Ben Sardella is co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer at Datanyze. Before that, he was VP of Sales at KISSMetrics. And before that, 16 years ago, Ben was NetSuite’s first sales rep. Sean Work sat down with him to glean some insights into how Ben’s process works. If you’ve ever wondered how to get the best out of your team, or what kind of input salespeople should have into product development, Ben’s got the answers.
1. Sean: I remember before you started working at KISS, we had a pretty measly MRR. We basically were hoping self-sign ups would do the trick. What did you do to kickstart their growth?
Ben: In the beginning it was just self-service so basically the only relationship someone had with the company was their experience online through the product and content. When I joined, I started calling customers and learning where they were getting value from KM & had the opportunity to educate them on newer features, best practices, etc. which lead to lots of upsell opportunities. It also helped us structure our messaging so when we started selling direct through our sales team, we were able to add value in a 1-on-1 environment immediately and close much larger deals with longer term contracts.
2. Sean: One thing I've always admired about you is your personality. I feel that you're a walking example of 'How to Win Friends And Influence People'. Do you have any suggestions on how to interact and treat your team to make them shine?
Ben: I appreciate that! It's important to remember that people don't necessarily want more time with you, they want presence (and even I can be terrible at this at times). Giving that individual as much sincere focus as you can even for just a quick second can go a long way to making an impact in someone's life. It will also allow you to recognize when something isn't right with them, which can make a huge difference in working with an employee/coworker before a problem begins to grow out of control.
3. Sean: What about when it comes to customers?
Ben: The worst part about being a salesperson is that sales is in the title. Nowadays we must look at ourselves as a customer success person, regardless of if we are selling or not. When you remove the mindset of selling and replace it with helping, your sincerity and authenticity in what your goal truly is will shine through and you'll build amazing relationships with your customers.
4. Sean: What's the number one trait you look for in a sales manager/sales dept. leader? (and why)
Ben: Emotional intelligence. There's a lot of ups/downs, happy times and stressful times and a leader must be able to remain focused and make rational decisions while keeping their team on an even keel regardless of the situations.
5. Sean: What's the first thing you would tell a sales team to do with Datanyze (the tool) to help them tear into their sales goals the first month they're using it?
Ben: Grab a list of your most successful customers and let's figure out the common positive attributes that exists using Datanyze. From there, we can then build the perfect target list to go after that should have the highest rate of conversion.
6. Sean: What's the first thing you recommend sales managers/sales dept. leaders to do when sales start to slump or they had a bad month?
Ben: Remove any finger pointing and look at the data and understand quickly where bottlenecks are occurring. Is it a lack of leads (then dig into the SDR processes)? Slow movement from demo to the next step (we need to improve our demos)? Using data to quickly analyze where things are failing compared to the historical data points will be a great first step in trying to fix the problems.
7. Sean: What advice do you have for a sales rep who's working hard for a company that has a terrible product? I mean a product that’s hard to sell - sometimes I think about certain products, naming no names, that basically suck but they get bought out anyway. Would you say maybe it's worth sticking it out?
Ben: Most times the best products do not win. The companies that win are the ones that are best at executing. Figuring out your customers' needs, identifying where you can deliver the highest level of value in the fastest possible way, and understanding your competitors so that you are able to differentiate yourself are ways you can win without having the best product.
8. Sean: How important are salespeople for product development? How should they help out without getting too bogged down in the process?
Ben: Extremely important for them to collect requests and feedback for the product team. The key though is to create a system where that feedback can be delivered and prioritized. For example, there are ‘nice-to-haves’ that do not affect revenue, a prospect will still close but they would really like it if we could do XYZ. On the other hand, sometimes there are feature requirements from a prospect that may be a significant addition for the company. In this case, the feature should be considered for the roadmap if it can be leveraged across the rest of the customer base as well.
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