fbpx

How To Rebuild Your Post COVID Sales Pipeline

Crevan O’Malley is a sales leader with over 20 years of experience in the Tech sector including time with tech giants like Dell and Oracle and is currently the Sales Director at EMEA HubSpot.

In this episode of the Salesman Podcast, Crevan shares how to rebuild your post-COVID sales pipelines using research from HubSpot’s recent 2021 Sales Enablement report.

You'll learn:

Sponsored by:
Win More Deals Or Your Money Back.
Selling Made Simple Academy: The proven way to improve sales results. Trusted by 2,000+ students.

Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Guest - Crevan O'Malley
Senior Sales Director at HubSpot

Resources:

Transcript:

Will Barron:

Coming up on today’s episode of the Salesman Podcast.

 

Crevan O’Malley:

Sales people generally are optimistic people. This is a great day. I think we’re hopefully on the way out of the difficult period we’ve had in 2020. Yeah, the data said to us that 40% are less likely to hit their targets. I think people would probably be shocked. That’s quite a dramatic percentage of sales individuals, sales teams, organisations.

 

Will Barron:

Hello, Sales Nation. My name is Will Barron and I’m the host of the Salesman Podcast. The world’s most downloaded B2B sales show. On today’s episode, we have the absolute legend, Crevan O’Malley. He is the EMEA sales director over at hubspot.com. He’s got over 20 years experience in the tech sector, and on today’s episode, we’re getting into how you can rebuild your pipeline post-COVID in 2021 and beyond. Everything that we talk about in this episode is available in the show notes over at salesman.org. And with that said, let’s jump right into it.

 

Will Barron:

We’re going to attempt to cover a topic that is going to be incredibly valuable to the audience today for all of the individual sales contributors. And that is how we can rebuild our sales pipelines post this COVID shenanigans that hopefully as we record this, today’s the first day that a post-trial vaccine has been given to someone in the UK. I think this is a world first. So hopefully we’re coming towards the end of some of this shenanigans. So a lot of salespeople listening to this are going to have their pipelines have been battered, they’ve been bruised, and hopefully we can put them back together at the end of this episode.

 

The Percentage of Organisations That Generally Miss Their Revenue Targets Compared to 40% of Businesses Expected to Miss Revenue Goals in 2020 · [01:38] 

 

Will Barron:

So with that said, let’s start with some data rather than just us both throwing anecdotes at each other. So a recent HubSpot sales enablement survey showed that 40% of businesses are expected to miss their revenue goals for this year. So can you put perhaps a bit of context on this? And again, you may not know this off the top of your head, but what percentage of organisations generally miss their targets versus this 40% figure that we’re facing right now?

 

Crevan O’Malley:

Yeah, it’s really, really interesting bit of research that we did recently. And I think to the point about the vaccination, definitely salespeople generally are optimistic people. This is a great day. I think we’re hopefully on the way out of the difficult period we’ve had in 2020. Yeah, the data said to us that 40% are less likely to hit their targets. I think people would probably be shocked. That’s quite a dramatic percentage of sales individuals, sales teams, organisations.

 

Crevan O’Malley:

If we break down the data a little bit, I think maybe it’s not as shocking. It’s certainly difficult to absorb that kind of a number. It’s UK-wide sales professionals. So definitely there’s a spike in that more negative or less optimistic outlook in London, so let’s say in a large urban environment. In more what wider UK context, it’s about 25%. Even if we were to look at the data for what we might call it a normal year or even a good trading year for sales professionals across industries and verticals, you’re always looking at about 20% in the London area, tend to be less optimistic about hitting their numbers. That’s replicated nationally with about 12 to 15%. So I think it’s a sobering number, for sure. And I suppose it’s no surprise given the year that we’ve had. But I think if we break it down by region, by age group, I think we can kind of untangle that data a little bit more and see maybe some green shoots built in.

 

Will Barron:

Sure. I guess it’s depressing if you’re in that category. If you’re selling Zoom meeting licences or something along those lines or anything that isn’t to do with travel or business travel especially, you’re probably feeling not too beat up about this. I spoke to your colleague, Ed, last week on a similar tangent and similar subject, and he brought up a couple of really interesting points that we won’t rehash, but I’ll link to that episode in the show notes. But one of the things he talked about was this fact that COVID is somewhat artificial. A general recession hits pretty much every organisation, there might be one or two winners or big loses within it. But this COVID mini recession that we’ve been through, economic downturn, has hit very specific places because of lock downs in particular.

