Shawn Finder, CEO at Autoklose, joins me again on this episode.
Andy Paul 00:00
It’s time to accelerate. Hey, friends, this is Andy. Welcome to Episode 727 of Accelerate the Sales podcast of record. I have another excellent episode lined up for you today. Coming back actually for a repeat visit is Shawn Finder. Shawn is the founder and CEO at Autoklose. We’re going to talk about whether we’ve gone too far with automating sales. And interesting, because Shawn is the CEO of a company that deals in sales automation. And if we haven’t gone too far, then what are the lessons that we need to be learning from how we’ve implemented automation so far in order to really make it make us more effective and more productive and what we’re doing? And so talk about several questions. One obviously is automation distancing you from your prospects? I mean, how do you use automated tools to engage at the human level, create some rapport and build the relationships that lead to winning deals? And Shawn may also be getting into how to personalize your email outreach and also explore how companies are experimenting with the structure of their sales teams and how automation affects that. All right, let’s jump into it. Shawn Finder, welcome to the show.
Shawn Finder 02:14
I’m very excited to be here. And it’s been a while and it has.
Andy Paul 04:05
Your business has gone through some significant changes since we spoke the last time. Saw a little bit about how you guys have evolved.
Shawn Finder 04:13
So last time I was on the show, we were talking about my data company ExchangeLeads, which was a data provider. And we know about a year and a half ago now, we parlayed that we took kind of the sales engagement side and the database side and built-in Morvan all in one solution. And the reason why I think I find sales leaders nowadays are looking for consolidation. They want everything in one place. So we built that. We built it out a year and a half ago and we continue to build in that model to continue to integrate and try and add everything in one place so salespeople can save more time and make more money.
Andy Paul 4:45
Well, there you go. So let’s go back to the basics because I get this question all the time, is, OK, what is a sales engagement platform? And people sort of name the names right now. All we can say are clothes. You can say outreach sales loft. All the companies in the space, but what is it?
Shawn Finder 05:09
So another engagement tool is a tool that allows you to automate and engage with prospects at the top of the sales funnel, it’s not going to necessarily close those deals for you. But what it is going to do, it’s going to open up opportunities that can lead to leads that can help you drive them down the sales funnel, hopefully, and up-close them as a sale. So using different tools to automate that, you have more time in your day to spend time with closing deals, but trying to automate the top of the funnel all by engagement.
Andy Paul 05:39
So there is still this and some quarters then we’re seeing in some companies, you know, we have the specialization of a sales machine inside the sales organization of the stars and our counties that handle the opportunities beyond the top of the funnel. But I’m seeing and some companies now know maybe the pendulum went too far and we’re going to swing back and, you know, maybe we’ve automated too much, right. And maybe we just need to be a little more human in the way that we outreach again. Are you seeing some of that or what’s the feeling you get? Because I’ve talked to some companies recently that said that we’re actually sort of almost not completely getting rid of their SDR function. But, you know, we’re putting more emphasis now on the ease of doing the proactive outreach sort of them the way it used to be.
Shawn Finder 6:34
Yeah, it’s an interesting time right now. I mean, a lot of people think automation is the end all, but you have to still have a little bit of human touch. And that’s why I tell myself we like to run any of these sales and tools. You listed some of them, but any tools, our tools, other tools to just automate it is one thing. But you still need to try and build that relationship with that report. I think one thing I always stress is LinkedIn. LinkedIn has everybody that’s going to ever buy or sell from you in there. I think it’s very important to get that social touch and still be the person behind your brand, the person buying your product, the person that you’re talking to, your prospect. So I think people are relying way too much on automation. It’s just a piece of the puzzle, but it’s definitely not the whole puzzle.
Andy Paul 7:21
LinkedIn is a perfect example. And I don’t know much about the automation tools for Shirlington, but clearly people are using them because the messages I get on a daily basis can’t be individually generated. So how do you avoid using automation in such a way that to your point about the human touch that it just comes across as? Yeah, artificial, inauthentic, yeah, spammy, and I think this is also one of the critical issues that we face as sellers. How do we make that initial outreach? It could be something on a phone, could be the more senior person trying to call it a senior level. But because we see we’re big star teams out making mass calls. How do you personalize that?
