Every organization relies on the sales team to achieve its goals and represent the organization to its customers. That's why building the right sales team from the start itself is very cruicial for a business.
In this week’s episode, we invited Valerie Cobb, the Co-Founder at Revenue Northstar LLC, to share some insights on how her passion for helping people, led her to become good at revenue generation and build outstanding sales teams.
At her core, besides being a good human and building a team of fractional CROs, Valerie has a diverse background in tax and accounting IT, healthcare critical compliant communication IT and fulfilment firm, global heavy equipment manufacturing, general construction, fashion, and two successful start-ups. Early career held distinction for top sales and was a “cradle to graver.”
Podcast with Valerie Cobb
Crispino: Hey guys, welcome to the Wishup podcast where we talk about startups, small businesses, entrepreneurship, and remote work. Before we get started with the episode, let me quickly tell you about Wishup. Wishup provides a remote workforce that can help you with your business.
Whether you are an entrepreneur, influencer startup, or an established organization, Wishup provides only the top 1% remote workforce such as virtual assistants, software testers, and bookkeeping assistants, who are all pre-vetted and trained in-house to know more about our service, you can click the link in the description below.
Now let's enjoy the episode.
Hi, guys, welcome to yet another episode of the Wishup Podcast. Today we have a great show lined up for you guys with not one but two guests on the show. We have our very own co-founder of Wishup, Mr. Neelesh Rangwani, and Sales Process and Revenue Management thought leader, speaker, and host of ‘The Revenue Maze’ podcast, Valerie Cobb. So welcome to the show, guys. It's great to have you here with us.
Valerie: Oh, thank you. Thanks a lot.
Crispino: Thank you. Thanks, Valerie. Awesome. So why don't you start off by telling our viewers and listeners a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Valerie: Well, the mic went so quickly. So right now, I'm a fractional Chief
Revenue Officer or Chief Sales Officer. I launched a company with a business partner out of Scotland and the podcast is The Revenue Maze and the company is Revenue Northstar. What we do is place, kind of what wishup is doing. We place very experienced type fortune 500 CRO (Chief Revenue Officer), as fractional CROs running around the globe. And we found a huge niche/need in the market for those small businesses, which we can talk about later. I was homegrown in Southern California outside of Los Angeles. I would say my greatest strength is my children. I love them, just had the youngest get married. And super excited about their union.
Crispino: Oh, that's awesome. Yeah. Congratulations. Nice. Neelesh, why don't you go next, tell us something about yourself for people who don't already know you.
Neelesh: So, I'm Neelesh Rangwani born and brought up in India. I'm the co-founder of Wishup.co. We provide pre-vetted, high-quality, talented virtual assistants to our clients in the US. And, you know, we have one client amongst us right now. Valerie Cobb has been working with two of our virtual assistants, in fact, three now. So yeah, this is what we do. And we provide our virtual assistants to small businesses, entrepreneurs, and solopreneurs, in the US, especially in San Francisco and New York.
Crispino: Awesome, that's amazing. Being a part of a Wishup, I know that’s a really good profile, and like the job that we do, the clients that we have, including Valerie, are amazing. So, it's nice to have y'all both on the show with us. So, Valerie, I was going through your profile, and I see that you worked as a Director of Sales and Marketing in tax and accounting IT software, VP of Business Development in healthcare, Chief Sales Officer heavy equipment manufacturing, and the list goes on. So, you have such a diverse portfolio and you managed to gain expertise in all these different industries. So how does that all come together?
Valerie: Well, most just say I have attention deficit disorder, and I seem to just want to bounce around, but you know, the adage is sales are sales and human behavior is human behavior. It doesn't matter what the widget is, even though we like to think it does. The reality is they all have some common themes. And in fact, when I've been “standing up” some of the Revenue Agents [as we call them] in Revenue Northstar, we've had them do empathy maps, and it seems like there's recurring themes, right? So, there's a little bit theories running, that there are certain industries you need to have been involved with for an exceptionally long time, and somehow a rep that has been in that industry, if they go to that same industry at another company, that [their customer] list will follow them, and you know what most people underappreciate? Really only about 10% will ever follow a rep to their new company, even though we are all heroes in our own minds, we all think we're wonderful, and our people [customers] will follow us.
That's not really the case, there are a few industries that apply because it's easier for them to step in, sometimes healthcare, it's easier because you just know the players, and stuff like that. To elaborate, I went from tax and accounting software IT, and I grew that company, 600%, then I went into some healthcare, middleware platforms, I call them middleware, because that really was the best definition back in the time, the middle point between customers and the actual execution piece. And when I look back, in a very short time, we were winning awards, and all sorts of things, and that was in healthcare and you would think that that would take years to become ingrained in the healthcare culture because they won't even hire in the United States in health care, for instance, a sales rep who hasn't had five years of experience in healthcare. When there is a will there is a way and it doesn’t take five years and yet, the organization’s belief is firm to that point.
Other organizations will think a change will bring a breath of fresh air because we get too myopic. My point as fractional leaders are, as we go in and fix company’s revenue streams, and help them grow, whether it's a resurrection, or if it's a really well-funded startup, you can get them off the ground pretty quickly. Start with a lot of the process improvement, I guess, I would say, because a lot of things can be fixed through process, yes, talent has to be there, too and the product has to be there, too. I'm not focusing only on the sales team, when you're Chief Revenue Officer, you're focused on anything that touches revenue. Right? So, you're not just looking at sales teams, you are looking at marketing, service, you're looking at new product development. [Ask yourself] has the product gone stale or is there a good product market fit? Are you selling to the wrong market? A lot may be associated with a sales team, however, that is not your focus.
So that's kind of a high-level overview as to why I have ADD from everything from fashion to tax and accounting, health care, construction, real estate, you name it, I have just kind of gone in and worked on those companies and got them back on the map.
Crispino: That's awesome. So, Valerie, you spoke about how you helped the company grow their sales by 600%. Which industry was that in?
Valerie: That one was in tax and accounting subscription software. I really found it interesting, because I was interviewing one of Wishup’s talent pool yesterday and was thinking about what Wishup is doing. And what they're doing is bringing in a broad base of collective backgrounds that could solve problems really quickly and that a lot of these small businesses, in the United States 99% of businesses are small businesses, right? And a lot of those small businesses don't have the bandwidth to hire every function and role until they have scaled. So, what Wishup sort of is doing is, kind of like SaaS programs, you know, it's humans as a service right, HaaS? It helps. It really helps.
What we did with the tax and accounting software, was a resurrection. But back in that day, SaaS wasn't really even a thing. It became a pricing model. It's kind of like now we say Account Based Marketing, all the marketers going “well, we did...”. If you've ever studied the Challenger method, Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson studied sales people in the recession of 2008, they were studying why some sales team members were excelling, and really all they were excelling at was Account Based Marketing, but I called it Account Based Selling. They knew how to put all the reach out and follow ups together. Alignment of revenue...or cradle to grave selling. We have a lot of terminology that stems from that.
When I think about that we basically messed around with the price, how it would be given to the target audience in a way that was digestible, that they didn't feel a high barrier to entry. Back in the day, not just tax software but computers, before internet hit, and yes, I am that old, right. Look, you had an A drive, you had a B drive, you had hardware installers that would run around and set your computer up and install programs. Pre-Windows and Microsoft and, when I got with that company and grew that 600%, it really was just a very well-placed lead gen trick...SaaS. I also getting into the industry enough that I caught wind of a takeover, and you use that takeover, I wish I was that brilliant to say, “Wow, we just started selling better, and we just started doing everything correct”, you use what you can, to get a company back on the map that hadn't been on the map for a little while.
Neelesh: yeah, I have a lot of questions popping up right now. Especially, you know, when you said that sales was not just about sales, it's sales and marketing and pricing, and you know, if the product is going stale, so I have a lot of questions popping up on that front. I would ask you another question, when did you know that sales was for you? And, and when did you know that you should probably get into the business of giving sales as a service or fractional sales/revenue leadership, or let's say, sales coaching, right? So, when did you know?
Valerie: My favorite part has always been about helping people. If you're asking that question. You know you are in sales the moment your first child gets dragged kicking and screaming out of the street, and then saying, “No, this is what I want to do”, and you’re protecting them. And if you're a good human and you're selling, you always want to help people. There's a book by Catherine brown, and she's one of my friends, and it's entitled, “How good humans sell” and then the other book is by Daniel Pink, which is “To Sell Is Human”, which is kind of the flip flop of the two.
To start though, we need to go back to your original question. I was in college, I wanted to be this big, bad retail buyer in fashion. That's what I was out to do. It was so exciting to me, you had to have all the economics and retailing courses. And out of college, I went to work for Nordstrom. In the United States, Nordstrom was the model to follow in retail; period. Nordstrom did commission-based department store selling. That's what you did, if you sold, you would get a piece of the pie. At Nordstrom, it was policy that whether you were the General Manager of the store, or whether you were a buyer, everyone had to start as salespeople. They wanted you to understand the customer. My goal wasn't to be a salesman, but I was top sales, and I was always top sales. It wasn't because of looking at sales from a lens of I want to be top sales and I'm doing every step of the equation properly. It was more based out of, being genuine, and really telling somebody when something didn't look good on them when it didn't, you know really helping them out and I was laughing because after I had my first daughter, I had some of those people that I sold to come in and bring me hand knitted blankets for my daughter. They were inbound buying from me, but you got into their lives.
A guy walks in and he's completely filthy, had just been working on his car or out on his farm or whatever and he looked dirty; you know that kind of thing and you approach and are talking to them as a human being. And then you find out later he's getting his wife, a gift and he turns out to be a Marriott, right? You serve him because he is a human being, and you are a genuine person.
For now, I look at it as if I am creating jobs, if I can make revenue work, right? I'm creating other jobs, but I am also solving needs in the entire global community to help them either, increase capacity, decrease outgo, whatever it is that we're doing in the formula of what we're selling. And that goes right back to schooling your children. Just that love and that respect for everybody around you.
Neelesh: Yeah, in fact, something that you just said, you know, I usually tell this, to my sales representatives and sales managers that you are not selling, you're not creating revenue, you're creating jobs. Right? Yeah. This is especially true for our business model. Right. So, hearing it from you was really fantastic.
Valerie: I love that, Neelesh. That is so amazing.
Neelesh: Now, you said, you know, selling is human, right? So, me and Crispino were discussing before this podcast that, we should definitely ask you are salespeople born? Or can anyone be trained to become a salesperson? Let's say a top salesperson, are they born? Or, is it just a trait?
Valerie: So, I am always of the opinion that people are born to change, we evolve into what our best selves will be. Outer/inner influences can cause us to make different choices, but I don't believe that we are placed on this earth simply to stay as we are. I believe things can be learned.
I'll give you an example. So, most people have an opportunity to change if they take the chance and make the effort to change. I had a vocal student, you guys probably didn't know this, but I sang opera for 18 years, and I coached for 10 years. As I was coaching a high school student in the United States, that kind of, 14- to 18-year-old range, came to me, and she wanted to learn to sing. She was the closest to what I would call tone-deaf. I don't believe there are very many truly tone-deaf people out there (if that doesn't translate to the globe, that just means you can't sing because you can't hear the pitch). We all end up somewhat sounding like our parents. Somehow, we, with our ear, we listen, and we internalize and produce a sound, but we can't see our vocal cords.
Somehow, we create these sounds, and eventually sound like our parents, whether we like it or not. We get older and state, “crud, I sound like my mom or my dad, right?” Sometimes that's the case. So, she came in and she could not match a pitch. “I want to sing.” I almost turned her away. Here is the key, she said, "I promise I will do the work necessary to make that happen.” And I said, “This is going to be painful. It's going to be painful for you.” She didn't care, she wanted it very badly.
Every week she would come in and I would take one note a week on the keyboard and hit it over and over again and asked her to listen and then had her just sing “ooh”, to the pitch until she couldn’t hear the difference between the two. So, she would hit that over and over again, one pitch, can you imagine never singing a song never? She would hit it over, over and over again. And then she did. And she'd come in one week after practicing in that way, and she could match middle “C”, then she could match a “D”, then she could actually go from one note to the next note, and she could match them! And as we retrained her over six months to hear again, she was able to go out and win solo and ensemble, which was the top award at the high schools in my area.
Valerie: I use that example because maybe I'm not going to become thee star basketball player, right? But, when we talk about sales, and is it born or not born, and we say “To Sell Is Human,” when we teach children, when we sell up to our superior, or sell down to our reports, whether we are navigating, working through home plans, or whatever we're doing in our life, and we're talking to other humans, we can learn to do that at a level that is solving a need and a problem. And by definition, selling is solving a need and a problem, at least my definition, if I made that up on the spot, that's great.
Anybody who is not solving a need, and a problem should not be in sales. So, if you're just there to get a paycheck, which is also nice, yes, everybody's motivated by the paycheck, right? And those hunters are definitely motivated by the paycheck, we get that. Eventually, though they lose steam, if they're not also motivated by the passion of truly helping. Solving that need and that want and if you cannot find that passion, then you will wash out.
Neelesh: So, does it have to do anything with introversion or extroversion?
Valerie: Again, it's interesting. I am an EMTJ on Myers Briggs, and apparently, we are sometimes not loved and sometimes we’re loved. If you look at Gallup, I can't remember the book title, about tapping into that passion of what you're good at and your skill set. The Clifton Strength Finder test stems from this. Strength Finder, DiSC or whether you're doing all these different tests, using who you are, really is what comes across very authentic and genuine when you're trying to help people with a need or want. If you're an introvert, basically, you would get exhausted acting like an extrovert, right? I mean, if you think about that, I'm so exhausted from doing that. When I get off the stage for, like a performance, I'd be exhausted from doing that. But does that mean I'm introverted or extroverted?
Go back to sales and say, okay, I am typically known as an extrovert, but inside sometimes I feel like the nerves, right? A lot of times, I do, it depends on what sales role, you're stepping into. An SDR who has to constantly call over and over again and gets told “no” multiple times, they have to be able to be okay with that, right? If you're okay with talking with intimate groups of people, as an introvert, then you're okay as a salesperson, right? Perhaps an introvert will respect other people's time a lot better. Again, that's the world according to Valerie. There's probably an introvert out there that's going “No, I couldn't do sales”.
Sales, as far as the profession itself goes, is not for everybody. We know that one in eight people should be in sales, that's just a statistic. The top 4% of sales, sells the GDP basically, in the United States. So, it does take honing your skills. I love to pull out people, there's Michelle Tillis Lederman who wrote the book, “Connectors Advantage.” She says by virtue she's an introvert. But if you see her in a TED talk, she doesn't look like she's an introvert. I'm sure there's some psychiatrist out there and psychologists out there that are going to tell me, “No, you're wrong. You're wrong”. But in my day, I've seen some introverted people do a great job.
Neelesh: A related question to that. Sorry, Crispino, I'm asking this. So, this could sound very general. But are there any specific traits that you look for, while building a sales team? Or, you know, while hiring salespeople?
Valerie: Grit. Yes, I look for grit. And people will say, oh, my goodness, you know, that's not really... Yes, it is a trait. If you're being told “no,” a lot of times, people even on LinkedIn if you put down that you're an account executive or salesperson there, nobody will connect with them. Right? I mean, it's, it's pretty difficult. But those that seem to have that grit and tenacity and can pivot and change and be okay with it. And I say be okay with it. If you go home, and you wear your emotions on your sleeve, every night, sales will eat you alive, because people aren't always nice. You've got to learn to take the good and the bad, some people aren't going to like you. Okay.
Neelesh: That's it. That's very interesting, because, in one of these surveys, we also learned that grit is also the most important trait of an entrepreneur, of a successful entrepreneur. And it's so interesting that, you know, at Wishup, we have seen this, that most of our successful salespeople have been ex- entrepreneurs.
They are because they are very similar traits, right? I have owned two... three startups. You have to be told “no,” over and over again. I think it's? Robert Kiyosaki. I'm trying to remember who wrote “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” and he tells an author to go take a sales course. And the author answered, “No.". Every entrepreneur has a desire to fill a need or a gap, right? “There's something wrong, and I think I can fix this,” but then they also have the grit to go through the ups and downs of that product.
Not all entrepreneurs make it, we know that, in fact, hardly any do make it. Eighty-four percent of them are going to fail due to cashflow issues. The other thing, when you say grit and their similarities is a lot of those salespeople, especially commission based salespeople, they've got to weather the storm of paychecks coming in but still for entrepreneurs, hit payroll or not hit payroll, or pay their bills, too. At some point they have to be able to take stress. I was interviewing a guest on my podcast, The Revenue Maze, and I always give guests just one bullet point, “what's one thing you can tell the listeners and views to help them get out of the revenue maze?” One guest talked about planting seeds. Seeds take time, and a lot of people don't want to wait, you know? You also have to have that grit to wait. Don't quit. Don't give up too quickly.
Neelesh: That's true. So, I wanted to ask you that. What is the difference between a good sales representative like a closer and a person who manages these sales closers? What is the difference between you know these two people?
Valerie: Well, that boils down to the org chart for revenue, right? In an org chart for revenue, you're going to have marketing, sales, service/customer success, and product/new product team members. Chief Revenue Officers align all those teams. They all touch on revenue, right? In the United States, we call it soccer versus football like they say it in Europe and stuff like that, right? In our version of football [not soccer] we always have a quarterback QB. When we talk about even the difference between, Chief Revenue Officers and VPs of sales, that's one thing that Revenue Northstar tries to point out. A sales manager manages a team of salespeople. They lead the producers, who are the actual sales team members, right? And they manage what is happening and make sure they coach those sales team members, one on one weekly...
Neelesh: The difference in traits in these two types of people.
Oh..the traits. I apologize, I thought you were asking about the roles. Let's go to traits. Let's talk about many times, we want to promote your top salesperson. And a top salesperson wants to be out talking to people solving challenges, needs and wants and hyper-focus on those challenges and needs to get a product across the finish line. So, there's a miss...there's kind of, you'll see on LinkedIn, where people will say, we want that, producer manager, you know, the guy who goes and sells and who's your entrepreneur, right? At first, [s]he sells but he can't scale, because he's the entrepreneur and is the only person who can sell. [S]he can't tell another person how to sell the product. Because [s]he doesn't know what [s]he's doing to close. That person goes in and [s]he's like, “I don't know, maybe I call 10 people a day, maybe I call 20 people a day.”
Somebody who is managing is not always a good salesman. They're good at coaching people up, good at getting others to go out and do what needs done. When you actually have a sales manager acting as a producer, they become adversarial with their own team. I've had to be that role before, okay? And I ended up giving up some of the top sales just to mediocre salespeople on purpose to avoid looking like I was stealing leads. So, you end up with this weird kind of dynamic. Can a salesperson be a great sales manager? Yes, we've had that happen. Not always.
What you're trying to do is place a barrier, between the founder owner, coach that sales team, hold them accountable, make sure they're hitting their numbers, know when someone should be promoted to something else, and change lines of business, etc. [The division] allows sales managers to think more tactically versus from the gut, “I’ve got to close 20 X today, or I've got to hit 30 people by the end of this week. It allows them to become that neutral ground. There may be some similar traits. You can have some really good managers that never sold a day in their life, but they're great at managing people
Neelesh: Managing people. Yeah. Yeah, got it, got it. I have some questions on the org structure, but Crispino I think you had some questions.
Neelesh: I'm sorry.
Crispino: Your questions are better Neelesh. I like this direction for the podcast. Better, actually, Neelesh’s questions are much better. No but? I'll find one quick before you finish. So, Valerie, you work closely with small businesses to help them improve their sales. Right? So, could you tell us about some challenges that these small business owners face when setting up a sales team?
Valerie: Well, we've kind of touched on some of them. That entrepreneur or that founder/owner is in the weeds and for some reason, his/her product resonated when [s]he started talking to people, but now [s]he can't wear the owner hat, [s]he can't hire his/hers brother, Bob, to all of sudden be the sales manager, which is one of the big mistakes, it's like, “Hey, you can just manage a sales team”, which they're actually very difficult to manage, honestly. Everybody has their own personality, and you need to be able to figure out how to coach them.
One of the biggest challenges that small businesses are having is scale or the stale. Their product became stale, and they didn't know it, because they didn't have the bandwidth to keep surveying [customers], keep doing all things necessary to keep the product ahead of the competitor. When you're the jack of trades (we call it in the United States, jack of all trades), when you're doing everything and you might even think you're doing everything very well, but not well enough to beat out the competition. Right?
They’ve got to be able to scale or they're going to go stale. Add that they don't know how to repeat themselves or clone themselves. Answering questions like: Do I do a channel strategy? Do I sell direct? Do I do e-commerce? Do I just throw everything out on the web and catch things coming in? What do I do in this situation? What role by what year?
I go in and look at all these differences. I look at when/where a VP of sales will strategically needed? And what that sales team needs to do. I create and look at the five-year plan. For example, Wishup, where do you want to be in five years, and a lot of people will go, “Well, you can't forecast accurately out to five years”. You're right. But we need to look at the TAM, we need to look at the SAM and the SOM. Yeah, we need to see if it's even achievable in the current market conditions, then we can also say, well, in these market conditions, what do we think is going to start to happen as part of that go to market strategy? We then start to work backwards, five years, we say, Okay, what kind of humans will be needed for year one? What kind of humans and technology? When I say humans, what kind of resources do we need for year one?
Neelesh: Humans and tools? Let's say if humans and tools
Valerie: Humans and tools, then for year two, what kind of resources do we need? And you build your entire forecast of where are we going so that you can align your entire company, this is our vision. This is why we created this product. Here is how we're going to market, and everybody get on board, and start creating/moving towards that goal, you may not hit that revenue target five years out, right. So, then you repeat the process every single year. You keep forecasting five years out in the fall, so that you can adjust your org chart and know where you're going for the next year. And then your sales teams, if you have sales team members, you're not ecommerce or whatever, you can start to coach them in that direction.
Everybody knows where they're going, and they can come up with their own goals to get there as well. Then you have buy-in. So that keeps the company from going stale, right? You know, you’ve decide where you or going. Not Alice in Wonderland, if you don't know where you want to go, then that doesn't matter. You'd be shocked and amazed how many small businesses let things happen and don’t have direction, so that gives them the direction that they need to have.
Neelesh: Yeah, I can, I can so much relate to all of this what you just said. Yeah. These things I'm going through, you know, right now and have gone through in last three, four years. So, one of these things, which you mentioned a couple of times which is the org chart, right. I have one question related to that, which is, is there a particular way to structure a sales team or the organization? Or does it vary from startup to startup? Does it vary from product to product? So, what I'm talking about is, let's say, for each account executive, there has to be X number of outbound executives, there have to be X number of research and development, like, you know, lead research team. So is there a particular structure to it in general, and I'm asking this as a very, you know, new innocent founder because whatever we have achieved so far, I don't know how we have achieved it, we have just achieved it. But at this point of time, you know, I keep asking myself this question that is there, is there a specific way to do it? Or, it changes from different company to different company?
Valerie: Well, you bring up a good point. One of the things that I think Wishup does really well. First of all, there are strategies available. A starting point. What we do at Revenue Northstar, that is somewhat different from some of the other fractional part time, leadership companies out there is, a lot of them pick a methodology and stick to it. No deviation. I am an EOS Integrator for Operations, we do Great Game of Business. I'm a Challenger.
First, I have found, especially at early stage or resurrection companies, that they rarely fit in one methodology. Second, you've got to be able to remember to “AB” test like you would with marketing, only with org charts. You're trying to mitigate risk. We know it's expensive to hire, train, and turn humans. We don't want to do it wrong. So, there are some best practices based on models, if you're a SaaS model, or if you're manufacturing and producing a widget, there are some best practices that you can kind of clone a little bit for a starting point, right? But then you've got to be adaptable, you've got to then go into, “hey, this is not working” mode. We put some metrics into play that we know works in an enterprise model or in probably most sales models. We know it's going to take a good three months just to ramp a person up, then it's going to take another six months before they're really starting to produce right?
We need to ideally look at what we need to do to mitigate that timeframe? Right? How long does that take because that's costing revenue that's costing all sorts of things. And so sometimes you also have to kind of pitch hit, you're the founder, sometimes you realize you have to end up selling for a couple more cycles until things start moving. If you're product or service is enterprise or a similar to a SaaS model, you could look at best practices and get a sense that you probably will need two SDRs to one closer for something like every 2 million USD; you're going to probably need a CSR for every 2 million, you know, and when I say CSR, I'm talking Customer Success versus Customer Service in manufacturing, etc.
Those can be some general rules, we have data to support it. But your own model is going to become your own baseline and whoever's leading that will eventually say, this is where we're going to go because our baseline says this is true. And now we can build the model around it. I'm sure Neelesh, in your line of business, because you have a lot of virtual assistants that you outplace in accounting, you outplace even now customer success roles. You've got some other areas, should you go after a US or an Indian market? And with what humans do you go after each market. You have statistics that say we're most comfortable listening to people in our own dialect. Every state has their own dialects of English.
Neelesh: That was one of my biggest learning curve in the US actually.
Valerie: At the end of the day, sometimes you as an entrepreneur would say, I don't want to chase shiny objects, I want to move forward with what is going to maximize profits, so that I can recreate jobs, because you just said, that's your goal. I want to create jobs, if I'm creating jobs that's in line with my vision. So, we don't want to run after everything that a salesperson says customers need, “Well, this guy has got to have this widget” or run after LinkedIn, there's 5 million coaches on LinkedIn, which LinkedIn coach, do you run to? Maybe your model shouldn't use a LinkedIn coach? Or maybe you should be on Tik Tok and not on LinkedIn. I can't really say there's one specific model. That was why when we created Revenue Northstar, we said we would customize it to your environment, not ours. If a customer is using HubSpot, I go in and I program to HubSpot. Unless there is a real reason to change, we don’t change organizations from Salesforce, or Microsoft Dynamics.
Neelesh: yeah, no, makes sense. This was one of the good answers, actually. Because now, I learned a lot, actually. Because there's always this conundrum conflict, like, you know, how do you do it? Do you copy others? Or do you build your own? But now I understand you know how to how to do it.
Valerie: Yeah, because I gave you a non-answer. That's how you understood, the answer, “it depends.”
Neelesh: Yeah, there's this discussion that, you know, I have with my co-founder, which is about a marketing driven company versus a sales driven company. Right. I don't know if it makes sense to you, but I'll, I'll try to explain it to you. So basically, a company that doesn't need sales, and people can just take out from the website is a marketing driven company is what we call it right. So, my question to you is, if that definition makes sense to you, can a sales driven company sometime become like, all of a sudden, become a marketing driven company? Is that even possible? Right, as per this definition? And the second question is, in a sales driven company, let's say a company which has a sales team, should the marketing team report to the sales head? Or can it be a separate function? These are two questions clubbed in one.
Valerie: Well, let me start with the second question and move back to the first because I think that they actually kind of stack on each other. First of all, the difference between a Chief Revenue Officer or if in a manufacturing environment, a Chief Sales Officer or a VP of sales. It's like saying that you can have revenue without operations. Right? So, at some point, it's basically what someone told me the other day, a star and I was like, yeah, it's kind of like a star the different points and you're missing one point, but I call it a three-legged stool. You need revenue, you need operations, and you definitely need finance. It is very difficult to not have all of them playing nice in the “sandbox” one leading the other. So, I think that has led to the rise of the Chief Revenue Officer role because they are not just focused on a sales team, they are not just service, they are not just product, they are not just marketing. Okay, right?
Account Based Marketing requires account-based selling, right? And vice versa. We talked about that a little bit at the very beginning of the show, good sellers were account-based selling, they recognized that they were going to have to have many touchpoints. They were going to have to come up with an account plan versus a human plan, right? I'm not selling in B2B. Now I'm talking B2B. I'm not selling to a human I'm selling to businesses. Wishup is selling to businesses.
When you're selling to a business, how do you sell to a business with no marketing? How do you sell to a business without PR? How do you sell to a business, without product? How do you sell to a business without operations, and one controlling another is ludicrous, right? They need to play together, they need to work together in creating an outcome. Now, whether you have a sales team, or you are marketing lead, there are some startups that start marketing lead. If you're going to be eCommerce the entire way, and you're going to be in the commodity zone, and I call it the commodity zone, because eventually you will be competing on price because there'll be others that enter the market if it's not super complex. Now, let me qualify, AI is getting better, right? So maybe we'll get there eventually, and we will have no humans needing to do any kind of sales.
Valerie: This death of the salesman cry was happening clear back in 2008, computers came on board, we had iPhones, we could do all this amazing stuff. Now we have the digital deluge. That's what I call it. We have now the issue with credibility. So, what lends credibility? Unless you're Coke, or you are Nike, you are going to be up against brand recognition and credibility. And people buy from people they like, organizations they like, and they buy from people they trust. We don't say trust, because you can't tell somebody to trust you. But you can become credible, so that they trust your actions, right? Your outcomes, right? That's a moving target to say, trust me, right? Because things happen. And that might not work.
Anytime you need credibility and convincing of credibility, it's very hard to sift through the noise of digital to get there. That's when I would say you need a sales team. If you do not need sifting through the noise of digital, then you do not need a sales team. You're, the top dog. We are all trying to create a good customer experience nowadays. That’s a differentiator. So, teams must be unified in small businesses.
Neelesh: Make sense? There's this common observation, which we have seen, that sales representatives lose their steam in about a year's time. Is that true? Is it a common observation? Is it? What is it? Is it burnout? Is it boredom, have you? Or is there a solution to it?
Valerie: You're talking to Miss ADD, right? I think when we talked about grit, and we talked about tenacity, because some of the traits of good salespeople have that grit, right? As company owners, we don't challenge our sales team members enough. So, I'll use this as an example. And it's again, it's Valerie Cobb talking, I'm sure there's some psychologists and psychiatrists out there that are going to say that's wrong, that I have seen that when people can tap into passion and be motivated, they can stay in a place for a long time. I have found that when a product goes stale, sales teams struggle with selling it and they will jump ship. But it's a balance, right? Because is it the cart before the horse or the horse before the cart? Question, right?
When we start talking about all people fitting in this category, yes, there's high churn in especially the sales development role. And because we're see the Great Resignation, and now I don't know Wall Street is shouting, the Quiet Resignation, or whatever they're calling it these days. Yeah, whatever that is, you know, whatever the term is, if you can tap into people's passion, and have them love what they're doing, and you are listening, and you are trying to develop products that they can sell, you will probably keep them.
Now, the ones that you don't keep that always blame price or product anyways, are probably your other seven that shouldn't have been in sales and then jump ship. Don't shoot me for saying that. Anyway, it's kind of like entrepreneurs; many keep starting companies, because they are driven by a passion. So if you are a sales manager, because there are times when we're managing a sales team. Give them a chance to be heard, be alive. You know, listen to them.
They're people, they're humans, getting knocked down and knocking on doors and trying to grow your company. Try to encourage and I give that advice to myself, because sometimes I get very numbers driven, and I get very focused, and it's like, okay, you didn't hear oh, wait, you're a human. “Let me talk to you nicely today, because I am a human too.” And I want to be talked to nicely, right?
Yeah, churn is there. For me. You're always planning for churn as a company, just because people have children, they move, their personalities, I wouldn't say personalities change over time, but their goals change over time, depending on if they have children. I mean, I've seen that.
My oldest is 30. And she was telling me actually, she'll be 31. And she was like, you know, if you talk to her today and talked to her when she was 16, I was her worst mortal enemy she 16. She just left for the weekend visiting and she told me I was her best friend. So, our goals change and things around them change too. Sometimes they churn because companies go out of business, I said 84% of them fail due to cash flow,
Neelesh: Cash flows, Yeah, that is true. So, one is how do you like working with our virtual assistants? And how can sales teams use virtual assistants or virtual generalists to enhance their output?
Valerie: So, this is really an interesting topic. When you're starting up a business what you need is a knowledge dump extremely quick. And so, people who have been in the role for a long time, you may not need the equivalent full-time role yet because you don't have enough band width and you don't have enough revenue coming in. You're not “there” yet. It’s a way to help you scale. I have used Wishup to hire a virtual assistant and it's great because I have used her to bounce ideas off of, because Revenues Northstar is a small company and doesn’t have goals to be a massive Coca Cola, right? We're in our lane. And so, I bounce ideas, she manages my calendar, because when I'm fractional, I have like eight or nine calendars because I also work as an employee, a 1099 for multiple companies just like your VAs do. She told me to step away from my calendar. So, I actually go into LinkedIn and if somebody asks for my calendar, I tell them, “You need to talk to my EA”, because she has told me I'm going to ruin, and I don't want to mess up. My EA has helped me rebrand. I have my own podcast. And she helps me summarize and get blog posts together for putting on the website and different things like that.
I also have a sales admin at from Wishup, for actually, two different companies that he works for me. He helps me program various CRMs such as HubSpot. He also understands my Lucid Charts and a million other bespoke processes. And so, instead of re-training each individual person for each company, for starting up, I will drag them along with me to the next company. So, it's an expansion of my capacity at a very economical, a high return on investment. I don't want to say economical, but a high return on investment.
Neelesh: And that's, what our aim was so and how can other sales teams leverage, sales admin, as you said, let's say, our virtual assistants as sales admins,
Valerie: Well, some of these small businesses, again, cannot afford a sales manager. So even if I'm going in and being a fractional CRO, or placing one of my fractional CROs in a company, they can't afford that role, and a sales admin. And I mean, sorry, a Sales Manager and a VP of sales, and a Marketing Coordinator and all those things. What we can do to help them scale so that they can get to the point of affording those positions is we can set up a sales admin to even run a sales huddle. Those are things they can do, they can run the statistics, they can go in and set up proposals, they can go and do some research for those proposals. They do currently.
I have one VA researching go to market, TAM, SAM and SOM so that we can set up what the five-year plan should be for the company. If you only have resources for an account executive, the closer, or maybe you only have enough for the SDR then you can help create the proposal for the founder who is then you're closer at that point in the company life cycle. And that's kind of what's happening with one of the companies that I work with. I'm having that sales admin help set up leading and lagging indicators in HubSpot right now and doing research on the go to market strategy for the five-year plan. That is very reasonable,
Neelesh: I got some ideas to use our own virtual assistants as sales admin for our own processes. So, thank you for that.
Valerie: Yeah, no, it's great. And a lot of your group have that deep knowledge. They just haven't had some of that opportunity yet. So, it's giving them exposure to more opportunity, I can groom and eventually with Wishup even, I can groom and say I really want this person to eventually be an Account Exec. and Wishup will help me train them to become an Account Exec and that training is unique about your model. My experience with other companies is they just provide an out and they want their employees to stay in that lane. If you're this, you're this but you guys provide opportunity for your contractors to continue to scale with these small businesses. And that's Huge! You don't want to lose them and then just retrain somebody to backfill at the same time.
Crispino: Yeah, yeah, we have so many instances where someone joined in as a virtual assistant, and then to cover a podcast show or to cover it to accounting. Just like, yeah, yeah. So that is true. You know,
Neelesh: You know Crispino, I have hijacked your podcast and asked so many questions
Crispino: That's absolutely fine. I think this was much more interesting session. And I got to learn a lot as well, through the session and the questions that you asked. So yeah,
Neelesh: these were the questions I had. But I mean, if you have any questions,
Crispino: I think Neelesh also used it as a personal one on one training session as well for himself.
Neelesh: But yeah, this was a very helpful session.
Crispino: Awesome. So, Valerie, before we let you go, could you tell us a bit about your podcast, The Revenue Maze? What's about? And where can our viewers and listeners find it as well?
Valerie: It's primarily a LinkedIn audience podcast, and my mission or vision, whichever, we want to call it these days, depending on your methodology is, that businesses change lives faster than government can. And because of that, I seek out CEOs, founders, owners of small businesses, and ask them to give best practices on how they can help other business founder/owners get out of the revenue maze. And a revenue maze is a very broad topic, so there is a lot to talk about. The entire show is to showcase how they're fixing, and how that's affecting the world, or the industry they're in. It gives exposure to Revenue Northstar, and obviously educates people somewhat, on the fractional world.
Not everybody needs a fractional. Sometimes they need that full time equivalent, right? Anyways, for me, I'm having a blast doing it. I learn amazing things about everybody who ends up on that show. I definitely connect them with others that can help them. I feel like at least I'm giving back to them for them spending their time. Then when we release, I always go in and personally comment, I don't automate it. I personally comment and tag people that could potentially help that guest. I'm not a TED talk, but I'm doing things one person at a time. And it's getting good exposure. We're really enjoying it. It's fun and amazing. I have a 30 year old and 26 year old and they listened to it for the first time a couple of weeks ago. And they're like, “this one's fun.” Yeah. That's amazing.
Neelesh: It's amazing and I think after this podcast, I think, all our viewers, there are a lot of viewers from India, who are entrepreneurs and who sell SaaS products in the US. And it's a big thing going on right now. And I think it's a big theme for the next decade. So, I think all these entrepreneurs will definitely reach out to you, we hope they reach out to you.
Crispino: Yeah, yeah, no, I include your link in the description as well. And podcasts as well. So, if anybody wants to listen to the revenue base and contact Valerie can just reach out directly.
Valerie: Yeah, you definitely can, or you can go to www.revenuenorthstar.com. That's our website and LinkedIn page as well. So, both of them.
Neelesh: Infact, we had a lot of SaaS customers when we were operating in the India market. So, you know, I think they love to hear this and you know, your podcast, so
Valerie: Yeah. Sounds good. You guys. Well, thanks for having me on the show. This was fun.
Crispino: Thanks so much for coming along. Valerie. It was amazing having you
Neelesh: and thank you for your time. I think we took a lot of your time
Valerie: Well, it's the listeners' time.
Crispino: Great, great..
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