Driving deals with value-based conversations

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This is a podcast episode titled, Driving deals with value-based conversations. The summary for this episode is: <p>To sell more, you have to sell less. It sounds counterintuitive — but that’s what value-based conversations are all about. Vin Messina, VP of Sales Execution at Blackline, shares how he identifies his buyer’s problems and partners with them to find solutions. Tune in to get a step-by-step playbook on how to sell to the c-suite. (Spoiler: C-suite alignment should happen on the FIRST call.)</p><p><br></p><p>Key Takeaways:</p><p>00:55 - Introducing Gong's rebranding</p><p>11:07 - Differentiating sales execution and sales enablement</p><p>15:46 - Sales: A series of well-executed value-based conversations</p><p>19:40 - Data Breakout: Sales processes and buyer expectations</p><p>20:39 - Vin's value-based formula - Problem, impact, value</p><p>25:17 - Enabling sellers to coach buyers not press them</p><p>32:19 - The difference between a champion and a change agent</p><p>38:15 - Micro Action: Are you fulfilling your buyers needs?</p><p><br></p><p>Want to explore Revenue Intelligence for your org? It starts here: <a href="https://www.gong.io/revenue-intelligence/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.gong.io/revenue-intelligence/</a></p><p>Connect with Devin Reed: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/devinreed/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.linkedin.com/in/devinreed/</a></p><p>Connect with Sheena Badani: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/sheenabadani/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.linkedin.com/in/sheenabadani/</a></p><p>Connect with Vin Messina: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/vmessina/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.linkedin.com/in/vmessina/</a></p>
Introducing Gong's rebranding
04:58 MIN
Differentiating sales execution and sales enablement
01:50 MIN
Sales: A series of well-executed value-based conversations
00:48 MIN
Data Breakout: Sales processes and buyer expectations
00:38 MIN
Vin's value-based formula - Problem, impact, value
01:32 MIN
Enabling sellers to coach buyers not press them
01:38 MIN
The difference between a champion and a change agent
01:37 MIN
Micro Action: Are you fulfilling your buyers needs?
01:15 MIN

Devin Reed: Welcome to 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, making data- driven decisions based on facts instead of opinions or guesswork.

Devin Reed: And it's made up of three success pillars, people intelligence, deal intelligence, and market intelligence. You know, the things all revenue teams need and care about. Every week, we interview senior revenue professionals and 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: By now you've probably already noticed that things are looking a little different around here.

Sheena Badani: Before you click into this episode, you may have seen that we have a new Reveal logo that goes along with Gong's brand- spanking new brand.

Devin Reed: Brand- spanking new brand, I like that.

Sheena Badani: Yeah. So before we introduce today's guest, we thought we'd pull back the curtain a little bit just so you could learn a little bit more about the rebrand, why we changed, what it means. It's a big moment in Gong's history or any company for that matter that goes through a rebrand like this, and it really impacts all of us.

Devin Reed: It really does, and I'll be honest, before I got into marketing, I was very doubtful of the whole branding situation, right? It's intangible, it can be hard to measure, we don't really know what the impact is and sometimes your brand can make sales harder, sometimes easier, but sometimes harder. I think branding has this priming effect where it should hopefully elicit some sort of reaction or connection between the brand and the audience, and a lot of times Sheena, it's the first impression that a company has with buyers. Because it's usually in the digital form.

Sheena Badani: Yeah, that's totally right. I think that's why a lot of companies, they decide to invest in brands super early so that they can build that connection with their audience, and so if you noticed our new brand which we launched last week, it's not completely different. Like I think it's more of an evolution of where we were before. We had a lot of good things going for our brand, like a lot of people would approach me and approach you, folks on the marketing team and be kind of surprised at maybe what we were under the hood, we weren't as big as they may have thought and a lot of that was the brand and what we had kind of built behind that.

Devin Reed: Yep. Some things have definitely changed, like you said evolved, but it's also important to highlight that some have stayed the exact same. For example, you're still Sheena, I'm still Devin. We have not rebranded. The podcast is still Reveal: The Revenue Intelligence Podcast, your favorite podcast, but things feel a little more grown- up a little bit, right? We're still approachable, we still like to be playful, if you hang out with us on social media you know we like to have a good time, and we're always conversational. But as you saw, we got a new logo, colors are a little different. Some new fonts but underneath it all, we're the same folks who love data. We love data and love revenue intelligence.

Sheena Badani: And you know another thing about our evolution that particularly speaks to me is that we unveiled our new mission statement, and if you had tuned into the episode with Kelly Wright a few months ago who is now president and COO here at Gong, she really talked about how critical it is to have a mission- driven organization and how that is what unifies the whole team, and really that's why we wanted to create this mission statement and just kind of formulate what was already there in bits and pieces.

