Episode 90: Sam Griffard on Prioritizing Client Success Throughout the Sales Process

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am 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 they can be more effective in their jobs. Today, I’m excited to have Sam Griffard from Clearwater Analytics join us. Sam, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization, to our audience.

Sam Griffard: Yeah. Thanks for having me, it’s an honor. I’m grateful to be here. So yeah, Sam Griffard with Clearwater Analytics, director of sales enablement. Clearwater Analytics is a SAS platform within the FinTech space. We work with organizations that have investment portfolios and we help them with their investment accounting, regulatory reporting, compliance monitoring, performance analytics, risk analytics, and a host of other things.

SS: Well Sam, I’m excited to have you join us today, so thank you for taking the time. Now, in a recent LinkedIn post (you often actually post about the sales development reps at your organization), you actually mentioned, that with client success, what is really top of mind at the moment for your SDR is when they start research on new people and new organizations to reach out to. From your perspective, why is it important to take this client-centric approach at the top of the funnel?

SG: Yeah, so I’d say it really makes us think from the very first time that we pick up an account or start to research the individuals at those organizations, what what’s in it for that individual? How is this going to impact their role? How is this going to impact their group? And then, how is this going to impact their entire organization? It really helps us align our value to the organization’s goals and initiatives, as well as the individuals’ (and their group) and what their needs are, what their challenges and issues are. So, client success is at the core of our culture and really, I mean, it should be for any organization.

We see too often organizations that are thinking more about cutting cost or what’s in it for their organization, and we see them repackaging their products and services. They don’t actually have the client’s needs in mind. They’re thinking, ‘how can we make this look better, seem a little bit different?’ as opposed to ‘what does the market actually need? What do our clients want?’ That’s when we step in and share how we solve market challenges, and how we’ve built products and services based on the market feedback.

SS: And how do you help to drive that client centricity across the entire client journey through your sales enablement function? I would love for our audience to get a few actionable tips from you on this front.

SG: Yeah, obviously our teams are researching heavily before ever reaching out, before ever meeting with individuals that organizations. Tailoring or customizing the message is a standard taught from day one on our sales team. So, with that as kind of our core focus, there are three things that we spend quite a deal of time on, training on, practicing, discussing, listening, and seeing how we’re doing. The first one that comes to mind is questions– how we use questions throughout the sales process, all the way from, BDRs, emails, phone calls, LinkedIn messages, whatever it may be in their cold outreach, all the way through a true discovery call, our first meeting with an organization, subsequent demos, subsequent meetings.

Questions and discoveries should be throughout the entire sales process. And for us, it’s a genuine curiosity for what our prospects and clients processes are and why they’re that way today.

It’s very common that you’ll hear somebody asking questions like so how do you do it today? What does it look like? How many people are involved? Are there other people outside of your group that are involved? Do you have to send information over to somebody or are you waiting on information? And that’s not where it ends, it’s then okay, why? Why is it set up that way today? Is that how it’s always been done? Is that the way that it has to be done based on internal mandates? Is it because that’s the only way you can get it done, due to limitations of products and processes? It really helps us understand them, their unique situations and nuances because we’re looking to enhance their processes and help them form a better way.

The other one would be stories, and how we use stories all throughout the sales process. By sharing the experiences of their peers, it helps them formulate ideas and improvements on their own. I love it when we’re talking to somebody and they start to monologue where they’re like, ‘Oh, I can see how this is going to do this. Well, what if it could do this?’ And then they’ll ask us questions like, ‘Could this happen? Could this actually like turn out this way?’ As they start to come up with these ideas on their own, it helps them get comfortable with the change because they can see that it’s been totally done with their peers, and they can see what it looks like after the change.

So, then this ties perfectly into to setting the client up for success throughout the sales process all the way through implementation. It’s crucial to align expectations and sync up on what their end goals are and what we’re trying to achieve all the way through to launch and then steady-state.

