Sales Effectiveness Radio - Jim Foster and Scott Sullivan

About the guests

Jim Foster is a results-driven Senior Executive with over thirty years of progressive experience and success in the technology sector. Successfully led organizations in the enterprise, SMB, SOHO, and consumer markets. A highly diverse background that includes technology, product development, sales, marketing, and general management. Twenty-five years of P&L responsibility achieving double-digit revenue growth with consistent positive operating margins. Launched multiple highly successful product lines with operational management of companies or divisions from 20 to 3,000 employees.

Scott Sullivan is a Regional Sales Manager with Ultria and has extensive experience in Start-ups, High-Growth, Mature Companies & Acquisitions. Selling and operational expertise in the following enterprise application markets: ERP, Document Management & Workflow, Operational Systems Management, Knowledge Management, Internet Infrastructure, Enterprise Content Management, Enterprise CRM, E-commerce Infrastructure, Enterprise GRC, Transactional Analytics, Multi-dimensional enterprise deployment models, SaaS, SaaS Hybrid, Hosted and Premised based solutions.

About your host

Steve Maul is the founder and managing principal at The Semantics Group. He brings nearly 40 years of successful marketing, sales, performance improvement and management experience to the clients with whom he works. Having a career in direct and channel sales, sales management, marketing, finance and as an executive in companies both large and small, Steve grasps quickly the challenges faced by his clients and works to clear the hurdles that prevent revenue growth and predictability. His passion is not only helping his clients GET customers, but also ensuring that they can deliver the expected value so those customers will establish loyalty and repeat buying. Steve has authored dozens of performance improvement programs for sales, marketing, consulting and customer service professionals and worked extensively with world-class companies such as SAS Institute, CenturyLink, Cisco, FinListics, Fiserv, Mansfield Energy, Oracle, SAP, and others.

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Episode Transcript

Announcer: [00:00:02] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it's time for Sales Effectiveness Radio. brought to you by The Semantics Group. Now, here's your host, Steve Maul.


Steve Maul: [00:00:16] Hey, welcome everyone to another episode of Sales Effectiveness Radio. I'm here with my in-studio wing man, Lee Kantor. And my guests today are two extremely talented and experienced professionals in the world of selling - Jim Foster and Scott Sullivan. I have known Scott and Jim for - we were just talking about it - about 35 years. So, we go way, way back. And each of them have had a very varied approach to selling in their career paths, have taken different paths than mine and each other's over the years. So, what I'd like to do is give them a chance to tell us a little bit about what they've been doing throughout their career. And then, we'll dig into some sales effectiveness questions. Jim, tell us a little about where you're at in life.


Jim Foster: [00:00:56] Sure. Right now, I'm retired. I'm having a great time in life.


Steve Maul: [00:00:59] Now, I'm jealous.


Jim Foster: [00:01:03] But no, I still have my hands in there doing a little bit of consulting with private equity firms on reviewing their investment thesis on different software companies. But I started off with you guys selling at McCormack & Dodge, and we were selling old mainframe software, and to do a demo was a nightmare. Can you remember how hard it was to do a demo? Remember carrying a compact PC around, and watching Scott drop one in the Atlanta airport, and going, "I don't know if I'll be doing a demo this next time." But it started off there. And I branched off from sales and moved into much more of product management.


Jim Foster: [00:01:46] And from product management, moved into a startup, and did my first startup out of Florida, a company called Abracadabra Software. What a great name. We merged with Best Software, end up selling out to Sage a long time ago for quite a few millions of dollars. You can look it up. We had an investment from a venture capitalist for about $5 million. And I think the return for the investor was 400x.


Steve Maul: [00:02:14] That's a nice return.


Jim Foster: [00:02:15] It was pretty good, and it was a lot of fun. But in there is where I learned about sales effectiveness with a third-party channel. We used business partners. And that was really interesting because we used to have a saying, "You can lead a business partner to a gold brick, but you can't make him pick it up."


Steve Maul: [00:02:33] I like that, I like that play on it.


Jim Foster: [00:02:36] It's really interesting. So, we did that and worked with Sage for many, many years. And then, had an opportunity to move as a CEO of a consumer product or, actually, a small business consumer product where we sold -- it was called Neat.


Steve Maul: [00:02:52] Yeah, the automatic scanning software. Yeah.


Jim Foster: [00:02:55] Absolutely, yeah. And the key secret sauce with that was it not only just scanned, but it did the OCR and determined what kind of document it was. Was it a bill? Was it an invoice? Was it receipt? And then, it applied it to a specific application. We sold that to very, very small businesses. I mean, one of the most interesting aspects of selling that one was I ran into one of our customers in South Carolina, believe it or not. I happened to have to return a tool for my brother, and this guy was out in the middle of nowhere. I asked him what he did. He said, "I'm a long hauler." I said, "Long hauler?" "Yeah, I drive a truck from New York to wherever." And he said, "You will see my rig." Yeah. And I'm out in the middle of nowhere.


Steve Maul: [00:03:47] Everyone's proud of what they drive.


Jim Foster: [00:03:49] Yeah. And I'm out in the middle of nowhere and there's no way I was going to say no, so I said, "Yeah." So, I walked in there, and he opens up his cab, and there is one of our scanners.


Steve Maul: [00:03:58] So, he's scanning everything as he drives.


Jim Foster: [00:04:01] He's scanning all of his receipts as he drives and integrating it directly into Quickbooks. And so, we sold that. And that was my first experience of really seeing what it was like to integrate web marketing with direct sales over the phone. Very, very interesting aspect. And it's still the same way of selling.


