3 Deal Warnings Preventing You from Closing Revenue

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This is a podcast episode titled, 3 Deal Warnings Preventing You from Closing Revenue. The summary for this episode is: <p>Your deals are under attack! Secure your pipeline by learning how to spot, correct and minimize risks and avoid deal hurdles. In this one-hour webinar, you'll learn how to spot deal warnings early and create an action plan to switch gears from losing to winning in no time. You'll also hear data-backed insights on tracking, countering and neutralizing deal risks to keep the cash flow coming. Don’t let deal warnings threaten your success...claim back your revenue today.</p>
What your pipeline can tell you about your deal
01:51 MIN
Deal Warning #1: There is no decision maker involved
01:10 MIN
Who is a "decision maker"?
00:57 MIN
How to tell if someone is the right decision maker
01:16 MIN
How to "go over someone's head" to get to the decision maker
00:53 MIN
Deal Warning #2: Not multi-threading
00:22 MIN
Slow down to speed up
01:10 MIN
If you're going to fight, fight early
01:04 MIN
Eating the elephant, one bite at a time
00:53 MIN
Deal Warning #3: Competitors mentioned
00:37 MIN
How to use your competition to get answers from your buyer
02:47 MIN

Devin Reed: So let's go ahead and get into it. We're here to talk about three deal warnings preventing you from closing revenue. And before we do a little bit of housekeeping, just so you know how today's session is going to operate. You're scheduled till the top of the hour. We're going to shoot for about 45 to 50 minutes of kind of chatting with each other. And then we're going to do our best to save a few minutes at the very end for Q& A. Now, if you do have questions there's a chat field and a questions box. Totally up to you which one you use. I'll be doing my best to monitor both while we talk. But if you have questions, go ahead and drop them into the questions box and we'll do our best to answer them along the way. And like I said if not we'll catch them at the end. In case you have a call in 30 minutes or if a kid starts crying or you got to take your dog out in the middle of this, don't worry. The recording and the slides will be sent to you tomorrow, tomorrow morning. All right. Let's get into who's chatting, who's talking to you? My name is Devin Reed. I'm the head of content strategy at Gong. Before that, I spent about six years in sales including being the second sales rep over at Gong in 2017. So I've seen a few things, and I'm joined here by some fantastic folks. Some of my favorite people, Michelle Benfer. Do you want to do a quick intro?

Michelle Benfer: Yes. Hey, Devin. Thank you for having me. Always love hanging out with my friends at Gong. Michelle Benfer, I lead North America sales here at HubSpot. I've been with HubSpot for about three and a half years. I don't know if you're familiar with HubSpot, but we are the number one CRM for scaling businesses, and we really take care of all of your go to market products and any business needs in order to grow better.

Devin Reed: If we were live, I'd say raise your hand if you haven't heard of HubSpot, and I don't think anyone's hands would have raised, big name. Thanks, Michelle. Matt, over to you.

Matt Benelli: Thanks, Devin. Look surrounded by greatness, Devin and Michelle, happy to be part of the panel. Matt Benelli, I co- lead the technology sales practice at Sandler Training, lifelong sales guy, built and led sales teams in the technology industry for longer than I care to admit, which means I made all the mistakes in the world. And for the last six years, I've been helping sales people, sales leaders improve their skills, do more deals, bigger deals, and faster deals which I think is what we're here to talk about.

Devin Reed: Love it. Exactly why you're recruited, Matt, on top of just being great. Let's quick agenda. We have a little bit of a giveaway. It's a big giveaway depending on how you do it. I think it's actually a big giveaway. Then, we're going to get into the importance of visibility in your pipeline. That's why we're here today. We're going to break down three deal warnings. We're going to go around the horn and talk about how you can correct it, how you can prevent them, and we'll talk a little bit about some visibility technology. All right. Now, deal hurdles. They're everywhere. Everyone that's here today signed up because they want to close more deals, and just like Matt said, win more, win faster any metric you like. And so here's what we're going to do. Take your favorite takeaway from today. It could be some of the Gong Labs data. It could be a takeaway, a quote from Michelle or something Matt says, and go post it on LinkedIn. After the session, sometime around end of day, we're going to go through all the posts, and we're going to do a raffle. And if you want, you will get a one- on- one with Michelle, Matt or me. Now, you don't get to pick, because I know everyone's going to pick Michelle or Matt first. I would be last, and I'm going to feel like the kid in gym class, who got picked last for baseball or something. So it'll be random, but you get 30 minutes to chat with one of these pros. Talk about your deal hurdles and get some of their expertise. And reminder, make sure you tag Gong on LinkedIn so we can find your post, otherwise we might miss it. All right. So let's get to why we're here today. We all know this is true, winnable deals in sales don't always close. Deals that are sure things, that are committed things that you have rolled up in the forecast slip out of the month or slip out of the quarter and competitors can steal deals. Maybe it's early, maybe it's late, and we'll talk about that. And these are kind of some of the just truths in sales. These things that we've just accepted. Can't really do much about it, you kind of just navigate around them. And so what we did at Gong is we wanted to figure out, " Hey, can we look at the data, tons of sales interactions and start to pull apart and understand the why these things happen?" Because if you understand why they happen, then we can start to make a proactive plan knowing the exact reason, the real hurdle, instead of maybe looking at other things and giving those credit for why deals go south. And so first of all, it comes into visibility into the pipelines. Before we get into the data, everything we're going to talk about is you have to see what's really going on. Now, some of the questions I'm going to ask Matt and Michelle, they've been prepped for. Some of them, I might put them on the spot a little bit. Michelle, I'm going to put you on the spot up a little bit. What are some of the surprising things that you may be found in the last year when you look into pipeline, right? So I'm thinking maybe you like went into it and you're like, " I kind of know exactly what I think is true." And then, boom, something else or maybe you're just kind of going through some data into the pipeline and you're like, " Wow. This is interesting. Hadn't really seen that before."

