital teams that absorb and react to our digital leads, we are playing around with inside account management and customer success. All these things I would say are as a result of us rethinking what was a very unique program that's now I would say expanded into an inside sales practice.
Devin Reed: Well, it's very cool to hear how you were in the program, then leading the program. Program had one outcome, now it has multiple. You mentioned it now, and I believe also when we were prepping, you said, I'm going to say quote, but I'm probably paraphrasing here," It used to be more productive to knock on doors rather than leverage data, but that has completely changed." I think I know what you mean on the front half, but you mind explaining a little bit more about what you mean on leveraging data for productivity?
Alex Shumway-Jones: AT& T's a little bit unique in the portfolio that we sell to, depending upon that portfolio, there's only a certain number of states, cities, municipalities that can actually procure our services. For example, there are 22 states where AT& T is the local exchange carrier, and we can provide fiber connectivity very easily, very rapidly. It's predominantly more dense of a geo footprint versus I'll use the example of Texas. We're very dense in Texas, not as dense in Arizona. Even within the city of Dallas, for example, not every building is lit with AT&T fiber. We are expanding that footprint very rapidly. But I would say prior to the degree of data that I mentioned earlier that is readily accessible to sellers, our outside sellers truly would knock on doors and provide the value proposition of AT&T fiber. It wasn't available as readily as it is now. We weren't as intentional and targeted with the customers they were knocking on those doors. Perhaps it was a satellite office that had no decentralized decision making, so the decision maker wasn't even in that satellite office. It could be that we, for example, were going after a certain product, but they were really better positioned for a different one, but we didn't know that because of where we were blindly sending sellers off to prospect within. Whereas now we have a lot more data at our fingertips to say," We know you are a certain type of business that requires high degree of bandwidth, whether that be in file share or video conferencing, and you are within our footprint and we have fiber in your building. The value proposition is we can turn you on tomorrow and it's really competitive, best ever pricing. We know your business." That is a much different, more compelling value proposition to target a customer on that type of prospect versus," Hey, you cover Los Angeles. We have fiber in parts of Los Angeles. May the force to be with you." This was again, I'm dating myself, 11 years ago when just in general sales tooling... I mean, Salesforce, I think was just a fun idea and was just becoming a cloud- based CRM. AT& T is basically a conglomerate of multiple different companies we've purchased over the years, and with that comes multiple instances of CRMs and billers and contracting, and just the selling environment was very complex. You fast forward to 2021, where now we are a customer of Salesforce, and we have centralized and streamlined our sales practices and processes and tooling that allows us to take all that complexity off the seller, put more time in their day to actually prospect and then better yet, leverage new sales tooling, and enablement platforms so that they sell for them. It's no longer cold calling, it's warm calling and even hot calling based upon the tooling that we've been able to implement in our ecosystems and arm for our sellers. I would say there's a piece of it that's an industry component of professional selling to in 2021 as compared to 2010, that's so beautiful about technology and all the advancements we see every day, but it's also AT& T. We truly have adopted a innovative approach to empowering our sales team probably that is far more advanced today than it was 10 years ago.
Sheena Badani: So implementing any kind of change at a complex organization like AT& T to drive impact and productivity is no small feat. It's no small decision. You're going to be impacting thousands of people and strong- laid foundations. So I'd love to understand how you build a culture of experimentation or testing to figure out new models, new technologies, new processes that will then really impact your entire team.
Alex Shumway-Jones: I'd be remiss to say it's so easy to come up with a concept and roll it out. I think there's close to 10,000 sellers across AT& T. What we've found to be really successful is intentionally creating a organization to act as an incubator and pilot new tools, new models, new methodologies of approaching customers and prospects, and perhaps even selling. After we had some success in the training program, we almost acted as if we were our own startup within AT& T essentially like starting from scratch. We created our own instances of certain tools, and it allowed us for some great flexibility to try these things, fail fast, innovate rapidly, iterate as we saw fit. That's probably the best advice I could give for any organization looking to create change is create a intentional change agent organization that is supported and designed to test, pilot trial, and then scale when it works. That's what we did here is we've created new tool platforms within my team, and we tried it here first. For those that worked, we then slowly scaled because when you start in a training environment that intakes 500 sellers a year that eventually matriculate out into the sales force at large, with them come the way in which they learned. That was on tools and processes that the greater organization didn't have. So as others learn about this really cool new sexy thing that makes them more productive, there becomes a pull than a push with the broader team that we're looking or targeting to adopt the new methodology or practice that worked really well. We kind of created this own demand even within our sales force, by not necessarily giving everyone... Everyone had access, but we didn't push it on them. It was only for those who asked for it. Then of course, those who were asking for it were using it, adopting it, and then they told their friend about it, who then wanted it, and then it became this game of telephone and the next best thing that eventually we created more broader scale larger programs that became widely adopted faster.
Devin Reed: Game of telephone, AT& T. No pun intended. Could not let that sit on the shelf.
Alex Shumway-Jones: That was a good one.
Devin Reed: But that is the best way that I've seen for sales people to pick up new technology is give it to a small group of folks and let them kind of use it like you said, and then it goes viral a little bit, as people say," Oh, you booked two more meetings than I did this week or today, or closed more deals than last month? How?" And then," Well, I've been using this new tool," and now everybody wants it. I'm curious, Alex, as you have this team you mentioned and you're kind of building towards productivity, I'm curious if you have any early indicators you look for in the pilot phase. So maybe let's just say, I don't know, maybe you're trying to increase meetings booked or pipeline generated, for example, and feel free to come up with your own example, do you have specific indicators or early indicators during that trial process or you kind of focus just on that big goal?
Alex Shumway-Jones: Yeah, I think you've got to break it up into intentional outcomes and intentional tests. I'll use an example. We were trialing this digital team. We were outsourcing lead management for customers who indicated on our websites that they would like to speak to someone to talk more about an AT& T service that was being advertised or positioned online. Then it was like," Well, where do we think is a relatively low cost resource that we were partnering with a vendor on?" We were looking across industry benchmarks and said," I don't know if we're getting our fair share of digital conversion. So let's test what it would take for us to improve that." We stood up a team to then bifurcate, kind of AB test certain traffic going to a vendor resource and certain traffic going to a different team. It became really clear on what the KPIs were going to be. Is the traffic comparable? What's the conversion rate like? What's the order value? What's the average order value size? And just compare and contrast. I think, similar with any tool or platform or process, the reason why you're going to test it is because you are looking to achieve improvement in a certain area. I think gaining clarity on the one, two, max three metrics, you'll define the success of this evaluation is going to be paramount in order to determine was the trial successful. Can you then use those as benchmark metrics that you can reinforce the scale business case because it's really easy to test, but when you start putting the numbers and figures around a broader sales force at large, it's a true investment. You've got to make sure that the outcomes you received on the front end actually realized on the back.
Sheena Badani: We all know data is a powerful asset and when used correctly can enable massive growth. A Salesforce study reinforces this well- known concept. They found that 85% of sales reps that have access to data believe these insights make them more effective. Unfortunately, Salesforce also found only 46% of reps have this information. It should be a no- brainer to share such actionable insights with frontline teams, but it doesn't happen as often as it should, which makes it a true competitive advantage. Thankfully, the tides are turning as sales leaders recognize the value of providing data and insights to their reps. Let's get back to Alex as he shares how to get this data into the hands of your sellers. So speaking of data and having access to additional metrics and things that you can track, I think it's one thing for whoever's running these pilot programs to have access to that. They have that mindset, we're going to be doing this AB testing, et cetera. It's a totally another thing to put all this data in the hands of your sellers, in the hands of the frontline managers who may not be accustomed to this. So I'm curious, maybe it's a two- part question, but how are your sellers and frontline folks utilizing this data? Second is how do you really ensure that they're data literate?
