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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Sales Game Changers Panel Webinar hosted by Fred Diamond, Host of the Sales Game Changers Podcast, on April 28, 2020. It featured sales leaders Jeffrey Wolinsky (WTOP) and Brian Ludwig (Cvent).]
EPISODE 229: Sales Game Changers Learning Event: Sales Transformation and Success During COVID-19 featuring Brian Ludwig and Jeffrey Wolinsky
MAJOR TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “What are you doing to be a good friend to the people that you have relationships in life that are mutually beneficial? Think about that and apply that to sales. Friendships are built on like experiences – we’ve had like experiences with our clients that continue to renew from us year after year. How do we continue those like experiences – by having some version of contact, touching, relationship talking, whatever it is, continuing like experiences that take place through situations like this. You get value out of spending time with somebody, you get value out of advice from a friend, you get value out of laughter from a friend, you get value out of something that a friend does. Apply that to business, they get value out of what they buy from you so first, apply the friendship method of like experiences, create lasting friendships.”
Fred Diamond: Brian Ludwig, introduce yourself and why don’t you tell us what your top priorities are right now?
Brian Ludwig: Thanks, Fred. I’m Brian Ludwig, I’m SVP of Sales at Cvent which is an event management software company. You should have put ‘wild hair’ as one of the choices in the poll, I’m struggling. In any case, some of the things we’re really working on right now, Fred, is lead flow. Obviously bringing in warmer prospects into the team is more troubling so we’re getting creative with how we maintain that lead flow, we’re trying to keep activity levels up so we’re closely monitoring that everyone is in the trenches, a lot of training of the team, our talk track has changed, what our value proposition to an event organizer or event marketer is, that value proposition has shifted a little bit.
The team needs to know how to talk about many organizers pivoting to virtual events like this one. Last, retaining top talent is pretty important to me right now. In this industry it is easy for someone to maybe think about options, we want to make sure that we’re keeping them motivated and inspired and heads down in strong collaboration with the rest of the team.
Fred Diamond: Just a note, the Institute for Excellence in Sales publishes our Premier Sales Employer Guide every quarter and Cvent is an IES Premier Sales Employer so congratulations on that. Jeffrey Wolinsky, WTOP, what are your top priorities right now?
Jeffrey Wolinsky: I look at the poll that we had and it was almost split 50-50 between motivation and connecting with clients. I tell you, they’re connected so the people that are motivated are connecting with clients, the people that are lacking motivation right now are having trouble connecting with clients. One of the interesting things that we’ve found is that current clients and prospects that we had connected with before all of this started are relatively easy to connect with. Getting second meetings with those people is happening at a faster pace because thing about this, you had a meeting and whatever the result of that meeting dictated, both parties agreeing that a second meeting would make sense. The end of that meeting you’d say, “Let’s pick a time for the next meeting” and you would say, “How about next Tuesday?”
One person would say, “That works for me” and another person says, “No, that doesn’t.” Now you say, “Let’s pick a time” and you could say, “How about tomorrow?” and the people’s schedules have changed and opened up so that you can expedite that second meeting significantly faster. You can have those conversations with existing customers and existing prospects. Where we’re finding the challenge is connecting with new prospects, to Brian’s point, the talk track has changed, perfecting what that talk track is to get new prospects into the pipeline is where I’d go with the #1 challenge right now.
Fred Diamond: Jeffrey, real curiously before we get back to Brian. WTOP, I believe you’re the largest terrestrial radio station in the country. Half of our attendees here are from the DC area and it looks like half of them are from outside the area so everybody knows about the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center (NOTE: This it studio where WTOP broadcasts from). DC is historically a huge commute town so people listen to you all throughout the day. What’s going on with the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center? Is your talent still going to Bethesda or Chevy Chase to do the radio shows or is your talent producing from home? What’s that like?
Jeffrey Wolinsky: We have almost 200 people that are gathering, collecting, delivering, editing and providing news and information. Right now based off of the local aspect of people wanting news and information we’re at an all-time high when it comes to total engagement from audience wanting our news. Interestingly, we just put in a massive investment into having a state-of-the-art facility that all those people could gather in and work together with hoteling stations, open concept workspace.
