By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
Late in 2015 we started producing a radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, which currently runs every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific. It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.
We’ve already featured some great guests and have a line up of awesome content and special guests coming up. Our very first guest was Funnelholic author and Topo co-founder Craig Rosenberg. Next we had Mike Weinberg, incredible writer, speaker, author, followed by Conrad Bayer, CEO & Founder of Tellwise. Recent Guests: Jim Keenan; Joanne Black; Aaron Ross; Josiane Feigon, Meagen Eisenberg, and Trish Bertuzzi.
We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year. We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes. You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes.
Listen in or read below about the Art & Science of Selling and a lot more with David Priemer, VP of Sales at Influitive.
Matt: We are excited to be back on Sales Pipeline Radio, thanks again for joining us. You can see us every week at 2:30, 11:30 Pacific right here on the feed, the Management Radio Network and you can find us, the podcast in the iTunes Store and Google play as well.
If you want to check out any of our past episodes as well as future episodes you can check us out on the podcast or you can check it out at www.salespipelineradio.com. Our goal every week as usual is to feature some of the best minds and and ideas in sales and marketing in B2B.
And today I am very, very excited to feature David Priemer who is the vice president of sales at Influitive and a lot of great topics to cover with him but first of all David, thank you so much for joining us.
David: A pleasure Matt, great to be here!
Matt: Awesome! Well you know there is so many things I would like to cover. I think first you know you’ve got a long history of sales leadership that we can get into but I know you think a lot about, in addition to managing the sales team, you think a lot about the psychology of sales.
David: Yeah, you know it’s really interesting. Sales has evolved over the years. So I have been in enterprise and software sales for 17 years and it used to be at the beginning, the vendors had all the information as you know and would fly around and the Internet was a thing but there wasn’t nearly as much information as there is today. And so the buying process, the selling process and the relationship between buyer and seller has fundamentally changed, right? Buyers have much more information, they are much better armed and much more prepared to have engage in conversations with us.
And so it shifted the focus a little bit, right? From the salesperson’s perspective, from being a little bit on the offensive to being a little bit more defensive. And so things like sales psychology and emotional intelligence and just helping buyers through their process have become really, really important.
The other piece of it is that we’ve become just way busier, right? With this information. And so the mindset of the buyer has kind of shifted to not only one of empowerment because they have all of this information, but they don’t want to be bothered, right? The same way they used to because we have so much less time than we did before. And so it’s really, really important for sellers to be mindful of the buyer experience they are creating especially now. That’s why my enhanced focus or my focus has been related to, especially in recent years, on execution and really how we create that amazing experience for the buyer.
Matt: I mean this is something you don’t hear a lot from sales managers especially this time of year where people have gone through their sales kickoff process. From your experience, is this prevalent in sales organizations? Is this not explored enough? Like what are you seeing and what do you recommend for sales managers, leaders and sales trainers who might be listening in terms of implementing and integrating sort of a better sort of sales psychology, best practices into their organization?
David: Yeah I would say I mean on the whole, it’s not practiced enough. Salespeople can still be used to the old ways of selling still, we make lots of calls, we almost kind of bother people, we try to interrupt their focus, we try our best pictures out and there is a shift I am sensing and I have seen.
But even the big companies to the small, it’s not something that has gotten a lot of airplay, it’s getting more now when you think about some of the things that are happening around social selling, you have methodologies like Sandler which we practiced a ton at Salesforce which is really, really great and you can kind of look at those in one of two ways. It’s very much kind of a very tactical strategic way of approaching how you sell a product to a buyer but at the same time there’s also this element of sitting on the side of the buyer, right? Raising your questions and your discoveries and the way you negotiate all on the side of the buyer being kind of very, very biased towards them.
It’s a little unnatural for salespeople. We sometimes tend to think of the salesperson as someone who is a little bit more adversarial versus sitting on the same side of the table.
But as someone just personally who doesn’t like to be bothered, I don’t like it when people, BDR has called me and try to sell those products to me. I love it when I connect with people who I know and I trust or even sellers who add value in advance of trying to pitch a product. So I would say on a whole, companies are moving in this direction. I think they have some of the tools and processes in place but I don’t think they are still holistically thinking about, I am sitting on the side of the buyer and kind of the sales psychology and the emotional intelligence as a high level strategy just yet.
Matt: We are talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with David Priemer who is the vice president of sales at Influitive. And David you’ve got a really interesting background, you’ve not only done a lot of work in sales operations, sales leadership, you have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and atmospheric science and a master’s degree in chemical engineering. And I can tell you I can count on a lot less than one hand, the number of people that have that level of technical degree that have gone into sales.