Michelle Benfer: Yeah. Not to give a Gong plug, but there is some reality here. You guys came out with some data not too long ago. I think I spoke at one of the conferences like early 2020 here in Boston, and it was about like the number of touches and how in the uptick towards the back end of the sales process right before the closing time. One of the things I used to do with my team, I still do today. I slice out the pipeline with active pipeline versus full pipeline. To me, active pipeline is when a deal has been actively touched in the last seven days. We have a pretty fast sales cycle at HubSpot, so I'll slice the pipeline like that and look at it in relation to the other pipeline, and I can tell you if I do a quick scroll through and the touches a rep has had and they're saying they're closing a deal, and they're only talking to this prospect every three days, then a five- day gap, and then a few day gap. Just based on that cadence, the likelihood that that deal's going to close is much lower. And so some of that data you guys had really validated what kind of my gut reaction was and so that's something that I just feel like I put a lot more trust into now is if that deal isn't kind of popping with that cadence being strong, those last few days that a rep is forecasting it, the likelihood to close is much lower than they might be saying.

Devin Reed: I remember that trip to Boston, it was my first one there, and I remember that presentation. Yeah. It's email velocity. The number of email touch points back and forth. Yeah, and it's true, and it's not in today's presentation. But when we did this initial research, there are actually five deal warnings and email velocity is one of them, which is exactly what you said. You can see deals cooling off or heating up as they get ready to close.

Michelle Benfer: Totally.

Devin Reed: That's awesome. I love that you're already doing that. Matt, you work with plenty of sales teams. You see a lot of things. What do you see in those pipelines?

Matt Benelli: Well, to build on that. The word momentum came into mind and sometimes you can't stop deal momentum, even if as a sales professional, even if you're, let's say sleeping at the wheel a little bit or a little bit slow to respond, deals have a way of moving forward. So the prospect is trying to initiate that momentum on their end. So if they're not initiating momentum and you're not initiating momentum, things just sit there and time kills all deals. So if you find yourself in that situation, I'd say go with your instincts. It's likely that priorities have changed, a competitor got in there or the timing's just not right, and it might be time to proactively bring that up so that it's just not sitting there dead in the pipeline. You either want to move it forward or you want to move it out.

Devin Reed: Great point. Big fan of momentum. There's a lot we can talk about today to keep momentum moving forward. So I've mentioned Gong Labs and hopefully you've heard of it, but if you haven't, I'm going to give you a quick 4- 1-1 on what exactly Gong Labs is, how we got the data that we're going to cover today. So Gong is a revenue intelligence platform. Really what that means is that we automatically capture all of the different sales interactions that sales teams, BDRs, CS, AMs, et cetera have with their clients. So its phone calls, emails, and web conferencing meetings like Zoom and WebEx. And so what we do for our clients is capture all those interactions and provide insights, what's happening, what's not, what's working, what doesn't, and there's a lot more that goes into that. I get to work with the team of data scientists at Gong. I like to joke I'm the only one without a PhD, and what we do is we anonymize this product users interactions and we start to glean high level insights, and again, what's working, what's not, and our goal as a team is start to answer the unknowns in sales and to provide reality into some of the things we think are true, but maybe aren't. So as we go through the three different reports today, I'll walk you through all of those. We just want to give you a quick heads up of how we operate. All right. So the first one today we have deal warning number one is no decision maker involved. Now, anyone that's been in sales and especially a closing role for at least a year, you know this is true. You've been taught this. Right? How often do we hear you have to get to the decision maker or if you're a sales leader, Michelle, you probably told your team, your reps, your managers, you have to get to the decision maker? So I wanted to know, how important is it really? So we looked at the data and here's what we found. Now, we looked at two buckets here so I'll help break that down. But we have decision makers, we defined as VP and above. So anyone with a VP title, C- level title or like a managing director, and what we specifically looked at was are they involved in the deal by actually attending a meeting or not. So if you emailed them, that wasn't enough for this report here. And what we found really validated what I think a lot of us knew, which is it's very important. You need to get decision makers involved and specifically by putting a number to it. You're 80% less likely to close a deal if you don't have a decision maker directly involved. I don't know Matt or Michelle if that's one of your phones. I can hear a pinging on the … Maybe it's mine. I think it's mine.

Michelle Benfer: I'm going to blame, Matt.

Matt Benelli: Thanks.

Devin Reed: No problem. Now, this is the SMB side, and I'll show you the other side before I ask, Michelle, what do you think about this? But then we wanted to look a step further, right? And wondering, hey, when you're selling SMB versus enterprise, is it the exact same that's equally important or does that change at all? And we defined enterprise deals here as having$100, 000 contract value and at least a 90 day sales cycle. And so what you see here, it's even bigger. It's even bigger drop off, 233% if you don't have a decision maker involved when you're trying to close a large enterprise deal. So Michelle, what was your first thought when you saw this data when I shared this with you?

Michelle Benfer: Yeah. So when we first started talking about this, it was like … I'm trying not to use a swear term. But obviously, right?

Devin Reed: Yeah.

Michelle Benfer: No kidding, Sherlock. I mean and maybe it's just because I've been in sales now for 20 years. But of course, you need the decision maker involved in the deal. But there are a lot of nuances to the decision maker, and this is one of the areas we've been talking about this week. It's super topical right now for my team at HubSpot. There are all different types of decision makers in the buying process, especially if you're taking a look at enterprise deals, right? You have not just the key champion who really wants the tool, you have their boss who wants to make sure that everyone else the organization is okay with it. You have some key stakeholders or the people that might be living in the tool, you have a legal team that they want to make sure that the contract lines up to what they're okay with, and besides that, you might have security and a procurement team. And so there could be a lot of decision makers. So at a minimum, you got to make sure, not just that you have a decision maker that you have the right one. But you also have to get ahead and thwart risk in the closing process and make sure there isn't kind of the shadow decision maker who can kill the deal that you just don't know about.

