The beauty of AI is that it’s bringing a lot of tools to help entrepreneurs double the size of their companies and scale their businesses. However, you can actually multiply your sales and close really big deals without the help of AI. Joining Chad Burmeister on the show today is Lisa Magnuson, the mastermind sales strategist behind Top Line Sales. Founded in 2005, Top Line Sales has a proven track record of helping companies overcome the barriers to winning TOP Line Accounts™. Lisa and Chad dive into how you can increase your average contract size with no AI required, and where AI fits in the sales reps’ abilities to 5X their deal size and sell more.
5X Your Average Contract Size, AI Not Required! With Lisa Magnuson
I have with me Lisa Magnuson and she is with Top Line Sales. She’s written two books, one in 2016. I’m excited to dig in to see where does AI for sales fit in a sales rep’s abilities to 5x their deal size and sell more. Lisa, welcome.
Thank you. I’m thrilled to be here, Chad.
I understand you’re from the Bay Area. The AI told me that.
I got my start with Xerox. It’s an awesome foundation. I worked in Oakland, San Francisco and Santa Clara in three different markets.
I lived in Belmont for a time, the city on some days and then I commuted to San Jose on others. Let’s get started. Tell us a little bit about your organization first. How does your company or your customers leverage AI in their sales motions that you’re aware of?
My company, Top Line Sales, works with sales VPs and their teams to identify, develop and close big deals. That’s my niche. I’ve been doing that for years. I can point to over $350 million of deals that I was involved with from start to finish. I had lots more deals than that. Those were the ones where we started with as one client said, “Rubbing two sticks together.” That’s what I do. I’ve got training, war room services, playbooks, and both of my books support going after those big deals. I call them 5x deals.
If you focused on 5x deals, then you can drive 80% of your business from 20% of your customers. I’ve found that CFOs, when they go to the CRO and say, “If you go after more deals that are top 20%, we’ll double the size of the company.”
These are game-changing deals for companies. That’s true. If it’s a small company, a midsize company, or a Fortune 50 company, one of the first deals and account teams that I worked with when I started my business, it was a Fortune 50 company. The account executive, Christie, went out to a brand new account. It was a large insurance company. She came back to the office and said, “I’ve got something.” The VP of sales called me in and said, “We want you to come in. One meeting. We need to make a go, no go decision on this deal.” I stayed with them for 1.5 years and that account team worked diligently over that period of time. They ended up getting that deal. It was hard. They were anything but a shoo-in and big obstacles. They did all the strategy work consistently over that time. They still have that account. Christie, she survived layoff. She has thrived because she is known as a person that can bring in a $20 million deal. That was the biggest deal of its type in the company that year.
That’s a lot of revenue. Let’s talk to your first book, The TOP Seller Advantage: Powerful Strategies to Build Long-Term Executive Relationships. I always thought relationships were overrated, to be honest. I’m a solution seller. I thought if I can come in and solve your problems and then get to know you, it isn’t that big of a deal. I’ve since discovered that’s a myth. Building relationships is uber important, especially as you go up in deal size. If you’re selling a $300 a month product for five seats of Zoom video, maybe I don’t have to have the most amazing relationship. However, if I’m trying to sell a $20 million opportunity, I don’t have to know you well. I have to know fifteen other people inside of the account backward and forward. What is the main takeaway from that book?
The reason why I wrote that book, the problem that I was trying to solve is that having been involved with these big deals my whole career, not over the last few years as I’ve had my consulting company, is I saw these account teams get together. At some point, they realized they have to have an executive sponsor. If they don’t have an executive sponsor, there’s no way that they’re going to be able to move forward with a large complex deal. They work for months, in some cases even years, to get on the calendar of that C-Suite executive. They plan for the call. Tons of people want to go because everyone wants to be sitting in that room. They narrow it down and figure it out. They narrow down a team of 2 or 3, meet with the executive, send thank you notes and then nothing.
