EPISODE 216: SALES GAME CHANGERS LIVE LEARNING EVENT: Sales Transformation and Solutions During the COVID-19 Panel Discussion

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Webinar hosted by Fred Diamond, Host of the Sales Game Changers Podcast, on March 25, 2020.]

EPISODE 216: SALES GAME CHANGERS LIVE LEARNING EVENT: Sales Transformation and Solutions During the COVID-19 Panel Discussion

MAJOR TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Empathy is the key right now.

Darrell Gehrt is the Vice President of Sales, Mobile Solutions at Cvent. Listen to his podcast episode here.
Randy Wood is the Vice President of Web America Sales at Akamai Technologies. Find his podcast episode here.
Denise Hayman is the Chief Revenue Officer at Expel. Her show will broadcast in April.

Fred Diamond:  Alright, welcome. This is Fred Diamond of the Sales Game Changers podcast and of the Institute for Excellence in Sales. This is our first Sales Game Changers live learning event, it’s 2:00 o’clock Eastern Time. We’re going to be doing these every week, every Wednesday at 2:00 o’clock featuring Sales Game Changers podcast guests. Because of all the people working from home and because of all the stress being put on the various online networks, there may be a challenge or two with the broadcast. It seems that everything is good from an outage perspective so we’re just going to get going. We’re going to be recording this as well. Hopefully you’ll enjoy this, you’ll get some value out of the next 15 minutes or so. We’re broadcasting from typically Northern Virginia, Washington DC area. Luckily on the Sales Game Changers podcast we’ve had great world-class sales leaders featured twice a week on our podcast which has had over 300,000 downloads. Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to feature three of them discussing what they’re doing to motivate and elevate top tier sales teams.

Today we have three great guests, we have Darrell Gehrt with Cvent, we have Denise Hayman from Expel and Randy Wood from Akamai. Darrell and Randy have both been guests on the Sales Game Changers podcast, Denise’s show is scheduled to come out some time in April so we’re excited about that. Here’s how we’re going to do this, we’re going to get right to the questions so that you can follow along. I’m going to be posting each question in the chat box and I’m going to send that to everybody. We have a couple questions here prepared, we’ve gotten some great questions from our guests on LinkedIn and from IES members around the globe. If you have a question, you can type it in the question box and we’ll try to get to as many as we can. We have a lot of great questions already here that we’re going to get to, we’ll do a poll or two as well.

This webinar will be recorded and transcribed, there’s a good chance we’re also going to offer it as a Sales Game Changers podcast as well. Here’s what we’re going to do first, why don’t we just do this so we can see who’s on the call? We’re going to launch a very simple poll. The question is: how many years have you been in sales? More than 20 years, between 5-20 years, 1-5 years, less than one year and you’re not in sales, just so that we can see who’s on the call here. It looks like tonight’s an even mix between one third of the audience ‘more than 20 years’, one third of the audience ‘between 5-20 years’ and 26% of the audience ‘between 1-5 years’. That being said, let’s get right to it. Once again, I am going to be posting the questions in the chat box, I’m going to be sending them to everybody. First question, let’s get right to it. What are your top priorities right now? This is for the panel. Darrell, why don’t you take us first?

Darrell Gehrt: My name is Darrell Gehrt and I’m the Vice President of Sales at Cvent for our global division. First of all, I hope everybody’s safe and healthy out there and the goal today is just to share some tips. That really is our top priority right now, we really are focused on stabilizing employee base making sure our employees have what they need making sure that they’re comfortable, making sure that they’re stable. We’re prioritizing that even over our customers now. Of course, we have to develop but the focus has to be on our employees and what we’ve told them is, “You have to be able to control what you can control. There’s a lot of things that are out of your control and there are things that you can influence.” That’s been the broad message to our employee base.

Fred Diamond: Randy, you’re with Akamai, you guys are involved with some of the highest performing websites on the planet. Obviously, your customers are impacted but tell us what are your top priorities right now.

Randy Wood: Fred, I would give you that answer in two perspectives. First of all, let’s talk about customers. With respect to the Akamai customers, you said it, we’re the world’s largest content delivery network provider so we’re focused on business continuity, maintaining business continuity for our customers first and foremost. That really boils down to maintaining the integrity and the reliability of our customer’s websites and even things like their mobile application delivery and that’s across all industries.