Devin Reed: That's really interesting too, because you mentioned like you're kind of talking about there's like decision makers and influencers, and I know you can get titles and roles confused, right? Someone's title could say one thing, but their role in the evaluation is something different. You have any how- to you can share? Maybe how you coach your team or how people on your team are maybe it's a little tactical? But how are they sussing out? Who's the true decision maker and can say no versus the people that are more on the influencing side?

Michelle Benfer: Yeah. I mean one of the things that we do is we say the last evaluation you went through like this, can you walk me through the various members of your team who are involved in the buying process? And so that's one of them. The other is we walk them through typically here's what we see during our deal processes, there's we go through legal. We might want to make sure that your security team is on board, whether it's a SOC 2 compliance or HIPAA or BAA or if that's an area that's of concern for you. So we kind of walk them through. These are the typical stakeholders that are involved in most of our deals, and I think Gartner just recently mentioned it's like six to seven buyers are typically involved in a buying process. And so we try to be very upfront and call that out ahead of time so that we don't have any surprises towards those final days of closing the deal.

Devin Reed: Got you. No. That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. I've seen varying numbers from like 6 to 12. I think I've seen 15. I think more the better is how I always read these, right? No one's ever saying less people. Matt, what are your thoughts here?

Matt Benelli: So, Mark Twain had a quote. He said, " It's not what you don't know that's going to hurt you, it's what you absolutely know for sure." That just ain't so. And so oftentimes someone says, " I'm the decision maker." And I used to work for this VP who said if a guy or a gal stands on the chair and bangs their chest and say they're the guy or the gal, they're not the guy or the gal. And what we were talking about before we got on air here is that it's not the decision maker, it's a decision making team. Just as we sell as a team, our customers and prospects buy as a team. And one of the ways to build momentum I think is to not put the pressure on ourselves to find early on exactly who the decision maker is, but let's make sure that we're consistently talking to people involved in the decision- making process. And if we try to expand that, as Michelle was saying like it's more than one, it's more than two, whatever the number is, if we're talking to people involved in the process, eventually we're going to build some rap with someone who's going to walk us into the person who makes the ultimate decision. And the how to maybe was who's that person that can say no and everything stops, right? Who's that person in recent deals where you wanted to get it done, and they came out of the woodwork, out of the shadows at the 11th hour and scuttled it, because I'm sure that's frustrating for you, and I know that happens with a lot of our other customers as well. So if you sense something's wrong, say it and bring it up.

Devin Reed: Yeah. I feel like the best sales reps and orgs, they find ways to reduce risk proactively. And as you were saying that, I got like, I don't know if it was chills or flashbacks or something else of like, yeah, when I'm at the closing, when I think I'm about to go for the close or the contracts out and a new person gets introduced. That's never a good thing. You should already have known who that is and what they're all about, and if you get introduced, if risk finds you. In other words, it's a lot more challenging to overcome that. Matt, you made a fan out of Alex Kirby. He's a big fan of your point that you just made. Killian had a question. He says, " Math?" I might have missed in the beginning. I usually know what this question means. This analysis was over 9000 sales opportunities in the B2B space, in case I missed that. Last question I have for you, Michelle, is the whole kind of concept when we went into these deal warnings was things get into the forecast and that's where you really start to critique things and learn things, sometimes good, usually bad. I'm curious if you have any method for kind of making sure that deals in your forecast, maybe in that commit and most likely stages do in fact have a decision maker involved.

Michelle Benfer: Yeah. I mean I think we kind of hit on it. I mean the best practice is you get them involved early, right? And so if you're in that most likely commit phase, if you're not working with a team, if you're working with one person, I'd be pretty worried. Of course, that's a little bit different if it is more down market. If the sales cycle length is a three, five- day sales cycle. It's one buyer at say a startup. But I don't think anything should probably be an inaudible unless you have at least a few VP plus buyers who are in the sales process. So one of the things we do at HubSpot is we have pretty distinct deal stages and exit criteria. You can't move a deal to a further stage, whether it's a deal stage or a forecast stage unless you've checked the boxes on a lot of that exit criteria, and it might be identified all of the decision makers who have to sign off on this, identified the buying process. We've already floated it through legal, so we kind of … It's risk mitigation towards the back end of the sales process.

Devin Reed: Yeah. That's great. That's what it's all about. Jim gave you a shout out too. I don't know if you know Jim Lapuma, if I'm saying your last name right.

Michelle Benfer: Yeah. Jim is a former boss of mine.

Devin Reed: Wow. Well, he's still a fan, and he bothered to show up today so that's fantastic.

Michelle Benfer: I know. Jim Lapuma, he's a great guy. If he's hiring, you might want to look him up on LinkedIn. He's a good guy to work for.

Devin Reed: Jim did not pay us for this advertisement, but you think he might. No. That's great, and yeah, for the math question. Yeah. If you're looking at how it could be negative 233%. It is not a close rate of negative 233%. That would be outrageous and I would have reported that. No. 233% less than if you had got involved. So it's a decrease, not a negative root. Good question. All right. Reminder, if you have questions, throw them in there. Let's see what we have. Let me see if anything's aligned with what we're doing here. Okay. Here we go. You got someone, Matt, with chest thumper. So how do you get past the chest thumper to the real decision maker without alienating the direct contact? So it's kind of like the going over the head question.

Matt Benelli: The going over the head question.

Devin Reed: How do you get to power without going over someone's head and irritating them? Matt, we can't see you. I don't know if we can still hear you, if you can hear us or not. Michelle, do you want to maybe take this one? How do you coach your team to navigate this scenario?

Michelle Benfer: If the decision maker is not giving you what you need, and you feel like you got to go over their head?

Devin Reed: I think it's like you're probably you, so it sounds like the chest thumper with someone who's … Yeah. You're in deals and someone's like either telling you they're the decision maker and you know, you're talking with your team and you're like, "This just doesn't add up. We know there's, everyone's got a boss. We need to get to that person." Ivan's question is how do you get around that? And it's got 10 up votes. So people are very interested.