 

Sales Forecast: Should Salespeople Be Optimistic About The Future of Sales in 2021 After an Intense Year? · [04:15]

 

Will Barron:

So I guess what I want to get out of you Crevan is should we be optimistic on the back of this? I know clearly I’m not having you on to talk about the economics and the world economic cycles, we’re talking about sales specifically. But, generally, should salespeople be optimistic moving forward from this point onwards?

 

“I think salespeople by their nature hopefully are some of the more optimistic people in any group, in any organisation.” – Crevan O’Malley · [04:41] 

 

Crevan O’Malley:

Yeah, I firmly believe we should. I think salespeople by their nature hopefully are some of the more optimistic people in any group, in any organisation. And I think now should be no different. There’s no question that there is colleagues of ours in the sales profession who are in industries like you mentioned, hospitality, travel, entertainment, very, very difficult for them to pivot and lean into other areas of demand creation and business in the year that we’ve just had. Regulation and the impact of COVID particularly has just decimated those businesses. But like you said, we talked about Zoom, we are certainly in an industry ourselves where we provide some tooling that can help people to work remotely that can help people to work in this kind of new environment that we find ourselves in.

 

“And coming at the challenge that we have, I think in their nature, salespeople are problem solvers in a very creative way. They have to be relentlessly optimistic and resilient and show a lot of grit. I think now is an incredible time for salespeople, whether they’re individual contributors or leaders, to show some of that positive side.” – Crevan O’Malley · [05:27] 

 

Crevan O’Malley:

And I think for salespeople, it’s about almost resetting yourself. And coming at the challenge that we have, I think in their nature, salespeople are problem solvers in a very creative way. They have to be relentlessly optimistic and resilient and show a lot of grit. I think now is an incredible time for salespeople, whether they’re individual contributors or leaders, to show some of that positive side. And I think the swing towards remote working, the swing towards certain industries for me means that whether you’re a sales leader and you’re making some choices around the kind of sales team you’re hiring and the way in which you put them to work, or you’re an individual sales rep with a target, and you’re trying to find business, you need to be very selective about the criteria that you use to identify who might be the most interesting targets for you to approach in this current environment.

 

Crevan O’Malley:

So I think a lot is to do with how you approach the challenge. And certainly in all industries, there are still salespeople who are successful. And likewise in good times, if I can use that phrase, there are some salespeople who aren’t successful. We’re a wide church. So I think we have to kind of mirror ourselves and replicate ourselves on some of those high performers, share across the community to learn best practise, and obviously lean on those areas that are having a better time of it right now than some.

 

What Missed Revenue Goals in Organisations Means for Salespeople · [07:13] 

 

Will Barron:

I think you appeared particularly humble there. I’ve just got it in front of me now. HubSpot from Q3 revenue on this year on last year is 32%. So you guys, and especially clearly the sales team, are absolutely crushing it. So this might be a difficult question for you to give a perspective on. Just for context, I want to look at the trickle-down effects of missing revenue or being predicted to miss revenue targets. What happens at a sales leadership level in an organisation when it’s obvious that the corporate goals for the year are not going to be hit? What panics are you having that then will perhaps affect individual salespeople further down the line?

 

Crevan O’Malley:

Yeah, I think there’s a few ways I’d answer that. First of all, I think everybody who has a number of years in their sales career, I certainly do, has come through difficult moments. I certainly lived through the financial crisis of ’07, ’08, ’09, and I was working with a startup scaling company at the time. And there were job losses. I mean, that’s the very difficult end of some of these impacts on our kind of economy and on sales roles. I think HubSpot is definitely in a position that I’m very appreciative, that we work hard for, it’s to do with the people, our customers and our products.

 

“Data suggests that companies with products that can attack maybe the same market or other markets, salespeople in those companies are a little bit more optimistic than perhaps those who have a single product that their success is built on one.” – Crevan O’Malley · [08:21] 

 

Crevan O’Malley:

I think we entered 2020, if I go back 12 months, in a really optimistic way. We’d spend a bit of time in 2019 getting our product fit for purpose. So we had a number of new products ready to come off the conveyor belt if you like. And that’s something that the data suggests, companies with products that can attack maybe the same market or other markets, salespeople in those companies are a little bit more optimistic than perhaps those who have a single product that obviously their success is built on one. But I think there’s no denying HubSpot is a company that has products or services that are a part of the response that lots of industries and people find themselves in. So we’re in no doubt, and we don’t take it for granted, we’re in a good position in the tech arena.

 

Crevan O’Malley:

Having said that, when COVID hit initially, and I’m thinking kind of middle of March, it was literally like night and day. So I think salespeople, when they look at profit and loss accounts or balance sheets, they don’t necessarily see their own performance. And even though HubSpot are reporting very, very strong growth and we continue to do that, I remember in that March and April period, we really had to step back and think about, “Okay, are we going to pause our hiring plans at the moment? Are we going to slow them down at the very least? Do we need to look at the cost space, keep our expenses in check, bring in a bit of prudence and caution into our outlook for a couple of months?” And then pivots.