On a normal day, back before when we had normal days, you could have anywhere from 30 to 50 people in that newsroom at one time. Today, right now at this second there’s probably 5 people there. We’ve outfitted our anchors, our reporters, editors, writers all with the ability to work remotely because ultimately the #1 thing is keeping the virus out of your workspace, keeping it out of the building because what would seem with these healthcare facilities, specifically some of these assisted living places is that once the virus gets inside of a space, it really exposes everybody to it. So, our first priority is safety for our employees and that comes even before delivering the news but when you look at the news that we’re delivering, we’re seeing organic growths in newsletter signups, in website visits, in app downloads. Getting that information to the audience is really important.
Fred Diamond: Brian, you manage a sales team around the world. Cvent has been a great success story, you guys are the leaders in your space. Before we start getting a little deep into some of the things you’re doing, has there been any positive surprises? Again, we’re all dealing with the global pandemic, we know what’s going on, we all see the same news but what positive has come out of this for you? Tell us something that you’re proud of.
Brian Ludwig: Most of our folks are based in-office than out of the office so our concern was, “Are we going to be able to maintain our activity levels and be as connected and in the marketplace talking to our customers, talking to our prospects?” I’m really pleased to see that our levels have stayed high despite being remote. Part of the reason that’s the case is because we use Zoom, we already had that culture, we don’t do a meeting that doesn’t have Zoom option at least so for anyone that wasn’t going to physically be in that space, they could join via Zoom. Literally every single meeting I have, I don’t touch my phone all day because every meeting I have is via Zoom, I have a mechanism for making calls from the computer so Zoom has helped us stay really connected despite being far apart from each other.
The work ethics maintain and I’m really impressed with my marketing team who’s done a tremendous job drawing prospects into the funnel, maybe a little more the top of the funnel because we’re bringing people in with thought leadership. We’re getting them in and that’s yielding a lot of opportunities for us to build a connection which might lead to something shorter term, but at the very least is setting us up for relationships that will yield some dividends hopefully in Q4 and Q1.
Fred Diamond: I’m just curious, again you manage a sales organization that’s global, you have people all over the world. Is everybody dealing with the same thing pretty much from a sales perspective? People in Australia, people in the United States, I know you have sales teams in Europe as well. Are you seeing basically the same thing as a sales leader for the most part around the globe? What are you seeing?
Brian Ludwig: It’s similar but there’s varying degrees. Australia, as an example, we have a 32 person office down in Australia and they were just dealing with the bushfires so you come out of one crisis where it’s hard to connect with people and people aren’t working and then they’ve just come out of that and then this happens. Singapore was on the earlier curve of this so they were coming out of it and people were starting to go to their office but now they’ve had a second wave and now they’re as strict, if not stricter, than what we’re doing here – well, definitely stricter than what we’re doing here in the United States. Everyone’s in a different stage of the pandemic but all in all it’s the same for now with our buyers but most of them are realizing that instead of postponing events, the play is to go virtual and still connect with their buyers. They’ll still get deal flow and an impact on their pipeline if they do events so we’re very active in those conversations anywhere in the world, frankly.
Fred Diamond: We’ll touch on that in a second as we begin to talk about how you’re dealing with your customers and their business. Jeffrey, how about you? What’s been the biggest positive surprise that you’ve seen come out of this situation so far?
Jeffrey Wolinsky: I’m not ready to look back and say that there is a silver lining yet to this because I still think that too many people feel like this is a V type of, “This started, we went down, we bottomed out and we’re right back to normal.” I personally believe that this is different than the financial crisis that we went through in 2007-2008 where it impacted businesses but we were still able to operate as a society. There’s too much unknown still to come. To point to a specific silver lining, I guess if posed to say, “What specifically is going to be a positive?” the positive is going to be that the resilience within the way that businesses have rebounded so far to know that they have to figure out ways to continue to operate and that you haven’t seen, for our part, anybody crack.
What we’re seeing is ways to continue to operate in the short term. What’s next and what’s to be determined, which hasn’t been written, is what that looks like in the long term because while the financial crisis changed the world, it didn’t change all aspects of the world. There’s so many pieces of this that are yet to be written. What does it look like when we come back to reengage? What does it look like 6 months from now, 18 months from now? Both Brian and I’s business do result on people spending so what happens when large businesses look at the aspect of GDP in Q2? I think there’s still a lot of unknown, not to throw the wet blanket here but I’m reserving judgement on what the positive that comes out of this is so far.
