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Sales Conversations vs Sales Cycles, with Gopkiran Rao [Episode 873]

Gopkiran Rao is the Chief Strategy and Marketing Office at MindTickle. In this episode we discuss why now it is more important than ever for organizations to effectively and appropriately – engage their customers and prospects in conversation, not in sales cycles. We explore what that means in terms of the business acumen and agility that sellers need to possess to effectively engage in today’s environment. Plus, we dig into what it means for sellers these days to be sales ready.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul: Gop. Welcome to the show.

Gopkiran Rao: Andy. Glad to be here. Thanks so much for having me on.

Andy Paul: My pleasure. It’s been a while since we spoke.

Gopkiran Rao: Yeah. I was actually looking at some old emails and realized we last spoke in September of last year. When I think you were on the verge of your annual summer migration back to San Diego.

Andy Paul: Yeah. So where have you been sheltering during the pandemic?

Gopkiran Rao: I’m quite fortunate. I find myself here in twin peaks in San Francisco epicenter of what feels like like rallies, coming to grips for this, with this pandemic crisis. But yeah, fortunate to be here with the family and in some strange ways, not missing, not being on a plane a lot of the time.

Andy Paul: Yeah, I have that exact feeling. I’ve had this conversation. I’ve told people that. I’ve only, I think I’ve been on a plane twice during the pandemic and just going back and forth between New York and San Diego. But as first time was, I was so paralyzed because I was so accustomed to packing a bag every week or every two weeks. And it had been three months and I didn’t know what to do.

Gopkiran Rao: That’s amazing. You do have to retrain yourself a little bit as opposed to, not just surviving, but thriving in this intensely physical yet virtual environment of what are we, you’re working living spaces. And that’s been interesting, I think for so many people on so many fronts.

Andy Paul: So along those lines what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself personally, during the pandemic.

Gopkiran Rao: What a great question. No, I think the necessity of human contact and yet the ability of the human to work around the inability to make human contact. And if that sounds like a play on words, I suppose I was trying to be clever there, but behind, that sentiment, Andy, I personally just wants your question more directly. I have always thought that I did best when I was in a physical setting in line with other people and that somehow drove the creative process. Collaborative communication and a faster coming to the decisions that made the real spin. And I think that’s probably true for a lot of people that sort of prescribed the analog model of operating, managing right, producing, and I’ve been shocked by how quickly, because I was forced to pivot together with my immediate team and my extended team. And what is, a very global company to begin with. The adjustments we’ve made have embraced a variety of agile principles, have embraced this idea that work now happens in the flow of life, and not the other way around, that micro communication and micro collaboration actually spurs more communication and creativity. And so the personal learning for me, I think, is that change,  it’s something that I’m, I’ve traditionally been comfortable with, but I think being able to adapt to this virtual environment has actually made me feel that a lot of things I thought about historically in terms of hiring, recruiting decisions can actually, I can make those things work fairly, but in a virtual remote environment. And on the flip side, I think it’s really helped me understand the value of embracing work that fits to people’s life choices and necessitates, rather than the other way around. So those have been good things overall, I would say.

Andy Paul: So in a response to one of your comments, because this is something that I’ve read about. I’ve seen surveys with CEOs talking about this. Is that we’ve learned lessons about as you talked about, micro communications and the ability to work remotely and collaborate different in different ways and so on it’s working. But if it was such a good idea, why didn’t we do it beforehand?

Gopkiran Rao: I think the challenge has been traditionally, we have approached technology as the. And as opposed to the meetings, I think as with all technology decisions, we often confuse automation as the objective, as the outcome, as opposed to a better way of doing something, no matter what that might be, right?

Whether it’s email automation or forecasting or coaching of people, or even simply content management. And I think to a large extent, the ability to manage, to execute, to produce remotely, to your point actually got well past the change event that needed to occur. And I think society of corporate society in general has been approaching it really nearly because of the, the events that required it.

So for example, we’ve always had remote sellers. And so I think sales management, for example, evolved. Do using these tools and other processes, including flying out and doing in-person off-sites or vote, shadowing in-person or ride alongs with managers and only used, and then basically relied on the cell phone and zoom and others for specific check-ins.

And similarly other teams, for example, healthcare has started embracing in a remote monitoring services, deli, telematics, telehealth, et cetera. And I think in, every sort of technology maturity or evolution that typically these change events paired with change agents.

And those change agents are either societal, external change agents or internal change engines. And I think what we’ve seen as many companies like Google and Workday and others, And in turning many of our customers who frankly, pivoted to this idea of asynchronous and ad hoc learning and sales training, and coaching, we’re already starting to set the ways.

