We all want our teams to succeed and our businesses to grow, but timing is of paramount importance. It's not always easy knowing when to put a plan into action, or where to allocate resources.
All this and a lot more on this episode of Coach the Sale.
Amir's book recommendations:
"What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful" - https://www.amazon.com/What-Got-Here-Wont-There-ebook/dp/B000Q9J128
"The Sales Development Playbook" - https://www.amazon.com/Sales-Development-Playbook-Repeatable-Accelerate/dp/0692622039
Matt: Amir, welcome to the podcast. How are you doing?
Amir: Doing well, man. Doing well. Thanks for having me.
Matt: I'm really pleased you've agreed to come onto the show. Very interested to find out a little bit about more Cloud Task and your work there. This episode is all about really helping people identify some of the roadblocks, some of the obstacles that get in the way of them scaling a sales function. But before we get into that, can you tell us a little bit more about Cloud Task, your work there, and the sort of clients that Cloud Task typically work with?
Amir: Yeah, 100%. So I'm the CEO and founder of Cloud Task. We're a growth center, or BPO, a Business Process Outsourcing. But we do the complete life cycle, from sales, customer success to customer support, which makes us unique. We are very much technology enabled and empowered. We typically service the SAS industry or technology-based companies that are series A, series B, looking to go from anywhere from 10 million to 50 million. Obviously, we join companies that have a different profile. But that's kind of the niche base that we're working. The positions we manage are account executives, SDRs or BDRs, customer success reps and customer support.
Matt: Are those customers particularly ... As this is a sales podcast, we're focused on sales. Are those organizations typically, they don't have a sales function currently and they're looking to start? Or maybe they've got an informal function or maybe the CEO has led things? What is the typical make up of the sales function prior to engaging with you guys?
Amir: It's a mix. I think we have companies that have been around for 20 to 30 years and they're just looking to improve in scale what they have. Then we have organizations that are starting and are building their team, companies that have been lifestyle companies for quite some time and looking to redo growth. So it's been a mixture, I would say. But for the most part, companies do have an existing sales team when they hire us.
Matt: Okay. So I'm going to try and tap you up for some free advice off the back of ... You know, you guys managing and building out sales function. So I'm going to try and tap you up for some advice for the people who maybe don't necessarily want to outsource straight away but want to give it a try themselves. Start with some of the markers, I guess, a sales function is ready to grow. What are the things that you typically see amongst your clients that indicate to you or to them that it's time for them to step up?
Amir: Well, I think money's a very important thing. I think if a company is cash flow negative, they probably should keep the function internally until they become cash flow positive because building a sales team under the pressure of being cash flow negative is usually not successful thing, or they [inaudible 00:02:39] being they can make the investments, and how long it really does. Building a sales team, it takes time and a lot of effort and a lot of mistakes. If you're not strong enough to take that data and make adjustments without firing people, then you'll typically fail and lose everything. So I think people need to just kind of really know the reality of the investment it takes to have a sales team.
Matt: So Amir, in terms of some of the customers and prospects you see, what are some of the things that hold people back from enlarging or starting to develop a sales function?
Amir: Well, just not knowing where to start. Often times, you see that people, they want to hire a sales team, but they haven't done the work and the research necessary to confirm that they need one. They typically don't really know their TAM, their total adjustable market. They don't make the investments in leads, and they haven't really separated the function of data versus sales. So they want to hire sales people, but they don't have the data yet. That creates for inefficiency. That's kind of what you see very often, and then just false expectations. I think a lot of times you see a lot of leaders say, "I was able to get five appointments a day as the CEO and the founder. Now you should be able to get five appointments a day as a entry-level salesperson." Just kind of false expectations and not really doing research first on how long it really takes for somebody to get up to speed and on board.
Matt: Do you see any markers that may be things to be wary of? Things that people might ... It might indicate that they're ready for growth, but they might be misleading and maybe they're not quite ready, but maybe they think they are?
