SalesTechStar Interview with Rory Gray, VP of Sales, UK & Ireland, at UiPath
How can sales and marketing teams get more organized with the help of the right sales technologies while honing in critical soft skills to power through their prospecting efforts? Rory Gray, VP of Sales, UK & Ireland, at UiPath discusses a few ways:
Hi Rory, welcome to SalesTechStar! Tell us a little about your journey through the years in tech and B2B, we’d love to hear more about your role at UiPath and how that changed significantly in light of the pandemic this year!
It’s very good to join this forum and speak with you. My history in technology is a little long but I’ll spare you a lot of the unnecessary detail. My journey thus far has been from a technology background. Early days included being a programmer and systems engineer, progressing into pre-sales and marketing, and eventually into a sales career which started in 1993. Consistent across all of this time has been my affinity with change and being involved in developing and delivering solutions which change the way we work, the way businesses operate and the manner in which business plans to work in the future.
UiPath continued this to a level I had not expected and I was given the opportunity to be, once again, involved in a technology progression that asks people and business to change; to increase efficiency, productivity and to create more interesting and stimulating work.
The pandemic brought a new dimension to 2020. Many things changed. As UiPathers, we were required to change the way we work and the way we interact with each other and yet somehow keep the wheels of business in motion. Many others, in many other businesses, had the same or greater challenges. Banking and insurance customers, telco and retail customers and those in service industries very quickly had to re-structure their workplace in order to continue to serve their customers, retain the jobs of their employees and to ensure their own businesses survive and thrive. Our jobs became more intense, our days became a run from Zoom call to Zoom call. Not only was my role becoming busier, so was the life of our customers who were trying to find technology solutions to meet the changes in circumstances.
Businesses that already had a high degree of digital enablement found they could adjust to the new world faster. Business that had not yet picked up the thread of digital transformation had more work to do and many succeeded where it seemed so difficult.
It has been a very busy year!
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What were some of the biggest technology and B2B sales trends you saw takeover the marketplace in 2020?
Well, this very much connects to the last question. We all witnessed a move to on-screen interaction and the need to discuss business and solve problems without actually meeting. It’s hard to imagine how we could have met the challenges of 2020 had it happened 10 years ago.
We all needed to find a way of continuing to do our jobs, as best as possible, without the office to fall back on. We all experimented with new tools. Tools to help us collaborate, to connect and to speak and express ourselves. This has required greater accuracy, greater listening powers and more concentration. UiPath employees, and I am certain many others in many other roles, experienced working longer hours and taking fewer breaks, dedicating more time than ever before to keeping things moving. Our customers were no different and we needed to help each other
B2B technologies and sales engagements took on a new feel. Our habitual practice of sales meetings, discussions in coffee shops and travelling place to place came to an abrupt end. Yet the demand for growth, for standing still or even just preventing a downturn became intense. The positive side was this was also true on the customer side. We shared a common wish to keep going, to embrace the Zoom call and achieve so much more online than we had ever before.
Digital transformation had been a talking point for a number of years. Businesses that have grown up in the digital age and are ‘digitally native’ came into their own and had the opportunity to grow. Retail giants quickly experienced a surge in sales whilst at the same time not having the same number of people in shops and a lower rate of employees in store. Click & Collect, online shopping and delivery was in demand. Cash quickly became unpopular. There has been a rush to update technology to enable online operations, meet growing demand in some product areas and improve logistics to meet delivery demands.
GP surgeries moved over to full online consultations. The draw and dependency on broadband services, especially from homes, expanded exponentially. Call centres normally operating in large business parks and office blocks were empty as call centre agents, within as little as three weeks, were doing their work from their front rooms and bedrooms.
We saw some support and contact centres break all their standard business procurement and implementation rules in a bid to ‘stay in business’ and serve the customer. Proving that in desperate times, extraordinary things happen.
Can you talk about some of the sales and marketing technologies that you employed in 2020 to help enable better outcomes, and how?
Zoom, Teams, BlueJeans, Huddle, Skype. All the collaboration tools we could find and which our customers accepted. Some security questions were raised and bandwidth issues continue to bother us today. You were fortunate if you already had super high-speed broadband. Especially as you find yourself working from home and sharing bandwidth with the kids who are busy gaming and streaming Netflix. If you still had to order it, it may have taken a while – maybe you are still waiting?
