SalesTech Star

SalesTechStar Interview with Cody Liebman, VP of Sales at AspireIQ

2020 has been a year of challenges, new learnings and revised priorities! But when it comes to tech sales, what has changed amid the ongoing pandemic? In this interview,  Cody Liebman, VP of Sales at AspireIQ shares his thoughts.

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Can you tell us a little about yourself Cody? We’d love to hear about your biggest highlights from your journey in tech sales so far!

It’s been an amazing journey. I’ve been in sales since I was 22, but only started in tech sales about 7 years ago. After business school, I struggled breaking into tech sales because all of my sales experience was in real estate and nobody really cared about my MBA. And while my plan after business school was to become a VP of sales at a tech company, I had zero tech experience. Luckily, I was able to leverage my experience as a real estate agent to break into Trulia as an enterprise seller where I sold ads to real estate agents. After doing very well at Trulia, I decided to go to a really small company called Revfluence, which focused on influencer marketing. I was the first full-time hire, and along with the 4 co-founders, we started to build the business. It’s now 6 years later and Revfluence has rebranded to AspireIQ and evolved into a community intelligence marketing platform for brands. I am currently the VP of sales leading all growth and GTM efforts and we have grown to 120 employees across 3 offices. It’s been a life changing experience for me and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to help build something so special!

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Given the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, ensuring better overall business relationships and long lasting client relationships has taken center-stage during this time, can you share some proven tips/best practices that have worked for you successfully over the years?

2020 has been an unprecedented year so far. 86% of new software budgets have been frozen due to COVID-19, and now more than ever, companies need to be customer-obsessed. These are far from normal business times, our country is in the midst of a revolution with the backdrop of a pandemic, and I think people selling anything need to be highly aware of the societal environment. That being said, quotas don’t sleep, so sellers and sales leaders need to figure out how to be successful in this new normal. By no means do we have this figured out, but there are a lot of positives in which we can draw from:

  1. As hard as it is to say, put the sale aside and meet your prospects and customers with empathy first.
  2. Be creative and solution-oriented based on your customers needs, not your company’s or your own quota.
  3. Play the long game.
  4. Now more than ever, it’s a lot easier to retain and grow existing accounts than to sell new ones (as mentioned, 86% of new software budgets have been frozen) — so make sure you’re maintaining your relationships.

When it comes to building and shaping global tech sales teams, also remote teams: what are some of the biggest aspects leaders in tech sales should keep in mind according to you?

 

It’s always been really important to me to build a team and culture I was proud of. That means always taking the high road, being highly ethical and empathetic as sellers (both internally and externally), and allowing people to bring their true authentic selves to work (imperfections and quirks encouraged!). I believe that when people show up authentically in work and in life, they are willing to be vulnerable in their pursuits, and most importantly, put in the work required to be successful that the results will always take care of themselves.

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Could you share some of your biggest businesses development and sales closing tricks that have worked well over these years in the industry? Some examples of some of your most successful outreach / sales campaigns maybe?

 

Gong.io has become my bible for sales best practices. If you want to be on the forefront of deal intelligence and coaching, head over to their site and commit everything they produce to memory. Some highlights from Gong and my experience on the front lines over the last 6 years:

  • Tact = Impact.
  • How you say it is more important than what you say.
  • Make sure your video camera is on! We do most of our selling through video (everyone does now!) — we have been doing this for 5+ years and it makes a huge difference.
  • Come prepared and be the expert in the room. If you’re not the expert, you need to ramp up quickly.
  • Sellers love deal stories. Early on in my career, I didn’t realize that not all deal stories have a positive impact on a sale. If you mismatch company size or pain points in your deal story, your efforts can have a negative impact on close rates. For example, if you are pitching a startup, don’t use a Chanel deal story because they won’t be able to relate.
  • Personalized storytelling is the key to winning your prospects hearts.
  • Get on a text basis with your prospects immediately. Your VP of sales will thank me.

In your time in sales / marketing, how have you seen the role of the tech sales person evolve? How do you feel that the impact of salestech has inspired this change in the way sales teams now approach their role?