Amir: That's a good question. I think a typical marker for that would be I have too many leads coming in and I don't have enough time to follow up with them, which could be a tricky one, right? Because you might say to yourself, "All right, I have all these inbound leads coming in. I need a new sales person." But if the quality of the leads are not there, when that happens and you have too many leads, you don't know that the quality's not good because right off the bat, you're not following up with them. So I think that could be a false indicator, having too many leads and not focusing on the right ones. Because A, it could be a double drain on resources because if you're making an investment in driving those leads, and they're not good leads, you're spending money on marketing, and now you're spending money on a sales person, so if you don't close those deals, you can be losing cash twice as fast. So I think that's a false indicator, too many leads. That would be one of them, for sure.
Matt: What are the common pitfalls that people, that you see, make when it comes to trying to build out sales function? Maybe it's the right time but maybe they don't necessarily have the requisite skills for them to be able to build out that function. What are some of the common mistakes that people make as they try to do it themselves?
Amir: Well, I think a common mistake is promoting from within, when it's not the right person. Meaning that you have somebody's who is a great sales person. Now you want to grow and you're going to promote them to be a manager, but they're not a great manager. They're a great sales person, and now they're not doing their job of selling which is what made them great, and now they're doing the new job of managing, which they're new at, and they're managing new people. So that happens off the bat, and it's kind of hard to know that sometimes people have to actually continue to do a great job in sales for quite some time. You're actually doing them a justice by bringing someone in with specific management experience to manage them. That's kind of a mistake that some people make often.
Matt: In terms of you guys, I know you guys are ... You're bringing potentially new people into business as sales representatives. How do you shorten the ramp time for those hires when you're introducing people to a new product and a new business? How do you keep those ramp times as short and compressed as possible?
Amir: That's great that you ask that. We have an internal Cloud Task academy, and then we partner with companies like Factor Eight, which is a training organization, and some other training organizations that are coming on board with us this year. So by investing in the actual workforce, the training workforce is number one. We have two full time trainers and two coaches, and we partner with external organizations. It's not easy for a startup to make those investments or other companies to make those investments, but that's how we tackle it from a manpower standpoint.
Amir: Then we also do a lot of hands-on training where we get people to hit the phones and do role plays from really day one, right from the group assessment that people are doing role play. So we're exposing them to the functions of the job, even from the interview phase. Then I think one of the biggest things is that we as a managed service have a coaching culture. We use coaching technologies that listen to calls, that check emails, and we literally, instead of managing people, we coach people. By putting coaching and development as one of your core cultural missions, it really speedens up the ramp time. The average ramp time for an STR, provided by the [Bridge 00:07:39] Report, they say it's 90 days. So we're literally trying to cut that in half, and we're able to get our guys on the phones and doing outreach within the third week, which is for us, something that I'm very proud of the onboarding training team. But just making investments in training and onboarding, I think is the summary of my long-winded answer.
Matt: For sure, I'm going to circle back to that coaching piece in a bit because I'm keen to find out a little bit more about some of the specifics behind that. Before we do, though, let's talk through some of the first steps that someone might need to take in other to build out sales function. What are the things they absolutely need to do as a priority? Maybe they are leading maybe one or two people, but they know or they've been tasked with scaling that function? What are some of the things they need to do as a priority to get the ball rolling there?
Amir: Well, they should first make sure that they have some sort of playbook, something that really addresses the basics of sales and who you're talking to and how you're talking to them, and the most common objections. So having the structure first is big. Then also making sure that you have the technology tool set to achieve your goals. If you know it's going to take X amount of calls, X amount of emails, X amount of contacts to get a deal, making sure you have that technology and that pipeline so that somebody who gets hired can actually succeed is really important.
Matt: Excellent. So in terms of the coaching that you guys offer to the recruits that you're making, the recruits you're hiring, what does that typical process look like? Do you have that as a structure for all clients? Or does it vary by client to client?