All right then, I’d say the third one is kind of a culmination of questions and stories. It’s one of the sales methodologies that we follow, which is gap selling or a current versus future state. So, we will actually sit down with our prospects and our clients, and we’ll go through this process of discovery and finding out, what their current systems are – processes, who’s involved, individuals, groups, where they’re getting information externally, the different tools that they use today– so that we can create a visual diagram of what we understand their current state to be. It allows us time to sit together and iterate to make sure that we actually understand their current state today, exactly how their lives are today.

Clients and prospects appreciate that we want to understand them inside and out. It allows us to present the possible future state. They should decide, you know, should they decide to make a change? If they decide to go with Clearwater, they can see and understand where their day to day might change, how it will change, why it needs to change, because they can see the efficiencies that will be gained.

This puts the individuals in a position of having a positive impact in their role, in their group, and in their organization. Everyone’s happy when they can successfully implement change for better, but they’re even happier when others see that it was their accomplishment, where they kind of stand as a hero within the group or the organization.

The culmination of questions and stories really ends with that current versus future state diagram where we understand them and then we show them what their life could be. I love it. That’s often where you start to see a lot of these monologues, where they start to understand how it’s going to change their lives. That’s where there’s excitement, the eyes light up, and that’s just a powerful moment.

SS: I love that. I love that current versus future. Now, in the current day, everything obviously has gone quite virtual. So, what are some skills that your sales reps need in order to effectively engage with clients in a more virtual setting?

SG: Yeah, so kind of going back to what I just said in terms of being able to see their eyes light up, to see them almost perk up, there’ve been several times where we’ve been face to face in a board room doing this finalist presentation of their current versus future state, and you can see heads pop up from taking notes, you can see eyebrows raise. Their whole demeanor changes.

And in our current situation, not being able to sit there in their offices with them face to face, it’s crucial to have your video on. So, there’s a few items here: video is absolutely one of them, a focus on written messaging, and the phone. These three things are not revolutionary, but how you approach them can be revolutionary. If you’re looking at using video, you better be using video. You better have your video on. If you’re not, then you’re missing out on some of the most powerful discovery cues needed in sales.

Then another part of video – are you sending them videos? We use videos all the way from prospecting through to close. Even after that, where we’re doing demo recap videos, we’re walking them through micro-demos, it also shows that you’re a human. They can see you, they can see your excitement as well. It’s good to be able to see their nonverbal cues when you have the video on.

The other one was written messaging. We spend a lot of time on our messaging. You don’t have to be a master writer. However, you should be able to sit down and have an introspective view on your messaging. We spend a lot of time discussing and AB testing our messaging. How will the recipient receive this? Which channel works best to deliver this message? Is it email? Is it LinkedIn? Is it something that we can do over a text message? And then, how will they read it? Does it sound human or does it sound just like a robotic deliverance of some, non-tailored message. Is it more about them than it is about us? This obviously all ties back to our core values of truly finding the WIIFM for our prospects and clients.

And then the last one, the phone. Calling, you know. When you pick up the phone, do you care more about your time and purpose, or do you care more about their time? Every salesperson wants to take that phone call recipient’s time. They’re always asking, ‘Hey, do you got a few minutes, or did I catch you at a bad time? Can I get 30 seconds to tell you why I’m calling?’ We don’t do that. We want to be respectful and earn that right to be able to actually have some of their time. When we call our prospects, we lead with, ‘Hey, it’s Sam over at Clearwater, how have you been? Hey, we don’t want to take any of your time today’, then simply looking to find time to connect in a time that works best for you because I thought it made sense to chat based on ABC or XYZ.

SS: I love that. Now, as a company that focuses on aggregating and analyzing data for your clients, I would love to hear from you how data plays a role in your approach to sales enablement.

SG: Yeah, if you look at my LinkedIn, you can see that I went to school, I have an associate’s degree in professional sales and I have a bachelor’s degree in technical sales. I am 100% a salesperson through and through. I had people, my siblings, and other people tell me at a young age: you need to be a salesperson someday.

There’s a lot of us in the sales industry that are very natural, naturally gifted. But in my degree, I learned that the most successful– and then even after my degree, honestly, being at organizations and seeing successful reps– the ones that are the most successful are not the ones who are just naturally gifted.