Shawn Finder 8:07
So that’s a great question. Some of the things I recommend and I ask people to do is a, you want to personalize it as much as possible to use different tokens inside your email, inside your subject line, that person. So it could be as the VP of sales at Company X, Y, Z. So you mentioned something. You could also create custom fields that might have an interest. So, for example, if you do a search and you know that these 50 prospects are all interested in golf or, you know, 10 prospects in tennis, you mentioned that in your contract. But the biggest issue I find and how I can tell if something’s spam or automated is the length of the email. People will write a long, long email and try to sell them to sell their company, which I don’t think is the way to use it. You should more use automation as short and simple. Fifty to seventy-five words and your follow-ups ideally should be just two lines because most people are going to think you’re going to automate just two lines. It’s almost like a reply to them. So make it as short as possible. Like Andy just checking as we close out the week. Did you have a chance to read over my last not just sending a two-liner like that makes it sound more one to one than if I wrote a whole paragraph on why you should want to buy from me and what your value is and who I am, etc..
Andy Paul 9:24
Yeah, at that point, you’re just selling a conversation. You’re selling a meeting.
Shawn Finder 9:28
I’ll tell you, one of the funny ones I find is when somebody I get hi, my name is Shawn Finder and I am the CEO of articles. Ah hi. My name is Andy. I’m the CEO of ABC. It’s like you emailed me. I already know your name. I know a company working for you from your email. Why are you introducing yourself and talking about yourself?
Andy Paul 9:46
Because that’s how they’ve been taught to talk on the phone when they’re making a cold call. Exactly right. So there’s taking the same behavior and putting on email.
Shawn Finder 9:55
Exactly. And I find I find if you go right in and you have that first line with a question, a challenge or something that can relate to your buyer, make it sound a lot more as a as a as a reason for them to read more, you get a lot more calls, text or clicks than introducing yourself and talking about yourself and not even your. Can you just talk about yourself?
Andy Paul 10:14
Well, again, it’s transferring that behavior. People think it’s one size fits all, whether it really is specific to the medium of one hundred percent. Exactly. Yeah. So. Do you have and this is this gets to be one of my bugaboos, which I sort of talked about a little bit before we started recording, as is what seems sort of a disproportionate focus on the top of funnel versus the middle of the funnel. Right. And one of these people don’t really consider what stars do as sales necessarily. This is not anything that’s personal against stars. But to me, that’s really, I’ve always thought of legions as a marketing function. Right. Even when I was out doing it, when I spent years cold calling in person, oftentimes, yeah, I felt like, yeah, yeah, I’m building awareness of the brand and some of this comes back to me. Eventually, people pick up the phone like a business card. At those times, you know, that had a function within my territory. I was both a sales and marketing person. What’s happening to automation, then, for the middle of the funnel, for once we get beyond the top of the funnel, where do you see sort of the technology going in that regard?
Shawn Finder 11:23
Yeah, so right now with that, I think to really generate so the top of the funnel is going to get you to people to kind of raise their hand and show they’re interested. But you’re not going to sell at the top of the funnel in the middle. I think it’s very important to do almost all social touches. And that’s where you want to build that relationship, build that rapport with that prospect and get them to ideally then it’s all about trust because nowadays there are so many different technologies out there. There are so many people selling CRM. So we people sell sales engagement tools. There’s a film, there’s. Yeah, yeah. And if you’re doing the same thing as everyone else, you’re going to be left behind. So what you want to do is almost build that relationship. But you might even in that middle funnel, try and help somebody with not even your product. Like, I don’t even I don’t have a CRM. I’m going to CRM. Let’s say, for example, some guy asked me, what CRM do you recommend? I almost educate them on a CRM to use because just by helping them and then building trust that you will get them to want your product. So I think using social touch as using LinkedIn and different tools like that is great in the middle of the funnel because you’re not going to sell by just sending a cold email to the top of the funnel. It’s not going to, it’s not about money in your bank. It’s only going to start that process.
Andy Paul 12:30
Yeah. And do we have this disconnect? And I know some customers react violently about this as another problem is, it’s sort of the handoff between us, Darren, on Amy and it’s like. Last just talking to you, I mean, people buying a car, at least here in the States, as you talk to the salesperson, then it really gets down to the heart of it. Young, I turn you over to my sales manager.