UiPath also became proficient with animations and particularly in expressing simple concepts and value through animated videos. These became a huge success. They concisely and succinctly described some digital and automation concepts, providing education whilst also being humorous and at times quite emotional. The sense of loss of contact and of the importance of relationships was tapped. The concept that through automation we could improve our situation and return to a new normality was communicated effectively and these videos and animations became a topic of conversation and even as a boardroom introduction to automation in general.
We also considerably increased our webinar presence and provided weekly product web sessions, automation concept sessions, customer interaction and references and many other activities including virtual round tables. The thinking was to support our field sales people to enable the same degree of pre-sales and consulting capability as might normally be available to customers. It was hugely successful as customers quickly recognised we were always there, always willing to engage and maintain momentum as well as their own. Thanks must not only go to our own UiPath people who remained so committed but to our customers and prospects who lost little time in continuing to engage and mirrored a commitment to maintaining project objectives and momentum.
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For teams still optimizing their remote selling and marketing plans; what are the top thoughts you’d share?
Too often it is so easy to slip into a mode of ‘delivery’. Tell everyone and anyone what you have, what you can do, what you have done. In the desire to remain in communication and be recognisable, it is often the case that we can over-deliver and under-listen.
Our customers were facing many complex challenges. First and foremost, they were concerned for the good health and well-being of their employees. They were and still are concerned with keeping business going, understanding what their financial situations may be in two, three or six months’ time. They were busy trying to understand what was certain and what was uncertain in a business environment in which none of us had ever been in before.
When remote selling or marketing, it’s easy to slip into delivery mode and feel the need to talk and fill silence. Our best experiences online since March have been those where we interviewed customers about their business and what challenges they faced. We found it was a turnoff for customers and prospects to run ‘product sessions’ and lecture-type PowerPoint dumps.
Selling has always been a lot about listening. That intensified this year. People are stressed and are facing many challenges in each day – the more you can give people the opportunity to talk about their world, to understand this and to engage, the more likely it is that when you speak, you will be heard.
With Covid-19 impacting a lot of industries in the way they now operate; what are some top digital transformation trends you are seeing reshape the B2B and B2C sectors?
Many businesses have been faced with having to do more with less. Staff have been unavailable, unable to get to work and unable to reach full productivity as a result of not having access to office space, IT or other services. Above and beyond many aspects is broadband access at high speed. That alone has opened the door for continuity.
Banking, insurance, customer care, retail and many more consumer facing businesses have sought the means to serve the customer. Often this was more about the supply chain. With fewer people and less time available, as a result of home education and illnesses, businesses have sought out ways to automate workflows and processes where previously the work depended on someone at a keyboard or on the phone.
Banks needed to implement forbearance practices in line with legislation and the public applied in their thousands for loan and mortgage payment holidays. Insurance claims needed to be handled with minimum human intervention and deliveries needed to be securely made without human interaction, signed documents or other formalities.
Media and Telco businesses faced increased demand for online services, TV, messaging and video services. Certain retail outlets, which were classified as essential, needed to carry extra products and faced incredible increases in demand for essential products and deliveries.
All of these demands created a greater digital dependency and these trends are continuing today. Contact centers all over the UK are going through a substantial modernisation to drive down average handling times and create a better customer experience – even during these COVID times!
As we emerge from the end of this testing time, the thirst for automation and digital transformation will only increase. Sitting at home, working on Zoom and emails eight hours per day has tested every business and every employee. Work needs to become less mundane, less repetitive and there will be an increasing demand for upskilling and improved working conditions and activities.
Our long-term economic era is known in some circles as the “experience economy” where the manner in which a product or service is provided, whether that be convenience, style, attitude, price or a combination of them all. Businesses that do not seek to maximize digital technologies are unlikely to be able to deliver the kind of experience the era demands
As sales teams plan for Q1; what are some of the top of mind thoughts you’d share given the current business climate?
- Get organised. Understand where your proposition fits and how it can help others. Don’t rely on old-fashioned features and functions and lower pricing. Spend time drafting all the questions you have so that your customer feels you care about them. Remember, their business has possibly changed a lot and certainly their practices and workflows have been impacted.
