Clear View of Sales Episode 10 with Amy Volas: The Importance Of Knowing Your Customer
Founder & CEO, Avenue Talent Partners
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Dan Cilley Hey, everybody; thanks for joining us today for the Vendor Neutral Zone Podcast Series. We’re here today with Amy Volas, founder and CEO of Avenue Talent Partners. Thank you for joining us today, Amy.
Amy Volas Thanks for having me, Dan. Good to be with you. We talked about this a lot over the course of time, and now it’s actually happening. So, thank you.
Dan Cilley You’re welcome. And we’re really excited to have somebody with so much experience, not only in the acquisition of sales technology but working with other companies who have had to walk through this process. So, Amy, what this podcast is all about is really about the good and the bad of acquiring sales technology. So, we’d love to hear both sides. And if you don’t mind, if you don’t mind starting off with kind of what the negative side of acquiring sales technology looks like. And if you’ve had an experience, we’d love to hear it.
Amy Volas Yeah. So, I’m a little bit of a unique bird, I feel like where I’ve spent. 20 plus years in the sales ecosystem in the world that I’m in today, I sit between being a buyer, being a seller, and being a service provider myself. So, I think I’m really sensitive to the buyer journey in today’s modern buyer journey and the things that people could get away with perhaps 10 years ago, five years ago. You can’t do that now. And I think it’s really because we’re living out loud. So, look at you and I, and I think you and I both understand that this is not the place to call out companies. That’s not my style, but if you look at the backdrop of your background, there are lots of different brands there, all under the sales ecosystem landscape. I remember what, like five years ago, your background screen could encapsulate who was there as a player, and now you’d have to have 10 screens. Like, it’s just it’s huge. And so, I’m saying that on purpose because I think if anybody is on the quote-unquote vendor side trying to sell something, this is really important to think about. From the standpoint that the options, we’re in a cluttered space, and if you polarize me away from you, versus being magnetic to me, I have a variety of different places where I can take my business, as does anybody that you’d want to be knocking on the door of. So, I had to disclaim that. I’m sorry, but I’ve got to think about it.
Dan Cilley It’s a partnership. If you’re not in partnership today with your clients, you’re not probably doing business. You know, your clients are looking you know, it’s a difficult time for many organizations. They don’t know what to do next. And they’re looking for guidance and they’re looking for support. And if you are pretending that you know everything and you have all the answers, they’re going to see right through that because no one has all the answers at all Amy, you’re totally right.
Amy Volas No one has the answers. But we all have control over what we do and how we do it. And so, what’s interesting is I know for me, at least when I buy something, I can tell if somebody is genuinely meeting me to understand what’s going on and I can tell when somebody is just trying to sell me something. And so, one of the biggest things that I would say for people is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes because it’s quite interesting when you ask yourself, would I send an email to someone? would I respond to somebody this way? I had a conversation yesterday and it has nothing to do with our ecosystem. My card was charged in March when all this went down. I called the service provider for my own personal life. It’s like one of the things that I do to work out. It was a studio, and they have an away version. And I said, look, I’m not asking you to not charge my account through a pandemic and I want your business to thrive and I want to come back to it. But even before this, you had an away option, which is a lesser amount of money. Put me on the away option and I’ll get back to you when I’m ready to come back. Because when we come back from this, if it’s in the summer and you open back up, I don’t live here for the summer. I have a different place where I live. So, I want to make sure that we avoid catastrophe. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. So, my husband and I were doing the books and he’s like, what is this charge? I get charged the full amount in June, so I call and as I call and I say, I really need your help. Remember when we talked in March? And so, from March to June, I’m not frozen and now we’re away and now I’m charged the full amount and I’m not back home and I didn’t contact you. How do we resolve this? And she’s like, you don’t. We sent you 15 emails that you never responded to, and so we charged your card and I said; Do you have my phone number? And she said, yes, and I spoke. I don’t check my personal email, right, like just like you, I’m in a pandemic, I’m running a business, I have other things going on and I didn’t authorize you to reinstate my account from away, which is what you told me the process was. And I didn’t tell you to charge my card. And here you are. And it just went downhill from there, right? So that’s not in our ecosystem, but that’s just fresh off the press yesterday, I think, and that’s a service for a gym. So that’s a different kind of deal. But your question is, what’s the worst thing or one of the worst things? So, it’s with a company that is in the sales technology space that is very well known, and I was really excited to talk to them because they could help me with what my business needed, and I’d heard really good things. And so, I go trotting over and I fill out their lead form on the website when I’m just looking for a few quick answers to even see, like, am I your ideal buyer? Because I’m small potatoes. I’m a small business owner. So, it’s like if you’re trying to go after the enterprise or you have like crazy minimum thresholds like that’s not going to be me. And any time I buy something, I try to put myself into the seller shoes as well. Like, look, I’ll be the first person to say I’m not your ideal prospect. You’re going to waste time. Don’t call me. I’m not trying to be a jerk. I just will never buy this. So, the faster you can qualify to know, the better it is for everybody. I’m a big believer in that. So, I have to fill out this form. At the same time, like the chat box is going off and I’m like, I just wanted it to shut up, like, I just want to, like, get what I need. Within. Like. I don’t know, twenty-four hours’ time somebody reaches out to me, which is fine, and again, remember, I have just a few quick questions. That’s it. So, then I get an email that’s like. I can’t, it makes me so mad when this happens, I get an email that’s like, thanks for visiting. If you want to talk to us, find a time here, like demanding, like find a time on my Calendly link. Like what?
Dan Cilley Right. So, you’re right.
Not only do I have to fill out the form now, I have to go to Calendly. I don’t even know who I’m talking to. Right. And then at the same time, maybe an hour later and I’m sitting on the calendar thing because I’m like, this is so ridiculous. As I’m also researching other companies that do what they do because I’m just starting to get like ehh right. My phone rings, I’m on a different call, and it rings 20 times in a row from the same number, so I’m on like a robot dialer thing and I pick up the call when I’m off the phone and it’s just someone that just starts talking at me like we sent you. It’s like demanding, the tone. We sent you this link. You came to our website. You haven’t responded. It was that. And it was like, can you talk now? No, I can’t talk now. But I’m in, so I go through it, which is so ridiculous, I go through it, I get a time scheduled with some other person, so I don’t even know where I’ve been or where I’m going at this point with some other person. I spend, thirty-five minutes with that person, they’re asking me a bunch of different questions and I kept saying; I’ll answer those if it makes sense. I need to understand if this makes sense for my time. I have three really quick questions. And it was like, no, no, no, but wait, if you don’t realize and I’m like, no, who is your ideal customer base? Because I’m a small business, well, I couldn’t get a straight answer. Now I’m now it feels just shady and gross. And I’m like, this is icky. And I said, so you’ve confirmed to me, yes or no, that you do business with people like me. Yes, I do. Ok, great. I want to see one thing about your tech. Can you pull up the software? Like I don’t want a demo. I just want to see, like, pull up a test account. I don’t care. No, no. You have to talk with an account executive for a demo. Like what? What? So, forget about what I want. Now I have to do this so fine. I go through this, I get on the phone with the account executive and I said, I will not go one step further. And you have to understand, I use my voice and I’m big on using my voice. I won’t go one step further if this thirty-five minutes that I’ve spent with you if I have to go through the same. Series of questions and have the same conversation if I can’t see what I need to see. I’m going to get very frustrated, just so you know. So, I’m a big believer in setting expectations and communication and proactiveness and all that. So, what happens? Get on the phone with this person and it’s the same questions and I said, did you guys communicate through your handoff process? And it’s like, no, I didn’t have time because I’ve been. Wait. All I heard was I didn’t have time. Everything else after that, just like sort of fell away. You can imagine what happened and. That’s it, like, nope.