And I think they would change agents for the rest of industry and the pandemic I think it was really a forcing function that has doubled as a change agent and as a crisis exists existential crisis for corporate companies. And the technology has just been there. Now we, I think we are faced with a second set of challenges, which is how do we prevent companies or how do we help companies not simply to try and do lift and shift of existing in-person processes to the,  in-person virtual world, as opposed to coming at this from a different way, which is how do we return?

Value and time to our people while improving their productivity by changing the way we think about time management and workload management and workflow and so on. I think that’s what we now have .

Andy Paul: I think this is a big deal because you look at the vast majority of employees. This working remotely is not what they signed up for. And work has a social component to it as well. I can have my micro communications. I can have spur of the moment collaborations, technology enables these things. It’s actually it’s proximity to people, not just, and so yeah, there’s things being written about this. I serve sensitive and some of the conversations I have for this show and so on and other conversations is. Peoples are just getting burned out by this thing.

And there’s some, it’s obviously residual anxiety about the itself, but some of it is, it This is not sustainable in part, because I think a lot of corporations have to a point you made about the balance and the integration of work and life as a lot of corporations have assumed, okay, you’re not commuting an hour and a half each way twice a day that now becomes work time.

And I think we have this tendency with technology is to say because we can do something we should, instead of looking at it, instead of looking at it saying just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.

Gopkiran Rao: Those have several very striking points you make, and I’m just trying to collate them in my head. I think this idea of the physical intimacy, which is so central to the human condition and drives commerce. Ultimately we are all in the business of doing business with other people.

We should never forget that, which is fine e-commerce for all of its vaunted promise will continue to be a tool that has its place, but we’ll never replace, that interaction between a buyer and a seller. And the other point you make about this idea of exhaustion, I think is very real.

It’s very palpable. I personally just don’t want to, log into my computer because I’m simply picking up from an I left off. It should be. It’s five minutes ago when I went to bed.  And there’s only so much you can do in terms of stand-ups and micro meetings and,  micro communications.

And if I put all of those things together, I don’t think there’s a short answer except to say we are, I think phase two, offer F and evolution. Someone famously talked to me about this a couple of days ago. I similar to going through the process of grief, whether you prescribe it to the five stage process of dealing with the grief for the full stage.

And I think we’ve gone through, the first couple of stages and we are now between reacting and adjusting. And part of the problem is, unlike with grief or you have a specific event that occurs, or a point of time here, time itself seems to be stretching a little bit. So we don’t quite know whether it’s next week or next year.

So I think we are in this process of adjustment, acceptance, and we’re all at different stages, depending on whether you’re in the U S or you’re in India. Or in New Zealand or, maybe in Scandinavia, And I think that’s, what’s going to actually stress the system more than anything else, because with enough pockets, I think we will find good best practices starting to emerge, but those best practices may not apply equally for global companies that have presence in many different time zones and places and where one is more authoritarian in terms of.

Who can meet who when and where others might be completely open to it. And that’ll create, I think the next set of stresses that we’re just starting to see now, as companies embrace all virtual or hybrid or all in person model. So flexibility, I think just to close out my comment here will be the key, I think, standardization at a corporate level, in terms of accessibility, to tools, to resources, to budgets, and then a lot of autonomy and flexibility at the local level to try experiments to do things that are right for you. Some of the same principles that apply to ERP systems, for example, certainly come into play. I think in terms of employee engagement.

Yeah ,

Andy Paul: I guess one of my big fears is, and I’ve again, read about this recently too is that yeah, a lot of companies, especially public companies finding the, yeah gosh, if we can shed some of this real estate, earnings become pretty attractive and it’s like, what’s really driving these decisions, is it what is best for the employees and the productivity of the organization or earnings per share?

Gopkiran Rao: That’s a great point. It’s interesting. In the first few weeks of the pandemic, I was tracking a lot of earnings calls and you had, I remember the CEO of Barclays, I believe it was another British bank or maybe I’m in standard chartered, but they all came out within weeks of each other, essentially saying, look, we see the words they use for, interesting rationalization, consolidation, standardization, all ostensibly seemingly aimed on the lower half of the balance sheet. Yeah, exactly. And of course it’s wrapped in the theory that this is all about freeing up our employees to be productive no matter where they are. So they give us a good, the messaging was a good balance of empowering and cost cutting. But ultimately what it came down to was, Hey, Mondelez, I’m going to have 500, 600,000 employees able to work where they are.

I’m going to try and bring the number of global headquarters down to two, because that’s all we need really. And then you have, the next stage of companies, the Googles and the Facebooks jumping on a new habit. Absolutely. There are beam counters who are looking at the per employee per square foot costs of continuing to keep things in operation.

