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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the SALES GAME CHANGERS LIVE Webinar sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales and hosted by Fred Diamond on December 1, 2020. It featured sales leaders Monica McEwen from ThoughtSpot and Rosie Corcoran from Datasite.]
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EPISODE 298: Sales Leaders Monica McEwen and Rosie Corcoran Share Timeless Strategies for Success As We Near Year End
MONICA’S TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “While we’re all in a pandemic together, there’s a lot of different ways how that’s affecting people. I think that’s equally as important to bring that same empathy to your customers and your prospects so if you get somebody on the phone and they seem distracted, they seem like they might have something else going on, a child walks in the room, offer to take the meeting the next day. Understand that people are going through a lot right now and enter every conversation with empathy, compassion, understanding then preparing for it.”
ROSIE’S TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “First, understand what motivates you and why you want to be successful. Second, find the right balance between seller development, your understanding of the product and the time that you spend with your customers, and your planning and preparation. If you could find the right balance among those three things and take a proactive approach, it’s going to help you with your success. Third, remain positive because we are all fortunate to be in these positions where we can be having conversations like this about how to be successful and it’s important to see the big picture.”
Fred Diamond: I’m very excited, we have Monica McEwen from ThoughtSpot and Rosie Corcoran from Datasite. Monica, you may recognize her, she was a guest on the Sales Game Changers podcast. Monica, it must have been 2017, it was a while ago, thank you so much for being on the show today. Rosie, Datasite, you’re in London today, myself and Monica, we’re in Northern Virginia. First of all, congratulations on all your success, we’re excited to have you, you’re the third leader we’ve had from Datasite. Tell us how things are going for you? How are you going as you lead your team and as you lead your organization?
Rosie Corcoran: Thanks, Fred, I’m happy to be here with Monica as well. It’s been an interesting year for us and given that Datasite is a software as a service M&A technology provider, our applications facilitate deal makers in their M&A transactions on a regular basis anytime, anywhere. Now that anytime and anywhere piece becomes very important because most people are working from home. We’ve actually had a really busy year, in fact, we had our best month this past September and we also had record months in October and November 20% up over last year. Conditions, if they continue to improve and we see some positivity with the vaccine and economic recovery, then we expect this trend to continue.
Fred Diamond: Monica, how are things going for you as a sales leader? How is the pandemic affecting what you’re doing?
Monica McEwen: Great to be here, thanks so much for having me today. I think to pick up the end of Rosie’s comment there, I would say that ThoughtSpot is in the data space and analytics space and data has become even more critical during COVID than ever before and organizations are starting to really accelerate their digital transformations. I think from an overall go to market we haven’t seen much of a change in terms of the interest in our technology and the way that the sales motion is going. I would say one thing that has absolutely changed is we’re all now running meeting to meeting so the Zoom fatigue is really setting in for people. As a result, what I’m seeing is the need to be even crisper and to differentiate your message. If you get a prospect or a customer on the phone, I think it’s really important that the message is delivered in a fashion that brings value to that customer on that first touch. Otherwise, people are just so busy right now I don’t think they’re going to have time to come back for that next meeting. We’re really encouraging our teams to make sure that the messages they’re delivering to their prospecting customers are on point and that they’ve really done their homework before they get online with anybody.
Fred Diamond: That’s a great point. The whole concept of preparation has come up so many times, we all know that we’re going through whatever the pandemic means, every company that we’re talking to, every prospect is going through the economic challenges that relates to the pandemic as well. If a sales professional is not doing their homework ahead of time to think not just about what I offer but what my customer is going through, then there’s no way they’re going to be successful because customers don’t have that patience. Rosie, you’re based in London, you service a number of different countries, correct?
Rosie Corcoran: Yes, correct.
Fred Diamond: Talk about that a little bit, how has it been to communicate to customers through this pandemic in different locations? Not just in your country but across various parts of Europe, how has that affected your normal sales process?
Rosie Corcoran: I think that’s something that we do on a regular basis regardless of the pandemic. We sell into different markets from the London office and typically we’re able to travel there. At the end of the day we all know that nothing can replace an in-person meeting, that face to face and that relationship that you can form there but what we’ve done, and to Monica’s point is you need to do your homework beforehand and you need to also get creative with the messaging and the conversations that you’re having and the way that you’re approaching clients.
