The B2B Revenue Executive Experience
The B2B Revenue Executive Experience

Episode · 3 years ago

Sales Strategy Success Secrets with Imtiaz Patel

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

There’s a very fine line between success and failure. How do you ensure that you’re on the right side of it?

Imtiaz Patel, founder of Accelerated Growth Solutions and a proven executive with experience leading teams to revamp circulation at the Dow Jones company and heading growth strategies at The Children's Place, has some insight for you. Today he's a highly sought after business consultant helping organizations define and implement growth strategies to optimize revenue.

What is his first and foremost piece of advice? “Think about what the customer is going through. That will fundamentally change how you think about the sales process.”



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 B Tob Revenue Executive Experience. I'm your host, Chad Sanderson. When it comes to change management and developing gross strategies and B tob sales organizations, we often see the catalyst being a decline in overall sales or productivity. From the team's trend start downward, where win rates decrease, sales cycles get longer, deal size is smaller and revenue executives all of a sudden decide revamping a growth strategies now necessary. But they're often challenges and, as we know, roughly eighty percent of change initiatives and growth strategies fail. With questions. Why is there a way to approach change management and growth in a revenue role that reduces risk and delivers the right results? Today we're talking with Mpat Patel, founder of accelerated growth solutions, approven executive with over ten years experience consulting with, leading with and leading teams to revamp circulation at the Dow Jones Company before moving into the B Tob side of the house, who's also a leader at the children's place, heading numerous growth strategies. Today, he's a highly sought after business consultant helping we're positions to find and implement growth strategies designed to opt to buy as their revenue. Thank you very much for taking the time, especially after the reschedules we had to go through, and welcome to the show. Thank you chat. I really appreciate you having me on the show. Excellent. So, before we jump in in, Chazz, would we jump into kind of a weird question just to help people understand you a little bit better as a person, and I've kind of been on this kick lately, but love to understand if you have a hobby or pastime that you're extremely passionate about that some may be surprised to learn about, considering your focus in the BB space.

Yeah, I used to have a food blog, and I say used to because I just shut it down a couple of weeks ago, but I'm a bad foody and I used to write restaurant reviews, resprees and makeup stuff. I love cooking and I had a particular niche, which was pot belly recipes. When I had like a one point, yeah, over fifty polly recipes, on a few Google poke milly recipes, I would come in at number one on the Google really, that's awesome. Where did that come from? With that passion come from? Now, I was actually it was a sales meeting I was running and we had it was in Dallas and we had a really nice dinner put together for all the attendees and stuff, and the chef was talking about how much he loves pope bully and yet, hopefully, on the recipe and that they are fell in love with polkbolly. Wow, excellent. It's amazing where some of those passions come from or where they lead. Unfortunately, though, you shut it down just a couple weeks ago. But yeah, you know, I found that it's harder to not show the effects of eating too much called belly. Gotcha. Okay, so we're focused on healthy. Yeah, exactly, and I decided, you know what, let's take up photography as a creative outlet. So that's kind of where I'm going to put my energy now. Excellent. All right, so let's let's start with let's jump in the top of the day, start with kind of a higher level view of change or transformation and issues. You've obviously led several very large and successful ones for companies that are wellknown, and doubt Johnes company one. What have you found to be the critical elements for success within these initiatives? Yeah, you know, it's what define success. This is what define failure. I think there's a very fine line between them. But when I when I think of all the initiatives I were run and the ones that...

...are being really successful, it has to start with a vision. Where are we going? Why are we going there? What's really the rallying call? And everyone can kind of get around otherwise it's kind of change for Change Sake, and nowadays that every organization has some change initiuive going on. So it's a little bit of topiague. So you need something that people can rally themselves around. So that's kind of one and there's three components to this. The second is really around the process of inclusion. I always make sure that I talk to the people on the ground. I talk to everyone I probably over talk and get input. And sometimes people don't need their ideas to be adopted, but they want to be leard. So for successful initiative you've got to make sure that they're listening to people and including their ideas or including their voice, and that that's not just at the start of an initiative, throughout the initiip of you're getting feedback. And the third, and this one actually really surprises me how poor a lot of companies are planning and they well, they don't put together a project plans where specific milestones and deliverable. I'm not a huge fan of thousands and thousands of lines of project plans, but you need the key steps. You need to understand the milestones, like where should I be at one point and what are the dependencies, so you know what to include and walk what's going to be delayed by something else. That, even if you have a structured high level plan, I think that helps. So that I think those are the three components vision, process of inclusion and just planning. And when we think about, you know, when we think about changing, this is and and the catalyst for them right. Usually, unfortunately, there's some negative connotation to the change right executives have some indicator that hey,...

...we need to do something different, we're not being successful with where we're going. But just that vision portion of it, I've seen companies struggle with it in ways that seemed to set up some of these initiatives for failure. If we look just at the vision component, any insights or direction you could give revenue executives to help them come together in a line on a vision? Yeah, so you know, sometimes I'm not going to say who. This is not a client of mind, but it's company I know well and I know a lot of people there. They decided they were going to have a vision and they put a number out there of what they wanted to achieve and they called it membership goal. So I asked the questions. So why is that number important? Not One person could answer the question. So that's not a compelling vision right. That's like you just throw out a number there and we don't understand why it's important. So when you're thinking about vision you have to kind of have the rationale behind it and there's some logical thought and I think, and it's it can be too abstract either. It has to be simply easily explainable about why we're going here, why we need to do this and why this is important. So I think those are kind of really critical examples around the vision and again include people in developing division. Everyone has an interesting, different point of view that could enrich the vision. Yeah, I've always found it's interesting, as I can solved more and more companies, we always ask you know, hey, we want to talk to some people in the field, because no fans, but what your view of the organization is from up here in the sea suite is completely different than what your your team's view of it may be. So I think you've you know, you've hit on a critical point. If you're not willing to understand the different perspectives or facets that make up your organization, how can you truly set to go back to your inclusion point of vision that includes everyone rather than it just being seen...

...as a, you know, as a point in a direction from the sea suite that everybody has to march towards. Absolutely and you know, give you an example from my experience. So when I took over those one role I had was as the general manager at the Welsh for Journal and I was now responsible for three different sales teams, that sixty sales people and BETB space and I said, you know what, the only way I'm going to get to understand the business and I'm going on the road three days a week at least and for weeks I just spend it on the road with the sales where it's talking to clients, really understanding. If you don't do and the person was in the road before me, in two years you probably met two clients. That was it. So it's like, if you don't get into the trenches, how are you really going to understand the issues that your team is facing and your clients are facing? But then you need to be able to pull yourself up and tell you okay, big picture, what does this all mean? Excellent. And so when we look at these change initiatives, you know, e said the catalyst is offering, you know, I don't want to say negative, but let's say a less than beneficial event or realization that maybe some numbers are something's changing, market conditions, change, whatever it may be. When we look at these change initiatives, I've seen them be more successful when people are proactive with them. But in order for them to proactive, they have to be watching some type of indicators or metrics before they kind of get to the edge, so to speak. When you've worked with clients, are been in those roles? Have you? Have you been able to find or identify things that revenue executive should be paying attention to get kind of, you know, leading indicators that change initiative is probably going to make sense in the near future. You know, there's this three things and you'll say a being here, I always try to break things down to three or five things. It's got to be a nom number, just how I structure things.

But really, you know, number one is like there are metrics you should be looking at. Recently working with a client and well, we started noticing with them attrix to a no rocket science. Are Right. The pipeline is getting smaller, the win rate is starting to decline, not to the point where you think it's it's a real problem, but you're losing more than you were initially and you're starting to see pricing pressure. And in this scenario, when we dug into what was happening is they they were priced out of line with the market place, that competitors were coming in underneath them. So these kind of you know, early warning indicators will give you some sense of what's happening and if you don't take corrective action, you're going to have a problem. So that's number one around the metrics. Number two is what we just talked about. Right, if we out there talking to customers and if you're hearing similar themes from people, you know this is going to build that at certain points and you have to sometimes think about this and say, okay, I've heard one or two clients say this. Is this really an issue? So you got to be a little attune to this really an issue? Could have become an issue? So you've got to have some level of ability to play things out and say, I'm hearing this, what are the implications? Could this become a real issue? And number three is for companies that are really proactive. I do something called a walking you may be in a situation where sales are grade, everything's looking good down the road, but we created the this simulated war game where we put a lot of we great teams with competitors and stuff like that, and each team acts as if they are that competitor and they basically are looking to win market share in the market. So everyone makes a move. You understand what you hear what everyone else is doing,...

...and then they go make another move. And what's amazing is people really get into the role of this company they're playing and they get so competitive and they all want to win. And what I find incredible I've done this number of times now that the last fifteen or so years. It's amazingly predictive of what may happen in the marketplace. Really okay, interested, it's right and it's it's a lot of fun because, and it sounds like it's like technology and all that kind of stuff. Now this is like we just put people in teams and make sure we have the right teams, reframe it right, and it's a two day workshop. Basically. The inside incredible and I always tell clients you should put this into your planning process now, because here's a scenario. Yeah, well, I mean it's it gives you it also, I would assume, gives you insight into not only your own organization in the market or maybe the way competitors may move, but also the behaviors and strengths and maybe weaknesses of the team that you have in house. Oh, that's a great point of growing up, because you may actually what it's amazing is sometimes. I did one of these a few months ago and and one of the board members as me, so what do you think about a team? And like well, this person really can't think out of box. There just like they'll execute, they're just going to do what they do every day. But this person over here, who we didn't really think about super creative, could be a rising Scot and they never saw it and they weren't aware of it because because they hadn't taken them out of the kind of silod nature of the organization. It's a great I think it's a great perspective change. I would love to learn more about how you're doing that. It sounds amazing. Absolutely. And you know, one of the other ones we found there was there this one person that the board thought is probably future CEO of the company...

...and we found that she so dominated the conversation that her team actually did the worst of any of the teams in the whole process. Interesting. Interesting. Yeah, it's always great. You know, it's really easy if people are staying in their lanes and you keep them, you know, in a certain role in a certain context, for people to you know, mold to it, let's say, right map the behaviors to that, when you shake it up and change it a little bit, you start to see really the caliber and different facets of the individuals. I think it's I think it's brilliant. I, like said, I'm I'll follow up for sure, because they definitely would would love to know more about that and can it. Can easily add to the show notes some additional information. So when you organizations and you start helping them develop a growth strategy, where do you direct the revenue executives to start looking? What's the what's the first step in the war games? Sounds great, but what's the first, you know, place that you guide them to really dig into to make sure that they're going to set up this initiative for success? I think you know, it's a little bit situational, also depending on the client, but really, at the end of the day the question is got to understand what's the problem right and is this, we could say, is this a sales optimization issue? So you know, again, one client I'm working with the there and side a security space. So the market is growing like crazy. However, they're growing at less than market. So the question in that scenario is that's not really a market issue. It's a sales optimization issue, right. We have to think about the market, what's going on with the competitors and what's going on with yourself. So I think that helps us then focus in on kind of where to focus on efforts. And then we have to say, okay, is it a product issue as well, because maybe the sales team is doing well, but it's the...

...products that we have or the pricing that we have and not the light. So you got to look at kind of this whole thing as as a collective. But you know, no matter what the situation, you can probably always do something to improve tweet sales performance. Sure question, but if it failed isn't broken. You may get a five, ten percent improvement, but you've got to fix the other issues first. Yeah, I often see companies looking at their organizational their teams in silos rather than understanding that it is a collective whole. Right. So I think your point is very well taken. You know, I've seen organizations where, you know, we focus on obviously the sales optimization stuff. So that's what you brings us to do. We train your sales people. But I've seen organizations do that where, okay, we're coming to trade, the sales people, but the problem the marketing promise of what the product will deliver. There's a huge disconnect. So even if we get the sales team optimized and, you know, executing the right behaviors, you're still going to have disappointment from the customers because the brand promise is not matching up to what the product delivers, even if the sales force is engaging in an optimized way. That's right and it's just so very true. It becomes it becomes an interesting challenge of how do I get out of my silo, how do I break down those silos? How do I get more of a holistic view and then really how do I know work together? I think we're seeing that more and more today. That hierarchical we have, we joke it comes from, you know, the baby boomer generational top down approach, and we're seeing that kind of shift, not only socially with millennials and Gen Z and whatever, but we're seeing that change in terms of what people want, how they want to be interacted with. So I think that has a huge impact on the organizations and, of course, for guys like you and me, opens up huge doors for business just be yeah, out of really. And so when you go in and work with you work with these companies...

...to put these teams in place and look at his sales team, do you have an approach for diagnosing the organization as a whole, you know, kind of as a step one, and then, say, diving into the sales organization kind of what's that process look like that a customer or client might expect to go through with you? Yeah, so the three components to this. I love it. There's nothing not that. I'm consistent here. So number one is I really need to understand that in performance twins. So what's happening? Let's dig into the data, let's understand where sales are going and I want to get them to a kind of granular level and probably dig in, since I probably will be brought in on the sales side, and dig into the Sales Data. Essentially. Number two is I want to do some level of market analysis right from the sun what's going on in the market place. And this is not kind of let's say, look recently, work with an information so since climb, they sell content. Basically we could look at the overall market. That's one thing, but we need to start segmenting the market and cut the data alttle differently, like is a dirigional issue, or could it be the certain segments of the market that are doing well certain segments that are doing badly? We need to understand all of that and when one understand the competitive environment as well, to understand who else is selling into that space and what's their value proposition versus yours. So we really them trying to get to through this is really understand the different drivers of performance and what's because once you understand the drivers and which drivers are struggling, you can come out and figure out a solution. Tell me, you know how people are like we can't just look at the top level. We have to go granular because the maybe different things. For example, when us a Dow Jones, we looked...

...at a global business was declining twenty percent a year after there was a crash. Yeah, and that was a fantastic case study. Scary as hell. I Better, Oh my God. Yeah, and you know, they bought me in. I was that's when they want me to be the B side and they're like, okay, figure. I had to stabilize this business and it was a we looked at everything and what we found at the market level was basically there was opportunity from growth in the US, but not with the current customer set that we had. We had to go to smaller clients, so that mean we had to sell differently. In northern Europe, which was a probably about thirty five percent of our business, the market opportunity was just decimated. There really was no opportunity for growth and actually in the market is probably going to shrink. And in Asia we thought it's basically open field. There's so much opportunity for growth and it's probably going to be with different customer so you end up looking at the problem and if you looked at it at the top level, you're going to come up with one solution, but now we looked at it on a regional basis and came up with different answers for each region. Interesting. Interesting. Okay, excellent. So can you give us an example of a client that you've worked with that's kind of gone through the process with you and kind of results that they've realized as a result of the work and engagement with you and and and accelerated growth solutions? Yeah, let me you know what, let me carry on with this. Dad Junes example. Okay, so the situation was we were selling basically information services. We had a fact either. If you're familiar with it, it's a database of thirty six thousand news sources and by license to fact Eva and you get access to thirty six album source of news. Great for librarians, anyone who's...

...going to research heavy. Road our focus and we were the premium price product in the marketplace. Nexus. Nexus had a similar product, but a lower price product, with a premium product. Everyone loved. The product. Focus was fortune five hundred, primarily financial services. They bought and we sold by seats. was fine when the economy was growing. As soon as the recession hit and bank started going out of business and or needed to cut costs, basically they cut that people licenses and in a lot of cases just went from let's say a hundred seats to ten seats or just got rid of factive all together and went to someone like Lexus Nexus as a cheaper solution. So that's why we were seeing twenty percent declines in our sales. So this was a big issue, right. So we actually looked at our products and there was another group focus on the products and say how do we realize I create new products for new segments in the marketplace that could potentially shifts shall grow. So, for example, the PR space, what I looked at was kind of said, okay, let's look at the sales organization. Let's, number one, try to understand the opportunity in each region so we align our resources. So we actually globally reduce our sales for US force from six hundred to five hundred people based on the opportunity just a smaller business for dealing with. We also actually, within that, we cut heavier in North America and added more people in Asia because that's where the growth opportunity was. So that was step one. The second thing we've found was because now people were buying smaller deals. Our average deal used to be a hundred thousand dollars. We had dropped to some tenzero on the average deal. So yeah, and we had expensive feel rep so the question is like, do I need that many feel reps?...

What's the mix between field versus someone sitting at a desk as a little cost resource? So we decided to shift more to in house sales people and we were planning to go to global centers, one in the Midwest and one in Barcelona. So we changed the mix there and then we also kind of change the structure of how many. We decided that best practices that hunt, hunters and farmers. They have different skill sets and we had different issues. So we created more of a hunter farmer more. But then we dug into the sales process. We actually started interviewing our customers and what we found from them was that our salespeople were not consulted in enough and clients, customers, wanted help. They wanted in a complex world, they wanted a resource that I would help them navigate the choices. So we completely throughout our sales process and created a buy it what I call a biocentric sales process. So you know, traditional sales process is a contacted a prospect. I contacted the prospect, I've got a meeting setup, I send I had a meeting, I send them a proposal and that moves you down a sales process and typically the more you for, the long you move, the higher your problem you increase the probability of success. Well, we saw is you may be at stage four in your sales process, the customer may still be at Stage one and his buying process. So we said, well, we should be thinking about the buying process and you don't exit one stage to stage two until the buyer has given you an indication. So the Exit Prikerea was something the buyer did to move you to stage two, and we reframed everything to think like the buyer. What is the buyer going through? I don't care what I've done, but it's really what is the buyer doing? What are the problems they're...

...thinking about, how they're walking through their sales purchase process and how we aligning well with them. That has the impact of improving our win rate considerably. The other kind of interesting thing we learned that I throw this out, it takes a salesperson twice as long to lose a deal as to win a deal. You think about that right now. If I could identify someone who's really not going to buy early in the process, I've just saved myself so much time right that I can now put it towards others. And there were and we found indicators that would say they're not going to purchase. For example, someone who typically won't purchase tends to take much longer to schedule a meeting. That just not responsive. So you can figure this out. Early in the process and I'm not saying you throw them away, but you put them on the backbone a little. So we did things like that. The other thing we did is we surveyed our sales force to understand where are they spending time, and we found they were spending only sixty percent of their time on selling activities. Benchmark is eighty percent. So like, okay, what's taking that extra time? And we found that we were putting too many administrative requirements on them. So we just got rid of all that. We actually created a small team who could handle a lot of the ADMINISTRATA. What you've now done is you've gone from sixty to eighty percent. You've increased your selling capacity by thirty three percent. So there a lot of things like that we did. We change the incentive plan, we reassigned territories and we created a curriculum, eighteen month curriculum of training. We created specific requirements for the managers, we train the man edges and managers claimed their team, all that kind of stuff, and it was cracked monitor and essentially, through all of that we went from negative twenty to tweet us and growth in eighteen months. Wow, at twenty three percent swing in a down market. Yeah, wow, impressive.

I mean it's as shit and it's funny the buyers, the buyers perspective angle is it's such a subtle shift, but it has such large ramifications for not only the buyers but also for the companies that are selling in the way they sell it. I mean, listen to all the structural changes and responsiveness you guys had to head to address. I mean that's a pretty impressive swing in a really rough market. Yeah, and that's like almost like the one thing I would tell a lot of the sales teams I work with right, put your show self in the buyers shoes. Think about what they're going through. That will fundamentally change how you think about the sales process and how you're moknsultant. And I think a lot of cases for consultants like us, this is how we think anyway. Right, I was drinking about solving the bias problem. So it's that's all we're applying here, right. Yeah, I had had a customer the other day that was I was talking to one of their top reps and he was chasing a wellknown brand that everybody on the podcast that's listening to podcast would know, and he was lamenting the fact that they wouldn't respond engage. Back to your point about scheduling meetings, and I just simplicits a. Why are you wasting time on them? Well, it's a wellknown brand. Well, you okay, but if they're not in the buying window, you're spinning cycles. Go, go, focus on something else. Right, they're not ready. That's right. Have a compelling event. They don't think this is a critical initiuale. There's something inside, then like you, don't throw it away, but reorganize your dayme prioritize accordingly. Right, whiur goal is to connect with people that are that have problems that we can solve and or in a place where they're have a reason to change. So crue excellent. All right. So let's change direction a little bit here. We ask all of our guests to standard questions towards the end of each interview. The first is simply if somebody doesn't have a relationship with you, they don't have a referral into you and they want to reach out, they've got something that they think you're going to find interesting, maybe selves problem they want to sell to you, but there's no existing connection. For you personally? What...

...have you found to be the most effective way for people to reach out, capture your attention, build credibility and secure fifteen or twenty minutes on your calendar? So I would say I'm a little more open to sales people reaching out to me because I want to kind of hear that pitch and see what they have to say. But, having said that, I've a limited time, so the people who get my attention at again, I would say everyone needs to do this. I feel like a broken record. Say something in your communication to me that indicates that you've done some research or you understand the issues that I may be facing. Don't just think, because I'm a small consoling from that, I just have standard issues, too little work. Figure it out and if you hit on an issue, I will definitely talk with you. Excellent, perfect. So last question. We call our acceleration in sight. There's one thing you could tell sales, marketing or professional services people, one piece of advice that, if they listened, you believe would help them hit their targets or exceed their goals. What would it be and why? I think you have to put yourself in the buyers shoes and I'll give you a quick example around it. So as running this team at the Journal and we were selling newspapers into hotels. So I'm glamorous. We were the number two provider and it was pretty much, you know, they had to have it for the business travelers. The Journal Number One is USA Today. Their circulation was twelve times what hours was. And remember they were one, we were number two. Wow, we're yeah. So I'm like, well, this is really and the business, our business, have been declining two percent a year. I'm like, well, this isn't exciting to me. We've got to figure out how to grow this business. So really came at it to say, okay, we're sending to the brand's Marryat hired, Hilton so...

...on. What are the issues they're grappling with and how can I use my product to solve the problem? We reframed it completely and then we said, okay, how is USA Today solving that problem and how can we position uselves to be better than USA Today? We came up with an our solution. In twelve months we grew the business from we grow the business a hundred and fifty percent. WHOA. Yeah, just by tape, just by switching the perspective and understanding what the buyers are dealing with and how you might be able to solve actually amazing, excellent, excellent. All right, perfect, m chat. Thank you very much for being on the show today. The listeners interested in talking to you more. What's the easiest way to get old you linkedin email website? Yeah, linkedin connections are good. They could email me. It's MTIA SO IMTIAZ AT ACC growth SOLUTIONSCOM. Excellent. Again, thank you for being on the show. All right, everybody that does it for this episode. You know the drill. Check us out of bedb read exactcom. Share the episode with friends, families, Co workers and until next time, we have value selling associates. With you all, nothing but the greatest success. You've been listening to the BB 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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