Michelle Benfer: Yeah. This is I think where a good quid pro quo comes in, which basically it's, " Listen, I'll be able to do X, Y, Z for you." Which might be extended discount, which might be, whether it's an added value that they want to add on to the contract. It might be various number of things in the negotiation process. A quid pro quo is, " I won't be able to do that with you unless I have the entire buying team of stakeholders who are going to be involved. Can we walk through who else has to sign off on this? Do you sign the contract? Do you remit payment? Who has to go through legal? Is that going to be a concern?" So you have to ask the question. And then sometimes you have to ask it a second time or a different way, especially if you're not getting a straight answer. So, yeah, one of the things with my team at second, third level questions asking the same question a different way, and then using the quid pro quo.

Devin Reed: I love that. I love that. That was mine as well, and what it kind of boils down to is a lot of times reps might feel uncomfortable with this. It's kind of confrontational or it takes a high level of like sales or business IQ that like you said ask those questions and ask them in the right tone and delivery to get the answers that you want. The alternative is you don't get to that person, and you kind of start playing the hope game, which is a little bit later. It comes in a couple days or a couple weeks, and I've always just coached reps, " What's worse? Having one semi- confrontational challenging conversation and getting, most likely getting the deal done or avoiding it and chasing or hoping and really having no certainty or control later?" And I always think of what answer are you going to give your VP when you're in your Monday pipeline review? You know what I mean? Which conversation would you rather have there? So great answer.

Matt Benelli: Devin, can you hear me?

Devin Reed: There's another one too, really quickly, and maybe Matt. Matt, if you can hear me.

Matt Benelli: I can hear you. Yeah.

Devin Reed: Surah, forgive me if I'm saying your name wrong. But you have 15 up votes so it must be a good question. And I think it was an early question, Michelle, to the email velocity like keeping in touch. So I'll let you answer if you want or you can ping- pong it back to me. What exactly can we do to keep in touch if the client says they need some time like two weeks or a month?

Matt Benelli: So can you hear me, Devin?

Michelle Benfer: I can hear you, Matt. Can you hear me?

Matt Benelli: Okay. Yeah, and it sounds like everybody else out there can can hear me too.

Devin Reed: No. I can't hear Matt. This is interesting.

Michelle Benfer: I can hear you, Matt.

Matt Benelli: So what are the things that you can do if someone says, " Hey, two weeks, call me back in a month?" And so I think-

Devin Reed: Okay. Now, it looks like I'm the only one who can't, and everyone else can. So I'm going to refresh and let's see what happens here.

Matt Benelli: I think what you can do there is sense it say it. So you can call it out. If someone says, " Look, call me back in a month." Is that a high priority? Probably not. It's not an immediate priority. So you say the pattern interrupt, right? Demonstrating behavior, that's the opposite of what the other person expects to attain that equal business status. You say, " Hey, listen, I'm happy to call you back in a month if you think that there's an opportunity that we might be able to help you with down the road. If we're going to come back in a month, what would you want me to be prepared to talk about?" Or basically what we're asking is, " Are you sure?" Because what we want to know is are they asking you to call them back in a month because they're just trying to get rid of you because they've been trained that if they say that, you're like, you're just enough interested to say okay and hang up. And then they can ignore your calls and emails later or is something happening down the road. And the second thing I would add to that is if they say, " No. No. No. I really want you to call me back in a month." Say, " Okay. I have my calendar handy. Do you have yours?" And then you lock down a clear future commitment, a date, time, and a purpose for that call, and who's going to be on it. And so then, you and they are expecting that call in one month. And then you might be able to ferret out right there that they're like, " Ah, maybe it's two months, maybe it's three months, maybe I really don't want you to talk at all." But call them out, sense it say it, and get a clear future commitment. That's what I'd say.

Michelle Benfer: Yeah, and I like what Nicole said here in the chat like what will change between now and then. That's a great one too, and just what's changed and sometimes just those open- ended questions just unlock a lot more than you would think, and it could be what my boss just said that they're leaving, and I'm not in a position where I can make a call on something right now. So just, again, those open- ended questions, so second, third level questions are always super helpful. And then in between that time, sending added value. " Hey, I'm not sure if you just caught this article we just wrote or wanted you to check out this blog. Hey, I just saw that your company X, Y, Z." So just keep them on your nurture list and provide value every touch that you make.

Devin Reed: Mic check. Can you hear me?

Matt Benelli: Yes.

Michelle Benfer: Yes.

Devin Reed: Fantastic. I heard great tips. I just wanted to be quiet. It was nice just listening. I was like an audience member for a moment. Shout out to Kathleen. This has happened before where someone can hear someone, but not the other person. I always feel like the Verizon guy, " Can you hear me now?" So fantastic. Well, it sounds like that question got answered. So that's great. Let's go ahead and move over to the next deal warning. Let me get the screen rolling here. Deal warning number two, and I feel like we've almost talked about this a little bit in the last couple minutes, which is your deal isn't multi- threaded or in other words, it's single threaded which is when you're relying on one point of contact to get a deal done. Now, the multi- threading is building relationships with multiple stakeholders across the organization you're selling to, and I think a lot of what we just talked about will kind of harp on that, right? So let's look at the data and see what we found. So again, the answer we were looking for here was, how does the number of participants or points of contact from the buyer side impact win rates? And so what we found and what we did here is we isolated deals that were won and deals that were lost, and we started to analyze, again, what were the win rates? Excuse me. Yeah. Win rates and the number of participants. And so what was interesting is the first column is basically one. If you round it, it's one point of contact. It's pretty common for that first, at first conversation. And then if you hold on to the red pillar, that's our closed won deals. You see that it jumps up to three, which is 161% more engagement. And then you get over to purple, it stays 1. 27. If you can see, it's a little hard. It's opaque. The purple bar hardly if ever gets to the second point of contact, while the close one deals spike at three, and then kind of keep going two, three and so on. And so, again, I'm with you what you said before Michelle. I looked into this pretty confident that more is better. Again, no one's promoting or teaching less contacts when you're selling. What I was surprised by was how quickly in that second call of like that spike, right? That sellers are either being proactive and getting more people involved, using some tactics to get people involved, and two, obviously there has to be some level of just interest or buyers aren't going to allow you to kind of keep chatting to more people at the org. So again, I'm kind of curious what your initial thoughts are?

