The Pavilion Podcast
The Pavilion Podcast

Episode · 6 months ago

Ep 155: The Executive Sales Process w/ Paul Abdool

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Ep 155: The Executive Sales Process w/ Paul Abdool 

Part of the TGIM (Thank God It's Monday!) series hosted by Tom Alaimo.

All right, welcome back to the Pavilion podcast. This is the podcast where revenue leaders come to learn about the tips, the tricks, the tactics that can make them successful in their roles. I'm your host. Tom a lame O T. G. I? M thank God it's monday excited to get into today's episode before we do that. Let's give a quick shout out to our sponsor sponsoring. Today's episode is Sandoz. So Sandoz so the leading sending platform is the most effective way for revenue generating teams to stand out with new ways to engage at strategic points throughout the customer journey By connecting digital and physical strategies. Companies can engage, acquire and retain customers easier than ever before. So definitely show some love to our friends at Sandoz. So can also learn more. I post every single day on linked in my name is tom Elena, you can learn more about me there. All right, on today's show, I've got an interview with Paula. Abdul pause the Chief Revenue Officer over at Way Path, he's the author of the book. Forget it Felix. He runs the Pavilion channel around executive sales process. A great conversation all across the map. I think you're really going to enjoy this one. So without further ado, let's get straight into my conversation with paul. All right, coming to us from the beautiful city of Toronto Canada. We got the C. R. O. Of Way Path. Paula Abdul paul, how are you? I am well today, how are you sir? I'm doing great for anyone that you know, if you could see paul's background. We were just commenting on, he's got maybe he's got a top five work from home setup that I've seen. We've got a fridge, we've got a water cooler, you know, dictionary back there, you know, nice pictures, just like you're you're ready to play. I appreciate that. It's all it's always game time. Yeah, yeah, I love it, I love it. Um there's a lot to talk about as it relates to know sales...

...and you know, being an executive in your career path. I'd love to start on maybe a slightly lighter note of just I saw some of your writing experience I saw you wrote you've written for for quite a long time including a book, forget It Felix a couple years ago, which I also see behind you. I'd love to hear about that for a minute. Sure, sure. So uh I love writing because in writing for me is really a reflection of what I've seen. I haven't really been a super creative guy. I'm more of a reporter when I write I think. And forget it Felix although it's a fictitious book for kids to help them to remember things. It was somewhat of a report on my son. So my my son inspired me. Uh he especially off to college but growing up he forgot a lot of stuff. And so every time you forgot something I started writing it down and then I said okay, I'm gonna turn this thing into a book dr Seuss style. I always liked the rhyming stuff for kids, and then it finally came together as one of those New Year's resolutions that kept pushing for me for a couple of years, and a really, really good with New Year's resolutions, but this one was bugging me, so I thought I'd get that done, And it came to fruition just around Christmas time, 2020, I guess now. So, um and the really exciting part for me is that I was able to, you know, when I was thinking about the illustrations, I said, what should I do? And it was actually a friend of my son who wanted to go into that. So I said, what better way for him to add to his portfolio than to have a book that's published and have his name on the front cover. So I gave him equal billing on it, and uh he's uh in university now, as we speak, doing this kind of stuff, That's great. So his...

...name is Felix. No, no, my son, you know what I wanted to go with an alliteration for forget, so that's why I went with it and I and I know a lot of people and I didn't know a Felix, so I knew I wouldn't offend anybody. Yeah, there you go. That's awesome. Do we have have any other creative projects in the books, or is that is that under wraps for it? You know what, It's one of those things where I'm not going to make a lot of money for it. So when I get some more play money, I self published the book. So it's, you know, it's not like somebody's paying me big bucks to do it. So I think the next one though is gonna be something around Felix learns finances and so kids don't learn enough about that in school. So I think that's gonna be the next level is just to teach them a little bit about saving money management, that kind of stuff. So that that might be the next one, but it's it's a ways off. Yeah, that's a great idea. I saw a commercial the other day. I I'm blanking on the company name, but has something to do with, you know, if kids are saving their money, it teaches them about like, you know, setting goals for that example. It was like this, this little kid was setting goals so he could buy, you know, airpods or shoes or something like that was like $200 and kind of teaches them about that stuff when they're young at a small scale so that, you know, they kind of build the fundamentals. I thought that was pretty neat idea. Yeah, yeah, that's great. So we weren't really here to, to talk about Children's books, although that's fascinating to me. I know that you run the or lead the executive sales process channel for Pavilion on slack. So I'd love if you could, I'm not an executive and I'm an associate members don't even know if I have access to the big leagues like that. So maybe you could just educate me a little bit about what goes on and like what's the inspiration for for that specific channel. Sure, sure. So one of the things that people don't think about a lot in the sales process is all the little things that...