Steve Maul: [00:04:24] I have a finance manager who would love for me to be that organized with my receipts.


Jim Foster: [00:04:31] Anyway, we were successful with that, but I was traveling to and from Philadelphia for like five years, and I got old quick. And so, we moved back to Atlanta and worked with the company called a LogFire who is now part of Oracle. And they had an international sales force. We worked with those. And I was chief operating officer there. And from there, went into consumer marketing. Never thought about that. I mean, we were marketing with Crown & caliber. By the way, I put a plug in for those guys. If you're interested in a luxury used watch, go to crownandcaliber.com.


Steve Maul: [00:05:05] Okay.


Jim Foster: [00:05:06] I mean, you'll get the best deal without a doubt and a guarantee that make sure that your watch is really a real Rolex, or Audemars Piguet, or whatever it is you're into. And they've got several watchmakers on site, so that's cool. It's good stuff. But we learned a lot about how to market to consumers, what are the key things, how you do financing, stuff like that. And then, went back and enterprise sales with Riskonnect, where we had to change the process for enterprise sales force that was selling Fortune 1000. It was really fun. A lot of fun. And we sold that business off to Thoma Bravo.


Steve Maul: [00:05:44] As you've gone through that career, Jim, you've had everything from frontline selling, sales management, sales leadership, operational management. And I guess, I don't if you're going to brag on yourself, but you were an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award winner for technology in 2013. And so, you've had P&L responsibility. You've had teams of 20 people to 3000 people. So, you've had a lot of breadth and depth as you've looked at the way organizations sell, either direct or through channels. So, I got one simple question. Why is selling still so hard?


Jim Foster: [00:06:23] Selling is hard because it's a discipline. I think Brad Milner taught us this a while back. And those of you who know Greg Doyle, I thought he was the one who adopted that discipline better than anyone I know. It's about if you maintain that discipline of looking at your pipeline, knowing that I got to build a frontend, I got to make sure that I'm making the -- even though I've got a monstrous month coming up, I got five big ass deal -- excuse me, five big deals.


Steve Maul: [00:06:55] You're safe.


Jim Foster: [00:06:56] Five big deals that are coming in this month. And I know it's going to consume a lot of my time is the discipline to sit back on a Monday, and pick up the phone, and start hitting those early sales calls, and if you know early sales process. And if you don't, if you don't follow up your leads, then you're just going to die later on. And that's the case in consumer. That's the case in if I'm doing third party, I've got to work that. It doesn't matter. It's the same, same thing. So, it's quite hard.


Steve Maul: [00:07:25] So, developing the rigger.


Jim Foster: [00:07:26] Yes.


Steve Maul: [00:07:27] Developing the habits.


Jim Foster: [00:07:27] Developing the habits. And it's funny, I know you remember when we were taught that you really got to find the "decision maker" or the influencer. And we had that process. And then, when I went to consumer, I said, "You don't have to go to that kind of rigor." Unfortunately, you still do. Really, in the consumer, who is going to be the one who's going to agree to the watch? Is it the wife? Is it the guy? And what is the obstacle around it? Is it my short term-cash flow? I need financing. All those same things happen in consumer.


Steve Maul: [00:08:05] Whether it's the CFO who says, "I can afford this software suite or to build a parking garage," or it's the family who says, "I can afford this watch or to send my kid to school?" 


Jim Foster: [00:08:15] No different. 


Steve Maul: [00:08:15] It's still the same decision-making process.


Jim Foster: [00:08:17] It is.


Lee Kantor: [00:08:18] Now, what about, today, there's kind of a delegation of tasks. Like somebody is in charge of the prospecting part. Somebody is in charge of the demoing. Somebody is in charge of the client success. Does the same rigor apply to each of those individually? 


Jim Foster: [00:08:34] I think, as you move down from enterprise sales, down to mid-market, down to using partners down the consumer, it becomes one body rather than having multiple teams. But as you get more elaborate more, if the price point of what you're selling is above $20,000, you're going to need teams. And those teams and that handoff of those teams is very, very critical.


Jim Foster: [00:09:01] And how you do that is why CRM was invented. As a consumer marketer, we actually implemented the CRM, but it wasn't used at the same level that you would see a team-based selling approach use CRM. But it's still the same stuff. I still need to remember that, "I got a follow up this person. That's got to take. I'll need to do this," and that type of situation. So, the CRM is incredibly helpful. And when I go into a private equity firm asking me to evaluate a sales team, the first thing I'm looking at is what are they using for CRM, especially the enterprise space. And if it's none, then I go, "Okay, we already got a problem," so.


Steve Maul: [00:09:46] But as that as that process goes through, to follow on to Lee's question, it seems like it's going to dramatically increase the responsibility level at each of those stages, at each of those individuals involved because if one person falls down in their rigor or in their performance, then the entire team suffers.


Jim Foster: [00:10:07] That's absolutely correct. And so, the transfer process, how much process have you put in place for transferring, the movement from the lead generation team over to the qualification team or FA team, how much rigor Have you put into it? In other words, do they just sit down and have a chat? Well, that's not enough rigor. Is there an actual form that we fill out? I'm talking about an online forum that we fill out. Then, make sure that certain key components of the sales cycle have been met at 100%, so that it can move to the next stage. And the guy that is receiving it, or the person that is receiving it has to be diligent to say, "You haven't gotten enough stuff done. I'm kicking it back." If he's too greedy and says. "I'll take it from here," then that's where the process really falls down.


Steve Maul: [00:11:07] Okay.


Lee Kantor: [00:11:07] And when you're doing kind of an audit of a company, and you're looking at their process, how are you kind of finding the bottlenecks and where the problems lie?


