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The Partner Channel Podcast Episode #14

When was the last time you talked to a sales rep?

Show Synopsis

In this episode of the Partner Channel Podcast, Daniel sits down with Victor Antonio, host of the Sales Influence Podcast, to discuss how sales reps adapted to 2020 and the ever-evolving role of channel in our buying process. Victor shares an example of what a company did to adapt its sales strategy in 2020 and how it changed its business for the better.

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The Script

Daniel Graff-Radford: Welcome to the Partner Channel podcast, The Voice of the Partner Channel Community. I’m Daniel Graff-Radford CEO of Allbound, excited to be here with Victor Antonio, who’s also the host of the Sales Influence podcast. Welcome, Victor.

Victor Antonio: Good morning, Daniel. How are we doing today?

Daniel Graff-Radford: Everything going great. So excited to be here with you. I would love for our audience that might not know you to tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up starting its sales influence podcast.

Victor Antonio: In a nutshell, so I don’t give you the whole journey here. Daniel is. I came from the corporate side, so I start out as an engineer, electrical engineer, designing products and software and then eventually moved into sales. Why? Good opportunity to make more money and control your destiny a little bit, if you know what I mean. Then started as I moved up into sales. I became vice president of Latin America. I was the first time I really had to kind of have a channel strategy down. Then eventually President of Sales and Marketing. We had a 420 million dollar company and definitely depended on channels there. So that’s kind of the short story. And then in the end, one day, I just decided to kind of go on my own to be my own boss. And so here I am. I created the sales influence podcast. The side note there is, Have you ever read Daniel, Robert Cialdini’s book Influenced?

Daniel Graff-Radford: No, I haven’t. Not yet.

Victor Antonio: It’s a great book. And I remember reading that book which talks about buyer psychology and I go, wow, what if you could apply this to sales, real buyer psychology? And that’s how sales influence came about.

Daniel Graff-Radford: Now, that sounds really, really good. And I know that your listeners come from a wide, wide background. And one of the things that we’ve done here at Allbound is have kind of a survey of everyone that’s in channel leadership. And we over the last few years seen a shift in the demographics. And when we talked to Jay McBain from Forrester recently on a previous podcast episode, he also was talking about this shift in demographics and channel sales. When you kind of look across your career and the people that you’re interacting with related to the podcast, what do you think that this shift in demographics will be like in terms of how it’ll affect channel sales in the future?

Victor Antonio: You know, it’s a big question you’re asking me, because it really depends on the type of sale that you’re doing, right? When I talk to a large technology company, they have more stable channel sales there. In other words, they’re really working through a lot of channels to get to different markets depending on what their strategy is. And then obviously because of the Internet, because of our ability to buy quickly online and the consumer going on their own journey. You know, I remember that study that came up by Seeb, which is now part of, I think Gartner that said, you know, buyers are fifty-seven percent into the buying cycle. But that was 2011 and 10 years ago, if you think about it. Wow. And so now I think they’re like eighty five, ninety, ninety five percent in the device. Like I mean what was the last time you actually talked to a salesperson that actually sold you on something? We were having a discussion with a friend of mine this week, and I said, you know, I can’t remember the last time I talked to a sales guy.

I work through the Internet, do the customer journey, find my find the information I want, and then I call somebody up. In this case, it could be some type of retail outlet, channel partner, whatever dealership. And all I’m looking for is for confirmation, if not clarification, before I make a final decision. And so in the complex sale, I still see a more stable channel situation. On the B2C side Obviously, the transactional salespeople are going through channels. I think what sits in the middle of something very interesting, I work with like residential markets, residential sales, like roofing, plumbing, pool companies, and they’re heavily dependent on channel sales. You know, especially, you know, the manufacturers are trying to work with them to kind of get people to sell their products. I think it’s one of the biggest shifts I’m seeing, Daniel, is that manufacturers are now taking time to not only train the channel, but they’re also taking time to train the contractors who buy from the channels. That’s one of the things I’m seeing that’s I think, very interesting.

Daniel Graff-Radford: I think that makes a lot of sense. This combination, so much of the buyer’s behavior and time is spent learning before buying in the demographic shift just to complete that offer before as we’re seeing younger people in leadership, we’re seeing more and more even split between men and women leaving the channel. And, you know, I think that as we become digitally savvier, we’re better suited to handle that education of the channel, that then the buyer itself educates and then is able to to make that final purchase decision however they feel comfortable. That makes a lot of sense that you combine that digital learning with the demographic shift.

And I, I was I was going to I was going to interject because you said something really important about demographics, you know, male and female. There was another study and I don’t have the exact numbers, but I do have this part. In 2020, salespeople were split down the middle between millennials and baby boomers, right down the middle, but millennials and baby boomers. And it says by 2030, that’s going to be a seventy-five to twenty five split. In other words, a majority going to be millennials, which means they’re going to be digital natives, as you’re pointing out. They’re going to know technology. They’re going to want to leverage it to the max.

Daniel Graff-Radford: Yeah, and that’s an interesting thing to think about from a future trend, as people are savvier and savvier, in what ways of messaging will be less or more effective in that in the future? That’s a really good point, too. And, you know, I do miss the days of having a salesperson, you know, have that skill of talking you into something, whereas before we were overwhelmed by it and hated it. You know, it’s sort of nostalgic at this point.

Victor Antonio: By the way, the fact that you said you miss it, there’s something wrong with you, that there’s something wrong with it. Come on. That’s it. I don’t think anybody’s going to say that you’re the only person that would ever say that. I bet I really miss the salesperson talking about something. But joking aside, I know what you mean. You miss that interaction, right? That conversation.

Daniel Graff-Radford: Yeah. You know, there’s a certain amount of grit that it takes four days out, bouncing to unbelievable respect for our elders and Allbound that are creating relationships online, reaching out on LinkedIn and making friends to try to influence people. And when I think about that next level of enterprise sales and how, you know, people can explain a new strategy that will completely transform the business, that is a very special skill set. But you’re right, the whole idea that you are shopping for something is way ahead of anyone being able to talk you into anything. And that makes.

Victor Antonio: I think so. And by the way, but much respect to the SDRs and BDRs of the world, because they’re putting in a lot of work to get those leads into the funnel. So good for them.

Daniel Graff-Radford: That’s right. That’s right. And when we talked before, you had some really great examples of, you know, during 20, 20, some of the sales leaders who pivoted their strategy from surviving into a thriving strategy. And today, everyone has this idea of how we digitize faster and how it’s changed the back in a year ago, March, it was a scary time. If you were to take us back to that point and kind of talk us through some of the lessons and and examples, rather, that people had way of switching from survival to thriving because it all learned from a couple of those.

Victor Antonio: Yeah. You know, for me personally, I think I mentioned the story that, you know, when March came around, I was finishing up my first quarter run as a trainer, and my first quarter is always the best quarter. I have a bathtub effect, you know, first quarter I do great second two quarters and then the last quarter. Fantastic. Right. And I remember coming back, it was March 13th from Puerto Rico by March 20th, which shut down here in Georgia. And I’m like, uh-oh. And then a couple of weeks later, I remember telling my wife, I said, I think I’m done for the year. I actually like what I say. I think I’m done. I think this isn’t looking good at all. You had to do was kind of look outside, you know, cars and you’re like, this is not good. And so it wound up happening is that I had to just redo everything. I lost 90 percent of my business like the contract cancelations started coming in. And so I had to move to a virtual space like this. Right. I know this is audio, but if you’re watching on video, you’ll see that I had to redo the studio, the whole thing. Some of the companies that I’ve worked with also pivoted. But I think the most interesting story is one from the pool industry is I was talking to a gentleman, his name is Michael Moore, Moorhead Pools, I don’t think he minds me using his name. And I thought his was the most interesting story because he said, Victor, pandemic hits were selling pools.