 

Crevan O’Malley:

So the HubSpot DNA is very much in the inbound methodology. So as opposed to old school cold calling, and certainly outreach target account selling has a role in every entity that I’ve worked in, but certainly the inbound marketing methodology, where you’re looking to intersect people at the moment of interest for your product or service and provide insight and knowledge, the demand numbers there reduced. And we’d a series of research over the summer Adapt 2020, when you could see that website traffic and people’s interest in reading content spiked, but they’re actually interested in having a conversation with you really tapered off in some industries. So what really smart salespeople and what smart sales businesses did is for the people that were in that engine, they had to pivot those resources and pivot their time and retool in many cases. We went from probably 10 to 15% of our team in EMEA working remotely to 100% overnight.

 

Crevan O’Malley:

So there’s a reliance on tooling. There’s a reliance on technology. There’s a requirement for managers and reps to find new ways to communicate, share best practise, keep each other engaged and motivated. But at the very least new industries, new personas and understanding in this very, very challenged economy that we found ourselves in in Q2, Q3, what personas and what companies still had an ear and still could see a growth opportunity over the summer. And that was difficult. And it certainly bumped our progress. In my business in particular, March, April may was a difficult period. But I think we moved to remote in a positive manner. And again, the products that we have helped that I think. And I think we focused our energies, not on customers and prospects who weren’t in a position to have those conversations.

 

Crevan O’Malley:

We talked about some of the compromised industries. We wanted to lead with empathy and support them if they were our customers. So there was a package of measures where we were there to help them stay in business and ride this period out. But really lean into those industries where there was demand and there was an increased adoption rate for those remote tooling. And it’s been really interesting to see, like any environment or any circumstance, some sales teams and sales people pivot to it in a very positive and optimistic way. And for sure, lots more than work challenging people this year, and some people struggling with it. And we’ve just had to work with those in a very direct and supportive way, I think.

 

Why Most B2B Buyers Research and Make Up Their Minds Before Talking to Sales Reps During the Pandemic · [12:16] 

 

Will Barron:

So I don’t know if you’ve got data on this and how public you would want to be on it. But if the scenario that you just outlined then was people perhaps are doing more research before you were able to connect with them via outbound or people were more educated before you connected with them inbound, did that then affect the percentage of deals that would get closed? What I mean by that is HubSpot clearly had a great year. Is it just that your buyers were doing more research before they contacted you and so the win rate was up because you had perhaps less people who were reaching out to you, so a high win rate percentage of those individuals? Or is there another kind of combination of variables that are in that matrix?

 

Crevan O’Malley:

Yeah, it’s really, really interesting. I think what happened when that March and April period hit, and even in some of the entertainment publishers data reported this over the summer, there was just, I think, almost a panic or a frantic response for everybody where they just wanted to consume content. I think I’ve seen a response to lockdown version two, if I can call it that, over the October, November period versus what we went through in March and April, where people, even though it was signposted and we knew it was coming, they didn’t know how to respond to it. And you had certainly entertainment, travel, transport, hospitality, where it went from probably looking forward to quite a successful year to zero demand. And yet in those industries, we could still track on our blog pages and our websites a lot of prospects engaging with our content.

 

Crevan O’Malley:

We published a lot of material to help people manage their teams, manage their customers through that period. There was a huge demand for that. There was a huge demand for how to navigate this period. But ultimately, there was no question, you ended up with a lot of salespeople having conversations where there was maybe no commercial output to it in the end, but I think we still had a role to play there to do right by our customers and our prospects to share with them some of the best practises I suppose that we were lucky enough to have given the type of business that we were. And we made a lot of that information publicly available. And then I think even for customers of ours, you want to support them through difficult periods. You talked about Ed, to Ed’s point as well this is definitely an event. This is not a recession in the general sense that we’ve had previously.

 

Crevan O’Malley:

We came into 2020 economically very optimistic. I think we had pretty solid January, February across the board. And then there was a halt and a very jolt to that economy. So I think people knew if we could get over this hurdle that kind of consumer sentiment and ultimately optimism that some of this research still points to from a sales perspective is there. But it was literally about navigating it and trading through it in the best way that we possibly could. And there’s no doubt that that’s been hugely challenging for some sales teams. And they’ve had to make some of the adjustments to quotas and targets and head count and workforce reallocation. We had a lot of that over the early Q2 and summer period as well.

