The B2B Revenue Executive Experience
The B2B Revenue Executive Experience

Episode · 1 year ago

What Data & Analytics Have to Say About Buyer-First Selling w/ Carla Intal


Your organization says it puts its buyers first — like nearly every other company in existence — and you’ve been tasked with the unenviable job of clearly articulating how. Where do you start? You know that buyer-first selling may be one of the most human goals for your business, but it’s only achieved by understanding the humans involved — which means diving into the data.

Today’s guest, Carla Intal, Insights Analyst at LinkedIn, joins the show to discuss how. Using data and analytics, she’s helped create a list of 5 buyer-first principles that actually work.

In this episode, we discuss:

- What the data says about the most effective selling motions

- The 5 buyer-first principles derived from the research

- How sellers can leverage data themselves

Now that you know how to employ buyer-first principles, are you ready to take a deeper dive into the role data should play in your organization, or learn all about sales enablement 3.0? Check out the full list of episodes: The B2B Revenue Executive Experience. 

You're listening to the BDB revenue executive experience, a podcast dedicated to helping executives train their sales and marketing teams to optimize growth. Whether you're looking for techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's accelerate your growth in three, two, one. Welcome everyone to the BB revenue executive experience. I'm your host, Chad Sanderson. Today we're talking about applying data science and thought leadership to sales to understand what's selling actions actually contribute to being able to exceed sales targets consistently. To help us, we have with US Carla intall, a graduate of the University of Oxford with a Master of social data science, a Master's and applied economics from John Hopkins and today is an insights analyst at Linkedin Carlo. Thank you so much for taking time and welcome to the show. Thanks for having me, Chad. That's really a pleasure to be here. So, before we jump into the top of the day, we always like to start with kind of an oddball question, just so the audience gets to know you a little bit better. Sure, and I'm always curious to know you know, people have a work persona and then there's, you know, the personal life. But curious to know something you're passionate about that those that only know you through work may be surprised to learn about you. Yeah, that's really an interesting in a fun question to start twin. So well, my answer is really going to come across as Nerdy, but a hide from yeah, aside for doing data in my day to day I also love thinking about data in popular culture. So most recently I helped build this course on how data transform the music industry and how artists can use data in music production or distribution. So also, a few months back I co hosted this Netflix Club at work and we made it a point to show data insights around movies. So one interesting study we discovered, you know, like men have more dialog in new movies compared to women, even in films, when you think, like, even in films where you think women would dominate, like this SNEA, princess films, you know. So I guess you can say that I can switch it off. I really love thinking about data in my daily life. That's awesome. So how did you get into data science? What made it? What made it such a compelling field for you. Yeah, that's a that's a I have a very interesting journey actually. So I started doing my career doing public policy work and I was in DC for about ten years doing international affairs, you know, United Nations type of work, and I discovered data science while working in public policy actually. So I was writing a speech for one of the top officials in my organization and the topic was around the interconnectivities of economies. So let's say a crisis happens to country, a how does that cascade to the rest of the world? How fast does it spread and how big it can be? So you can apply that concept to any type of topic, right. So, let's say the financial crisis of all nine a human it in crisis, or even right now, it's still relevant when you think about the pandemic and how it spread and affected all of us. So, anyway, I was...

...doing research on that topic and I was introduced to the field of data science, and particularly social and economic networks, and I really got obsessed with it that I left my job, I quit DC and I went to Oxford to study it. So yeah, and then while at Oxford, it really dawned on me that, you know, I don't really need to be in public policy to make big, bold statements about the world. So, especially now in the age of information, you know, whoever has the data has the most to say. So, yeah, Linkedin really became an attractive destination to me because of my interest in network sciences and I really wanted to discover new things about how the professional world is interconnected. And I guess Linkedin was also interested in me because I had the experience of taking data and telling a story from this macro point of view, especially when you look at groups of professionals on our platform and observing their online behaviors and how it relates to, let's say, carry your goals like promotions. So yeah, so, to cut the long story short, that's how I ended up in Linkedin analyzing a distinct group of professionals, and particularly those who are in the sales function. And and is there something about sales that you felt more compelled to apply your expertise and data science to? Is there's some reason that that seemed to call out to you? I mean because you with that background and yeahs you could do anything. So, yeah, what was it about sales that made it so compelling? I guess two things. No. So I'm very interested in social data, you know, behavioral data, and the world around us. And when you think of sales as a function, there's a lot of questions that can be answered, but not a lot of people are really studying it from a data science point of view. So there are unique questions that we could answer using these new tools and methodologies, you know. So, yeah, so that's how I really got attracted to studying sales persons. So, yeah, I love it. And so how do you? Have you seen the world of selling change, especially as we've, you know, kind of fast tracked through the pandemic in the big changes that that made? How have you seen it change, and what are some of the observations you can share? Sure? Yeah, so we've seen a lot of changes in the sales landscape as are a result of the pandemic, as I've said. No, so, from the data I've seen, many sellers and buyers have really begun to embrace this idea of buying and selling remotely. So every year at linked and we run this report core called the state of sales, and in this year's report more than half of our respondence said that working remotely has actually made the purchasing process easier, and more than seventy percent of them said that they want to continue buying remotely in the future. And so the question was, where the sellers prepared for this somewhat abrupt shift to virtual selling? And from the data I would say that they probably weren't really that prepared. Because, yeah, and no, because, like in in our analysis we found a scramble amongst sellers taking courses on inside selling or social sales on our linkedin line,...

...linkedin learning platform. So when the world went into lockdown like in March or April last year, a lot of them were like really scrambling to take these courses. Know. So this was particularly striking for sellers in, let's say the healthcare industry, for instance, where, probably for the first time, there was this huge demand for healthcare goods and services, and sellers were trying to adapt to this non traditional, non facetoface method of selling that they were used to. They weren't really, you know, used to doing before. So salespeople really began to equip themselves with like online sales tools, like we've noticed on our linked in sales navigator product, for instance, self bought licenses increased by about sixty percent year a year. So yeah, so I really know that interest in other, lets a sales technologies have grown as well. So yeah, I mean another observation I'm probably seen is that everybody in the professional world is now online and engaging with each other. So you have content creation, sharing and conversations on our platform is up by about thirty percent year and year. Every minute there's about a hundred thirty new sign ups to Linkedin. So this it tells you that this online world will just continue to grow. So yeah, and I guess so in my team we just really tried to put two and two together. So you have everybody's online and engaging. So how do we fought empower let's say sales professionals to make most of their time online? So one thing we've observed from talking to buyers is that sure, you have your online purchasing process. It's fast and efficient, but it's also overwhelming because these sellers were probably ill prepared to sell online and they've begun to embrace this scale over substance way of selling. You know, they're sending mass emails and adding a lot of noise. So yeah, so the challenge for us really just to end on this note. Was How do we cut through the noise and how do equip sellers with some best practice guidelines of engaging with their buyers? And that's how we came up with our buyer first principles and the study. I love it. Everything needs to be focused on the buyer. If it's not focused on by they're going to feel the friction and they're going to find somebody else who has the opportunity to focus on them and their specific needs. So it's a great insight. And so there was a specific study that your team did. I believe it was seven hundred and thirty two sales navigators users, looking at the question of how do you prefer? How did you perform against your individual revenue target in the last quarter? And it looked like you were looking for specific behaviors. But how did that come about and tell us about that study? Sure, yeah, so. So our task as an insight steam was to really understand what online actions can sellers make in order for them to achieve their sales targets? But you also want every buyer and seller engagement to be valuable and meaningful. So we at Linkedin. We have this ethos of putting our members first, and we wanted to impart that ethos in sales and say that, you know, everybody wins with...

...a buyer first mentality. So in a nutshell, that means that you know putting your customers needs first over your sales goals cannot only be a positive buying experience, but it can also optimize your productivity as a seller. So we have five buyer first principles. So the first is learning. Define Learning, define your buyer. Then you need to share your insight readily, solve their problem, not sell, you deliver value. And the fifth is earned trust. So, using these five buyer first principles, we looked at actions on linkedin that map to each principle. So, for instance, learning about your buyer. That could pertain to a search or a profile view on Linkedin. That's say, the principle on sharing insights readily, that could pertain to someone who shares content online and engages with them. When we think about earning trust, we map that against how complete is your linkedin profile? Are you trustworthy? So we've identified a total of eleven actions on the linkedin platform that map to each of these buyer first principles and the idea was to rack them by important us, and so when we define importance, we rank them by how they influenced salesperson success. And, like you mentioned, this success measure we used was whether or not sales targets were actually being met. So for that part of the study we teamed up with our market research team at Linkedin, who then sampled about seven hundred salespersons and we ask them, did you meet your sales stargets, yes or no? And then from then on we were able to map their individual outcomes to their sets of actions on Linkedin and then prepare it for some data sienes analysis. And so when you look at that study and you think think back through those results and kind of the approach, what were you most surprised about in the results of the study? Yeah, I think the most interesting finding that we didn't expect was the point on quality over quantity, and we found that if cell or send a message on Linkedin, which we call our emails, or if they share articles without being mindful about the content, it was actually negatively impactful to sale stargets being met. Really, yeah, yeah, but if this article or the message added some value, let's say if this content generated some high readership or engagement, then that contributed to positive outcomes. So that finding was really supportive of our observation in the beginning that there's too much noise out there. And Yeah, it's actually true. And what matters is making yourself stand out by creating value and not volume. So sellers should think twice before sending out a mass email or doing an outreach at scale, because customization is still very valuable. And when you think about the largest predictors of success that you found in the study, the things that the most successful people were doing in a repeated, consistent fashion, what were those largest predictors of success? Yeah, so when going back... the buyer first principles that I mentioned, we found that earning a customers trust, then learning and defining your customer and then sharing valuable content was the most important. So when you say earning trust, for example, so in a virtual selling world, like your online persona is like the most important thing. So to me that makes sense that you know, the first predictor to success is do you appear trustworthy on the platform? So that's represented by your profile completeness on Linkedin. So is your profile updated? Do you have a photo? Does your profile sends signals that they're always active and online at Linkedin. So that's the first so now that you've established, let's say, your trustworthiness on the platform, now it's time to get to work. So the second predictor that we found significant is the amount of searches and researching about the customer that you do. So that's represented by the number of searches you do for needs, for companies, for profiles, and in our study we we recommended a daily dose of about fifteen searches a day. And then finally, like I mentioned earlier, was our quality over quantity predictor. So content that was engaged and shared or messages that was pending or accepted proved to be more valuable to sales outcomes then an impersonalized message blast. Nice. Okay. So now let's go macro for a second and kind of step away from the study itself and think about data. In sales. There's so much data that can be collected, from customer intent data to actions and activities that reps are taking or not taking in some cases. I'm kind of curious that there's so much. It's kind of overwhelming. So can you provide some guidance for our chief sales officers and things like that. What role should data be playing in sales and the way that they approach the execution of their groups or the coaching of their teams? Yeah, I know that's a good question. So I really say that at this time, data and selling really go hand in hand. So there's so much to learn about a customer by just looking at their data. And data comes in many forms. It's not just talking about that's a CEE RM data or the data that that is in spreadsheets, but really right now it's about the behavior, so behavioral data of the customers. And at the end of the day, sales is really a very social profession and social interaction is very important. So using social data to understand their customer, let's say, what types of content do they like to click on? What topics do they care about? What time of data they usually go online, or are they looking to change jobs soon? You also and when you aggregate all that information over a group of people, let's say business leaders in the cloud computing industry or business executives in manufacturing, these are powerful tools that can help you understand your buyer and engage them better and perhaps lead to better outcomes as a sales scheme and if I'm a sales rap or even a sales leader in some, some instances, is there I mean, because there is so much... out there, is there a specific area I should keep my eye on, a specific type of data that would be most critical? Or is it really about keeping my eye on the trends across a host of different data sets? Yeah, you hit the nail on the head right with that. So I'll probably say that there's no data that's the most critical or the most important. Every data set has its imperfections, but being able to weave different information together and find patterns in them is what's more, what's more important. So remember we can be led by just looking at one data point, you know. So, for instance, oh great, the more messages I send, the more responses I'll probably have, but in reality it's really not that simple, you know. So you have a ton of messages on the one hand, but there's another data set that tells you what types of messages actually received positive responses. So if you combine these two data together, you understand the pattern. Then you have a road map for yourself on how to craft messages that will gain some sort of positility. So I would probably say it's really not in the data but in the expertise of the person in understanding what the data means. And you don't really need to be a data scientist to read to learn this. You can be an industry leader with years of experience or a subject matter expertise and you can see these patterns of mile away. So it's really more about being conscious about the information around you and using that all indecision making, and I think that's a very important point. Right. So a lot of people will look at date. I've seen some executives go out data. I don't know what to do with that, but you don't as long as the construct of how it's collected and analyzed and aggregated is sound. Like you said, you can see the patterns. So it's really more about the intuitive analysis that comes from understanding human interaction and buyer intent. Then it is about knowing how to calculate the data. And I still think there's a lot of sales exacts out there that are hesitant to rely so much on the data because they feel like they have to trust how it was put together. I remember the days when we would look at hey this is my spreadsheet for the forecast and this is your spreadsheet for the forecast and we would be like, are we working in the same company? Right? So, yeah, understanding that and getting comfortable with it, I think, is a critical component for sales professionals at all levels. But I want to go back to something you said earlier, that buy our first mentality. It makes sense right. It makes sense to folks on the Bire to, especially since so much money has been invested in customer experience over the past decade, to really make sure that we're giving customers, whether we beat to see or be to be, what they want, where they want it, how they wanted, to help them navigate the field. What I'm really curious about is, from your perspective, why do you think, even though it seems so common sense, why do you think more individual reps or sales teams don't do it more consistently? What's funny is I do feel that sellers are so there's this gap in the market, right. So you have buyers who are very selective with who they...