I also, a very good friend of mine is currently program managing the Google. Oh, maybe it’s Google or one of the other big tech companies in the Bay area, and they’re just continuing to drive investments in physical space. So I think there’s a sense that what goes around will eventually come around and they will be hunger, for a sizeable portion of the workforce to get back to that old normal. So we’ll see. Maybe that’s what happened.

Andy Paul: Flexible some hybrid model. I agree.

Gopkiran Rao: Exactly.

Andy Paul: All right. All right. So let’s talk about sales a little bit is you’ve said that it’s now more important than ever for companies to engage their customers and prospects in conversation, not in sales cycle. So tell us what you meant by that.

Gopkiran Rao: Yeah. Okay. If you’re not at the history of sales and B2B sales in particular. The long-term struggle of presenting a buyer with a universal sellers almost usually resulted in a suboptimal experience and by universal seller. Someone who can completely internalize all the best aspects of that company’s culture have Supreme product knowledge. Technical skills and customer engagement and understanding. And so what they’ve sought to do is to compliment, essentially a frontline seller.

Andy Paul: The super superhuman.

Gopkiran Rao: The superhuman, if you remember, the banking industry tried this right. They had this concept of the universal banker and it went to were all great ideas, poorly executed, go to die. Let me just back to the back room. So watermark consulting firm that engaged in creating the model, but there’s some core principles there because the idea is I, my strategy as a business is to ensure my current and prospective customers have access to world-class solutions from me while my sellers follow best in class of fair market practices and fair market practices are driven by a good combination of those three things I mentioned, product technical customer facing skills. If I can’t. And so companies have two choices, they can build up, they can create a system recognizing that no two humans are the same and they won’t come out of a production line looking and feeling the same. Therefore it has to be personalized. It has to be role specific. It has to be in the flow of work, et cetera, and create a system to enable sellers to engage with customers are. In addition to that, they can create a team around the sellers selling team, if you will. And this becomes particularly important B to B because as buyers and now also creating buying teams, and while that’s always been the case, this Forrester research, for example, that says up to nine people on the buyer side and not engaging up to six or seven people on the seller side. And so what you’ve got is this perfect storm in a industry. That’s, an industry that’s already complicated by consolidation and overseas competition. And. Partners becoming competitors and move to new revenue models. And so you can’t, the companies have been struggling for some time. And this idea of being an out of the box product that we asked, needing to align requirements, to buying processes means many sales motions.

And that’s where I think my thesis emerges, which is that you have to allow your sellers to operate within this ecosystem where you recognize them as unique people, but you maximize. Their battle of field ready skills to be able to pivot and adjust because the hard core muscles that are required in the field of play are just a, are a given,  they’ve built practice, observed, remediate, and reinforce those skills, the ones that matter for their industry or their roles.

So what’s left to do is really mainly react. So the five, 10, 15% that is, specific to the circumstance in which they find themselves. And again, for every company and every industry and every product line, that’s going to be different than combination. In some cases, discovery. And value selling are going to be a lot more important if you’re in a, fairly complex solution type sell, versus if you’re selling widgets, where process might be the key, your ability to close a large transaction on a consistent basis to write contracts, but minimizing your discounting, giveaways, et cetera, et cetera, might be important.

I don’t think that’s where companies have failed. And, in terms of understanding that. The S creating the ideal seller profile, building the system to help create and maintain the ideal seller profile, and then putting the wrapper of tools and processes and resources around them. And they go back to that same sin.

And you and I were talking about if you will, the original sin of sales, which is let’s just bring another tool in because that will somehow solve for the problem, and that creates, I think, exhaustion and cognitive noise. So that’s I think my principles in this topic,

Andy Paul: So on top of that though, this is building on what you’re talking about is I think we still have this fundamental problem. And I think it has made for me more cute and able to visualize it better as after Gartner put out their buyer enablement study a couple of years ago, and they have this famous diagram now of the buyer’s journey, which they call the spaghetti diagram, which is this messy, recursive, spontaneous is a process to be able to make a decision about what they’re going to do and who they’re going to do it with.

And I haven’t seen anyone, any company that I spoken to that has said Oh we need to change how we’re denominating our stages in our selling process to align with what the buyers are doing. And when you look at Gartner’s study, they’ve got in that middle of that big diagram, they got four boxes, which they call the jobs buyers are trying to do, which is identify their problem.

Evaluate. Potential solutions, finalize the requirements or build the requirements and select a vendor. And, I asked, I challenged people. I said, so tell me, okay, where in those four jobs does discovery take place? Where does qualification take place? Are they even relevant? And the way we think about it, relative to how the buyers perceive things.

So we can have these sellers that we think are exquisitely trained, but we’re sending them into an environment with a mindset that is completely orthogonal to the one that buyers have.