Fred Diamond: I would agree. This is the seventh Sales Game Changers webcast that we’ve done and we started the week after everybody had the stay at home mandate. One thing that we see is the evolution of change. In the very beginning, the first couple weeks a lot of the response was, “I’ve been through 9/11”, “I was through 2007-2008.” We know that there will be something on the other side of this and you’re absolutely right, we’re not quite sure, it’s almost on a weekly basis that things change. Brian, from that perspective, what’s changed for you as a sales leader in the last 5-6 weeks? Again, you manage a team, they’re out there trying to sell event software and related products to event directors, companies that have large events. We’re a customer, the Institute for Excellence in Sales, we depend upon your software for the 50+ events that we do every year. How have you changed as a sales leader?
Brian Ludwig: In many ways. It’s just different, we have to look at things that we didn’t really have to focus on before, it’s little things like Jeffrey was saying. Setting meetings is actually easy because people have time but just catching people on the phone is harder. We used to have a lot of success with cold calling but many people aren’t forwarding their office line to their cell or they don’t have setups like we do where their office phone rings on a computer, a lot of organizations aren’t instrumented that way so we’re relying more on email. I don’t like that, we’re still making a lot of calls but it’s not yielding as much.
We need to change the conversation, we’re getting a lot of people that aren’t as connected to their bosses and their approval processes so we’ll have a great conversation where someone says, “Sounds great, ready to proceed, it’s exactly what I need” and internally we’re high-fiving, we’re ready to close the deal. They move it to the powers, the B, and all the sudden the bosses are like, “Are you out of your mind? I’m not buying this right now.” What used to be a verbal isn’t so what we’re doing is changing our lens and our champion, we’re forcing the conversation like, “Have you really taken this forward yet and gotten all of your approvals? Have you taken your bosses and others through the business case? Because you might not be aware of restrictions that are being put in place on your business around procurement and purchasing.”
Really just not trusting those early signals and maybe relying on email a little more than we have in the past, that’s some of the moves that we’re having the team make. Moderating those things and staying tight has been a big change for us.
Fred Diamond: Jeffrey, how about you? You deal with a lot of companies, WTOP is a huge place for people to advertise messages and you guys have been historically extremely successful. What’s changed for you? Are you able to get to the marketing leaders that you typically try to engage with? We’ve actually had the opportunity to be at your location to do a special episode of the Sales Game Changers podcast which was absolutely fabulous and it was a great way to get four great companies in the room at that point. How have you changed as a sales leader? Obviously you’re home, we’ve already addressed a couple of those things but the marketing people that you typically deal with, how are they being right now as you try to engage with them?
Jeffrey Wolinsky: I think when you look at our business, a significant amount of it results on three things. One is the renewal business and we rely on customers day after day, year after year to continue to buy more from us growing that business and then finding new business. I break everything down into those three categories: renew, grow and find. I think the biggest thing from leading a sales team that’s changed, one of the exercises I took a group of my folks through this morning was, “Let’s close our eyes for a second and imagine what it looks like the next time we are able to be in front of one of our clients and then think back to what’s happening right now. Instead of thinking about our agenda, lets think about what that client, who we want repeat business from, is in need of from us right now.”
Maybe a better answer to your previous question, “What’s the silver lining here?” The silver lining here is we are pushing our people to understand how to better put themselves in their client’s shoes and I think that often times in great economies where sales are happening relatively frequently and easily we quickly get into, “Who can I close? Who can I sell?” and move onto the next person. I understand that’s the nature of sales. At this time we’re stepping back and saying, “What can I do now to make sure that I’m securing my long-term relationship with my client?” What can I do now so that 6 months from now when my client looks back on this time says, “You guys really did right by me in a time that I might have had an issue or might have been in need and I appreciate that?” That’s created additional loyalty, that’s created additional relationship that pays itself forward in the future versus trying to close them or sell them on something right now.