Something that my sellers have done this year which I think has been very effective is not just a virtual coffee or a virtual demo, yes, they focus on the product and they have those conversations but taking it to the next level and hosting webinars in different regions on bringing in thought leaders and having sector spotlights, talking about the different trends that we’re seeing in markets. Those are some of the things that we’ve been focusing on and that really is of value to our clients. It’s separate from the original conversation that you’re having about the technology and what we can offer them but also then talking about the market and some bigger picture thing here.
Fred Diamond: Monica, you talked about how the messaging needs to be crisp and it needs to be tight right now for where we’re going through. I’m just curious, how are you managing your team with that? Are you meeting on a daily basis to review the messaging, are you bringing marketing in, are you leaving it up to them to figure it out? Then Rosie, the same question for you. I’m just curious, as leaders, how are you physically working with your teams to ensure that the messaging is on point, it’s crisp and it’s valuable right now?
Monica McEwen: I think one of the top priorities is sharing best practices and what’s working. We’ve had to pivot a lot moving from being able to meet clients in person to having to do everything remotely. Obviously it’s a different selling motion so trying to get creative like Rosie said and figuring out what message is resonating, how to get in front of new prospects – I think in particular existing customers is a lot easier than trying to get in front of these folks. Sharing the best practices, learning from them, figuring out what’s successful, more importantly what’s not, pivoting away from that and then continuing the sales motion in terms of what’s successful. I think a lot of that has been partnership with marketing, when the pandemic first hit we very rapidly came out with some sales plays that would make our technology more relevant right now as the organizations were trying to deal with the pandemic. Then as we start to think about going back to work, it’s how can we provide a capability that will allow organizations to analyze if it makes sense to bring employees back to work? Things like that to be relevant and have a message that will resonate and stick with the customers.
Fred Diamond: Rosie, how about you? How is that messaging being developed right now? And again, how are you working with organizations like marketing? Are you getting directions from above? Are you meeting a little more frequently? Specifically on the messaging.
Rosie Corcoran: I echo everything that Monica said there, we do work very closely with our partners in marketing and they help us with the language and the content that we’re going to be putting out to our clients. An important thing at the time is to really be adaptable thinking about what we’ve done historically that’s been successful, what we’ve done that maybe we need to shift a little bit, what we can do better. Then taking those things thinking of how I can improve but how do I apply them in this new environment? How are we going to take what we’ve done and make it successful in the new world that we’re living in? We do work closely with marketing but I think the key there is just being able to adapt and to shift the focus that’s going to be a contributing factor in the overall success.
Fred Diamond: We have a question that comes in here from Charlie and Charlie is based up in New York not too far from Rosie, where you’re from, of course you’re in London now. The question is, “How much should we be engaging in personal conversations with our prospects and customers right now? That’s interesting. We’ve talked a lot over the months about empathy, of course every sale professional needs to start with empathy, we’ve been talking about how deep you get from a, “How has the pandemic affected you?” and things related to that. I’m just curious, how are you coaching your people to get a little bit deeper from the personal side or maybe not? Rosie, let’s start with you. Where are those conversations today and how are you either encouraging or coaching to people to get personal or not get personal?
Rosie Corcoran: I think that empathy and business success and relationships, they’re not mutually exclusive. This is something that we want to be focusing on on a regular basis and there’s something right now with everyone being in a similar situation at home where clients are very appreciative and they’re very receptive to the conversations that we’re having with them. Monica mentioned earlier that everybody is back to back in these Zoom meetings which is true, it’s nice to be able to take a break and shut off the screen but at the end of the day, people are also home in their own environment. They’re not on a sales floor, they’re not on an investment banking floor with the other lawyers, wherever it may be so they’re not having that same interaction in person which means that there’s a common ground between the sellers and their prospects.
They’ve been able to connect on a deeper level, they share that commonality of being at home and having the dog run in the room or having the doorbell ring when you’re on the call that allows people to connect on a deeper level. To answer the question to Charlie, I think if the clients are willing to have a conversation about where they stand and how things are going for them, empathy is key in the success there and I would definitely encourage it.