Shawn Finder 12:53
And to be honest, it happened so often, and I and I hate it, I, I find when I speak to somebody for 15 minutes and they go, OK, your next caller is going to be with ABC. I’m like, well, I want to speak to you. Don’t you know, people ask for 15 minutes, people ask for all this stuff in the first email. You have even built trust. You need to build that trust in that middle.
Andy Paul 3:43
Well, not go back to the question, though, we’ve talked about before, as is and I wonder about this as I was thinking about this a lot this morning, I was thinking about our conversation as is. I was harkening back to a friend of mine, this is now eight, nine years ago, and was still relatively young, but was present and people were seeing the change. But he was with, you know, consulting to a company that ran a trial and they had us as a higher incest product. So you know, the SUV was higher, but. But they put their inside star team, a team pitted against a three-person team that went and sold in person, and the three-person team is like a person crushed by the inside team in terms of productivity. But we seem to have just bought into the idea that this is the only way that the way we’re currently structured is the only way it can be done and. And I guess I don’t see that, as I alluded to before, I see companies beginning to rethink this. As you know, perhaps we’ve gone too far. To see a big shift back at some point or your house is going to start evolving because of your point. Hey, buyer experiences are adversely affected when you say thanks for your time now. Next year, I talked to John. The next time you and staff start over again is how we do that’s an obstacle for me. That’s an obstacle.
Shawn Finder 15:06
And we’ve actually funny enough, we’ve actually had most of the automation done through automation, the top of the funnel, and then go right to an account. So we try to nurture them with content, with engagement, with value. We don’t actually totally skip the stars and have the account executives just do the demos and then try and close the deal. Because as you said, you know, the handoff is one thing. But as you just said from a buyer, if you’re talking to something that you’re telling your situation, your challenges, and then like, OK, your next call with somebody else, it kind of ruins that experience for the person. So I do think we’re going back to stars to be more automated and then the account executives doing more of the, you know, running the automation on the side. But while it’s running, doing the closing and the demos and the calls. But it’s interesting, you know, funny enough, we’ve only done that one way. We’re going to be trying to hire one there to see if the grass is greener on the other side. So if you give me six months, we could probably do another one of these. I can tell you which one is better, but we haven’t done the route yet. We’re looking into it now. It’ll be interesting to see what happens. I personally think they can take off some smaller tasks, but is there a need to. Great question.
Andy Paul 16:20
Well, I mean, it depends on your deal site, right? I mean, there are certain deal sizes where. Yeah. Why don’t you let the SDR handle the whole thing? So this is a thing that that I think is sort of crazy is that we have these people that we’re training at one level and give them experience at one level, but not really giving them real sales experience. Right. So, no, I mean, I, I look at some of the deal sizes that say companies, you know, we’re looking at four grand a month or something like that. It’s like. You know, give that to an SDR, why do you need to close a deal with four grand a month?
Shawn Finder 16:54
I find anyone can be trained and you can train somebody to do multiple tasks. I mean, why not? I mean, I don’t think there’s a reason to have both. That’s for sure.
Andy Paul 17:05
Yeah. I think I think you have specialized sales teams, but yeah. Do it by deal size. Right. If you want to have a learning ground for people. Yeah, certainly. Assassins’ is a perfect example of an industry where you get a variety of deal sizes that get smaller and just make them transactional. Exactly. And I mean, that’s why I started my career selling computer systems. But before we could learn how to sell computer systems, I set out to sell these desktop adding machines that even were obsolete when I was selling them back in the day. And but we still had to sell these things the size of small microwave ovens for three hundred bucks when you could buy a tiny little calculator for 70 bucks at that time. But, you know, you had to go earn your stripes, yeah. And it was very transactional, you know, one or two calls at Max on these things and you just couldn’t beat the experience, but you actually had the sense of completion because you took it all the way to order. So it may have been a compressed sales cycle, but relationship building, trust-building, all that stuff happened at a more compressed time. And you took an order?
Shawn Finder 18:13
Yeah, I think you could do a lot more training, a lot more mentoring at the really early stage when you bring them on and try and make them very transactionally, teach them not only me everywhere I find you learn over time, you learn by getting your feet wet, getting thrown in the ocean, sink or swim kind of feeling. So I think by going there you can turn somebody that can maybe do both the AE and the rolling one, but maybe a little more training at the forefront would help as well.
