Episode 21 -We speak with Alice Heiman Chief Sales Energizer & Podcast Host of Sales Talk for CEO's
Alice shares her experience with starting her own company in 1997 and her journey to being nationally known for working with B2B companies that have exceptional growth potential to elevate their sales and increase their valuation.
Alice Hosts the Podcast Sales Talk for CEO's and shares her insights on Play the King from interviews with successful CEOs over the years.
About Alice Heiman:
As Chief Sales Energizer, Alice is internationally known for her expertise in elevating sales to increase valuation for companies with a B2B sale that have exceptional growth potential. Spending her time strategizing with CEOs, company leaders and their sales leadership to build the strategies that find new business and grow existing accounts is her passion. Her clients love her spirit and the way she energizes their sales organization. She is the host of the popular podcast, Sales Talk for CEOs. Alice dedicates time to local entrepreneurs by teaching at the University of Nevada in the entrepreneurship minor which she helped inspire. Alice also serves on the board of several growing companies to energize and elevate their sales.
When she is not guiding CEOs to elevate their sales, she can be found hanging out with her family, walking, snow skiing, sailing in Lake Tahoe, volunteering in the community, or reading a book in her backyard.
This podcast is sponsored by OMI, the company that makes CRM work. And today's guest is Alice Heiman, who is the podcast host of sales talk for CEOs and Alice for your own company. You have a title that I'd like you to explain. It's the Chief Sales Energizer, so have at it <laugh>Alice Heiman:
Well , that's what I do. clearly, you know, energize you. So , what I like to do is work with the CEOs and the senior leaders of their teams to get the sales that they need and want to increase evaluation . And that requires pumping a lot of energy into an organization. And so , clients love the energy I bring to them. And so they have dubbed me, the Chief Sales Energizer,.Play the King:
What is the right level of energy that you need from a sales team? Like, I can imagine like to hyped up and, you know, you might turn some people off too lethargic, and you're clearly, not doing what you need to do. What are you looking for when you take on a new client , where do you want get them?Alice Heiman:
Yeah. You know, that's a great question. And I think a level of energy can be expressed in many different ways, right? So it can be expressed in enthusiasm, which I do tend to be a cheerleader and many sales teams do need that because their CEOs and sales leaders don't really provide that type of energy, that cheerleading type of energy. And so that can be very useful when I get into an organization, I see what's happening there and if they need a little cheerleading, you know, I can do that for them. Sales people like others do well when you tell them they're doing well and they can continue to do better when you tell them what they did well and specifically what that was so they can duplicate it. Right? So we, we do want to let people know that they're doing well, however, somehow in our society, that just doesn't seem to be a thing that we do. So oftentimes I become the one who does that and it's contagious, which is great. So I teach the leaders to do that as well. So that's one kind of energy. And then there's, you know, the energy to really organize things and drive them through. And I find that that energy is lacking sometimes too. So sales people and sales leaders especially need that kind of energy. It's not necessarily enthusiasm, but it's that deep penetrating energy that can get the job done. Right? So start it, get to the middle and then get to the finish line. And so I think I help them bring that kind of energy to their organization too, because I install process that makes it easier for them to do their job. And as sales leaders, we get pulled into so many different things that take us away from actually coaching our sales people to close business. So I try to bring it back to one of the most important things and have us focus on those. So I bring that energy as well and probably more, but, you know, that's good for now. <laugh>Play the King:
Let's zero in on that relationship between, you know, the leadership and the sales team. You've got like just a ton of experience working with these teams, what are some ways that you've seen a really healthy relationship there and what are some ways that maybe, you come in and you say, Hey, this isn't working so well. What are some of your most frequent diagnoses?Alice Heiman:
Well, I , I think a frequent diagnosis is that the CEO could be the chief sales prevention officer. Hmm . Yeah. Now that sounds ridiculous. Doesn't it? Like, why would a CEO be preventing sales?Play the King:
Right. So, tell me more about that. Like how does that play out? What are you actually seeing? What is the behavior? What are the messages they're sending? What and how does that work?Alice Heiman:
It's different in every organization, but many times there's a bit of an adversarial relationship between the CEO and the senior leaders and the sales team don't know if you've ever seen that, but anybody who's listening, who is in sales can, can tell you that it is true, unfortunately. And of course, everybody wants more sales at their company and they want their sales team to perform. Now, remember that I only work with companies who have a business to business complex sales. So when I'm talking about this, that's the setting. And most of my clients are between twenty and a hundred million dollars in revenues. And they're all trying to get, go from incremental growth to exponential growth. So a lot of them want to double, right? Many of them are owner led and investor backed . So when you look at an organization this size and a CEO who is probably the founder, in most cases, they did founder-led sales when their organization was young. And, you know, as things changed and the company grew, they added a sales team and then they added a sales leader. And then at some point they might have added a super sales leader, right? So you go from having sales managers, to sales VPs to having a CRO , a chief revenue officer or a CSO, a chief sales officer. So those companies are now going be 50 to 80 million when they're adding those super sales leaders. Right! What happens over time in a company and how it gets to be an adversarial relationship is the CEO remembers the time when they did the selling. And when they did founder led sales and how well that worked. And then when they started hiring sales people , they're always sitting there wondering why can I outsell my sales people ? Why can't they sell? Like I do, well thenumber one reason, they're not the founder. They don't have the CEO title, but there's a myriad of other reasons as well. Right? So, that's what happens, right? So over time as salespeople don't perform, as well as, or don't perform to expectations of investors or, you know, stakeholders, then there becomes this adversarial, well, what are those salespeople doing? Well , why won't they do this? Why don't they do that? And there's this lack of understanding between senior leaders and the sales team as to what should happen and how it's happening. And so we get a little bit of this adversarial thing now, as the company grows and they get bigger and there's lots more people, you start getting these other factions that are adversarial with sales too, like finance, like operations. It's everybody's like, what are those sales people doing? Oh, you know, they get to go to dinners and play golf. Well, not during COVID, but you know what I mean? They get to travel to trade shows. How fun? Oh yeah. It's super fun to work 12 hours at a trade show and then have to take people out to dinner and keep your eyes propped open, and then get up at 6:00 AM and start all over again. I mean, it sounds really glamorous, but it's not right. So there comes this kind of adversarial thing, these sales people aren't performing, what are they doing? And we're not getting what we need and they always want this and they're selling stuff we don't have. And so you can see how it kind of becomes adversarial, right? So then we have sales leaders or CEOs, especially expecting or requesting things of sales that are not really going to help them sell more, or they're not having the rest of the company support sales in the way that's needed. Let me pause there to say sales is not about sellers. It's not about sales people . That's not what sales is. Sales is about the way the customer wants to buy from you. And when we place too much focus on the sellers and what they are, or they are not doing, maybe based on like what we used to do 20 years ago, that doesn't work anymore. When we do that, then we're not focused on how the customer wants to buy from us. And so now we're driving behaviors that are not helping our customer buy from us and producing activities that don't help our customers buy from us. And we're not getting the results we want. And then we have this vicious circle of, you know, more adversarial type of relationship. So that's how CEOs are preventing sales, because they're not understanding. And they don't support in the way that helps the customer buy. And all the focus is on sellers and what they're doing or not doing.Play the King:
Can you make that concrete with me with an example, perhaps like you don't have to obviously name and shame, but , what is one that you think is like maybe representative of your clients, right? Who where you came in, you said, oh, classic case. Like here's how we solve this.Alice Heiman:
So why don't we start with what a typical customer journey is or a customer buying process. So most of the companies, I deal with sell some sort of technology , some sort of software software as a service, we call it SaaS , or some other innovative type of product or service. And most of it has some component of recurring revenue with it. Companies who have to buy these things have to make a lot of change at their company in order to buy them. And they're expensive. These things cost a lot of money. So when I, as a customer need to buy something like this, that's expensive, it's going to take a long time to get it integrated. We're gonna have user adoption issues. We're gonna have technology issues, right? This is really complex and it's could be hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. So let's say I'm, I'm tasked at my company with buying, let's call it this software, this enterprise software, that's going to impact all of the sales people at our company. And I'm a $5 billion company. So I task a sales enablement or sales, operations type person. You know, if I'm the CEO or I'm the CRO , I task this person. So now here I am, all right , I have to buy this software. What's the first thing I'm gonna do? Well, I don't pick up the phone and call a salesperson. Funny enough. Right. <laugh> that's not the first thing that I do. <laugh> the first thing that I do is ask a few of my friends internally and, and outside my organization as well. Hey, what software do you, you use to solve this problem? And I get a few answers, right? Or I didn't like I get , maybe, I don't know. We, we have the same problem. If you find anything, let me know. Right. Okay. So either way I have some information and then I wanna go to the internet and I'll go look