Digital Selling And The Promise of AI With Jamie Shanks
The Coronavirus pandemic has affected all industries around the globe, but to a certain degree, has helped propel the advancement of digital selling. Jamie Shanks, a Managing Partner at Sales for Life, joins Chad Burmeister this episode to talk about the movement of the digital world when it comes to sales and what can be expected when it comes to AI. Know how global enterprises think and adapt to these advancements as Jamie also explains what social proximity selling is all about and how it can boost the yield of your salespeople. Listen in and know what you should be looking at in your business during the pandemic in order to prepare and use this time to grow your business and adapt to the changes happening in the environment.
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Digital Selling And The Promise of AI With Jamie Shanks
Chad, thank you for having me.
It's great to have you here. It seems like forever and a day ago that we're skiing in Canada at Baldface Lodge. Thanks for jumping in. The topic we're going to cover is digital selling and the future promise of Artificial Intelligence because it's starting to seep in. We want to get with Jamie and understand when it comes to digital selling, social selling, what it is Jamie teaches his customers to do. Where's he starting to see AI seep in? Where is it not going to seep in, perhaps? This will be an outstanding conversation. I'm looking forward to it. Welcome to the show. Let's get started. You'll be surprised to learn the difference between direct dial phone number, a switchboard, and a direct mobile phone number and the impact it can have on your sales. Jamie, you invented, started, founded Sales for Life. Tell us a little bit about the organization.
In simplest terms, we pioneered a topic that most of the sales community know as social selling. It's been renamed by companies as digital sales or modern selling. We are a professional services firm that focuses on knowledge transfer and training. We serve the global mid-market and global enterprise and helping those sales organizations be able to add both the sales professional level and at the leadership level, be able to infuse and inject modern digital sales plays directly into the fabric of the way they sell. Ultimately, a simple outcome is that's to increase pipeline. We are a prospecting methodology but using a 21st-century sales place.
Could you share with us an example of a company? You don't have to necessarily name them. If you can, go ahead and do so. I've heard you talk about social proximity a lot. What does that mean? Can you share maybe a case study of how a company would deploy social proximity selling?
Our customers are global enterprises. They are the Microsofts, the Intels, the Dassault Systèmes, and Thomson Reuters of the world because what they're trying to do is increase the yield per seller. They have hundreds or thousands of sellers. What social proximity means is that there is a relationship map inside tools like LinkedIn that show you and can roll up the relationships that a person has at the highest strength of their relationship chart.
An example, if I'm a sales professional at Microsoft, I have an ecosystem of people that are on my sales team. As well, there are the financial operators of the business, operations, supply chain. I have this ecosystem that I could leverage to identify who inside my organization is connected and has a strong social relationship with the customer I'm trying to serve. Did they go to university together? Are they next-door neighbors to each other? This entire relationship roadmapping is one of the four major pillars of what we would call triggers and signals.
I saw a Salesforce.com report that showed when you go through a warm referral, you are 181 times more likely to sell the deal. If you're optimizing for meetings, that's one thing. If you're optimizing for closed business, that's another. I assume that when you deploy this methodology, I've heard you present before, a 300% increase in sales due to the social proximity approach.
Ultimately, you're using social proof. The difference is now you have the mechanics. Social platforms like LinkedIn and there are other social platforms in the world, help you connect the dots between one person to the next. That social proofing didn't exist years ago. Now I have all this information to make informed decisions.
There's no more important time than there is now for Sales for Life. Do you use AI in this kind of emotion? Do you see customers using AI in this kind of selling? What are your thoughts on leveraging AI?
Both. Our customers are heavy proponents. Many of them are global technology companies and recognized. Let's first think about why do we invest in artificial intelligence. It is around speed and velocity and increasing yield and yield at a return on investment. We did the same analysis. We recognized that there was a sales play that we run, which is highly effective. Hundreds of thousands of the sellers of our customers have been running this play, in which what you do is you monitor the job changes inside your ideal customer profiles and in your market. Why? Because time is an excellent trigger. Human capital migration is a leading indicator of priorities in business.
What we do is we monitor those chief revenue officers and chief marketing officers taking new roles in businesses. We use AI to be able to not only capture that information, most importantly, to be able to communicate at scale. There are hundreds or thousands of these chief revenue officers who are taking jobs every single day, every single week. We want to be at the forefront of their education. What we do is deploy sales plays to teach them new ideas that will help them in their new roles. We drip feed ideas to them immediately upon taking a new job.
