3 market trends impacting every sales team today
Devin Reed: Sheena, what would you say is your competitive edge?
Sheena Badani: I would honestly say that this podcast and the conversations and dialogues with execs is one of my competitive edges.
Devin Reed: I feel like access, whether that's to people or information, is a huge competitive edge, especially today in the digital world. That's exactly why we decided to launch The Edge, which is a new thought leadership newsletter penned by our very own president and COO, Kelly Breslin Wright.
Sheena Badani: It's fantastic. It's this sneak peak into the inner thinking and the experiences of a highly successful female executive who has been there, done that, as a board member, as a president of a hyper- growth company, as a sales leader. So, being able to see her thought processes, you really get to tap into something that you wouldn't have known otherwise.
Devin Reed: Is really a written extension of what we talk about here, how to scale your business, how to be a better leader, how to adapt to the different trends that are coming. So, every month she drops a new edition. It's always less than five minutes. And you know that there's data in that, because that's what we do, we love data.
Sheena Badani: So, how do we sign up, Dev?
Devin Reed: All you have to do is jump down to the show notes and you're going to see a link, hit the link, put in your email address and that's it. That's it. That's all you have to do.
Sheena Badani: Easy peasy. All right.
Devin Reed: That was fun.
Carl Eschenbach: Sales leaders have to have a lot of energy and enthusiasm because the pace of the organization runs at the pace of the leader.
Devin Reed: This is Reveal: The Revenue Intelligence Podcast, here to help go- to- market leaders do one thing, stop guessing.
Sheena Badani: If you're ready to unlock reality and reach your potential, then this show is for you. I'm Sheena Badani.
Devin Reed: And I'm Devin Reed, coming to you from the Gong studios. Gathering the best of the best revenue leaders under one roof to get their candid takes on where the market is going, now that's a reason to celebrate, which is exactly why the Gong team put together Celebrate: The Reality Roadshow. We've been traveling from city to city across the US and London to give these amazing revenue leaders an opportunity to take center stage and share their insights. Over the next couple months, we'll share some of these Celebrate sessions with you and we're starting in my hometown, or I guess I should say, home court, with this session coming at you from the center court of the Golden State Warriors home arena, the Chase Center. In this session, Hang Black, VP Revenue Enablement at Juniper Networks and Carl Eschenbach, partner at Sequoia, chat with my incredible co- host and our friend, Sheena Badani. These two share their unique perspectives on the top market trends that sales leaders should be paying attention to right now, because the world is changing and changing very quickly. From a market downturn to layoffs, to hiring freezes, the current market poses a lot of challenges. If you're a sales leader who wants to be prepared for the back half of 2022 and beyond, you won't want to miss this conversation. Let's get into it.
Hang Black: My name's Hang Black, Vice President of Global Revenue Enablement at Juniper Networks. Also, bestselling author of Pave Your Own Path as an Immigrant Woman in the Workplace. I come with nearly a decade of engineering experience. I actually have three patents in semiconductor manufacturing, over a decade of marketing experience, and now over a decade of sales experience. So, I like to bring all of those together and carry my nickname, Black Ops, very proudly.
Sheena Badani: I love it. I love it.
Carl Eschenbach: Hi, everyone. I'm Carl Eschenbach. I spent my first 30 years of my career as an operator and six years ago, I decided to transition into investing, to try to take those 30 years of experience and give back to the community who gave so much to me. So, now I've been at Sequoia for the last six years. I stay busy by investing. I sit on six public boards and eight private boards today, and stay very actively engaged. Although, I'm an investor and spend time obviously finding new opportunities, I really pride myself on leveraging my operating experience and bringing back to a younger generation community, all the issues, challenges, and mistakes I made and also help them grow companies in the future.
Sheena Badani: Well, thank you. Those were immensely impressive backgrounds and you all undersold yourself still. So, we're going to dive a little bit more into three pillars, which are likely top of mind for all of you, people, performance, and strategy. So, we're going to kick it off with strategy. And given all of the uncertainty and the headwinds that we're experiencing today, how should we as revenue professionals be thinking about these times? I love data. If you listen to Reveal, we always weave in data to help support what we're talking about and to help us make better decisions. So, according to BCG, they conducted a survey of 1, 800 companies over 25 years. And what they saw was that those companies that were able to be resilient during unfavorable periods, they outperformed by 30%. So, resilience is something that's key for all companies at all times, but especially during these difficult times. So, I'd love to learn a little bit more about how companies are staying resilient. So, Carl, maybe we could start with you. I mean, you have a really interesting vantage point because you get to work with a number of portfolio companies. What are you seeing from revenue leaders today and how are they thinking about staying resilient during these times?
Carl Eschenbach: Yeah. So, I'm going to answer this in two different ways. I'm going to answer it in how to be resilient during times of uncertainty and then, I'll talk about it in terms of revenue and revenue leaders. So, first and foremost, having been in operating roles in 2000 and in 2008, and maybe I'm aging myself all the way back to even before that, a recession in the earlier'90s that started to occur. I think the companies during uncertain times that focus on the technology platform and don't pull back on investment, they are the ones who actually catch the inflection on the other side and actually accelerate growth coming out of any downturn or market uncertainty. And I was just sitting there reflecting on what both Kelly and Amit spoke about, and all of the innovation that's coming out of Gong, whether it's assist, whether it's forecasting and continued enhancements they're making around the ecosystem and integration. I think the people who invest deeply in the platform and technology during times of uncertainty, are the ones who actually will come out of their downturn when it upticks, faster than anyone else. As far as revenue leaders during uncertain times, one of the things that I think we all know is, sales is part science and part art. I probably grew up in the era and leading sales organizations where it was a lot more art, now it's evolved to science. So, as revenue leaders, I would pay deep attention to the metrics. And one of the things Gong gives you is the metrics around your business. So, staying focused on the metrics, your key leading indicators, not just your output metrics, but your input metrics, are really important during these times of uncertainty. And you have to watch things like pipeline and the forecast accuracy and conversion rates and all of those things. I do think we are seeing in general right now, a little bit of pullback in certain categories in the market and the macro trend, there's no doubt about that, but we're also seeing other people actually have a little bit of tailwind. Just like if I can say this, like a Gong got during COVID, an unfortunate situation in a macro, but I think it created a tailwind for Gong and actually helped accelerate their sales. And I think it will continue to happen if there is a pullback in the market going forward. So, I think that's what we're seeing and that's how I think about how to react in an uncertain time.
Sheena Badani: Hang, I'd love to hear from you next. You're currently running a large sized organization and you've probably developed a strategy, put that into place a year ago or a little bit shortly thereafter. How have you thought about pivoting or adjusting, or what comes top of mind as you developed that strategy and now here we are a few months later and times are different?
Hang Black: Yeah. Just to give you a little bit of context. I served 2, 000 people in sales in 2, 000 people in services. And I love chaos. I think those who take agency of adversity are the ones who are going to accelerate. And to your point, Carl, if you look at the Fortune 500, only 52 companies have made it since 1955. The average number of years has dropped from 32 to 21 years of longevity in the Fortune 500. What does that mean? If we look at enablement, the mistake that a lot of revenue leaders make, and I love them making mistakes because that makes my organization more awesome, but the mistake that they make is, when we go into times of adversity, what do we do? We've put all of our money into more headcount. Why? Because headcount drives revenue. Well, what happens to OpEx for support in people and support with tools? It's like Dr. Howard Dover speaks about, the great dust bowl. It's like laying down more seeds when you haven't nurtured the soil. What if on top of nurturing the soil, you're actually using technology to help augment the human, to make their lives suck less? I personally used Gong a few weeks ago. I believe it's really important for revenue leaders to be humble and every so often be an SDR for a day. To not only talk about the technology, but talk about, how do we message to our customers, engage with our customers? And that's the beauty of integrations like LinkedIn, Gong, and all of these other integrations that bring all of those together.
Sheena Badani: I love that, augmenting the human, their abilities and making it easier and faster.
Hang Black: That's right.
Sheena Badani: And more efficient. So, Hang, you talked a little bit about people and we all know people are our number one asset. We wouldn't be able to do anything, our companies wouldn't be what they are without the teams that we have. And it's been an interesting year. We started the year with this massive talent shortage and folks looking for new jobs and it was really difficult to find folks for our teams, to this new normal or this new current state, where a lot of companies are rethinking their plans for what their teams are going to look like this year and beyond. Actually, we conducted a reality of sales talent study here at Gong, where we surveyed hundreds of sellers. And what we learned was that the number one thing that sellers struggled with was difficulty staying motivated, and you throw in these external factors and that makes it even harder. So, Hang, I'd love to just hear from you first, what are you doing these days to keep your team motivated, to keep them excited and thriving at these times?
Hang Black: Well, let's start one step further back, which is recruiting.
Sheena Badani: Yeah, do it. Yes.