Devin Reed: Yeah. So our new mission is, drum roll please, this is where we insert special effects inaudible you got me covered, okay. Unlock reality to help people and companies reach their full potential. This new rally cry resonates with me because, and as I always tell the team as we've been talking about this, my personal mission has always been to reach my full potential but also to help other people reach their potential in however I can do that. So I'm all about the whole becoming the best version of yourself, unlocking hurdles, overcoming all that stuff, that's me. So I was very happy to see this is where you and the executive team landed on and it speaks to me individually and I hope it does to the audience as well.

Sheena Badani: We also did something else pretty cool.

Devin Reed: We launched a merch store.

Sheena Badani: Oh yeah.

Devin Reed: The Gong Merch store, available now. It's packed with shirts, pins, mugs, shorts, water bottles. If you can name it, we've got it. There's a ton of stuff over at the store and my favorite part, and I did have a hand in the merch store, so if you like it, you're welcome, and if you don't like it, send all your complaints to reveal @ gong.io and Sheena will handle those. But there are different collections that we'll be dropping seasonally with limited edition merch. So there's the classics, you can get that year round, and then there's limited edition drops, with seasonal apparel and gear and all this cool stuff.

Sheena Badani: I know. I got a sneak peak at the merch store a couple weeks back and I was pretty floored by what was in there. I was like I want all of the things, give me all of them. Devin, I hope somebody is sending me all of the things that are in the shop.

Devin Reed: We've got you covered. For sure we've got you covered.

Sheena Badani: So to celebrate this new merch store, we're offering our listeners a special discount code. Use the code REVEAL for 20% off your entire order. That's REVEAL, R- E- V- E- A- L, for 20% off your first order.

Devin Reed: Sheena, what is the number one thing you want, whether it's getting sent to you or if you're like, " I didn't get it but I'm going to grab the credit card and go buy it." What's the number one thing on your list?

Sheena Badani: For me there was a gray crew- neck sweatshirt with Gong in purple. I want that. I want that for fall and winter.

Devin Reed: I saw that and in preparation for this question, I was like, " That's what she's going to want." I'm torn because those who know me, I'm a big sweats shorts guy. I have some on right now. I'm not going to show you but I have them on. So I'm between the shorts or the hoodie, because guess what I'm also wearing? I'm also wearing a hoodie right now. Those are my two go- tos, so I can't wait. I think I got the hoodie in the mail, so I've got to grab my Chase card and get the shorts rolling. All right, now that we've talked about the rebrand, the merch store, you know where to go to get your discount code. Let's get back to this week's episode. Sheena, I am not a jealous person. I've never had that in me. But after talking to today's guest, I am genuinely jealous of the BlackLine Sales Team, because they have Vin Messina, VP of sales execution, and after talking to him today, I am just like... I learned a ton and I'm like, " Man, I really wish I had Vin or someone a lot like him at the sales organizations I was at because I would have been leveled up. I would have been much better than I ever was because the things that he was saying today were really, really insightful."

Sheena Badani: Yeah. I was totally inspired and I was floored because this role, sales execution, that is not a typical role. I've actually never met anybody as a director, VP, whatever level it is of sales execution and you may think initially that, " Hey, isn't that enablement?" But no, there is a distinction between what enablement does and what execution does, and I foresee that like in five years, this is going to be a common role. Like he's on the cutting edge of kind of function within the sales/ go to market realm, so I'm with you. This is amazing what he does.

Devin Reed: It was very cool. Yeah, that was some of the stuff, you're kind of wondering, " What is sales execution?" You know what it is as a concept but the title and the role that he does is taking that a lot further. So we break down the difference between enablement and ops and execution, or sales execution, because I've worked with VPs of sales readiness and things like that. It's really enablement, titles are fine, but it's really enablement is what they're talking about. So we break that down, and the topic we really focus on is how to have value- based conversations and so we talk through things like what's the difference between a champion and a change agent. It's a nice hot take there backed by some great experience, as well as kind of understanding the difference between a value driven conversation and like pain points and problems. I think we use these synonymously a lot but I really like how Vin... He's like, " No, they're all very different, there's some overlap, but they're different, and there's a different..." Like a time to kind of play into each one.

Sheena Badani: Yeah. This is a great episode. This is going to be one of those episodes that you want to take and forward to your revenue leadership so that they can get thinking about a lot of the concepts in here too, so I love this conversation and I think you'll learn a lot from Vin.