- Study and research. Be aware of your customer’s business, understand how the past 12 months has affected them and where they now feel pain as the economy lifts. What can make them more cost effective, what can aid productivity, what can you do to help your customer improve their service delivery?
- Understand your market. Some of your customers may recover slower than others. Some will be concerned about staff returning from furlough but not yet having cashflow back to normal, so budgets may be compromised. Innovation may be very desirable but you may have to create some clever commercial terms to get the ball rolling.
- Qualify out and with prejudice. As sales people, we all know the feeling when we make a sales pursuit only to find out there are three other projects ahead of mine in the budgeting priorities. That is now more likely than ever before. Get engaged, move with speed and qualify out early.
Can you share a few success stories in sales from your 2020 campaigns!
Our solutions help to minimise the need for human intervention in business processes and to automate wherever possible. Across the NHS there are numerous processes which involve the transfer of data from one system to another or where processes are held up awaiting a decision. Often these decisions are rule based and don’t really require human intervention. UiPath stepped in and helped hospital trusts and medical facilities speed up Covid-19 testing, helping ensure nurses had more time with patients and needed far less time processing data. The success was that we could provide fast solutions to slow moving processes but most of all, we were able to play a part.
Linked to the pandemic, banks and insurance businesses everywhere needed help to process claims and delayed loan payments. Within weeks of being asked to stay at home, thousands of people needed to take advantage of the bank’s forbearance projects – the processes involved in delaying payments and creating a ‘loan payment holiday’. It was impossible to handle this efficiently using standard web and phone based methods. UiPath worked with some banks to put this in place within three weeks, using software robotics to process huge numbers of applications and enabling customers to apply for and have their payment holiday with the least possible inconvenience.
How according to you will sales and marketing teams need to upskill / reskill (including those at leadership levels) in the new normal; to meet changing business needs?
Well first, we need to consider what will be different. According to the experts in this area, around 33% of us will never return to our ‘normal’ place of work. Large offices will remain unfilled, as people will work from home far more frequently. Team meetings may still happen but be in a location more convenient for the majority of people and not just in offices.
What has been discovered through this last nine months is that many roles and responsibilities can be conducted remotely, the water dispenser and coffee machine conversations may not be as useful as we might have thought.
As sales people, as I mentioned before, we will need to enhance our listening ability, becoming ‘audible ready’ at all times and only speak and introduce our solutions when invited. At that point, our storytelling ability will need to improve. If there is one thing we have learned through the past months it is that we have little time to waste. Time is precious and if I have to listen to a vendor telling me about his/her products, it needs to be in context, relevant and ‘on point’ to steal a phrase. This is particularly true when considering selling into senior leadership levels.
Our sales and marketing leaders will need to be aware of the story and relevance of their solutions for their intended audience. Time has become more precious than before. After months of having to wait to get into a shop, waiting for services, waiting for the phone to be answered, people everywhere are placing a greater value on time. Our sales and marketing, from leadership to inside sales, needs to show its customers a high degree of respect for their time. Listen, prepare, tell your story, be relevant and present conclusions and solutions. Lazy salesmanship will not be rewarded!
A parting thought on your biggest leadership goof-up and the learning that came from it!
Like most sales people, I believe, I have goofed many more times than once. In my experience, the greatest tendency is to put on your happy ears, believe that all the good news you’ve heard is exactly that – good, and ignore the possibility that something is wrong.
More than once, and even in the past year or two, I have listened carefully to my customer, understood every word, presented well and explained how I can help and then completely forgotten that there are other people in his or her business. I have believed all I have been told, challenged nothing and committed my deal to forecast all because I had a friendly chat and a beer with the customer who told me this was important and he/she owns the responsibility to get things done.
More than once I have had to report into my boss with my tail between my legs, all because I omitted to ask those critical qualifying questions. Why? I really don’t know, because I know the process and I know all about qualifying. Yet it is a common mistake I will bet even the most experienced of sales people repeat it time and again.
Thank you Rory, for your time with us today!
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Rory Gray is the VP of Sales, UK & Ireland, at UiPath