Fred Diamond: I have another question for you. You’re both very motivational sales leaders. Jeffrey, right behind you, “Just be Awesome”, before we got on today’s call we talked about how everything comes down to mindset hence why we added another webcast every week just on mindset, because it was coming up time and time again.
Brian, you have a lot of people on your sales team who are new to sales, your company has been on a huge upward trajectory and a lot of people are fresh out of college, maybe it’s their first or second job. I’ve been on your sales floor in Tysons Corner, there’s always energy, there’s always a lot of great vibe and things like that but as Jeffrey alluded to before, it’s an anxious time right now, different level of stress. All the great successes that people were having has slowed down.
How are you helping your sales team with the anxiety and stress caused by the changes of their customer? We don’t really need to talk about the changes in the world but from a business perspective, what are some of the things that you guys are doing to help them manage that level of stress and anxiety?
Brian Ludwig: It’s a really good question and it’s a difficult one to tackle because everyone’s stressed at every level. We are rolling out, in fact, we’re doing it this week. We’re rolling out Q2 quota relief so we’re going to be holding our team members to a lowered quota which they’re going to learn the details of that this week and we’re committing to a lowered quota in Q3 as well. We don’t know what it will be in Q3, we don’t want to make those commitments because we’ve got to see how Q2 plays out but the fact that it will be something so they can bank on that at the very least. We’re also going to roll out a commission floor so even if they’re way below even the modified quota and they’re going to fall short of their expected on-target earnings for Q2, there’s at least going to be a floor so they wouldn’t earn zero or five dollars or something like that.
But we’re going to put some metrics around earning that floor so if you didn’t have the sales numbers and we’re going to pay you the floor, we at least expect to see certain activities that show that you’ve been active in the marketplace. The last thing that we’re doing is we’re talking about the long game. We’re going to be impacted but all of the organizations in our industry are going to be impacted. Other tech providers for event tech are going to be impacted, they’ll probably be impacted five times, ten times, a hundred times greater than us and there’s a lot of confidence that we’re instilling in the team, I think they believe it as well, that events are going to come back. Yes, there’ll be some hybrid events perhaps in the future, there’ll be some concerns on social distancing but everyone understands the power of live connection, the power of meeting face to face and it can’t be replaced. It’s more of a, “The position we’re going to be in knowing that the industry is going to bounce back and knowing maybe our competitive set has been cleared a little bit, we’re going to be in a great position to do awesome things on behalf of our customers and the industry on the backside of this.” I’m using that as motivation for the team as well.
Fred Diamond: Jeffrey, why don’t you talk about some of the things that you’re doing to help your sales team deal with the anxiety and stress of selling in this particular circumstance?
Jeffrey Wolinsky: Obviously everybody works for a variety of reasons, one of the massive ones being money, I’m lucky and so are my salespeople that our company also instituted a floor. They did that early on so they took that off the table and I positioned myself as, “What can I do to be the right leader for my salespeople so they do the right thing for their clients?” I’ll take you on a different path, the path would be what are you doing to stay in touch with your friends? Just like you can’t see your friends right now, what are you doing to stay in touch with them? What are you doing to be a good friend to the people that you have relationships in life that are mutually beneficial? Think about that and apply that to sales.
First, friendships are built on like experiences, we’ve had like experiences with our clients that continue to renew from us year after year. How do we continue those like experiences? Some version of contact, touching, relationship talking, whatever it is, continuing like experiences that take place through this. Next, what happens from those like experiences that make your connection take place and happen further? You get value out of spending time with somebody, you get value out of advice from a friend, you get value out of laughter from a friend, you get value out of something that a friend does. Apply that to business, they get value out of what they buy from you so first, apply the friendship method of like experiences, create lasting friendships.
Next is the value you get from your friends you’re not paying for but the value your clients get from you help them to identify it. “I work with Fred because of X, I buy from Brian because of Y.” Through those like experiences, how can our salespeople make sure that their customers understand the value that they’re getting from them and feel more connected to them than ever before? So that when we are in a place where it makes sense for them to continue to invest and invest at newer or greater levels and newer or different products or just renewing the same that we have, they feel comfortable with our friendship, our relationship, our mutual experiences and they can easily pinpoint the value that they’ve derived from their relationship with me and the organization that I represent because the organization that I represent is part of their relationship with me whether I’m friends with the client – which plenty of them are – or its just a business relationship.