 

“Momentum is a key sense within sales teams. If your colleagues are finding deals, having good conversations with customers, nothing motivates your colleagues or your sales team to pick up the phone or engage with people digitally or whoever it is with just that little bit of momentum in the business.” – Crevan O’Malley · [16:00] 

 

Crevan O’Malley:

But it does feel like when you look at the data, hopefully… I mean, we’re still in the midst of a public health pandemic that is priority one that we navigate that healthily and safely. But if you do look at the commercial piece, the next three to six months, I think we can begin to see some momentum build. And I think momentum is a key sense within sales teams. If your colleagues are finding deals, having good conversations with customers, nothing motivates your colleague or your sales team to pick up the phone or engage with people digitally or whoever it is with just that little bit of momentum in the business, I think we’re beginning to see that now.

 

How Salespeople Should Negotiate 2021’s Sales Targets After a Tough Year in 2020 · [16:55]

 

Will Barron:

What does this look like from the perspective… Because I’m a massive optimist. I could see the pandemic and I could always see the glass half full of whatever it is. Clearly it’s a terrible event, but my natural state is to almost played devil’s advocate to whatever bad thing is happening. Now there’s different elements and types of optimism and to be blinded optimistic is not good for anyone because you’re basically just lying, you’re projecting success and you’re lying about your chances of achieving it. So to kind of taper the conversation, because we’re both being very optimistic here, I feel like you’re probably a very optimistic chap yourself, what do we do if we are just about to go into a sales meeting with our manager, with our national sales director, whoever it is, and we’re just about to negotiate next year’s sales target?

 

Will Barron:

Now, do we go in and be incredibly pessimistic because clearly if we want our target to be as small as possible, so we’ve got a good chance of hitting it and getting all those juicy bonuses and commissions that come often after we’ve hit 100% of target? Or do we go into it optimistically and do we try and show our sales manager that we’re here, we’re resourceful, we’re willing as individuals to pivot, even if we can’t create new tools or can’t rely on inbound marketing like HubSpot have obviously mastered? Do we go into it’s pessimistic to reduce our targets or do we go into it very practically optimistically to look good in front of our sales leadership?

 

“I think when you’re setting growth percentages and growth targets for a business, it’s more than just the revenue the sales team will write.” – Crevan O’Malley · [18:03] 

 

Crevan O’Malley:

Yeah, I think it’s a really interesting thought process that probably takes up air time in the minds of sales individuals and sales managers all the time. I think when you’re setting growth percentages and growth targets for a business, it’s more than just the revenue the sales team will write. I think there’s an awful lot of inter departmental dependencies there. If we can retain more of our customers in what is a difficult trading environment at the moment, if we can service them in a really positive way and give them a good experience so they may use more of our products. I think if you’re the kind of business that has a product development team that perhaps has some new product or potentially with the marketing teams there’s new markets that you can tap into, I think we have to come at this challenge in a creative way.

 

“I think you can’t be unrealistic. So I don’t think anybody wants to sign up to targets and growth trajectory plans that they just don’t believe in.” – Crevan O’Malley · [18:54] 

 

Crevan O’Malley:

I think ultimately, I’m definitely first a sales person and I would definitely describe myself as an optimistic person. I think you have to go into those conversations with a positive attitude. I think you can’t be unrealistic. So I don’t think anybody wants to sign up to targets and growth trajectory plans that they just don’t believe in. I think as leadership and as an organisation from the C-suite down, you have to bring people with you. But I think if you talk to CMOs or sales VPs, team leads on sales teams across the industry and across the country, if they’re not at least setting the tone in the conversation for what a growth story looks like from where we are now to where we can go in the future, then I think it’s going to be very difficult for other departments to build that kind of a momentum it’s 2021 that we talked about.

 

“I don’t think salespeople should feel like targets are unachievable. I think that creates a negative tone and difficult energy right across the organisation, not just in sales. I think we’ve all been in organisations where perhaps delivering sales numbers has been more difficult and it impacts support, it impacts finance, it impacts marketing and everybody else.” – Crevan O’Malley · [19:32] 

 

Crevan O’Malley:

I don’t think salespeople should feel like targets are unachievable. I think that creates a negative tone and a difficult energy right across the organisation, not just in sales. I think we’ve all been in organisations where perhaps delivering sales numbers has been more difficult and it impacts support, it impacts finance, it impacts marketing and everybody else. But if you can at least bring solutions and creativity to that type of a discussion, because when you’re talking about target setting, isn’t just simply a dollar or a pound sign that’s given to you, there’s a set of decisions, investment decisions and rationale underneath that in terms of the kind of customers that we’re going to go after, maybe the industries that we should focus on in 2021, is there a way in which we’re selling up to this point that maybe needs to be rebadged and reset?