Andy Paul 18:42
Yeah, and probably some sort on this kick, if you will. I rant about it quite a bit. Is that for many companies? And again, we see it in cyber, see it in other spaces, so don’t pick on that one is the win rate. Are really low, yep, 20 percent when rates of qualified prospects, and to me, that’s not sustainable. I mean, I never operated a business coming up with my career and I was granted selling way more expensive, more complex stuff. But if my Wainwright fell below 50 percent, I was in deep trouble personally. And I’m the boss scared. But I mean, I just knew that my results were going to be off. Yeah. Not be optimal. And so but yeah, we’re accepting this seeming acceptance because we can automate so much stuff at the top of the funnel and, you know, run so much crap through there. And you got, know, pipeline coverage ratios that are mandated and it’s like. It’s like, OK, well, if you mandate a five X pipeline coverage ratio, your win rates go be the inverse of that. Yeah, it’s 20 percent. That’s just the math works. And also, you know, your sellers don’t have time to devote in a serious fashion to that many prospects, opportunities at the same time. So how do we get out of this loop, I consider self-defeating behavior because. We’ve got sellers who have the capability of being way more productive, and I look at productivity dollars of revenue that could generate per hour of selling time if we just rationalize the selling process.
Shawn Finder 20:17
Yeah, I completely agree with you, I think I think we can get a lot more out of people, out of salespeople especially. I think the problem is when you title people in SDR and you don’t give them the chance to close it’s demeaning to them. But it’s like they feel like they’ve started the process, but they might have the confidence that they can close it. But you’re not giving them the opportunity to even try and close it, which I think might not even help their future growth because they’re going to feel like they’re going to be stuck at this year’s level. But I think that’s why I kind of explained to them that it’s part of the process or getting more involved in closing would definitely benefit an SDR, especially if they’re capable of doing it well.
Andy Paul 20:59
And I also firmly believe that increasing win rates as a training tool for eight years is, you know, if you’re only winning one of every five, the only thing you’re really training yourself on is how to lose. Yeah, so why not shift it and try to say, how can we make this an environment where? The opportunity exists actually to win a majority of the deals that you work on and instead of experiencing failure all the time, and so because you want to meet one of the really interesting, you see this and, you know, companies have this metric. Oliver’s, you know, close lost. I like really why we’re tracking that, it’s like we’re patting ourselves on the back, but that we actually got a deal to close, we lost it, but hey, it closed. And that’s really nothing to celebrate. Now, close wins that. But it’s funny, I, I talk about this more and more, and some guys are taking a swipe at me on LinkedIn about this thing. When rates are bullshit, you know, the only thing we should be concerned about is in our pocket. I’m like, what’s this person not understanding? Is that, you know, if your win rate goes up, you make more money. You know, this is not an illusion, right? If you’re a sales rep and you can increase your win rate from 20 percent to 30 percent, you increase 50 percent, you’re going to make a lot more money. Yeah, they seem to escape this person’s attention. It’s like, yeah when rates are a phony metric, it should be the metric that sellers are completely focused on.
Shawn Finder 22:30
Yeah, I don’t think enough people look at them when they make them count their wins, they count their wins, they get excited when they win, but they don’t actually look at how many opportunities are taking me to get that win. And I think it’s very important that you look your win rate because as you said if you can double right and you make your goal in the next quarter, you’re going to double your win rate. But you might make double the money, just increase two percent this year, two percent next year. You know, it’s maybe like interest, you know, accumulating interest on an investment cost of living. Just make it go up every year. Yeah, well, the cost of living is to be covered to increase your prices. So you pay two percent of the price. Right. But you increase your win rate.
Andy Paul 23:12
It’s yeah. I’m always astonished. People don’t understand that. And some people think, well, you know, managers, first of all, the winner it’s a lousy, lousy metric for managers because, yes, they can manipulate it if you’re paying your managers. But as an individual, if you want to know how you’re doing. For me, the win rate was everything, yeah, at the end of the day, that dictated how well I was being. Yeah. And. Yeah, we need more focus on that, and that’s the answer to this issue that I see with companies, I said they really just never had conversations with CEOs and CEOs. We talk about growth plans. It’s all about, well, let’s just get more crap on the top of the funnel and we know we’ll close X percentage. So if we increase the top of funnel and keep our win rate the same, we’re great. But it’s like really? No, that’s not a way to grow a company. I mean, some companies will grow that way. But for the average company who knows moderately successful and has a future and yeah. Not a unicorn, that’s not a sustainable way to grow.