Gopkiran Rao: I think you’re onto something very important.  And I have talked about this in the past. Absolutely. And I think what’s ironic and perhaps interesting. And the reason like you I’ve recently come into some of this perspective myself, is because I’ve been wearing the marketing hat at MindTickle for a couple of years now, in addition to the stuff, I’d actually signed up one of the things that’s exactly.

What I realized is that marketing, ironically, I think has a little bit of a leg up on this situation of understanding and engaging the buyer across the journeys for two reasons, one is as we’ve all now had I do, I had spent some time now buyers are increasingly well researched, better educated, and a lot more prepared before they’re willing, able, or ready to engage with a human on the other side, whether that both with the BDR, a drift bot or an a, it’s a material this therefore means marketing is developing, not just a single ICP, but many micro IC. I did a customer profiles for our audience, and. Flavors of personas within that.

And it’s constantly tweaking and pushing out channels and content that sit at the many intersections of those micro personas and micro ice and piece, and constantly using that data to refine and redevelop and republish and reengage those personas. And they have become. The most effective companies and more effective marketers have become a key part of the buyers education, because they’re not pushing out product doc, they’re pushing out insights.

How are other companies like you dealing with this problem, et cetera, et cetera. We’ve all read the, the books in terms of how to, do better content marketing. The second thing is, because the buyer’s journey. It’s now relatively well understood in terms of, whether you call it awareness to interest, to evaluation, to selection, to, stewardship and championships.

I think marketing is able to leverage the same set of tools. Yeah. The unified data model across the journey of that. Customer from awareness through renewal and expansion. And then now has it. Now you’ve got the tools, you’ve got the profile, you’ve got the content and you’ve got the data. And you’ve got the orchestration therefore off, the ability to engage and impact these customers and other entities within the buyer journey who may be undergoing their own journeys at different stages in their evolution.

And so sales, I think a avail integrated sales and marketing organization understands that marketing’s job is no longer this brute-force generation of leads. It’s really about partnering. This is truly about partnering with sales. And this is where I think sales has the ability to also change the way to operate from being transaction drivers, which is again, I think the principle that you and I had initially connected on.

Again, no two transactions. Now, two people at the same sellers need to be able to understand and engage much like with marketing and for these. And that’s where the universal seller model becomes attractive because in theory, someone who’s perfectly,  all the way the generic stuff is muscle memory.

And you can now focus purely on the EEQ of, dealing with your mini person of it’s when I think we will get to that next stage, and that is a little bit of an evolution. I don’t think that’s a revolution, but we’ll have to go back to first principles. What will it take to succeed for a person in this role? That’s unique to my business and how am I going to prepare him or her to get there, to not be a B player, a C player, but to be a orchestrated A player, not a lonewolf player, if you will. So that’s my thought process on this very important question you’re raising.

Andy Paul: Yeah. I think that’s a great answer. I think that we still make it too complex though.

Gopkiran Rao: Yes. Yes.

Yes.

Andy Paul: of the insights that I had looking at the Gartner chart, if you will is,  drew a line from the top to the bottom after the first three jobs that were sort of laid out and I said, yeah here’s the problem. To the left of the line, all those activities are completely focused on choosing how they’re going to solve their problem.

Gopkiran Rao: yeah,

Andy Paul: the right, which is selecting a vendor is about who we’re going to do it with. But the way we train and focus sellers is, go deploy your persuasive skills to become selected as the vendor, We’re missing this whole point is  they customer still hasn’t decided they don’t even know what the problem is yet.

Gopkiran Rao: Exactly. Exactly.

Andy Paul: That this is where your insights come in. This is where your great questions come in. And we know. tHe way people make decisions is, and this is they call it build requirements.

But really what that step is the customer formulating options for how they’re going to solve the problem. And so before they make a decision to before they make the step, excuse me, to go to select a vendor, they choose an option. to solve this problem?

Gopkiran Rao: Yeah.

Andy Paul: Got all of our sellers focused on becoming selected as the vendor when they really need to be focused on just being the answer to the question, how am I going to solve this problem? And I think during that phase, that, that whole front stage of the buying process, quite frankly, most buyers aren’t focused on brands. They’re focused on a solution.

Gopkiran Rao: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And I think methodology plays a big part in this too, because I do think, a lot of companies in tech in particular are in such a rush. Part of the problem is, again, the objective. If you’re a unified, if you’re a single overarching objective is to get your quota numbers and get to your valuation, whatever you’ve signed up for.

When you raised your last round, you are rarely in a position to go back to these. Basic question, suppose you’re talking about Andy because, no, every transaction is as good as the ACV or TCV produces and every seller is seen through the prison of the numbers and no one’s really focused on the customer.