 

Crevan O’Malley:

I think the whole remote discussion on maybe having more distributed sales teams as opposed to the traditional office. I think that’s a really interesting pivot that’s happening in the industry now. And I think the reality is, if you’re the CEO or the CFO of any business in the UK right now, I don’t think you look on a softness and outlook as the fault of sales in the middle of the global pandemic. I think we have to get those stakeholders from right across the business around the table, and certainly sales need to be represented in that voice and that conversation, and approach what is a very difficult problem solving exercise, frankly. And I rely on salespeople in my organisation, and I contribute to it too, to have some ways to solve this and have some ways to overcome it. Even in strong trading times, sales teams and sales individuals, people who might perennially qualify for [inaudible [00:21:24] and enjoy a great lifestyle, they go through difficult times.

 

“The difficult time for a sales individual is probably the opportunity to grow at their most. And certainly, in my experience, I probably learned more about myself in times when targets were missed or deals were lost.” – Crevan O’Malley · [21:27]

 

Crevan O’Malley:

The difficult time for a sales individual is probably the opportunity to grow at their most. And certainly in my experience. And we’ve had a pretty positive year for the reasons we’ve talked about, notwithstanding the challenges for us as individuals. I probably learned more about myself in times when targets were missed or deals were lost. And I think the opportunity for people to look on 2020 if they feel from a sentiment perspective not as positive about their career than maybe they did heretofore, well what can you do to try and bring that positive energy to the organisation that you’re part of? Because I do think in those moments, individual contributors and sales managers, they can definitely set their brand in a really positive way to impact more than just the delivery of a target into 2021. I think it’s an opportunity for people to step up. And I think salespeople are great at resetting and doubling down and showing that grit and perseverance that we need to be successful in this game.

 

Crevan Talks About Moments of Reflection and How He Motivates His Team to Be Optimistic About the Future · [22:33]

 

Will Barron:

Crevan, what does it look like for you if you have a moment of reflection? Do you set yearly personal goals? Obviously they end up tied with business goals, undoubtedly. Do you do anything with your team to get them to sit down and look at what’s gone right, what’s gone wrong? Because I feel like a lot of salespeople, and I’ve been there myself, maybe yourself as well, you get into this motion, you do the same things every day and if something’s working, great. But then if you’re not experimenting, if you’re not going through different things, if you’re not trying, if you’re not reflecting on what’s working and what isn’t, even within your own team and getting mentoring for people who are having success, if you’re not do any of those things, as soon as the S hits the fan, it all falls apart, right? So do you do anything personally? And do you get your team to do any kind of reflection or experiments to be passed around the team to improve the overall effectiveness of everything?

 

Crevan O’Malley:

Yeah, I definitely do. And that resonates. I think the first thing is, in terms of your career, when you look in the rear view mirror, I think 2020 will have thrown up probably more challenges for salespeople in particular that than any year. So living through this, and hopefully we will come out the other end, I think is giving you a bank of experience and some badges that you can wear with optimism and pride into the future. I think when I look at sales roles, there’s best practise, there’s things that work, there’s things that don’t work. You talk about experiments maybe in terms of outreach and how we’re trying to engage with customers. Every week, or certainly every couple of weeks we share what’s working, whether it’s an industry that’s engaging with us in a positive way, whether it’s a style of connection with a customer or a talk track that’s resonating, whether it’s a package or bundle of some of our tooling that’s particularly impactful for a particular type of persona, that stuff gets shared widely across the team. [crosstalk [00:24:30].

 

How Teams in Hubspot Share Best Practices and Success Stories Throughout the Organisation · [24:31] 

 

Will Barron:

Crevan, sorry to interrupt you there. What’s the practical process of that being shared? Do you have internal tools at HubSpot? Is this a Google Doc or an email chain? How does that get spread from one person to another? Because that seems nice to have, it seems like an obvious that sales teams should be doing it. But practically, I see it tends to fall apart once you get past the first idea.

 

Crevan O’Malley:

Yeah, it’s definitely difficult and it’s probably even more difficult given that everybody now is not, at least a significant portion of them, in the office. I think it’s a little bit all of the above. We will have individual team meetings. We will have manager to rep one-to-ones. We will have an all hands gathering every couple of weeks where best practise and some rep successes and stories are shared. Again, going back to the kind of company we are and the products and services that we are going to market with, the ability to build in playbooks and talk tracks and a sales process within our CRM system has been critical to our success at navigating this. So when you talk about sales methodologies and exit criteria and things like The Challenger Sale and the Sandler methodology, we bake in a lot of those principles and a lot of those ideas into how to, with respect to the sales process at  a fundamental level. I and think it’s served us well.