Fred Diamond: Monica, a slightly different question for you. You lead public sector for ThoughtSpot, you’ve been in public sector for a large part of your career. Are you able to have personal conversations with customers in the public sector space? Has the pandemic opened that up? For people watching and listening to the podcast, for the government customer there’s not just rules, there’s laws that you need to follow to engage and to sell and to bring your solutions and how they purchase. I’m curious, has the pandemic opened the door to get a little bit more inside or has it always been like that? I’m just curious how that has changed, if it’s changed.
Monica McEwen: I would echo what Rosie said. The pandemic has provided an equal playing field in terms of a conversation starter and we’re all in this together, as everyone’s been saying but not only our people at home and dealing with kids, pets and people running in, we’re all facing a similar struggle right now. Never before have we been in an identical challenge with somebody else and granted, everybody is facing it slightly differently depending on if they’ve been personally affected and things like that. It provides commonality and I think to some extent, it’s almost become an easy conversation starter which allows you to get a little bit more persona with the buyers and the customers which sometimes you’re not able to in the government space. Sometimes it’s so rigid that you’re not able to have that conversation to open up the meeting and I found that it’s actually much easier to do via Zoom. To answer Charlie’s question, it’s okay to get personal right now. In fact, I think it makes you human, it makes the person on the other end human and it makes for a more productive conversation when you’re showing that level of empathy to begin the conversation before you jump right into business.
Fred Diamond: It’s the beginning of December, 2020. We’re 9 months in, we’re coming to the end of the year. If this were a normal year there may be some getting ready for some parties, closing some business before the year, planning for 2021. What are some of your priorities right now and have they changed from where you might have thought you would have been back in January? Monica, why don’t we start with you? The follow-up question is going to be how are you working with your senior sales team and how are you working with your junior sales team?
We have a couple questions coming in here from sales professionals who are at the early stage of their career and it’s interesting. You mentioned there’s been some shifts with going back into lockdown and there are some parts of the United States that are going back into lockdown. A number of our younger sales professionals have the challenge where they’ve been in an apartment for nine months with two or three other people, that’s impacted a lot of their lives and here we are almost a year into it. Again, top priorities right now and then I’m curious on how you’re managing your senior and junior salespeople as we move ahead. Monica, why don’t you tackle the first question about priorities? Then we’ll pass over to Rosie as well.
Monica McEwen: The priorities haven’t changed. We’re in sales, we still have to deliver month to month and quarter to quarter so I think it’s important to recognize that we’re working in a global pandemic but we still have to deliver on the numbers. That said, I think one of the things that we’re really focused on or I personally am very focused on as well is recognizing that while we’re all in a pandemic, people are at very different places mentally and emotionally. As I mentioned earlier, the Zoom fatigue is setting in, I started reading articles about why we all get Zoom fatigue and cognitively we cannot process audio and visual with everybody moving and body language all at the same time. Typically if you’re in a conference room you’re focused on the one person speaking so making some small tweaks and changes. If we have one on one meetings now, rather than getting on another Zoom meeting let’s both go out for a walk and talk together and get that mental break. One of my priorities is ensuring that we can avoid the burnout that a lot of people are experiencing and keep the employees working at their optimal while also ensuring that we’re remaining relevant for our customers. As we talked about already, tweaking the messaging and really looking at it on a regular basis to see what is working and what is not and then rapidly pivoting to either introduce new messaging, introduce a new idea, Rosie mentioned trying to do events that are going to further engage your audience. I think at the beginning of the pandemic we saw a huge surge in people attending online events and now I think there’s a little bit of fatigue there as well. How do we create new content that is relevant, that brings some thought leadership to folks that are sitting home all day? Long winded answer but it’s a combination of ensuring we can maintain employee engagement, having that empathy with employees, recognizing they’re all in different places and then ensuring that we’re remaining crisp on our messaging to our clients and customers, that we’re bringing value every time we have a conversation with them.
Fred Diamond: Rosie, how about you? How are you prioritizing your management right now to your senior and junior salespeople on your team?