Then second in the context of customers, to Derrell’s point it’s about keeping our employees safe and productive. Safety first and foremost and then with respect to being productive, obviously we’re in a work from home environment and with that, we’re focused on creating and maintaining successful business outcomes. The business can’t stop but at the same time we’ve got to create a safe environment for our employees. Just a final thought here with respect to a top priority for our customers, back to that first priority, this is really a time to be a friend to our customers and not a vendor. This idea of reasonable person theory really needs to apply, there’s plenty of opportunities to be a vendor and to manage our customers but we really need to focus on being a friend right now and realizing we’re all in this together and these times will pass.

Fred Diamond: Very good. Denise, how about you? What are your top priorities right now?

Denise Hayman: Hey Fred and everyone. I’m Denise Hayman, I’m the CRO at Expel. At Expel we’ve always had a mantra around servant leadership and what that means for us from an overall company values perspective is the idea of leadership takes care of its employees first, always and forever will be. It’s the Richard Branson scenario that says, “If you take care of your employees then your employees take care of your customers and then everything else happens as it should.” Nothing about what’s going on today changes that for us. I think it makes it first and foremost in every single conversation and I’m ensuring that our employees, #1 are safe and psychologically safe, not only physically safe. In lots of different ways we’re doing that and I know we’re going to talk more about that. Certainly that’s #1.

Number 2 is ensuring that we’re doing everything we can for our customers because right now this is not only a stressful time for us in the sales industry but also for a customer to maintain everything that they were doing but in a remote environment. It becomes wildly stressful so what kinds of things can we be doing for them? Then looking forward, what does this mean? Starting to put some theories together about things that we might need to change. Does that mean our go-to-market changes? Does that mean we’re looking at things in a different lens with different types of customers? Lots of forward looking discussions that we’re having right now.

Fred Diamond: One of the words that comes up frequently over the last week or two since everything has shifted is empathy, it comes up a lot as it relates to sales right now. Actually, on the Sales Game Changers podcast ’empathy’ used to come up all the time: be an empathetic seller. Now it’s even more pertinent. How do you be empathetic and move the business forward? DG, why don’t you start with that?

Darrell Gehrt: I’ll start with empathy right now as table stakes, you have to have that. If you’re a sales professional and you can’t wrap your head around that then that’s probably a bigger issue. I had an interesting conversation with one of my reps the other day who said, “All the conversations I’m having right now, they’re empathetic people saying yes, great, thank you and let’s talk again in a couple of months.” In essence, what happens is they’ve gotten stuck in the mud and I think one of the things that we’re seeing right now is decisions and pivots are happening on the hour, not on the day or the month. I think the best way to avoid getting stuck in that mud, first of all you’ve got to have the honest conversation.

I love what Randy said about being a partner and a friend first and a vendor second. For us, Cvent, we’re in the events industry which is arguably, I would say the second hardest hit and the first hardest hit being the hospitality side. Avoiding getting stuck in the mud is really about serving before selling, so you can’t lean into these conversations like, “Hey, can I show you some technology?” or, “Can I talk about how we can help you?” The way that we’re approaching it is, “Hey, we see that in the event industry a lot of people are asking a lot of questions and if you’d like me to share with you what we’re hearing, I’d be happy to do that.”

It’s an empathetic way to continue the conversation because that’s what people want right now, they want to hear from thought leaders, they want to know what their peers are doing. That’s what we’re trying to serve up and if it’s valuable to them, we hope that they’ll invite us in for a further conversation but it’s helping us move conversations along. Maybe they’re not as quick as we’re used to, but we’re able to execute on that friend concept first.

Fred Diamond: Denise, how about you? When we did your podcast we talked about empathy a couple of times, and again your show is going to come out in April. What does it mean to you and how can you be empathetic today while moving your business forward?

Denise Hayman: It’s a big topic and I love, Darrell, what you had to say about how to take it forward with customers. I think I would add to it being authentic, this is a moment in time where you have the opportunity to create more loyalty by not trying to push forward something that is maybe not of the time from a sales perspective, but being relevant about what they are looking for and the kinds of things that are important to them. Just asking a few simple questions up front. “Has anything changed for you? Has anything accelerated? Is there anything going on with your business right now that we might be able to assist you with that maybe even wouldn’t have been thought of before?”

Just being really open and authentic and as Darrell said, recognizing thought leadership right now. “Here’s what other customers are starting to do, here’s the kinds of things that we’re talking to other people around.” In our business we are very much around enabling customer’s security organizations or security operation centers. Right now they went through a huge transformation, everyone working at home not used to having the same tools and elements that they had before so it can be as simple as, “Would you like to hear how we did? We moved our SOC to a totally virtual environment in 36 hours. I can get you on the phone with the person who was in charge of that, that managed that. Would that be interesting?” Thought leadership, educational scenarios without jumping on the opportunity as of right now.