for those companies that my friends told me about and see if I can find any of their competitors that maybe no one told me about. And I'll start to gather the information. Here are the six companies that can sell me the software that I need for my entire sales team. Okay. So now I'm doing that now, unbeknownst to me at my own organization, someone else is probably doing the same task because they have a need also. And they didn't know that I was on it. Right. There may be a committee being built because this is a complex purchasing decision. And, you know, it's gonna take more than just me to make this decision. So I may be building that committee. Somebody unbeknownst to me may be building that committee who knows buying has got so complicated inside of organizations, especially 5 billion to a hundred million dollar companies. You know, it's just very complicated. So anyway, I'm out looking around trying to find this stuff. So now I go to your website and I look to see what's there. And if I can't fi find what I need, I'm out of there immediately, right? And then I go look at the others. So this is the beginning of the, you know , the, the buyer's journey as a lot of people call it. But my, my buying experience, this is what I'm doing. It will get to a point where I will need to talk to a salesperson. Mm-hmm <affirmative> . Now let's go back to the other side and let's talk about your sales process. So at this company, our sales process is , we go to trade shows. We hold events. We have downloads. We do different things to be out there in the marketplace so that people who can buy from us will see us and recognize our brand. So some of that's marketing related, some of it's sales related , and usually , we have sales people calling out bound to try to get people on the phone and talk to them. So we may have sales, development reps, or business development reps, making phone calls and trying to get people on the phone to set an appointment for one of our account executives or AEs to talk to them. Right. So that's what we're doing now. What we fail to realize is the gaps. So remember I said, this person was tasked with going to find out which softwares would solve the problem, and they're doing that on the internet . And so, you know, back to the sales leader or the CEO saying, there's not enough sales, we need more sales. Okay. Well, we're not being capturing them on the front end because our website sucks. And so they bounce right off of it. So they're losing all that right off the bat. Now you're saying, well, how do the salespeople get more leads? We need more leads. Well, your sales, your website, isn't helping you . So you don't even realize that though, because you don't even know what your customer journey is. So here I am on one side being the customer, taking this, this journey, this buying experience, and trying to figure it out on my own with what information you've put on the internet. Right? And then here, our sales people wanting my attention, but they don't even know I'm looking at your website, see the disconnects going on here. And so the people who want to buy are not being identified easily enough so that salespeople can have conversations with them . And the sales people are going out after people who could potentially buy, but weren't necessarily looking. And so there's a disconnect there too. And so our pipelines just don't get fill full enough at the top. I like to call it a funnel, because that picture of a funnel is a better picture. We need lots of people at the top to talk to lots of people, interested to get a few of them into a buying mode and move them through to complete a sale. Right. So have I completely confused you yet?Play the King:
Well no. I think this is really interesting. This was very detailed. And I'm wondering though, like the role of the leader or the CEO there, like if you use the metaphor of the conductor of an orchestra , the sense I'm getting from you is that just like these sections, the horns are not talking to the woodwinds and they have no idea what each other are doing. You have like symbols crashing at the wrong time and like, so, so take that I guess. And tell me like what advice are you finding yourself giving to CEOs when you find these problems and how can they like unblock this process?Alice Heiman:
That is exactly the advice that I give them. You need to be an orchestrator. That is your job today. So, as a CEO of a company, you have a lot of things to do. You're looking out over the whole health and wellbeing of your entire company, right? But sales is crucial because if there are no sales, we can't pay the people. We can't keep the machine running. So CEOs must play a role in sales today. And when I say that it scares them because they're like, oh , I'm not gonna go out and close deals. That's not my job. No, it certainly is not. However, what your job is, is to orchestrate all of the things in your organization that need to happen so that the customer can buy from you. Not so that sellers can sell. You see? Because that is a very internally focused view of the world. You need to orchestrate everything you can in your company so that buyers can buy and we make it easier for them to buy from us. And so we have to look at the complete picture. What is happening in marketing? What is happening with customer success? When does customer success get involved with the customer? Should they get involved with the customer before the salesperson ever does? What about those sales engineers over there? When should they be involved? How is finance impacting the customer journey? How is operations impacting the customer journey? How are they impacting the seller's ability to provide what's needed to a customer? How are they impacting marketing's