...need to take place. And I think people think, okay, you, you have somebody who, you know, whether it's a product market fit and they're, they're going after that and they're thinking, okay, this is my ideal customer. I'll talk to them of course they want to buy my thing. So they do. But then there's steps that need to be followed. Whether it's for your internal operation that needs to be aware, you know, via your crm that's providing this information or that's ingesting the information from the crm for operations, whether it's turning on software, getting professional services or delivery team ready or customer success managers. And so really being in sync with them and understanding the whole process start to finish with your sales reps, especially as you're on board and new people or they're newer to your particular industry or product. So that's what it's about. And then we get into some intricate on, you know, in the weeds stuff as well. You know, little pieces of it, whether it's on the qualifying side, we spend a lot of time with medic as a sales process medics got its own channel now? So plug for the medic channel. But they, you know, there's that piece, there's also things that you don't think about in the sales process. So it's one thing to sell and the deal is done. But now what is that person going to be a reference for you for your next deal? If you need one. So how do you manage your references? And you know, you start looking out at the world and you say, okay, I'm gonna google that thing and you look at you look for it and you can't find it. And so it's stuff that you can't find that creates the need, I think for the slack channel where we start to say, okay, why don't we do our own research? So, you know, and I...

...picked that references one as an example where last year gentlemen from Ireland actually he had reached out to me about a reference process. And I said, you know what? That's a great question. Why don't we do some research. We surveyed the folks in what was then revenue collective Pavilion and still not rolling off the tongue for me. And we created a webinar out of it, a guru card and we have some data so that now you can manage your references. So if we stick with that example, I'm just curious like what, what are, what are some ways that a sales leader? Right. If you're a rap, you know, that is relatively, if you're on top of it, I think you can make that part of your process. But if you have, you know, a dozen reps or maybe even dozens or hundreds of reps that work under you, how do you how do you start with creating a system for building a referral channel? Great question. So, think about it today. If you, if you want a reference, how do you get it? And typically it's somebody that knows what's going on at a bunch of your customers or has been around long enough to kind of just through the grapevine through experience has heard about people. That would be a good reference. So how would you start? I think you start with that person and start to then document that and then spread the tentacles from there. So for example, let's say that person had some what I'm going to call, go to references. So they're always asking that same person to be a reference. But then you get reference burnout. And that was one of the things that I've experienced where that reference gets asked to be a reference six times a year and they're like, jeez, I don't have time to be your reference. What am...

I part of your sales team and so understanding where to put them in the lineup and that rotation is important and then aligning hit by vertical or horizontal, depending on your products is important. So I think it needs to become part of the process itself after you sell. Is this person going to be reprehensible or the client going to be reference table? Or is that a metric that you're trying to add to your overall system? How many of my close deals become a reference able account? So to me, it's really starting to think about it as a overall mission for your sales team is to create a very large reference table. Mhm. And are you, would you suggest that there's some sort of like incentive for the customer on that end? Like I don't know if it's monetary or some other sort of like uh, you know, offer that you can give to them or are you just hoping that you're going to have enough like Diehard champions that that final can kind of create? Uh I've seen it both ways and it's a slippery slope. Right? You don't want to buy a reference. But is it nice to say, hey, what about if you are a reference and I know that you're going to buy next, You know, whatever X product we would be happy to offer you a discount if you're going to be a reference for us so that I've seen work successfully. I also think depending on the type of services or products you're selling, having that person participate as a part of executive business council. That that's nice. You can fly him in for some meetings now and again and and have them part of developing your roadmap. Because typically if someone is a reference there are super user type person or really into what you're...