Fred Diamond: Randy, what do you think are the main concerns right now for your people? Actually, all three of you have managed hundreds of people but Randy, why don’t you take this one? What do you think are the main concerns for your people? And let’s break it down, how are your younger people handling this new world and how about some of your more seasoned and senior people?

Randy Wood: Fred, what I’ve seen now in three weeks with respect to people’s concerns boil down to one thing: it’s uncertainty. We can deal with bad news, we can compartmentalize bad news. It’s very difficult to deal with uncertainty. Just last week I had an opportunity to address my sales force, I’m responsible for the business in North America, it was about 350 people, it was an unrelated topic that we were discussing but I took the opportunity for the first 5 minutes to talk about the situation and to try and put things in perspective, and to try and help people deal with the uncertainty. It was remarkable the response from the team back to me in real time on my cellphone, the messages just kept coming in about how comforting that was, how much people needed to hear that.

What I began to understand is what we as leaders need to do right now more than ever before is to create belief in the idea that we’re going to get through this, we’ve got some hard medicine to take along the way and to help deal with the uncertainty. That really provides steady reassurance and it can’t be a one-time thing, it’s got to be something that we do along the way, that we do in a predictable, repeatable, simple and compelling way. With respect to the demographics of age in the workforce, I think older people are more comfortable with things, they’ve seen this before. People in my generation have lived through 9-11 which I think is an obvious and easy comparison here. I think for the younger people in the workforce it is finding ways to help minimize or to deal with the uncertainty that they have and the fear that comes with that. With fear comes some level of paralysis and as leaders we’ve got to work through that to keep people safe like I said, but also productive and working on behalf of our customers to keep moving the business forward.

For me it’s just about dealing with uncertainty.

Fred Diamond: Randy, we’re not going to talk about it on this call but for those listening to the webinar today, a little bit of a trivia there as you’ll hear on the Sales Game Changers podcast with Randy, you actually started your sales career on September 12th, 2001. I don’t want to go into that story right now, you tell it beautifully on the podcast. Everyone on the line, take a listen to Randy’s podcast and talk about being thrown into the fire, you literally started the next day after that tragic event.

Denise, Randy just gave a little bit of a good explanation of what the people are going through. How often are you communicating to your team? Before you might have had remote people and obviously you manage a remote team, people around the country, but you also have people in the office and you would go see them. Now everyone’s at home, I presume, all across the country and the world. How often are you communicating to them and how? Are you using online materials like Zoom or you’re calling? Tell us how you’re going about that today versus how you were a couple weeks ago.

Denise Hayman: We were early to the kicking people out of the office and having everyone move virtual, so we’ve been virtual for a little over three weeks now. The learning that took place with first of all, the isolation, we’re salespeople, we’re used to being out and talking to people, we’re extroverts in the whole, “How do we harness that in this scenario?” recognizing that people needed more communication, not less, in this moment.

As a company we’ve done a couple of things and then I’ve done a couple of things on the sales side as well. We’ve been having an every Monday morning management across the company meeting with our CEO and other executives talking about what the topics are of the day, whether it’s around how to achieve work-life balance, what we’re doing in terms of prioritization, what’s going on with cash flow. Any of those things get discussed in that moment and then a weekly Wednesday Zoom that we’ve been doing, so you can tell we’re using Zoom, where again it’s the CEO talking to the rest of the company.

Again, we’re very transparent, very open culture so it’s a half hour, “Here’s what’s going on this week” kind of scenario. It’s been really fantastic. Then I’ve been doing two other things outside of the regular meetings, I’ve been having sales Hangouts and it’s not meant to be a, “Let’s go over this deal” or, “Let’s talk about this new program.” The first time we did it I had everybody bring a joke and we just sat together and told jokes. The second time we talked about different things and different opportunities that we were seeing in the market where we might be able to reach out to customers in different ways.

Earlier this week we did a session where it was just everybody bring either one personal win or one professional win from the previous week and share it across the team. It’s a half an hour of connection as opposed to a work thing or a specific thing that we’re trying to move forward. We did a Zoom contest where we had fun backgrounds this past week, just trying to add a little bit of fun because everywhere you look, it’s negative so adding a little bit of fun and competition and excitement to the path is what we’re trying to do at the same time.

Fred Diamond: Here’s what’s going on now, we’re getting a whole bunch of questions from our attendees and it’s about to get serious right now. There’s basically two audiences for you as a sales leader, there’s your people – how do you manage and how do you motivate them and keep them elevated today? But we’re getting a slew of questions coming in here asking about how are you dealing with your customers. We’re going to do a very short poll right now and then we’re going to take some questions, we’re going to modify a little bit and ask some questions.

