By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

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This week’s show is called Actions Sales Leaders Need to Take in a Recessionand I’m joined by Steven Benson, CEO of Badger Maps.

We’ve all been faced with headwinds this year in terms of shifting demand, shifting way people sell, opportunity and challenges. I ask Steven about the advice he has given to the outside world and how much of that have he had to apply to his own business.

Steven talks about the importance of changing your messaging to better fit with the world and the mindset customers and prospects are in, in a down economy versus a good one.  Specifically, helping companies to do more with less. And then, showing prospects exactly how much in terms of dollars, you’ll be able to help them do more with less.

It could be less money, manpower, resources, whatever. We went through this exercise ourselves. It’s a good example, but when times are good, the sales team and the marketing team at Badger, their messages is, “Hey, we’re going to… We’ll help you sell 20% more with your field sales team”. And we shifted that messaging to, with Badger Maps, your outside sales team can generate the same revenue, even though your team is 20% smaller. And there’s a huge difference in these two things, even though it’s basically saying the same thing we’re going to help you do better, but then one of these messages resonates way more with prospects in a down economy than the other.

This and a lot more.  Listen in now and/or read the full transcript below.

Matt:  Welcome to another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. If you are listening live, thank you very much for joining us on the Funnel Media Radio Network, making us part of your workday. If you’re listening on the podcast, thanks so much for subscribing and downloading.

You can find us anywhere, fine podcasts are available and all episodes of Sales Pipeline Radio. Past, present, and future always available up at salespipelineradio.com. We are featuring each week, some of the best and brightest minds in B2B Sales and Marketing today. Absolutely no different, very excited to have with us the CEO of Badger Maps, a multiple time now guest of Sales Pipeline Radio, Steve Benson. Steve, how you doing?

Steven:  Pretty good. Thanks for having me.

Matt:  Well, thanks for joining. I’m excited to have you on. And I mean, this has been a busy year for you. Not only navigating your business through this, but I know you continue to have your podcast outside sales talk, you created a sales hall of fame earlier this year. So, lots to talk about. And I think for the first time in maybe 10, 11 plus years, in addition to a pandemic, we’ve got rough economic times. And so you’re in the heart of this, helping people think about how to sell in recessionary times. What are some of the things you’ve learned this year?

Steven:  Well, I mean, I think we’ve all learned a lot this year. I think tenacity and keeping going and making things happen are key things that I’ve tried to focus on myself.

I think there are a ton of new challenges that sales leaders, they are facing in the bad economy here, in the down economy. And I think that that’s been a major area that I’ve been focusing on in addition to running Badger Maps, is focusing on helping people get through those times and figuring out what actions they need to take to overcome the challenges they’ve got and how to figure out how to coach their teams and these times, how to reduce costs if they have to, how to work on their messaging for these new times, things like that.

Matt:  How much of that has been something you’ve been doing within your own organization as well? I think we’ve all been faced with headwinds this year in terms of shifting demand, shifting way people sell, opportunity and challenges. Some of the advice that you have that you’re giving to the outside world, how much of that have you had to apply to your own business as well and how’s that drinking your own champagne there? What’s that been like this year?

Steven:  Drinking champagne or eating dog food, I’m not sure which one it is but a lot of the ideas that I’ve been bringing out to people on this topic have been things that I’ve implemented things like, how do you change your messaging to better fit with the world and the mindset that your customers and prospects are in, in a down economy versus a good one. We changed our messaging and that’s one thing that I’ve been coaching people to make a shift there. Basically most people’s messaging, especially in a good economy is often some version of we’ll help you do better. I see it all over the place, right? And I think they need to change their messaging to, we’ll help you do more with less. And then, they need to go about showing your prospects exactly how much in terms of dollars, you’ll be able to help them do more with less.

It could be less money, manpower, resources, whatever. We went through this exercise ourselves. It’s a good example, but when times are good, the sales team and the marketing team at Badger, their messages is, “Hey, we’re going to… We’ll help you sell 20% more with your field sales team”. And we shifted that messaging to, with Badger Maps, your outside sales team can generate the same revenue, even though your team is 20% smaller. And there’s a huge difference in these two things, even though it’s basically saying the same thing we’re going to help you do better, but then one of these messages resonates way more with prospects in a down economy than the other.

Matt:  Yeah, we’ve certainly noticed across with our own sales process, as well as with a lot of clients that people are still buying from many industries. They’re still moving forward and trying to be careful about how they move forward. But your ability to narrow in on a more precise, a narrower set of objectives, that the prospect is pursuing and your ability to communicate some shorter time to value. Even if you have a longer term value proposition, to be able to communicate how your solution, your product, whatever it is, is going to help someone in the short term, becomes even more important.

I’ve even heard this, people use the term compassionate urgency, right. To respect the moment that we’re all in with kids doing school at home and people still losing their jobs, but sort of still taking control of the selling opportunity and taking control of the prospects outcomes. Where do you think that balance is still today? I mean, there was a period back in March where we’re like, “Oh, would be ethical to be selling right now, given that everything’s falling down?”. We’re well past that period. But what’s the right balance between pushing for your sales number and still having some empathy for your customer.

Steven:  Well, I mean, I think empathy is probably one of the keywords of the day here, right? And everyone’s talking about empathy right now, but I think that we do need to move on and put our heads down and grind things out and make things happen with our customers and be willing to sell. I mean, a lot of times when you’re selling, the reason you’re selling something is because you have something of value that’s going to help their business do better. But it’s going to help them save money or make more money. There’s a reason you have a product or service and your message wouldn’t resonate with them in the first place.

If it wasn’t going to improve them and everybody needs to improve right now, we all have to sharpen our sword, work harder, work smarter, make improvements where we can. We’re not all doctors and researchers out there, right. That are going to make the world better as much disease perspective. The world’s got to eat and function. And our job is to make the world function and make the economy run. And you do have to feel good about getting out there and selling right now because if you’re marketing or you’re selling, you’re bringing that value that you have to the world.

Matt:  Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Steven Benson, he’s the CEO of Badger Maps. And I know that these top concepts are helping sales leaders navigate through difficult markets, difficult times, economic, and otherwise you put together a course for sales management on this. Can you talk a little bit about that course, who it’s for and where people can learn more about it?

Steven:  So I originally had a course just on how to be a sales manager. I had done a bunch of videos and trainings. One of the more professional ones became a LinkedIn course, more professional because they have a really professional team that they put together for me, but I just had to show up and talk. But so LinkedIn bought this learning course, Lynda. I’ve got a course on sales management on there. If you go to the Badger Maps, YouTube channel, there’s a bunch of stuff there. And then on the podcast, of course, outside sales talk, but I shifted a lot of that messaging and a lot of… I did a bunch of research and give a bunch of thought to, okay, so how can you be a sales leader in a time of crisis? What are the new challenges that you’re facing? What areas do you need to coach?

How do you best coach? How do you change your messaging with your customers? What can you do to go after new customers? If you have to reduce costs, if you’re told by your CEO or CFO, “Hey, we’ve got to cut costs and on your team as a VP of sales or a VP of marketing”, what’s the best way to approach that problem. So I’ve been speaking a lot on this and there’s a bunch of resources available. One of the easier ways to get access to all of it is just on the podcast. I’ve done a couple of episodes that really directly address this stuff, but that’s been something I’ve been spending a lot of time on.

Matt:  Yeah. I love that. And we’ll definitely put links to your podcasts and some of those new classes up on the notes for this episode of sales pipeline radio as well. I think look… Even companies that are facing tighter resources, it doesn’t mean necessarily that you can’t go out and sell. You can do business. And Steven, I think that there’s sometimes the fact that you have a tighter resources. I mean, strategy is about choosing, so your ability to go and sort of say, okay, I’ve got fewer things I can spend money on. I’ve got fewer dollars to go and commit. Is that helping companies be smarter and ultimately better at sales and marketing right now?

Steven:  Well, yeah. I mean, I think people aren’t using it neither to get smarter and neither to approach their problems in a different way. And you see people making changes to the way they’re doing things. A good example is qualification. I think it’s the qualification. Qualifying deals is more important now than ever. And people are making that shift to doing it better because they have to, right? Because if there’s a reason that you can’t do a deal here and it was with this deal that you’re working right now, there isn’t time to waste on sales cycles, that aren’t going to be successful for whatever reason. And so fitting what those things are, whatever the reasons are and identifying them early and in qualifying deals out is really important right now. And people are generally honest, right? They’re your prospects and your customers. They don’t want to disappoint you and telling no but if you ask the right questions, you can get them to qualify themselves.

And so how do you do that? You can ask someone. Well the people that I work with generally come in two categories, there’s category one, they’re leaning towards moving forward right now and category two, they’re leaning towards being worried about making changes in these times and they’ve got something that keeps them from making a change in these times. Which category are you in? That will often get you the answer that you need from someone and allow you to know if they’re going to be able to move forward and do business with you right now.

Paul:  Love it. Well, we got to take a quick break, pay some bills. We’ll be back with more, with proud Wisconsin Badger Paul, Steven Benson, CEO of Badger Maps. I just literally just made that kind of context. We’ll have to see is that why that company is called Badger Maps, we’ll be back on Sales Pipeline Radio.

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Paul:  Okay. I’m anxious to find out if we’re going to let Steve Benson continue because if he’s a Badger, I might have to Badger him here as an old Wolverine fan.

