What is sales acceleration? This article is an interview with Eric Esfahanian, Senior Vice President at Gryphon Networks. Having over two decades of sales experience, Mr. Esfahanian brings to the table extensive knowledge of how the most successful sales teams function, and what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to making teams more effective. In this article, he touches on why you should be capturing all outbound call activity, the common “big brother” misconception, and how to best implement a sales tool at your organization to keep processes running smoothly, and sales reps happy, while making them more efficient.
Sales Acceleration Interview with Eric Esfahanian
Gryphon Networks: Thanks for joining us today, Eric. As a sales leader yourself, I’m sure you are well aware that when salespeople today are presented with a sales software that tracks all of their activity and outbound calls, concerns of “Big Brother” and micromanagement often come to mind. Can you speak on your experience with these concerns?
Eric Esfahanian: A lot of times when I talk to customers and discuss the Gryphon Sales Acceleration Platform and how we help interpret the phone-based activity of distributed sales reps, I often get the question around Big Brother or how the reps are going to feel once they know that they’re being tracked or managed. Because with the Gryphon System, we’re in the path of every phone call that a rep might make.
We capture call information and screen it for compliance, which means that some calls may be blocked if they’re illegal. The System takes all of that data and we render it for dashboard consumption for management ability, and also for audit and compliance purposes. Managers are often concerned that their sales folks might not want to be tracked – that reps are worried that their activity might be blocked; that’s the nature of salespeople, they’re generally very independent.
The conversation typically morphs from a Big Brother conversation to “my reps don’t want to be surveilled,” and a lot of times the manager doesn’t want to be the type of manager that is tracking every movement that their sales folks make. The distinction that I like to draw is that nobody is thinking that reps should have their every move measured and scrutinized.
In reality, nobody is interested in enabling surveillance for sales reps who are doing their job. What we talk about with our clients, and what we really emphasize, is the importance of daily activity information as a company asset. The importance of that information is not for a manager to use it to demand that reps make 100 calls a day, but to give a sales leader an understanding of what daily behaviors are working (or not) to help reps get the results that they are looking for with the least amount of effort.
What concerns do reps typically have towards this sort of platform, knowing that all of their activity is visible to managers?
EE: Initially, when you talk about a call tracking tool, the first thing that comes to mind for the rep is, oh my gosh, now I’m going to have to make a bunch of more cold calls. They think, I’m not effective at that, or I’m better at getting customers this way. But the real goal here isn’t for the reps to make more calls. The goal is to have the reps make the fewest number of calls to get the best results (appointments, meetings, sales etc).
Most reps aren’t paid on call attempts, most reps are paid on results – specifically positive outcomes. When you’re able to accurately capture and track activity via the phone over time, you’re going to reveal the best practices for getting optimal results. Rather than having a system that makes you make more calls it’s going to be a system that gives you the blueprint for how to get the most results from the fewest calls.
From both the manager standpoint and the rep standpoint, you’re going to want your reps to make the fewest calls with the most results. If it takes 10 calls to get one conversation, and if I can get one appointment with every five conversations that I’m having, that’s a lot better than getting one appointment from every 10 conversations.
The narrative around sales acceleration needs to change from “Hey, this is a big brother tool to track your whereabouts and what you’re doing all day,” to a constructive conversation about sales activity tools that will help you identify what you should be doing with your daily schedule in order to maximize effectiveness and minimize unproductive activities. Sales acceleration is designed to make you more efficient as a sales rep – to make the fewest (not most) calls and generate the most results.
Can you elaborate on the compliance aspect of the System for the phone? How does it compare to, for example, options available for email communications?
EE: From a compliance standpoint, reps tend to resist the call blocking and screening capabilities that Gryphon provides. We’ll talk to customers who are senior executives at a firm, and they’ll say that they’re concerned with blocking calls because their reps want to produce revenue and impeding them from doing their job is not exactly high on their list of priorities.
In that case, we like to draw an analogy to their email system. Everybody knows that email is one of the most popular marketing channels for companies today, as is the phone. Most firms use both email and phone as part of their go-to-market strategy to communicate with customers and prospects.
Yet, those same companies don’t ever think twice about installing things like spam filters on their email servers to ensure that threats don’t come inbound in the way of malware or viruses, or that communication that is not in line with a company’s business processes doesn’t leave the company firewall.
It’s so common, that we don’t even speculate anymore whether it’s not the right thing to do. Nobody talks about Big Brother when it comes to email. At the end of the day, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t think the exact same thing about phone communications.
Every marketing interaction is a company asset. There’s far more liability for companies for a phone call that takes place on their behalf that may be fraudulent, cause trouble, or be patently illegal than there is for emails. Yet, while the email environment is typically quite locked down, the phone is often – for a lot of companies with very large field or branch-based sales forces – wide open and completely uncontrolled.
Not only do these companies not know what’s happening on the phone, they don’t even have any record that a phone call took place between their salesperson and their customer or prospect. When you don’t have any trace of information around the phone, you’re immediately opening yourself up to lawsuits, class actions, fines and liability.
Gryphon’s approach has always been: “Don’t treat the phone differently than you treat email.” From a liability standpoint, get some measure of control over phone-based communications, but also preserve the flexibility of the sales rep to use whatever phone they want to use.
When introducing the Gryphon System, how can companies and managers best adapt to implementation? What do you say to clients to ease this transition to new processes?
EE: If you give reps multiple ways to make phone calls that don’t require them to change their process, you can obtain intelligent control over that activity. Compliance controls can block dialed numbers that are illegal for you to call or are to people who don’t want to hear from you. As a result, you can protect your brand while improving your marketing conversion rate. If you’re calling people that are naturally more inclined to want to hear from you, every study shows that those are the those are the leads that end up converting the most.
There are really two discussions to have: One, you have to get over the mental hump around tracking sales calls, because call information is your company’s asset. If you’re running a sales organization, you’re either using this asset, or you’re wasting it. And your competitors, I can tell you, are exploiting this asset more and more every day.
Even when there are fewer phone calls taking place within a company, those conversations tend to be longer, and they tend to be more strategic than they were before using Gryphon. So yes, the quantity of call attempts and phone conversations may be decreasing over time. But their value is getting much higher because customers are talking about more strategic, more valuable things when they do pick up the phone.
And secondly, all the data that’s being generated every day is going to become valuable, actionable insights. It will form the blueprint for your sales go-to-market strategy or turning a sales rep from the middle of the pack, or a new hire, into a top performer. You’re going to have a clear idea as to what success looks like, and what success sounds like if you can effectively get your arms around phone-based communication.
What do you think is the extent of loss of value for a company that overlooks that data and doesn’t regulate phone communications?
EE: It’s profound. When we talk to customers, one of the first things we zero-in on is what their sales goals are at the highest level. We don’t talk about phone calls. We don’t talk about dashboards. We ask the customer, what’s the goal of your sales team every day of the week?
For many clients, it’s a closed deal. It’s an appointment set. Our clients often look at the conversion between a meeting set and a meeting closed, and an average value of that closed sale.
What they don’t know is the number of conversations it takes to get that meeting set, and then the number of calls needed to get that conversation going. Together, with the part of the equation that Gryphon provides, combined with what they already know in terms of meeting conversions and average deal value, now you have the full spectrum of the supply chain of revenue growth.
You can then begin to identify not only how many calls your average rep should make to hit financial goals by the end of the month, but also how many reps you need to have staffed in order to hit your financial goals – assuming that they’re operating at a minimum level of effectiveness.
With Gryphon you know exactly what that minimum level is. When we talk about return on investment, we’re talking about the end of the equation: Calls, contacts and appointments lead to dollars in the door. So, the impact of not having visibility into these things could be in the tens of millions of dollars every month in lost revenue for a large organization.
With sales acceleration, we’re talking about making reps more effective at what’s most important to them and the company. Realistically, you may see a 10%-15% increase in effectiveness of conversations had to appointments set. Depending on your business this could mean $10 million a month in new bookings. This is because all your reps have gotten better at setting appointments, and they’re setting more of them more consistently, or following up on leads more frequently than they normally would, instead of calling them one or two times.
At different companies, it’s going to amount to different results from a financial perspective. But no matter what, the financial impact of not having this insight is immense.
What about the financial implications of non-compliance risk?
EE: Not being able to control sales phone activity, and not being able to ensure that reps are not breaking law when they’re making phone calls puts a company at risk for brand damage that could happen with a class-action lawsuit, or a regulatory inquiry from the FTC.
With that, you’re talking about impacts to your stock price all the way through, which could also be in the tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars in negative impact as a result of a not being able to verify if reps are following outbound marketing communication rules at the federal and state level.
Between the revenue side of the equation, and the brand risk and liability side of the equation, millions of dollars are at stake for Fortune 500 companies by not effectively addressing this problem with sales acceleration.
When you’re talking to some of these companies, what do you find is the reason that some of these more traditional sales teams have failed to regulate their phone communications like they do email?
EE: When sales organizations in the late 90s and early 2000s, saw their reps move into mobile roles outside of the traditional four walls of an office, lack of office technology was the limitation to daily visibility and control. Then web-enabled CRM became a big deal with the likes of Salesforce, so reps could log activity manually. But there really was no easy way to capture phone activity in a distributed environment, and it was like that for more than a decade.
Once we saw technology advance with secure cloud infrastructure environments, mobility and cell phones become ubiquitous, technology like Gryphon came about that enable the control and visibility that existed in the call center being made available for highly dispersed selling organizations in a cost-effective way.
Whether reps are using CRM to make calls, or their mobile phone, or they’re at the airport or on the plane, managers now have the ability to control that activity and have the ability to capture and interpret that activity quickly as if that rep was sitting in the office. The challenge today is a lot of these companies don’t really even know that they’re still behind.
Part of Gryphon’s job is to get the message out about the importance of how you set up your sales team and measure pipeline – specifically paying attention to the daily activities that predict success. It’s no longer a luxury that you can afford to ignore. If you’re still thinking like it’s 2008, your competitors are going to surpass you because they’re utilizing information as an asset in a way that you’re not.
What does Gryphon provide to close the visibility gap and regulate sales communications?
EE: Gryphon is a platform that is designed to drive sales and marketing effectiveness. It’s configured in a way that is easy to integrate, it’s easy to use, and easy to manage.
We help companies get their arms around phone and other marketing activities. The most important channel in marketing remains the phone, and that that’s not from a quantity perspective. Nothing of value ever gets sold without the phone. But it’s also the most challenging marketing channel because of the state and the federal government regulations, carrier restrictions, device variants, and a host of other things because of the real-time nature of it.
The phone is the toughest marketing channel to figure out. But Gryphon makes that as easy as possible. We enable your sales reps to make calls from any phone or device easily and with almost no training within a day and a half.
As a manager, you can begin to view dashboards of activity in a context that matters to help you manage to a standard and consistently improve on that standard over time, bringing tremendous value to your organization.
I think the biggest challenge with companies that compete with Gryphon is that in every case, you’re going to have to, as a customer, source and integrate all of those different pieces that are involved. With Gryphon, you have one vendor that can enable the entire process from that initial phone call all the way through the conversation, analytics, and then the visualization of all that activity in a contextual, glanceable fashion.
That’s what we do. We focus relentlessly on return on investment – hard financial dollars – from eliminating the visibility gap between reps and revenue at the end of the day.
As Senior Vice President, Eric Esfahanian aligns Gryphon’s sales, client services, marketing, and product groups. His 20 years of experience with analytics, performance management, and business intelligence software allow him to drive the growth of Gryphon’s global client base with cloud-based sales and marketing solutions that increase the effectiveness and revenue for large, distributed sales organizations.