They don’t stay in touch with the executive. They haven’t gained the executive’s agreement as to what would be valuable to him or her to stay in touch. Flash forward, two years later, that same account team needs the executive sponsor again and they have to start over. That person doesn’t remember them. They don’t remember that meeting. They have to start that long process over. The reason I wrote that book is to help teams understand how to engage executives appropriately over time. Each of the chapters in that book, I interview a C-Suite executive and I asked them three questions. Why would you take a meeting with a salesperson? What would it take to make that meeting valuable for you? What would have to happen during that meeting for you to leave the door open for them? I’ve got 6 or 7 perspectives of C-Suite executives that answer my questions.
When we peel back the onion on where does AI fit into that approach, at the very top of funnel is getting to the executive. There’s a partner company of ours out of Austin and we’re calling this technology SocialFlow. What SocialFlow does is goes in and say, “These are the exec sponsor that I want to get in front of.” What do most people do? They call, voicemail, and email. They might pull a few personal tidbits. What SocialFlow does is and says, “Let’s go and look through my network of 18,000 people on LinkedIn. Figure out who has the most relevant connection to that C-level person.” You’d be surprised that out of 18,000 or some people have 4,000 connections, it doesn’t matter. The level of connection is one step removed from these top executives at companies is very good. It’s such a trust relationship to get that door cracked open for the first time that this tool will say, “Let’s identify who the best influencers are. Let’s send an email to the influencer to ask for the introduction to the end executive sponsor through AI on an automated basis.”Sales teams have to understand how to engage executives appropriately over time. Click To Tweet
Chad, I am enthralled with your book, AI for Sales. The reason why is because it can make such a big difference. You mentioned many different aspects of AI for sales in your book. The example that you gave, if sales teams could apply that, that might save them months of getting to that executive. One time, it took an accounting that I was a part of a year to get to the executive. It worked out okay, we got what we needed, but it could have been disastrous to that account team’s business because it took so long to get to that executive and ask for his help.
We needed something very specific from him. That kind of AI technology could take months out of that process. The other thing is, in my world with big accounts, if you’re going to call on an executive, the account team is going to create an executive dossier. You mentioned other AI technologies that are going to help with that process too. They can get the account team started because the account teams struggle. It’s like, “Executive dossier, how are we going to do that?” Some companies have resources to help, most don’t. That work falls on the account team and it’s hard for them to get started. If they could start with intelligent information, a time-saver. Also, better quality.
To drop a few of those that are outlined in the book, Crystal Knows plugs into LinkedIn. It’s not perfect. Before this, Lisa and I ran through hers. She said, “That part’s right, but I don’t know about that part.” It gives you a good guideline. If you’re going to send an email, if you’re going to have a conversation, generally use this language and structure and it will at least be directionally correct. Tools like Crystal Knows and that’s for the personality. When you want to understand, “Let’s figure out who their competitors are,” there’s another technology called Crayon. They have a one-month free trial. If you’re involved in a very competitive deal out, go to Crayon and download the app.
Relationships using AI can short cycle that. I use SocialFlow. We reached out to potential private investors because we’re in a funding round potentially 50 of the world’s top private investors. Through my network, I went through to some and I got one back. That was the music. It was someone I used to work with at Webex and she said, “It’s funny you ask because my wife works for that private investor. You remember my wife, she worked at Webex too. Why don’t you go to her and she can get you an introduction to private investment?”
You leapfrogged so much with that.
It took months. If I went direct, I would be another company trying to raise money.
There are many different applications for AI and it will get better, but it doesn’t need to be perfect. Barbara Weaver Smith, a close colleague of mine wrote the Whale Hunters. One of the points she makes in my book, The TOP Sales Leader Playbook, she’s one of the sideline coaches, is any information you gather before you call on an executive, whether it’s company information, social information, any information you have to go into that call not pretending. You should convey that you’ve done your research and is this accurate? If you go in thinking and whatever you have found is a fact, you can be dead in the water very quickly because an executive specifically has no tolerance for that. Zero. The call will end. They will never meet you again. AI leapfrogs and accelerates, much better quality, but the account team still has to work with that information and go into the call with the right mindset to make sure that that information is truly on target.