Dan Cilley It sounded like, you know, the organizations, you know, their goal or their end result or a positive result is getting you through a process. Right. It’s obvious that you know, they were just trying to checkboxes or trying to move you down the cycle and from an SDR, BDR role into an Account Executive, because now, hey, that SDR, BDR got credit for passing you off to that Account Executive who now didn’t do their own research and now didn’t look at the information that was probably shared with them about you and your organization and then starts vomiting information about their product and solution, which they know nothing. They don’t know if it’s going to align to your needs whatsoever or process. And that’s where it goes wrong. Right, Amy? It’s just like at the end of the day, it’s you know, if they just took the time and answered your three questions, they probably could have derived a lot of information from those questions. And that would have led them down a road towards a presentation, probably don’t get me wrong, but the presentation would have at least aligned to your needs. So, yeah, that’s terrible. I apologize for that company. I hope they’re not on our landscape. But if it’s an organization that, an organization that needs to really rethink their customer success strategy, even from the get-go, it’s you know, customer success begins with engagement. It’s not a result of closing a sale. It’s you know, it is, it begins with that initial engagement with the prospect, and if it’s not a good experience, if it’s not an experience where they’re understanding your process and your priorities before offering their solution, it’s probably not going to end well. So, Amy, tell us about a good experience. Tell us about when it’s gone right, and what does good look like when it comes to sales technology?
Amy Volas So good for me looks like you’ve listened to me. You’re letting me drive the bus a bit in terms of where I am in my search and selection and decision-making process, and you seek to understand that versus what you mentioned before of here’s my process. I don’t care about where you’re coming from. We’re going to put you through our process. And I would, I will say this for the companies that are doing that. I know you love to talk about your growth and your new logos and all of those things. I’d encourage you to take a look at your lost opportunity metrics at the front end of the funnel because that’s probably not a cute look so and churn. So, I digress. Anywho, I went to Modern Sales Pros. I’m big in the Modern Sales Pros community. This is the most recent one. And I was like, oh my gosh, I almost cried because I haven’t seen. And it was so easy, like, you’re going to wait for this big story. But here’s what happened. I went to Modern Sales Pros. I have a CRM that I use and there are a lot of things that I love about the CRM, but there’s one thing in particular that I don’t love, and I’ve been trying to solve the problem for like three years. Really, truly and I can’t. But everything else that I like sort of eclipses this one thorn in my side that creates a lot of administrative work for me that I don’t want to be doing. So, I want to Modern Sales Pros and I talked about it and was like, Hey. Has anybody cracked the code for this? And nothing was really coming into play and there was one person that had responded to me throwing out a suggestion that I already knew that didn’t really misread what I put like. Oh, sorry, I didn’t read that the way I’m like, no, I got you. And that does work really well here. But that’s not what I’m trying to solve for. So Modern Sales Pros has a very, very strict policy on you cannot pitch anything.
Dan Cilley Yeah, I know. Yeah.