...doing. But they're also concerned about making it better for the future for themselves. Or there's some shortcoming that they've seen. So getting them involved I think is an important piece to mm hmm. And when I think about executive sales process and where, you know, I thought there might be some conversation and I'm curious on your take is like when do executives get involved in in certain sales processes to write? Because as the cr oh, I'm sure there are some deals this quarter that are important enough for you to get and get your your sleeves and get involved in maybe make an executive connection But you can't get involved in every deal or else you'll be working 24 hours a day. So, I'm curious is that a topic that comes up like when, you know, how far do you get into that sales process versus you let your people do their thing. Uh you know, it hasn't come up. But I learned a long time ago that regardless of if, you know, as a cr oh, you're involved or vice president sales or director of sales depending on what level. And even your subject matter experts. It's important to be multi threaded at an account, especially as the dollar figures go up. So you know if it's $1 million dollar account you should add more people to that account to manage it and know what's going on because your champion could leave something could go wrong at an I. T. Level at some point in time you might get a call or you may need to make a call. It says hey you know this isn't working out. You know you're killing me here. You know from a profit perspective or your demands are unreasonable or you know what thank you for being an awesome customer too. So I think it's important and I think as far as when you would get involved typically it's when things get really stuck. Maybe on the legal...

...side. Maybe if the customer is really looking for some major concessions on price or things like that or if they're trying to take you left or right of center of what you're trying to really sell and provide. So something a little different. But besides that I think you you have to hire good people and trust your team. Yeah. At some of the different or is that I've worked at. There's definitely a different level of how often the C. R. O. Or Ceo gets involved in deals and maybe that's just a personal preference. Something if I can ask a selfish question something I'm working on as a rep is you know trying to get more exact alignment. You know, earlier on in a deal cycle, right. You know, with a, with an early customers say right before there's a deal on the table before we need something quote unquote. But I don't have a great process for it. I feel like similar to the referral, it's kind of like is the rep on top of it? Is that something you're thinking about? Is that something that you've ever automated somehow or coached? Either your team or someone else had another organization on. So just to be clear, are you saying that you would like for example your manager or an executive above that manager to be involved in one of your deals and you're trying to figure out when to bring them in or how should you, Is that what you're saying? Yeah, exactly. Like when do you bring them in and how do you also just like create an environment where people are thinking they're not thinking, hey, it's the last week of the quarter, let's get following this deal. Now, hopefully you were already working with them and offering value to them months ago so that it's not, you're not having to clean up a mess. You know, you're that kind of get involved early. Okay. I'm with. So I think realistically speaking it should probably be size related if it's something significant.

I think those conversations should happen early. And often I also think that, you know, I'll tell you it wasn't automated the best way I could do it to automate it. I had this a company I used to work with, I asked the Ceo how often are you going to go to a customer meeting with me or what, what can I expect for the same purposes that you're kind of asking? And he said, you know what, I would like to have six really good meetings a year with with clients. So what I did is I booked all of those times on his calendar at the beginning of the year. And I said to the reps, There are six meetings to get with the Ceo. You have to earn that meeting. So you tell me why that Ceo should attend that meeting and we've got him locked in on this schedule and he will attend anywhere in the country doesn't matter. But he needs four weeks notice. I think at least I think that's what his parameters were. 4-6 weeks notice. And that was the time you lock in and he'd probably go see two or three in the neighborhood too if that was possible. So that's really what we did there is just lock it in early. It was, it was a cultural thing was as an ask and you know what often I'll tell you the senior folks it's lonely at the top. And what I mean by that is they don't get a lot of calls. Not a lot of people have the guts to reach out to them. And so if as an organization, you set that up as something that whatever level wrap can speak with that person and have a process to earn their time. I think it's great and, and reality of...

...it is is when you get to those levels, they're not even thinking sometimes about the day to day, sales are thinking about raising money. They're thinking about an acquisition. They're thinking about other elements that have nothing to do with your sail. Your sail is one piece that says, I need X amount of revenue to come across the line every quarter. But that's just a cog, right? And so by inviting them out and bringing them down to the street level once in a while keeps them honest to because every once in a while they'll get down there and say now I understand why you are asking for X or Y and I shouldn't back burner that anymore. Yeah, yeah, 100%. I love that. You almost kind of gamified that and uh, you know, made the reps try to hit that you no specific level that would, you know, earn them that meeting. And Alice took away that it feels like what you're saying is that repsol sometimes don't even ask, you know, like you assume the answer is no. And maybe if they said, hey paul, you know, this is a great opportunity, here's why that is, would you mind helping out and joining this meeting in a couple weeks? You're probably more apt to say yes than no, but it's it's just that people are, aren't asking, I want to handle it themselves. Maybe they're afraid to, you know, mess something up in front of you. Yeah. And I think, you know, part of it is the person, you know, some of what I found is that everyone's pretty nice in general. The reason they come across as a bear is because they're so busy and being pulled in different directions so they're shorter, but they don't want to be, They're just forced to be, I've got 30 seconds to deal with you. What do you need? Right, walk with me. I don't even have time to stop. I'm going to get a coffee, tell me what you need. So I think what's important just to, to go further on what we were talking about is if we...