They’re the ones who can combine the art of sales and the science of sales. So, when I approach sales enablement, I’m thinking about both. Because we’re a data-driven company, I have that all around me each and every day, but it is something that I learned in my degree and also through my experience, that you need to have that data.

We have this saying at Clearwater: Facts, not feelings. When I look at sales enablement, and I look at our team and what they need, oftentimes I’m looking at Salesforce, I’m running reports, I’m doing analysis. One process specifically that comes to mind, was we were looking at our BDR team, and we saw that year over year, we were setting up more and more meetings. So if you looked at 2019 versus 2018, total new meeting set, we set more. 2018 had more than 2017, 2016, and so on and so on. And then we could see, okay, in the month of May 2019 versus the month of May 2018, same thing, more meetings.

Then at the tail end, we could see that our win rates were consistently increasing as well. However pipeline didn’t seem to be growing at the same rate as new meetings and so okay, there’s got to be something going on here. Looking at the sales funnel and then going into Salesforce and looking at data, I was able to identify kind of that first meeting, our discovery calls, how many of them actually converted to a second meeting– whether that was a demo, an in-person meeting, a meeting with more individuals at their organization– as we start to multithread into their organization. And we noticed that we would spend eight months getting into some of these organizations through our BDR efforts.

We’d have that one meeting with them and we’d have nothing, nothing else after that. And so we could see that there was a hole in our funnel and it was around the discovery process, that very first meeting. It was the data that showed us that. Then we could go back to the drawing board of sales enablement, around training and coaching and say, okay, what’s going wrong? Why do we have these issues? Why does the data say this?

We started to gather anecdotal evidence, interviewing the reps. We started listening in on calls and then we identified some things that our top reps consistently did, and we identified had other things that, maybe weren’t best practice.
We’d go out to the market and we’d try to verify, is what we think is a best practice truly a best practice in the industry? What is everybody else doing? And you can, you can look at all the material that is produced about sales best practices. Then, we develop a training course on best practices for discovery calls– things you should do and things you shouldn’t do, things you should do every single time.

We started to produce that training. Did the training, had guest speakers come in to share their experiences of ‘this is how I implemented this best practice’. And then, we started to look at the data again. It’s not just a one time, looking at the data. It’s constantly looking at the data and making sure and tracking. We could see that there was an uptick in second meetings after that discovery call, after we did that training. We had some of those individuals come back to the team and share their experience saying, ‘I didn’t do this on my discovery calls, but since our training, I’ve now done these things and I’m consistently getting more demos set up’. It was great to see the data tell us a story, us do the research, us do the training, do the constant coaching and iteration. Check the data, have success stories that backed up what we, what we thought was happening and then see awesome results in pipeline growth from that.

SS: I love that. I love that you guys are using some of those leading key indicators to identify areas where sales enablement can really step in and help. I think that’s one of the absolute benefits of having a sales enablement function within your organization. Now Sam, I have one last question for you, and again, we’re going to kind of stay on the train of thought around kind of data or metrics. What are some of the key ways that you measure the business impact of sales enablement at your organization?

SG: So, obviously there was that story I just shared where you can see very specific places within the sales funnel. Where we can actually see win rates increase all the way from new meetings set, conversion of discovery calls to a demo, a demo conversion to opportunity, and then all the way through opportunity conversion and then win rates.

I’d say the other things are probably pretty consistent with the market. We look at ramp time of our reps. We look at their quota attainment. My compensation is actually tied directly to the organization’s quota attainment. So, I’m always thinking how can I help each rep be the most effective in helping our prospects become successful clients?

So we look at every stage all the way down to the granular, how do we increase more meetings? How do we convert meetings to demos, demos to opportunities, opportunities to a closed one? And then quota attainment for each individual rep, their market segments, and then the entire sales organization.

SS: Fantastic. Sam, thank you so much for joining us today. I really enjoyed our conversation.

SG: Yeah, this was very fun. Thank you so much, 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.