Michelle Benfer: Yeah. I mean also not surprising here. I think, again, this is really top of mind right now at HubSpot. And so not only is it important to get people in at the beginning of the call or the beginning of the sales process, but then as you go through the sales process, how do you nurture the buying team effectively? And so that might mean, how do you nurture the influencers and the champion differently? How do you nurture the executive buyer differently? So this multi- threading which is, how am I communicating with the team holistically and then differently? And how soon can you get multiple buyers or decision makers into the deal process? And so, Matt, I think you'd probably agree with me. It's kind of slow down to speed up. I think really being able to take your time, the early part of the deal process and say, " Can you map out kind of the decision making team and who's involved, and what's their titles? And how do you interact with them, and what role would they have in this evaluation process? Typically, do you run point on this or is it something you would like me to do? Typically, on our end, I serve as a project manager as we're going through the evaluation to take that heavy lift off of your plate. Does that work for you?" And so just slowing down to understand who that buying team is going to be and how soon you can get them in the buying process. And then having a strategy for how you are going to nurture and interact with them similarly and/ or differently.

Devin Reed: I saw Matt go off from you. Matt, yeah, would love to hear your thoughts on this too in terms of maybe what you coach or some of the challenges reps have, sales teams have in making this kind of a habit, right? In my experience some people really view this as like maybe, and I was one of them like this is core to my selling approach, and I think other people not so much maybe because of lack of education or just know- how. But what do you see in the field or what are your thoughts?

Matt Benelli: Yeah. Michelle talked a lot about the what to do and how to do it, even before that is how's my mindset? Do I believe that I need to do that? So qualify easy, close is hard. If you qualify rigorously, it makes the close at least a little bit easier. So if you're going to fight, fight early. And so part of that mindset is that salespeople, we have rights. We have rights. We have not only the right, but we have the obligation too. If we're going to help our customers, we have to go deeper and wider in the accounts. Think about the deals that you've closed everybody, right? Whether you've been doing this for a year or a hundred years, think about the successful deals that you've closed. How many people were involved? Were you single threaded? Probably not. I did this Devin last night, just personal inventory. I just looked at last year, the deals that I was involved in that I won and lost, and the ones that I won, absolutely multi- threaded. The ones that I lost, some were multi- threaded I still lost them, but some of them were pretty close to single threaded. So if you want the truth, you got to give the truth. If you want to be transparent, if you want transparency, we have to give transparency. If we want them to bring more people to the table, if we want to get deeper and wider in the account, we bring more people from our side. And that's something that the three of us were talking about, right? If we bring resources from our companies and we map those people to their similar role in the other companies, and if we're bringing more people, they're more likely to bring their people as well and it's just one way to go deeper and wider.

Devin Reed: Yeah. No. I love that. This was something that hit home for us at Gong when, and again, I was telling you folks about this. It was before … When Gong first went to segmenting, so SMB, mid- market and enterprise sales and I do the lot for mid- market, and we noticed the divide which was the smaller deals on the SMB side, you needed about two to four- ish people. You could easily get deals done, they're small enough. We took that playbook to mid- market and really quickly realized there's just another layer of people both from the evaluation standpoint, to the procurement standpoint, and what I noticed just as I was working deals, something you mentioned and that was momentum, right? How can you keep momentum going? When you rely on one person, you're at a risk of them not responding to you, and that could be just, hey, trying to get an update, maybe getting a meeting that we talked about booked, maybe it's the last week of the quarter and you're trying to see where this deal is because you've got a contract out. When you're single threaded, you have a lot of risk because you can only get information from that one point of contact. But when you're multi- threaded, there's multiple people that you can go to and get a response that day, because maybe Michelle's going to, told me she was going to sign this week. She's my buyer. But she forgot to mention she's actually going skiing with her family this weekend, so she's not going to be here. If I don't have anyone else to call, if I can't call Matt from her team or Jane from her team, then I'm kind of SOS, right? I'm kind of screwed there. Go ahead.

Matt Benelli: Well, Devin, on that topic. I mean one of the things that creates a ton of stress for salespeople, for sales leaders, for teams is that we focus on the result. We focus on the pressure to close the deal, and there's one chief revenue officer that I work with, he's in the UK, and he preaches something that I think is very tactical but maybe is helpful here. He preaches the concept of going four- by- four in the accounts, and they don't measure, of course, they measure pipeline and close deals and all the other stuff that every sales team measures. But one thing that they measure maniacally every week is in their top accounts, let's say the top 25 accounts. Do they have four- by- four? And what four- by- four means to them is that they have four business units, and then within each business unit they go four levels deep. Look, they're calling on larger accounts. So the four business units could be sales, marketing, operations, and technology, and then C- level executive, director, frontline user, and each week, in those 25 accounts, how much progress are they making from a relationship standpoint in making LinkedIn connections and making and getting meetings with people to make sure that they're four- by- four in every one? And so it starts off slow maybe at the beginning of the year, but week by week by week they're eating that elephant one bite at a time. And I think that's something tactical and it shows progress that you can be proud of and take advantage of and reap the fruits of that labor at the end of the quarter, at the end of the year.

Devin Reed: Yeah.