Rosie Corcoran: Before I jump into that, Monica mentioned the term Zoom fatigue and Deb LaMere, our VP of Human Resources, she actually just did an interview to Fast Company about how you can avoid that. That’s something that we’re obviously focusing on at Datasite and giving that content to our employees to ensure that they are as effective as they can be. To answer your question in terms of top priorities, right now it’s just helping my sellers close up the year strong. As Monica said, we all have targets that we need to hit, there’s goals, that’s very much the most important thing. At the start of the year there’s conversations around what your professional goals are so it’s going to be targets, activity and metrics but there’s also personal goals. I think right now we need to make sure that we reflect on what we’ve done over the course of the last year, we need to take the time to address the things that went well, the good, the bad, the ugly and then take that well-deserved break at the end of December. That’s what I’m having my sellers focus on and then there’s a lot going on at Datasite. We’re bringing new applications to market, it’s making sure that your sellers are up to speed and having the conversations with our partners and product and in marketing to ensure that our clients are aware of what’s available to them right now.
Fred Diamond: We have a question here from Louis, Louis is from the DC area, she’s a frequent attendee of our webinars. She wants to know what you both are doing to stay at the top of your game. Again, this is the Sales Game Changers Live webinar, we interview top sales leaders from around the globe – we could say that because we have Rosie who’s over in London – we talk about how you’re managing your team. Tell us what you’re doing, how are you both staying at the top of your game? You have people who are working for you, you have people at peer level and of course, your leadership is looking for you ladies to lead and to take your teams to the next level. What are you doing to stay on the top of your game? Rosie, why don’t you go first? What are some things you’re doing as a sales leader, as a VP to stay as sharp and crisp as you can be?
Rosie Corcoran: I think this is a great question and it relates back to your question earlier, Fred, that I don’t think we touched on, about what you’re recommending that your junior and senior sellers do. It really is the same that I’m telling myself, it’s having a plan. It’s being very thoughtful in the work that we’re doing and laying out what needs to be done in prioritizing, it allows you to stay organized, to stay focused when there’s so much going on. It’s easy to get distracted no matter what the new environment is for you and the flat that you’re living in or in the apartment in New York City or you’re at home with your parents. Whatever it may be, I think you need a plan and the other piece of it is to do it as a team. I’m in a very fortunate position that my manager, the CRO, Merlin Piscitelli has a very inclusive mindset. He views it as a team sport and we’re all in this together and we need to share the good and the bad and we need to celebrate our wins, we need to talk about our losses as a group so that we can all improve from it. My recommendation to my sellers, to junior, to senior, to myself is to of course lay out a plan for yourself, work with your manager to figure out how you can be the most effective and then do it as a team. Lean on the others around you who are in similar situations who have had that success before.
Fred Diamond: Monica, how about you? You’ve been a sales leader for a lot of great companies and you’ve led a lot of great people. How are you staying at the top of your game?
Monica McEwen: I’ll echo what Rosie said. I think even more so now than ever before, we need a plan. We’re running from meeting to meeting and there’s not as much down time, there’s not as much drive time, there’s not as much thinking time. Part of what I’m doing is really blocking off time that I’m not in a meeting so that I can just start to plan my week, execute on it, have some time to think through and strategize. I found that at the beginning of this pandemic there just wasn’t time for that so actually blocking off periods on the calendar that are really just thinking time so that you can get more creative. That’s part of it and what I’ve had to implement for myself personally which I have always done, I think a little bit more in an ad hoc nature, at the end of every week I literally go through ever meeting I have to make sure that I’ve followed everything up appropriately. I look at my calendar, I ensure that I’ve closed the loop on things that I owed back with somebody and I was finding that there were things that were falling through the cracks more so than before and I shared that with my team. I was a little bit humble in saying, “Guys, I don’t know what happened but I’ve started to drop the ball on a couple things which is not what typically happens with me.” That’s been really important, having that plan and then closing out the week really strong so you don’t leave a bunch of loose ends which I think is easy to happen seeing back to back meetings.