 

“When I interview sales reps and sales managers, your ability to drive a pipeline, your ability to engage with customers, we’re probably at a stage now in sales where there’s a lot of talent in the market that can show experience in that set. But I’m looking for things like emotional intelligence, self-awareness and the ability to navigate through challenging times, of which this is amongst the most challenging.” – Crevan O’Malley · [26:33] 

 

Crevan O’Malley:

Perhaps it’s not an option for every business, but I think what you have to do is agree what the processes for you. And it could well be some Google Docs that people have access to and can update depending on their successes and so on. But I think once the process is agreed and you have an attitude to optimise it in an iterative basis, I think that’s a good atmosphere and a good culture to be part of. I think you raised a really interesting point there, which is the next part to that, and that is giving people the time to work through this and staying engaged, which is incredibly difficult. And I think when I interview sales reps and sales managers, your ability to drive a pipeline, your ability to engage with customers, we’re probably at a stage now in sales where there’s a lot of talent in the market that can show experience in that set.

 

“A lot of what we do is to try and get people to feel confident about the process and trust the process, and almost forget about the quota, worry about your inputs. And I think a lot of successful businesses, a lot of successful sales teams and sales leaders and individuals do something similar at the moment.” – Crevan O’Malley · [27:26] 

 

Crevan O’Malley:

I’m looking for things like emotional intelligence, self-awareness and the ability to navigate through challenging times of which this is amongst the most challenging. Because I think in sales, even in those good days that we talked about, you’ll have a deal that won’t go your way, you’ll have some pipeline that will go in a direction that you don’t want to. But what you really want to see is the response from the individual. And it can’t be simply optimism. It has to be rooted in process and a methodology that done consistently and to a good standard you de-risk your ability as an individual to do your number. And I think a lot of what we do is to try and get people to feel confident about the process and trust the process, and almost forget about the quota, worry about your inputs. And I think a lot of successful businesses, a lot of successful sales teams and sales leaders and individuals do similar I think at the moment.

 

The Key Traits That Define a Successful Salesperson · [27:46]

 

Will Barron:

It’s funny. We haven’t pre-prepared this, but over at salesman.org we have a sales assessment, it’s part of our training programme. And it has 12 traits that with our research we’ve found that these individuals that have nine or more of these traits tend to do really well in B2B sales. Uncertainty is a trait. Emotional intelligence is a trait. Optimism is a trait. Having a sales process is a trait. General confidence is a trait. You just named inadvertently half of the traits that we test for within this assessment. Look, clearly it’s not rocket science. You could ask the general person in the high street what they think would make up a good good communicator and vis-a-vis a good salesperson. It’s just interesting to me that you just listed off half of them there and then. So with all that-

 

“In the year that we’ve had, a real challenge for sales individuals is to not just be a good communicator, that’s a given, it’s to have an ability to explain things really clearly and simply. And that’s not exactly the same as good communication.” – Crevan O’Malley · [28:29] 

 

Crevan O’Malley:

Do you know what’s really interesting? You mentioned good communication there. It was a conversation I had with my sales team this morning. I think even in the interview stage or when we think about people who are on our team and talking to our customers, we talk about good communication. Everybody will vote for good communication. I think in the year that we’ve had, a real challenge for sales individuals is to not just be a good communicator, that’s a given, it’s to have an ability to explain things really clearly and really simply. And that’s not exactly the same as good communication. We’re in a digital industry myself. It goes without saying some of that can get into a complicated type of conversation quite quickly. And ironically, I wouldn’t describe myself as a techie, and I’m 20 years in this industry.

 

“As salespeople, we need to remember that their problems or challenges don’t stop at the solution that we talk about. They have a myriad of them and we may be able to help with a piece of it.” – Crevan O’Malley · [29:42] 

 

Crevan O’Malley:

But your ability to translate what might be product led feature function into almost conversational language where your prospect, your customer, who has a set of problems and challenges… and I think as salespeople, we need to remember their problem or challenge doesn’t stop at the solution that we talk about. They have a myriad of them and we may be able to help with a piece of it. So if we can widen the scope of the help that we can give them, and that’s as much through a human connection and their ability to open up to us and our ability to ask the right question, frankly. So I think if you can be a good communicator, absolutely, but in a really empathetic, interested way that you can explain things to them in a way that resonates and makes sense. I think if you’re a sales person looking forward to 2021, thinking about how you could do that better, nothing to do with technical specifications or any type of product marketing brief, if you could just think about how you could engage with people in a more positive way in that sense, I think you’d be well on your way to having a good year.