Matt:  So I literally had not made this connection before, because I think Steve and I did not know that you went to Wisconsin. And so for a Wisconsin graduate with a degree in geography to create a company called Badger Maps, it all makes sense now. Is that a coincidence or is this a direct correlation here?

Steven:  That is the reason I’m not full of surprises. I’m kind… You couldn’t get much more predictable, really a sales guy. Went to University of Wisconsin who majored in Geography, made a sales tool for mapping people or some mapping tool for salespeople. Yep. That’s called it Badger. Yep. Yep. Very predictive. I never said I was creative.

Really, I never claimed that.

Matt:  Oh no, look, you’re talking to a guy who named his company, Heinz marketing. Clearly we are not a branding firm. Okay. So I remember when I was first going out and sort of hanging out in my own shingle 12 years ago, it was just me and a laptop and a friend of mine had a marketing agency and he called it Jones advertising. And I said, well, I said, “is there was a reason why you wanted to call it this?”. He said, “yeah, my name is Mark Jones and we do advertising”. I’m like, good enough Heinz marketing it is.

 

Steven:  I brainstormed and whiteboard and brainstorm and whiteboard and ended up kind of using her first name and the thing that she does and of Los Angeles.

Because I think that from an SEO perspective and communicating with her customers perspective and her name was good. This is probably going to be the best choice for you because people are going to Google the thing you do and LA or Los Angeles, and Google’s going to point them or write to you every time.

Matt:  Perfect. We’ve got a few more minutes here with Steven Benson. He’s the CEO of Badger Maps we’re talking about, so the things sales action sales leaders can take in a recession and so we’re recording this kind of mid to late September. And for those on a calendar fiscal year, probably starting to think a little bit about 2021. And for the first time in a few years, it’s a lot more hazy than I think we’ve had, I think in better economic conditions when we’re kind of in that straightaway of the race, we just keep going forward and we don’t have as many headwinds. Really hard to kind of think about, is this going to continue? Is it going to get better? How do I create goals, sales goals, revenue goals for the organization that are clear and achievable. As you top the sales leaders, what’s your advice on how they are creating forecast right now?

Steven:  Forecasting is tough. I mean, right now I think forecasting is always hard, but it’s extra hard right now. Sales is the lifeblood of an organization from a… Revenue is where all the money that pays for all the things comes from. And you do need to be accurate as accurate as you can, but this is not precedented. I mean, VPs of sales should not be being fired right now for being off on their estimates in my opinion because it’s really hard. I guess more importantly on KPIs, I wouldn’t just be focused on lagging KPIs like current revenue. That is a reflection of what has been done up till this point. I think that is a sales leader, it’s more important to realign your focus on forward-looking KPIs. So the things that are going to predict what’s going to happen in the future and that feeds into forecasting as well.

But if your team’s having trouble pipeline building, you need to be very focused on lead gen type KPIs for the sales teams, qualified meetings scheduled or opportunities logged, or maybe you’re more middle of the funnel. That’s where you’re seeing the challenges. So you’re looking at, you’re counting KPIs around number of presentations or proposals to the right decision makers. If it’s margin that you’re… If your margins are compressing, start tracking discounts on every deal, figure out why you need to discount there. And then think about protecting your margins with value selling skill training, or negotiation training. But all these are KPIs. They’re all ultimately secondary metrics to revenue and forecasting. What the revenue is going to have… Is going to actually be but if you focus too much on counting anything other than revenue or dollars, so revenue dollars or profit, then you can get really skew your results in terms of your reps can start focusing on things that aren’t revenue producing.

And so while this all needs to be like measured and coached around, I don’t recommend putting too much weight in terms of the comp plan on anyone in charge of closing deals on these other types of metrics like proposals or the polls will give in or presentations to qualified buyers or whatever. Because if you shift the comp plan, you’ll end up getting more proposals, but not necessarily more sales because your reps will optimize themselves around those metrics. I think they’re important, but not necessarily so important you should change the comp plan to focus on it.

Paul:  Well, I think it’s highly… I think that’s really good advice and I think it’s highly likely that no matter what plan you put in place, we don’t know what’s going to happen in our markets. We don’t know what’s going to happen in terms of a second wave tier in the US and how that’s going to impact everyone from your buyers and whether they’re willing to spend money. I mean, I’ve seen plenty of companies that are full steam ahead, but are hedging their bets from a cash standpoint, they’ll make sure if they need to go into cash conservation mode, that they can do that.