The second thing that I’m doing which is more of a personal thing but I truly believe that if you’re not your best self, you simply can’t perform at your peak performance. ThoughtSpot actually had Mike Robbins who wrote a book called Bring Your Whole Self to Work. He spoke probably back in May to the company and he talks a lot about the importance of bringing your best self to work but also being very empathetic in the workplace. I’ve really encouraged both myself and my team, “If you need a break, go out for a walk. If you need to take an afternoon off because you’re just overwhelmed or your kids need something or there’s something going on that prevents you from being your best, then hit pause for a couple of hours and take that time to rejuvenate. Whether it’s exercise, whether it’s reading a book, whether it’s going out for a walk, take that time.” I personally am making sure I’m exercising every morning, I’m doing a little bit of meditation, I’m doing yoga, I’m doing things just to get my brain in the right mindset to have a great day.
Fred Diamond: Rosie mentioned the good, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly, if you will. What are some positive things that have come out of the last 9 months that you’re going to instantiate as sales leaders? Some things that have really made you proud that maybe we didn’t expect that are now going to be part of your sales leadership processes moving forward. Rosie, why don’t you go first? Something on the positive side, something good that has emerged that you’re going to look to continue or maybe that your company is going to look to continue.
Rosie Corcoran: I’d say first and foremost I’m proud of the way my team has handled themselves through these uncertain times. I think you start to realize how mentally tough some people can be and it’s extremely impressive when they can stay so consistently active in supporting our clients and shifting the operations from online, virtual and ensuring we give that first class support that we always do. I think that’s the biggest thing, I’m just very proud of the way that people have handled themselves professionally, personally, showing empathy, professionalism, being responsive. Then the other piece of it is there’s something that we’ve done right now working with our marketing team, we’re coming out with a video series. It’s called Datasite 21 M&A Unlocked and that’s something that over the course of the last 9 months, a lot of people put their heads together. This goes back to that piece on messaging and content and going out to clients, we put together an on-demand video series and that’s going to be including different keynote addresses from our CEO and different members of the product and sales and marketing teams around best practices.
It goes out to our clients and it’s going to help them understand how to better deal with the whole M&A lifecycle to improve their deal outcomes. I think that’s something that comes out of this pandemic, it likely wouldn’t have been done, thought of or created or had time spent on it if we were not in this environment. Those are the kind of things that people get real creative that make you proud as a seller, as a leader to be part of this organization that people are putting out content like that. It’s impressive.
Fred Diamond: Monica, how about you? What are some of the positive things that have emerged that you’re looking to instantiate moving forward for your team and your organization?
Monica McEwen: I think back to Charlie’s question, some of the connections and the way in which we’ve been able to engage with clients has actually become a lot more personalized than before. We all now expect a child to walk into the room or there might be a pet that hops up on somebody’s lap. It’s humanized the relationships a little bit more than in a traditional selling environment particularly in the government space, that’s something that I do think will continue. We’re all going to come out of this and it’s not going to stop once we all have the vaccine, there’s going to be a muscle memory around, “Remember when we were all in the pandemic together?” I do think the personal connection and one of the ways in which we’ve broadened the personal connections and the network to Rosie’s point on getting creative and trying to have content for our customers in the public sector space, we can’t do wine tasting events, we can’t send somebody a steak dinner for their family and ask them to hop on a webcast.
We’ve created in the public sector space a meetup group that we call DataChampions and we did that with one of our partners, Snowflake. We’ve hosted a monthly DataChampions event for government data enthusiasts and it has really increased in terms of the number of people that attend each month and it’s really a thought leadership event. We bring in a Chief Data Officer from one of the government agencies and then somebody from ThoughtSpot and Snowflake speaking and it shifts around people discussion. It’s not meant to present any content that’s ThoughtSpot nor Snowflake related but really meant to try and bring together a community. Right now doing it in a virtual online forum, hopefully we’ll pivot that to in-person in the future, that’s created some really great connections and some really great conversations across the government data ecosystem.
Fred Diamond: We have a question here from Julie and Julie is also in the DC region, Julie, good to see you. Julie wants to know, “What are your expectations for your sales professionals right now? Again, it’s early December but nonetheless, what are you expecting them to do? We’ve talked about all these changes that have happened, everybody knows what’s going on. What are you expecting from them? We have a lot of sales professionals who are listening to the podcast, what do you expect right now? Rosie, why don’t you go first and then Monica? You’re a sales leader, you manage people. I’m a sales professional out there, what should I be doing?