Hang Black: So, recruiting, first of all, we need to start looking like the people we sell to. So, we've got to stop hunting in the same grounds that we've been in the last 20 years or the same old tools that have not become relevant anymore. So, we're actually going out to unique universities that have been overlooked, right? People have been underestimated because they've been overlooked. So, let's talk about recruitment. That already gives us an advantage. Now, we bring in cognitive diversity into our sales force. How do we retain them? People are now not following companies, they're following great leaders. So, what do we do? We're not just training our salespeople, we've got to make sure that we're grooming really awesome leaders and not just leaders who are pounding them every day about what's in the forecast. Leaders who are asking them," How are you doing? What can I do to make your life easier? What tools work? What tools don't? If we bring in tools, is it to bandaid bad behavior or is it to make your life easier?" One of the hardest jobs that has the highest attrition is inside sales. How do we keep those people motivated? You give them a two- year development plan, not just a 30, 60, 90 day, because that's all I care about, I just want you to ramp. If you stay with us... To replace an employee costs about$ 70,000, that's your cost of acquisition. If you keep a seller beyond their first year, a second year seller will bring in one and a half to two X, a first year seller. If you can keep them past 23 months, you're talking three to five X. So, we want to keep them, we want to train them well, and we want to give them a career path. And a career path doesn't mean, if you do X, then you get this dollar reward, this promotion. You get to have this skillset. We're going to teach you to be a better human. We're going to teach you to be a better leader, so that you can bring along everyone behind you. So, that's how we're thinking about talent these days.
Sheena Badani: I love that. Any other best practices, Carl, that you may have seen from your portfolio in terms of how they're motivating and retaining their teams these days?
Carl Eschenbach: Yeah, it's funny, I was listening to you and Hang talk about inside sales and I have the opportunity to go at a couple universities across the country, including Stanford, to go to, they have these sales classes they do in business school. It's always funny, and I get asked," What is a great job for us coming out of business school?" Now, these are people sitting in Stanford, which I didn't go to, who are way more educated than I am. I look at them and they've paid now$400, 000 in education costs. And I look at them all and I say," I think it would be great if you took an inside sales rep role." And they're all like," What the hell are you talking about?" But I fundamentally believe hiring people into inside sales, it is one of the jobs, if you're new in a industry, where you learn a little bit about everything. You learn about product, you learn about go- to- market, you learn about contracting, you learn about legal, you learn about marketing. So, I think companies that bring young talent in and actually have a career path that Hang was talking about, are ones that succeed most. One of the companies that I work closely with and I'm on the board of is Snowflake. And they've developed this practice of bringing people in, in every quarter, almost 50% of their inside sales teams get promoted into new roles. It's a machine and they've developed it, and it's a great way to attract and then retain and grow your people. So, that's something I see quite often out there. The other thing I would say is in sales, success breeds success. And the one thing I keep a very, very big eye on is what I talk about is participation rate. How many people are making their number every quarter? And one of the things I've seen now in the last six years in my new capacity is I work with companies who sometimes get unlimited capital and they just go crazy in growing over the last five years, like everyone has done, they don't pay attention to participation rate. And they start out at 70% of their people making their number and they start to hire and hire and hire, and the participation rate goes 70, 60, 50, 40. And they're just keep hiring. I just don't understand it. So, if you believe that success breed success in sales, in a community of sales, just make sure you have high participation rate before you over- hire, because what eventually happens when you over- hire and participation rate goes down, you start to have churn and people start to leave your company. And it goes out in the street and people start to say," Why am I going there in sales? People aren't making their numbers, they're leaving." So, I think again, just focusing on making sure you have a high participation rate, will actually drive an ability to maintain your top talent.
Sheena Badani: I love that. I'm hearing a lot of investing for the long- term, really investing in your people, looking at the metrics. I'd love to dive into leaders and what skills and competencies do you think leaders need in these times that are pivotal or the folks on their team, maybe questioning what's happening next?