Fred Diamond: Brian, a follow-up on what Jeffrey just talked about. What’s your advice for companies that rely upon channel or partner sales? I’m not sure how much channel work Cvent is involved with, but what might be some of your advice?
Brian Ludwig: We don’t rely on it too heavily. We do have a channel and we do have lots of partners. We have built a portal for them to gain access to all of the decks, collateral, talk tracks, a community where they can talk to others in the portal so that’s not going to change, we’re going to continue to invest in our partnerships. They have deep relationships and as we maybe struggle to find new buyers and are relying maybe a little bit more on growing and building the relationships that we have with current customers to get more in the top of the funnel, partners are going to be more important than ever. Status quo, we’ve been supporting them pretty heavily as is and that’s not going to change because more than ever, flow from them is going to be critical and they have relationships in pockets of the country or the world that we frankly don’t have and that’s why they’re so critical to our business.
Fred Diamond: Jeffrey, do you want to answer that?
Jeffrey Wolinsky: I was going to say that a lot of our customers and many of the technology companies that are members of the IES use the channel to create marketing funds. What I’d answer that question with is that when you think about the word partner, it’s pretty clear what you should do – get closer to them. You have more time on your hands because you’re not driving around the beltway or spending two hours a day in your car.
Get closer to the partners, make sure you understand the value that your companies have together so that you’re able to better clarify that to the target audience that you’re trying to sell to. Get closer to them, clarify the value proposition of why your companies are partners together and spend more time together so that as we move forward, you can actually enunciate that better to the audience than maybe in the past.
Fred Diamond: The question comes in from the audience here. Again, if you have any questions submit them via your panel. This is for Brian first, how has the interaction between your sales and client success teams changed in this time? I know you mentioned the relationship with marketing has gotten stronger. In what ways are they working differently? By the way, the person who submitted this question gives kudos to you both on the quota relief and the commission’s floor. How has the interaction between your sales and – I don’t know if he used the term ‘client success’ but if there is, how has that interaction changed over the last 6-7 weeks?
Brian Ludwig: Both have the same goal of allaying fears that our customers might have helping them figure out a path forward. We have an account manager assigned to an account and we have what we call a CSC, a Client Success Consultant or a CSM, a Client Success Manager. The point of the story is they together manage the overall health and path for our customer so more calls together than ever before, there might have been previous QBRs – Quarterly Business Reviews – that the CSC would run. Now the sales executive, the account manager wants to be a part of that because there are some new elements that we might want to add into their account to help them optimize.
There’s more brainstorming over the best things to bring forward to a customer without the customer so more game planning between the CS side and the account management side to come in with a compelling story or path for that customer. More of the same, we’ve been doing that forever on behalf of our customers but I would say we’ve ratcheted it up by 50% to 75% in this time because there is bandwidth. Our CSCs are not getting as many inbound calls from customers so we can be more proactive and spend the time to fashion something more tailored for that upcoming call with the customer.
Fred Diamond: Jeffrey, do you want to take that one?
Jeffrey Wolinsky: Think about this, in the past the customer success team would contact the person who had bought and they would say, “Here’s how this works” and they would walk them through what was about to come next. Because what is about to come next might be different than in the past, I actually wrote down yesterday on a piece of paper, “Tell me your vision of success” should be the first question that happens every time we get to one of those meetings where the sale has been made and it’s passed over to the implementation team on our side. I want to hear from the client’s mouth what a vision of success is before I start saying, “Here’s how this works” even though they’ve already signed a contract that has a statement of work and says all the things that we’re going to deliver to them.
I want to hear them say what success looks like to them before we take any of those other steps. It’s a simple question to ask but the answer that they give us can really dictate a lot of the way that we interpret the next steps and the things that we’re required to do as delivering whatever it is that they bought.
Fred Diamond: We’re getting some great questions that are coming in through the audience here. You guys had very demanding jobs prior to this. Brian, you mentioned a global sales leader for a very fast-growing successful company, you own the event software space, travel around the world managing organizations. Jeffrey, you’re leading sales for one of the top radio stations and networks in the world. How are you guys dealing with this? What are you guys doing from a personal perspective to maintain your health, your sanity during this particular time? The question comes in from the audience. Jeff, how about you first? Again, you have a couple kids at home under the age of 12, I believe so what are you doing to stay healthy? What are some of the things that you are doing as a sales leader to maintain your mindset and your health?
