Next Gen Sales Close Experience

Reading Time: 15 minutes

Overview: Next Gen Sales Close Experience: Eliminating friction and getting better deals across the finish line. Session presented by Streemly. Andrea Ibanez, CEO & Co-Founder, and Jeff Burtenshaw, Head of Growth.

About the speaker: Andrea Ibanez is a total standout. She was born in Bolivia and immigrated to Utah as a child, and her two homes have inspired her passion, determination and success. Ibanez jumped right into a tech career at 21 and quickly rose in the executive ranks at companies like and Canopy. At 27, she co-founded Streemly, a venture-backed startup. What’s more, she co-founded with her mother the nonprofit El Chasqui Foundation, which empowers self sustainability for people in her home country of Bolivia.

Andrea: Hey everyone! We’re excited to have you today. We’re pumped to talk a little bit about the next gen sales clothes experience and eliminating friction to get better deals across the finish line. I’m thrilled to be here with Jeff Burton Shaw, who’s head of growth at Streemly. I’ll give you a quick intro on myself. And then Jeff will give us the same. So my name is Andrea. Like I mentioned, I’m the CEO and co-founder of Streemly. I’ve been in b2b SaaS my whole career. This is my jam. I’ve worked with CROs from the Bay Area, the East Coast and Utah silicon slopes. And so I’m pumped to share a little bit of the expertise that I’ve learned along the way, 

Jeff: Jeff, yeah, Jeff, with Streemly, heading up our growth operations here and really excited about the opportunity to talk to you today about the sales closed process. I’ve been doing sales for the last 15 years, and seen a lot of changes, for the better, I think we still have a long ways to go to improve. And we’ll talk about some of those ideas and the trends we’re seeing in the marketplace. 

Andrea: So we’re gonna treat this a little bit like a fireside chat, I want to set the stage really quick of where we’re talking about. So when you think of sales, and all of us watching here, can empathize how much of a marathon it is, right? From marketing all the way to taking that deal all the way through your pipeline, all the stops along the way. And all the friction along the way, where we lead Well, we’re going to be focusing on today is really that last mile, that sales, closed process, also known as deal desk, for some of you out there, and the pitfalls that you know, you kind of encounter along the way. And so that’s where we’re focusing right now.

That’s actually what our platform does, is our platform streamlines and automates that deal to escrow that sales closed process, and really that experience for getting better deals across the finish line. So Jeff, let me just start by asking you a little bit about the sales close experience. Experience is huge, right. And I think that’s something that’s been overlooked in in Saas since the beginning of Saas. Now that we’re focusing more on experience, and now that we have to because of you know, the pandemic and everything that’s changing in our world, what is the sales close experience? 

Jeff: Yeah, great question. I mean, the way I think about experience and managing that experience, is it started on the customer side. People started tracking customer journeys, and how do our customers buy, and how do they use our product? And what’s their experience with all the touch points of our organization? And it’s every channel every touch point? What’s that experience? And it’s a natural evolution to start thinking about, well, what about that internal decision process for closing a deal? What does that experience look like? If you ask any sales manager?

Hey, how is your sales close experience? Is that a smooth, easy, fun process to get legal and finance approval to know what you have to do to get a deal across the line? I would say probably most sales managers would say no, that’s not a fun, really optimized process. And it’s definitely not supported by any kind of end to end systemic process. So I think that there’s a there’s a big gap there in the marketplace around the internal experience that employees and sales reps have for closing a deal. 

Andrea: Yeah, I mean, I think when you said that everyone back home is probably cringing a little bit because they’re evaluating their own, right? And that brings me to the subject of who exactly is involved when we think about the sales close process, the sales close experience. Again, like I mentioned, deal desk is another word you can insert in there. I know there’s lots of different people, lots of different departments, stakeholders walk us through who’s part of this sales close experience, who does it touch in effect? 

Jeff: Yeah, it’s a really interesting question. I mean, deal desk is recently a new kind of thing. Trade desk deal desks, they’ve been around for a while, but to actually have that as a formal position. A lot of people it’s a recognition that that experience is broken, and you need some kind of process to to improve it. And so had to build as head of sales ops, all the sales management positions, the reps, those are all the players of finance, for financial approvals, and discounting approvals. You’ve got legal for contract and redlining involved.

So there’s a broad, diverse group of stakeholders and that’s what makes the process kind of hard to wrangle and manage because there are so many people that have to touch a deal to make it go. And you know, McKinsey did a study recently about just decision making in general in an organization and they, from their study, they concluded the 70% of some managers, especially high level executives, time is wasted in the way they make decisions. I mean, 70% that’s crazy. You think about it, how it happens, there’s emails, there’s phone calls, there’s tax, and there’s a lot of back and forth. It’s a, it’s an ad hoc process. It’s not a systemic process by any means.

And so there’s just a lot of waste that goes into that knowing and having trust in the quality of the inputs that are coming to the decision maker. So there’s a bi aspect involved here as well, so that you have trusted information. So they’re just there a lot of facets of this. A lot of people involved. According to McKinsey, there’s a 70% opportunity and what that means in an enterprise scope is $250 million of lost time from those key decision makers where they could be, you know, moving on.

The way I think about that is you don’t need the sales management to weigh in on every deal and provide reps. Guidelines around pricing discounts, contractual terms. If you’re doing that that’s just taking time away that you could be evaluating other deals or other customers or other ways to get in sell more. So one opportunity for technology is to be that digital sales coach to provide those guardrails, 

Andrea: so much to unpack there. As you were talking, I was like, we could talk about each of those things for another hour segment. The first thing I wanted to touch on, because I didn’t want it to get buried was the people involved. You mentioned all these different departments. So just to kind of round everything back up. You have, you have finance, you have legal, you have sales reps, you have management, not just sales management, but just management in general, you often have, you know, this, the operations team involved, companies that we’ve worked with product teams are often involved Customer Success teams are involved.

That’s already what four or five, six different departments are that they all have their different goals and priorities. But one of the things that my dear friend Dave Elkington said who you know, probably watching this right now is my first day at inside sales back when I was just a wee, young girl, and he said, You’re either in sales, or you support sales, right? So regardless of what department you’re in, that’s the mentality these companies should have that are, you know, focus on recurring revenue, right. And so I never forgot that because again, all those departments I just named, they have different priorities. But the thing they have in common is, again, they’re trying to bring in revenue to the company. Right.

And so I think that’s why the sales close experience is such a beautiful way to kind of tie everything back together. Because regardless if they like it or not, they’re part of that experience. They’re part of that process, which means we should make it a good experience. Right? Because on top of that, we haven’t really talked about how they all like to communicate different ways. One of the companies that we’ve worked with in the past, or currently, their legal team is slack strictly right? Then the head of sales is text me only, the end of the month, I only want to get text. To be honest, you can’t change how people work. As flexible as we like to say we are, we’re not going to change how we work. 

Jeff: And they’ve grooved their swing. 

Andrea:I think there have been tools out there that people get really excited about, and maybe you change that behavior for a short amount of time, but it never sticks. You’re a slack user, you’re going to be a slack user, emails, text, etc. Right? And so having having a way to allow people to work, how they work, but bring it all together, and push it back out the same way is genius. And, you know, obviously, personal plug, that’s one of the things that Streemly does very, very well.  

Jeff: How cool would it be if there was a platform that integrated all those silos? Yeah. 

Andrea: And so that was one of the things I wanted to touch on that you brought up? It’s so fascinating to realize the fortune 500, the true enterprise spends 250 million? Is that what you said, whatever dollar per interface? Yeah, that’s crazy. So take that number, and apply it to, you know, smaller enterprise mid market, a lot of people back home are watching, maybe in the mid market space or something. And so you can kind of figure out what that looks like at your company. And that’s not a pretty, pretty dollar. 

Jeff: Thinking about the decision experience and thinking about the people side of it. There is a ton of room for improvement in the motivational impact of how you make these decisions and how you empower the frontline and middle level managers to make decisions. And they often don’t know the parameters because the parameters have never been considered because there’s never been technology to kind of capture and codify the decision making process effectively, especially in a sales close process. And, and so having a technology that enables that, to set up those guardrails to set up that digital coaching and empower those frontline workers and. 

The sales reps and middle level sales managers to know where their boundaries are, where they can play. What’s inbounds, what’s out of bounds? Where can they make the decision and what needs to get escalated. And it really doesn’t take a ton of time, actually, once you look at it to sit down and establish those parameters, codify them into the system. And then things just run much, much smoother. 

Andrea: Oh, going back to the you mentioned smaller companies. I think that’s huge. Because, you know, in our portfolio that our investors right now, startups ask all the time, like, at what point do I need to have a deal desk? And it’s a tricky answer. You know, I think it depends. You don’t want to over process something too early. But having guardrails having a way of how you’re going to structure deals. And what you’re not going to do early on is actually better. 

Jeff: One way for a mid market company or a startup to think about this is, you know, what’s the what’s your sustainable growth trajectory in terms of your employee base? And is that curve steep? So for every more dollar of revenue you grow, do you have to hire three more people? Or for every dollar you grow, can you flatten that curve out and hire maybe one or two people. And so technology like this really helps as you grow into things to flatten out that hiring, and make it much more cost efficient. And predictable, and predictable. For sure. 

Andrea: Having experience in hiring sales. And for sales teams, that’s probably one of the hardest numbers to gauge. If you don’t have the data, or if you don’t have the right process in place to actually know what to expect down the road. 

Jeff: Well, and just treating your customer base fairly, because you have the right kind of pricing. 

Andrea: Yeah, so short answer, I guess, you know, for the for the startups or smaller companies back home, is it’s never too early. You don’t have to over process or over systematize anything right away. But know what you’re going to do know what you’re going to the guardrails you want to set for yourself now. And be flexible with yourself, you’re growing, you’re testing things out, having that early on, will help you grow and help you scale much faster. 

Jeff: Yeah, and just defining processes leads to that internal stakeholder satisfaction too. They’re much more empowered; they’re much happier. So they’ll stay with you longer. Yeah. 

Andrea: Another thing that you mentioned that I want to bring up again, is transactional versus complex sales. You know, you mentioned automation. Automation works different in transactional versus a complex deal. Right. Right. And I think the sales close experience is going to differentiate between transactional and complex, right? 

Jeff: Well, if you think about it, I mean, if it’s a routine, kind of the same parameters, it should just fly through. And often what happens is it doesn’t. It gets tangled up for some reason. And it starts going up for three levels of approvals. Oh, it’s an SMB and SMB deal, and it has no reason to be right. And so yeah, that’s just the kind of thing where those kind of things don’t happen if you put in a process around it. 

Andrea: And I know my SMB friends are probably thinking about this for their own personal you know, frustration right now. Because when an SMB deal, a deal with a small dollar sign, dollar amount tied to it goes through a process that gets stopped or goes through a longer sales cycle than is necessary. It’s the most infuriating thing ever. 

Jeff: Yeah, time kills deals. 

Andrea: They hear me say it all the time. Time kills deals. Yes. Because it’s a small deals I should there’s no reason it should get stalled. Right. One of the big things for our platform, one of the things we want to do from the very, very beginning was shorten that sales cycle. Right? Now, let’s switch gears talking about complex deals, complex deals are totally different game, you know, there’s obviously every single deal that you bring in a complex deal, sales cycle is going to differ. It’s going to have different people. Sometimes product is going to be involved. Sometimes dev is going to be involved. And sometimes they’re not sometimes Yes, is going to be involved, right. So walk us through how that looks for a complex deal or organization. 

Jeff: Let’s take the product side of it. So let’s say in the sales close process and the negotiation process, in order to win, you have to agree to a particular feature enhancement, right? Very common with a large deal. And so oftentimes, that can be a ton of time for the sales management, to go track down the product team, and communicate why they had to do that, and then influence the roadmap. And so imagine the time it would take if that’s an ad hoc process.

It’s not supported by anything. It’s just the personal interactions of the sales, leadership and the product team leadership. And that can cause a lot of friction. Whereas if that leadership sits down and says, let’s determine the rules of engagement in advance for when this kind of thing happens. And then the approvals are automatically routed by a system and that the inputs that the product team needs are captured in a form and just captured and then automatically routed with the request. And any kind of exceptions and financial approvals that might need to happen.

Those kinds of things can all be orchestrated, and happen Where are those people are used to communicating, whether it’s email, or text, or slack or teams or, or whatever. There are technologies now that can facilitate that kind of vision of a streamline process. And it’s no different for legal approvals, or financial approvals on pricing discounts or pricing bands, or, you know, just any of the exceptions that come up, master service agreements, non disclosure agreements, 

Andrea: Rules are meant to be broken. And I know I hate saying that. But but it’s true. Like, you have to have some level of flexibility, right. You know, sometimes operations team calls them creative deals, and they don’t love them. But at the end of the day, again, you’re either in sales, or you support sales. And for certain customers, you do need to have creative deals. And so having a system, having processes, having something in play, that’s flexible enough for those creative deals, that doesn’t take you out isn’t put you back in the manual world. That’s the worst thing ever. Because if you’re spending 80% of your time on 20% of the deals, but those 20% of those deals live outside of your current process system, you know, playbook, why do you have that system process play look in the first place? 

Jeff: Just because the last approval in the way you designed it meant to go up the hierarchy chain? What if you need to skip level? What if you’re out of the office? And you need to delegate the approval to somebody else? What if your role changes, and there’s a new person in your role. All those kinds of things in the past, would cause real problems for these kinds of systems.

I’m glad to say our technology, we really handle that kind of agility and nimbleness from the ground up, we’ve designed it to have the guardrails and have the process. But if you want to go off the reservation, like sales loves to do to close the deal. And we love to support it. And you don’t have to go outside the process. It’s the flexibility and agility is built into the process to support those kind of audibles that happen at game time. 

Andrea: Yeah, well, no. And that kind of brings us full circle. One of the things that we talk a lot about internally is the idea between what would you call the robot and the lawnmower right? The robot is the process that the system that has no flexibility, there’s a lot of like, bpn is such a boring word bpn exists, it’s been around forever, people who’ve been in the space know it, they probably shudder when they hear it. It’s boring, but it works. It works to keep you in your lane, right? There’s no flexibility at all. We’re in 2021. We’re doing things a little bit different. And we’re creative, but there’s different ways to do things now. And so the robot, the BPM, that doesn’t work anymore.

On the other hand, you have the lawn mower. So it’s a tool that does one thing, it does one thing well. We love those things, you know, we love them great, but they don’t solve your problem. They solve one tiny little piece of it. And you might need a lot of lawn mowers to do what you’re trying to accomplish. And in this case, you know, optimizing modernizing the sales, closing experience. What you need is a hybrid. And so how we think about it internally, and how we communicate it to our customers and people we work with, is you need something more bionic. Right? It’s a combination of the two, it’s taking the experience part, because that’s very human.

The experience part is very, very human. You can’t just expect a robot, a BPM machine to solve those problems for you. You can’t! And you have to bring back the human element of the experience. That’s probably one of the biggest differentiators of what we’re trying to build is something more bionic. I want you know, everyone to go home and or I guess you’re home right now to deposit and then think about that, you know, how you’re trying to solve this problem? Is there a human element to it? Because you can’t have experienced that human? Right, for the sales reps? What’s one thing they can do or a few but you know, one thing they can do after this session to help bring awareness or to start solving that sales close experience? 

Jeff: Yeah, I think that, you know, if you look at a deal where speed, slowed you down, and you didn’t close fast enough. Or if you look at a deal, where some kind of decision process glitch. Either like a contract review, or a sales approval, allowed a competitor to come in behind you. And you know, heaven forbid, take the deal, and it happens. Those are the kinds of things that you know, get management’s attention and say. We should maybe take a look at this kind of thing, because we don’t want that to happen again.

Other things are just the just how much time a rep spends doing administrative work supporting the sales cycle. Digging out the contracts for the sales order. Making sure that’s the current version. Making sure that they’re writing a deal that is within the parameters and they’re not having to ask the manager 100 question. Because they have that digital sales coach to get in the guidelines. Facilitating the back and forth between customers exchanging documents. Whether it’s an NDA or an MSA. There’s a lot of time that goes into that. I mean, just assembling a sales quote, having to copy and paste all the information from Salesforce into a CPQ system. You know, all those things add up, and they’re all unnecessary. They’re all things that can go away with the right kind of platform. 

Andrea: So to recap, take inventory of what you’re doing now, that’s not directly related to bringing in revenue. To take a step further, I encourage you, sales reps to try to think about how much of your time what percentage of your day of your week of your month are you spending on those non revenue generating activities? And then last, but not least, you know, for our operators for ourselves, leadership, everyone else who’s watching what’s one thing that they can do to start implementing, because they’re the ones that actually have the power to pull the trigger and implement the sales close experience? 

Jeff: Really good question. And I think how I would think about it is twofold. One, empower your sales people to do the deal. Where without a lot of friction, and a lot of approvals by setting up the guardrails. Give them a system so that they can be successful. And and then let them execute and go and let them have the autonomy to do what they do. I think empowering them in a way that is safe for the organization. And empowers the employee in a way that they know what they can and can’t do. That’s a liberating thing. And it’s good for any organization. I love it. 

Andrea: I love it. Well, thank you so much for spending some time with us today. We love writing about this. We’re pretty active on LinkedIn. You can find Jeff Burtenshaw, Andrea Ibanez on LinkedIn. I’m also on Twitter at Andy Ibanez. You can find us on social at Streemly co. Huge thanks to Jeff for for joining us today. And yeah, please connect with us and we’ll see you around.