SalesTech Star

SalesTechStar Interview With Rob Ryan, Director of Pre-sales & Solutions Consulting, LumApps

In a virtual selling world, refocusing efforts on outbound strategies and a sound digital messaging will soon become more than just a priority for sales and marketing. Catch this interview where Rob Ryan, Director of Pre-sales & Solutions Consulting, LumApps discusses his foremost thoughts while sharing a few tips on using the right sales tools to create added value for prospects and customers.

_______

Tell us about your journey into sales Rob. How did you land at LumApps?

My first foray into sales came about a number of years ago when I was looking to make a career jump from corporate to the vendor side. At that point, I was focused on pre-sales strategy consulting. That involved bringing consulting into the sales cycle early on. My role was to assist Sales in understanding the prospects situation, the market forces, and where their own vision and business strategy could be used to justify the value of our solutions. It meant being able to sit down with executives and define a clear path to success without the ‘air of sales’ around you. Given the fact that I’ve been on the customer side selecting vendors and technology — and having performed numerous strategy engagements for Fortune 500 companies — I’m fortunate to have a greater view of what customer needs are.

I made the move to LumApps about two years ago when they began to expand their footprint within the U.S. market. At the time, they were looking to take a much more consultative approach in the sales cycle. Today, I lead a great team of sales engineers and solutions consultants; and we are fortunate to have a strong collaborative culture with our Sales Reps.

Being in the north american market, where the industry is very competitive and fragmented, I wanted to take a more holistic and mature approach to showcasing how we derive business value from technology and showing our customers how they can transform their businesses and achieve their long term goals with the use of our tools.

Read More: SalesTechStar Interview With Henry Trevelyan Thomas, Head Of Customer Success At Tessian

What are some of the biggest challenges you see for sales teams given the crisis? What would you advise them to do to overcome them?

In terms of customer success teams and their challenges, particularly in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s really about understanding the long game. Deeply acknowledging your customer needs, knowing what’s keeping them up at night, where they are struggling, and what’s top of mind in terms of change. Knowing this, allows you to provide them with the right guidance, strategy and, eventually, close the sale if you are able to map where they are – to where they wish to be. It’s all about being able to show where your tools can provide added value right now – and tomorrow.

For sales, getting a sense when a customer is cutting their budget; heading this off requires a conversation of creating compelling value — there is absolutely a cost associated with doing nothing at this time vs. doing something now. Depending on the customers situation, building a more resilient organization today can be more compelling if another crisis or event emerges – what is that risk appetite? The best time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining, the second best time is right now.

At LumApps, we’ve been able to quickly respond to our customers’ challenges during the crisis. Given we provide solutions for digital workplaces and intranets, many of our customers were able to quickly achieve greater alignment, employee engagement, and collaboration in these trying times. Some of our customers who are mainly focused on being in an office were able to very quickly spin up communities for locations, collaboration teams, projects. In fact, some of our very ‘on-site focused’ customers set up meeting rooms for lunches —  that is a big part of their corporate culture, it needs to be maintained. Spot use cases like these can be a real game changer when there is a need to respond quickly.

Ultimately, it’s all about listening and knowing what your customers are dealing with in the crisis, and knowing where you can assist them via solutions or guidance. That is really the best way to deliver value during this challenging time.

Last, what is going unsaid. If they say, “they are good.”; well, “how could we get to great?” there’s always something to be uncovered.

Read More: Top Sales Technologies That Help Streamline Your Sales Operations

How can tech help? What are some technologies you consider strategic to your sales and CX org?

I like to say that technology is simply a ‘tool that can act as a catalyst for change’ – but it is not the change itself. Employee facing technology will never solve a problem by itself — its how you’re using it, what you’re aligning it to, what pain points it is solving; then how you go about deploying it to the organization in a culturally attuned manner. It’s more about being able to optimize the right application for the right reason — having it justified and rationalized within your tech stack. That’s when technology can really help both the employee as well as the organization.

What did we see in the market when COVID-19 hit? A frenzy of folks simply pulling tools off the shelf to very quickly solve a problem. But throwing a number of different technologies at a problem doesn’t always work – it can create more confusion within the workplace.

In the case of LumApps, we provide a digital destination for organizations to flourish. For the customer, that means having a single point of entry for all of their news, information, tools, assets and resources. We’re providing a home and platform to deliver their tech stack and optimizing the needs of the business and the employee. In terms of dealing with the crisis here at LumApps, our approach to sales hasn’t changed much. There’s certainly less customer onsite visits and meetings, but most of the deal cycle will be virtual anyway – via Teams, Zoom, Hangouts. Especially in North America – that’s expected. At some point in the cycle the prospect certainly wants to see you in person; but at this point there’s an understanding on both sides that you’ll be doing most of the pre-sales work virtually.

How has lead generation changed for the sales org now that field sales and marketing have evaporated? How are you making up for all of that lost facetime with prospects and existing customers?