You explained in less than two or three hours, how did you make that transition? How did you go from someone that looked like they were headed towards more of a science career into sales?
David: It’s a good question. I actually fielded this question at my daughter’s Girl Guides troops just this week so I should be well practiced.
The question actually asked the group is if you here as a kid like to take things apart and figure out how they work, and I was one of those kids, I used to take apart my mother’s vacuum cleaner when it was broken, I would kind of figure out what was wrong with it, put it back together. There would be a few more pieces left over off to the side, for whatever reason it still worked but I loved the kind of take things apart and figure out how they work. And for me, kind of a career in science made a lot of sense because it helped kind of explain the physical world and it was just this idea that the world is something you can discover and kind of take apart and figure out how it works.
What I found kind of as I was going through the academic world and entering kind of the workforce in about 1999 where I joined my first start of and came into sales I didn’t even know sales was a thing you can do. But what I’ve learned since then is that the world of sales is just like the vacuum cleaner, it’s a thing that you can learn about, you can take apart.
The commitment I made to my sales reps is I say I remember the movie matrix and it seems like just yesterday but it was 18 years ago that the movie came out where Keanu Reeves is kind of looking at the matrix and it’s all kind of ones and zeros and he can’t make any sense of it. But then by the end he starts seeing the matrix as kind of the shapes and nail lines and patterns and you can kind of play around and you become more proficient.
And for me that’s what the world of sales is, the way we interact with people, the way we negotiate, the way we pitch our products. I love infomercials, I love kind of that formulaic approach to things. The world of sales is a vacuum cleaner that you can pick apart and figure out how it works. So for me as a person, a math, science and engineering background, it’s definitely something that I still think of in those terms as a science to be learned, obviously just kind of transition to a little bit more of the tactical elements of sales. But that’s the kind of knowledge I aspire to infuse into my teams.
Matt: It’s fascinating and because of that background I am curious what your perspective is on the balance between the art and the science of selling. You’ve got an awful lot of people today that are looking at the numbers and trying to manage sales through a spreadsheet. You have a lot of people that just think it’s a complete art and managing it through a spreadsheet doesn’t work at all. My opinion is that it’s a little bit of a mixture between both. But given your background and given the approach that you’ve been trained academically to do plus your work in sales, like how do you think about that balance?
David: So I spent five years in Salesforce before coming to Influitive, I mean just five amazing years, incredible company, great people and the great thing about working at Salesforce is you can see things at scale that you can’t see when you work at the smaller companies. So the power of having thousands of sales reps and seeing trends and patterns, they are powerful compared to in an organization where you might have 30 sales reps.
And so one of the things that you are able to see are things like hustle and activities. And while it really matters what you say on the phone or in person when you’re meeting with a customer because they are people just like we are, there is a correlation between the amount of hustle, the amount of calls, the amount of intensity and rigor that you apply to your business and the outcomes, like I saw that absolutely at scale over thousands of calls and deals done over the course of that time.
So how do I balance the art and the science? I balance the science by saying if you hustle, if you make lots of calls, if you cure your accounts, if you are very strategic about who you go after and so on then that’s the science, that’s the step one.
Step two which is the art is okay well when you get on the phone with someone, what do you say? And in fact, I actually wrote an article about it last week, I found a lot of organizations don’t, they are not as mindful about those kind of very ground-level tactics and meaning what do you as a sales rep work through your company’s say in the first 10 seconds when you get on the phone with a prospect? And then what do you say in the next 30 seconds or the next five minutes?
And am not saying that you should be prescriptive about what you are saying but what you say and how you say it and how you build a layer, that experience for the customer because again they don’t want to be bothered and you are bothering them by calling them, what are you saying the kind of layer through that experience and take them on this journey with you?
Most of us work at these great organizations with amazing projects and we are trying to change the world and the customers that we are calling on even though we have solutions that can solve their problems, spend a fraction of a percent hearing about us. The science is how do you moderate your cadence and how do you attack your territory and how else you are calling and emailing and so on but the art really comes down to what you are saying and how you’re empathizing with your customer. And if you were in their position what would you like you to say? Like all those things are really, really important.
I find that sometimes organizations don’t put enough focus on that. It’s about how much cause you are making and how many emails you are sending out, really kind of when you get down to it you have to be really mindful of that human experience, that’s how I harmonize the art and science.
Matt: Great perspective, thanks very much. Well we’ve got to take a quick break and pay some bills. We will be back with more from David Priemer, vice president of sales at Influitive. I want to get into talking about emotional intelligence. He’s written and talked about some interesting things on the impact of emotional intelligence especially in hiring and training and managing your sales reps. Back in a couple of minutes, you are listening to Sales Pipeline Radio!
Paul: All right back to Matt and his guest! And a quick question for me is that Modern Marketer’s Field Guide, is that more of the art or the science of selling?
Matt: Well, it’s both Paul. I think David did a nice job of saying you really need both of that. I think the same applies in marketing. Good marketing for me starts with a spreadsheet and ends with a spreadsheet but the middle is still a story, it’s still the arts.
You can say in a spreadsheet, “I expect 25% of people to convert” but how are you going to do that? It comes down to that story and again I think what’s interesting to me about sort of the evolution of sales especially in today’s world, relative to marketing, marketing still is you’ve got sort of one to many environments in a lot of cases even if those are sort of engineered with predictive intelligence to be one-to-one. Sales conversations, usually one-to-one it’s a direct conversation, it’s real-time storytelling.
And so we are going to get into sort of how you hire and train others to do that, how you look for emotional intelligence which I think is a direct line helping make better reps. But if you like the conversation we’re having today, and I’ve really enjoyed our time so far with David Priemer from Influitive, you can check out his entire interview on the podcast at iTunes or Google play. You can check out all of our best episodes on demand at www.salespipelineradio.com as well as future episodes.
Coming up in the next couple of weeks we’ve got Lauren Vaccarello from Box, she is the VP of marketing at Box. We are going to be talking about account based marketing and how to improve your ability to go after a specific targets. We are going to have Shannon Dougall who is the vice president of marketing at Uberflip and talking about some new research that identifies specific characteristics of content that’s working in the field, that’s driving but the response. And a lot of great content, a lot of great people coming up on the show. But I want to get back to our conversation with David.
You’ve written a number of really interesting articles, especially some stuff on the Salesforce blog. From your time there as well as you look like you’ve continued, I read through a lot of the stuff you’ve written and the one piece that really kind of caught my eye I think was particularly interesting was your piece on interview questions for assessing emotional intelligence. Talk a little bit about why emotional intelligence is important for sales professionals and walk through some of the highlights of how you can assess that in the interview process.
David: Yeah, absolutely. I mean emotional intelligence is critical and for the very reason that buyers are people, sellers are people; people buy from people. And often times we’ll say things that will insight an emotional reaction in our client. In fact in sales that’s the objective, right? Is to create emotional reaction around our product and solution to our buyers.
So it’s really, really important is that as the sales professionals we are mindful of how we are using our own emotions to create that experience and how the emotions of others feed into that. So we think of things like what are the motions that kind of play out in sales? There is things like satisfaction and fear and excitement and alignment and these things sometimes manifest in strange ways.
For example you might have a customer that says hey, can I have a free trial of your product or can I speak to a reference or we’ve all been in the position where we call up our local tele-sales because we are angry about our bill and we say to the person on the other end? I want to speak to your manager.
All of these are tactics that we live with every day but we sometimes realize they are very much rooted in the emotional experience that we are having with our customers and prospects rather than kind of the arts and science, right? Someone asking for a reference or a referral or free trial. For me it’s really stating the fear saying I am afraid, I don’t believe or trust completely that when I purchase your solution I am going to get the intended results and so I really want to speak to someone who can help validate that for me. And so it just comes up all over the place.
And so there’s definitely things that you can do, questions you can ask, scenarios you can put forth in an interview process to help understand whether or not the person you are dealing with has that kind of emotional awareness. So for example some of the things that I write about are this idea of just checking in and say hello. I mean we’ve all been there as a sales rep, we have a prospect on our list that we want to keep and continue to engage because we believe they are well suited for our product and so we just call them every few months and we say hey, we are just… It’s me David, just checking in, want to hear kind of how it’s going, right? And customers hate that.
The hate that when you call them and so this idea of how do you avoid just checking in syndrome, it’s a really great question I would love to ask sales reps, how do you avoid this sense of bothering on the customer’s side? There is definitely things that I look for their. And that’s more on the customer side.
Things that I look for on the rep’s side is just the awareness of their own strengths and abilities. So one question I love to ask is this idea of what is your superpower? We’ve all met all sorts of different types of sales reps throughout the course of our careers and some are amazing negotiators and some are amazing solution people and some are what I call a best friend, they have this best friend persona and everyone just really loves talking to them. And so you have to ask– what’s your superpower? What’s the thing that if you look back on six months from now, crazy successful you would have said of course that’s going to be successful, look at what his superpower is! And so just that awareness of both internally and externally, really, really important when you are hiring the sales reps.
