Starting a new company is stressful. Add to that the pivots many of us are having to make to get through this unprecedented time of our lives. I am often asked “Why Abstrakt”?
I remember the feeling like it was just yesterday; it was a beautiful sunny Spring day and my first day as a Sales Development Representative. Filled with excitement, I took my seat in the front row of the large conference room. The next 2 weeks thoroughly drained that excitement. The excitement converted into stress, nervousness, and something just short of fear. I realized my low chances of success compared to my chances of failure.
Constant Interruptions in the Name of Sales Coaching
The first month, my Sales Manager would sometimes use the “whisper” function of our call software. Or sometimes I would get passed a quickly written sticky note. The best was when I was in the middle of a call and the Sales Manager would tap me on my shoulder to interrupt me and tell me how to continue handling the call. Needless to say, I became better at managing “Sales Coaching” distractions than I did handling cold calls.
Fast forward three months. I am moving into a Sales Representative role with a quota. My time clock officially started ticking. The best part (note the sarcasm ), I was one week in when our company had our first Reduction in Force. I watched as seasoned sales reps packed up their boxes and were escorted out. During the first 6 months of my time as a Sales Representative, I had 5 different Sales Managers, each one of them with a different way they wanted me to run a demo.
The same thing happen again and again… a chat on my monitor, interrupted by the Sales Leader “joining the call late”, sticky notes shoved onto my desk or a whiteboard held up over my cubicle wall with the next best question to ask. The coup de grace was on my first demo. It was with the entire leadership team; my manager was to assist. 2 minutes before the demo, I am informed that they left for lunch.
Do all Fathers Hate Having their Kids Go into Sales?
My Father worried about me going into sales.
Perseverance, luck… call it what you will. I had an opportunity 3 years later to join a small start-up and begin my career as a Sales Leader. For anyone who has had to grow a sales team (and build a sales process) from the ground up, my hat is off to you. I truly believe that Jason Lemkin was correct when he talked about the 48 Different Types of Sales Leaders – early-stage startups need a different type of person.
We had 3 months to figure out how to show some semblance of success, or we were out of money. Luckily, I convinced my CEO to invest in a Conversational Intelligence tool, and then spent my nights and weekends listening to call recordings, vigorously taking down notes to act as coaching points for my small team of sales reps to try the next business day. “Handle this objection like this”, “Don’t forget to ask this question at this part of the demo”. Throughout this process we found enough success for the board to continue to fund us.
Why I Had to Spend Weekends Listening to my Call Recordings
Our team grew along as the market expanded during my tenure at this organization. Vendors that used to compete for Enterprise logos were coming down to the mid-market, GDPR reared its ugly head, and SalesForce.com invested in their own competitive offering. These were necessary items we had to overcome daily. Weekends were spent listening to call recordings. We identified the best ways to compete against other vendors. We listened to ensure the Sales Representative remembered to ask about the budget approval. Being accurate in forecasting as a Sales Leader is one of the most important things to a growing startup; trying to carefully use every dollar for growth possible. One missed opportunity to ask about the buying process, or fail to address a technical concern could mean the difference between enough cash in 60 days for payroll or not.
Call Closets & Whiteboards
While a Sales Leader there, sticky notes and small whiteboards became my best friend while on calls with my team. We would pack ourselves into a “call closet” and I would listen to the sales call. Each time the customer asked a question, I would jot the answer on a whiteboard sliding it quickly to the Sales Representative. Sometimes I would prep for calls on behalf of the Sales Rep. Knowing they were going to miss a particular question that they consistently forgot to ask, I would often use a sticky note and put it on their desk before each call. I loved using Slack to message reps, but they all complained about how much of a distraction it was. I had fallen into the same style of coaching that I hated; it is all that I knew. Even though it was tough, it worked.
There Must Be a Better Way
I asked myself if there was a better way of doing things. The Conversational Intelligence space was heating up, organizations were increasingly looking for Sales Enablement tools, services, and any combination of the two to help drive consistent quota attainment. As a Sales Representative, and Sales Leader I found myself always frustrated with the reactive component of these tools. These tools would tell what to change after you already lost the deal. Ultimately, I have found Conversational Intelligence tools to just be fancy recording and sharing tools.
A few weeks after I left I began to explore why software companies had not built tools that could help reps in Real-Time. Where was real-time sales coaching minus all of the distractions? Speech-to-text was progressing across many industries. Why was it not readily adopted by B2B Inside Sales? I spent many days of deep Google searches, reading forums, and talking with various Cloud partners. I realized technology had only recently advanced enough to support a level of accuracy in speech-to-text much needed for success in the B2B world.
Let’s fast forward a few months. ABSTRAKT built a Proof of Concept that validated software could provide Real-Time Sales Coaching without the need for passing sticky notes, Slacking, and all of the traditional distractions. Sales Representatives could overcome the hurdles I had personally experienced as a Sales Representative and a Sales Manager. The sick feeling in the pit of the stomach when the SDR misses their quota, the stress of heading into a forecasting meeting without all the necessary details… All things I wanted to eliminate from the world of sales.
That answers the question “Why ABSTRAKT”. Never again should a Sales Representative be without their Sales Coach.