We all, everyone speaks about the customer, but the reality is, we’ve, there’s dispassionate conversation about things like churn and renewables and expansion overcome the fact that real people on the other side of your product, Need to be able to get that, get up in the morning, wanting to log in and, leave at the end of the day, feeling like they’ve accomplished something materially in your product and that you have the data, the inside of the intelligence to have them do a better job when they come back the next day.

And so I think it starts with that. What is your, why do you exist as a business? What is your mission, your purpose? I think it, then it drives who you hire, into sales. And under customer success. And, are you solving, are you bringing in problem-solvers with domain? Who can do exactly what you’re saying?

If you don’t know what questions to ask, help them with that, if they don’t know how the solution help them solution and bring the right resources in to help them solution, once they have a solution ensure. That they are in fact, doing their part in terms of getting to those mutual KPIs that are built into your contract, hopefully in may most cases, customers and serve as both miss a chance to do that.

And then ultimately agree on QBR that you will track to the success metrics you signed up and all of the criteria have been met. And I think no ones, I think very few companies are doing that because they’re in such, and now with this crisis, this parent has become even worse because everyone’s looking at it over their shoulder.

So they’re also trying to run full steam ahead, not flood short. If they have a quarter or two quarters or four quarters to get your water, when you adjust your numbers, they’ve put in place. And I think that’s why this is such an amazing time for those of us that have the luxury of, Runways and customers supporting us.

I think these are questions we should all be asking and trying to make changes, not just on the edges, but in the core operating rhythm of our businesses. So I’m sorry to, back’s a little philosophical, but I think you’re really asking a very important question.  Yeah. Yeah.

Andy Paul: And I think another question is somewhat aligned with that. This is one that I ask a lot of people about is, and you start touched on and something that you had sent me before a few weeks ago, before we spoke, as in preparation for this, is that talking about, today’s business environment, sales environment.

Yeah, business acumen, agility really become paramount. Yeah, we got a lot of people talking about how now we have to lead with empathy and I’m thinking. These things have always been the case, right? We’ve always wanted to lead with empathy with our buyers. We didn’t need a pandemic to tell us we need to lead with empathy, or acumen has always been valued as, and as a differentiator, I think for those sellers that tend to gravitate toward know more consistent high-level performance.

I just find it interesting that we were now stressing these things as if they’re new and in this whole virtual selling world, it’s everybody’s rushed to publish books about virtual selling. I’m thinking. Yeah. But yeah, I’m good at virtual selling other than, how you set up your background and, okay.

I contacted the camera, the fundamental sales behaviors that you’ll succeed with are the same. Told some of those that had written all these books. I said, you realize, asking a question when virtual selling started. And he was saying, I started thinking about, I said when Alexander Graham bell invented the telephone,

Gopkiran Rao: Yeah.

Andy Paul: Right. And it’s you understand that we got this moment, but it’s like the basics, the fundamentals. Are going to still going to take you through. We still need to have our salespeople. Yeah. They need an acumen. How are they going to get this acumen? This is the thing that business leaders point out is the thing that’s missing most right.

Where they don’t value their interactions with sellers as they can’t contribute to the deliberations.

Gopkiran Rao: I think that’s exactly right. And then I can’t, I won’t even try to dispute that.  Suppose the only thing that has changed really is something you’ve touched on at the outset which is availability has decreased significantly because now, you’ve got. Do people on both sides have very different operating environments, set up with a dog and a child on the couch buyer potentially.

Racing between, a hospital or a telehealth appointment, because someone in the family was, just came down with the high fever together with the fact that, everyone’s working 12 hours a day and really doesn’t want to be on another zoom. So I think there’s an added pressure here of optimizing digital engagement skills because your real estate has been reduced to the, 10 by 12 inch screen.

And as I was. Saying to someone in a panel discussion the other day, look back at the day. You and I had, when I came back in the day, it sounds like because 20 years ago, but let’s say even 12 months ago you met, we greet each other at the front door and then I would ask, I would make, I would ask about the commute and it would give you a chance to potentially gripe about the terrible downtown San Francisco traffic.

And then you and I would walk to the coffee machine. And he’d watched me make a fool of myself, trying to make some espresso. And these were our moments of shed building. And so these are the kinds of things that I think we have to teach because it gets part of it, I think, engagement skills.

And so on that we don’t have the luxury of now together with the pressure of these times zone differences and being a distance before internet connections and whatnot. So I think that has, yeah, please go ahead.

Andy Paul: But let me insert something though. There  is that’s I think a different point of view, which is that never, I’ll say never, but, just take that as a, as what it is. Have we been in a situation as salespeople, where we have such common shared experiences with every single person we’re talked to.

Gopkiran Rao: Interesting.

Andy Paul: Global pandemic going on.

So never has it been easier to establish common ground with someone you’re speaking with?