Shawn Finder 24:17
Yeah, no, I give an example of a company I work for before that where we had a CEO say we’re going to hire five more salespeople because of your quotas. One million are going to give each of them one million. We’re going to make five million next year. But he basically said, OK, you have this many demos, you’re closing this much. So we hired five more people at this salary we’re going to each make. One may not be thinking, well, the market is now going to be the regions are going to be smaller. Yeah. So you’ve got to definitely, definitely look at the statistics. And the CEO isn’t like they look at a lot of CEOs, just look at dollars and cents when they should be looking at their win rate.
Andy Paul 24:51
Well, but it’s yeah. It’s not just CEOs, it’s VP of sales and so on. Of course, I was given this example on a talk I gave recently to a group of young people working with a company, and the VP said, OK, next year we’re going to increase quotas by mafiosos like 10 percent or something. I said, OK. So have you done an assessment to see whether your sales reps are 10 percent better? I mean, have they trained them, have they upscaled, have they improved their capabilities by 10 percent to be able to maybe just raise my quota? Or have you actually done something to say these reps to your point, of whom only 30 percent were making quota anyway, that that call can do it? They all have been and no one makes that connection. It’s like, yeah, we have to invest in our team to raise the quotas. We can’t just arbitrarily raise quotas. Let’s call it how they’re skilled.
Shawn Finder 25:48
Yeah, I find I speak to my friends about that. And, you know, he was trying to mention me. He works for a huge company like they keep raising their quota, but he leaves every few years because he keeps raising his quota. But I guess sometimes you don’t think like you lose a product? So now you’re raising my quota by ten. But I might have lost four percent of my product to a competitor last year. Or is the market even big enough to raise it 10 percent? You might not. You might have a market that can grow 10 percent. You never know. But people just say, yeah, raise it 20 percent, 10 percent every year, year over year. But it’s definitely an interesting fact that I was actually talking to my wife, who’s in sales. She’s a territory manager and she’s crushing it this year. It’s like, oh, they’re going to kill me with a quota next year and there’s not enough opportunity to hit those numbers or cut it, right? Yeah, exactly. Or country territory. So that’s a very interesting thing. I was with my other friend who worked for, as I said, some big companies. He leaves every few years because they keep increasing his quota and he’s like he almost goes like, I can’t hit that 10 percent increase because there’s not enough in the market to even hit it.
Andy Paul 26:49
Yeah, well, I want to write quotas, unless it’s an exceptional company that’s growing your growth rate as such as the quota, pretty much tracks the growth of the industry you’re in in the market for him, but. Yeah, that’s rarely considered as a factor, though, you know, I’ve worked for enlightened clients and companies who have seen it that way. Yeah, for me, the bigger disconnect is. There’s no consideration given to having your people increase their skills by the same amount. I agree, and if you don’t, you don’t think about that, right masquerades quarter, but we haven’t invested sufficiently in training, we haven’t tried to upskill them. So with the same skill sets, do 10 percent more. Yeah, that’s like I wish it was that easy. So tell us what else is going on with you guys in terms of who you’re focusing on with your clients?
Shawn Finder 27:50
Yeah, so one thing we’re trying to do is we know there’s a busy area. There is the outreach themselves. So we try to stay away from that enterprise’s big, huge clients. We try to get those SMB clients. We’re really focusing on that.
Andy Paul 28:05
You got something and you’ve got some big logos on your website.
Shawn Finder 28:08
Yeah, we’ve been talking with the data and unclosed, I guess, through the data company. We’ve got a lot of building my network. And one thing I’ve been really working on in the last four years continues to work on my personal brand. So that’s really helped. But we’re trying to continue to consolidate things for sales leaders. I find that sales leaders don’t want the salespeople to have 12 tabs at the top of their computer and they have to log into a CRM, log into another sales automation, log into LinkedIn, trying to consolidate everything that started kind of our big goal in Q3, Q4 this year. And hopefully, we can continue to consolidate to make the life of salespeople easier, because, as I said, salespeople want to make more money, but they have to have the tools to be able to do it.