There are many technologies these days that can serve up those triggers and alerts and job changes at the wave of a fingertip and put it in your CRM and then you can reach out to them via email and social. That's outstanding. Let's get to know Jamie a little bit. How did you first get into this line of business? Did you wake up one day and say, “I want to be a social expert.”
No. I had a struggling consulting firm that had to learn it the hard way. I was the vice president of sales at a SaaS software company in Toronto, Canada. I had the genius idea to start consulting on inside sales best practices. This was early 2010. I shook the hands of the CEO that I was working for and I said, “I quit. I'm going to start a consulting firm.” The challenge was that eighteen months later, I was nearly bankrupt. Through that process, I recognized that the way that I was prospecting and building business was not scalable, and it wasn't effective. I started to use social platforms to reverse engineer customers and experiences and recognize there was a smarter, better, faster way of communicating. I started to develop the first training program on this topic. That's how I got into it.
You and I have such a similarity because eighteen months into ScaleX, March of 2019, I got into a bind. I was used to selling $100,000 to $200,000 a month. We had our first $30,000 month, the worst month ever. When you get your head over your skis in Jamie, Chad’s peak, you can fall down the mountain and hurt yourself, and I did. For the next couple of months, I retooled, I dusted myself off, I changed my goggles and we lived to tell. What's interesting is if you're living through these wild times, Great Depression 2.0, you will come out okay. You have to keep your head up, get up, and dust yourself off. These are the times when amazing businesses are invented. Jamie did it. I did it.
Great point. If you think about it, every time there's a challenge like this, you have an inflection point. Of course, there's the old adage of the status quo and doing the same thing over and over again is the core definition of insanity. You have to be willing to try new things that are bold and different. Because I was in that financial bind, I decided I was going to evolve. What it's taught me over the years is that every time you come upon these inflection points, be willing, no matter how uncomfortable it is, to evolve. Amazing initiatives will come out of it.
We're going to get into this dial study. It's interesting because it was one of those moments. I was like, “Your direct dial coverage isn't good to this particular vendor called sales intel.” I called them out, I said, “This isn't good.” They said, “That doesn't make sense. What's going on?” We did a screen share and we found out they have a mobile work number and I was like, “What's that field? Mobile work number?” They were like, “That's the mobile number that they put on their business card or they have on their badge when they get scanned at a conference, all these different data sources.”
I was like, “Are you telling me that's a legit number to call? It's not just their personal cell, but it's a mobile cell.” We did a test. The results will surprise you. It definitely surprised me. That's one of those things that come out of a crisis like this. I may not have known that otherwise. Think back to college and your interests, then think back to when you were much younger. Relate doing what you do back to when you were younger. Running a company and helping teach people. Were you interested in and passionate about teaching people or being an entrepreneur? How did that come by?
I definitely did not see myself as a teacher nor did I even think that I could be a teacher because I found, in my twenties, I was not a lifelong learner. I finished my Master's degree and tuned out for a while. As an entrepreneur, I ran many businesses in my high school years whether it was cutting grass, washing cars. I ran the golf ball pickup machine at a local driving range. Entrepreneurship has always been inside me. As per what I was going to apply those skills to, I didn't know at the time.
You had the entrepreneurial bug. Let's get into this dial test. The premise was if you call switchboard numbers or direct numbers, that will underperform mobile numbers. Originally, when I first did the study, I thought switchboard numbers versus direct would show a reasonable difference. Think about it. If you call Jamie's office, 555-1000 versus 555-1212, and you call Jamie's direct number, I thought the direct number might forward more appropriately to the decision-makers' phone. The results surprised me.
Tesla's 100 VPs C-level and switchboard numbers, this was weeks into the COVID crisis, let's say. Fifty-nine dials and one conversation, that's not a good dial to connect. The average is about 20 to 1 across all customers. List number two, we have the direct number and it was slightly worse. As any statistician will tell you, this is a small sample size to make formal conclusions from. I will caveat that. The statistical significance of the third test, 49 dials and 5 conversations in 25 minutes. Jamie, as a digital sales trainer and leader and CEO of your own business that does sales, if it took 59 or 73 dials to talk to a target versus 10, what impact do you think that might have on sales?
These are all the things. I'm a huge proponent of, as a business owner, scaling yield per seller as a first play over deploying more human capital to the problem. This is important to note. If you called my main switchboard, you get routed through a Zoom phone. It will never get to me. If you call my mobile phone, which is obvious and yet intuitive.