 

Will Barron:

Totally agree. We’ve just published a training on how to teach. Because we just brought on two new learning designers who have done multiple degrees in how to explain things in a way that it goes in one ear and stays in people’s brains. So I’m totally onboard with that. It’s probably a conversation for another time, another topic for another podcast, Crevan, but I’ll wrap things up with this, mate.

 

How Salespeople Can Have a Successful 2021 and How Sales Leaders Can Help Them Meet Sales Targets · [30:56]

 

Will Barron:

We’ve mentioned remote selling, how we can make the most of that and optimise that to increase our effectiveness as we try and improve our pipelines. We talked about focusing on the right customers, focusing on the right products with those individuals. We half touched on the fact that buying has changed, people are spending more time perhaps researching. I might be doing a whole… Not justice to all of the data out there with that statement but it seems like from a lot of different sources buyers are spending a lot more time doing research before they will speak to a sales person. For inbound focused organisations, HubSpot, perfect, that’s exactly what we want, right? Is there anything else we need to do? Is there anything pertinent here I’ve just totally missed that salespeople need to do right now to make sure that their pipeline is being built for 2021 and beyond?

 

Crevan O’Malley:

Yeah. We’ve covered some interesting ground there. I think there is. I think the sales enablement survey, which we’ll link to everybody here and please read it. The most interesting thing for me was the percentage of respondents right across the UK who had made no change to the way in which they manage their sales individuals, the way in which they wanted them to go to market. And yet everybody is at home or certainly is distributed across a number of different locations. I think that’s a shock. And that’s a surprise. Because as encouraging as the news today was with respect to the vaccines, we are going to be living through this probably for six to seven more months. So if you’re a sales leader or if you’re an individual who wants to have a good year in 2021, you really have to start planning your year now. And planning your year means trying to work with the conditions and the tools and the environment that you find yourself in now.

 

Crevan O’Malley:

So I think once you start executing a plan, you need to be able to tweak it and have flexibility. But plan to have a successful year with the structure and the support and the collaboration of other departments that are around you at the minute, because it’s not going to change very, very quickly. And the other thing is, it potentially is another conversation, when you look at the future of work… And that sounds very dramatic, but the future of work is probably not 85 to 90% of all your employees travelling to one location in the city centre in the morning and then moving back into the suburbs in the evening. And it’s probably even less so a number of you and your team turning up to your customer. Because your customers on the procurement team or the sales, they’re having the same experience that we are. So their businesses from a headcount perspective are distributed as well.

 

“I think from a selection perspective, I think the best playbooks, the best strategies to sell, the best ways to engage with customers are all fantastic. But if you target the wrong industries or the wrong people, two things are going to be a problem. One, you’re not going to get the return that you need. And two, you’re probably intersecting people who don’t really have a mind to have that conversation with you at the moment.” – Crevan O’Malley · [33:54]

 

Crevan O’Malley:

So think your way through the challenge that 2021 is going to give. And I think from a selection perspective, I think the best playbooks, the best strategies to sell, the best ways to engage with customers are all fantastic. But if you target the wrong industries or the wrong people, two things are going to be a problem. One, you’re not going to get the return that you need. And two, you’re probably intersecting people who don’t really have a mind to have that conversation with you at the moment. So your criteria on who you talk to needs to be rooted in perhaps what maybe a good performer in your company or in your industry is doing. And I think podcasts like this and others are full of professionals in this industry. We’re a community. And sure, some of us compete aggressively with each other from day to day, but even for the people who are in the CRM and the marketing automation industry, I’m constantly reading their product updates and their references with their customers, and there’s a huge amount to learn.

 

“If you’re going to be a successful sales rep in 2021, the more time you’re spending talking to the right customers, the better.” – Crevan O’Malley ·  [35:02] 

 

Crevan O’Malley:

So I think keep the attitude open, keep having an outward view of the market that you serve and not just an inward view of the challenges that your business has at the minute. Because if you’re going to be a successful sales rep in 2021, the more time you’re spending talking to the right customers, the better.

 

Content and Resources Outside of Sales That Salespeople Should Consume · [35:20] 

 

Will Barron:

So HubSpot have great resources. We’ve got a of resources over at salesman.org. So my background is medical device sales. We know that I should be reading the headlines of the urology journals if I’m selling to urologists. Are there any unusual or even counterintuitive things that salespeople should be learning from, Crevan? Is there anything that you do or you get your team to read that might seem a bit odd at first, but it makes sense when they get into it?