Gopkiran Rao: Yeah, I suppose you’re right. You’re right at a high level. Yes, it is a unifying event, but I think ridden the event, there is so much disparity, which again, I think with the right. Social engagement scale, you should be able to use your advantages to sell it because it’s a chance for you to be an active listener to show empathy.

Absolutely. Absolutely. And I guess, yeah, you’re right. So I’ve, maybe my perspective was more from the perspective of things we’ve lost as opposed to things we’ve gained. And so there’s a balancing act there for sure. And again, I think a real, a human seller human first seller, I think will absolutely be able to pivot.

But others will need to be taught. And that’s, where I was coming from, I think perhaps you and I have hired, forgive me. You have a higher IQ, which, allows you to do that. That’s definitely the case with the distribution of sales. I think there is some need for. Behavior and up skills that are unique to this environment.

The second point, I think I’ll answer the second question, which is why many of these things that have always needed suddenly become fashionable to talk about it’s because that’s what we do. I think we, we like to pick a few things and build on them and the race is really about who gets his or her realist.

I just wish and off some universal truths out with highfalutin terms in there. It’s universally seen as a good thing in a part of it is parading your likes and your comments on LinkedIn or whatever social channel of choice you have. So I think there’s that then the third piece, I think I need the fact that I think companies and buyers and sellers are genuinely stressed about trying to make the right decision because everyone’s being authored about with less.

Everyone’s basically concerned about the amount of runway they have. So this parade optimality that is required, to me, means that I, as a buyer will have time less time to do research. We’ll have less time to meet with two RFAs and RFPs. And I’m probably going to be relying a lot more on things like my immediate community, my network, people within my organization, like customers like me.

And these are the kinds of things that I think sellers need to be now retrained on because the environment has changed fundamentally again, as a result of this pandemic, in terms of time compression and availability of people who could spend time. With you talking about work in a non working environment, like going to a dinner or having drinks, especially if it was your coach or a champion, for example.

And a lot of those things are fundamentally changing. So if your methodology was set up for the old ways where you had the executive bridging conversation in person, and you had the theme demo, and you had the half-day workshop. That involved the use of, sticky notes. Those are all things that you’ve got to fundamentally pivot and reorient for this digital world in which no one’s going to get four hours in a zoom session.

Even QBR is me personally have completely shifted from a lift and shift of in-person VIOT type QBR to be completely asynchronous. And the only time we spend now are in small sessions where set us. Engage in groups and sharing ideas with marketing and others.

And those things are starting to work for us. I think that’s where I would come from more. I think that’s, what’s upleveling some of this conversation and creating some urgency around traditional skills, but with new modalities and approaches to them.

Andy Paul: Yeah. I think that’s right. I met, but I it’s funny. Cause I think that we got these. Competing forces, that, and how they’re responding to what’s going on. And so some people take what you’ve said, and there’s a certain segment of people in the echo chamber. That’s LinkedIn saying screw relationships, customer doesn’t have, yeah. You don’t need to have a relationship with your customer. In fact, they don’t need to think you’re likable. And I’ve had a fairly long discussion with a guy on an episode of the show about that. And I think they’re completely wrong. I think that actually we’re going the other way.

That’s time is short. It’s not gonna be this way forever. We know, but at this moment in time, we do have this ability to create this common ground. We do have this ability to demonstrate authentic empathy. And I actually I think a lot of sellers and myself included who spent Marc careers, selling large complex systems to very large companies.

I never took our customer out to dinner. Was selling overseas. I was having these executive bridging conversations on a telephone.  It’s almost like it’s back to the future again, because the people I know that were doing this really well, never relied on those things.

I always thought that, people that relied on golf and dinner and so on actually were compensating in some respects. They’re not being able to be more efficient, effective, otherwise.

Gopkiran Rao: Yeah. Yeah., I think maybe one reason for that is because our social engagement has crept over into our business engagement and by which, the other lines on. Twitter and Facebook and, they’re consuming everything in small videos and having things pushed to us via recommendations by some quote unquote smart machine or AI engine.

I think what has changed Andy from, in the time it’s not the plus principles. I think people are still embracing the first principles. I think there’s just an expectation, for example, that the way I should be trained. Other the way I deal with my customers should be similar to pushing two buttons on Amazon.

I should maybe know, as the buyer is, the buyer has now been trained. And I think part of it is because there is a new generation that is increasingly in more and more important roles, buying roles that are the key influences are they’re outright buyers. And a lot of these folks have been taught to expect that.

Someone has already understood your desires and your needs. And your ambitions has looked at people just like you in companies just like yours and is able to now make recommendations. Where your ability or need to do any kind of active thinking is limited to simply looking at two columns, comparing two products and at a micro level, giving you’re giving each other hobby balls and telling you which one is better score for your business.