Jeffrey Wolinsky: I know that my wife hates me for this, but I’ve actually lost weight during this time because I’ve increased the amount that I’m working out. I highly recommend the Nike training club app, all of the premium classes are free for sure. That’s part of it, absolutely staying healthy and letting out the level of stress or anxiety that you might have through exercise I believe is huge, yoga is also a part of that. The mental side of that is having conversations where you actually say how you feel, you actually talk about the things that are on your mind and you’re open and honest versus trying to guard against something that you might be thinking about.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable and saying what your concerns are. Think about this, the audience just gave us kudos for allowing the sales floor and the minimum amount, how long can a company offer that? We don’t know the answer to that. How long is a company going to need to offer that? We don’t know. It depends on how you are as a person, where your own personal anxieties rely but allowing yourself to be present, allowing yourself to let out the things that bother you and making sure that you don’t bottle anything up and just be real with both yourself and people that you can trust.
Fred Diamond: Brian, I have a question for you about how you’re dealing with your customers but before, what are some things you’re doing to maintain your health, your mindset and your sanity?
Brian Ludwig: I think I’m the opposite of Jeffrey, frankly. I’m doing a terrible job of it, it’s the honest truth, I’m working too much, I’m not working out because I played racquetball which is a two-man sport. I’m eating poorly, I would say. I’ve got a terrible chair, I just ordered a new office chair last night on Amazon because I think I pinched a nerve which has hurt my arm, I can’t sleep on my right side and it’s hurting my jaw so I’m a disaster, Fred [Laughs] That’s the truth but I’ll tell you, mentally I think I’m okay.
We’re doing a lot of things at the office to keep people connected outside of just work conversation so I have a lot of different sub-sales teams and each of them is doing happy hours, some of them have lunch together every day, they’re doing breakfast. During some of the happy hours we’re doing different games, we played Jeopardy the other day, we’re coming in with different themes where people are showing something that’s important to them or their favorite movie and we’re just talking about stuff non-work related at the end of the business day. I think that’s keeping everyone grounded and connected to each other on a personal level. But the rest, I’m a disaster.
Fred Diamond: You guys have got to be superbly empathetic to your customers right now because they’re going through a huge amount of transition from where they were. What are some ways that you’re instructing your team to be with your customers? You guys are experts in this space, what are some things that you’re doing to help them right now? Again, it’s 7 weeks in, no one expected this to flip but what are some of the ways that you’re working with your sales teams to be empathetic to customers and how are you being with them right now?
Brian Ludwig: I think it starts with that first conversation. We’re opening the conversation, we’re not asking for anything, we’re checking how they’re doing, we understand that their business, their core mission is going to be hit hard because they organize events and clearly that has shifted. Every other week, we host what we call a mix-and-meet and we invite people from local areas, we do them all around the world, actually. We invite event organizers and marketers to come in, no sales pitch, there’s no deck, it’s to have a conversation with us but maybe more importantly, with each other to talk about how they’re pivoting, what are they doing in terms of postponing events, how are they working with hotels and partners, all of these things. I personally ran one last week and they’re great conversations, we have 15 people max on each one deliberately to keep the conversation personal, and really awesome connections have been made.
I know a lot of these people are keeping in touch with each other afterwards and they’ve even said, “No one else is giving us an opportunity to just talk to other people versus generally for a sales pitch or a webinar.” They like that. A last thing that we’re doing is we’re offering free certification, it means something for many in that event industry to be Cvent certified. That’s a training program followed by a test and we traditionally charge a lot of money for it, $900. You don’t even have to be a customer so even if you’re out of work and you want to come back to work, being Cvent certified may make you more marketable so we’re offering that for free for any of our clients or prospects so that they are in a really good position on the backside of this.
Fred Diamond: We’re getting great questions from the audience here, we have about another 10 minutes left with Brian Ludwig from Cvent and Jeffrey Wolinsky from WTOP and Fed News Radio. By the way, someone here just said he loves the fact that you guys are both being authentic, so thank you so much. It’s a challenging time for a lot of people in sales, especially with the industries that you both serve.