ability to provide what is needed? So when you have these separate silos, which a lot of companies have, and everybody works in their own silos, and then they bump up against each other's walls, right? <laugh> and then hopefully try to communicate occasionally it can really cause a problem. I tell the CEO, you are the one preventing sales, because you are not orchestrating. You have abdicated all responsibility for sales to your chief revenue officer who has no control over your chief financial officer or your chief operating officer they're equals they can't tell the others what to do. Only you can do that. And so what the answer is is to get the senior leaders together and talk about how the customers buy. Now, if you don't know that, no worries. Just go ask them. It's the simplest thing in the world. Go ask your customers when you first had to solve this problem, what did you do? Did you ask people, did you Google, did you go to a trade show and look at all the software? What did you do first? Did you define the problem clearly at your company before you looked for solutions? Ah , missing piece at many companies when they're trying to buy , did you get your committee together and bring them to consensus on exactly what needed to be solved before you started looking? So we have to ask our customers and we can get third party companies to do a voice of the customer survey and bring that to us. Or we can get our own marketing department or somebody to do that. So, but it starts with, if you wanna fix this and you really wanna scale your sales and you want it to be easy, not hard, then you find out from your customers how they buy from you. Don't just look at the beginning, look all the way through the process from I found you and know you can solve my problem to , I am now your loyal customer and continue to buy from you. That is the customer journey. It's not just, oh gosh, I found you. And I bought from you. It's more important. Even what happens after they bought from you, because that is part of their continuing journey.Play the King:
Well , I think the segues into something I want to ask you about, which is the distinction between you have this phrase that , um, I want to ask you to tease out, which is , the CEO needs to understand how to make it easier for their customer and harder to be their competition. What does that mean exactly to you? What is the distinction between those two things?Alice Heiman:
Right? So a lot of sales people get into a situation and where they're in the middle of a deal, right? The buyers have said, yeah, we're really interested. We need this information. They've done a demo. They've got a proposal, things like that. And then , all of a sudden somebody's like, oh my gosh, we have a competitor <laugh> or three , of course you have competitors, right? But, from the customer's point of view, they can't differentiate you from the competitors. They don't know how to do it. And furthermore, it's not their job. <laugh> you should be differentiating yourself from your competitors. But what we do is we make it really easy to be our competitor <laugh> because we don't differentiate from them and they don't differentiate from us. And so then it's just gonna come down to price, right? So that's too bad. We have to make it hard to be our competitor because we stand out, we stand out from the crowd, we make it clear. What's different about us. And we make it clear that we sell differently because we're all about helping you buy, not selling you stuff you don't need or want. So when your products are very similar to the others in the, in the competitive landscape, which often happens, then you have to differentiate in other ways, because you may not have any wholly, unique thing about your product or service. So what else differentiates you? It could be your raving fans. It could be your brand! It could be your ability to help your customers grow. It could be the way that you sell and service. So we have to stand out from our customers, or we're going to just be driven down to price discussions constantly. So that's, what we want to do on that end, right? Make it harder to be our competitor. And another way we make it hard to be our competitor is by making it easier to be our customer. So if I go to your website and it's hard for me to find the information that I need, you're making it hard for me to buy from you. Let that be your competitor, not you, <laugh> you make it easy. When they come to the website for them to find everything they may need, and you make it easy for them to talk to someone, it doesn't have to be click here and you can set an appointment with a salesperson. Well, guess what? I'm busy. I have a job that I do all day long, and now I've been tasked with putting a committee together and going to find a software for our enterprise team. Right now you're asking me to do that on top of my busy day already. So when am I going do it? Well, I'm going to get home, eat dinner, put the kids in bed. And between nine and midnight, I'm going to get on the internet and start researching for these products. <laugh> but there's no sales people at your company available between nine and midnight. But if you had a chat that was staffed 24 7, that could answer a lot of my questions. If you had a video demo, no, you don't have a video demo. You make me sign up to get a demo. I'm off your site in a in a heartbeat. I have to sign up to get a demo. Why can't I see what your product does? There's this thing called video. And you could even have a human being conducting that demo. Now, will it be exactly tailored to me? Of course not. But once I see enough, then I'm gonna say, great. Now get me on the phone with somebody. So you see what I'm saying would just make it difficult to be our customer, make it easy to be our customer. And in that way we stand out for more competitors as well.Play the King:
Sure. So, talk to me, you know, let's say you have a client who, you know, their sales operation is humming along, but they need to grow. Right. And, a nd so what does t he leadership team need to know about sales growth to make, t o, you know, not to make that happen? I guess after everything we've talked about, the right phrase is probably to allow that to happen.Alice Heiman:
Well, sales growth is not about sellers. You don't just add more sales people and get sales growth. So that's a big mistake that people make . They look at the number that they want to hit and they say, okay, what are we gonna need to hit this number? We're gonna need to add more sales people . Well, that's not always the answer. I mean, sometimes it is, but it's not always the answer. Sometimes the sales people , we have need more leads or higher quality leads. So many times sales people are doing a lot of work that is in my opinion, marketing work, they're sending emails, they're posting social media. They're doing things that are not in really in their wheelhouse, you know, sales people are not copywriters, nor are they content writers <laugh> . And most of them are very bad at it. So having them be the main ones posting on social and writing emails to send out is not a good idea, but we do it anyway. Right? So , we have to take a look at what are our salespeople doing. If we were able to give them qualified leads and they were able to have four or five or six conversations a day with people who could buy from them, we would have all the sales we need, but that's not what happens. Most salespeople are lucky if they have five conversations a week with someone who can buy from them. So in that case, we can't say, oh my gosh, you know, these sellers should, what send more email, send more spammy, LinkedIn messages. <laugh> dial the phone more times it's not working. We need to create demand. We need marketing to create demand and help us. Right? Well, so we do trade shows. We do webinars, we hold other kinds of events. We have content for people to consume. We do all of those things that should drive inbound if we're doing them well. And then someone will talk to these people that come to us either through email or through phone calls or through our web or whatever, and get conversations set up with salespeople. So we can't just add more salespeople. The salespeople you have may not have enough qualified leads. So that's, I would look at that first, right. Then , I would also look at again, the customer journey, right? So what is the customer journey and where do we meet them, where they are, how do we intersect with them? What are the gaps? So we can't just go , oh gosh, we need more sales, let's have more sellers. We have to look at the whole customer journey and figure out what the customer needs at each part of that journey to be successful in moving forward with us. And it may have nothing to do with peak sales people . It may have something to do with customer success or marketing or something else.Play the King:
Totally. And there's a bit of a feedback loop there. Right? Because the sales people are talking to the customers directly and, and hopefully filtering back some of that information to those other departments right. Where they can then act on it.Alice Heiman:
One would hope . Yes <laugh>.Play the King:
Yeah . All right . Alice, this has been really interesting. I know you have a podcast would love for you to plug it, tell us a bit about it . Where can we find it? The standard line, like anywhere you get your podcast <laugh> but it'sAlice Heiman:
Standard linePlay the King:
Sales talk CEO , what could people find there?Alice Heiman:
Well, so here's, what's cool about this podcast at first. Like I was so hesitant to do it right. And everybody was like, you gotta do it. You're a great interviewer, you know? And so I was like, okay, I'm gonna do it. So I started off and my goal was to interview CEOs about how they grew their sales and to learn from them . And most of the people that I interviewed, these are not startups . These companies are 10, 20, 30 years old. Right. And I asked the CEO to, to go back in time to when they started the company and talk about how they grew sales from there. And so that's been really interesting. We've had some amazing CEOs and then I thought, wow. So the CEOs listening might need some expert advice on some of the things they've been telling me were challenges along the way to growing their sales. So I started interviewing some experts that I know on different topics, like landing really large deals and telling a better story and different things like that. So , that was really cool. And then most recently I just added a piece where it's just insights from me, the kinds of things you've been asking me about. And there's short little segments, like six minutes, 10 minutes where I just talk about that. So that's what's been really fun about my podcast. It's only a year old , but I will say this , it has been a great way for me to meet CEOs and some of them, want to have more conversations with me about what I could do to help them. And some of them, I asked to be on the podcast and some of them I just become friends with. So it's been an awesome and an adventure for me to have the podcast. So I would love for anyone who is a CEO or anyone who supports a CEO to listen to Sales Tallk for CEOs. And I'd love your feedback on that. It's a lot of fun. And then if you know, a CEO who should be on just a message me and let me knowPlay the King:
Good stuff, Alice , thank you for your time today. Really appreciate it .Alice Heiman:
Yeah. Thank you.