SalesTechStar Interview with Mitchell Lee, Business Consultant at Vendavo
Sales tools and sales processes cannot be implemented to only feed the prospect and customer information, both have to be aligned to help drive relevance in sales conversations; Mitchell Lee, Business Consultant at Vendavo discusses more:
Hi Mitchell, welcome to this chat, tell us about your journey so far and more about Vendavo!
Hi, I’m Mitch Lee, and my journey has been a long and winding road…I first worked professionally for a venture-capital financed start-up after graduating my chemical engineering program – I was the first employee to draw a paycheck! The next place I worked was at BASF, the world’s largest chemical company – talk about seeing the entire spectrum of businesses! I went from covering every aspect of commercial operations (chief cook and bottle washer!) to having entire departments of specialists for everything from cutting edge R&D to centers of excellence for manufacturing and commercial processes – all available for my deployment as I drove improvements in my P&L. While there, I finished my MBA and moved from the manufacturing side to the business side – and that’s when pricing and value really started to move the needle for me.
In my first role as product manager, I had about a half dozen products, and three customers: one downstream BU in the same company, and two external customers. Despite the apparent simplicity, the pricing process was almost unmanageable.
From there, I moved into another business unit, and this time I had around 200 products and roughly 50 customers – and a big, fat spreadsheet for doing cost-plus pricing. It was completely unmanageable, because the file was shared between me, my boss, and my boss’s boss. It was so easy to change – and it was almost impossible to track any changes.
Finally, I moved into an organization where my product line was essentially one SKU. Ok, it was really two SKUs, but they were just the wet and dry versions of the same material. And I had about a dozen customers; ahhh, the Goldilocks zone, right? Except, my margins were so thin that I had to rely on formula pricing to protect profitability. So, every quarter – and then over time, every month – third-party commodity index numbers were pushed through the pricing calculations. But always on a lagged basis; this month’s price was based on last month’s costs.
You can see where this was going: Toward the need for pricing software with enterprise capabilities for agile execution across all sales channels. So yes, I was a buyer/user before joining Vendavo.
Vendavo, of course is the leader in leading-edge pricing and selling solutions, helping some of the largest B2B organizations in the world unlock the growth and profitability embedded in their business model. And over the last 20+ years, we’ve worked with them to constantly innovate and deliver commercial processes and dynamic solutions that result in predictable, profitable outcomes. Our customers routinely see benefits equal to 1-3% of their top line revenue dropping to the bottom line as additional profits.
Take us through some of your biggest sales learnings from your time in tech: a few biggest moments that drove key sales learnings during the pandemic as well?
First, B2B selling is all about relationships. Sales tools must bring information and context, so the seller really knows the customer’s business model, and how the thing being sold adds value to the customer’s business processes. Measurably, repeatedly, reliably. Buyer and seller both agree: “When we see X, we’ll know that it’s working.”
Second, it IS possible to sell remotely. Yes, it’s harder to build the personal relationships required for B2B selling, to be sure, but that higher level of investment is now table stakes. And yes, it requires much higher level of planning, clear role assignments, and scripting for success than it did when you could watch body language and easily read the room in the moment.
It goes back to the first learning: It’s a time to pick partners, as the ones that focus on how more value will be created by working together during times of turbulence will be the key relationships for success going forward. And right now, coming out of COVID, we’re seeing real signs of pent-up demand. That’s a form of turbulence that you want to work on and solve together.
How do you feel today’s sales leaders need to revisit their sales processes and choice of salestech to empower their teams more while being remote while also preparing for uncertainties in the future!
Sales leaders need to make sure that their sellers appropriately value ANY time customers and prospects make available for communication, whether email, simple phone conversations, to full-blown Zoom discussions. That means prepping for clarity and crispness, with a genuine understanding of the customer’s business model and current challenges, and presenting an easily understood solution with easily measured benefits.
That also means understanding all the ways your customer can buy from you across all your channels to market. In today’s environment of digital commerce, it’s simply not possible to do this manually. Sales leaders need to make sure their teams can offer the right product, at the right price, to the right customer, at the right time. Offers have to be aligned and in tune with the customer’s concerns. Commercial processes that connected CRMs to ERPs can no longer be supported by spreadsheets emailed at 5:30 PM on Fridays.
How according to you can sales and marketing work more closely together to find the right product pricing fit in B2B? A few best practices for optimized pricing strategies?
Sales needs to have the right information (product, price, options, terms, et cetera.) at the right time – that’s a dynamic requirement that needs to at least match, if not stay ahead of, the rate at which your customers’ markets change.
Marketing needs to understand the true needs of the target market, now AND in the future. So it’s the classic 4 Ps –products and pricing, promotion and placement – that address all your target market segments. All four are dynamic, as we just noted, but you must remember to apply those dynamic variations across extremely specific segmentation.
Silos between marketing and sales have to be broken down with the use data, measurement and analysis, to discover customer needs that are urgent, pervasive, and for which customers are willing to pay. That “extremely specific” segmentation we just mentioned? That’s not just a customer classification (platinum, gold, silver, or what have you) or product life-cycle stage (growth, plateau, cash-cow, and so on). It means your segments that drive your offers are at the intersection of product and customer; the same customer will be in different segments for different products, depending on their willingness to pay.
With the right solution, marketing (and P&L owners, GMs, the entire C-suite!) can confidently provide their sale teams with the right product, at the right price, at the right time, to the right customers, AND with guidance for deal pricing. That means clear ranges for stretch, target, approval floors, et cetera, that let the sellers take control of what they do best: Focus on making and winning deals.
In what ways will the future sales engagement in a digital buying world start evolving…to change the face of customer engagements as we see it today?
The future was already here before the pandemic, and now the cutting edge is table stakes. Gartner research notes that 80% of B2B selling will be digital in just a few years. A third of all B2B buyers want a seller-free interaction, and the trend is going to increase: That number jumps to 44% for millennials.
That mean stodgy old ideas like channel management take on new urgency. The same buyer at the same customer company will now spend time educating themselves, self-advancing their buyer’s journey through the lead and sales funnel, all without contacting sellers directly. Successful selling in the B2B space means multiple channels, and they must be fully aligned. Mis-messaging, or different approaches based on whichever channel they are in at the moment, means customer dissatisfaction. That prompts them to do even more research on options, unfortunately including your competitors.
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 sales technologies you feel sales teams should have more of?
The best way to motivate, train and uplift the performance of sales teams is to help them win more deals, faster. Sales leaders need to provide just right amount of context and information that fundamentally connect to making the customer successful, so they become a profitable long-term partner.
Technologies for sales teams have spread like wildfire, but the ever-growing multitude of “apps” is bewildering sellers, and frankly, limiting productive efforts by creating more and more administrative (non-productive) work. Sales teams effectiveness is very often the constraint to an organization’s growth and profitability (by the way, congratulations if you are in a situation where that isn’t the case…for now.) Sales leaders must take a stand, based on one very clear fact: If doing a thing doesn’t make the sales team more productive, the sales team should NOT be doing it.
Sales leaders – and as I mentioned before, also the P&L owners, GMs, and C-suite – need to make sure that their entire organizations are in tune with everything that makes the seller more productive. That means spending time on understanding the customers’ business process with one goal in mind: Adding value for growth and profitability.