It depends on the stance you’re taking. If your organization was either solely, or even just primarily focused on live events for your lead-gen, good luck! Hopefully, those folks have learned to pivot to virtual events. COVID-19 changed the landscape for all of us. You’re going to have to pivot, and push on thought leadership and outbound marketing heavily. You’ll need to develop your voice digitally within your space. And that’s a tough pivot — especially if those muscles haven’t been flexed before. But, that also means there are going to be plenty of opportunities for you to insert yourself to help customers through these troubled times. You can see small companies make big splashes by really ramping up that engine of output on their thoughts, ideas, and solutions to providing value back to both prospects and customers.

When I see our reps really go the extra mile — they stick close to the deal – particularly in customer success. They know by staying on top of their key clients, understanding where they are by having a tighter more thoughtful cadence of touch points, they will have a greater return back. This is critical given customers’ businesses are changing and reshaping on a daily basis. If that’s the case, you should insert yourself into the conversation.

We’ve stabilized a bit as clients are starting to move through recovery, but those first eight weeks were rather rough. I believe those customer success folks who were able to make those touch points — stay in close contact with where their prospects were — have fostered good will with the customer base that’ll have a long-term effect.

Same with our sales reps, those who understand where prospect budgets have slipped or fallen, can refocus time and attention elsewhere. In the end, it’s about listening and being a detective, by remaining cognizant of where the customer is, and also about doing your in-depth research. You should know their business better than themselves.

Read More:  Ten Sales Forecasting Tools That Every Technology Sales Team Needs  

CX is crucial to every org today. What has been your approach at LumApps?

We certainly have strived to take a much more consultative and white-gloved approach to our customers — and that’s needed with Digital Workplaces and intranets. It’s acting as a trusted advisor so that our customers understand that they are going to start by implementing and delivering a suite of solutions to their organization, founded on something much larger and impactful than a simple ‘intranet replacement’ – it could be a long standing program or initiative – but there’s a longer term vision. From there, CS is about helping them increase internal adoption, engagement and utility with the use of our product. That’s really the conjunction of both pre-sales for the team I lead, and customer success directors.

For the industry of Digital Workplaces, this method is absolutely crucial. You can’t just simply launch and expect that folks are going to come. That’s why intranets get renewed every three to six years in the mid-market. On the enterprise side, you’re looking nine years, usually due to deep customization and infosec needs. If customer success isn’t involved in strategic conversations — with an understanding of the business needs, internal strategy, and emergent challenges — you’re going to see churn. The best CX organizations really understand this and they focus less on long-term renewal through partnership

What are some of your best practices when it comes to enterprise sales?

Intranets and Digital Workplaces have complex buying cycles. On the enterprise side, you’re looking at 18 months to two years potentially. It’s really about knowing who the key players are — and what headwinds of change you are going to face — this is going to set you up for success.

Intranets are oftentimes poorly budgeted because the value of what they can drive is often very poorly understood by the buyer. In the sales cycle, you need to be able to help justify the investment by partnering with your prospect so they can internally sell the vision for you. There’s the high level business value; perhaps it’s addressing a digital transformation plan, or business transformation initiative, maybe optimizing a merger and acquisition – and so on. But, there are also more middling benefits which speak directly to business lines that include things like: optimized onboarding, reducing voluntary absenteeism, deflection of help desk ticketing and incident costs — but prospects will very rarely think of those as top of mind. So you have to guide them in those conversations and teach them how to tether their particular situation – to a solution – and down to value.

In this space, the intranet is often owned by a number of key stakeholders which you need multiple touchpoints to move the deal forward. Sure, it’s the IT team that is going to sign off, but you had better be sitting there with Corporate Comms, HR, and potentially even Sales and Marketing at some point to know the terrain. There are always internal politics involved in enterprise intranet deals.

There’s a term that I use in these situations. I call it “corporate judo.” It’s using the weight, mores and politics of the organization to your advantage. It means knowing who all the key players are, how they deal with one another, and using this to guide the conversation to where you need them to be. Understanding that political landscape helps you accelerate to where it needs to be. Otherwise, you could get completely upended with the loss of a stakeholder or something internal; never even knowing why you were cut out.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given in the sales context?

“Shut up and listen” is the curt version.

More eloquently put, it’s “listen – to understand”, don’t use listening as a moment to focus on your reply. The best reps I’ve ever worked with are those who are ‘actively listening, intently curious’. They try to really be sympathetic about what the prospect’s challenges are, and more importantly hear what is not being said. Often, that’s more valuable.

Tag (mention/write about) the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read!

Leadership expert and author Dave Logan.

Are you planning to attend any virtual events this year? If so, which ones do you recommend?

Yes, Intra.Net Reloaded, IABC (International Association of Business Communicators),

 

LumApps is a SaaS company operating since 2012 and serving organizations on a global scale. LumApps Digital Workplace is a category leader that integrates with collaborative suites such as Office 365 and G Suite. 

Rob is Director of LumApps Pre-sales Consulting practice for North America. He leads a team of sales engineers and solutions consultants who partner with customers to communicate business value, organizational impact, and platform justification to executive stakeholders. He also led the industry analyst relations and LumApps placement as Leader on Forrester Intranet Wave for 2020.