At the end of the day, imagine having six times more conversations. First, you have to buy from the right vendor. I’ll point that out again, this was SalesIntel.io. Not a lot of companies have direct mobile work numbers. Pick the right vendor and then use the right column because they've got a switchboard number. If you give this task to a sales-op person and they're not aware of phone 1, phone 2, phone 3, phone 4, they might load the wrong phone number in. You then wonder and scratch your head while you're at 73 to 1 dial the tech person 10. That's important stuff. Let us ask you one final question. That is pre versus post-COVID-19. What do you think is going to change, Jamie, between then and now? How's there a fork in the road? What changed?
You got to look at this at a macro to micro level of any business. The easiest way to think about it is there will be more depression era values placed inside businesses. At the top of the business, what that means is there'll be greater emphasis on retained earnings and a more conservative way of storing cash for rainy days. What that then starts to mean, as it trickles down from the CEO level into a sales and marketing organization, is companies will be more conservative about how they deploy capital. As an investor, as a chief revenue officer, you start to look at your ways of people process technology.
From that, I am in complete agreeance with those that believe that there will be a shrinking of the number of sales professionals around the world in organizations because they will start to need to think of alternatives to deploying capital for sales performance. That means that they're going to start focusing on the yield per seller. If an average seller was making you $500,000 in gross revenue, you need to think about how you crank them to $1 million, or from $1 million to $2 million.
You're going to be looking for not linear and creative gains, but more like asymmetrical gains. For every $1 I put in, how do I start getting $5 to $10 more, rather than the opportunity cost of which, “I see an open headcount in the state of Texas. I'll put a $100,000 body at the State of Texas. He or she is going to get me why.” Linear approaches to growth will be scrutinized more. There will not be this mass problem solving of people throwing bodies in open headcounts in verticals or geographies to solve problems. I believe that everyone will be thinking, “I already have a team of X. I need to get way more out of the people that I have. It will be way more cost-effective to do so.” That is my prediction.
I went to an AI summit. Not AI for Sales, a regular artificial intelligence summit. The world's first robotic citizen was there. You've probably seen her on different talk shows and things. I'm sitting in the front row and I was right across from her. She was looking at me in my eyes and I felt a little spooked. They said the same thing. There was a smart speaker who said, “Worldwide GDP is growing at a clip that's fast.” The headcount attached to that growth was 30% lower than used to be required, because of all of these automation gains. I suspect that that'll be even more. It’ll be the growth of your company, especially in Q4. In Q4, we're going to see a major Renaissance. It'll probably be the best quarter in the history of the world. Prepare yourself. Put all the right things in place. Survive now so you can thrive later.
Most chief revenue officers, the sales play that they knew the best was, “I need help in a market, geography, vertical, strategic accounts. Let's get a person to fill that hole. I'll pay them $100,000. They'll yield me $1 million in year 2 and year 3, whatever it is. I'll keep deploying people to the problem.” Personally, that equation is going to be rethought and say, “I already have this spend. How do I make each person go from a $1 million return to $1.5 million?” You multiply that times the 50 or 100 people I have, we're talking way more return on investment.
This is the last point I’ll make to hammer this one home. One of those five conversations, when I made 49 dials and talk to five people with the VP of enterprise sales of Adobe. I got him on his cell phone. I gave him my short talk track and he goes, “Let me introduce you to the head of business development and they might think about your technology.” I said, “Let me point out that my AI told me that I should call you because you own revenue. The head of business development owns heads. The VP of biz dev is there to optimize and build his inside team.”
I said, “With social selling, leveraging technologies and processes like Sales for Life purports. What if you could spend $1,500 a month on a virtual assistant to socially outreach to those in your network to ask for meetings with your end customer and book you 10 to 20 meetings in your top 500 accounts every single month? You'll take that cost of $8,000 down to $1,500 instead of booking 5 to 6 meetings as an enterprise BDR. Now you're seeing 10 to 20 at a rate that's 1/4 of what you're paying for an inside rep. Mr. VP of Sales, now do you see why I need to talk to you?”
You need to think like an investor. As a chief revenue officer, you are a deployer of capital and you have a choice. Is that capital deployed into humans or accelerants to the human? That's what it is.
What are you optimizing for? I've enjoyed the conversation, Jamie, as always. You've learned from the time that you had the turn years ago. I hope other people can read this and have the same learning experience. Reinvent or die. We as humans are good at reinventing. Good luck. I appreciate your time. Jamie, great to talk with you.
Thank you so much.