So there is I think this instant gratification satisfaction issue. The second thing is that everything is presented to me when I need it before I know it. It comes to me with email, Walter, where my communication is it’s form factor optimized three it’s. Okay. For me not to have to engage with a human because the system I can tell the system what I want.

It will produce it for me. And if I can’t if it doesn’t, I’ll simply Google it and I’ll find it. And I wouldn’t, I don’t care about the fact that maybe someone is paid to have this search results higher, but inherently going to trust you. And maybe if I have enough resources to delegate to them and have them bring in the vendors and do some presentations, that’s the problem with the biases?

I think on the seller side, we have created this myth that sellers should expect everyone to basically orchestrate things. So that when the, when the lead comes in, the latest pre-qualified and then the marketing and the BDR and the sales consulting team is going to kick in to qualify challenge or convert or evangelize, and then management is going to come in and make themselves available to do some of the things you talked about, present the vision and mission, present the competitive differentiation lineup, the investors.

And the big customer logos. And then at CSMP is show up to present how they’re going to assemble. A beautiful high fidelity high-touch relationship-based support model. And so issue becomes if I’m going to be able to get all these things done, why the heck am I’m going to spend my time doing some of the things you’ve talked about.

So I think the good, so let’s we’ll do it. They don’t actually, they don’t actually don’t want it. Those things, they inherently understand they control their destiny and they are the hub off this, Off the spokes and this, so this kind of brings us back. The basic issue is enough.

What is the onsets and methodologies and management philosophy is it is a process method, all of these things, and that’s what differentiates leaders from lag that’s in my opinion. So I think these conversations will continue for the next 2000 years, who knows. But I don’t.

Andy Paul: We didn’t solve it today?

Gopkiran Rao: Think we can meet, we can sell them a lot of things, but we don’t do that enough.

Andy Paul: But one point about your point changing generations and buyers and influencers and champions. Yeah, absolutely true. Of course. That people don’t acknowledge enough though, is that, yeah, I’ve got a customer. I can serve one of having this idea in my head that I want to make this like a transaction I take care of on Amazon, but assuming they can’t cause a certain amount of complexity and contracts and yada, but the thing that is the great leveler is risk.

It doesn’t matter what generation you’re in. If you’re making a decision that encompasses some aspect of risk, whether for the organization or for, let’s say for the organization, then implicit in that is there’s risk for you personally in the decision that you make. What people want to do when there’s risk is they want to mitigate that risk.

And one of the ways that buyers mitigate risk is to talk to salespeople. And I think that this is, yeah, I think a lot of customers, yeah. People say, Oh yeah, your buyers don’t want to talk to sales, who aren’t sure who does not want to talk to salespeople, but the have to. And there’s been studies done on this already about, like a medical healthcare decisions that give people a choice between, Hey, here’s, we’ve got this AI based algorithm.

That’s gonna give you what your options are to treat this particular malady you have. And let’s say it entails some sort of view. Let’s say surgery, something that has risk and consequence is that overwhelmingly people still wanted to talk to a doctor, even though the algorithm they believed.

Generate more reliable responses to what they and guidance for what they should do. So I just don’t think as long as people are involved in making these decisions, that risk is so such a large structure, that our portion of the decision that it doesn’t really matter. The generation people want to mitigate their personal risk as well.

Gopkiran Rao: Look, I think this is a fantastic point and I’d like to maybe show some data as way of building on your point. And also I think the maturity of industries comes into play. I think the healthcare industry in particular, values. The word per minute ROI. Every doctor that spends time on filler woods is going to see his average utilization rate drop because Medicare, or an insurance company is not paying him or her.

A lot for bedside manner. Yeah. So they’ve actually gone to the opposite direction of what we want. But every word is measured in terms of how this is directly impact my hospital’s bottom line in many other industries. I think the problem is the opposite. And the data for me comes from one of the tools we’ve actually got.

We call it, call AI, it’s a conversation intelligence platform. And when I look at the data in terms of, everything from word count per minute to the use of filler words, For the use of preambles of rambles in conversation, it is absolutely shocking. Even you look at how extreme it is on the opposite.

End of the healthcare example we just talked about, and this has fared. I think your point becomes particularly key because buyers absolutely want to talk to sellers. There’s huge value in that post them to person interaction, but not if the person’s going to show up in Austin, the same old tired questions.

Meeting after meeting add no value, right? So a hundred percent aligned with you. And I think bod was what has been, and this is what I think technology makes possible. Now, when I think of new data-driven culture, I think it’s starting to embrace these tools a lot more. And then once you’ve done that, the second thing comes into play, which is another point you and I have talked about is understanding what skills should have been displayed on that call.