Andy Paul 28:54
Yeah, well, I think there’s certainly having the tools. There’s no shortage of tools these days, right? That’s for sure. So maybe they need help. And, you know, a company like a vendor-neutral that Nancy Garden and Dance Aliev put together to help vendors choose the right tech stack is an interesting resource for people to try and bring some clarity and concision, I guess, to some of the decision makings. But, yeah, it’s a tough thing for companies, I think, to really sort of say, OK, what do we really need at this point in time? And so I’m interested just working with some is what’s sort of the trigger point for a smaller enterprise to say, yeah, we’ve reached the stage where we need a sales engagement platform.
Shawn Finder 29:44
So, people, I find it’s interesting, CEOs of small businesses, they’re looking to increase revenue, then you have, for example, national sales managers that contact us and they just want more demos for their regional sales manager than you have Esdras that just want to be able to automate it. So it’s an interesting, interesting little market, the SMB, but people are investing in a sales engagement. Tools now are just simple for automation. As we talked about earlier, you know, people aren’t spending enough time on that middle funnel. They think the top of the files will do everything. But you just need to be able to really focus on trying to get people raising their hands and find content is really good case studies, trying to get people to trust your product. But some people are really before all enterprises looking for sales engagement. Now they are realizing that, oh, well, instead of hiring a new SDR, we can get a sales engagement tool for one-twelfth. The price may not be as big as much revenue, but it also does a lot of the same tools and automates a lot of the stuff that would do. So instead of paying the big salaries, you can get sales engagement tools now at a lot cheaper price.
Andy Pau 30:56
And that’s sort of the tradeoff that small and midsize enterprises making us are investing in this platform versus a person.
Shawn Finder 31:02
Yeah, I mean, they’re thinking instead of hiring somebody that could go out and go on LinkedIn and email hundreds of people a day and follow up, they’re just automating that. And then some people are actually getting remote, remote off freelance or remote ancestors to kind of try and get them on the counter and try and pre qualify them. But ideally, a sales tool will do everything for you. But do the demo. It’ll get everything you could automate, like Townley’s, you can automate zoom, you can automate everything in there. So they put a book on your calendar. They get they pick their date. When they pick their date, they get a calendar, invite your Zoom’s inside the description so you can automate almost everything to that demo. And I think a lot of people are taking that. And instead of saving money on the SDR by just using and investing in a simple sales and platform.
Andy Paul 31:49
It’s interesting hearing you talk about him getting to a demo, but the fact is. Most companies in the world don’t have products that demo. So how are services? Right. So how do they what’s their sort of key point there in your experience with the companies you’re working at that they’re really guiding toward? What’s just the initial sales conversation with an AE.
Shawn Finder 32:10
Yes, so we’ll keep most of our clients at art, for example, doing a product or a demo, what they’ll do is what I try and tell them to do is start off with trying to find out what are the challenges, what are the pain points of that prospect, and then try and nurture them with, for example, case studies as we talked about, building trust, know, showing a case study of something that might be in that industry and showing the results they had from A to Z is really good at building that trust to kind of nurture them. And then at the end, you might want to have a call so we can do a demo. You might want to have an introduction call to see if you can do some consulting, etc.. So trying to really build in those campaigns around trying to build the trust about you and your company is obviously the most important thing for something that’s not necessarily selling a product or doing a demo.
Andy Paul 32:57
All right. Well, Sean, we’re at the end of the time here. Shawn, thanks a lot.
Shawn Finder 34:07
Andy, thank you so much.
Andy Paul 34:15
Ok, friends, that was accelerate for the week, first of all, as always, I want to thank you for joining me and I want to thank my guest, Shawn Finder. That was a good conversation. So join me again next week as my guests will be Bill Ekström and Sarah Wirth. Bill is the founder and CEO of the EcSell Institute. And Sarah is the vice president of Client Services, also an EcSell Institute Institute. And they’re co-authors of a new book called The Coaching Effect: What Great Leaders Do to Increase Sales, Enhance Performance and Sustained Growth. We talk about all of the billions of coaching, real coaching, not dual coaching performance, and growth coaching of your individual sellers. So be sure to join us then. Thanks again for joining me. I’m your host, Andy Paul. Good selling, everybody.