 

Crevan O’Malley:

Interesting question. I think when I’m talking to my teams and maybe a way to answer this is when I’m interviewing salespeople and sales managers I’m always interested in the person with the story. So I think wherever your source of content is, and there’s blogs for particular industries, you can get incredibly nuanced information on the markets that you serve. But I think it’s a bit back to the explaining story. I think having the confidence to consume content and information and to think about it thoughtfully and have your point of view on that, I think that’s worth its weight in gold.

 

“I think Potential buyers for your product or service, the CMO or the sales VP or the head of service in those target companies, they’re getting hit regularly with similar messaging. And I think if you can reframe your insights or even deliver insight as opposed to feature-function, if you can tell your story in a really interesting way, I think that will resonate and that will certainly not give you a 100% hit rate on lead conversions and sales and so on, but it will increase it.” – Crevan O’Malley · [38:16] 

 

Crevan O’Malley:

I think potential buyers for your product or service, whatever that may be in whatever industry you find yourself in in B2B, I think the CMO or the sales VP or the head of service in those target companies, they’re getting hit regularly with similar messaging. And I think if you can reframe your insights or even deliver insight as opposed to feature function, if you can tell your story in a really interesting way, I think that will resonate and that will certainly not give you 100% hit rate on lead conversions and sales and so on, but it will, it increase it. And I think customers in the target markets we go after, they are open to new ideas, new ways of doing things, trying to tackle these challenges head on. And if you approach them in that way to try and put them at the centre of the conversation, I think the conversations develop in a way that can ultimately end up in a commercial one.

 

“I think it’s well worth thinking about more than just your product or service. Thinking about how to speak to the people that you want to talk to and how you can make that interesting conversation, that’s what people are looking for.” – Crevan O’Malley · [37:41] 

 

Crevan O’Malley:

But I think digital first, I think for your industry, the blogs, the influencers, people who are up-to-date on current affairs and things like that. Ultimately, you’re trying to have an interesting conversation with somebody. And I think you need to be somebody who can come across as interesting for that to be the case. So I think it’s well worth thinking about more than just your product or service, thinking how that can speak to the people that you want to talk to and how you can make that interesting conversation, that’s what people are looking for.

 

Parting Thoughts: Benefits of Aligning Sales Goals Throughout the Organisation · [37:54]

 

Will Barron:

I love it. I totally agree. I feel like marketing has a place for impressions, for brands to get people’s eyeballs in front of things. I feel like the value that salespeople add right now as we go into 2021 is the ability to take the context of the individual they’re conversing with, and take all those marketing and broad sweeping statements and create a story for them. Now, at some point AI might be able to do some of this and us salespeople are going to be worried about our place in things. But right now, no one else can do it other than a human being who has expertise in their space, expertise about their customers, and you solved these problems in the past. And I think that is where we should all be focusing. So it’s good to hear say something along the similar lines there.

 

Crevan O’Malley:

Yeah, yeah. And I think the maybe last point from me, sales is incredibly exciting regardless of the industry you’re in. But it’s also very difficult and we’ve had that come home more than any year in the last year. But I think my optimism and my sense of confidence for the period ahead is because it isn’t just on the shoulders of salespeople. We’ve got incredible marketeers, or at least people who are responsible for the brand within the business, business development, typically more junior profile people, and then the after sales engine. I think getting everybody on the same page about how you’re tackling the customer and understanding that the people who actually talk to the customer… So in my business, I talk to customers regularly, but my sales reps to talk to customers all day long. So if I want to get in touch with what people are thinking about, and maybe the optimism they’re showing at the moment, the voice of the customer comes through with the people who are talking to the customer and bring them into the conversation and listen to them.

 

Crevan O’Malley:

And then the resources such as you have, they won’t be infinite, they aren’t in any business. You’ve got to allocate them in a way that you get the best return. And that’s about seeking collaboration and alignment from some of those departments that I mentioned and making sure that when your customer engages with any of those touch points it’s a consistent and arguably enjoyable experience. I think if you can do that, then you’ll certainly get the next meeting. And in sales, that’s what it’s all about. And at one point in the conversation, that meeting becomes a closing meeting. So I hope people have more of those in 2021. And I’m obviously very optimistic that we will.

 

Will Barron:

Love it. Well, I appreciate that, Crevan. I appreciate the fact that you are optimistic because that translates then into the audience. Because I’m optimistic about all of this as well. But again, I could be totally blindly optimistic. I feel like people should probably listen to you and trust you being an expert in the space and a real sales leader in a successful company. So we appreciate that, mate, and I want to thank you again for joining us on the Salesman Podcast.

 

Crevan O’Malley:

Thank you, Will. And an early Happy Christmas to your listeners. Certainly enjoyed the conversation, and wish everybody well with planning for 2021.

 

 

SALESMAN WEEKLY EMAIL