How much of that time should we have, should have been spent direct, doing needs analysis or discovery. Depending on the type of meeting, it was meant to be how much pre-work was done and presented on that call has the seven actively solicited next steps as he or she identified. Who else? The decision chain needs to be engaged in the next meeting, have the close, the meeting with the next meeting, scheduled a calendar.

That’s the kinds of things. I think many companies and sellers have not known even to ask or have you have, it’s been stuck on a. One, 10 by 12 inch page stuck on the wall somewhere, but maybe they look at once a week, every so often, and then their managers don’t note evaluate for that either.

So I think the second piece now becomes therefore, what are the skills that my sellers were required to demonstrate the behaviors and having a beta man measure them at that point in time, but also across points in time, across many calls with that customer and correlating that. Cause the velocity, for example.

And then the third thing that we have emphasized is we’ve now got the data don’t stop there. Don’t just let them off at the wrist on this as a slap on the wrist and a prayer and hope go back and actively reinforce. So remediate. Those gaps. Reinforce the good behaviors and remediate the gaps because the attention span problem is a corresponding issue.

And I think that’s all to bear. This next generation is, I think going to start seeing some challenges, because if you expect everything to be spoonfed and micro enabled and mobile optimized, that’s not always going to be effective. But I think that’s where technology and people have is to try to find that middle ground and hopefully get to solving the problem.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And I think along with that is I see one of the sur outgrowths of this, all of this, as you’re talking about is that there’s a fear of uncertainty and sellers have this in spades. I think part of the reason sellers gravitate to scripted interactions and so are more slow, more superficial because they’ve got a, they’re selling to a persona, not to the person, is that they’re afraid to ask questions. They don’t know the answers to.

Gopkiran Rao: That’s a really important point. Yeah.

Andy Paul: And I think that’s what we’re training people to do is. Yeah, you’ve I’ve read the persona of this person I’m talking to. Okay. These are their concerns. This is generally how we expect them to answer these questions. And I think we need to train people to say, look, every time you’re interacting with a buyer and it’s, first of all, you should assume that every interaction discovery as part of it, Because you’re always seeking to understand more because personal, the most information wins and it requires that you ask questions that by definition you don’t know the answer to, and potentially, but the buyer doesn’t know the answer to because then that causes them to think the question then becomes a commercial insight for the buyer.

Gopkiran Rao: Yes. Yes. Yes. I think this idea of essential skills competencies is something I think you’ve absolutely nailed there in terms of how you’ve talked about it. Agreed. Yeah. Yeah. And it’ll be, I think the universal skills amongst them are the key, the foundational skills, communication skills, willingness to learn prospecting.

However you define it.

Yes. Yes. Very much. And I think we’ve lost. I think we don’t pay enough attention to that. Absolutely. That’s what makes I think an athlete. And all-rounder into some extent when he, or she needs to be, because they are grounded, in the basic running, throwing, lifting skills at some basic level, yeah.

Andy Paul: So I created this acronym for those basic skills in sales. I think you master these for them. You don’t need anything else, fundamentally, which is you have to learn. The acronym is bald B a L D. I can remember I told us before, B stands for be human, right? Can you connect with another human being?

Can you build trust, scrubbed, building rapport, a ask, great questions. L listen to understand the thing that just escapes so many sellers is that. One of the biggest sources of value you can provide to a buyer is to understand them and to make them feel understood. That’s one thing I hate about sellers right now that they didn’t value it, that conversation about Salesforce because they just didn’t get what we were talking about.

Understanding becomes a critical source of value. So we’ve got be human ask, great questions, listened to understand and deed deliver great value. And that value comes from one of a variety of forms with it’s a question it’s data, it’s content it’s case, study customer story, whatever. And it’s just.

Yeah, you have to do this. Every interaction you practice this. And that’s, someone told me that several, like I don’t, if you’ve read that book, salt, fat acid heat, it was woman talks about, these are the, that’s what? This is the equivalent in sales.

Gopkiran Rao: I absolutely agree. I couldn’t have expressed it better. And of course, on a personal level, I relate to both. So that’s all really good.

Andy Paul: I’m sure. Yeah.  Clearly let you do it. We’re running short on time and as always, I didn’t get to 90% of what I had planned to talk about. So we’ll have you back and we’ll do that.

Gopkiran Rao: I look forward to that very much, Andy. Thank you so much for having me on.

Andy Paul: And people want to contact you or connect with you, LinkedIn is the place to go?

Gopkiran Rao: LinkedIn would be great. They can always find me also email gop@mindtickle.com and I look forward to our next conversation.

Andy Paul: All right. Perfect. Thank you.

Gopkiran Rao: Thank you. Bye.