Alex Shumway-Jones: I'll use two examples. I was not paid to say this about the Gong platform. I'll start though with another tool and I'll get to Gong and how we're leveraging it. We use a tool called Outreach. I'm sure most of your listeners are familiar with the platform that was relatively new to AT& T we'll call it two years ago and for relative to, how do we put data in the hands of the end user? I'd say prior to Outreach, our sellers were dependent upon our marketing organization to create leads on their behalf, whereas now our sellers have the ability to create their own leads through various sequences that we put in their hands. They can tweak and determine based on their reply rate, their hit rate, their ultimate conversion rate, which ones work for them and which ones don't and then iterate accordingly. Just training on the value of that, those various metrics that come out of that platform, is a new thing for us that made us feel more in control of our own destiny but as well, more capable in our prospecting efforts. From a management perspective, our managers had a really good way of always tracking quantity from our sellers, meaning how many calls were our sellers making? How many Outreach tasks are overdue? The quant side of prospecting and we'll call it sales management. We have dashboards on dashboards to tell us every which thing to Sunday, but the quality component was really hard for us to measure. That's where Gong has helped us through not only just the deal intelligence, but also on the mention rates. We know exactly what our campaigns are supposed to be providing for us. Are our sellers actually mentioning the value proposition, keywords, buzzwords? Are they hitting the five things we need on every discovery call? Those are things we could not measure through how many calls they were making, the quality component. I'd say that data that is super intuitive at the manager level to have at any given time, real time, in a one- on- one, ad hoc. If at night scratching their head on why their numbers are not where they are, they have the wherewithal to go dig in and investigate what could be improved. But all of that comes back to, we have an advantage within my team is they don't know any other way because they were trained at the onset with these platforms. For an organization with high tenure embedded, these new tools coming in after the fact, you have to think about what was it that they were doing before that now is different and faster and better. That takes time. I think we've relaunched Gong three times with our management community because you come at it with one use case, you learn about what's working even better and you kind of relaunch it and then you learn of more use cases, and you kind of do a refresher. It's an iterative and repetitive process that over time, I think... And that's just it, I think the answer is time is when you truly get to your nirvana state.
Devin Reed: I would love to know, Alex, what you're focused on when it comes to next year and your team's productivity.
Alex Shumway-Jones: I'm biased now on inside sales. I've always been all in, but now the intellectual stimulation I mentioned earlier, to me now, there's this endless art of the possible. So we are going to continue to look for new ways to organize inside sales. We're going to look for new ways to demonstrate value in different sales distribution models. I would say 2022 is the year of more. More ideas, more innovation, more distribution, more tooling componentry. I think the technology side of this, we've just scratched the surface of our ability to be effective in prospecting with intuitive and insightful data. When your sellers become data scientists, you're onto something. On them asking for different dashboards reporting out of the various tools that we use because they want to refine their craft based on what they're seeing, you've really unlocked something. Then, oh, by the way, if one person's asking for that, that means there's probably 10 others thinking about it, but for whatever reason, aren't really just raising their hand. So there's a scale opportunity there. I think next year we're continuing to refine our vertical approach on creating specialized teams. Another beautiful thing about inside sales, you can react really quickly to market dynamics without being geographically dependent. So as new trends and dynamics occur in our marketplace, we'll continue to respond really quickly with new flexible teams that are designed to do just that. I think playing around with these models and it truly is the target will always be moving and we'll never reach an end state, but it's continuing to learn with each iteration that is probably what's the most exciting piece of this portion of our business right now.
Sheena Badani: Well, that definitely resonates, Alex. One of our operating principles at Gong is want more. So the year of more, that is a great one. You have a lot of things to accomplish. So hats off to you and your team. Well, why don't we head into our final question, which is how would you describe sales in one word?
Alex Shumway-Jones: Passion. I think you 100% have to be passionate about not just what you sell, but who you're selling for, passionate about the impact it has on the end user and also the passion for doing it, for getting up every day and seeking that perfection of your craft and the overall opportunity. Short of passion, you're handicapped.
Sheena Badani: Every week we bring you a micro action. Something to think about or an action you can put into play today. Alex shared great tools and best practices for increasing your sales team's impact, but there's only so much you can act on at once. So if you only do one thing after this conversation, do this. Take the next step towards putting data in the hands of your sellers. Start small by sharing a single metric, then gradually continue to share other data that will help your team identify prospects and close deals. An ideal end state is automating these insights to your team in real time. If you want to maximize the bang for your buck, this micro action is for you. Making data- driven insights available to your sellers is one of the simplest yet most powerful ways to boost performance and empower your teams to reach their potential.
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Devin Reed: If you're not ready to give a five, check out another episode and see if we've won you over by then.
Alex Shumway-Jones, AVP of Omni Channel Sales at AT&T, shares how to build a culture of experimentation informed by data. Knocking on doors was the most productive sales tactic but today, data is how teams blow past quota. Case in point: it completely revolutionized AT&T’s sales motion. Alex reveals the power of putting data directly into the hands of your sellers and explains how you can ensure your team is data literate.