...engage with because it's an overwhelming world out there for as a buyer. And then on the on the second part of it, you have the sellers who are continuously trying to adapt to this fast paced virtual selling world, so they resort to like sending mass emails at scale. Also there's this there's this big gap around in the market right now. So with the buy our first principles, we aim to bridge that gap. And I think what's it's difficult to do consistently because sellers are probably not aware that this gap exists. So when I I remember this funny start from our state of sales report. So we asked sellers if they put the buyers needs first, and then sixty percent of them said yes. But then when we ask buyers, do sellers put your needs first, twenty four percent of them said yes. So there's a big gap out there about awareness. So I guess awareness is really key and the principles provide a guidance on where this gaps can be so is it about trust, or is it about proving value? Is it about engaging more readily or, you know, maybe ensuring a buyer and a product fit? So yeah, so I guess. But the beauty of it is, I guess, is once we move to what we call a hybrid selling approach, which is a mix of virtual and in person selling. These principles will still be relevant and it's still can be applied to any mode of selling. I love it. I love it all right. So let's change the direction here a little bit. We ask all of our guests to standard questions towards the end of each interview. The first is simply, as as a professional at Linkedin, with the expertise that you have, there's no doubt there are people trying to get your attention and sell to you, and so I'm curious when somebody doesn't have that trusted referral into you, what works for you when someone's trying to capture your attention and earn the right to time on your calendar. Yeah, so I guess this dies back to what I said in the beginning and in the way there results of the study we had. So I want someone to come to me who has already done their research about me as a buyer, and I guess a basic question, for instance, is am I the right person to approach for this product? You know, I might work at linked in, but if you're selling me a product that isn't data related, I won't be able to help you. So I guess after knowing if I'm the right person for this product. Maybe are you able to attract my attention by showing me the things I'm interested in? Maybe show me an insight I've never heard before. This could be a signal to me that the product or offering actually adds value and is relevant to me. And probably the last thing is I probably want to make sure that I would want to buy from you. So are you trustworthy? Do you believe in the product you're selling in can you answer all my questions, or are you just trying to meet the quota? So I guess those things. I love it. I love it all right. So last question. We call it our acceleration insight. If there was one thing you could tell sales professionals, one piece of advice you could give them that you believe would help them reach or exceed their targets, what...

...would it be? A why? I would probably say that I like this idea of building the persona of a trusted advisor. So genuinely care about the customers, paint points, go with them on the journey, but also recognize that trust takes time, but I think of it as an investment. So I know successful sales persons who have patiently solved their customers problem problems over a course of months and even if it takes some upfront effort, the long run benefits outweigh the quick wins. So, as a seller or as a marketer, you learn more about the customers business and you build this relationship centered around trust, which really helps when it comes to renew all her upselling' solutely. If they don't trust you, why would they buy from me in the first place? Exact little and continue to buy from you. Perfect Carly. If there's a if a listeners interested in finding out more about that study that you conducted, where should we send them? Yeah, I would be remiss if I don't say please follow me on Linkedin. That's where I've put all the articles that I've done, so I will leave it at that. We have a science of sales blog on the linkedin sale solutions blog, so you can find all this and more, including, I've done some network analysis as well of sales professional so you can see all of that on the Linkedin blog platform. Excellently, Carl I can't thank you enough for taking time to be on the show today. Times at one asset nobody gets back, so I really appreciate it when people are willing to spend some of them with us. Thank you very much for being on the show. It's been an absolute blast. No worries. I great to be here and really happy that I got to share my passion for a data with you and your listeners. All right, everyone that does it for this episode, check us out of be to be REV exactcom share with friends, family co workers. If you like what you here, leave us review on itunes. Until next time. We have value selling associates, which you nothing but the greatest success. You've been listening to the BDB revenue executive experience. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show and Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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