Rosie Corcoran: I mentioned this earlier but I think it’s important, it’s the time to reflect on the year and be honest about it, speak with your manager and speak with your peers and get a good understanding of things that you had done that worked and were very successful and things that could have been done differently. I think that’s so key because if you don’t spend the time to reflect on it, then it’s likely that the same thing will happen next year and we want them to use and carry that momentum to close out the year strong and then to fuel them going into next year. I’d say the expectation for all sales professionals would be to reflect and to be honest and to figure out where you want to spend time and develop. What areas do you need to improve in? What areas do you need to focus on?
Fred Diamond: How about you, Monica? If I’m a sales professional, what should I be thinking that my sales leaders expect from me?
Monica McEwen: I think the biggest thing for me personally is preparation. We’ve talked about everyone being at home, everyone’s on back to back meetings so you need to show up to the meeting bringing value to the person you’re getting on the other end of the phone with and if you’re not, you’re going to fail. It’s always important to prepare in sales, it’s the #1 thing that people should be doing but I think now so even more than ever before because if you’re not getting somebody’s attention, you’re not crisp, you’re not delivering a message that matters to them personally then you’re not going to get to that next step. Preparation is the most important thing right now in my book.
Fred Diamond: Before I ask you for your final action steps, I’m going to give you both an opportunity to talk about what value your products and your solutions bring right now for your customer base. Monica, why don’t you go first? What’s the value that ThoughtSpot is bringing to your customers right now as they go through this challenge as well?
Monica McEwen: ThoughtSpot is in the analytic space and there’s a lot of other vendors in this space, people are probably familiar with Tableau and Quick and Power BI and those solutions are all great if you want a visual dashboard for information. However, right now it is so important that people are able to ask ad hoc questions and be able to rapidly pivot in their business or in their organization and ThoughtSpot allows you to search for the information that you need, get the answer that you need and move on with your day. We’ve seen tremendous number of examples of this throughout COVID where people have literally been able to redistribute their entire supply chain because they had the information at their fingertips when they needed it, and the person that was responsible to take action on it could ask a question and get a result.
Fred Diamond: Rosie, how about you? What’s the value that Datasite is bringing to your customers today?
Rosie Corcoran: Today it’s handling the M&A transactions anytime, anywhere. Everyone’s at home, before COVID times there were a lot of meetings that were taking place in person. When companies were pitching to win a business they would go and they would meet in person, they would have that conversation, they would have management meetings and now that’s all online and it’s virtual. We provide them with the applications to facilitate that and it’s really important that we help them manage the entire lifecycle of it and it’s going to improve their deal outcomes at the end of the day.
Fred Diamond: Let’s wind it down here – Rosie, give us your final action step. What is your one bit of advice for people to do today to take their sales career to the next level?
Rosie Corcoran: Originally when I thought about this I was thinking what would be my messaging for the sales leaders but I think this very much applies to the sellers as well. Break it into three pieces: one would be to try to understand what motivates you. At the end of the day for a sales leader it’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all approach for your sellers and for a seller, you need to understand why it is that you want to be successful because then you’re going to have a better ability to improve your effectiveness. Step 2 is finding the right balance in many ways, it’s going to be on your seller development, it’s going to be with your understanding of the product and the time that you spend with your customers and it’s going to be on your planning and preparation. If you could find the right balance among those three things and take a proactive approach there, it’s going to help you with your success. The last bit is to remain positive because we are all fortunate to be in these positions where we can be having conversations like this about how to be successful and it’s important to see the big picture.
Fred Diamond: Monica, how about you? Bring us home, what is your action step for everybody listening to today’s webinar and podcast?
Monica McEwen: I think it’s a general theme we talked about a lot today, we talked about having empathy and compassion for our employees and the people on our team and understanding that while we’re all in a pandemic together, there’s a lot of different varieties of how that’s affecting people. I think that’s equally as important to bring that same empathy to your customers and your prospects so if you get somebody on the phone and they seem distracted, they seem like they might have something else going on, a child walks in the room, offer to take the meeting the next day. Understand that people are going through a lot right now, enter every conversation with empathy and compassion understanding and most importantly, as I mentioned previously, preparing for it. That’s my key takeaway.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo