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Jake Dunlap: Advice to Improve Your Buyer’s Journey 

Why is aligning compensation to the buyer experience so important?

How can reps improve their hand offs as deals move through the funnel?

Which two metrics should you watch to measure buyer engagement?

On a recent episode of the Reveal podcast, we connected with Jake Dunlap, CEO of Skaled, for answers to these and other questions that are top of mind for revenue leaders.

Here are the highlights from that episode.

Key Points to Remember

  1. Speed is critical. 74% of deals go to the company that provides insights first.
  2. We need to shape the buying experience. 72% of B2B buyers prefer content that is specific to their buying stage. 
  3. Compensation should be aligned with maximizing usage, not just pushing through deals.
  4. Average age in stage and average conversion percentage by stage are two ways to measure buyer engagement.
  5. Coaching should be at both the macro level (like team KPI averages), and the micro level (individuals’ skills).

For the Love of Sales

I love the psychology. I love that there are so many predictable things to it. And there’s so much pattern recognition to it. The nuances are different between each one. And constantly figuring out those nuances is really exciting for me. 

And I think the other thing that’s really exciting for me now is just how much I really believe sales is going to change dramatically in the next five to 10 years. That technology is going to augment [and replace] roles. Also, buyer behavior is changing dramatically. So I think it’s kind of an awesome time to be in sales. 

I’ve always loved the science behind working with people. I genuinely believe that I’m helping every single person I sell to. And that if I can’t help you, then there’s no sale to be had. It doesn’t mean I’m not gonna sell you down the road. You haven’t realized it yet that you need to buy this, or you’re not a fit. 

And now I’m just really pumped for this next iteration. Because I think it is going to be a really interesting time where buyers have access to more information than ever before. It’s going to enter into a new world of what it means to be in sales, when sales isn’t all about education—it’s also about shepherding the process.

Data Breakout—Shaping the Buyer’s Journey

74% of deals go to the company that provides insights first. Speed is critical when starting the buyer’s journey. That means the need to respond to inbound leads within minutes or a couple hours, not days. If your competitor beats you to the punch, you’re starting the sales cycle at a disadvantage. 

Here’s another angle to consider: how are you influencing the buyer’s journey when you’re not there? Gartner says 27% of buyers spend their time researching online on their own as they evaluate, and 72% of B2B buyers prefer content that is specific to their buying stage. 

What’s that tell us? We need to shape that experience, and you can do that by providing content that speaks to their specific needs and interests based on where they are in their evaluation process. That means mapping informative content to your sales process (and equipping your sales team to use the right content for the right scenario).

Remember, most people start their search with Google. When they look you up, what will they find? And will it improve their buying experience? 

Aligning Compensation to the Buyer Experience

It used to be, 10, 15 years ago, in most sales organizations, you had one person who prospected you, who closed the deal, and then worked with you. And that’s a really good buyer experience. It’s great, right? 

Jake has to deal with me. So guess what Jake’s not incentivized to do? He’s not incentivized to force-MQL me. He’s not incentivized to jam the deal through at the end of the quarter and say whatever he needs to you to get the deal done. Jake’s responsible for me afterwards.

It’s just creating this disjointed experience. Sales and sales leadership has also been fragmented. I see time and time again where the VP of Sales isn’t even in charge of Customer Success or Account Management anymore. And I’m like, “Well, you’re going to constantly have friction, or you have to figure out how to align incentives.”

I think my most controversial trend is definitely around salespeople comp. And I get a lot of hate mail from salespeople. But I really feel like, to do what’s best for the customer, part of compensation needs to be tied to some level of usage. You get part of your compensation upfront. You get part of your compensation once they’ve cleared X onboarding threshold. 

What does that make you do as a seller? Maybe I don’t jam this deal through because I’m going to be dealing with it for six to 12 months. Because the people are never gonna use it, and I’m only going to get half commission. 

We’ve got to really look at the compensation plans between groups. Are we incentivizing what’s right for the buyer? I think Marketing, Sales Development, Sales, and Customer Success leaders have to sit down. Let’s start to look at this from the buyer’s perspective.

So imagine an SDR says, “Hey, Devin. This is a really good conversation. You know, John on my team is actually really strong in the sales and customer success technology space. Why don’t I team you up with him. He’s one of our experts here. So I’m gonna set a time for you to connect next week. Is that good with you?”

That sounds a lot better than “I’m gonna put you in touch with my account executives,” right? As opposed to, “I’m gonna put you in touch with an expert who’s going to educate you.”

And then you look at the customer success side like, “Okay, based on where you’re at, I think Laura’s worked with this account and this account. I think she’s going to be a great person for us to work to get you guys up to speed.”

It’s just stupid small stuff that we’re not paying attention to, that can immediately impact the buyer’s perception of these handoffs.

We’ve been trained through predictable revenue that you just get more leads and it solves all problems. Well, what is a lead? The definitions change. Now we call it when you download an ebook, or they visited the pricing page. It’s like, “Well no, they’re just learning.”

Optimizing for Buyer Engagement

What are a couple of metrics that I could look at to know if the buyer is engaged? It’s that the sales cycle is shorter and they’re getting to usage faster. And what that usually means is that there’s the right people that are involved that need to be involved, both pre-sales and post-sales in the sales process. That the next steps and processes have been explained to them in advance. And the right people are in the right places at the right time on your side, on their side, to effectively get people up to speed. 

So, I think you’re looking at those things. You’re looking at the sales cycle and how that’s behaving. The number of people involved. How engaged people are.

If you have weird dropout in your funnel on the sales cycle, like a lot of people are dropping out at step three or step four, there’s something with your buyer experience. It’s broken. There’s something wrong—your trial process that’s too long. They’re not engaged.

The stats I look at for all of our clients are average age in stage and average conversion percentage by stage. And then we can pinpoint in on where’s the breakdown with the buyer that way. And then we carry that through onboarding to power usage. 

That’s the goal, right? The goal isn’t to make a sale, it’s to create power users. If you focus on power usage and you focused on solving business challenges, you’re gonna win.

There’s a difference between the long-term and the short-term. Average age in stage looks so different from person to person because Devin, you might be really good at this part, but I’m better at this part. So your sales cycle where I need to work with you is on this part of it. But for Jake, I need to work here.

So I think if you look at that data of average age in stage for across your team, you’re gonna start to pinpoint areas of coaching and development at the macro level. 

Now, the next step is coaching to the individual on the micro level. You’ve gotta know how to coach to skills. As a leader, I’ve got to be really good at coaching you in the micro skills, but also understanding your bigger picture patterns. That if we change, those will also drive longer term results. 

I think it’s the short-term results and using a tool like Gong, and then the long-term results by understanding bigger picture blockages just in your overall sales process.

We’re talking about LTV here. This is about lifetime value. And so if everyone’s not thinking that this customer needs to stick around for three to four years, which is our lifetime value, we’re gonna have a problem in four to five years. 

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