Amir: We have the structure for all clients. Whether or not they participate in the calibration is a big difference. We have calibration calls where we play good calls, bad calls, and we ask for our teammates feedback. This is really crucial. Because nobody knows their business better than them. They've been working in it for five, 10, 15 years. So just having them as part of the calibration calls is really helpful. Now, if they're not on the calibration calls, we do this all day every day. So we're able to keep on going without them. So just be having alignments and having them bought into the power of coaching.
Amir: Sometimes a lot of the people that you work for, they don't record their calls. They don't ever listen to any of this. So you play them a bad call, and they're like, "Oh my God. You guys, I don't like the way that call sounded." Then they take it as, "I'm not sure I want to work with outsourced sales." We kind of say to them, "Well, how often do you actually listen to any of your calls?" They're like, "Never." So you're bringing awareness to people that, "Hey, it's the bad calls that we'll learn from. We don't want to just show you a good call. We want to show you a call that's a bad call. That's how we actually make some coaching and changes." So it's a shock for some people because they're just not used to it. They haven't been doing it and it's just new for them.
Matt: Yeah, we see that a lot at Refract as well. In an ideal world, we want to speak to prospects who are listening to calls and recording calls, but we do see that a lot where they're not listening and not recording it and just going through that process can be quite revealing for people as well. So in terms of good fit hires, I'm guessing over the time that you guys have been working, you've seen and improved ways to find really great fit hires. I know there are going to be people listening to this who are involved in the recruitment of new hires. Can you give people any pointers or some tips as to how to find people who might be a good fit? May be open to coaching, growth mindset orientated people. How do you guys cut through the masses of people and find the ones that are a good fit for your company?
Amir: Well, we use the technology called [inaudible 00:11:22] Intelligence. They're actually a partner and a client of ours, so we're putting new people through a personality exam that helps us internally group what success looks like. So if we have a team that we know is successful and we've profiled them from a personality standpoint, we're able to then match applicants. That's not a perfect system, but it definitely helps us cut through some of the noise. So I think there's a lot of technology out there that can help you.
Amir: There's also free things like 16 personalities, which is an exam that's free on the internet. Giving people those tests really ... It can show you a lot in a personality test. You can see some red flags right away or some positive things right away. Then look for coaching, all that stuff. There's a lot of good resources. HubSpot has a ... If you Google sales people interview questions from HubSpot, they have a spreadsheet with 125 good questions. You'll find that some questions you like, some you won't. So just kind of taking what the world has put out there from content and going through the motion and finding out what works best for you and the people you're hiring, is a good way of getting about that.
Matt: One of the things I know that people do struggle with who listen to the show is dealing with people who are resistant to the culture of coaching. Now it's going to be different for you guys in a sense, because maybe you're recruiting, you're able to find those people and exclude them from the recruitment process. But what advice would you give to somebody who is experiencing members of a team who are resistant to a culture of coaching? They know the value ... The individual knows the value of coaching, but the culture isn't quite working because people are resistant. What would you say to them?
Amir: Well, I would say to them that they would have to give people ... If people are not adhering to that culture, you kind of have to put them on a [inaudible 00:13:11] and then let them go if they're not the right fit, because even if somebody's really performing, if you want to have a culture of coaching, and coaching is what's going to get you guys a scale, it's I think sticking to the guns that sometimes it's hard separating ways from somebody's who talented, because it took you so long to find that person. But if they are a detractor from your coaching culture, you're not going to be able to scale. Unless your goals are smaller and your goals are to have a lifestyle company, and they're effectively putting you into that goal, then that's great. But if your goal is to really scale your organization, you have to stick to your culture enough to, unfortunately, let someone go because of that. Because if you can't change them, they can really hurt the company from top down.
Amir: We had to do that recently with somebody who was ... It was a time that we were needed. We were in demand of talented people. The person was a top performer. But he was just, from a coaching standpoint, we weren't able to coach him and we had to part ways. It doesn't feel good when you're doing it, but in the long run you know that it's going to pay off for your partners, your customers and your teammates.