Matt: So this emotional intelligence is something that you can learn? Is it an inherent trait? Does someone have to have that coming in or like some other sales skills are similar can you get someone up to speed on it?
David: Yeah, no, it’s a great question. So the good news is for our listeners is emotional intelligence is absolutely something that you can learn and there are some really great books out there that talk about how most of the jobs that exist in the world are bettered by people who have high emotional intelligence. In fact, the people who are top performers, I think the stat is that 90% of them have high emotional intelligence versus only about 20% of them who have low performance have high emotional intelligence. It’s a huge factor. But the good news is it can be learned.
Unlike IQs which we are all aware of intelligence quotient which is believed to be fixed at birth and cannot be changed, absolutely, EQ or emotional quotient and can absolutely be learned. And part of it is just this idea of pattern recognition. Being aware of when you do certain things, when you say certain things it has an impact on someone. So it’s very much a learned skill, some people are obviously much more natural at it but it is definitely something that can be learned.
Matt: Switching gears a little bit, as we’ve got the last few minutes with David Priemer from Influitive today, I want to talk about what to do after the sales kickoff. For those listening live it’s the second day of February. For those of you that are listening on demand, if you have been through the Sales Kickoff you probably are used to sort of the kind of post SKO let down, you leave, and it’s all exciting and then you get back to work and what can you do as a sales leader to maintain that energy, maintain that momentum, keep people focused and driving forward in sort of the same spirit that you left Sales Kickoff with whenever you did that in January?
David: Great question. So I think the first thing, it starts at Sales Kickoff. I find all too often as sales leaders we tend to jam a lot of stuff into the sales kickoffs and so we have product and marketing and customer success and support and we get more executives to pop in and maybe we have some partners pop in. And then the reps kind of leave and they are not really quite sure what the most important thing was for them to take away, it’s very difficult to hold them accountable. So my advice for sales kickoff is less is more.
The way I kind of plan my sales kickoff is I kind of start with a blank piece of paper and I say what are kind of let’s say the one, two or three things or more than that that if the sales reps leave the kickoff not knowing it would be considered a failure? So just the key is just to prioritize, what prioritization, what your focus is, lots of break time, lots of role play stuff but really, really focused. And then coming out of the sales kickoff, the real key is accountability.
So for example let’s say part of the one thing in your sales kickoff is you want your reps leaving knowing the two-minute corporate pitch or two-minute corporate pitch from the first call back down pat. The key to driving accountability is maintaining that awareness around that piece of content.
So some people will do kind of an ongoing lunch and learns and they will do a little events kind of around the same theme. A simple thing that I love to do is I call it five minutes in heaven about… sometimes it goes longer than five minutes and I don’t know if reps would describe it as heavenly, but this idea that it’s let’s say for example the most important thing was remembering that two-minute, that corporate two-minute pitch, every team meeting after that kickoff you take the first five minutes and you kind of go around the table, you pick a person at random and you say Matt, you talk about this two-minute pitch at the sales kickoff, but look here, what’s your best version of the two-minute pitch?
And you kind of go around the table and you kind of pick people randomly and this idea that people can be called out for the content that they are responsible for and it makes them immediately accountable. You can even have your executives pop in, other executives pop in if there is something that’s helpful but this idea of constant reinforcement of a few key things and having people be accountable to kind of call them out at a moment’s notice I think is really helpful to this idea of just taking five minutes at the beginning of every sales meeting just to really drive it home.
It’s kind of like the song that the DJ has heard 1 million times and is sick of already, you kind of want to get to that point so the reinforcement is really important.
Matt: Awesome! Well we unfortunately are out of time, these always go too fast. Paul was going to ask you to blow off the next show but I am pretty sure we can’t do that so thank you so much to our guest today, David Priemer who is the VP of sales at Influitive, some great stuff. If you want to hear David’s comments again you can catch that in a couple of days on demand at www.salespipelineradio.com as well as from our podcast available on iTunes and Google play.
Join us next week every week and every Thursday at 2:30 Eastern, 11:30 Pacific, lots of great guests coming up the rest of the month into the rest of Q1. But for today this is Matt Heinz, thanks for joining us, Sales Pipeline Radio!
Paul: You’ve been listening to Sales Pipeline Radio, the one show that takes a look at the whole sales pipeline from start to finish with your host Matt Heinz from Heinz Marketing.