Let’s pivot to big deals and then we’re going to get to know you. Your next book, The TOP Sales Leader Playbook: How To Win 5X Deals Repeatedly, who doesn’t want a deal that’s 5x bigger than their normal? I do. If you don’t want deals that are five times bigger, you might as well go ahead skip this because this may not apply to you. For the rest of you, this is important, sixteen plays by sixteen experts. I assume there’s some overlap in there or are they all completely unique place?
My whole world is working with sales, VPs, big deals. I’m involved with big deals every day. It’s my work through my war room services. I’m engaged with the account teams and over the last few years, I’ve not been involved with a big deal. Before I wrote this book, I interviewed 41 sales VPs, live interviews, as part of the research for writing this book. They told me about what they would want in a playbook. Interestingly enough, most sales leaders don’t have playbooks. They have sales playbooks for their teams, but they do not have a sales leadership playbook for the VP, the director, the managers. They would find it tremendously valuable is what they told me in the interviews. I wrote the book that they wanted me to write, which I believe also is representative of any sales VP out there.
The book is divided up into sixteen plays and it’s all the plays around culture, leadership, methodology, execution, those things that need to be in play to create a big deal engine, a 5x deal engine. I wanted to get out of the once and done, one big deal, banner account. Everybody knows about it. Everybody talks about it. How do you create an engine that can produce those kinds of deals repeatedly? That’s what the book does. Each play is not written by somebody else but has a sideline coach that weighs in on the place. As an example, competitive analysis and blocks. Christopher Ryan, who’s an expert in this area, weighed in on that play. It’s a very quick read book and it’s a resource book.AI technology could literally take months out of the sales process. Click To Tweet
What is the play? How would you deploy it? What are the yellow and red flags when it’s not working? One of my 41 sales VPs came up with that as I was talking about the flow. She goes, “You need yellow and red flags because these things don’t always work.” I’m like, “You’re right.” Remedies, what do you do? Then lots of examples and things, and then a sideline coach. My sideline coach has come from all over the globe. I’ve got representation from Singapore, Australia, the UK, Europe, in all parts of the US. I searched the world for who I thought was the best expert to weigh in on that plate.
I’m excited because my copy should be in the mail from Amazon, so I’ll be able to report back here. I’m excited because as we pivot from a million-dollar company to a $5 million to $10 million, you can’t do it on $10,000 transactions. It’s all about those kinds of plays. I want to pivot a little bit so the reader gets to know who you are. What’s your passion? Take us back to college. What’d you study in college? What piqued your interest around those days?
I’ve always been out as an organizer and facilitator. If you went way back before college, when I was like ten, I was like I was putting forts together with numbers and it’s like this is going to be the fort and these are the people that can come into the fort. I always excluded my little sister. I had to torture her at the same time that I was exercising my passion. Her name was on the list with a big cross out. She has since gone on to an incredibly successful career in sales, which I take all the credit for because I find through my torture, made her resistant to rejection. My passion is organizing and facilitating groups. I started early and has continued. Those groups now are account teams going after these big deals.
I started my sales career was rocks and I got an early taste of what a big deal can do. I remember Downtown Oakland calling on Clorox, the biggest company there I believe at the time. I was just two years into it, an account executive. It happened that the national account manager was in my office. I was able to ride in on the coattails. My first meeting with my contact there, Clorox, she sat down and her name was Carolyn and she goes, “I need to place an order for 25 copiers.” I’m like, “What?” My budget was four a month and she wanted to place an order for 25. I almost fell. I was brand new. I almost fell off my chair. That was the first meeting. I didn’t deserve any credit for that, but I was smart enough to figure out how big that was.