Michelle Benfer: Matt, one, I'm going to steal so many of these sound bites of yours like eating an elephant one bite at a time and the sales people have rights too. This is sales gold just for the record. But I agree with you wholeheartedly. I think the only, and I would add to that is I think a lot of times as sales people, we measure what we do. But did we reach out to the CEO? Did we reach out to the VP? Did we do this instead like kind of flipping it on its head and measuring your effectiveness with, did I get them to engage back with me? And measuring the flip side, " Am I eliciting that engagement? Are they doing things behind the scenes helping me move the deal forward?" And I used to work with the manager, a great guy, he's a VP now, and he would have a deal scorecard, and there were two sides of the steel score card. One was, what am I doing? The other side is what are they doing? And you got extra points for everything that the buyer was doing. And so I would just say, " Yes. Definitely work on that four- by- four." I love that structure, but also, what are they doing in a level of engagement? And I think if you take a look at the Gong data and looking at that email velocity, that is showing the level of engagement that's happening between the rep and the buyer and that kind of back and back, back and forth. So anyways, just a plus one and there.

Matt Benelli: Yeah. I love that. Totally. Never thought of it that way. That's a great way to look at it.

Devin Reed: Yeah. Michelle, I say outbound, like if a sales rep reaching out is activity, when it's reciprocated, that's when it becomes engagement. And that's when we're in pipeline reviews, how often, it's like, " You think it's going to come in or not?" You're like, " Yeah. I think so." And it's like, " Well, how engaged are they?" And then a lot of times the answer is, " Well, I've reached out to this person. I reached out to that person." But if they haven't reciprocated and responded and engaged, then it's not as meaningful. There's some good questions in here and I'm keeping my eye on the time, so maybe we can ask as we go along here. Andrew would love a good tactic for getting more stakeholders involved. Just a little help on the how. It's so tactical, but it's worked really well. I'll start and give our speakers a time for a quick hit here. Whenever I would go from this first call to the second call, a lot of time there's a temptation to ask who else is involved in this decision, right? Which is what you want to know is who else do I need to be talking to? But that comes across as very seller focused. And so what I would ask instead is, "Hey, Michelle, who would feel left out on your team if they missed the demo?" " Oh, you know what? I got Jane. She's really into technology and Matt, he definitely needs to see this." And so it's just reframing that question, and again, I know it seems very tactical, but it works really, really well because their guard is lower. They don't feel like you're trying to infiltrate, they feel like you're trying to help.

Michelle Benfer: I like that. That's a great nugget. Also, we were talking about this during this past week, but at HubSpot, we have something that's called the joint evaluation plan, and we pull it up on the screen and we show, " Here are the typical steps as a part of our sales process. Let's just go through this together and make sure that we're understanding everyone who's going to be involved on my end. Usually, we'll bring in a solutions architect or a sales engineer to make sure that we answer all your technical questions. Who needs to be in the room when we're having that conversation on your end?" But you're mapping it out as kind of a road map or a game plan, unless asking for the other decision makers which you know when you're getting sold, and you're going to run the sales process, and so how do you really make it a joint evaluation.

Matt Benelli: So I love where you guys are going with that and it's the subtle techniques I think. One thing that seemed to work fairly well is something like this. First call to second call like you said, Devin. " Hey, based on … Devin, based on what we just talked about, you made me think of something, and for our next meeting, I'm going to invite Michelle. And Michelle is an expert in this area. But listen, I don't want you to feel outnumbered on the call. Who else should we be inviting?" You got to put you whatever your personality, you got to put a little bit of oomph into it, kind of make a little light of it. The sales team is always, you're going to roll in the bus. So you make a joke, " Hey, listen I don't want you to feel outnumbered on the call. I'm going to bring in so and so, who should you be bringing in? Who do you think would be good to be part of the conversation?" And by the way, you asked that 10 times, 7 people might say, "No. No. Just me." But three people might say, " I'm going to bring so and so." And all of a sudden, you're better than you were before, and that's all that counts.

Devin Reed: Yeah. That's great. That's great. And I love that you made it all about the buyer. " Listen, I don't want you to feel outnumbered. I want to make sure you're comfortable." And hey, even if they say no, you really impress them with that expert on the call. Maybe they're more willing to open up the floodgates on the next one. All right. We're going to get to the final one today, and we can always double back for more questions. And that's deal warning number three. Now, this is a tricky one and I have to separate objectiveness and subjectiveness, because I'm very competitive. And I can get a little turnt up when the competitors are mentioning calls. And so what we found was there's a, again, looking at the data. Seeing how competitors being mentioned affects win rates. Now, this one's tricky. We could have spent at least an hour just on competitive positioning and what to do and when. But let's go ahead and get into it, and so what we wanted to see for this one. Now, this is a little bit of a funky chart so I'm going to walk you through here. I even added some nice yellow arrows to help mostly me. And it's to see when a competitor is mentioned in your deal, so across the sales cycle, how does that impact win rates? Now, this is just objective data. So what we saw was that win rates on the red are higher when it was mentioned early in a sales cycle versus when you get to about mid- range and beyond, if that's when a competitor is first being mentioned to you, win rates drop. Now, I asked Michelle the last two times what your initial thought is when you saw this. Matt, what was your first thought when you saw this? Was it surprising or did you like inaudible maybe you knew it all too. You're kind of a guru.