 

  • As much as I love the movies Boiler Room and Glengarry Glen Ross, the old days of aggressive sales tactics are done. These personifications and characters of sales people being snakey and slimy have had an immensely negative impact on a truly noble profession. The work that John Barrows and Kevin Dorsey are doing on Linkedin to elevate the sales profession and how sales people see themselves in the world has been inspirational for me. They have been working hard to destigmatize the sales profession and reframe it as a line of work that people can be proud of. It wasn’t until I was 30 and in tech sales that I realized sales doesn’t need to be a dirty word or a less than noble profession. It could be something that I could be truly proud of. That knowledge gave me the ability to lead and inspire.
  • Today’s buyer is highly educated about the market and has more information than ever before. This has led to a paradigm shift where sellers need to meet their buyers where they are in their buying journey. Sometimes that means educating them on the market, other times it means helping prove value to their boss. Flexibility and emotional intelligence are the top ways that today’s sellers are winning.
  • Buying by committee is also the new norm. Buying decisions are typically made by a committee of 6 more people. That means that today’s seller must be comfortable navigating conversations with managers, associates, VPs, CFOs, and procurement. The ability to “manage a room” digitally is required.

Given that the current economic conditions push sales and marketing leaders to be more customer centric in their approach with the aim of enhancing overall CX and not just focusing on selling, in what ways would you suggest teams measure overall CX during this time?

 

  • I like this question because at AspireIQ, we are in a unique position where we get to rethink our entire customer journey. After 6 years of building a best-in-class influencer solution, we are launching a revolutionary new category, “Community Intelligence Marketing”. We recognized a gap in brands not understanding which relationships bring them value, and how to measure that data. So this new category is centered on combining human and automated intelligence to give brands actionable data to make smarter decisions about how to foster authentic connections at scale.
  • As part of this launch, we’ve been considering all the impacts in the customer journey. And personally, I think the customer experience and journey is the most important thing that a company should consider. It needs to be holistic. So it’s not just the customer success team that is responsible for surprising and delighting customers. Marketing, SDRs, AEs, onboarding, implementation, CS, Managed services and product, all play an important role. The customer should feel as though every part of the business is in harmony and that the entire experience is seamless.

While remote work is still largely in place even though businesses and economies are slowly inching towards reopening, what are some of the thoughts you’d like to share?

  • 3 words -> Easy does it. Experts are predicting a COVID-19 spike in the Fall and that leads into the flu season, so I am looking at 2021 before things start to resemble any sense of normalcy. I am just feeling for everyone. Working parents are stressed out, while others are lonely at home. Everyone’s quarantine has been so wildly different based on their socioeconomic status and home life. I don’t think going back to an office where people’s hours are staggered and you don’t want to touch an elevator button will do anyone any good. I think we are going to land on a new working model in 2021 where WFH is much more accepted, but at the same time, I think some people will be itching to get out of their homes and into an office environment. I think 2 or 3 days in the office will become the new norm, so I am excited for that.

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As a tech sales leader, in a challenging environment due to the Covid19 pandemic: what are some of the ways in which you are enabling a balanced remote work culture while maintaining motivation levels?!

 

  • At AspireIQ, we are invested in our employee’s mental well-being and professional training. For example, we:
    • brought in a meditation coach for “Meditation Mondays” to help employees start their week focused and centered.
    • created Parent’s Cafe, a space for the parents to connect over video for 30 minutes per week.
    • provided GTM Team education & training. In the midst of this global pandemic, AspireIQ launched a new product category, so we needed to train our GTM teams. We landed on doing a 2.5 week online boot camp for 3+ hours every day. We started each day with a light group workout, followed by a different motivational clip from a famous sports movie, and most importantly, a video of Steve Ballmer losing his mind on stage. The sessions were workshop focused, with several small group breakouts throughout the day, so the team had the opportunity to work with and meet new people at the company. This ended up being incredibly successful because, not only did it train the team on the product, but it fostered a sense of community during a truly bizarre time.

AspireIQ is a community intelligence marketing platform that’s changing relationships between brands and the people who love them. Putting people, rather than transactions, at the heart of the brand, AspireIQ helps companies identify the most valuable individuals in their communities, like customers, influencers, creatives, ambassadors, affiliates, employees, experts, and more. Then, with both human and automated intelligence, AspireIQ provides actionable insights — from personalized strategies to AI recommendations — to build authentic connections that inspire brand communities to become movements. AspireIQ is trusted by more than 400 leading consumer brands, including Samsung, HelloFresh, Dyson, Brooklinen, and Poshmark.

Cody Liebman is the VP of sales at AspireIQ, the leader in community intelligence marketing. There, Cody leads the sales organization and is responsible for all things revenue related. Prior to AspireIQ, Cody worked at Trulia on their enterprise partnerships team. He started his career as a commercial real estate agent for Marcus and Millichap handling the sale of multi-family properties in New York City. Cody has an M.B.A. with honors from CASS business school in London and graduated with an M.S. in physical education and exercise science from Brooklyn College.

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