Devin Reed: A lot of how answers here. A lot of hows, so get your Evernote, your notebook, get it out, get ready, and let's go hang out with Vin.

Sheena Badani: Vin, welcome to Reveal. We're super excited to have you on the show today.

Vin Messina: Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Sheena Badani: And we're going to talk about really a lot of interesting stuff today, but to kick it off, we'd love to learn a little bit more about your background. You were actually an enterprise sales rep who transitioned into sales execution. Tell us a little bit more about like what exactly is sales execution, what does it mean for you, and why are you so passionate about it?

Vin Messina: Yeah, so I took a few notes here in terms of answering these questions to make sure I don't miss things, but I summarized it this way and that is that a lot of times organizations, even in the sales and marketing and the inaudible to sales, they sort of have a sense of what to do. Everybody sort of says you got to get to the C level, that's the thing, right? How to do it is the execution part. So the concept of what to sell and how to sell it in terms of like the value model, the value proposition, that sort of seems to be known. It's that next step which is how do we actually do it. It's the execution, the action item. So if I say to somebody, " I want you to get to the C level of this particular customer," and everybody says, "Yeah, okay, that's great." Then they just let the salesperson go, and I'm sitting back going, " No no. There is an executable there. There is a path forward. There is a series of steps that actually helps them do what you view as a critical success factor."

Devin Reed: I think I have an idea of the answer, Vin, but I'm here to ask the questions, not answer them. So I've been at an org where I've never had sales execution, sales excellence, anything of that type before, but I have had sales enablement, sales operations. Operations I think I know how you're different, so maybe the question I'm really interested in is like how does sales execution and what you just described differ from sales enablement?

Vin Messina: So it's interesting because it's sort of a tricky question. You got to dance around it politically if you will because what I'm going to say maybe stings a little bit. Sales enablement oftentimes doesn't have people that actually have sold before, and so there's sort of a lack of an empathetic position and so a lot of programs are rolled out without really being grounded in what actually is happening in the field. So you have somebody now that sits in the middle of that that says all of that stuff is great provided it aligns to what the sales teams are actually seeing or actually needing. So I have two examples that I wrote down. One of them is let's say enablement gives you a great deck. Great, they're not telling you how to use it, where to use it, when to use it, which people to use it with, and why? Because they've never really done it. So they can give you like a 30, 60, 90, how do you script the deck, but can you really insert it into a live sales motions? Operations says you have now a reporting dashboard, but do they ever really peel back the layers to find out what data is important and then how do you interpret it? What do you do with that dashboard? How does that inspire you to understand your team's performance? How does that inspire you to understand where you need to coach certain reps in terms of elevating their performance? So the execution part of it is there, because you fundamentally understand what sales is, the mechanics of it, and how do you translate all of that? How do you align to it? How do you set that agenda so that enablement is much more aligned to what sales actually needs, because there's a layer there. Now you might argue that, " Okay, why don't sales executives do that?" Takes a lot of time. You're out there trying to get it done. They don't have the time to do this. So this role is interesting because it's like a buffer layer. They're out there executing. This something in between has to define how to do that, and then they go with it, they roll with it, right?

Devin Reed: Sounds like sales execution is that layer between the strategy and the scaling of that strategy, right? So it's like here's what and why, Vin and his team is talking about here's the how and then enablement is taking the how and going, " Okay, let's make sure everyone's doing it," and like you said doing it over a period of time. Is that kind of a fair summary?

Vin Messina: Yeah it is. There's also something cool to understand. What is executable often defines the strategy and sometimes the reverse happens. Something is put out there as go to market strategy, without really taking into consideration the sales side of it or can it be sold or should it be sold? So I think it's a bidirectional arrow that goes back and forth. Sometimes strategy is informing sales, sometimes sales is informing strategy and I think it has to be taken into consideration. Like why would you do that? That's going to be really hard to sell, or that's... We got to check that. Like let's take a look at how you're breaking down your sales model, like different groups and all that. Okay, well what's the sales motion that's required? Let's start there.

Sheena Badani: Yeah, that's what I was kind of thinking about, like as an organization grows, you're selling into different kinds of industries, different company sizes, there's so many different scenarios of how you could be selling and what you could be using, where does content fit in, and a role like what you're doing really fits in... It seems like it would be vital as an organization grows and there is all these different routes that you can take.

Vin Messina: There's a critical thing too that I made a note here to mention in this particular context and that is I mentioned it briefly before but it fits here. Mechanics. So Bill Belichick, everybody can see I'm a Patriots fan. Bill Belichick was never an NFL football player but he's a great NFL coach. Why? He understands the mechanics of playing football, and so he can coach the mechanics. Does that mean a great player can coach the mechanics? No, they might not even know why they're great, right? So you need somebody who isn't just from a sales background but actually truly loves the mechanics of it and understands it at a fairly refined level because you can see what fits if you can see the mechanics. If you can't, and by the way, there's a lot of great executives that are great at execution, they have no idea why they're great, and so they really can't break down what marketing is saying they're going to do and where does that fit in the mechanics of things. They just say, " Okay, I'll do it," and then they make adjustments themselves because that's just what they do. But they're really not conscious about it, and it really is a critical distinction. It's really, really important because execution is about the mechanics. You have to know what they are.

Devin Reed: Well to build off that not all great players make great coaches, Michael Jordan and not to pick on a Boston Celtic but Larry Bird. Phenomenal players, notoriously terrible coaches. So it doesn't just apply to sales leadership. So Vin, we want to talk today about how value- based conversations drive sales execution. You have this really cool quote on your LinkedIn, " Sales is nothing more than a series of well- executed value- based conversations." Can you break that down a little bit for us and what you mean there?

Vin Messina: I mean the first thing is to acknowledge that that's really all sales is. It's like it's sort of a common sense thing, but if you think about what we do, all we do is engage in conversations. The second part of it is it has to be configured around value but whose value? That's really the secret because the secret is that we have a value proposition. I don't want a value proposition because I don't want to propose value. What I want to do is understand the value model of my buyer. What is their starting value point? How do I align to it? How do I inform it? How do I get them to sort of change the way they see things from it? But understand that ultimately, their value is driven by them, not us, and so those conversations. So first we understand the importance of the conversation and its need to be executed properly, but what does that mean? It means value- driven, value- based, but now you have to define what value is, and that's really the challenge.

Devin Reed: Yeah, I like that. I used to say value is in the eye of the beholder. Because a lot of people will say, " How do you decide what's value selling or how do you decide?" We don't. The buyer does. They decide if it was valuable or not.

Vin Messina: My quote when I started off this role in January, my quote is this. " Influence happens when you align to the agenda of the people you're trying to influence." So that's pretty much what the general gist of my entire perspective on sales and marketing, you name it. What is the agenda of the person I'm trying to get to do something? Because that's really what we do. We're influence professionals. We're trying to persuade somebody to make a change. How do we do that? Start with them. Now it sneaks in, it fools people because it's like, " Well I'm buyer- centric." It's like, " Well nope, what you're actually doing is taking your solution and dumping it on them, telling them why it's great for them." That's not buyer centricity. Buyer centricity is forget about you. Let's find out what drives the person we're talking to. What is their agenda? How can I then best inform how we align to it? It's really a critical distinction. That's the real message to me in pushing value. Start with them.

Sheena Badani: Of course part of identifying that value is understanding the pains, the challenges that are underlying what the customer is going through. What's the difference between pain points and problems and what should sellers actually be focused on?

Vin Messina: Really good question and it's an important question and I'm really glad you asked it and I'm glad we're prepared to talk about it. So here's the way I describe it. So if I go into a doctor and the doctor says to me, " Vin, how do you feel?" " I feel great." " Well, we just took your blood pressure, and you're about a week away from a stroke." But I don't feel anything. So what's the value to the doctor of asking me if I'm in any pain? What's the key message there? You don't always know there's a problem. So there's always this thing of an underlying problem. The customer doesn't it, the customer doesn't feel it, so every single software vendor on Planet Earth says, " You got to go find out the pain points." I'm like, " No, you got to go tell them." I know that sort of seems like a contradiction with the agenda, but it doesn't. They have a high level agenda, they don't see the problem that's going to get in the way of achieving it. That's where you really drive their willingness to engage you and their willingness to spend money and time with you. It's this problem they didn't see. Pain we live with, and if we don't feel it, we don't fix it. So we can't go in going, " Hey, so tell me, how do you feel today?" We have to go in going, " So tell me how you feel today?" And they go, " Blah blah blah," and you go, " Well, have you considered?" Like let's do a diagnostic, I got your blood pressure. I just threw you in an MRI. You've got tumors all of your body. I know you can't feel it, but you do. You have a real health emergency. That's what we're into, so you can't focus on pain. Do problems lead to pain? Yeah, of course. Everybody sort of busts my chops over that. Of course it does, but if you don't feel it, it doesn't mean you don't have a problem, and I think universally, vendors are cutting themselves off short by focusing on what the customer perceives, not what's actually going on and who's better to know that than the people who do this 24/7?

Sheena Badani: As the world of work evolved in the past year, there have been large scale changes to sales processes and buyer expectations. According to research from Gartner's State of Sales Enablement Survey, 70% of respondents reported that their company's sales process has become more challenging. Alongside changes to the sales process, respondents also noted intensified pressure in meeting buyer expectations, as 57% said that buyers now require more business justification. These changes highlight the importance of staying agile in order to keep up with industry transformation and how reps and enablement can really spearhead this transformation. When you're in a new market, you have a visionary product, nobody knows that there's a better way to do something, so you have to help go in there and almost educate them on what the different way is and that there is a different possibility. They may not experience any pain because they're used to doing what they're doing every single day, they've done it for 20 years like this, and so just accustomed to it.

Vin Messina: Particularly with new emerging technology, where there isn't even a defined problem, you have to go in there and know what it is so you can point it out to them. Now what's the thing that I'm doing there? I have a formula. Problem, impact, value. It's the value- based formula that I'm doing here at BlackLine, and what does that mean? It means start with the problem. What does that mean? Well they've got to see it and it has to relate back to their C suite. So you start maybe with the tactical level, but you have to always be moving up. So it isn't just seeing a problem, it's seeing the problem at the C level. It doesn't mean you have to talk to the C level, it just means that everybody has to link that problem to something that matters to the C level and here's the thing about problems. Everybody has problems. Everybody has millions of problems, and everybody is prioritizing which problems are they going to solve today. So what's your mission then? Well since you're going to sell somebody to change, which is what you're doing, you have to sell them on the idea that your problem or the problem you solve is the most important problem. How do you do that if you don't align to what matters to them today? Well you don't go in and screech, " Hey, we got the best solution, solution, solution," when they're sitting there going, " Yeah, you know what? I know it's broken but I don't really care right now." So what do you get? Delayed three years, because they're not really going to invest in fixing something that is not top of mind problem- wise. So what do you do? Find out what problems they care about today and link your solution to it. Sometimes it's going to be directly. Sometimes it's going to be indirectly. But the root of all success is that problem. Define it, make sure it's a priority, or make sure if it's not, you make it a priority, and you don't do that by beating your own drum.

Sheena Badani: So we were talking a little bit about getting to the problems and what's top of mind, especially for execs. I think that's like a big part, especially with these innovative solutions that we're talking about. What are your recommendations for your reps to make sure that they are aligning to executives and what they care about, even if they never have that conversation, they may never get in front of the CEO or the chief product officer, whoever that may be. But how do they drive that alignment?

Vin Messina: It's a very interesting question that has a fairly fun answer, and that is that when we're in sales, what we're actually doing is enabling the person we're talking to. Because we're not necessarily going to get to the CEO, but somebody is, and that somebody needs to be enabled. Because here's the thing. Most people don't know how to have that conversation in their own organization. So when we're evaluating a solution, I now have to go talk to my CRO and my CEO about why this solution matters. So what's my first step? " Hey, what are you trying to get done? Give me your top three objectives." Because what I'm going to do is I'm going to evaluate this in the context of, " I know this because I sell this way." The people we're selling to at BlackLine are universally accountants. They don't understand influence, sales, persuasion at all. So now we do a whole evaluation. They take this package, what do they do? They take it to the C level, the corporate controller, the CAO, the CFO, and what do they do? They tell them about why it matters to their tactical people, like, " Hey, here's why you need to do this because it's going to make my life easier." So here's what the rep has to do. Right out of the gate, literally conversation one. " So tell me about yourself. Great, you know what's interesting? Everything you just said probably doesn't matter to your boss. So why don't we focus on what matters to them now because what's going to happen is you walk them through a progression that literally happens in conversation one," and the reason why I say it happens in conversation one is because you've got to let them know right up front, this is the mission. Let's do this now so that when we come down to crunch time and we got to get a transaction, you want it and I want it, we're going to be ready, and ready with what? A message that resonates with the people cutting the check. It's really kind of commonsensical, but universally, most business to business salespeople do that at the end. Why don't we do it now? No surprises. Let's figure out what matters to your executives. So what you do is you say, " Look, I understand it's tempting to say I want to see a demo inaudible. That's great, that matters to you. You know what we really want to do? Get you funding. So let's start there," and then you walk your way. A tricky conversation to have, but I'm actually that direct when I do it, and it works because they're like, "Oh, okay, that makes a lot of sense."

Devin Reed: Vin, that was exactly my question which was like having sold in the past, it's sometimes tough to get that end user, manager, director, maybe you know who you're working with, to level up the conversation that early before they've seen the demo or before their needs have been taken care of. So it sounds like you kind of dodge and bob and still get to that executive alignment but I'm curious, like how do you enable your sellers to do that? Because even for someone who's been selling for five, ten years, that can be very tricky because someone's saying, " Yeah yeah yeah. I agree with you, Vin, we'll do that, but I need to be bought in first, so show me the demo, show me these features or whatever it is I care about."

Vin Messina: So the simplest way to describe this is the demo request. Everybody wants to see a demo, so here's the funny thing about that. Buyers actually universally make the mistake of thinking that a demo is going to give them divine intervention. They're going to be like, " Okay, I see it all clearly now," right? Actually what happens is they get more confused because now they're looking at a whole bunch of functionality and have no context by which to align it to them. So here's what I say. " I'm here to help you. What I'd like to do is not confuse you. Here's what's going to happen if you do a demo today. You're going to get confused, and ultimately, you're just going to prolong this, and ultimately, you probably won't even make a decision. So here's the thing. I want to get inside a few things, so that by the time I show you the solution, you know exactly how it aligns to you, very, very specifically. It's not qualification, it's an assist. I'm trying to help you what? Make a decision, not buy BlackLine. I'm trying to get you to understand that this is going to round and round and round unless we do this. Because I want you to have a framework by which you can jump off this hamster wheel where you just keep going through cycles of demos, where you can just come to a decision. So here it is. I'm giving you a framework and why do I know it works? Because I do this all the time. You don't. You've never done this before in fact. So I'm not here to beat you up over it, in fact, just the opposite. Don't worry about BlackLine. Worry about this framework." Now the framework is positioned to align to them and their needs. " Do you want to go round and round with this? Do you want to spin your wheels?" I say all these things, why? Because I'm here to help. I'm here to now enable you to make a more effective decision. Do I want you to buy what I sell? Sure. Not if you don't need it, and that's true, and it works. As long as you're coaching them, not pressing on them. That's the key.

Devin Reed: But what I like about it most too is I have to imagine you build credibility in that talk track because you're not ... You said specifically, I'm not trying to sell you BlackLine, I'm trying to help you make a decision, and if you think about why a buyer hits that demo request, like you said, they think seeing it is going to help them make that decision, and that's what everyone wants. Me and Sheena talk about this all the time, whenever we're evaluating stuff or solutions, we want to get to that decision as fast as possible. With doing our due diligence, we don't want to rush it, but we don't want to spend weeks and months if we don't have to. I speak from experience, I'm like two months in and I don't even know where the light at the end of the tunnel is on this evaluation inaudible but we just want to get to that yes/ no answer and then understand how to move forward with either of them.

Vin Messina: Then it's tricky because most organizations, you have a procurement process but you don't have a decision process. What that usually means is 4, 000 people are adding their insights and no one knows really which insights to pay attention to and so really there's no framework and no consensus and where there's no consensus, there is no transaction. So when you in as a rep, so there's a couple things. Everybody wants to sort of clamor around about competition, so I didn't really plug BlackLine, but I'll say this. BlackLine is the leader in... We define the space, and what we do is automate the financial close. We're recognized by all the analysts as the best in the business. So it's hard to compete against us. I don't actually care about any of that. I actually go in and say, " My name is Vin. I work for BlackLine and I want you to forget everything I just said. Why? Because I'm here for you. I'm here to talk to you about you and then once I do, I will align me to you." Not the other way around. That seems weird, but when I do that, here's what happens. The person on the other end of the phone goes, " Wow. That's unique. There's a salesperson that just told me to forget about him. That's not normal. But I now trust that he's actually here for me." What more do I have to do to compete? I don't care what the other vendor has. If the other vendor's salesperson approaches it like they all do, being their own peacocking, right? I'm going to win, why? Because in the moment I open my conversation, I build trust. It's not a gimmick by the way. I sincerely mean I'm not here, I don't want to waste your time anymore than I want to waste my time. So I have a framework by which I can help you, and when you approach it that way, particularly the more senior up you get, they have less time to waste. It really works. You want to get to a C suite executive? Talk simply, fast, cut to the chase. It works.

Devin Reed: If you're listening to this, stop, go back five minutes, and just hit play again and then if you're driving, pull over, stop whatever you're doing and write that down. That was great. So Vin, why shouldn't salespeople rely on what the buyer thinks their buying process is?

Vin Messina: Universally everybody should just know, it's no offense to the buyer, they mostly don't have a clue. Now do they know they don't have a clue? No. Sometimes they think they do and they still don't. Don't take my word for it. Gartner says this all the time. All the analysts do. What mistake do vendors make? They think the buyer is driving the deal. No they're not. They don't know how to do it. They don't even know how to not do it. So you go in and you go, you don't tell them, " Look, Vin Messina told me you're an idiot and you don't know how to drive." No, you go in with hands open, giving them a warm hug, and an embrace and say, " I know what you're about to go through and I'd like to neutralize. Here's the pain you're about to experience. I want to take that off right the table. Here's how I'm going to do it." They go, " What a breath of fresh air, because now someone is giving me certainty. Someone is giving me a step by step process in a way that is brilliant because I don't know what to do," and they don't even know. I'm talking all kinds of organizations. Big, small, you name it. Sophisticated, not sophisticated. It's a welcome experience. I've been thanked. More than not, I've been thanked.

Sheena Badani: It sounds like you really need to bring a level of empathy into your interactions with your buyers and that's really what you're getting at. It's about them, you're helping them. It's not about just talking about yourself and as the salesperson, you've actually been through this dozens, hundreds, thousands of times with others, so you can bring a ton of that perspective and come to that level with the buyer that you're interacting with.

Vin Messina: And you need those stories and you need to hire people with empathy. You can test for it. Yes, 100%, because you're providing an experience. You're not just hocking a product. What you do and how you do it provides the first experience they have with your organization, and that's defined by an effective sales process. Now a lot of people inaudible. No I sell a lot, and I'm enabling selling even more. Why? Because I'm not selling, so I've actually said on stage and at my company, sell more, sell less. If you want to sell more, sell less. What should you do? Help more. Be helpful. Universally helpful. You'll build a relationship and you know, people buy from people. It's a relationship play, and I know it sounds cliché, but man I'll tell you, if you can get your mind wrapped around that one general concept, their agenda, you're here to help. That will define an effective B2B sales execution strategy. I'm here to help with you. I'm not here to help you see me. I'm here to just help you.

Devin Reed: Couldn't agree more. Sales is about problem solving more than anything else. There's a lot of great questions, not to complement our question asking but mostly your question answering Vin up to this point but the one I'm really curious to get your input on is what is the difference between a champion and a change agent?

Vin Messina: Yep. Very, very important question. Everybody and their brother and sister and cousin and dog talks about a champion. Well, I'm just here to say, and I hope people hear this loud and clear, champions are not really all that useful. Why? Because they love you, and it makes you feel good. But if they're not an agent for change, you know what they won't do? Fight for you. They won't fight for themselves. They won't fight for the change and here's the thing. You don't really want them to be a champion of the product. You want them to be a champion of the change. So much so that they literally put their neck out on the line saying, " We have to do this. This organization will not survive if we don't do this. It just so happens BlackLine can help." But we're a secondary consideration. I don't want someone standing in the fans going, " I love BlackLine," universally. Actually universally. That doesn't really help us. What you want is the change agent. Do they sort of seem like a champion? Yeah, of course, but what are they a champion for? Change. They believe in the enhanced performance. They don't believe in you, they believe in your ability to enable what they do believe in. I want to help this organization, so it's not easy to find, but you can find that, you can test your champion. So you might identify a champion. Now great, start testing to see their resolve. It's not that hard to figure out by the way. You just want to hear it in their tone, " Yeah, well Vin, I'm sorry." No no, I don't need that, I need you to take the ball and run. That's what you need, because the wishy- washy gets no decision and we're not in the business of no decision.

Sheena Badani: What I was going to ask you is for a rep, what are some of the signals to figure out who is a change agent and identifying them versus a champion?

Vin Messina: So you first look at what they do, not what they say. What they say helps, but most people can lie pretty effectively in a buying cycle. So what you want to do is test what they do. So I have a series of tests. I'm not going to reveal all those tests because this is our go to market strategy, but you look at action. You look at behavior. Are they behaving like a buyer? So I have a series of things that we're starting to measure and monitor and give the reps an idea of. Test them. Give them something hard to do. Give them something hard to do. Seriously. Something to kind of wig them out a little bit. Let's review Infosec now, I'll give you one, right? " Vin, we don't even know." " Yeah, well, let's see. Where are we at here?" Test them a little bit. There's a million different ways to test somebody but it's not don't ask. " Hey, do you like me?" " Yeah." "Are we going to get this deal done?" " Absolutely." No. It's meaningless.

Devin Reed: Yeah. People are going to avoid confrontation at all costs for the most part.

Vin Messina: Get them to do something. It's fairly common knowledge, but the change agent won't sleep until this is done, and they do stuff for you.

Sheena Badani: So you and your whole team are focused on sales execution. That's what we kind of started the conversation today with. I'm curious, what are some of the metrics that you use to identify whether sales execution and the strategy that you've put in place is working or not? Maybe you have some key metrics, OKRs that you're tracking on a regular basis?