Matt Benelli: Well, that's not the case. But I think it was like the first one. It's, yeah, like no kidding, right? It makes all the sense in the world, and I saw some of the stuff in the chat. It's like, " Yeah. No kidding. So what? What are we going to do about it?" We live this insanity. We get burned by the same stuff all the time and we just keep coming back and get punched in the face. So I think that part of the mindset that helped, that's helped me certainly is the mindset of deals don't fall apart at the end. That's just when we're notified. The competition doesn't show up on the last day of the month or the last day of the quarter, they've been in there for a long time. In fact, they might be the incumbent. So whatever you're selling, maybe you know who your top competitors are, right? So I'm going to assume everyone knows who their top competitors are, and when I ask salespeople around the globe, and I say, " Hey, how many, what percentage of your deals are competitive?" Everyone says, like almost all of them, right? So the assumption is there are competitors, so if you compete against X and Y all the time, assume they're in there. And so say to your champion, say to your point of contact, " Hey, I know you're probably looking at X and Y, what do you love about them that would make you go with them?" Instead of saying, " What don't you like about them?" The pattern interrupt is, " What do you love about them? Why wouldn't you just go with them?" Especially since most people, Devin, say, their biggest competitor is do nothing and do nothing often means stay with an incumbent. And so, " Well, hey, listen, nobody likes change, right?" Michelle, what your team is selling requires a lot of change if you're unseating one of your competitors. So an example would be, " Listen, nobody likes change. What we're talking about takes a lot of time to evaluate. I know nothing's perfect, but your business seems to be going fine. Why wouldn't you just wait six months, hold onto your capital, save yourself some headaches until you really need to do something?" And then shut up and see how they respond, because at the end of the day, you can't convince someone to do anything. They need to know, they need to want it. And I think that salespeople has rights mantra, gets people to say, " No. No. No. Here's why we need to do something now." The mindset is we should get the prospect to convince us that it's worth our time and our team's time. So that's one, and the other one that I was thinking about, about the competitor, and I know a lot of people hear this. They say, they go through this huge evaluation and they come back, and they say, " Devin, we really want to go with you, but your competitor is offering the same thing for 30% less." And then, what do we usually do? We get scared. We get pressured. We've been working on this deal for a while, so sometimes we might discount when we don't need to. What if we said instead, " Hey, listen, wow. Well, if our competitor, they're very noble, they do a great job. If they're offering the exact same solution for 30% less, why wouldn't you just go with them? I would. I mean we want your business, but how can you say no to that?" Again, pattern interrupt. Let them tell you why they can't, because the solutions are never exactly the same.

Devin Reed: That's a great a point, Matt. I like the entire time was not what you don't like, but trying to surface, or not asking it in a direct way, but asking in a way where they naturally surface because imagine a lot of those questions probably, or the answers probably start with, " Oh, well, you know there's one thing that doesn't quite sit well or this …" You know what I mean? They start kind of almost selling against themselves on that decision, and what I found is a lot of times I think reps are, they go, " Oh …" And I've heard this on calls. " Oh, well, do they do this?" And it's a feature, or" Oh, are they offering that?" And it's a feature. And they're almost trying to just throw darts at it. Like, " I'll hit bullseye." Once they say yes, that's what I'll pinpoint. And so instead and another version of what you suggested is asking people, "Hey, 1 through 10, how excited are you about, are you to move forward with this?" Talking about the competitor or the incumbent works really well for incumbent, the existing, " Oh, you know what …"

Matt Benelli: Thermometer technique. Yeah.

Devin Reed: Yeah. Seven or eight. " Oh, that's great. What's missing to make it a 10?" Whatever that answer is is what you should bolster onto in terms of differentiating and positioning against. A couple questions in the chat. I'll send it to you, Michelle. There's people saying, " Hey, yeah, of course, bring up competitors early." Others are saying, " I don't know. I push it off as late and never talk about it if possible." I think a good maybe way to start is do you mention competitors by name?

Michelle Benfer: Yeah. Listen, I think we're all working professionals, right? And to your point, Matt and Devin, vast majority of time there is a competitor and sometimes you may not know, are they further ahead in the evaluation? Are they further behind? Are they just telling you there's a competitor in there? And so I would much rather get it out in the beginning so you can keep that in your mind throughout the deal process. And even just saying, " Are you looking …" At HubSpot, for example, would be, " Are you looking for any other CRM providers right now?" In order for us to even sell someone CRM, typically there might be some kind of a rip out or a migration that we would have to work through. And so we kind of asked some of the technical questions up front. What is your current tech stack? If you don't have this in place, how come? Why are you interested now? What kind of impact do you think that's going to make to your business? And then one of the things I've always liked to do is close throughout the process, right? There is something to be said for always be closing. And so after you give your first discovery call and you've kind of started to build in your pitch, what do you like that you heard today? What are some of the areas of concern or open items that I can potentially address? Are there any other areas that you've learned from the competitors that you've been talking to that address your needs potentially better than we do? And so just like being open and transparent and trying to get it out on the table early, I think really helps. And then you're always kind of selling against that objection throughout and you know how to strengthen your pitch. So I'd much rather have that as early as possible, and then also uncover … I'm always asking them to sell me back. What do you like about inaudible here today? And every call, what do you like about what I shared today? And you have them tell you what's great about your own products. And then also what are some of the gaps that you might be seeing? So I think that kind of helps mitigate that risk, and the competitors will come out. You don't necessarily have to come out and say, " I'm sure you're probably talking to so and so." But do it … Sales is the art of the conversation married with data, so that we can navigate that conversation well early on the better.

Devin Reed: I love it. You got a fan. John Harrison started with, " Totally agree, Michelle." Try close early. And then, "Oh, I like that. I asked him to sell you on the solution." So another one to the Michelle Benfer fan club. Well, that's it for this one I believe. Yeah. So promise a little bit technology. Now, HubSpot, as Michelle mentioned uses this data as you just mentioned to help with the art of the conversation. People ask me, is sales and art or science? Today it's both. And so what we can do is if you're interested, this is exactly what revenue intelligence and Gong was built for, and you can see if these three deal warnings pop up for you and your sales teams or if there's other ones, because these are only three of the five that we found. And so what happens is you can see it immediately in your pipeline. It automatically tracks it, " Hey, you're missing activity. Hey, you're missing a decision maker. You're single threaded for two weeks." You might want to jump on that. And so if you're interested, jump over to the poll. If you want to chat with us, there's no pressure. You can say yes. You can say no. You can say not right now, thanks, or you can say nothing at all. It's really your choice. So jump over to the poll. It's right next to the questions option. And of course, you can jump over to gong. io/ demo if you want to chat with us directly. Now, we do have eight minutes. I'm a little proud of myself, technical issues aside, we've got eight minutes for Q& A. I'm very excited for this. So feel free to throw them into the chat or questions. I'm going to double back now and we'll see if we can answer a couple of them. All right. We've got a good one. I'm just looking for whatever got up voted here.

