Episode 163: Michelle Accardi on Creating Synergy Across Revenue Teams to Serve Customer Needs

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast, I’m Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space, and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so that they can be more effective in their jobs.

Today, I’m excited to have Michelle from Star2Star join us. Michelle, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Michelle Accardi: Great. Hi everyone, I’m Michelle Accardi. I’m the president and chief revenue officer of Start2Star, a Sangoma company. Star2Star is a communications company that is able to handle all of your cloud communications and collaboration needs, whether that means you need assistance with communications on-premise with an SD-WAN or directly all in the cloud, as well as any other cloud needs you might have with regards to bringing a secure workspace that has communications all baked into your organization. Thus, enabling you to get all your applications and communications and collaborations in the cloud via our connected workspace. That’s what Star2Star does. Happy to be here today.

SS: Extremely happy to have you as well. You have a wide range of experience, and I want to click into some of the things that you’ve done along the way during this conversation, but you have a ton of experience leading teams across the business including marketing, sales, and operations.

I’d love to understand from you, Michelle, how does this experience across many types of revenue-facing roles really influence your approach as a revenue leader?

MA: Well, it’s important to me as a revenue leader to know that whatever I’m going to sell is going to be able to be implemented and give a really, really good customer experience. Having been in all of those different roles, I really learned how important it is that an organization becomes a well-oiled machine between its operational backend and the message it puts out into the market and the promise that it makes to its customers.

SS: Absolutely. Now, you also, in a recent interview, stated that one of your secrets to success is empathy. How does empathy improve your effectiveness as a revenue leader?

MA: Well, first of all, we’re all human. We all have different stressors and challenges, whether in business or in personal life. For me, being an empathetic listener and someone who can relate to the different challenges that my employees, that my partners, that my customers have, really makes me more effective. I can come at solving problems from the perspective of those employees, customers, and partners. At different times in our lives, we all go through different stressors, and I think that when your leader is someone who you can confide in and can explain where you’re having troubles and that person can be honest and open and transparent with you around where they may have also overcome challenges can be very uplifting. Whether that’s leading an organization or whether that’s partnering and helping a business grow, being able to share the pains and trials and tribulations I think make people closer. That’s why I think empathy is so important.

SS: I love that. I think you’re spot on, it’s absolutely critical. How can teams across the revenue organization embrace and utilize empathy with customers to improve the customer experience that you’ve been talking about up until this point?

MA: First, I think it’s just leaning into understanding what are the customer’s pain points? Why are they talking to you right now? What’s the thing that they’re trying to solve? Versus saying, I have this thing that I’m trying to sell. Let’s take a step back and say, what problem are you trying to solve?

Also, understanding the impact that it might be having on a customer. You might find out that if that project doesn’t get done, that person may be on the line or they’re experiencing some other challenge that’s tying up their time. Again, the more personally you can get to know people and share experience, the more likely they’re going to have trust in you to go forward in a project.

SS: Yeah, absolutely. Now, I want to talk a little bit about the customer experience a bit more and the sales process because in 2018, which feels like a lifetime ago now at this point, you discussed the ways in which the traditional sales funnel had changed as a result of the internet.

How has the virtual world that we have all been living in, drastically so in the last 18 months, how has that exacerbated these changes and how can companies, from your perspective, effectively adapt as the sales funnel continues to evolve?

MA: Well, look at almost every sale in some way or another starts on the internet. People are going to be researching and looking for the right solution and then they’re going to go out into their networks as well as going into your websites. Going out and again, going to events. There are all these different vectors where opportunity can happen, and you have to be at the tip of the spear of all of those. It can be very challenging, especially if you’re a smaller organization that doesn’t have the resources necessarily to be everywhere. You’ve got to more effectively use all of your employees.

I like to say everyone is in revenue generation and sales in my organization. It really starts with, I’ll call it, creating a great employee experience. All of your employees become advocates for you. Then, figuring out how you deploy those resources, whether that’s making sure that you’ve got a great web presence, a great SEO, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, that if your sales teams and everyone in your organization go out to an event, whether it’s sponsored by your company or not, is representing your brand and who you are well. And doing so because they love who they’re working for. Honestly for me, I think it’s, it’s all of those things.

SS: Yeah. You mentioned that the sales process doesn’t end with the purchase. I’d love for you to elaborate on that to our audience, but how can, from your perspective, how can sales enablement help support revenue teams beyond the initial sale to continue to drive value with customers throughout their entire life cycle?

MA: Sure. Well, first of all, things don’t end when the sale happens. I mean, first of all, you want to be able to stay connected. This is going to sound funny probably, but sometimes when things go wrong it’s actually the biggest opportunity to have your company shine because it’s all in how you handle when things go wrong. Or when you’re in the middle of an implementation, it’s how well you’re servicing and treating that customer that’s going to give them brand affinity later on to hopefully help you grow your revenue share because it’s so much easier to sell into a current customer than it is to go out and get a net new one.

I think it’s everything from how someone answers the phone to making that customer feel really important and not like an afterthought after the sale, to being proactive and following up with the customer. Let’s say you don’t have any issues with something that you sold or implemented, but if you haven’t touched your customer, you’re giving someone else the opportunity to get in there and create a wedge for the future. You want to make sure that you’re always touching your customer, telling them that you thank them and that you want to get their feedback on how the product is working for them. If there are challenges, bringing that forward to your operational staff and product staff and such, and helping to get whatever needs to be worked into the next dev and design cycles.

That’s the opportunity if you do your post-sales engagement right, and that’s going to grow your customer for the long-term and hopefully lead to more revenue for it.

SS: Absolutely, I think that’s spot on. Now, just to close out on this though, change can really be intimidating for human beings in general, but maybe especially so even with sales teams or revenue facing teams that are charged with a quota potentially every quarter.

Do you have any advice on persevering through new and uncomfortable things? I think you said, “feeling the fear” and doing it anyway, how can sales enablement help revenue teams to embrace that mantra and successfully navigate change in today’s business world?

MA: We’ve all just lived through an incredible amount of change, having gone through COVID and lockdowns and uncertainty around the economic and social change that’s been happening in our world. What I’d like to say to everyone is you’re probably not going to feel that level of change hopefully in your lifetime again. Anything you’re going to be up against is not going to compare probably to what you’ve literally just gone through, at least on a global economic scale, or at least I hope.

That’s why I say you can “feel the fear” and do it anyway. Most decisions that salespeople and sales enablement organizations have to make are not existential to your business, so make a decision, commit to it. As a sales enablement organization, provide the data to the sales organization to help them know what the good safe bets to make are, but also support them if you see that things are not going the way that they should. I’m a big fan of agility and don’t be afraid to say, hey, we’re going in the wrong direction, we need to pivot. I think what smart sales enablement leaders do to enable their revenue organizations is provide good insights into, are you making the headway that you need to? If you’re not, helping revenue leaders to know where else they can go and how else you can pivot to try to find that success.

SS: I couldn’t agree more. Michelle, thank you so much for joining us today. I enjoyed our conversation.

MA: Me too. Thanks so much for having me Shawnna.

SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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