It’s March. We’re selling pools. We can’t you know, he said we came up with three plans. Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, he says Plan A was to cut, do gentle trimming, downsize gently. Right. Then Plan B was to downsize and cut to the bone. And then step number three, Plan C was to basically see where we could kind of reduce inventory slash manufacturer work. We just reduced cost really heavy. And so he had this whole sequence of this three-phase plan he was going through. And what happened was remarkable for him is that their business started growing after the first couple of months. They got they downsized with a couple of people. That’s it. But then all of a sudden leads start coming and they start generating leads like and I’m going, how is that possible that people want pools? And I think this pandemic is is is going to be something that we look back ten years from now. We’re going to look back and really study the scope, the dynamics of the changes that we’re going through right now. So for, in this case, more people started saying, you know what, since I’m not going to travel, I’m going to invest in my home, put more money there. Let’s make it a place of enjoyment. And these guys figured out how to do remote demos. So in other words, one, they could just talk to you via Zoom, right? Everybody now became an expert on Zoom.

Right. And so that was the first step. But then once they had the conversations, they didn’t really have to meet with the client. What they would do is they’d go to the location, let’s say your backyard, Daniel, because I’m sure you’re living in some type of big mansion with a huge pool, right? And so I remember I’ll just imagine there’s one-acre plan, they’ll go there, they’ll survey it, and then they’ll take some satellite shots, which they can’t get from Google Earth. Then what they then did was actually designed it for you based on the conversations you had with them, and then they would demo it. They had this I forgot the program’s name was, but it was something studios. And what was fascinating is you can move the furniture around in 3-D through a Zoom call. I could actually show you what your pool would look like. And the most amazing thing was that this technology was down to the point where I can tell you where the sun was going to set July 4th at six p.m. if you wanted to start a fire and you’re like, whoa. So what would happen is we started leaning more on technology. And I think it’s a fascinating shift. But that to me was the most fascinating one. Unexpected. They thought they were going to have to downsize, get rid of people. It turns out now that even if you order a pool today, you’re like five to six months out easy in terms of trying to get a business done.

Daniel Graff-Radford: I wish I had a big mansion with a pool, but I’ll take any recommendation. On your friend’s story a couple things that I love about that. So for our listeners, no one is yes, they made a plan for a potential downturn because pools could have gone any which way. Who knows how the economy would have gone back in March. Right. But the thing I wanted to talk about here is they really leaned into how the world changed. How do they use technology to create those demos so that there’s not interaction with people. And they went 10 creative steps way beyond what any of us may have, most of us would have thought of in terms of creating software that let them do up selves of different add ons and things that they could do for moving furniture and things around where the sunset is that that is true brilliance in the face of what could have been a lot of adversity. And so I think that that is a wonderful example. And taking it back to the channel side of things, you know, pools are, as you said, really, really in backorder. And as supply tries to ramp up, trying to find people that are willing to just learn that software and show up at people’s houses is a lot easier way for these pool guys to get a greater and greater market share and create channel once they’ve sort of leaned into that digital change. That’s a great story. And just to bring it home, we have our final four questions. Victor, if you had a superpower, what would you choose and why would you choose?

Victor Antonio: Invisible, man, I want to be invisible so I could be everywhere here, every conversation as the voyeur side of me would want to be invisible. What’s yours, Daniel? Did you. I don’t know yours. What is yours? What was your choice be?

Daniel Graff-Radford: You know, when I was a kid, I was fascinated with the idea of flying. So I would have definitely have chosen flying, you know, back then. And I think that today it’s probably not that different. I would probably, you know, choose something to do with longevity here in my forties.

Victor Antonio: I’ve never heard anybody say that longevity being a superpower, I love it, but I love it. Live forever.