Matt: Yeah. So moving away from coaching culture and on to sales process, do you guys design sales processes as part of the work? Or do you tend to engage with businesses that already have a sales process? What does that typically look like with clients that you work with? And if you are designing a sales process, what are some of the things that you initially look to include within that?
Amir: So we 100% create a sales process and it's very unique to us. Our process actually includes a sales engineering department, because you can actually lay down a lot of automation through mail merges, LinkedIn automation, and most of sales work these days can be done in that fashion. So we have our sales engineers that come down and lay the groundwork. Then on top of that, we introduce the rep to actually work off those triggers. Who opened an email, who clicked an email, who responded, because what you want a rep to do is have a high level conversation. You don't want them sending out automated emails or LinkedIn connections.
Amir: So our process is unique in that we merge sales engineers automation with our sales people, which gives our sales team an advantage. Then from an actual process standpoint, we use [inaudible 00:15:25] charts, which is our partner in creating processes. We have multiple cadences and multiple processes for every different scenario. Because in sales you have a process for MQL, a Marketing Qualified Lead. You can break down an MQL into an awareness, or someone just downloading a paper and saying, "I'm interested in this topic", versus consideration. Maybe it's a comparison of two products versus decision.
Amir: So your process is not only a separate process for marketing, it then becomes a separate process for the type of marketing leads. Then you can have a process for a chat bot. This is what happens when somebody actually comes, talks to us on a chat and capture that information. A process for intent data. You might be signing up the [inaudible 00:16:10] crowd, or Lead Sift or an intent data company. So you have a process for that. Then a process for strangers.
Amir: So you take every different scenario and you have a process for it and a cadence. From a high level, there's one thing that's common in all our processes, and that commonality is that we're on the channel. So I think the big thing is that you don't just use an email or an automation. You use a phone, LinkedIn, Facebook, even Instagram, depending on the LTV. A lot of very good marketing engines, marketing companies that attract a lot of MQLs, they're only following up with automated emails. That's okay for some of the time, but it's not okay for somebody who's in decision stage. You lose that business because somebody else picked up the phone and called them.
Amir: So [inaudible 00:16:56] channel approach, and always be testing and making adjustments. Even if something is a good process, then you still need to kind of peel back and say, "All right for Q2, we're going to try this," and then testing those results. Because there's nothing saying that if you have a six percent conversion rate on leads, your goal might be eight percent. You're not going to get there without changing the process. You might change your process and see that your results drop down to five percent. Okay, well time to go back to the old process. So I think people are afraid of change, but I think you have to accept that in sales. You're basically running an experiment weekly, monthly, quarterly, and semi-annually. You have to do changes. Not every change is going to be for positive, but as long as you're making a scientific guess, you're measuring it, and you're making an adjustment, your company will stay dynamic and stay nimble.
Matt: So off the back of that, you mentioned about having coverage across multiple channels within those ... Of having processes that cover multiple channels. I noticed that you guys do sales ... I think it's sales support for chat. Do you guys [inaudible 00:18:02] that?
Amir: Yep, we do that a lot. That's very common.
Matt: Yeah, so tell me a bit more about that. Because I'm curious to know what you're seeing in terms of people willing to engage using a chat bot in order to advance the sales process. What are some of the things you're seeing, and how do you move the needle where business has or is it yet to implement chat? How do you move the needle for them using chat in sales?
Amir: Well, if you think about it, somebody coming to your website, they're coming to your website. Typically an old website has a form, that would Contact Us Now, right? So no matter what part of the sales cycle you're in, it's a stagnant process because you just have a form process. You don't typically see a form that says, "If you want to talk to someone today, fill out this form. If you're just interested in learning more information, fill out that form." So every process, every form is typically this. I filled out a form from Google Hire about three months ago. I put a LinkedIn post that said, "I want to buy Google Hire. Has anyone ever used it?" It took them three months to call me. Literally. I saw it as opportunity. I'm like, "Man, I need to work for Google! This is probably the easiest job I could ever have."
Matt: That's maybe why their revenue numbers were so poor yesterday.