Hang Black: I think we've seen it historically. Oftentimes, we promote people who are great at their jobs and not necessarily going to make great leaders. So, we still have to invest the time to make sure that we're bringing up great leaders. And what does that mean? Leaders who will challenge themselves to remain relevant. And especially as we become much more digital, leaders who have been tenured sellers, who've been around for 20 years and still insist on doing things the way they've always done things, always product selling, always relationship selling, leaders now have to be much more relevant. They have to be as digitally aware as their teams are, and they have to be able to be agile enough to understand that we're selling in an era of pattern sorting. So, when we look for new talent now, we're not just looking for gregarious personalities. Obviously, that's really important, but we're actually looking for ambiverts. We're looking for people who can data sort. So, for instance, if I go into a pharmacy, the adage is, well, you solve the customer's pain, give them a painkiller. Great. But do I want Tylenol, or Advil, or ibuprofen? Which one's better for me? All three vendors will say," I can fix your headache." And they're all right and they're all speaking the truth. But what if you had a pharmacist that could say," Based on your specific issues, this is the right one for you."? That's what we need our leaders to be able to groom with their salespeople. It's not just about the products and the individual nerd knobs. It's, how do you make it very relevant to your specific seller, to your specific customer?
Carl Eschenbach: Yeah, that's a really good, actually, great response. Let me take a slightly different tack to your question about, what are the characteristics and traits of great leaders out there that you see? I'll give two things. I think great leaders, especially in sales, they have two things that are really important. They have energy and enthusiasm and they're highly contagious. I just think in sales and sales leadership, you know if someone walks in a room, you can feel the energy, you can feel the vibration, you can feel people getting excited. So, I think sales leaders have to have a lot of energy and enthusiasm, because the pace of the organization runs at the pace of the leader. And then outside of that, I'd say, what I've learned over my career, there's one of three different types of sales leaders out there. There's the motivational sales leader. Motivational sales leaders are the ones who push their team. They drive them to get the best out of them. But motivational leadership is just that, it's a push technique. Then there's sales leaders out there who are the inspirational sales leaders. And an inspirational sales leader sucks their people into them. People are drawn to them because they don't want to let him or her down. And then there's a sales leader, and in today's environment, I think they have to do both, and that's what I call the top level sales leaders. The sales leaders who know when they have to push, drive, motivate, lean on their teams. And then they also know when they need to inspire them and say," Hey, I recognize things are challenging, but we will get through this together." So, that motivational leader combined with inspirational leader is the ones I think that will be the defining leaders of our generation of sales going forward.
Sheena Badani: This is a great transition to our third pillar, which was all about performance. So yes, we bring in great people into the organization, we want them to be successful, but we also want them to be efficient and effective. Forrester has a sales activity study. According to that study, reps are only spending about 23% of their time on core sales activities. And I think any one of us, we can figure out all those other things that go into that remaining bucket, the majority of the time, it's the manual data entry, it's the follow- up email, it's this, that, and the other. And so, I'm curious to know, how have you seen your own teams or teams that you work alongside, really drive productivity, using AI driven technology as a basis for some of that productivity enhancement?
Hang Black: So, I do think that there's a fear of technology and the funny thing is, it mostly comes from the leadership." I'll bring in tools, but you use them, I don't have to know how to use them." So, what terrifies sellers also is," Well, if you're bringing in all these tools, are you going to try to obsolete me?" No, no, no. We understand you're spending 23% of your time. What about, instead of hiring a lot more reps, we actually fix the infrastructure and bring in these tools and consolidate the best of the best tools? It took pulling teeth to get people to use LinkedIn Sales Navigator consistently, but now that we do, we are above market in very specific verticals. We penetrate between our sales and marketing investment, we penetrate 50% more than our competitors do in that specific vertical. And we can look at it by vertical. We bring in tools like Gong. We can actually look at again, mass coaching, but we can also harvest that rich data to figure out which word clouds work, which word clouds don't work? What do you need to stop saying, what do you need to stop doing? So, bringing all of that intelligence in is really important. The issue that we're running into now is, they're all so many good tools that do so many great niche things, to see this level of consolidation like Gong is doing, will actually help us a lot more because it's one less thing I've got to log into.
Sheena Badani: So, we're approaching the end, but rapid fire, I'd love to hear your one recommendation to the audience of how they can turn obstacles into opportunities. So, why don't we start with Carl?
Carl Eschenbach: Buy Gong.
Hang Black: The future belongs to the brave, be curious and experiment.
Devin Reed: If you want to learn more about how revenue intelligence can help you achieve your goals, head over to gong. io. And if you like what you heard today, give us that five- star review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you're listening.
In this Celebrate session replay, Sheena sits down IRL with Juniper’s VP of Global Revenue Enablement, Hang Black, and Sequoia Capital Partner, Carl Eschenbach to explore their perspectives on the market trends sales leaders need to know.
The best-of-the-best sales leaders are already adjusting their strategies to account for these trends. Because the world is changing, fast. From a market downturn to layoffs, to hiring freezes, the current market poses a lot of challenges. This is how to prepare for what’s ahead.
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