Let’s go off script a little bit here and let’s talk about the real world. Again, there’s managing the people and there’s the real world of customers. Randy, you’re nodding your head. What are you doing? Again, the question was are you making any exceptions or payment plans for customers that have invoices that are past or due?

Randy Wood: This is very timely. This one phenomena is happening at a breathtaking pace. At Akamai we serve some of the biggest brands in the world in commerce, retail, travel, entertainment, the cruise lines, for example and hotels and airlines who are all dramatically impacted by this. At the same time we serve other brands, media streaming brands, online gaming brands which are frankly doing quite well right now for obvious reasons.

With respect to the brands that are impacted, we are being as creative and as good a business partner as we can be by doing things like extending payment terms, in some cases 90, 120 and 180 days by providing other concessions such as contract production on a monthly or quarterly basis. The idea is this, we need to invest with our customers in the good times and celebrate the good times and the joint wins and at the same time we need to make equal commensurate investments in the bad times as they work through these troubles.

There’s no alternatives, this is what it means to be a good partner, to be an essential partner and to make our customer successful. I think this pays dividends along the way and I want to go back to a point Denise made because I think it’s important. The opportunity here is to be nothing but real and authentic, we are all human beings and we’re all in it together. Listen, ethical leadership is important and I think this touches on ethical leadership. At Akamai, ethical leadership means having profits and purpose and not compromising one without the other and we’re in the business to make money, let’s be clear, returning shareholder is important but purposes is important.

Right now I think purpose outweighs profits and just about anything else so stay true to your purpose, let’s be very close to our customers. For us, pricing concessions are top of mind. I’m approving five a day right now for some pretty large brand and pretty large monthly spend.

Fred Diamond: DG, I’m going to ask that question to you as well. Another question came in via LinkedIn which is along the lines of this and I’m going to speak to the question, it’s really about how do you help your customers. A quick note, my apologies, we accidentally hit the poll close button too soon but I’m going to guess the stress level with customers is pretty high. This is for DG, it’s a follow onto the question we just asked and then Denise, I’ll ask you as well. Are there any programs as a company that you’re doing to help your customers that are suffering from anxiety, uncertainty during this time?

This is getting in the way of my productivity at times, for example, when big news is released such as Marriott furloughing or laying off people. Again, DG, we talked about this in the beginning. Your customer serves event planners and actually, the Institute for Excellence in Sales, we’re a customer of yours and we do 50 events per year, we don’t do some at the level of some of your big customers but how are you guys helping your customers who are dealing with anxiety, stress, layoffs, furloughs, etcetera?

Darrell Gehrt: I think, Fred, when all of this started to take shape, one of the things that we did was we formed a SWAT team to deal with customers who have requests like Randy was talking about. We serve the hotel industry, we serve event planners and they’re being heavily impacted and they’re coming to us and they’re saying, “How can you help us?” Rather than trying to train up a sales team of 850 people to have those conversations, we created a SWAT team that can help handle those questions. It allows us to be consistent, anytime you do something a lot you get better at it so we’ve done all kinds of things, every situation is different, everybody has different apps. From a business perspective, one of the things that is actually coming out of this is that people are saying, “Can we extend our contract with you? You’re proving to be a great partner, thank you for these concessions.” Purpose before profits, I love that, Randy. I think what happens is when you put purpose before profits you get long-term profits so yes, we have to have these conversations. We are doing things for our customers, they’re all unique. I hope that answers the question, Fred, I’m not sure if there was another component for that or not.

Fred Diamond: Denise, I’ll ask you the next one. The person who asked that question, thank you. It was a two-part question, how are you helping customers and are you doing anything special for employees, your sales team? We’ve talked before and we’ll talk a little more about ways you’re coaching them but how about if your salesperson is selling to Marriott or some of the companies are Disney or some of the companies like that, that are just pure and simple shutting down? They’re not going to reopen for let’s say best case scenario weeks but probably months. You’re selling to the entertainment industry which is almost totally shut down. Denise, is your company or are other companies serving their employees with EAP programs or extra counseling or something?

Denise Hayman: Absolutely, there are a myriad of programs that are being offered to everyone, everything from free class pass stuff for exercising, meditation live, there’s obviously telemedicine options via our healthcare providers for the people who don’t feel like they have to go somewhere. If you need somebody to talk to, you need some stress relief, there’s been really interesting things that have come up across the company as well, people are doing Zoom sessions around happy hour kinds of things or stress relief scenarios. There’s a yoga class that’s happening a couple times a week, meditation classes starting to happen, there’s a lot of people who are pitching in to try to help others where they have time as well as recognizing – I think we’re going to talk about this.

The big thing that we’re seeing right now is the impact to people whose kids are not in school anymore, the scenario of not only being working from home and maybe two parents working from home but maybe two or three little kids who are having to be supervised around a school program means that work has to suffer. We’ve been very implicit about saying family comes first absolutely in this situation, if this means that you’re not going to be able to get all your stuff done, we just want you to have a conversation with your manager and figure out if there are other people that can step in.

Our employee experience team just did a survey around understanding where people are against their full productivity and if they have extra space to be able to offer up to others as well. People offer grocery shopping, people offer, “I could teach this, I could take this thing off your plate” just really coming together as a community and remembering that everyone is in it together is the most important part right now.

Fred Diamond: We have a follow up that came in from LinkedIn as well and I’ll ask this to DG and Randy. DG, by the way, is Darrell Gehrt with Cvent, he’s known as DG. On the Sales Game Changers podcast right before we take a break I say, “Sales is hard, people don’t return your phone calls or your emails, why have you continued?” and most of the Sales Game Changers talk about service. “We’re providing a service, we’re helping our customers achieve their mission, we like the challenge, we like the money” or whatever it might be. Now at this moment in time we’re adding the stress level of this, of having to deal not just with sales being hard but the whole Covid-19 which we don’t know where it’s going to end. DG and Randy, what added things are you having to do or hasn’t kicked in yet to guide your people along? DG, you have a lot of people who are first or second job out of school. Randy, your organization is a little more widespread but are you having to be more of a coach, more of a therapist, if you will, at this time versus just a sales leader? DG.

Darrell Gehrt: I’ll pivot from Denise’s message. We talked about empathy at the top part of this call, yes, we’re doing a lot of programs for employees too but the thing that overrides all of that is the human connection, the empathy, we have to have empathy for our salespeople and understanding that they’re hurting out there, too. Deals are pushed and of course business is still moving forward but you’ve got to have empathy for them and that empathy can come in a lot of forms. Two of my senior managers both just had kids so they’re dealing with that and yes, we have to be flexible, we have to be empathetic to what they’re going through and I think if you’re open and you’re communicating with your people then those problems can all be solved. That really has been a big focus of ours, that’s a message from the top down and something that I’m telling my leaders, too. Get on the phone, get on the Zoom. Get on there, show your face, let them know you’re real. As a senior leader, we need to make sure that we’re talking to our folks one-on-one and hearing them individually.

Fred Diamond: Randy, how about you?

Randy Wood: Fred, as a leader I believe that the role of the leader is to see the organization not as it is but as it can become and to get focused on the future. For me, that’s either creating or in this case reinforcing a vision that you can create by and for, that helps people put this situation into context to deal with the situation again to provide some reassurance in a time of uncertainty. With respect to seeing the organization as it can become, to me that’s certainty. Let’s talk about certainty, there’s a lot of talk about uncertainty here in these times of uncertainty and I sent an email out to this effect earlier this week to my team.

There’s a lot of uncertainty but let’s talk about what’s certain, I’m certain we’re going to come out of this, I’m certain we’re going to be better as people, as a society, I’m certain our customers are going to be better off and in a better position in maybe not too much from now, but I’m certain about that and I’m certain there’s an opportunity here for us to be better advocates for our customer. Let’s focus on what the organization does look like when we come out of this, that’s the role of the leader. Also, just in terms of clear, compelling and simple communications, this is something new that I’ve started doing. For me it’s about creating a rally cry or a mantra for the organization, something that the people can say to themselves as they try and deal with this and take care of themselves and at the same time take care of their customers and get back to work.

What I settled on in Akamai in my role is the idea that tough times don’t last, tough people do and by tough I don’t mean physically tough, let’s get spiritually tough, let’s be mentally tough, let’s be physically tough and let’s be tough for our families, for our customers, for ourselves. That seems to be a rally cry, a mantra that my organization has bought into, it’s the hashtag #ToughTimesDontLast, it’s about creating that vision. I’ll say it again back to Denise’s point, it’s about being authentic. People need authenticity.

Fred Diamond: If you have a question that you’d like to ask the panelists, Denise Hayman from Expel, Darrell Gehrt from Cvent, Randy Wood from Akamai. I want to thank our panelists for giving such great insights here. We’ve got a couple more questions here that have come in through the internet and these are all similar so I’m going to ask all three of these questions. It’s a good question right now and it deals with the whole concept of calling into new prospects.

Do you think cold calling people right now and let’s just say prospecting versus cold calling, cold calling people who don’t know you right now is a good idea or should we ask our team to stop that for the time being? If you do encourage them to be cold calling/prospecting, what guidance are you giving them regarding prospecting right now? DG, why don’t you start with that and then we’ll ask that to the panel? Should you be cold calling, prospecting? We talked about reaching out to your existing customers and seeing how they’re doing, empathy, etcetera. Should you call brand new customers today? If so, what should you be saying?

Darrell Gehrt: Our sales organization is bifurcated into two groups, one that focuses on existing customers, one that is out looking for new customers. Yes, we do still need to do that. Part of that is to Randy’s point, tough times don’t last, tough people do. One of the things I’ve been very bullish on saying is it is not business as usual but it is business moving forward and those cold calls that we’re making have to sound different, everybody has to pivot their message a little bit right now. It comes back with the servitude, I think Denise had mentioned this earlier as well, servant-based management and that’s to our customers, too.

What we’re doing with our cold calls is offering up, “If you want to hear what the industry is saying and what customers are doing with their events, we’ve got 20,000 customers so we’re in a unique position to hear a lot of things. If you’re interested in that then let me know and I’d be happy to schedule some time with you.” I’m not begging them for meetings, I’m offering to share with them. Sometimes with salespeople, we’ve got to think of ourselves as educators and that’s really the cold calls that we’re making, again with an end goal that hopefully they appreciate the relationship that we’re trying to build with them and they invite us back in for further conversations. If they don’t I’m instructing my team to move on and talk with some other folks and it will heal, but I guarantee you, those folks that you’ve cold called if you did it professionally and without the normal push that we might have as aggressive salespeople, they’ll remember that a month or two months from now when you call them again. I guarantee we’ll have people say, “Hey, I got your message before, thanks for reaching out. Timing wasn’t good but yes, I’d love to hear what you have to say.”

Fred Diamond: Denise, how about you?

Denise Hayman: I love the idea of first of all, changing the messaging. Clearly the message has to change, you can’t just do what was done even a month ago and I think it’s really all about selling right now or positioning to the need as opposed to the situation. In our business we’re very much against things that are called ambulance chasers, in the security world when you hear something bad and lots of people swoop in to take advantage of that. In this particular situation we’re doing things like our normal program is an annual program and we’re saying, “Maybe you have shorter term needs that you can’t even see a year out, maybe you can only see a month out. Let’s talk to you about something that you might be able to do for a month or two to get you through with where you are.”

Fred Diamond: Randy, how are you coaching your team right now to have those business conversations to new audiences?

Randy Wood: Good salespeople focus on ways to create and communicate value and positive business outcomes. I think there’s an opportunity here to create very positive business outcomes for our customers using our technology harnessing innovation. The amount of innovation that’s emerging from this situation is breathtaking. If there’s innovation, solutions and technologies that are relevant, that are pertinent to creating positive business outcomes for our customers then we absolutely should bring that to market but we need to do that as Darrell and Denise said, in respectful ways.

We need to be respectful of customer’s priorities and maybe right now it’s not the time to have that conversation but there are even in Akamai very compelling solutions that we can bring to market today, and in some cases in the free scenario that make a real compelling difference to our customers. We’re looking for opportunities to have those conversations but again being very respectful of where our customers find themselves and what their priorities are.

Fred Diamond: Once again, if you’re listening in we have time for a couple more questions, we have a few more questions we want to get to. Again, I want to thank our panel today, Denise Hayman, Darrell Gehrt and Randy Wood for really giving us ideas. We didn’t expect to have to shift our sales approach like this, it wasn’t part of the plans but what’s something new that you’re now doing as a response that is actually working well that you maybe see becoming part of your usual process? Denise, why don’t you get us started?

Denise Hayman: The biggest thing for us is I think the one that I just mentioned, changing our licensing model from an annual only or even a multi-year scenario to shorter terms, and even doing pieces of an architecture that we’re covering versus the entire thing. Really just flexing and as a component of that, I’ve done a thing where we’re putting in a triage sales deal desk because I can tell you, this past week there have been so many that are unusual deals that trying to figure out, “Do we want to do this one? Does this one sound interesting?”

One of our values is meeting customers where they are so trying to meet them where they are means that we need to figure out which things work for us and which don’t so this triage deal desk scenario we’re putting in place to be able to cycle through and filter out the ones that work for us. That’s a big one that we’re doing.

If I could add one other tip to the things that we were talking about in terms of the cold calling and the ways that we’re going about it, one of my sales guys came up with this and I thought it was brilliant. He has been sending out coffee gift certificates or gift cards and asking for a 15-minute coffee with people via Zoom and it’s a light touch, it’s collaborative, it’s different. I don’t know how many of you have gotten those, I actually got one the other day that was meant to support the local community, I thought it was great. Just doing things in a light touch collaborative way and getting our message out, it’s definitely working.

Fred Diamond: Randy, how about you? Anything new you’re doing that’s been responses?

Randy Wood: Good, I want to use that idea, I’ve got a bunch of ideas about that. I think one of the biggest things that’s come out of this for us at Akamai is that we are beginning to really engage customers in a new digital way. Not that we haven’t before, but digital marketing, digital connection, an increase on social marketing is really the focus right now. We cancelled our live events globally through July at this point and it may extend into August and September. There’s a lot of sunk costs there so we’re not flush with cash on recouping that money from those events so we’ve got to find new ways to connect with customers in very relevant and compelling ways.

For example, on April 7th we’re having a digital, virtual Akamai Edge event and right now I think we’ve got about 1,000 customers enrolled and it turns out that it’s a fantastic lightweight, compelling, immersive way to connect with customers and to bring them very timely, very relevant, very useful content that they can apply now in the current situation. I think for us, that’s one of them and I think in terms of transformation, Fred, the world will change dramatically. What we’re doing right here is compelling. I have a college junior home right now who’s doing all course work online and I told her she needed to be off the internet at 2:00 o’clock, she was doing office hours to make sure I had sufficient bandwidth but that’s one example of, “We’re doing work, we’re communicating, we’re collaborating.” I think this is compelling so in a digital way the world will transform to the positive and dramatically.

Fred Diamond: Before we get to our final question, again I want to thank our panelists Denise Hayman, Darrell Gehrt and Randy Wood. Today is March 25th and for a lot of companies that’s what I like to call 6 days away from the end of the quarter. This question came in from the internet for DG and I’m going to ask DG this question, then we’ll go to the final question. I love what DG – Darrell Gehrt – said that business is not the same but there needs to be business continuity. With the end of the quarter approaching us, what are some of the best practices you’re using to bring deals across the finish line?” End of quarter usually this week, a lot of companies are chugging away trying to get some extra things in, obviously it’s a unique situation. DG, why don’t you take that? And then we’re going to ask the panel for their final thoughts.

Darrell Gehrt: I think one of the things that we’re stressing around Cvent is this is also an opportunity for us as sales reps and I’m talking introspectively, here. It’s an opportunity for us to all sharpen our sales skills so Fred, I think what you’re doing with the Sales Game Changers putting this together, giving thought leadership, I too have taken a couple notes, this is great, I’m enjoying the rock stars that I’m sharing the webcam with. But we have to sharpen our skills and I keep telling my reps, “If you want to close deals in Q1 you need to listen better.” I think sometimes we move too fast. Listen, what is it that they really want? What is really in their way? In today’s day, what is really giving them pause? What are you concerned about? Randy is a good example, he’s got events for the first half of the year that are gone, they’re not going to do it anymore and they have to pivot so we’re pivoting on virtual events but we’re also doing some things contractually. We’re allowing our reps to put some line within the agreement that says, “If there is an event you have to move, maybe you have to move that September event that you’re still planning on having today, you want to move it, how can we work with you to get the right kinds of concessions proactively so that you can sign this agreement and still have the comfort level that you need if this should extend out a little bit longer?” We still have to close business but we have to listen to our customers.

Fred Diamond: Again, I want to thank the panelists, I want to give them one final question. Also want to thank all the people listening on today’s webinar, I’m looking at the attendee list, we have people all over the world. A nice mix of IES members and people that have found us via LinkedIn and probably people that are also big fans of Randy, Denise and DG, Darrell Gehrt. Final question here. Last week everyone was dealing with the newness of working from home trying to adjust using Zoom and a lot of other remote technology. Again, we’re going to be doing this webinar every week for the foreseeable future with three different Sales Game Changers podcast guests but what do you think the challenges will be in the next week as we lead up to next Wednesday’s productivity webinar? Denise, why don’t you get us started here? What do you think the challenges are going to be in the next seven days?

Denise Hayman: I think since we’ve been at this as a company for three weeks we might be at the tip of the spear on this. One of the things that we are starting to see is this balance of life spirit. In the beginning it was like, “Mom’s home” or, “Dad’s home” and that’s nice, we can have access to them. Now kids are getting bored and babysitters aren’t showing up, daycare isn’t happening and life has changed. One of the things that we’re talking about regularly as a team is, “What do you need covered for you so that you can take care of your family today?”

This balance thing, making sure we have internet during the time when we need it, that was my biggest thing. I had to read the riot act to my family, “Everybody leave between two and three, you can’t get on, no Netflix, I don’t want the dryer buzzer going” all of that is just different. Balancing and recognizing new rituals and this has really been my mantra this week, talking about rituals. What are those things that you used to be able to count on before that are no longer true? What’s your new ritual for that? What does your new morning look like? What does your new lunch look like? What does your new time that the family knows that you can’t be disturbed? What are those rituals to make it feel more consistent?

Fred Diamond: Randy, how about you? What does the next weekend look like, what are the challenges?

Randy Wood: I think very much in step with Denise and what she communicated. I’m concerned, Fred, that we’re going to migrate, evolve from this idea of exuberance to disillusionment and I’ll give two metaphors here. What I mean by this is last week this was exuberant, this was exciting, the hard times notwithstanding and it’s new. In a week, two weeks from now I think we run the risk of hitting some level of disillusionment. If you remember the Tom Hanks castaway movie, that moment of disillusionment was when he began to talk and interact with a volleyball, with Wilson.

Metaphorically, I think we need to make sure our employees don’t begin to interact with volleyballs and I think that’s a real concern. We need to communicate in predictable repeatable, simple, compelling ways. The final metaphor I would give – and this is for everybody – I’d go back to the continental army and George Washington and the Revolutionary War. In that final winner they set up camp in Valley Forge and that army could have done two things, they could have hunkered down and waited for spring to come or they could have done what they did which is get out of their tents and they brought in, I think it was Baron Von Steuben who drilled that army every day and taught them how to fight. In the third week in June they went on to have their biggest defeat I think in Monmouth, New Jersey and that’s the opportunity. That’s the metaphor, that’s what we can do here.

Let’s not talk to volleyballs, let’s make sure our customers, our employees aren’t doing that and at the same time let’s get out of our tents and let’s prepare ourselves for the summer and the spring that’s ahead of us that’s going to bring the good times back.

Fred Diamond: Darrell Gehrt, DG, why don’t you bring us home here with the same question? What’s the challenges of the next week and what do you think people should be doing?

Darrell Gehrt: I was going to say fatigue, some part of what Randy is saying. Part of running a race, to use a sports analogy, is understanding how long that race is. The way you run a 10K is different than you run a mile sprint and there is some disillusionment I think still that, “Hey, we’re going to have this for a couple weeks and then I’m going to be back in the office” and I don’t know if that’s going to be the case. This might be more like a six week run of work from home.

To Denise’s point, you have to find your routines and I actually sent out a note to the sales team yesterday about, “Here are some tips for working from home.” They weren’t necessarily mine because I don’t normally work from home so I too am having to get educated on how to run this 10K. Finding your own space, finding a way to communicate, getting out and walking. I think people have to pace themselves and be realistic with how long we might be in this situation. Let me pair that with the opportunity which is to try to continue moving business forward. It’s not business as usual, it’s moving business forward and what I’ve been really encouraged by is as we’re talking to customers, they too want to keep moving business forward.

Again, empathy is a table stakes, you have to have that, you have to be authentic. Denise, I love that word as well. What I love about sales and at least I’ve done it for 30 years is that every day is different and everything is different. Our CEO said, “Don’t bite this, embrace this.” This is an opportunity for all of us to learn and to grow and as long as I’ve been around, I’ve never dealt with this and everybody on this phone call is in the same shoes so while I hope we provided nice tips today, understand you too, we’re all trying to figure this thing out. Together we’ll win.

Fred Diamond: Once again, the Institute for Excellence in Sales is going to be holding two webinars per week every Wednesday at 2:00 o’clock Eastern, we’re going to have three Sales Game Changers podcast guests. I want to thank Randy Wood from Akamai, Darrell Gehrt from Cvent and Denise Hayman from Expel who will be on a Sales Game Changers podcast in April. Every Friday we’re going to have a little bit of a different twist at 11:00 o’clock Eastern Time, we’re going to bring one of our Institute for Excellence in Sales sales expert speakers to do a 45 minute webinar on creativity in sales. It’s one of the key themes that just came up from our three leaders, you’re going to have to figure out how to be creative, how do you modify your day, how do you change up your conversations with your customers. We’re going to be talking about how you become more creative in sales especially over the next couple of weeks. Tom Snyder will be the guest on Fridays. First we’re going to be doing those every week, have Andy Miller, Bill Cates and John Asher, people like that on that particular webinar. You could find out how to register on the Institute for Excellence in Sales website, I4ESBD.org. One more time, thank you so much to our esteemed panel for the great insights. My name is Fred Diamond, now go out there and go sell.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo
Produced by Rosario Suarez

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