Daniel Graff-Radford: Yeah. And, you know, you had such a fantastic career that you get out at such a high level at the beginning. If you really give examples for some of our listeners to learn from the one success and one mistake that you made or you know about that happened in the channel.

Victor Antonio: Oh, one, so I don’t know if this applies, but one of the things I learned early on is that you really have to watch your pricing, you know, when you’re dealing with it. I was doing a lot of international stuff. So this is just a general comment. What may apply here nationally in the US is that I really had to make sure one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made was I wasn’t consistent in my pricing. Right. And so, you know, that caused a lot of confusion, a lot of chaos sometimes. I think that’s one of the biggest errors I made when rolling out a channel. The biggest success I’ve had was rolling out a channel was I really focused on training my channel salespeople or the contractors in the products. I was very heavy into training, whether it was Spanish or English. I was heavy into training everybody on their side. And if I can add a third one is the I would work with a lot of co-op programs to do a lot of co-marketing that worked out very well, exceptionally well.

Daniel Graff-Radford: Those are really, really solid examples, thank you. And you know, the beginning of the podcast, you talk about the book Influence. Is there any other business book for our listeners that you think that they should read if they aspire to move into leadership in the channel?

Victor Antonio: I just finished reading one by this past weekend by Bob Modesta, is called Demand-side Sales one on one. I’m going to highly recommend the book because it’s it really gives you an understanding and a strategy that to really deal with buyers in the sense that on one side they want to go from A to Z.

They want to go to wherever that next step is. They want to progress in their in their business. But there’s this resistance, this anxiety, this nervousness that holds them back. And he really highlights how to map out a I don’t want to say voice of the customer because that phrase has been overused.

But he helps you map out what your presentation, what your pitch should sound like if you want to be more convincing. So it’s called Demand-side Sales 101. And if I could recommend a second one, I think it’s interesting for those who want to zoom back and see, as you talked about, demographics, how they’re changing, who’s buying, where they’re buying. There’s new book by Michael Solomon I interviewed him last week on the Sales Influence podcast, and it’s called The New Chameleon. And it is a cerebral book on the changes of demographics in the United States. And I think it’s a fascinating read. I would recommend that strongly for marketing.

Daniel Graff-Radford: Those are great, great books. Thank you. Three great books. So, you know, last question here. We talked a little bit about this, but in the future, five years from now, what are some of the changes today that you think people should be aware of that will have the greatest impact five years from today?

Victor Antonio: That’s a tough one. Artificial intelligence obviously changing everything, right? It’s how, you know, products are recommended. It’s how we buy. And so businesses are being transformed. So it’s such a big question. I think I would answer it this way. In the context of channels, what we’re going to see is a higher concentration in the buyer journey.

You know, I think no, I don’t think,I know salespeople to be pre Internet were the leaders of business. They were the walking PNLs, the people who really drove the business. Today, I’m a strong I laugh at marketing no longer. Now, I believe marketing people on the other side are really driving everything. And I think there’s going to be this I don’t know if I could draw a Venn diagram of sales, marketing and technology, which will be the enablement and engagement equipment. I think that’s going to come together into this new entity, I will call it. I don’t want to call it smarketing because it’s a horrible name, but something to that effect where those three are not going to be more collaborative than ever. So I think the age of the I guess the rogue salesperson is coming to an end very quickly. And collaborative selling with marketing, with the help of technology, I think is where the future is going if we’re not already there.

Daniel Graff-Radford: Yeah, no, we definitely are moving more and more there. And there’s definitely a number of roles that are sort of still being defined in that group between. You look at revenue operations and different things like that. Well, this has been wonderful. I want to thank our guest, Victor Antionio host of the Sales Influence podcast. I want to thank our listeners for joining us here at the Partner Channel podcast. If you like what you heard, subscribe to our podcast episodes wherever you listen. And please check out the Sales Influence podcast. It’s wonderful. Thanks, Victor.