A recent report from Forrester predicted that developments in technology, and changing customer behaviors and expectations, would lead to a million B2B sales jobs being cut by 2020.
But sales people willing to adopt modern technology and communication skills, and leverage insights coming from social interactions, can build on their years of experience and be every bit as effective today than they’ve ever been.
JP Werlin, CEO and co-founder of PipelineDeals, shares his thoughts on how companies can help their sales people be productive and successful in today’s quickly-changing environment. And why being likeable and having a big social network can make all the difference.
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Small Business Trends: Give us a bit of your personal background.
JP Werlin: My business partner and I started PipelineDeals, a sales productivity app for small to medium size businesses. We actually built PipelineDeals in our second bedroom, in 2006, and we have been bootstrapping it ever since up until last year when we took a Series A funding.
I am responsible for business development and helping to grow the app, from a sales and technology standpoint. Today PipelineDeals serves 17,000 folks around the world in over 100 countries. That equates to about 3,800 paying companies using PipelineDeals to manage their sales process.
Our goal is to make one sales person seem like five sales people. So we really want to help the productivity and effectiveness of the small to medium size sales organizations compete and win market share.
Small Business Trends: That concept of making one sales person almost feel like you have five sales people. What percentage is technology and what percentage is new skill sets that need to be adopted by sales people in order to be that effective and efficient?
JP Werlin: I see technology as a tool, and technology as an enabler. And when folks are deciding how to spend their day, if they can do so in an informed and intelligent way, informed by technology, and informed by these tools that are now available to us, the sales person of today can do what that person ten years ago would take two or three of those sales people to do.
How do I quantify that? How do I track that personally? Around activity, outreach; what we call effective selling time at PipelineDeals and that’s really what we’re trying to enable, right? Take the wasted time and wasted energy and the guessing game out of sales and give you a framework upon which to make intelligent decisions to help you make more money quicker.
Small Business Trends: From an efficiency standpoint how can a technology like yours help make it more likely a sales person will have more time building relationships and less time doing mundane stuff?
JP Werlin: If you are running a sales team or part of a sales team, keeping that team collaborative and organized is 80% of the equation.
What I tell our customers and people interested in this space is use something, and create a process around that piece of technology that makes you better, and gives you the opportunity to get better.
The tools on the market today are all about making the sales person on the front lines informed. And whether you’re running off of insights or instincts or a mixture of both, I think the net result is becoming informed about your industry, your vertical, and your customer.
I like to call them buyers instead of customers because if you think about it, a buyer has an inverse. A buyer also has a non buyer, and you get a ton of information not only about why people are buying but also why they are not. And sometimes that’s just as informative to a sales person on the next pitch or on the next call.
And so you’re seeing a lot of feature sets in the tools today around keeping the sales person informed. What’s important to their customers; whether it’s features, social listening tools, what the conversation is socially via Twitter, LinkedIn.
You also can see in an interesting way who’s related to who, either inside of an organization or outside of an organization. And what activities are driving deals to closure. And we focus a lot of time on this aspect of the tool.
Not to be big brother-ish but more to be like a trainer at the gym to tell you ‘hey, if you do these three things very well, you’ll increase your ability to close deals’. And so on an individual level, at a team level or a company level, knowing what activities are helping you close deals faster is critical in today’s environment because if you’re not doing it your competition is.
Small Business Trends: Let’s think about it in terms of hiring an effective and efficient sales person. Are there skills that were very important five years ago that are not as important today?
JP Werlin: We have a tenant in PipelineDeals that is very fundamental and very core to who we are and I think is more of a traditional way to look at doing business today — people do business with people they like. And so being congenial, being polite, and being approachable is a core attribute of any sales hire.
I think being likeable, and truly liking people, will succeed in sales today. I think likeability can now be amplified by technology, and a person selling in today’s market can accelerate and be more effective and win market share if they are enabled by technology.
Also, for sales people it almost doesn’t matter what they are selling, if their network is powerful enough. I try and evaluate folks on how big and powerful their networks are. And how deep those relationships are within their network.
And so as folks think about hiring sales people, I would look at the likeability, I would look at their network, and are they comfortable with using technology. Those three things I find are super critical in today’s sales environment.
Small Business Trends: Are insights playing a bigger role in the effectiveness and efficiency of a sales person today compared to the traditional reliance on past experiences?
JP Werlin: For me it’s all about time prioritization. You wake up in the morning and you say what am I going to do today to be the best sales person I can be. Because it’s a competitive market. You’re fighting for every point of market share you can, and insights leverage instincts.
And if you have the wrong instincts or you’re not likeable, you don’t have industry knowledge, or you don’t know how to sell insights, you’re leveraging nothing, right?
I really think as you look at insights, or leveraging instincts, it’s about time prioritization and how am I going to spend my time using my instincts in the most effective way for me, as a quota bearing salesperson, or as a leader of a company, as a CEO or sales manager. And how do I prioritize my time to make it as revenue producing and hopefully profit producing for the company as possible.
And those insights help you prioritize your day and leverage those instincts to the maximum benefit of you and the company.
Small Business Trends: JP, where can people learn more about PipelineDeals?
JP Werlin: Pipelinedeals.com. You can always reach out to me at @JPWerlin on Twitter, or JP@pipelinedealsco.com, I’m happy to talk to anybody.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.