My early favorite deal was with Airborne Express. It was three weeks of training in Seattle. I killed it. I remember coming back, I met with U-Haul in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. The guy on the dock, the influencer said they shipped 11,000 license plates out per month with the tags on the top. Back in the day, I don’t know why it was physical plates every time. Why can’t you send a little tag on that? Maybe it was 12,000 new ones or whatever. I don’t remember that detail, but 11,000 or 12,000 of these go out every month. They were using the postal service, so it looked cheap. $3 per letter and we were $5 or $6, so double the cost. Eleven thousand packages, we were gold on 5 to 10 a week. Eleven thousand in a deal. It was a little more than 5x, more like 500. We figured out that when they shipped, 10% of the time they had to ship it back. It missed the truck. You say, “Now you’re paying 3 times 2, so that’s $6. What else?” “Every once in a while, the tag expires because it missed it and then they get a ticket.”
“How much is that?” “It’s $250.” “What else?” About three times a month out of the 11,000, a family gets pulled over moving their house stuff and the police officer to be a total jerk, says, “We’re going to have to move it from this truck to the next. You’re going to need to unload all your stuff on the side of the road because you’re driving with expired plates.” I’m like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I was surprised in certain small towns in America, they’ll do that and so then you lose a customer. They post on it, “How dare you gave me these expired tags.” What if it’s raining? What a pain in the neck. We open the pain chain. We ended up coming in and saying, “We’ll do it for $4,” which was 30% off our list price. “Even though we’re going to sell you a two-day guarantee, 95% of the packages are going to get there the next day. You’ll have very little returns.” I got an 11,000 shipment out of that. I became from number 50 in the company of 100 up to number one. I sold the Canadian business which is 2,000 at $28 overnight.
I would ring the bell for you in retrospect because that’s a great big deal. Hopefully, you celebrated that at the time. That’s a play in my book. Celebrating is essential. It’s not nice to have. It’s a must-have because what it does is it cements those feelings. Look at the happiness and the passion that you told that story from way back in your career. You might not remember every detail, but you remember a lot of details. Once you do it, you catch the fire and you then did it again and again, I’m sure. That is what it is all about is creating a 5x deal engine that repeatedly gives companies the opportunity to not only get that business but to have those stories, have those banner accounts. Jill Konrath wrote the foreword to both books. It’s like a high tide floats all boats. She makes that point in her foreword. It’s so true.
Jill is one of my favorite influencers. When I moved from field sales to inside sales, Jill was at several of the AASP events. I participated in some of the back and forth with her. She’s one of the most fabulous salespeople that I know in the world.
She got her start with Xerox too.
This has been an amazing discussion. For those who are reading, the topic is AI for sales. The other topic is how to 5x your deals. By using AI to serve up more information as it’s needed, that would normally take you weeks, months, years, you can now shrink the time it takes to close more deals. If I think of inventory turns in a manufacturing environment or distribution through my Airborne and FedEx days, think about if you could shrink 12 months down to 12 days, how many more 5x deals could a salesperson handle?
That’s the beauty of what AI is going to bring and is already bringing to companies using tools like Crayon, Crystal, ScaleX and many more. That’s fabulous. The other takeaway to make sure we close out with, think of the passion that Lisa had when she was younger. She was building forts and putting people together and now she’s living in that passion. A lot of times what I’ve found through a lot of my meditation and working with experts is that if you’re not living in your unfiltered passion. When you grow up and you become a teenager, your parents and friends influence you, go back to the unfilteredness. What did you love to do then? If you’re living in that now, then success will follow you everywhere you go. I’m glad you found it, Lisa.
We’ll catch you next time. Cheers.
- Top Line Sales
- The TOP Seller Advantage: Powerful Strategies to Build Long-Term Executive Relationships
- AI for Sales
- Whale Hunters
- The TOP Sales Leader Playbook: How To Win 5X Deals Repeatedly
About Lisa Magnuson
When was the last time your sales team closed a seven-figure deal?
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Our clients boast of closed contracts totaling over $350 million in new revenue due to our commitment to ‘roll up our sleeves’ to help your team win. Close ratios skyrocket to 65% or better when clients involve Top Line Sales in their biggest opportunities.
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