...give the people who want the meeting the parameters to get the meeting. So fill in these 10 blanks Until you fill in those 10 blanks. They're not gonna listen. But if you bring that and you just put it on their desk and say, here's the 10 things you asked for that person is gonna say, okay, they have what they need to make the decision. And so I think that's important to my dad taught me that as a kid. He's like, you know, paul you want? You know, you want to go out, you know, okay, how are you getting home? How much does it cost? You know what is all this? So lay out the facts and then it made it easy. Yeah, that's great. That's great for the folks out there that are listening. Maybe they're they're new to say the VP of sales or maybe even the C. R. O. Role, you're obviously you know, well experienced, you're also chatting with a lot of other members in similar roles. What are are there any common mistakes that you see for first time V. P. R. C suite folks in a sales capacity, wow, There's so many um let me start with this. I think going back to the the top levels the C suite, the boards, all that they have a number that's in their head for one reason or another. And it came from something they want to make X amount of money or sales and really understanding your business and the numbers are so critical. I I just went through Cros School of Pavilion which was fantastic and there was a piece on forecasting that was really important and it's not just about being conservative, it's about being realistic. And if you can take the data to somebody above and show them how you came up with something, You're right until they prove you wrong is whatever.

So all of a sudden just for to give you some numbers. So let's say they want you to sell $20 million 15 And last year it was 12 And so you like your results were 12 You think OK 15 you know that's that's an increase and but there's a why that they want 20 now they may stretch it And that's fine too. But you have to say most likely it's going to be 15. Yeah. And When they say no you're number is 20 And then when you come in at 16 your credibility will rise. Now it depends on who you're dealing with. In some cases that's not good enough and you know Cros have a lifespan short lifespan because of some of those things. But I think if you're in really good sink with your whoever's above you. So let's say you're a director of sales, the VP of sales cr oh whoever you're reporting to needs to believe and understand your data and you need to work on that together and get buy in if if it's just thrown at you and you inherit it. It makes life difficult. Mm. That's probably something to vet out in the interview process. Right? Of of how well you know what the expectations are right and how they feel about that. And if you think you can hit the skulls or or if you can help to adjust what the goals are so that they are more realistic. Yeah. I often say that my problem is I don't ask the right question. Sometimes you think you are but then you have to reword it or ask it a couple of different ways. And so I was lucky in my current position, I actually was a fractional VP of business development...

...prior to starting. So I saw some happenings with the organization and I could see some things that weren't quite right and then I went in eyes wide open. So that was nice. Oftentimes you don't get that shot, especially if you are a rep or a new director of sales and organization. But asking how they got two numbers and how they are expecting you to get there and and the past is a little bit of a predictor of the future, but they may say what do you need to do that? So being educated and knowing what you need to adjust to make those leaps are important as well. Yeah. So not only making sure that the number is accurate, but let's just say it's an aggressive number. Well, okay, what what are, what am I going to get to, you know, in terms of help to get there if it's for marketing, extra hires, tech, whatever it might be you got it. Yeah, yeah, I've got a few last questions for you here paul. So we're big learners on this podcast who love to learn. You got some great books behind you. I'm curious outside of forget it Felix if there's any books that have particularly helped shape you as a leader, a salesperson human, any topic is fair game, but curious if any any books jump to mind. I can't remember all the books that have helped shape me. You know, I have a couple back up for your, you know, one of my early ones. Um, I think we, we forget about the people sometimes and we think about a process or a technique. But I think one of the ones I glanced back at here was one from Harvey Mackay. Not sure if you ever heard of Harvey Mackay? He had an envelope company and so you're like, okay, what does this have to do with anything? So this guy built this empire selling envelopes, which as...

...we all know, we're slowly decreasing their usage over time as we've gone digital. But the reason I knew about him is because I actually sold envelopes. I was one of my first sales jobs. So you're, it's like, gosh, how do you sell envelopes? This guy, his, his book is uh called swim with the sharks without being eaten alive. And I've heard of that book. Yeah, and he's, and he's out a bunch and I think there's just some basic things about hustle. And I think that's a big one for me. I read it cover to cover what my um, the owner of the envelope company gave me that book. So I keep it there. I'm a sentimental guy. He passed away. So it reminds me of him. And so I think that's important. I think keeping up with the current technology. I've been reading a book uh by one of our pavilion members, LaTanya who works at six cents and CMO over there. Who it's just talking about some cool ai type ways of understanding how you know, someone's buyer's intent. I think it's good to read about your industry and stay on that. You know what I like reading too is and I haven't done it as much lately, but some magazines, I'll find in an airport lounge on a topic that's even outside of my space. So I was reading one article on sociology and how some, how people evolve their thinking and you never know where some creativity is gonna come from. And I work that into a presentation to talk about change management. So it just gives, gives you different ideas. So I, I'm like read everything. I don't have a ton of books that I can really point to. Yeah, those are all all great...

...examples. I'm curious. Do you have any any, uh, I'm thinking envelopes right? And uh, you know, every salesperson loves to complain about, you know, the competition or a price too high or we don't have enough leads when you're selling envelopes. I mean what's the differentiator, you know like they taste better when you when you lift them and like, you know, so like how can you tell me just like any any insights or any stories around the days of selling envelopes. Absolutely. The biggest takeaway I can give you is have a diversified pipeline. So what does that mean? There are things that close fast and things that are longer sales cycles. You need to have a blend of those kind of like your financial portfolio for me, a mix of types of stocks. So what I meant, what I mean by that in the envelope days, You know the big nine by 12 envelopes. Those were the juicy ones. They were big. They were custom made. The margins were great. But the number 10 envelopes that you get all the bills in or like some regulatory correspondence from those were commodity and You'd make you know 2% margin on those versus 10% margin let's say or commission I should say. So I sold a bunch of those and a bunch of the other ones. And then what I also realized we're there are adjacent businesses. So when you think about envelopes, people that are not really familiar with the male business and stuff like that, they think the envelope magically appears with your bill in it or whatever document. But there's a machine that stuffing that envelope. There is software that creates the document that goes into...

...that envelope. There is software that drives the printer that prints that document that goes in that envelope. So anything you can understand upstream of you helps you to be better at selling what you have. Mm I love that. And it goes, it doesn't matter if it's as simple as envelopes. I'm sure that that goes to software or hardware or, you know, whatever else that your final check or whatever it is that you're going to be selling, you name it knowing that whole supply chain, if you will in the process of how it got to you and where are you playing? It's important. We're just a little piece of this world. Right? So understanding it around you is important. Yeah. And, and also the last, you know, the last thing that, that really stood out was the diversity of, of pipeline, right? You want to be someone that can hit a lot of singles, so to speak in baseball, right? You've got the small deals coming in and like you've got a couple of big bets that, you know, if one of these three come in like man, you're, you're in really, really good shape, but you do have enough supply otherwise, you know, maybe to still hit your numbers or whatever it might be, um, be able to to work both. So, paul, this was great. I appreciate you being so generous with your time with your experience. Any last thoughts that you have that you'd like to share with the audience and then what's the best place to find you and connect that's linked in or email or whatever you prefer. Yeah, yeah. You can reach out to me on linkedin anytime simply, Paula Abdul, you can find my book at Paula Abdul dot com, all that stuff. And and by the way, there's uh for the teachers out there, if there's anybody teaching um a friend of mine did a lesson plan around it too, so they can teach the kids how to remember, but that's great, you know, just final thoughts. I I just think uh one thing I, the audience, I'm not sure I want to know about you, but I love reading a little bit about you on your...

...bio and all this stuff and being positive and humble and saying I want to learn all the time, you're ahead of your time, because typically it doesn't happen until you're in your fifties or something, you start thinking about the rest of the world and all these things, but to start thinking about that stuff now is great. So I just wanted to say that, I thought that was pretty awesome when I looked you up, you know, prior to this whole bit. Yeah, thank you. I I appreciate it. I appreciate, I'm fortunate to meet great people like yourself on an ongoing basis doing these podcasts and learn a hell of a lot along the way, so I appreciate it. No problem, thank you. Yeah, well thanks for coming on everyone, definitely go check out paul on his linked in order the book. Forget it, Felix, send 20 copies to your favorite teacher and uh definitely be sure to connect them. So thanks again, paul, appreciate you coming on. Yeah, any time. Thank you. Thanks so much for checking that episode out of the Pavilion podcast again, You can hit me up on linkedin. My name's Tom Alamo. Otherwise, this episode was brought to you by Sandoz. So they deliver modern direct mail, personalized gifts and other physical impressions that make your outreach more personal. Until next week, we'll see you on monday. Get after it, piece by piece, say something. Mhm.

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