Steve Maul: [00:11:16] Usually you will see it in a pipeline analysis. If you look at a pipeline analysis, extremely bloated on the front end, and instead of looking like a pipeline, it looks like a tack, and you're sitting there going, "Okay, there's something wrong going on here." So, there's not enough processes in that place. So, really just looking at the pipeline analysis is a good way to, first, starting to see where problems may lie.


Steve Maul: [00:11:45] You probably have to vet that pretty significantly too because I know a lot of pipelines I look at, they look like a top, not the tack. Everything's down. It's already to close, which means I've done all my selling steps, but the customer is still back up to evaluating their options. And so, they're not ready to buy it, regardless of how ready to sell you happen to be.


Jim Foster: [00:12:06] Yeah. The salesman is always ready to sell, or the customer is not ready to buy. Again, it's the rigor in each one of those processes, especially if you're heavily in professional services with your software solution. Have you done the right things in the middle stage to realize how big of a professional services implementation this is going to be? In some cases, you're going to look at it and go, "We're not going to make any money on the PS. The implementation is going to drown this. We're not going to see a profitability on our current revenue until year to a year or three," you're going to make a decision. Is that worth chasing for the next six months? So, looking at that handoff. Looking and making sure that the process in between stages is very detailed and very disciplined.


Steve Maul: [00:12:54] And Jim, what else -- because you mentioned CRM, and it's often the bane of every salesperson's existence to have to keep CRM up to date. And there's a lot of -- I hear a lot from the people I work with that, "Geez, this is for management." And I do my best to try and persuade them it's actually for your success as well. But that's one of those gold bricks that you can't make them pick up necessarily. But it's one of those things where beyond CRM, what else can companies do to enable their -- and I don't even like the free sales enablement. I'll tell you why in a moment, but to enable their selling teams to be more effective?


Jim Foster: [00:13:32] Again, it's looking at the process and throwing away the things in the process that are just there because we've had them there for years. Many of the times, I'll walk into a sales organization, and look at it, and go, "Why are you doing that?" "Well, we've been doing that for five years?" "Well, what value does it bring?" "I'm not sure. Someone down the line may have it." And no, it doesn't bring any value. Don't do it. 


Jim Foster: [00:13:56] So, streamlining those processes, so that it gives the salesperson the same amount of data that they need. And, usually, that's translated into the data that management needs. There's never -- if you really go back from the top and come down and say, "Here's data the management needs," why is that important to the sales rep? You can usually point to it. It is very important to the sales rep. And by selling the sales rep on that, it's pretty easy.


Lee Kantor: [00:14:27] Now, you mentioned earlier about third-party partners. Is that handled differently because you're dealing with outside resources like that?


Jim Foster: [00:14:36] Yeah. In this case, your sales team is really a sales management team. And so, they're trying to manage these folks who are not necessarily monetarily motivated. They may be motivated by other things. They may have a consulting arm that they're seeing as their most profitable venture. And they are probably the worst of, "Let me sell, and then go back, and look for new leads. And let me sell, then go back for new leads." So, it's up to the sales team who's selling to the business partner to keep them focused on you got to go generate. "Even though you got four on the close, you've got to set up a seminar, so that you can bring some new customers or new prospects in, and keep that momentum going." They're the worst at that.


Steve Maul: [00:15:28] So, that leads me to two follow-on questions, the first of which is in your experience, do you see those partner managers, those third-party channel managers, do you see them being recruited, engaged, hired, and performing as really sales managers, or do you find that, sometimes, the organization relegates them to a caretaker of the relationship type of thing?


Jim Foster: [00:15:50] Well, we did it in two different ways. I mean, we started off with one person having the role of everything. In other words, I've got to find new business partners. I've got to grow those new business partners. I've got to educate those new business partners. And we, quickly, realized that just like anything else, you got hunters and farmers. So, we separated the "Let me recruit the business partners guy," to get them to a six-month, and get them to the first two deals, and then they transfer it over to another person who is really maturing the relationship. So, you've got to mature -- they're just two different skill sets. Just like in selling back to the customer versus getting the business.


Steve Maul: [00:16:30] And the expectation management because the seller within the third-party organization has a sales manager that they work for. And so, now, do you find that, sometimes, they feel like they're serving two masters, or how do you manage around that?


Jim Foster: [00:16:45] Yeah, they do feel like you're serving two masters, and they'll say, "Look, you need to get off my back." And then, well, we don't need to get off your back because if you don't hit this..." And, again, we set quotas for the business partners like anything else. "If you don't hit this, your margin is going to drop from 40% to 20%." And that's really going to affect your P&L. And I can go back to the owner, which we talked about, and let them know that's the case. Well, "No, no. We don't want you to do that."


Steve Maul: [00:17:12] Right.


Jim Foster: [00:17:13] Right. So, you've got to make sure you got to have both the stick and the carrot.


Steve Maul: [00:17:17] Or stick in the shape of a carrot.


Lee Kantor: [00:17:24] That's good.


Steve Maul: [00:17:28] So, how do people get a hold of you if they want to get some of your pearls of wisdom on a personal level.


Lee Kantor: [00:17:32] And you're looking for relationships with VC firms? Is that-


Jim Foster: [00:17:34] I have a relationship with private equity firms mainly and one VC firm out of New Jersey. But I'm not really looking for anything. I'm really looking for new golf courses. No, any VCs or anyone out there, private equity firms, who want to work with me. I'm typically on the work with GLG, a few of the third parties who go out and find experts. But if they want to get a hold of me directly, it's jim@jimfoster.org.