Jeffrey, you bring in tons of new customers. As a matter of fact, when we had you on the Sales Game Changers podcast we talked about how you were shifting your business model to offer more online services and digital marketing and things like that. Let’s talk about prospecting for new business right now, you alluded to this before. A question that comes in right now is how are you instructing your organization to the hunters, the team of people who are focused on new business? How are you directing them right now? Again, it’s April 29th, we’re 7 weeks into wherever we are. What are some of the directions you’re giving to the people who are responsible for being out there hustling finding new accounts, getting them onto the WTOP and Fed News Radio platforms?
Jeffrey Wolinsky: One of the things that we do is we go back to what our mission is. Our mission is to be a trusted extension of our clients’ marketing team and then second part of that is we think to ourselves, “Where does this meet up with our existing customer base?” If you think about where you find new customers, you look at the success stories you have and what I’ve liked most about my career in the media industry is that we’re able to deal with so many different customers whether it be a jewelry store, a roofing company or somebody that’s one of the largest technology companies selling to the Department of Defense. I’m able to educate myself on so many different things so our salespeople are naturally curious. The people that we’re looking to hire to be part of our team, they’re naturally curious.
I want you to go out and be curious, if you’re curious about how this is affecting this type of industry or that is affecting that type of company, set yourself up with the ability to do, what I would consider, an informational call versus a sales call. Put yourself in position to learn and be curious. When more curious, we find opportunities that we can present solutions to and deliver results for so if you create an environment of curiosity, you’ll get yourself in a situation where you’re having conversations, where interesting things come up and that will lead you to opportunities. Let’s not say that they have to be for right now, the opportunities might be for somewhere down the road but let’s start those conversations right now. That’s the little tweak or difference as to how I’m talking to our people about those things now versus maybe in the past, we weren’t as able to take it as slowly and we were looking to speed that sales cycle up a little bit and ask what is your most important need right now. If the client doesn’t know what their most important need right now is, let’s not ask that question. Let’s just talk, let’s be curious.
Fred Diamond: Brian, we’ve got time for a couple more questions here. Again, I want to thank the people in the audience for submitting some tremendous questions. You mentioned before that you offer your sales team and your company to be home for a day during the week, you said it may change to two or something. What do you think some of the things are that are going to change as a standard with how you go about from a sales process moving forward, whenever we at some point normalize, if we ever do? You were talking about the leading edge of Zoom and you’ve been doing that for years. Whenever I talk to your sales team it’s always via Zoom or whatever the platform is you use. What are some of the other things that you see will become standard practice?
Brian Ludwig: I don’t think we’re going to change that much, Fred. At the end of the day we’re still going to do live events. Live events for us, it’s us drinking our own champagne, we believe very heavily in live events as to our customers. We do a big event called Cvent Connect, we do client success groups where we get 50-60 people in each local market, we do product seminars at steak restaurants where we get 20-30 people to join us to talk with other colleagues about event tech and we give our dog and pony show. I don’t think we’re going to change that, a lot of people are trying to say, “You’re probably going to move to all virtual for that kind of stuff.” Absolutely not, we believe in the power of human connection and live and that is not going to change.
I think if anything, maybe we’ll show a little more flexibility with business terms, approvals, we’ve loosened things up in this trying time and it’s working so maybe we’ll be a little more open to different deal models in the future. I think our story is going to change forever because as I eluded to earlier, people have gone virtual now. When we come out of this, people are going to go to live events but they’re going to turn and say, “I want to have a virtual component” potentially. I want to do what we’re going to call a hybrid event so we need to change our solution to better handle hybrid events where there’s in-person live stuff plus things being broadcasted over the internet simultaneously and allow for collaboration across all of those people. That part of our story is going to need to change, our product is going to need to change so we’ll evolve based on this but how we go to market and how my team is organized and our regular cadence, that will remain unchanged.
