SalesTech Star

SalesTechStar Interview with Michael Kotchish Director, Global Business Development, for GetApp / Digital Markets at Gartner

Michael Kotchish Director, Global Business Development, for Digital Markets at Gartner talks about a few best practices that can help enable sales teams in this quick chat:

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Hi Michael, we’d love to hear about your journey in sales through the years…how are you seeing the role of the typical salesperson in this market change today (because of the pandemic and even otherwise!).

I’ve been in sales for over 10 years now, initially in banking, and then moved on to tech. I started with Capterra when it was a lean startup of about 20 people. Our sales team had two people at the time. I was a successful account executive through years of tremendous growth. We were acquired along with GetApp and Software advice in 2015. I took over as the first frontline sales leader five years ago. My original team was four people. We’ve since grown Gartner Digital Markets to a sales organization of over 60 people in three countries. It’s been a crazy journey and not one that is slowing down soon. 

The role of a salesperson has evolved a lot over this time. Early in my tenure we were able to be successful with a high volume, less customized approach to prospecting. The more calls we made, the more conversations we would have. This was great for early returns to acquire a high volume of clients. But it didn’t serve us well penetrating our most strategic prospects. Buyers are more and more equipped with information to make significant progress in the decision making process before ever speaking with a sales person. Sales people must be prepared to engage prospects at the right time and provide a sales experience that is memorable for the prospect. Account-based prospecting and selling is the future and helps teams sell in a more targeted way. It’s also crucial to provide actionable advice and a solution to a prospect’s pain points. If you haven’t done your discovery to uncover this pain, your job becomes next to impossible. 

Probably most importantly, in terms of change for sellers, is virtual selling. It is here to stay in some capacity. Salespeople must be able to adapt to his change and be successful in a variety of sales environments. Leaders most support their teams in this change through organizational change, process enhancements, and investment in technology.

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Take us through some of your biggest sales learnings from your time at Capterra / Gartner Digital Markets: a few biggest moments that drove key sales learnings during the pandemic as well?

The biggest sales learning for me at Capterra was very early on. Our founder, Michael Ortner, made “Hug Your Customers” by Jack Mitchell, required reading. This book framed my approach as a salesperson and ultimately as a sales leader. I coach all of my teams to go above and beyond what they may believe to be an experience that is just adequate. Customers that are extremely satisfied with the selling, onboarding, and support experiences are loyal. This is the one aspect that sales teams can completely control. Deliver amazing service to your customers and prospects and you build loyalty and long lasting relationships. One of our core values is to always do the right thing, not the easy thing. We don’t exist without our customers. Changes to product or process should always consider the customer first.

During the pandemic, this approach has been even more important. Having empathy with prospects and potential customers was important. There were a ton of challenges in businesses in nearly every industry. Understanding those challenges and offering a solution to help them continue to grow was important for us to be successful. Companies were facing layoffs, budget cuts, and worse. Being mindful of these challenges during the sale cycle is crucial to gaining buyer trust and loyalty. We had some of our best performances in our business unit’s history during the pandemic. Customer service and satisfaction is a huge reason why. 

How do you feel today’s sales leaders need to revisit their sales processes to empower their teams more while being remote? 

The most important things we’ve focused on recently are empathy, inclusion, and employee wellbeing. We always try to hire our reps based on the traits to succeed. If you do that well and support your team with the daily challenges the pandemic has created, you’ll be successful. If you hire coachable, hardworking people that are trustworthy, many of the challenges or being remote are mitigated. We also focus on continually fostering a team environment even when remot. This helps teams be motivated to succeed on our shared goals. 

Sales processes specifically also need to be revisited in a remote environment. Many companies faced challenges because their processes weren’t suited to a remote or virtual selling environment. They need to adjust. Luckily for Capterra we’ve always sold in a virtual environment and just continued to focus on team productivity enablement. With that being said, we’ve done a number of things to enhance our processes to empower our teams. We’ve invested in technology to support remote selling and productivity, we’ve developed content and marketing to support the buying process remotely, scaled our learning and development program for new hires and continuing learning, and we’ve coached our teams to execute in a fully remote environment. Virtual-first selling can be challenging, but with the right technology, consistent trait-based hiring, and effective sales coaches as leaders, you can be successful. 

What changes do you think we might see coming for customer engagement in a digital world. Do you see this changing customer engagement as we know today? 

The move to account-based sales and support is already underway. Engaging clients and prospects and the right time is crucial to success. Sales and marketing alignment and processes need to support virtual-first selling and support. Digital transformation will continue to happen in all successful businesses. Enhancements to organizational structure, process, and technology will all need to support this change. For sales leaders specifically, we’ve been focused on team coaching to achieve customer engagement. Going above and beyond to provide a fantastic selling and onboarding experience is first and foremost. In addition, we also coach our teams to conduct effective pre-call research, leverage tools to identify the best time to engage a prospect, and utilize technology to improve our conversations and customer experience. If these skills have been effectively taught and coached then discovery becomes much easier and sellers can alleviate prospect pain points.

A few thoughts on what you feel today’s sales leaders need to do to motivate, train and uplift their teams to optimize business and sales performance, and the type of technologies you feel sales teams should have more of (implementation / better training) to drive goals like for instance, clean data in the CRM, call dialers, etc?

The most important thing sales leaders can do is help their teams understand what goes into being successful. What does good like and how do you achieve success? Teams should know what they need to do each and every day to be successful and stay consistent in their efforts. In a remote environment you’ll need technology to support these processes. Leading and uplifting teams is impossible without understanding what motivates them. Training doesn’t stop when the new hire is onboarded. Provide resources, ongoing training and development, and give teams time to explore their interests to help further their careers. 

Even in sales, it is rarely just compensation that motivates employees. Have candid conversations with your team about their aspirations and career goals and coach to those every single day. Teams over perform when they feel supported. It’s not just compensation, especially now that most teams are remote. Focus on setting home/work boundaries, provide resources for mental and physical wellbeing, and lead from the front with empathy. 

I keep coming back to this but if teams believe in what they sell and can see the results of actually helping a business achieve their goals, they will be much more motivated to be successful. It starts and ends with the client and employee experience. People want to work for a company that actually makes a difference and cares about their clients. Make sure this is prominent in your culture and processes.

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GetApp is the recommendation engine small businesses need to make the right software choice. GetApp enables SMBs to achieve their mission by delivering the tailored, data-driven recommendations and insights needed to make informed software purchasing decisions. GetApp is a Gartner company.

Michael Kotchish is the Director, Global Business Development, for GetApp / Digital Markets at Gartner

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