Amy Volas For those that are listening that want to be part of it, you can’t do that. You will, you will get suspended and or kicked out. And this particular gentleman came to me and said, look, I’m not I promise you; I’m not trying to pitch anything, and I don’t want to break the rules in this community that I care about. But this problem that you’re trying to solve, there is a use case and I, I’m not trying to sell you. So, I love the self-awareness, right? Like and really being sensitive and not just trying to do it for, like, a ploy and sent me a video and was like, if you haven’t reported me to Modern Sales Pros yet, I will show you just the use case and leave it here. And it was, they created a dummy account for me. They simulated me and they simulated the thing that I wanted to do inside of the CRM that I worked with. So, it wasn’t just like it was super personalized to me and my use case. And I literally was like bug-eyed and so excited like I’ve been looking for this for three years. This is amazing. And he was sensitive because he didn’t want to be like my company can do this on Modern Sales Pros because it would have broken the rules. Immediately I was like, how do I get my hands on this, I need this, and he was like, I want you to have confidence in this, right? I’ll set you up with an account. I’ll give you a bunch of free credits to do what you need to do. Sent me videos on how to do it, instead, just pointing me on how to do it in my instance, I hit a snafu and it’s the same person, by the way. So, it’s not over segmented. It’s not this icky handoff. All the things I’m saying are contained there. So, we’re trending. It’s fast. It’s easy. I’m excited. Even though I hit a snafu, completely got on it. It’s like, don’t worry about that. Now you can do this has followed up with me three times to see. I saw that you did this. How did that work out for you? It met me where I was when I needed it the most, and it solved for pain that I was feeling, and it’s not just how do you like the product? It was like you’re using it this way. You’re using it a little bit of a different way. What’s the use case there? Let me see how I can help. I will scream this from the mountaintops, I will refer people to this, I will go to Modern Sales Pros and talk about this. That’s the best-case scenario. So, see the differences. Like, I didn’t have to go through a bunch of hoops. This person made it easy for me to understand. The videos were like 30 to 60 seconds, not here’s this video that’s forty-five minutes long. Like it. It packed such a powerful punch that made it easy for me. And now I’m like, die-hard, let’s do this thing. And I’m one of those people that if I have a great experience, I want other people to have a great experience with you and I want to help you along the way. That’s sort of how I am. But yeah.
Dan Cilley Well, because, you know, the sales funnel isn’t a funnel anymore. It’s an hourglass, right? So, it’s a scenario where groups like Modern Sales Pros, Vendor Neutral, resources that are credible, that are not out there marketing spinning solutions, and that you can very easily go out on LinkedIn and many other resources that, you know, people will jump to the top of a tower and talk about the solutions. But they don’t know the process of the organizations, the priorities of that organization, and they just talk about solutions to talk about solutions because they think they’re going to get a referral, or they think they’re going to get credit for it or something like that. But at the end of the day, we need to be able to bring solutions that match an organizations process priorities and challenges that they need to address and solutions that listen that meet you in places like Modern Sales Pros, like Vendor Neutral, resources where you can feel confident that the information you’re going to be downloading or digesting is accurate. At the end of the day, that’s what’s exciting about today’s economy, is that it’s moving away from vomiting of information where people are just, you know, looking for their opportunity to just shout about. It’s more about, hey, you came because you saw I brought value in this conversation, and because of that, my solution also kind of brings some value. So, I want to tell you about it. And it was more of a relationship that was built out of, out of time, right about out of about opportunity to connect, that led to an opportunity to sell, which I think is fine. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t have a problem with an organization like Modern Sales Pros, you know, limiting that ability to spin your solution because, you know, that isn’t the place for it, but it is a place for you to meet peers that are like you looking for similar results. I totally agree.