Fred Diamond: We’ll make that available. We have time for one or two more questions. Again, I want to thank Brian Ludwig and Jeffrey Wolinsky, I encourage everybody to go to salesgamechangerspodcast.com to find their answers. By the way, Leslie just said it’s cvent.com/cvent/certification. Thank you, Leslie, for jumping on that. Again, if you haven’t taken a screenshot yet, please take a quick screenshot and email it to me at email@example.com. Tomorrow we’re featuring John Asher, it’s the Sales Mindset every Thursday at 2:00, we’re talking about 9 strategies for longer life, how to be more healthy. This Friday at 11:00 o’clock we’re going to be talking about building stronger teams. Time for one more question. Do you want to say something, Jeffrey?
Jeffrey Wolinsky: Earlier in the conversation you asked about the silver lining, what’s the positive that came out of this and I said I wasn’t ready to answer it yet, I’m ready to answer it now based off of something Brian just said. Two things he just said are the silver lining, one, we will all value in-person meetings more so than we ever did before. Our organization always put a premium on in-person meetings but our salespeople and our management and everybody will understand the value of in-person meetings is going to be more important because they’re going to be harder to get so that somebody grants you the ability to come to their office. You will prepare for those meetings better, you will make better use of those meetings and you will make sure that if and when you get that in-person meeting you value it at a higher level than you did in the past because it was never a time that we would take an in-person meeting in the past for granted.
Today, based off of what we’ve gone through we will not take in-person meetings for granted in the same way. That’s number one, I’ll credit Brian to sparking that for me. Number two is because those in-person meetings are going to be harder to get and because the value of time in front of client is going to be more valuable we will sell deeper into organizations. One of our organization’s goals is to sell more options of how we can help them with marketing. I know you’ve mentioned WTOP a lot but we offer other significant opportunities within WTOP, within Federal News Network and with 2060 Digital, our external marketing opportunities are far more than many of our clients currently take advantage of. When we have those in-person engagements, when we have those clients who are friends, when we have those clients who trust us we will sell deeper. In-person experiences, more valuable, selling deeper brings us more value from each engagement. Those are my silver linings so I make up for the poor answer I had previously.
Fred Diamond: [Laughs] very good, we’ll edit that answer out – no we won’t, we’re actually not going to do any editing for this. By the way, as it relates to Federal News Network, actually on the Sales Game Changers podcast, yesterday’s show featured one of your on-air talents, Mark Amtower talking about some strategies for marketing and selling to the federal government. Once again, go check out the Sales Game Changers podcast for Jeffrey Wolinsky and for Brian Ludwig and for Mark Amtower. Time for one more question, I want to thank you both, I want to thank the audience as well. Final question, here we are, week 7, whatever it is. Every week things are changing, things are evolving, we’re learning more things. What do you think the challenges are going to be for sales in the next week?
Jeffrey Wolinsky: I think the key challenges, until we have more clear guidance on when the phase 1, phase 2, phase 3 of coming out of the stay at home orders are is preparing ourselves for what that looks like. The #1 thing that any leader – not just a sales leader – needs to do is help to mitigate the nerves of the unknown and once we can start those three phases, the unknown starts to mitigate and people can prosper. During this time of unknown we have to just stay the course of making sure they see a progression to get to a place where those phases can start so any leader, sales or otherwise, has to keep their people engaged and ready to come back to whatever these phases bring for our companies and to make them feel comfortable and confident because people thrive when they’re comfortable and confident.
Fred Diamond: Brian Ludwig, thank you so much for being here, why don’t you bring us on home? What do you think the challenges are for sales leaders over the next week?
Brian Ludwig: I think you’re asking the question at a very unique time, it’s April 29th so I have half a day and then all of tomorrow to end the month. We organize our business quarterly but really down to the month as well so it’s going to be the first full month post-crisis. The last couple weeks of March were impacted but to have a full month in the bag, it’s really going to stress test our first pass at a new budget. We’ve devised new budget, made a lot of assumptions and I think as this week ends specifically, we will look to see how accurate we were. Is it better or worse than we thought? And then that’s going to guide at least through Q2 and probably part of Q3 how we forecast. I’ll tell you, we have a lot of business still out there, I don’t know how April’s going to end even when there’s only 12 business hours left. For us, forecasting, quotas, thinking about the overall impact on the business is an evolving thing. Every day, every week we get more information and we can get a little more precise so we’re going to be in the middle of that on Thursday and Friday as the month ends.