Matt Benelli: Devin, can I ask a question of the group while you're looking at those?

Devin Reed: By all means.

Matt Benelli: We're not going to have time to go through it, but I'd be interested. We talked about three deal warnings here. What are the deal warnings that we haven't talked about? If anyone has a deal warning that they see come up and they put in the chat, I'm sure everyone else would benefit from seeing it and kind of stimulate some ideas in your own head in terms of how you can avoid that going forward.

Devin Reed: Absolutely. That's fantastic advice. I'm always surprised the things that I think are true and then the things the data shows me. I'm usually close. I'm never usually the parking lot, but sometimes I'm in the right field. Here's a good one I'd love to … I think it touches on kind of multi- threading here. And Michelle or Matt, whoever buzzes in first. Madison asks, " What's the best way to warm up a deal where the prospect has gotten cold after the proof of concept? No competitors involved and they're keen on signing by the end of the quarter, and now no amount of email follow- ups or calls seem to get a response." So we have a ghost in the building is what I'm hearing.

Matt Benelli: Okay. Michelle, you want to take a shot at that first?

Michelle Benfer: No. You go Matt.

Matt Benelli: Okay. So you might not like the advice, but it's to anticipate what could go wrong, right? So we're paid to be paranoid in this business. And so if you're already worried about someone going silent at the end of your POC, it's probably because it's happened before. Probably not to you but to somebody you know. So the way to minimize that is to say up front, before you start the POC, right? When you're doing the planning, the success criteria, et cetera. To say, " You know what? Hey, Michelle, one of the concerns I have is sometimes we do these POCs, we spend a ton of time together, and then at the end everybody kind of huddles up, but we're kind of left out and we don't really know what's going on. So how do we make sure we avoid that?" And they'll tell you. And just by bringing it up with that equal business stature, you might avoid that problem. The second thing is, again, to get a clear next step, to get a clear future commitment with the executive team. So we're going to do the proof of concept from here to here, which means on when should we be following up? And get that clear future, that date, time, and clear purpose in the calendar for follow- up after. So then, if they ghost you, not only did they ghost you, but they blew you off for a meeting. So those are a couple of things that I thought of.

Michelle Benfer: Yeah. I think those are great. This is just another example of why you should get more decision makers involved early on, why you should be multi- threading. It mitigates that risk. I also like to ask prospects like, " What's the most comfortable way for me to interact with you? Do you prefer text that we're working something and there's a level of urgency? Would you prefer me to call your cell? Would you prefer me to email you?" That way you might have access to a few more points of contact for them. To be honest, if there's someone who you've done a proof of concept, you're dealing with one person and they've gone completely dark. I usually try to find their boss and just say, " I just want to make sure everything's okay. If you guys aren't interested, that's fine, but so and so prospect hasn't responded. I hope everything's okay. And if there's someone I should work with in the meantime, happy to connect with them."

Matt Benelli: Michelle, I really love that. The whole thing about what's the best way to interact with you? Look, some people like email, some people like text, some people like phone, and at the end of the day, people don't care what you know until they know that you care about them. And just by asking that question shows that you're more than focused versus me focused. And I think that's huge.

Devin Reed: It popped up in the chat from Peter Banos or Banos, depending on inaudible. Was about texting, which is something Jameson, our VP of sales would say and end of month, end of quarter as you go around and you put your commit in, he would ask if you're texting anyone. Because it shows the closeness you have. Now, of course, mind you not everyone wants to text the sales person they're working with. But most actually, I think you'd be surprised do, and there's a few reps on the team, I've heard them on calls, at the very end I was like, " Hey, Michelle, are you a texter? I can email you, but I'm sure you get 100 emails like I'm happy to text you if you prefer." I mean gut check, it's like 90% people say yes. So you'd be surprised, and I know me personally, I've had reps text me when I'm buying, because I've been slow to respond. And I'll just hit him with a quick, " Yeah. Everything's good, man. Give me a week. Everything's fine." Just quick tap the thumbs and you get your update versus a formal email.

Michelle Benfer: Yeah. I'll tell you, WhatsApp has been huge in our Latin- American market.

Devin Reed: Oh, wow.

Michelle Benfer: So much business on WhatsApp. It's wild.

Devin Reed: That's cool. The other one too is if you use Slack, venture teams does something similar for some of the larger evaluations here, reps will start a Slack group or channel with the people evaluating, and it gives like … I mean you're on your desktop now at all times, they can just ask you questions and just provides a really good experience I think in terms of being responsive. So great question. Great answers. Well, we're at time here. We're at time. So I hope everyone enjoyed the session. Thank you, again, for participating, for being in the chat asking questions, filling out the poll, all those good things. Everyone afterwards like I said, will get the recording and the slides. In case, you want to check it out again or share. And don't forget to post on LinkedIn if you want to shop to win your one- on- one, one of our fabulous speakers. And speaking of fabulous speakers, Matt and Michelle, thank you for your time and your expertise. Made it a great session.

Michelle Benfer: Awesome. Thank, Devin.

Matt Benelli: Thanks, Devin.

Devin Reed: All right, everybody. Have a good rest of your day.


Your deals are under attack! Secure your pipeline by learning how to spot, correct and minimize risks and avoid deal hurdles. In this one-hour webinar, you'll learn how to spot deal warnings early and create an action plan to switch gears from losing to winning in no time. You'll also hear data-backed insights on tracking, countering and neutralizing deal risks to keep the cash flow coming. Don’t let deal warnings threaten your success...claim back your revenue today.

Today's Guests

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Matt Benelli

|Managing Director at Sandler Training
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Michelle Benfer

|VP of Sales at Hubspot
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Devin Reed

|Head of Content Strategy at Gong.io