Vin Messina: We're tracking all the regulars, like win rates, sales cycle length, percent discounts, renewal rates, solution adoption, those kinds of things. But we're going to get into now measuring number of demos that are done across the board. Because if we do this well, we'll do less demos. Length of calls, we're going to start looking at how often do reps talk on calls? We're going to enable analytic dashboards that cover how many second calls do you get? How many BDR calls are you getting on top of what you are normally getting, and what kind of calls are those? We're going to be measuring a whole bunch of different varieties and ways of looking at the same kind of information, but checking ourselves against if we do value selling well, what should occur? Less demos, shorter sales cycle, greater adoption by the customer. Those are the kinds of things we're going to be measuring, right? Because if you sell value and you reinforce it every step of the way, the customer will absolutely buy, adopt and expand.

Devin Reed: Some music to our ears, Sheena especially. Nothing makes her do the money dance more than metrics and data.

Sheena Badani: Yeah.

Devin Reed: We appreciate it Vin. There's one bonus question that we always save or our guests. I didn't prep you for it but something tells me you've got a great answer ready regardless. How would you, Vin, describe sales in one word?

Vin Messina: In one word? Have you met me? Inspiring.

Sheena Badani: Good.

Devin Reed: Nice.

Sheena Badani: inaudible

Devin Reed: All right, now the floodgates are open, as many words as you want. Go for it.

Vin Messina: Sales is really... Like I say, the series of conversations by which you're helping somebody get better. You're a performance coach, you're going into organizations and you're trying to say, " Look, I think I know what you want to do. I think I know where you want to be personally, professionally. I think I can help you." It's like a personal trainer, it's like someone who's helping you lose weight. It's no different. I'm not here to just sell you stuff, and by the way, when you do, it's exhilarating, it's interesting. You meet a whole bunch of new people and of course there's a financial reward. It's not a boring job, nothing is ever the same because you're constantly out there mixing it up. But where is there tension? A lot of people might say it's stressful. Not anymore if you do what I'm saying, because why? There is no stress. Like I'm not here to sell you anything, I'm here to help. You don't want my help? I'll see you. There's no stress. I'm not beating anybody up anymore. I don't have those kinds of antagonistic conversations. So I view it that way. I'm putting my stamp on someone else's success.

Devin Reed: Fantastic. Well Vin, I have... If you could see my notepad here, I've got a bunch of takeaways and I'm sure our listeners do too. I think this is the first sales execution leader we've had on the show, Sheena.

Sheena Badani: Yeah.

Devin Reed: So you've set the bar, Vin, quite high, so I want to thank you for your time and your expertise.

Sheena Badani: Yeah, thank you so much.

Devin Reed: I really enjoyed it.

Vin Messina: Thank you. I enjoyed the conversation. Thanks for having me.

Sheena Badani: Every week, we bring you a micro action. Something you could think about or an action you can put into play today. Vin discussed how important it is to link your solutions to the problems your buyer faces today. But are you solving the right problems for your buyers? Here are some steps you can take to identify if you're fulfilling your buyer's needs. Establish the problem and the need for a solution. You can articulate the problem in the simplest terms and in a way that really resonates with the person signing the check. Second, justify the need. Explain why they should attempt to solve the problem in the first place. Is this effort aligned with your strategy and will satisfying the need serve the organization's strategic goals? Third, contextualize the problem. What has already been tried? Are there internal and external constraints to implementing a solution? And finally, use a problem statement. What is a full description of the problem you're seeking to solve, and is the problem actually many problems? When looked at holistically, sales execution includes everything leading up to the close of a sale. By being customer centric and by zeroing in on your customer's needs, determining solutions and putting structures in place to deliver on them, you'll be moving fast with sales execution in no time.

Devin Reed: Did you like today's episode? Subscribe now so next week's episode will be waiting for you on Monday.

Sheena Badani: And if you really liked the podcast, please leave a review. Five star reviews go a long way to help get the word out there.

Devin Reed: And if you're not ready to give a five, check out another episode and see if we've won you over by then.

Sheena Badani: And if you have any feedback or you want us to interview one of your favorite revenue leaders, just email us at reveal @ gong. io.


To sell more, you have to sell less. It sounds counterintuitive — but that’s what value-based conversations are all about. Vin Messina, VP of Sales Execution at Blackline, shares how he identifies his buyer’s problems and partners with them to find solutions. Tune in to get a step-by-step playbook on how to sell to the c-suite. (Spoiler: C-suite alignment should happen on the FIRST call.)

Today's Host

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Danny Wasserman

|GTM Enablement

Today's Guests

Guest Thumbnail

Vin Messina

|VP of Sales Execution