Steve Maul: [00:18:08] Great, thank you. And we'll hear back from you when we open up the roundtable in just a moment.


Jim Foster: [00:18:13] Great.


Steve Maul: [00:18:14] So, let's turn our attention to Mr. Sullivan here. Scott, tell me a little bit about what Ultria does.


Scott Sullivan: [00:18:19] Ultria is an enterprise contract lifecycle management solution from request to renewal and all phases within that particular suite. So, things like requesting a mutual NDA to be auto generated, the authoring, templates, clause management, as well as post-award analytics. So, I've worked really hard to get this contract in the door. Everybody's agreed to it. Now, what? How do I measure and monitor the effectiveness of the agreement that people thought to put into paper?


Steve Maul: [00:18:55] Okay.


Scott Sullivan: [00:18:56] Being able to look at SLAs, looking at milestones, looking at entitlements and obligations with that particular agreement as well.


Steve Maul: [00:19:09] So, cradle to grave on any type of contractual relationship between two firms?


Scott Sullivan: [00:19:14] Yes, yes.


Steve Maul: [00:19:14] Okay. And your job there, tell us a little bit about what you do.


Scott Sullivan: [00:19:18] I'm a regional sales manager. Basically, since I left DMB software way back in-


Steve Maul: [00:19:25] Forever ago.


Scott Sullivan: [00:19:26] ... '91.


Steve Maul: [00:19:26] Yeah, forever ago.


Scott Sullivan: [00:19:28] ... I've been with 12 startups since then. So, a wide range of enterprise software suites or solutions, dock management, workflow management, systems management, knowledge management. Basically, anything that you could find in today's enterprise stack, I pretty much have sold or worked for companies that we're trying to establish a presence in that marketplace, a new beachhead, so to speak.


Steve Maul: [00:19:55] So, I know, personally, you've been successful in those. So, is it a situation where you get bored, or you just want a new challenge, or why are you-


Scott Sullivan: [00:20:04] Some of-


Steve Maul: [00:20:04] You're a serial salesperson.


Scott Sullivan: [00:20:05] Some of them, I picked the wrong day because I didn't get her number either. Others, there were successful exits, either acquisition-


Steve Maul: [00:20:20] Got you.


Scott Sullivan: [00:20:20] ... or roll-ups into organizations. And in some cases, I did have a slice of equity in the firm. Others, I didn't. But it's been pretty fruitful. I enjoy the process. I really envision it as a challenge. So, we're entering a marketplace. How do I get those beachhead accounts, those early adopters? And to Jim's point, your point, Steve, it's all about the rigor. I call it evidence-based selling. I don't move things through a funnel unless I have evidence that point A to point B has been accomplished, and I can prove it both internally, as well as externally.


Scott Sullivan: [00:21:01] And from an external perspective, some people might think this is risky, but I share the process that I go through to consummate a deal with a particular prospect. Just as well, you hope that they give you insight into their process, not necessarily the solution meeting their needs, but how do you get this done? Have you bought things like this before? Especially in today's world, there's a lot of people out there doing multiple jobs. They may never have bought an enterprise software solution, they're part of a project team, and it's kind of dead air when you say, "Well, how many times have you gone through this process before?" And they kind of look at you, "Um, never." So, that adds another challenge where rigor and focus on how to move those things through the funnel or the old adage is move it down or out.


Steve Maul: [00:22:02] Right. I mean, because even if they've got enterprise software before, they probably haven't bought contract lifecycle management before. And so, the players are different, and the evaluation process is different, and the criteria by which you're going to select is different. So, the experience in a similar situation may not even add any value to their evaluation of your solution.


Scott Sullivan: [00:22:22] Right. And the interesting thing is when you start talking contracts and all of the vested parties at the table, people's dirty laundry comes out pretty quickly - all the salespeople, or legal, or contracts, or services. It really is kind of amazing from an enterprise stack that this is really the last area of automation or addressing what really is the lifeblood of an organization. Anything that happens in a business is really centered around an agreement.


Steve Maul: [00:22:54] Whether it's with employees, or contractors-


Scott Sullivan: [00:22:57] Exactly.


Steve Maul: [00:22:58] ... or channels, or customers, or anyone else.


Scott Sullivan: [00:23:00] Exactly.


Lee Kantor: [00:23:01] So, how do you vet the opportunities? How did you know Ultria was right for you?


Scott Sullivan: [00:23:08] Well, I had come out of a supplier registration solution previous to Ultria. And oddly enough, there was more than one time where the prospective customers said, "Hey, we want to extend this concept, not only to our suppliers, but manage the relationship in terms of an agreement." So, quite often, I heard the request for contract management while I was performing my supplier registration and representative duties. And the company I was with, Lavante, was a recovery auditor type of organization that had a supply registration system. They sold to PRGX here in town. And it was pretty apparent that this was going to be an ancillary type of solution. So, I went out, and started looking, and assessing contract management solutions. And I found Ultria that was looking for gray hair and experience.


Steve Maul: [00:24:10] Both of which you have.


Scott Sullivan: [00:24:16] Yeah. 


Steve Maul: [00:24:16] So, the-


Scott Sullivan: [00:24:16] No. I'll mention that. Jim's a little envious. I mean, talk about head hair.


Jim Foster: [00:24:22] Absolutely. 


Steve Maul: [00:24:22] This is why we're on radio. One of the things that you mentioned was that evidence-based selling. And when you tie that into the rigor, I think that's one of the things that we don't see as often as we need to because I mentioned it a little bit when I said, "The salespeople go through their process and CRMs are generally spelled out to be the selling process." And the organizations I've seen do it best align all of that to buyer behavior because it's the buyer's behavior that produces the evidence you're ready to move to the next step. But I don't see that happening as often as it needs to.


Scott Sullivan: [00:25:01] Well, I think it's a foreign concept to a large majority of the selling professionals and sales management. Well, I've got a five-step sales funnel, and we're going to check. And Bob over here, he feels really good that he can get it done by this day. Well, have you done red lines? Have you gotten comments back? Do you even know something as simplistic? Is it their quarter end or our quarter end? Those little tidbits of information kind of go into kind of a portfolio of, has the customer told you you're on the short list? Something as simple as that.


Scott Sullivan: [00:25:33] And I think just from kind of a self-serving for the profession, that skill set, you can't read it, you can't attend a seminar, you've got to get your head kicked in multiple times in evaluation. So, take a step back and say, "Oh, I missed this glaring hole in my execution of the strategy," or "The client wasn't aligned," or "Prospective client wasn't aligned."


Lee Kantor: [00:25:59] Now, is this something that you find that sales managers aren't coaching the person, and the salesperson has to learn this kind of the hard way? There's no way to kind of be taught some of these principles.


Scott Sullivan: [00:26:12] No. I think the coaching is a little lacking, so to speak. I think the sales professionals, you can be a flash in the pan, have a great year, have the right territory, right individuals. The real question is, are you consistent? And are you building a franchise, if you will, if you look at a territory as a franchise? Are you building that into a repeatable function? And am I writing good business for the company? It's not just the fact that, "Hey, I got a contract for X hundred thousand dollars." If there's deliverable problems, if there's shortcomings in that solution that you knew going in, it may not be the best profile contract for a company to bring in. And quite honestly, it's a really hard discipline to embrace, walking away from an opportunity that you've invested time. But as one of my mentors said, there's two winners in an RFP process - the one that gets selected, and the one that gets out early.


Steve Maul: [00:27:21] Right, because you haven't spent all that time and energy giving away all your competitive knowledge because you know if you give it all away, all you're competitive differentiating statements and everything else, when you lose the deal, the winner is going to learn it.


Scott Sullivan: [00:27:34] Yeah.


Steve Maul: [00:27:34] That whole, I think you used that very eloquent phrase of get your head kicked in a couple of times, how-


Scott Sullivan: [00:27:42] Or I've been waxed more than a supermodel.


Steve Maul: [00:27:49] Stop it. How do you coach the people on your team and your colleagues? And how have you learned to do that debrief after your customer engagements to know whether or not you're hearing the things you need to hear?


Scott Sullivan: [00:28:03] Well, I think you have to take it upon yourself to document or put it into a framework. And once again, you have different parties within the organization - professional services, maybe a systems engineering group, if there's business development involved or partners - you have to take it upon yourself to make it simple, effective, and repeatable. And I call it 360-degree selling. You're selling out to the target audience, but you're doing as much selling internally. And I kind of thrive in those environments. You have to stand for something. You have to take, "Hey, we should be doing this," or "Could we look at an extension to the product, even though it's not on the roadmap?" So, yeah, you have to take it upon yourself to really kind of do that 360-degree view.


Steve Maul: [00:28:56] So, when you come back from a meeting with the customer, the debrief isn't, "How did that call go?" and they go, "Great, thumbs up," and you go. "Fantastic. Let me know if you need anything." That's not an effective call debrief is what I'm hearing from you.


Scott Sullivan: [00:29:09] No, but I think if you want to share, document it while it's fresh, or even there is some benefit to take a step back, and let it sit for a while, a couple of three days before you document that information.


Lee Kantor: [00:29:24] And you've mentioned the word repeatable multiple times. You find a lot of salespeople aren't creating repeatable processes, so they're kind of winging it each time?


Scott Sullivan: [00:29:34] I think they're looking at selling by menu or selling by table of contents, "Here's what I need to do." The funny thing is, at the end of the day, you run into enterprise customers saying, "Hey, my problems are unique. No one in the world has this." And then, when it comes time for reference, "Hey, give me a couple people that are using the system just like I would like to." And the fact of the matter is if you have a product and a solution in the marketplace, it's incumbent as an ambassador to the company to go find those and make sure that it's as efficient and as profitable as possible.


Steve Maul: [00:30:17] The other thing that you said earlier that I'd like to come back to for just a second is your transparency with the customer because I think I have a great admiration for that approach. It's not like the customer doesn't understand what we're trying to do here. It's not like we're selling to them as a surprise. So, letting them know the steps you're planning on going through seems like a pretty smart idea. So, how do they typically react to that?


Scott Sullivan: [00:30:43] Well, it doesn't. The first call, you don't walk in, "Hi. I"m Scott. How do you like me so far?" But the bottom line is you have to build that level of trust. And I think, being transparent sometimes, you've got to be willing to get burned by it. And you get something, you give something. It really does foster a relationship. And I've picked roles where there is that, go sell it, be the guy in the background during the implementation, if something goes wrong, you know you dial 911, 1 I'll pick up. So, I think customers appreciate that, especially in today's world because everybody's overworked, they're over scheduled, they can't get the certain things, and being a resource, if you will, for those individuals as they go through an implementation process.


Lee Kantor: [00:31:37] And isn't that one of their fears is that you're going to abandon them, and they're going to have nobody to call. They want that call.


Scott Sullivan: [00:31:44] Yeah, there's a lot of cases of hit-and-run driving within the marketplace. And the fact that I pride myself that you could pick up the phone and call me. And I still have customers from 15-20 years ago that they may not be buying my solution, but we still stay in touch to try to keep track of what's going on in their industry or what trends they're seeing in enterprise software.


Lee Kantor: [00:32:08] And undoubtedly, they're calling asking you for your advice, or who they should call for a particular solution because you're so well-networked within the community?


Scott Sullivan: [00:32:16] Yeah, I think so. The biggest challenge I've had though being based here in Atlanta is in these missionary roles, if you will, typically, people ask what's your territory. Well, does it have a zip code, right?


Steve Maul: [00:32:29] Right.


Scott Sullivan: [00:32:30] You typically are jetting across the country or Canada. So, it's kind of hard from a proximity perspective to maintain those let's-get-together relationships. But with LinkedIn, and email, and those types of tools, those are really effective ways to stay in touch with people.


Steve Maul: [00:32:51] But I've known you to be one of the consummate networkers in my circle of people. You remember everybody. You keep in touch with people, even if it's casual, even if it's not that frequent. And I think that's paid dividends to you.


Scott Sullivan: [00:33:05] Yeah. I think, once again, it's a rigor, it's an attitude. I don't want to be known as the guy that just came in here and sold something, right?


Steve Maul: [00:33:15] Right.


Scott Sullivan: [00:33:15] Unless it was really successful, and they really want to hire me.


Lee Kantor: [00:33:22] So, now, for you in Ultria, what are your challenges there?


Scott Sullivan: [00:33:26] Well, typically, in the enterprise contract lifecycle management space, we're going against very established organizations such as SAP Ariba, Oracle, Coupa, as well as probably in the COM space, if you did a broad brush, there's probably 50 to 60 alternatives within the marketplace. So, really, the rigor that I try to live by and execute is really kind of the differentiator, I think. And, probably, my biggest weakness is walking away from an opportunity, right.


Lee Kantor: [00:34:06] Yeah, if it's not a right fit.


Scott Sullivan: [00:34:09] You don't know what's a right fit until you lose it, right, or you have a support issue. But it's the old adage, no just means that the person's confused. 


Steve Maul: [00:34:22] And yours is a SaaS solution, right?


Scott Sullivan: [00:34:24] Yes.


Steve Maul: [00:34:24] Yeah.


Scott Sullivan: [00:34:24] It's deployed on Amazon.


Steve Maul: [00:34:26] So, like most solutions in the marketplace today, at least, in the enterprise software space, everything seems to be going to SaaS. Let's keep it all in the cloud. What's your experience? Not necessarily with Ultria specifically but, in general, what's your take on the SaaS movement, and the effect, the challenges that salespeople face in that space?


Scott Sullivan: [00:34:48] Well, it's coming mainstream obviously. I think Salesforce was probably the number one promoter of that software as a service, obviously. It doesn't change. It just shifts the responsibility onto the provider. If you stop and look at on-premise solutions, behind the scenes, there was the network guys, there were the hardware guys, there are the security guys. All of that now is upon the provider. I think if you take a look over even the last three or four years, especially in contracts, privacy and protected information four or five years ago might have been a slight mention in an agreement. Now, there's 8, 9, 10, 15 clauses within an agreement that we're executing, or our prospective customers are executing that is front and center now.


Scott Sullivan: [00:35:47] And so, you have to be aware of what PCI is or proprietary information or digital rights management. As crazy as it sounds, you have to be a jack of all trades. And once again, a 360-degree selling. We have to educate our internal folks, as well as be aware or anticipate that it's a different ballgame right now as far as context is concerned. I personally believe selling SaaS solutions is a lot harder than it was selling on-premise mainframe or even client server-based solutions.


Steve Maul: [00:36:23] Because they're looking to the vendor to be the provider of security, and database, and communication layer, and all of those sorts of-


Scott Sullivan: [00:36:32] Yeah. You have to be a one-stop shop or, at least, understand the standards that are emerging, as well as you know what type of theater are you going to deploy this. This is a truly global installation. Well, North America is a lot different with Amazon Web services than in the EU. And what's the driving factor? Well, privacy, right?


Steve Maul: [00:36:54] Right, GDPR.


Scott Sullivan: [00:36:54] Right. And we're seeing that in California now with California Privacy Rules. And I would predict in three to five years, there'll be a little bit more bite into a privacy standard in the US or even North America.


Steve Maul: [00:37:11] Okay.


Lee Kantor: [00:37:14] So, now, when you're going to market with Ultria, and you're having these conversations, and they're asking for this kind of full-suite solution from you, how do you manage that as opposed to, like you said, "When it was just I was selling this thing, this software, and then I was done," and they had that they understood that expectations? So, do you bring resources in? Third-party? How do you give them the education they need in order to make the buying decision?


Scott Sullivan: [00:37:41] Well, education, we all know that teachers don't get paid crap, so you've got to be pretty careful about that. But we have our own system engineering group. I think it goes back to being a resource, you go in and meet with people, say, "Hey, where's IT in this? What type of security concerns?" You have to bring it up. Sometimes, you're bringing up objections that you should need or should be able to address. But it's staying a couple steps ahead of the particular prospect.


Scott Sullivan: [00:38:16] Now, some organizations, this is the fourth or fifth SaaS solution that they've acquired. They've got it down to a pretty much an art. The thing that really has been a challenge at Ultria is doing sandbox demo environments, where people can get their hands on the system. Our motto is we configure for 100% of the marketplace, customized for zero. So, with that configuration, even though it's a configured-to-order solution, there is some expertise to know which switches and how to build that configurable solution. And it becomes a pretty dangerous proposition when you turn over a sandbox to individuals.


Scott Sullivan: [00:39:03] We've gotten around that or address that head on by doing what we call proof of capabilities, where give us some of your documents, we'll set up some of your users, we'll run you through different scenarios, and then we'll proctor you or mental you within a live demo session. That seems to work pretty effectively. Each and every company is a little bit different about the approach, but, pretty consistently, they're going to want to get their hands on it. And I think that's a direct correlation to smart phone technology. Everybody can download an app, and answer a few questions, and, boom, that you know they're live on whatever app there is. It's kind of not-


Lee Kantor: [00:39:49] So, that's their expectation?


Scott Sullivan: [00:39:51] Yes, yes.


Steve Maul: [00:39:52] Yeah, because pretty much everyone has download a free trial. This is a much more complex situation.


Scott Sullivan: [00:39:56] Right.


Steve Maul: [00:39:58] Even Salesforce, you can download a $5-a-month version for yourself to play with if you wanted. So, the whole idea of that configurability has a level of complexity that's probably hard to overcome as an objection.


Scott Sullivan: [00:40:14] Yeah. The old adage is, how does it? Or we have an AI parsing engine on the front end. How does it pull out clauses and compare it to what are approved clause is? And how do you score card that? And interesting enough, one word could change the meaning of a clause. The car is red. The car is not right, right?


Steve Maul: [00:40:36] Right.


Scott Sullivan: [00:40:36] Semantic or text mining or text algorithms would say, "Hey, these are a close match," where in reality, it's [crosstalk].


Steve Maul: [00:40:46] An apostrophe can change the meaning.


Scott Sullivan: [00:40:47] Right, right.


Steve Maul: [00:40:49] Because it talks about possessions. So, in general -- and I want to make sure everyone knows how to get a hold of you too, Scott. So, why don't you give him your contact information?


Scott Sullivan: [00:40:59] It's Scott Sullivan. And I have a very old email address. It's ssulliva@bellsouth.net.


Steve Maul: [00:41:07] Don't you love when they could only be eight characters?


Lee Kantor: [00:41:11] And then, what about Ultria if somebody wanted to learn more about Ultria.


Scott Sullivan: [00:41:14] It's scott.sullivan@ultria.com


Lee Kantor: [00:41:14] And that's U-L-T-R-I-A dot com?


Steve Maul: [00:41:19] Yes, yeah. So, they can with the website or Scott, great. Let me open the floor to just a general question because we've got a bunch of gray-haired guys here sitting at the table pontificating about what life used to be like when we had to walk uphill both directions to school in 10 feet of snow. So, as we're thinking through some of our listeners, and some of those guys and gals might be significantly younger and newer in the profession than we are. What do you think is the -- we heard about rigor and discipline, and I love all of that. But if somebody was to take away one lesson from today, is that it or is there something else that we should be passing along as advice to people as sales professionals to be more effective in the way they interact with their customers and achieve success in the profession?


Scott Sullivan: [00:42:11] Well, I think the number one thing is be professional, execute, have a plan. Even though your comp plan, or your territory plan, or how you sell things has already been predetermined, how are you going to attack it? And you have to do it in a repetitive rote means. Don't look at your forecast once a month, or you've got a QBR coming up. It's every day, as Jim mentioned earlier, what do I need to do to move this? Where my holes? Where my risks? Where are my blind spots? At the end of the day, it boils down to building a relationship. And if there's other parties in the relationship, you need to bring them along. And the other parties could be consulting services your own or consulting services through a partner, as well as system engineers, but, also, the people that are on the other side of the table that you're trying to strike an agreement with.


Jim Foster: [00:43:11] I think Scott said something earlier that just really resonated with me about the transparency of the deal. The more you can you help the user-buyer influence, for lack of a better term, understand what is the best process for you to go through and make a decision, and not do it in such a way as it's tainted towards yours or your offering. It's more on the lines of, "Let me help you do your job.".


Jim Foster: [00:43:39] And if you're doing that, you're getting a good relationship with that user, and helping them make that decision. And as you're doing that, you can throw in a little few hints that, "You need to be really concerned about X, where X is probably my biggest strength. And let me tell you why you might want to. Tell me why that wouldn't be important to you," and stuff like that. But really relating to that person knowing that they are sweating bullets because they have a normal 8:00 to 9:00 job, 8:00 to 9:00 at night. And now, we're adding two or three more hours on trying to do an evaluation, and that's a stressful opportunity.


Steve Maul: [00:44:19] And if they make the right choice, they get their picture in the company newsletter.


Jim Foster: [00:44:24] That's right.


Steve Maul: [00:44:24] And if they make the wrong choice-


Jim Foster: [00:44:26] They get their picture on LinkedIn.


Steve Maul: [00:44:28] Right. They get to spend more time with their family. Special projects awaits them. Yeah, it is. It's a career-limiting move sometimes, depending on an enterprise-wide decision where they're spend literally spending millions of dollars for the software, even more than that for the implementation. It's a very visible decision.


Jim Foster: [00:44:47] And very stressful. And so, if you can help take that stress off, you're really doing a lot of good things. And then, on the flip side, you've got to manage the deal. The way you need to manage the deal, to think about all the Is that you need to dot and the Ts you need to cross. And if you don't do that earlier, it's going to bite you at the end.


Scott Sullivan: [00:45:07] Let me turn the tables and ask what should the companies that are sales professionals work for? What can they do to make selling easier within their own organizations? Because this is why I don't believe in sales enablement departments because to my thinking, sales enablement is a culture. Either everyone's helping enable sales or anyone who's not is actually working against the selling effort. So, what can companies do to have a more sales enablement culture and make it easier for salespeople to be successful?