Amir: Yeah. The good news is that the bigger companies are easier to help, because they have the income and they have the problems to be fixed right then and there. But back to the whole topic is a sales chat, all it's doing is giving you the ability to say, "Hey, my name's Amir. I'm here, and these are my specific questions and I'm ready to go now." So it's a way to ... Like if you walk into a store, you're not just talking to a form. It's not just a robot, a cashier that says, "Fill in your information. I'll call you back in a week." You can talk to a rep and you can escalate something. You can go into Apple and say, "I want my phone fixed." Or you can say, "I want to buy five computers." So chat just gives people real time ability to ask questions, and it lets the visitor decide who they are and what they need.
Amir: So what we're seeing is that it's cutting down sales cycles. It's lowering bounce rate. Because what is a bounce rate? A bounce rate is somebody came to your website and they took no action and they left. So it's cutting down the bounce rate because people, instead of leaving, after they don't find what they want to find, they're able to ask the chat bot and get to the answer really quickly, versus navigating around the website that can be cumbersome. It's not necessarily so intuitive. It's not easy for people to find everything they want on a website. So a chat bot gives them the ability to ask questions that they want.
Matt: So what would you say to people maybe listening who have the corporate website ... If it's a start up, maybe they don't have chat implemented. I know you guys use Drift on your own website. Is that the product or the supplier that you typically recommend for companies that maybe are looking to implement chat themselves for the first time?
Amir: We do. We do. We actually include it in the salary of our employees currently. But we also partner with companies like Intercom and other chat companies, because not ... Every chat company has a different focus or something that they're better at. So we try to be non-biased. But we do use drift and it is one of our top chat bots that we recommend at the most. That's for sure.
Matt: Are you seeing anything in terms of availability 24/7? Is it something that you advocate typically? Do you have coverage 24/7 when it comes to chat availability?
Amir: It totally depends on the volume of traffic that they have. We typically, for a lot of big companies, we're from 4:00 in the morning to 8:00 at night. It depends if they're international. Because 24/7, if you're international, it's daytime somewhere else. So are you doing 24/7 just for the States? Or is it a global company? 24/7 doesn't mean that you're covering day time for most of your clients. Also depending on the lifetime value of your customer. If you're customers are worth $50,000 or above, it might make sense having a live agent there 24/7. But if it's a $10/month rental, you might just want to bot without a live person. Because technically, a bot is working 24/7. It's just not a human. So it's limiting its questions, but that might be better.
Amir: Testing also makes sense. There's nothing wrong with, "I'm going to test these time zones now. I'm going to measure the results and see if it makes sense." Let the data tell you it makes sense.
Matt: Yeah, totally. So just circling back from the last couple of minutes, just circling back to coaching in particular. What are the things that you guys see as most important when it comes to coaching? You've talked about listening to calls, but give us a little bit of an insight into some of those coaching sessions that take place with your hires there. What are some of the areas where you guys are focusing on, and where are some of those areas where you see the needle being moved the biggest and the quickest?
Amir: Well, I think you get a lot of good information about coaching from companies like [inaudible 00:22:37], and just seeing the truth of reality that the middle pack has the biggest room of opportunity. Your top performers, they have that secret sauce. It's hard to make them better. Then some people that are just in the bottom performing, you can see that you coach them over and over again, they're just not picking it up. So just kind of focusing on the middle pack, the people that want to be there, the people that want to be coached.
Amir: Then some of the things that we coach on are just, "Did you research [inaudible 00:23:03] before you called? Did you address yourself correctly? Were you listening? Were you asking questions?" But the big thing with coaching is that it's ongoing. It's the same kind of concept of like you can get braces, but if you don't wear the retainers, your teeth can move back. So I think the concept is that it's not just about coaching. It's about ongoing coaching, because if you see what you're coaching is being improved, you can then make that person the advocate to help you coach. But if you see someone that's moving backwards, it's a good sign that maybe they're just not into the job, or they're not happy. You can see that they have the talent, they have the skills, they were coached. They made improvements, but now they're just falling back to their old habits. It can show you some other things.
