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Advice from the Sales Professor

David Priemer is the Founder and Chief Sales Scientist at Cerebral Selling. He is widely recognized as a thought leader in the area of sales and sales leadership and has been published in the Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review as well as Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc. magazines.

From his early days tinkering with test tubes and differential equations as an award-winning research scientist to leading top-performing sales teams at high-growth technology startups, David’s lifelong passion for learning and execution is the foundation of his Cerebral Selling practice. Often referred to as the “Sales Professor”, David helps organizations drive revenue growth, people development, and winning cultures by infusing the core principles of science, empathy, and execution into their sales operations.

We asked him about the top 3 steps that have been a turning point in scaling businesses, the advice he would give to his younger self and more.

– This year you’ll be talking about Sell The Way You Buy: Using Modern Sales Science and Empathy to Grow Your Revenue Operation. Can you share 1 or 2 key points on why this topic this important?

David – One of the biggest challenges SaaS companies face when it comes to growing their revenue engine is basic sales execution. From describing what your solution does and the value it can add to your customers, to running high-impact discovery and handling objections, mastering these core sales interactions can have a huge impact on your success! Unfortunately, many sales playbooks are based on old, outdated approaches with two main issues. First, they require sellers to execute tactics that would never work on them if they were in the buyer’s shoes. Second, they rely on strategies that aren’t consistent with the science behind how people actually make purchasing decisions. With advances in our understanding of sales psychology and neuroscience combined with a renewed focus on customer empathy and our buyer’s journey, modern sales organizations can execute with unprecedented effectiveness, if they align their sales motion correctly!

– What are the top 3 critical steps that became have historically been a turning point in scaling businesses you have led?

David – 1. Nailing the message: with so many solutions flooding the market in every functional area, it’s extremely hard for buyers to figure out where yours fit in their stack and what problem you can help them solve. Once we were able to connect with our customers on an emotional level with our message (NOT a functional description of what we did) it was much easier to differentiate and grow.

2. Getting good at operational reviews: it’s one thing to observe things happening in your business. It’s another thing to know WHY they are happening. Whether it was being called in front of the board, leadership, or team members, getting good at understanding trends and patterns in our operation using data was a critical and ongoing effort. Once we got good at these types of reviews, making changes that helped us scale faster was always much easier.

3. Adding value beyond the product: in order to be successful in this business, the value you add to your customer needs to transcend your solution! Content, knowledge, insights, events, and community ALL play a critical factor in growing your operation. It’s not about selling product, it’s about building a movement. Customers will buy from you, stick with you during the tough times, and advocate for you if you surround them with a high-value experience. New leads will also flow much more freely once you nail this approach.

– What do you think are the 1 or 2 things that SaaS companies need to be extremely conscious of today to survive or thrive?

David – 1. Manage customer and revenue retention as closely as you do new business: growing quickly and profitably requires you to ensure your revenue funnel isn’t leaking! Being able to acquire a customer efficiently (CAC) is key but ensuring they have a strong lifetime value (LTV) is even more critical to securing a high valuation and scaling your business faster.

2. Differentiation: in the marketing technology space alone, for example, the number of vendors has increased a whopping 47X over the past seven years, from 150 in 2011 to 7040 in 2019. While you might think your business is a unique snowflake, to a B2B buyer focused on dozens of other priorities, you look and sound the same as everyone else! If you truly want to stand out, you need to execute differently and establish emotional connections to your customers in everything you do, from your messaging to your event and content strategy.

– What advice would you give your younger self? 

David – Two big pieces of advice:

1. Be mindful of your superpowers. Look for trends and patterns in the things you’re really good at doing and things you love to do. Then learn to cultivate them. Often times (especially along a sales career path) we get wrapped up in what we “can” do, our quotas, or what others are doing instead of what we “should” be doing. This means that too many amazing people end up living someone else’s career vision instead of their own. If you want to build a career of fulfilment and purpose, learn to listen to yourself.

2. Read more books. It’s staggering how many professionals in high-growth companies don’t read. Failure can be a helpful teacher but there’s no need to fail when others have been along the same path and wrote down what they learned to save you the trouble! Learn to invest in your own professional development while building off the ideas and experience of those who have gone before you. If you don’t assimilate new knowledge and get smarter fast enough, you won’t be able to help the colleagues and customers that count on you! Get into the habit of reading.