Scott Sullivan: [00:45:39] Well, it goes back to a simple concept. Nothing happens until you sell something. And even though that's simplistic, and I'll leave that quote of Patrick Taylor of Oversight Systems, "Everybody has to be aligned." And there may be misaligned goals and objectives. It's really tough to sell a solution, and then have your consultants come in behind the fact and truth to power. Their objectives are, "Can I extend the deal?" or "Can I extend the term or implementation? Let me get the first phase, and I'll be back to do the next phase." So, I think alignment has to be from the top down. I think the other aspect is collateral positioning. And don't come up with collateral and positioning without involving your salespeople.


Steve Maul: [00:46:33] Yeah.


Lee Kantor: [00:46:33] Okay.


Jim Foster: [00:46:35] Yeah. And I think from the sales management standpoint, sales is a stressful job. Without a doubt, it's a stressful job. And if you bring your team back in after they've had a misstep in an account, and it's a pressure-sensitive situation as opposed to, "Hey, client, let's have fun with this. What did we do right? And what did we do wrong? And let's do the wrong stuff and make fun of it."


Scott Sullivan: [00:47:00] Constructive ridicule.


Jim Foster: [00:47:02] Absolutely. Because then, it takes the stress out of it. "Okay. I made a mistake. I got it. Now, I can -- the rest of the team is laughing about it. We're all laughing about it. And, now, we're going to go for. And I don't feel so much stress on the next deal. I'm not panicking because I am-


Scott Sullivan: [00:47:18] And by the way, you learn something without feeling bad about it.


Jim Foster: [00:47:21] Yeah. So, it's really important not to put the stress of the sales management team or the sales manager back on the accounts, back on the frontline guys.


Lee Kantor: [00:47:31] Now, how do you create that culture that enables the salesperson to ask for help and to be vulnerable in order to close the deal or take their kind of book of business to the next level?


Jim Foster: [00:47:46] I think that's real key for your sales manager to be known as someone who makes just as many mistakes as you do. In other words, I'm going to expose myself even more than when I'm asking you to expose yourself. So, as long as you feel like I'm looking at my sales manager not as this hard mentor, but someone who has been there and done that, and is laughing about, "Here's what happened, here's what's going on," the most effective sales teams, they just love each other. And I can't say it any other way. They feel comfortable. It's a competitive environment but it's not a stressful competitive environment. I don't know if I'm saying that correctly.


Lee Kantor: [00:48:26] But in your role now where you're coming in and advising it, is that something you can see quickly? Like what are kind of clues that they got that part right?


Jim Foster: [00:48:38] You can feel it because in the meeting, people are laughing, enjoying being around each other. If you see a lot of heads down, and people sighing, and you're going, "Okay. Well, this is a stressful environment," and how do you take the stress out so these people can learn? You can't learn in a stressful environment. I mean, go all way back to college. When you're stressing out for an exam, you did worse. When you were relaxed and a couple of beers in, you're pretty good.


Steve Maul: [00:49:08] If they're telling stories like we three would be if we weren't on the radio, then it's a pretty relaxed environment.


Jim Foster: [00:49:14] It's very relaxing. And at that time, we had a real relaxed environment.


Steve Maul: [00:49:18] We did. We did, and-


Jim Foster: [00:49:19] I mean, yeah, we had the first golf game ever. Remember that?


Steve Maul: [00:49:22] Yeah.


Jim Foster: [00:49:22] It was the first golf game on a PC. And at the end of the day, I think, half the sales team was in the conference room playing golf.


Scott Sullivan: [00:49:32] Or down at New York Pizza dropping quarters into the video machine. But it's an environment where you learn. And I go back to how you learn. The person who makes a mistake knows they made a mistake, and pointing it out to them in a harsh and critical way doesn't help them understand the mistake any better. And it only makes them more anxious about making it again. And so, if you can literally laugh it off, and acknowledge that a mistake I've made, and even admit you made that mistake once in your life as well, then self-starting people, people who take responsibility, people who are self-motivated, they're going to fix that problem faster and better than you ever could through prescriptive guidance.


Lee Kantor: [00:50:17] Well said.


Scott Sullivan: [00:50:18] And I think cadence and communication. Really, there should be very few surprises. Right. You can lose a deal on your -- or you can win a deal on your own but you can lose collectively, right. So-


Steve Maul: [00:50:32] Never lose alone. Rule number one in selling.


Scott Sullivan: [00:50:34] Yeah. So, if someone wants-


Jim Foster: [00:50:37] If you're going over the rails, grab the nearest object.


Steve Maul: [00:50:40] That's right, take it with you.


Scott Sullivan: [00:50:41] Hopefully, they can swim like heck. 


Steve Maul: [00:50:45] Great. Lee, anything else? You have any other questions?


Lee Kantor: [00:50:50] No, this was a great. And it's good to hear that different people at different stages sharing their kind of wisdom of where they're at.


Steve Maul: [00:50:58] I really do appreciate you guys taking the time out of your days to spend with me and Lee here, and to share your experiences, and offer your advice to the listeners. It's been a great pleasure. And I really do appreciate you being here.


Jim Foster: [00:51:11] More than welcome. 


Scott Sullivan: [00:51:11] Thanks.


Announcer: [00:51:14] Thanks for listening to Sales Effectiveness Radio, brought to you by The Semantics Group. To learn more and to listen to more episodes of Sales Effectiveness Radio, please go to semanticsgroup.com.

Published by
Steve Maul
on
June 18, 2019
June 28, 2019