Amy Volas Yeah. Show me, don’t tell me. You know that is the big thing is like I can find out, and especially for me as a buyer, I’ve been in the game a really long time. I’m pretty well like all these brands that are on your backdrop. I know about all of them and or I’ve talked to a lot of them and or know others that have used them. I mean, I firmly planted in the ecosystem. So, if you’re selling me something, don’t talk at me. I’m already trending with you, right? And listen to me and understand my use case. And if it doesn’t make sense, like some of the best things I’ve done in my own business selling things is to hear what they’re saying and say, you know, all the things that you shared with me. These are the top two that sound like the most impactful, important top of the priority list. Did I get that right? Yes, you did. So, I can do one of those things really, really well. The other one, I can’t so well. Yes, we’re thinking about it. Yes, it’s on the product roadmap, but it’s nothing that I can do. Do you how many people that are like, well, that actually isn’t that important to me. The first thing really is let’s talk about what you can do or thank you for being honest with me, let me know when you start doing that. I’d rather do what’s right and have a great pipeline because I’m doing the right work with the right people consistently, so I don’t have to do devious deals that are going to churn out anyway later. That’s going to hurt a business later. So, for all the sales leaders that think about this, if you’re responsible for revenue as a CRO, you’ve got to be thinking about the full life cycle. And it’s one thing that your SDR is making it rain over here for scheduling a bunch of demos. But if your CS team has a crazy churn rate, something’s broken in the evolution there. And I don’t love how we just look at it in these little slices. And I guess I’m old school. I come from the place where I had to do every part of the sales job myself, from cradle to grave and after the sale, land, and expand. I’m so grateful for that. And I really hope that we get more back to a place of that because the insight that you gleaned from my success story, I dealt with the same person and we’re in a quick motion and they got my money really fast because of that. Why slow things down? Because I have to go from an SDR to an AE to a demo with a sales engineer to this, to that, and then you think about enterprise sales, we like no, no, especially if you have my uncle who’s been in sales forever and we’re talking about this recently. He’s working on an eight hundred and fifty million dollar deal. The spreadsheet alone has over a thousand tabs. Do you know how many different people there are in that? Could you imagine being like, no, no, hold, please. You now have to talk to this other person and nobody it’s like, no, nobody’s talking to each other. Nobody knows what’s going on. I don’t, I don’t get that for the sake of predictable efficiency. That’s not how it works anymore. You can still be predictable. You can still create efficiency. But if you’re doing that at the expense of your buyer, good luck. You’re not going to be around for long.
Dan Cilley I totally agree. You know, I think about the SDR, BDR role and I think about how well trained some of those individuals can be, and they can absolutely carry a prospect far deeper into the sales cycle. And especially if that was why, the why, the buyer identified with that organization, what originally attracted them to that organization. Why not keep it? Keep that connection going? Right? Why not carry them right to the close if it’s an opportunity to do so? If there’s a need for sales engineering, if there’s a need for additional insights and something that’s beyond the capability of that seller, don’t get me wrong, you need to bring in those additional resources, but keep that seller in the sales cycle, keep that person, that relationship that they developed part of it. I totally agree with you. That makes a lot of difference.
Amy Volas Well, hire competent, capable people if you’re hiring an SDR or a BDR, and by the way, no, knock on that. I just want them to get into full-cycle motion, because here’s the thing we’re also taking away from the sales community, meaning people are getting worse. They’re not getting better. If all I do is close deals, there’s so much more that you have to learn about how to engage with the customer. And if you’re not up for that, you’re not up for sales. Please go. And I know that’s an unpopular opinion and I say it with peace and love, but honestly. If I hired somebody, I don’t care if they have point five years of experience or they have 50 years of experience, I don’t care. This is a universal thought process that I have. If you are not equipped and able and capable to have a discussion with a buyer. Why are you here? Why did I hire you to hamstring somebody, to be like, you’re just going to get them to do something, that’s that seems really slick to me, right? Like, I just want to get you to do something and it’s not in line or in tandem with everything else that happens after that. Wouldn’t it be great if they’re already doing the hard work of getting somebody on the phone and engaged and sparking interest, wouldn’t it be lovely if they could go through the full life cycle into your point? Yes, if it gets really complex, if you’re hiring somebody that’s capable and competent, they’re going to be aware enough to be like, oh, wait, this is getting a little bit bigger than me. I hear what you’re saying. These are the questions that you have, am I right? Yes. Let me pull in the right person. You will not have to go through this again. I will be there every step of the way. I wish, I would love that I’d be like, yes, I love you. Thank you for making it easy for me to get my question answered. That’s bigger than you. Self-awareness for the win. I’m going to close with you faster. I’m not yelling at the audience or you. By the way, this just like is the stuff that I get.
Dan Cilley You know, I’m on board because, you know, we bring in these account management roles, which I believe maybe post sale, there is a handoff because there is a role, different role here, right? So, but that account manager really does not need to be the closer. I totally agree with you. I believe that our BDR’s, SDR’s can be trained effectively to bring in sales engineering, to bring in other resources. That knowledge sharing within an organization, if done appropriately, can be incredibly powerful. Many organizations don’t share that understanding they have with each other. And, you know, you find out that so-and-so knows this or knows how to get into that organization or so and so, you know, and really at the end of the day is if you had that awareness, you could pretty much take an opportunity through the entire sales cycle yourself without question.