Matt:  We’re talking about things sales leaders can do in a recession and in tough economic times and a leader wears a lot of hats. And I want to talk about the coaching hat for a minute because I think a lot of sales leaders and sales managers, unfortunately probably spend more time managing the new coaching and coaching has gotten a lot more difficult, a lot more complex right now. You’ve got sales reps that if they were in the field, they’re no longer doing that right now. So their emotions have changed. Their rhythm has changed. We’re all worried about our families and our friends and those we love and trying to make sure that they’re safe and we’re staying safe, while we’re trying to hit a number that’s harder to hit than it’s been in a while. So as a sales coach, how do you balance a drive results with having some empathy and grace with your team as well.

Steven:  Yeah. I mean, empathy is the word of the year for 2020, right? I think you do have to approach your team in an empathetic way. You need to communicate clearly with them and transparently, but at the same time, coaching and up leveling, your team’s skills is more important than economic times that are difficult than any other time. Really, anytime of change, you’ve got to retool the team. You’ve got to help them develop new skills. And in this economy, we’re certainly looking at it as adjustment phase in most organizations. And I think that’s a time when I think all sales leaders and managers, frontline or up the chain should be spending about 50% of their time coaching their team. And this is a great time to ask yourself as a sales leader, am I doing that? Is half my time being spent up leveling my team. And coaching them and coaching is a broad word, right?

It could be pre-call strategizing could be post-call debriefing, joint calls or ride alongs or opportunities specific coaching. It could be any of these things, anything that makes your rep better count towards that 50% coaching rule of thumb in terms of what needs to be coached. I guess that depends by team and industry, but I think it’s more important now than ever before. A negotiation comes to mind is as a no brainer thing. Everyone needs to learn how to defend their margins and sell the value of their product right now, more than ever. I mean, in a tough economy, good negotiation training will have a great ROI right now for our sales team. I think another area that is worth looking at, every sales manager needs to coach on is building pipeline, right? I mean, we often need to relearn how to prospect and rethink who we’re selling to in a bad economy.

The best buyers for our product or service have often and likely shifted a little bit or sometimes a ton. Right? The good news is that people are picking up the phone and people are engaging with vendors in a way that we haven’t seen in decades for a lot of reasons. I mean, they have that time to evaluate new vendors. They’re motivated to find new vendors because they know they have very visceral problems they need to be solved right now. So I think coaching and approaching this with empathy and pipeline building rethinking with your team how you’re attacking the market is a great use of a sales leader’s time right now.

Paul:  Yeah, I agree. We just got a couple more minutes here. Our guest today, Steven Benson definitely check him out on badgermapping.com, really great technology. And these guys are continuing to do some great stuff, not only with the tools that they offer, but also with your podcast and the content you create. So thank you for that. Quick last question before we have to wrap up.

Matt:  Definitely not the year that we all expected to have, a lot of our habits and plans have changed. What’s one thing you miss from the beginning of the year that you’re looking forward to getting back to, and what’s one thing you do not miss that because you haven’t had to experience or do it this year, that you’re not looking back, looking forward to making part of your new normal moving forward.

Steven:  Well, I guess I don’t miss commuting. If there’s one silver lining to 2020, it’s that we’re are commuting a lot less. I miss a lot of things in life, but from a business perspective, I think what I really miss is the ability to get people around the table, to attack a problem and make a decision. I think that something that I miss is just the ability like outside sales, like meeting people in person and getting what’s… I guess it’s both getting internal people around the table to make a decision and move things forward and being able to sit down externally with people like prospects customers and hammer things out and get things worked out. Being remote creates more cycles in terms of getting things done internally, in the company but from a sales perspective, it lengthened sales cycles, it makes it harder to build deep relationships.

It makes it harder to maintain relationships. The connections you have over the phone or over zoom or whatever, they’re just cranky and awkward. And I will not miss going back to in person meetings or where you really have the opportunity to understand the other person sitting across the table from you. If it’s a customer, understand their problems and just have those social interactions that think… It’s so important for humans to be able to tap into, in order to create real lasting relationships and not to mention, from a sales perspective. And there’s so many things, they’re reading the room for objections and gauging how your customer really feels in person. You just can’t do that over the phone, right?

Matt:  You can’t yeah. I think the Paul, we got to run here. I think whenever we asked that question, the answer comes back to some version of, I miss people. I love my family and I’m glad we’re staying safe, but whether it’s going for a walk or in the bar or going out to a restaurant, getting the back out and sort of seeing people in person in business environment. We’ll get there eventually. But I know we got to run right now. Thank you so much to our guest, Steven Benson, CEO of Badger Maps, you can check him out at badgermapping.com. We’ve got some great guests coming up over the next couple of weeks, but for today, we’re out of time for my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz and this has been Sales Pipeline Radio.

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Sales Pipeline Radio is sponsored and produced by Heinz Marketing on the Funnel Radio Channel.  I interview the best and brightest minds in sales and Marketing.  If you would like to be a guest on Sales Pipeline Radio send an email to Sheena.