Amir: So it's interesting you asked this question. My head of coaching has been trying to lock me down on a meeting to show me this amazing coaching formula he's built. So it's almost as if you should talk to them, because these guys know more than I do when it comes to coaching. I just know the success stories. When they're like, "Amir, we've coached this person to do XYZ, now the MQLs have doubled." I love hearing that. As a leader, I'm in a phase now at 150 employees where I'm actually pulling back and saying, "Hey John, what is it that you built that helped us get here?" So I think it's a good question you ask. I'm sorry I don't have the specific detailed answers. It's just because we've been growing fast and I've been trusting my team, I guess you could say.
Matt: Yeah. There's certainly two areas I'd like to speak to John about. One is that, and the other is on how you guys measure improvements beyond just MQLs and looking for improvement. So I think John and I maybe should have a conversation because-
Amir: It would be a long conversation. He would be very excited about it. Luckily I had [Lauren Bailey 00:24:36] from [Factor Eight 00:24:37] come down and train us on-site. She literally said to me, "Amir, what John has built ... We do audits of training and coaching from Fortune 500 companies. He built you a Fortune 500 level coaching plan. So I was really excited and really honored to hear that, which is nice because we're not a big Fortune 500 company. Empowering these guys to build things like they are leaders, because they are, has produced really good results. I could see it from his eyes when he said, "Amir, you have to see this", that it was something good. I just didn't have the bandwidth to get down into the nitty gritty. But yeah, I'll connect you with him for sure. You'll have a good conversation.
Matt: Fantastic. That would be great. Amir, I really appreciate the time you've taken out to chat to me today. One last question before we go. Business books. Now I appreciate you're the CEO and as you just alluded to, you're kind of maybe one or two steps removed from the day-to-day, in terms of coaching and sales coaching. But are there any books that you would recommend to listeners? Maybe around sales or maybe just about entrepreneurship generally? One or two that have stood out for you in the last couple of months that you'd like to recommend?
Amir: Yeah, the book What Got You Here Won't Get You There was a good book for me, because we were going obviously from a ... It's more of a leadership book, which has been great. I think reading Predictable Revenue, which was ... You could say it's a little bit outdated, a book from Aaron Ross. But they have predictable prospecting, which is a new book which I think is very good to read. Then The Sales Development Playbook from Trish Bertuzzi has been one of my favorites as well.
Matt: Yeah, very good.
Amir: Yeah, and then The Sales Acceleration Formula. These are books I've liked. For me, I'm big on podcasts. Listening to John [Barro's 00:26:13] podcast has been great. Your podcast as well, and then several others have been really awesome. I'm more of a listener than I am a reader, so I've been heavy on the podcasts.
Matt: You've got an Audible subscription, I guess.
Amir: Yeah, just to be honest, I just pulled up my Audible and looked at the book that I read so I could sound [inaudible 00:26:30] off the top of my head. So I got Audible open right now, and I'm like just reading the list of books.
Matt: You sounded incredibly well-prepared for that question, I have to say.
Amir: Oh I did, I did.
Matt: I'm not surprised.
Amir: I'm incredibly quick with my cell phone.
Matt: Fantastic. Amir, really appreciate the time you've taken out of your day today to speak to us. Just one last thing, how could people find out more about you and the company and the work that you guys do?
Amir: Real easy to find. You can find me on ... I use Facebook for business, so even connect with me there. I'm your writer on LinkedIn. Our website CloudTask.com. I'm very big on chatting, so you can chat with me on Facebook Messenger, on LinkedIn Messenger and I'll chat with you in real time on those two avenues. In fact, I might have a LinkedIn addiction problem that I'm working on. So if you want to feed my LinkedIn addiction problem, you can message me there.
Matt: Yeah, I'm definitely not the therapist for that addiction. That's for sure. I share that with you. So yeah, not to worry. But thank you very much for your time, Amir. Really appreciate it and enjoy the rest of your day.
Amir: You got it. Thank you so much. Take care.