Amy Volas And even post sale, right? So right before this, we just onboarded a new client where we’re hiring a senior director of customer success. It’s an executive leader role underneath the SVP. Great. And I said, what’s the intersection like? Let’s really define between you and the sales team. And I loved what they said, and that’s why I’m excited to work with them. Sales never goes away out of this team. And they, when they go to integration, right? As a salesperson, I’m not a technical person. I don’t know how to integrate something and that’s ok. But I want to make sure that the buyer is getting what we talked about that we would deliver. So, I still absolutely have a place in that right? Because I was there on the front end. But especially in enterprise sales, Dan, and I think you’d agree with this. The party is just getting started when you sign the deal, so if I think about like the Procter and Gamble’s of the world where there are a million other brands underneath the mama umbrella and you’ve got lots of different places and you just get in with one, there’s a whole new world for you. If CS’s just worried about the renewal and growth, for one, what happens to the rest of the ecosystem, right.? So, like, that’s, again, a different topic, maybe we’ll have to do this again about the misconceptions of enterprise sales, but there’s a whole other thing that can go on and why would you shackle your ability to grow when CS and sales can come together and do a beautiful job and it doesn’t have to be competitive and it doesn’t have to be icky and can certainly be magnetic to the buyer? I don’t understand why that doesn’t happen more. It just really bums me out.
Dan Cilley Especially the enterprise level, I totally agree. Our client base is squarely set at the large mid-market enterprise level and just the compliance, legal requirements alone are six months to nine months sometimes just to get through contract, you know, then you have to do discovery. And as you mentioned, the stakeholder is not a handful. We’re talking 20, 30, 50 stakeholders in large organizations that all have their own technology, all have their own data, all have their own impact within the organization. So, it’s a very different animal, especially at the enterprise level and most SAAS organizations don’t even understand how to sell into that or into those organizations. They’re very comfortable SMB through mid-market, but once we get above those mid-market size organizations, it’s very different.
Amy Volas Two thumbs up to that. And the other thing is to that point, I’ll leave it here. Is it takes a really keen ear to understand the opportunity, so from a CS perspective and I’m pro CS by the way, but if I’m thinking about growth and retention, I’m not necessarily thinking about additional opportunity. And there are signals, right? That can tee you up to potential additional opportunity. And if you don’t know that or you’re not thinking that way, you’re missing out on opportunity, right? So, like, I just, what I don’t love that happens with what we’re talking about, back to our topic of good and bad of a buyer experiences. Sales is not one size fits all. I don’t care if we are talking about SMB, mid-market, enterprise, channel, all the things that you can do. B2B, B2C. OK, great. Those are all things. But even if you and I were selling the exact same thing to the exact same buyer, but we’re in different companies that are competitive, it’s not a one size fits all, and so the faster we all realize that you don’t just put people through your car wash and hope that they come out sparkly on the other side and then be disappointed when there’s still mud all over the place, the better it will be.
Dan Cilley Well, I’ll take that as the final word, Amy. So, again, Amy Volas, with Avenue Talent Partners, she’s the CEO and co-founder sorry, CEO, and founder of Avenue Talent Partners. Thank you so much for being here today. Thank you for joining the Vendor Neutral Zone podcast series. We just truly enjoy this. Your perspective and your experience are amazing, and we really are going to see a lot of value in sharing this with our buying community. Thanks again.
Amy Volas You’re welcome. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a long time in the making, so this is a treat. Thank you. And helpful for anybody that was listening to this. Thanks for joining us and hearing me wax on.
Dan Cilley Well, thank you so much, Amy. It was really great having you.
Amy Volas Thank you again.